APPARENTLY we’re on the brink of entering into a ‘cashless society’. What could there be not to like about a world where everything is paid on your credit or debit card? No pockets full of shrapnel weighing you down or handling grubby banknotes. But are we ready for it?
Brighton and Hove council has taken a major leap into the unknown by phasing out all of its coin-operated parking ticket machines and no doubt other councils will be quick to follow.
You can’t board a bus in London and pay with that ‘legal tender’ stuff anymore either. You have to have a pre-paid ticket, an Oyster card, contactless payment card or concessionary ticket.
Is all this ‘cashless society’ vision for the not-too-distant future a savvy use of new technology or are the powers that be just paranoid that everyone’s got their fingers in the til? Will we get to the point where we have to explain to our kids what cash was, just like we had to explain the existence of coal?
Not only are we entering into a cashless world, we’re also teetering on the edge of voice recognition madness. Here’s the scenario. You find a space, park your car and make a call on your mobile ‘phone. Instead of typing in your details a voice asks you questions. But the voice recognition system at the other end of the ‘phone doesn’t understand your accent. You keep repeating yourself until you’re blue in the face and your train has long departed. Check out YouTube (search ‘Eleven’) for some hilarious clips featuring voice-activated lifts and Scottish people.
The ‘most ridiculous parking ticket machine’ award has to go to a Cheltenham Borough Council. You enter its Regent Arcade car park and a camera takes a photo of your number plate. All good so far. But when you return you have to touch a screen to key in your numberplate. Now what is it? Usually one member of the party goes back to the car to find out what the number plate is, while the other rummages about in her handbag to find her glasses.
Eventually, between them they key in the number plate, touch the photo of their car and begin the laborious payment process. By now a lengthy queue has formed, watched over by the dork the council has installed, presumably to snigger at old people’s attempts at touch-screen technology. He certainly doesn’t seem to be there to assist. You know what – why not give the dork a bum bag and let him take real money off the people in the queue? It would give him something to do, and we’re not all light-fingered little scrotes.
AS THE scandal of Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s trousering thousands in backhanders dies down, up pops another in female guise. Rona Fairhead, chairman of the BBC Trust has her fingers in many pies, including HSBC. Margaret Hodge MP this week called for Mrs Fairhead to resign from her BBC post accusing her of being “incredibly naive and totally incompetent” over the tax evasion scandal at the HSBC bank’s Swiss division. Mrs Fairhead, who is a director at HSBC, says she has been ‘unyielding’ about any wrongdoing at the bank.
This is not the first time Rona Fairhead has come under pressure over potential conflicts of interest between her multiple jobs, since she started as chairman of the BBC Trust last September. In addition to the £110,000 three day a week stint at the BBC she is a non-executive director of HSBC and Pepsi.
Last year she received more than £513,000 in fees and benefits for her work at the troubled bank, including a £334,000 fee as non-executive chairman of HSBC North American Holdings. A licence to print money.
Kevan Blackadder is a media consultant who runs Blackadder Media Limited. Kevan was previously editor of the Gloucestershire Echo and assistant editor of the Bristol Post. A Cumbrian who moved to the South West “for a couple of years” in the 1980s, he can’t quite believe he’s been there ever since.