HAVING worked in the City's capital markets for more than three decades (unfortunately for myself, before the feeding-frenzy of recent years) I would ask to put down a few points which can be lost in the political maelstrom on the subject.
The UK is fortunate in having one of the world's three top financial centres and fortunate in the huge tax-take that results. Nobody should want to lose that.
It ought, however, to be remembered that much of the City's success comes from its geography – the world needs a financial centre in this time-zone – and its language. This latter has been the magnet for as long as English has been the preferred language of business.
Hence, business and banks come to London, and it is not very difficult to profit in this environment. My guess is that, at any one time, there are probably not more than a few hundred real geniuses at work there.
The vast majority of mega-bonus recipients are, frankly, successful because of where they are rather than who they are. They would not care to admit it, but it is true.
An employee of Megabank Inc has such an endowment of customer turnover that he can hardly fail; and yet how often do we see the supposed stars stumble when their own egos tempt them to set up on their own?
Meanwhile, politicians who suppose "casino" banking is Easy Street should learn that trading in futures, options and derivatives is largely a zero-sum game; Megabank traders and Monsterbank traders may choose to duff each other up in these markets, but where one wins, the other loses. The same endowment profit is given to their efforts by the extreme ease of monetary conditions currently in place. A babe-in-arms can profit from Central Bank money recycled into bonds or mortgages.
But those, let us say sovereign, bonds, are valued in Megabank's books and for the purpose of bonus calculation on but one day.
The trade which allowed the employee his bonus will look rather different in two years' time if the borrower defaults. By that time, the bonus is spent and the employee probably moved on.
Lesson one, perhaps, is that bonuses should be paid minimally in cash and their value re-assessed over an ensuing three-year period.
Lesson two follows on. It is another cartel story. Corporate finance advice in the City is ridiculously expensive, whether it be for rights issues or share placement or take-over and merger activity, and this hits Corporate UK straight in the pocket.
The Government would do well to attack this iniquity head on for the benefit of the wider economy.
The benefits would include a transfer of profit from adviser to advised, a reduction in banking bonuses and a few less ego-trips by self-styled Masters of the Universe. Would those Masters actually move to Zug or Zurich if their pockets were less generously lined? Almost certainly not in numbers that matter – London is where the business is.
Meanwhile, the Government would do well to nurture our golden goose in the City.
From: Simon Wood, Brockfield Hall, York.
Profiteering from public services
From: ME Wright, Grove Road, Harrogate.
YOU said in your Editorial (Yorkshire Post, January 8): "Our key transport infrastructure is too important to be simply left to the market".
I think most of would agree, and didn't Harold MacMillan (hardly a rabid lefty) warn us about "selling off the family silver"?
This very topic was recently discussed at a gathering at which supporters of the three main parties were united in their opposition to mediocre public services being used as milch cows for shareholders, and becoming increasingly unaffordable for many ordinary folk.
The point was made that former politicians caused this, so why don't the present lot use their legislative powers to bring the privateers to heel and start putting the demonstrable needs of the country first?
A hitherto silent old boy (a Tory voter) chipped in with "because they all pee in t'same pot, that's why".
Would any of our elected representatives care to comment on this deliciously earthy summation?
Long delay to station revamp
From: Alan Haigh, Foster Close, Morley, Leeds.
I REFER to your report on passengers' complaints about railway services (Yorkshire Post, January 8).
Here at Morley, we have not had any public address system at the station for more than a year, with passengers having no idea when a late-running train will arrive.
Additionally, the station has been neglected for some years with the result that the fabric is now in poor condition.
We have no step-free access to the Huddersfield platform despite the Disability Act being some 15 years old, while the long-promised revamp to the car park area has still to materialise.
While recent improvements to the train service have been welcomed, the priority now should be to bring Morley and other similar stations up to an acceptable standard
Project to be proud of
From: Michael Haughton, chief executive, Arc, Blanket Row, Queen Street, Hull.
I AM writing to express my disappointment in response to the article "battle lines drawn over quest for spirit of a city" (Yorkshire Post, January 12).
The article takes the stance that the funding secured by Arc for the Search for Hullness project is inappropriate in the light of potential cuts at Hull City Council.
We feel that it is essential to make clear that there is absolutely no connection between our funding and job losses.
Our project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and involves neither government nor local council money. The Heritage Lottery supports heritage and cultural projects which benefit the community.
This is a cultural project, and our Search for Hullness will deliver multiple cultural benefits to Hull.
In a difficult economic climate, and at a time when negative publicity often paints a very bleak picture of the city, this is an opportunity to bring people together to celebrate what Hull is actually about – the voice of the people of who live and work here.
