The other night, I was dragged out to make up a pool team as a good friend was short (of a player, that is).
I haven't been out with this crowd for around 5 years so it was an interesting experience. I remember talking to one guy knowing that I knew him very well but not being able to remember his name as he had lost an incredible amount of weight. Looking at an almost skeletal face speaking with a voice which doesn't fit it can be very confusing. Ordinarily, I'd compliment him but having put my foot in it a couple of times previously by asking about circumstances which had changed dramatically, I just ignored it and hoped it wasn't a health thing (it wasn't, I later found out, even though he looked like a zombie to me).
One of the previous cringe-worthy moments was when asking a self-employed kitchen and bathroom fitter I hadn't seen since around 2007 how his wife and kids were. They'd since split up and he was with someone else. Not a big mistake, I hear you say, except that he was surprised I hadn't learned it via Facebook or others who know him.
I suppose you had to be there to assess the discomfort.
Anyway, I quickly shifted the conversation to more solid ground. His very successful sole trader business.
"All gone, I work for Royal Mail now", he said.
Now this really was a surprise. I know this guy was good, very good. Not only that, he was always willing to offer 'mate's rates' to people he calls friends which ensured gushing recommendations for further business. He was good at promoting himself and never short of work (a lot of which was in London).
"What happened?", I enquired.
"I had to sell my van", he replied.
I had visions of a divorce which left him on his uppers and scrambling for cash, but it wasn't his ex who caused the problem. Boris did.
"Yeah, it was too old and I was getting £100 penalties every time I drove in to London in it because of the London Emissions Zone (LEZ). There were only 58,000 miles on the clock, too!".
See, the operative word here is "sold". He didn't scrap it, he just sold it to someone who wasn't hamstrung by Boris's legislation. It's still being used somewhere. The environment wasn't saved but a decent business was encumbered by a substantial cost which wasn't economically viable.
Great work, Boris.
My own business has experience of something similar, but fortunately we're big enough to survive it comfortably.
Immediately on placing them on eBay Motors, we were inundated with enquiries and could pick and choose which buyers were offering the most cash. They were all sold in no time at all with just the matter of collection to arrange.
The last two exited our premises today ... bound for Ukraine. Two others have been taken to Ireland, with the last of the five now somewhere on its way to Zimbabwe!
It would appear that although the UK has very strict emissions regulations to save the impending environmental catastrophe, they don't seem to be as harsh elsewhere. I'm not too sure how this helps protect the polar bears, myself, unless the countries mentioned are somehow using a different atmosphere to us. Nope, I simply can't work out how re-arranging the planet's vehicular furniture is going to stop global warming.
Naturally, accompanying the loss of those vehicles is the necessity to buy brand new (or very recent) replacements in order to get the most out of them before they too are declared obsolete by the state, and that, of course, increases our overheads.End result is that - instead of paying taxes and being productive - the guy in question is working part time at the post office (claiming benefits as a result) and doing the odd job for cash if it's in his area and he can take his tools on the bus.
Now, I'm well aware that this guy has probably not played the situation as well as he could have done. I'm good enough with money that I'm confident I'd be able to source finance for a replacement or conversion under the same circumstances. However, this is a kitchen fitter we're talking here - one who is great with measurements but totally clueless when it comes to finance, especially when being self-employed in a time where bank lending is reported to be scarce.
The root problem, as usual, emanates from Brussels and their threat of fines for London if the city doesn't clean up to fit in with the EU's big, green save-the-planet plans. However, instead of passing these regulations reluctantly, Boris has embraced the idea and named it in his honour as The Mayor's Air Quality Strategy.
In the process, he has imposed massive costs on London taxi drivers for no discernible environmental benefit - in fact, it could be argued that all the new vehicles being manufactured will harm the planet more - and, as we see from the above, also adds costs to even the smallest of businesses. Some of which will obviously find it impossible to overcome.
Not much help on the transport score for the 'aspiration nation' from Boris, is there?