Inside the system
Charge for the bridge too far
THE WOBBLY Millennium Bridge may be soon be reopened to the more daring members of the public-for a fee. The �18.2 million footbridge over the Thames was supposed to be part of New Labour's high profile celebrations for the millennium. The bridge finally opened in April. It closed two days later due to dangerous swaying when people walked across it.
Now the Millennium Bridge Trust is threatening to charge future pedestrians a fee of around �1 to cross the bridge. It claims the cost will pay for full time security guards to police the bridge in case of accidents.
There is a risk of injury because the bridge would reopen before the major structural work is completed in October. The bridge was supposed to be a miracle of modern technology. Instead it reduced many pedestrians to quivering wrecks, clutching the handrails, and their stomachs, as they lurched from side to side. After initially blaming pedestrians for how they walked, the bridge's overseer, Tony Fitzpatrick, admitted, "The swaying is bridge-induced, not pedestrian-induced."
One engineer remarked that he thought the bridge had been chosen more for its look than the quality of its design. Surely no one could accuse the government of pumping millions into a project that was all style and no substance?
"THEY must hang their heads in shame." That blast at the giant transport firm Stagecoach, owned by millionaire Brian Souter, came after a public inquiry at Mansfield magistrates court two weeks ago.
The East Midlands traffic commissioner, Tom MacCartney, was furious with Stagecoach, warning that it had put lives at risk by running unsafe buses on the road. The firm had 37 vehicles pulled over during spot checks in the area in May. The Vehicle Inspectorate forced 22 of them off the road for being unsafe.
We've got a cure
THE WORLD'S filthy rich have a new problem to moan about. Their number may have increased in the last two years-by 18 percent worldwide last year to seven million-but they are suffering from "affluenza". This affliction is caused by having so much money they don't know what to do with it.
Luckily, the Financial Times is on hand with advice. "The wealthy individual has to get to the level of being comfortably uninvolved" with their complicated financial dealings, it says. It suggests 11 ways to farm out as many financial decisions to others as possible. One of the ways "to survive becoming seriously rich" includes getting an independent financial adviser who can tell you how to dodge taxes.
Free lunch world
IT WOULD come as no surprise to learn the US government spent a staggering amount of money on the military during the Cold War. But $436 for a hammer and $640 for a toilet seat? These details were revealed in a recently uncovered audit report from 1983. Other expenditure includes $748 for a pair of pliers, $7,600 for a coffee pot and $76,000,000 to replace the army's electric batteries-which were rechargable.
The US Navy also ordered $8,800,000 worth of army uniforms it did not need. The airforce spent $1,118.26 on plastic caps to put on the bottom of table legs to stop them rocking during flights.
TESCO has been fined �150,000 after one of its lorries killed a member of the public in Dorset. The supermarket is supposed to employ extra staff in the store yard so when lorries are manoeuvring another worker can guide them.
But the company had not implemented this policy in Dorset. No one was advising the driver who reversed out of Tesco's store in Brankcome in Dorset in December 1998.
The driver didn't see the pedestrian, Elsie Stewart, who was dragged under the lorry's wheels and killed.
�150,000 fig leaves
MPs ARE set to move into plush new offices in Westminster that have cost �230 million to build. There are 210 new rooms, which amounts to �1.1 million per MP. The government has also ordered 12 lavish new fig trees to decorate the courtyard inside the building.
The trees have been hired at a cost of �150,000 and will be imported from Florida. A spokesman for the office project defended the fig tree plan, saying, "If you put puny little saplings in, they would look like peas in a palace. I'm sure it's been done as economically as possible."
NEARLY A quarter of BBC2's programmes were repeats in the four weeks to mid-June. There were 546 hours of reruns across the five terrestrial TV channels during this period, according to a study by the Liberal Democrats' broadcasting spokesperson.
BBC2 was top of the repeats league with Channel 4 a close second on 23.1 percent, followed by Channel Five on 16.9 percent. In a single afternoon last week every programme on BBC2, bar one, was a repeat, including Grandstand's coverage of the Superbike championship, Geoff Hamilton's Cottage Garden, Gardener's World and Ready Steady Cook.
Things they say
"I BELIEVE that we are entering a new era where business, and especially starting your own business, is cool again. It's Cool Britannia when Tony Blair is telling people to start up on their own."
- STELIOS HAJI-IOANNOU, boss of EasyJet
"THE British government, under this Labour government, is flying the flag of human rights more strongly than virtually any other country in the world."
- PETER HAIN, Foreign Office minister
"WE ARE worried that there is evidence that the government may be sacrificing human rights on the altar of commercial expedience."
- AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL's verdict on New Labour
"I THINK certain people were spoiling for a fight in NATO at the time. I think the terms put to Milosevic at Rambouillet were absolutely intolerable. How could he accept them? It was quite deliberate."
- British defence minister LORD GILBERT on last year's war on Serbia
"LIKE watching paint dry."
- Wales's first secretary RHODRI MORGAN on Welsh Assembly debates
- RICHARD BRANSON on the performance of his own Virgin Trains
"[A relative] dreamt last night that all the voters had deserted us and that Tony and Cherie had to live in our house. Help."
- New Labour guru PHILIP GOULD'S "joke" note to Tony Blair
"CHERIE is expanding her empire. They need the space for Leo and his nanny, and now Euan is older he is going to have a bachelor pad of his own."
- 10 DOWNING STREET INSIDER on the Blairs' expanding living quarters