Thursday, 23 June 2011

Austerity bites.


Until a couple of years ago, I have not even heard of this word. I had to look it up in a dictionary when it was first voiced and since then, it has had a severe impact on thousands of lives in this country.

You usually think you are immune to it until it bites you too.

First there was the threat to my job. Like all local government employers, mine had to cut back with a vengeance as the grants were drying up and subscriptions seemed to be falling. There were also too many similar organisations about and talks started in earnest to bring these closer together to minimise confusion amongst councils and to create more value for money.

So we were to be cut. A rigorous process followed with consultation after consultation; interviews, questionnaires, assessment centres and preferences that followed closely.

The end of this saga is that I've got a new job but in the process I lost my homeworker status. Even though we argued that removing it will prevent talent outside London to contribute to the delivery, it was removed. All ex-homeworkers are now office remote with London Weighting! Even though I live in Chester...

This has had a profound effect on the way I choose to travel. It the past, my travel to London (when I was needed in London) was paid for by my employer, but now that I'm having to pay all London travel out of my own pocket, I have started to be really savvy about how and when I travel. For example: a single journey by train (Virgin) to London cost me £108. So a return is £216. That is peak time travel when I can safely walk into the office before 10am. My London weighting is taxable, pensionable and NI carrying so at the end of each month I only get £200 nett.

I had to investigate different ways so my attention turned to coach and cycling. So getting the coach into London, then hop onto a bike (to avoid further costs with the Tube) and make my way to the office. Luckily I already had a Brompton. My big expense was to buy a Brompton storage bag as the Brompton will not be accepted onto the coach without adequate protection.

The next change to my travel was to use a different overnight stay. Hotels were too expensive. I found an EasyHotel close to work but it was still more than staying at the local YHA. So coach travel to London (which takes 5hrs), then cycling with the Brompton to the office and overnight stay at the YHA. The overnight stay is really a no-brainer as the coach travel will only be viable if I stay overnight, but not at a place so expensive that I could've taken the train!

So my Brompton gets much more use now, which is marvellous!

Today was a good example. I had to go to Leeds for an afternoon meeting, so cycling to the next village to get the No.1 bus to the railway station. That did mean adding another hour to my travel, but hey! I left the car at home and was spared the M62.

On a lighter note...I had a marvellous day with the Chester Fabulous Ladies in Clun, Shropshire. It's just great being with the girls even though I couldn't cycle as much as I wanted to due to a debut appearance in a play on the Saturday night in my local village hall.

I also had a lovely evening bike ride on 21 June celebrating Summer Solstice with a good friend and my other half. It was great being out after 8pm which is something I don't often do. Before summer is out, I want to do more of those!

1 comment:

  1. what a challenge to commute to London and back - I have a course in Leeds for three days next month, so will at Frodsham, train to Leeds and the office is just across the road from the train station. can't cycle to Frodsham tho, too far. Gotta be back as hubby working nights. But at least you do not have to pay to park at Frodsham (and train is about £3 cheaper!)