Tracee had a plan to go out in London this weekend to meet a few of her friends and when we told her about London being a Tier 2 restricted area she looked at us as if we were explaining electricity to her in Aramaic. In a single conversation it is possible we have got closer to the root of a problem that has caused Covid-19 to barge its way back to the front of the national conversation. The fact is that Tik Tok hasn't got anything factual to say about our current dilemma, but it does have some dance moves we can try whilst ignoring it and a skirt to wear as we do so.
"Tier 2 means a ban on different households meeting indoors, Trace," Billy tried.
"We aren't meeting indoors, we are going to a club," Tracee looked at her brother as if he were trying on antlers for a funeral.
"Clubs are 'indoors', Trace ..."
"Doh, I'm not planning to live there, just have a couple of drinks and exchange." Tracee's boyfriend Thug finished their ... 'relationship' by sending her a ‘thumbs down’ emoji last week and she has been 'exchanging' a lot recently. We don't know what this is, but it hasn't been conducive to a great work output of late.
Apart from being illegal, Tracee's outing to London could be beset with other difficulties, not least the fact that the Government and Transport For London's (TFL) bosses still have their horns locked in talks about a six-month funding deal hours before the capital's bus and Underground networks face the renewed threat of financial collapse. We all know that the buses and tubes are not going to stop running, but it makes a great headline and is as much a social and political statement as it is a financial crisis, the latter of which clearly exists.
London mayor, Sadiq Khan, is negotiating a number of options, with the Department of Transport (two naturally aligned enemies who make faces behind each other's backs) including a bailout deal that would guarantee services until next April. The most important of these is funding likely to be worth between £1.5 billion and £2 billion that would be provided to TFL, a mere pigeon dropping on the live rail of the Central Line. It is believed that one of the terms of this agreement is to allow children to travel for free on London's transport network, not as drivers, you understand, but nothing is being taken off the table at the moment, so fluid are the ongoing talks. However, so far both sides are stuck on nil points.
The latest round of talks have been described as 'frantic' by observers, but these people have also used words like 'abyss' and 'plunge' in their reports, even stating that if this last resort isn't avoided it would, "trigger the filing of a Section 114 notice ... which will lead to TFL's insolvency". None of the reports the NTI newsroom have read said what piece of legislation this is a section of (or what it meant) but we caught Neil on his way through the office earlier and asked him if he knew a lawyer who could help interpret this.
"You're kidding, right?" he said, putting on half an aggrieved face behind his mask.
"You don't know any?" Michelle asked, adopting a more conciliatory note, sensing his disappointment.
"I AM a lawyer," Neil said.
Michelle was mortified and stepped back from what the press would call 'plunging into the abyss'. "Oh, of course," she said, "no, we mean a proper lawyer."
Neil left and we called a proper lawyer who said the reference must be to section 114 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 which legislates for a person having responsibility for the administration of the financial affairs of a relevant authority making a report that a relevant person has made, or is about to make, a decision which involves or would involve the authority incurring expenditure which is unlawful (so, not on these facts, then).
Or, has taken or is about to take a course of action which, if pursued to its conclusion, would be unlawful and likely to cause a loss or deficiency on the part of the authority. Not really here on these facts, but go on, isn't there one more? Or, is about to enter an item of account the entry of which is unlawful. Nothing about triggering a notice that would lead to insolvency then (like the papers say)? Nope, our real lawyer said.
As fate would have it, Billy received an emailed notice this afternoon from one of his activist friends Shaun (spelled the common way) Bailey (Neil's dog's name) who calls himself 'For London'. In this email he claims that Sadiq Khan’s decisions have ... "cost TFL £9.56 billion. Six times as much as Coronavirus" (and includes specific amounts such as increasing the number of staff paid more than £100,000 a year, spending £24 million to provide taxis for TFL staff (who still talk about that crazy night out) and spending £640 million on a fare subsidy for tourists. Foreign people).
People are angry about trains and buses and have a right to be, so let us help them. TFL will be bailed out, buses and trains won't be stopped and agreement will be reached.
Neil has just stormed back into the office and banged some piece of paper onto Michelle's desk, demanding she look at it. Michelle did and asked him if he would like our lawyer to run their eyes over it. (It turns out it is some certificate he has from some College.)
He then stormed out again, saying something about selling the company to BPP.
He won't, of course, you need a proper lawyer to do stuff like that.