It will provide a permanent archive or "snapshot" of how people feel about the city in 2011, which will have a fantastic heritage value in the future.
The project also has practical outcomes. The information will be available to those involved with local regeneration and in attracting interest in the city.
By working in partnership and highlighting local distinctiveness, the project will help to encourage new development to respect and build upon Hull's unique character.
The Hullness project will create one new part-time job for the city and will also provide opportunities for up to 12 volunteers to be trained in heritage techniques, providing skills and confidence which can improve quality of life and chances of employment.
Arc is an organisation with charitable status, whose focus is helping local communities understand and have a voice in issues relating to the built environment.
Over the past year, the Arc team have put in many hours and much enthusiasm into developing our Hullness work – with very little financial backing.
We are delighted to have secured the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and to have brought nearly 50,000 of new money into the city.
Surely all these things are cause for celebration not condemnation?
Free and independent
From: Arthur Marson, Mountjoy Road, Huddersfield.
IN response to Tom Richmond's column, (Yorkshire Post, January 8), on political candidates, who will start the ball rolling with a slogan to promote candidates offering their services free at the elections in May, and keep it going right up to voting day – the free Independents?
The electorate is unhappy with the present incumbents and some 3,000 votes would secure the seat in most local elections, if the current paltry turnouts continue.
Determined people, with a little help, could take the wards in which they are standing.
This practice could be followed in future years and then at the next General Election, whenever it comes. We should then be represented by members who were elected for the right reasons. Could they be worse than most of the present lot?
True original Ian sheds light on hidden gems
From: Roger S Tipping, Marlborough Road, Doncaster.
Ian McMillan is amazing. A few months ago on Desert Island Discs, he chose Donald Where's Yer Troosers?, and a four-minute silent symphony as two of his records.
This is not the type of music you would expect from the poet in residence of the English National Opera.
In "My Yorkshire" (Yorkshire Post Magazine, January 9), he made two more amazing choices.
Who but Ian would have thought of inviting out to lunch a footballer whose fame as a legend for Barnsley FC took place nearly 100 years ago? Alternative suggestion, Ian – why not invite the Rev Tiverton Preedy?
He also chose to take a stranger to Hickleton Churchyard. Who else but Ian would have thought of that?
I agree with him about Cusworth Hall and Brodsworth Hall. He could, of course, extend his visit to Doncaster by introducing Sprotborough village and Conisborough Castle, of Ivanhoe fame.
I wonder why he chose this, instead of concentrating on Wentworth Castle (Stainborough) and perhaps Cannon Hall.
He could also have included the Elsecar Heritage Centre which is not far from Rotherham's wonderful Wentworth Woodhouse, to which Ian also refers.
I always enjoy reading Ian's Tuesday articles and also his literary and broadcasting work. This is also because his "neck of the woods" and mine are close.
There are many cultural and scenic jewels in the Don and Dearne valley and the Barnsley-Doncaster conurbation – not to mention football and horse racing – there is much more to Ian's Yorkshire and mine than heavy industry and coal mining and railways, important though these are.
Citizens who set an example
From: Coun Trevor Chapman, Westville Oval, New Park, Harrogate.
I READ with interest the item from John Culpan (Yorkshire Post, January 6) entitled "We should all do our bit to tackle littering". I could not agree more.
While my own local authority, Harrogate Borough Council, does its best to clear rubbish, it is a constant battle to keep up with the problem.
In my own ward of New Park, I know of a few splendid citizens who take the initiative and help clean up their local areas.
If only we could widen this public spirit and encourage people to pick up a piece of litter per day, the problem would be vastly improved.
From: John Watson, Hutton Hill, Leyburn.
I HAVE always thought that David Blunkett was one of the best Home Secretaries we have had (and I am not a Labour voter).
Having read his column, (Yorkshire Post, January 13), I stick with that opinion.
We have got to be very careful when we talk about doing away with control orders. Blunkett certainly pulls no punches in what he has to say about this country's security. He implores Theresa May and Kenneth Clarke to stick with it.
It doesn't matter about falling foul of Nick Clegg and other ultra-libertarians whose ideas often frighten me to death. What matters is that we have safeguards in place to protect our people from terrorism and all that goes with it.
We should be aiming to prevent atrocities, not to prosecute after they have happened.
Road death toll
From: Simon Geller, Greystones Road, Sheffield.
TRANSPORT Secretary Philip Hammond tells us that he is going to end the war on motorists. Can he tell us when he is going to end the war on cyclists?
With 200 cyclists dying on the UK's roads every year, it seems that is safer to join the Army and serve in Afghanistan.