Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The very very civil civil Forbidden England Office.............Oh!

We are supposed to be moving to Portsmouth.

Well, in 2000 it was to be Portsmouth in 2003. Then in 2003 it was to be Salisbury in 2006. And then in 2006 it is Portsmouth again, in 2008.

This week anyhow. We have known that a move is on the cards for almost seven years, but being the very very civil civil office of Forbidden England, we have also known that we have to wait for a posting letter until it happens.

So two year's ago, hubby wrote a letter to sensible people in relevant department to explain that we had five children and that there were very limited opportunites to move them over the next few years without major disruption to their educational milestones. He suggested that we could move two year's ago (summer 2004), this summer ( summer 2006), or failing that in 2012, as all dates in between were a no no given that each year fell between GCSE's, AS levels or A levels for one or other child. Naturally we got a very civil response, but sadly nothing could be done until we had a "letter of intent". Now for all those of you not in the know, the "letter of intent" comes before the "letter of posting". They post the letter of intent to you to tell you that they will be posting a letter of posting about the proposed posting at a given date in the future. They do explain that they intend to given you a "letter of posting" at a certain time, but obviously things can, and do slip, and so we all accept that this is an approximation.

In September, eldest daughter started A'level course meaning that she should preferably stay where she is for the next two years. Eldest son starts his GCSE course next September, and so can move any time up to next September but not thereafter, but then daughter number three starts her GCSE course the following September, so then she can't be moved for two years after that.......... and so it now goes on until 2012.

Meanwhile the letter of "intent" arrives at the end of September this year. Had it arrived six weeks earlier we could have perhaps made a case to move this summer - albeit very rushed move, and settled everyone in prior to said courses. It didn't though. And so we are now in our six year "no go" period. "Letter of intent" tells us that in October 2007 (approximately) we will get a letter of posting, which will mean that we will be moved in the summer of 2008 - half way through son's GCSE course. They will let us move up to three years after that or even a year before, but, naturally it still falls in the no go area for the academics amongst us.

So, hubby writes letter to nice people in civil department to explain in very civil way the state of our very civilian affairs. He puts forward a number of suggestions, such as putting one or other child into a boarding school for a couple of years to get round the problem of the company move, (with them paying......) or maybe to pay for the cost of a flat in Gloucester for a year for eldest daughter, so that she can finish her A'levels, so that we could move ahead of the group, in the summer of 2007, before son starts his GCSE course.

They want to see us. So we go to a meeting in highly secret location in rural England where hubby works.

I arrive at the civil civil office in Forbidden England. I smile at the security camera and am given a day pass with a completely unsmiling photo featured. Clearly the smiles are digitally removed to avoid too much human content. I am taken to a room with no windows and no airconditioning, but I see with relief, there is coffee available. We sit at the table and are faced by two women who look as if they would scare off your average prime minister.

We present our case to the scaries and their rule book. (This is a big volume which sits in front of them, only visible to them, but containing every dot, comma and crossed t on the rights and allowances of employees employed by the very very civil civil Forbidden England office.) Clearly they are not going to pay for boarding school fees for two years for one or other child. So, we suggest a state boarding school. Half the price because no fees involved, only boarding costs. Rough estimate £18000 for the two years involved. Stern faces. Not a liked suggestion. It transpires that the "help" that they offer towards boarding school fees for unsettled children due to the move is in the region of £195 a month, up to a maximum of 50% of the actual cost. Well, they must be basing their actual costs on the price of boarding schools circa 1975, because £2500 a year won't pay for very much in 2006!

We go back to the drawing board.

What about the "non Mover's" package? They say. Known around the office in Forbidden England as the job seeker's allowance, the none mover's package means that hubby can work weekly down in Portsmouth from date of official move to six years hence and will be paid a downwardly sliding allowance for a set period, until after six years it fizzles out completely. At that point he is expected to either move (at his own cost) to Portsmouth, or leave.

Not seeing a realistic way of paying for huge family to move down to Portsmouth for company move at our own expense, I point out to the scaries that that would possibly leave hubby jobless aged 50. Not a good time to be jobless, and despite new laws saying that age is not a problem any more, we all know that your average boss is not going to employ a 50 year old when he has a grand choice of people aged from 25 to 40!

