Thursday, 30 April 2015

Bricks and mortar

One thing that readers in the UK will have probably noticed is that there is a general election next week.  Science has not been a particular topic in the election campaigns of hopeful MPs or their parties, and neither would one particularly expect it to be.  One slightly tangential way in which political issues comes up in nuclear physics is in the cost of accommodation -- something that has come up somewhat in the pre-election debates.  

Universities in the UK pay salaries on a national scale, so that those in one part of the country earn the same as those in another.  Equal pay for equal work is sensible enough, but when living in one part of the country costs twice as much as another part, then a policy of equal quality of life would seem more reasonable.  Here, in the South East of England, housing is particularly expensive.  It's a problem when we want to attract people to the University.  If things don't change, the obvious answer seems to me to be that we should just stop having public services in the south-east.  If people want to have children going to school, they should move up north.  If they get cancer they can move up north for treatment, and so on.  We even have a new political party in Guildford (the Guildford Greenbelt Group) who have determined to stop teachers and nurses moving here, because Guildford is not for such as them.  

Sometimes I am surprised that the University does not campaign more to increase the pay of staff.  Presumably they want to attract staff here, yet, they argue that pay rises should be as small as possible.  The picture attached is a 3 bed semi-detached house currently on sale quite close to the Univeristy.  The cost is around 10 times a professorial salary, which is already quite a high salary.  

Let's move all schools, universities, hospitals, doctors, refuse removal, and other such services to the north, until the situation improves.  Surely, that'd be okay?

update on 3rd May: There were so many other pertinent things that I should have included in this post, like the fact that house price inflation is running at around 10% -- nothing like the real inflation rate.  This is mostly caused by a constant stream of ways in which successive conservative governments (with a small "c" -- whether Labour or Conservative in manifestation) do everything they can to prop up house prices, as if that's a desirable thing.  Here's a nice post post that I read today by Alex Grant on the property situation in the UK, with some insight from his time as a councillor in London.