Could we take the non movers package for six years and then move down to Portsmouth at their cost in six years time perhaps?


They then suggest that perhaps the best thing in our situation is for him to take the option to apply for redundancy. Hubby asks if that means that he can apply for redundancy now.


Why not?

Because you haven't had your posting letter yet.

But I have had a letter of intent which says that if we change our mortgage for a better deal over the next two years, we will have to pay any redemption charges ourselves.


So, therefore you are considering the starting point of these negotiations as being now.


But we can't change our mortgage and still have any reedemption fees paid by you when we move.

That's because you know that you might be moving.

Exactly, so as such, am I able to apply for a redundancy option now?

No. Not until you receive a posting notice.

So, to summarise, there is a job in Portsmouth, but we are not officially allowed to know or act upon the fact that there is a job in Portsmouth until we officially know that there is a job in Portsmouth, and although they will do everything they can to help us to move there, they won't pay for anything that isn't allowable in their little booklet of allowable expenses for employees employed by the the very very civil civil department of Forbidden England.

We have reached a stumbling block in the negotiations. They have one set of rules for them, and one set of rules for us. They have "budgets", but the budgets don't meet our needs. They have a job, but it's in the wrong place, and they are not willing to take this to a higher department to ask if the rules can be "flexed" a little.

Hubby suggests that this is effectively a form of constructive dismissal. Nobody can deny that.

I ask if I might have a cup of "the coffee". I don't wait for an answer, but stand up to help myself from the coffee sitting on the side. Clearly, this is a bad move. The "COFFEE" is not intended for "wive's of employees" of the very very civil civil office of Forbidden England, but for the scaries themselves. Hubby explains that I have left home early and driven a long way to get here................. Phew.... am granted a concession for a coffee.

Then somehow, amazingly, the term "Early Movers Package" emerges. Quite where it comes from nobody seems to know, but it means that he can "apply" for a posting letter early, and all going well can officially move to Portsmouth next summer. (I have a sense of deja vue here). Of course, there is no job down there until summer 2008, so he can't actually work there. But by some amazing loophole, we can move and hubby can stay up here in a flat during the week, which they will pay for, and eldest daughter can stay with him and finish her A'levels. It is officially hubby's "allowance" and not eldest daughter's, so can be paid for.......

For that, "in the budget of big invisible rule book" of "Office of Forbidden England", they will pay up to £7000 ish a year. Enough to rent a flat near here.

What happens if the move slips a little we ask. Oh that's fine, they say, we'll pay until you do move down to Portsmouth.........

Now bear in mind that the move has already slipped five years, so it could realistically slip another three, and, if it does, that will cost £21,000 ish in rent for hubby (More than the cost of a state boarding school, plus they will have to pay expenses at a mileage rate to get him back and forth at the weekends............. )

But it's o.k. because it comes out of a different pot so everyone is happy.

Now, if you really understand the ins and outs of all this, you are a better person than me!!!!!!


Beccy said...

Gosh what a day Sally, sounds like the kind of beaucracy you'd find here in Ireland.

Sally Lomax said...

Hi Beccy!

I know! Dreadful. Although I have to say, we used to live in Northern Ireland for four years, which admittedly is the same bureaucratic regime as in England, but I did find that the general attitude of the people was so much more diplomatic and kinder than here. We have lived back here for seven years now, but I miss NI and miss my friends there. I visited Dublin a few times while I was there and loved it!

Beccy said...

Only been up north once Sally to play tennis for Leinster in Bangor. Had a great time and the people were very friendly.

The Irish are a very friendly people but sometimes they're so laid back they're horizontal and it's frustrating when you want something done offically!

I do love it here and the easy going laid back way of life, it sometimes frustrates my Mother as their ways have rubbed off on me.

Beccy said...

Oh Sally Mum and I are so excited, we've just noticed you've linked to our blogs. It's a first for both of us, excluding family links!

I have yet to do any links for blogs although I read lots, I think I might do it now!

Anonymous said...

Are you sure you haven't copied your blog from a script of 'Yes Minister'? Probably not so funny when you're on the end of it though!