Monday, 30 March 2015

Long Term Incapacity Allowance: Some Information

I wrote in March to Deputy Graham Truscott, Assistant Minister at Social Security:

I note the following in today's Bailiwick Express:

"Claimants who get assessed as having their faculties impaired up to a level of 30% have always been expected to have a job or look for work if they want to get Income Support, just like everyone else, but those above that threshold have not been expected to find a job."

"From today, the estimated 100 claimants whose impairment is assessed as between 30% and 35% will also have to get a job or prove they are trying to find one – and the department is aiming to increase that threshold to 50% by the end of 2016, which will affect around 350 people. "

Can you confirm to me whether or not the Minister has taken medical advice on these changes before making them? If so, will that consultation be published, or will it require a freedom of information request? If not, could you explain to me why not?

As I remember, your manifesto said:

"We need transparent government. Accountable politicians that listen to public opinion"

I am quite happy for these changes to take place if there has been an adequate consultation with medical practitioners, provided that is made public so that it is transparent. What I find it hard to countenance are changes made with keeping the public properly informed on the basis for these changes, and that they are acceptable to medical practitioners.

Some transparency would be welcome.

He informed me that he would pass on my query to Susie Pinel, the Minister, who in turn passed it on to one of her offices, and the reply, which I obtained permission to publish is below. While it cites statistics on those with 35% incapacity who have managed to find work, and while I appreciate that the percentage of incapacity is not linked to ability to work, I would have thought that the latter would require at the least some degree of consultation with the medical profession - especially if they are increasing the threshold at which work will be sort gradually to 50%. 

Academic studies show that the kind of work that someone is capable of may depend on the kind of incapacity they have and not just the bare percentage; something which needs additional medical assessment. More on those studies is available here:

I'm also very unhappy with an "operational decision" -unlike a Ministerial decision, which I think this should have been - it was not published on the Gov.Je website. I think it should have been a Ministerial decision.

I have been passed the enquiry you sent to the Deputy Minister, and am happy to respond on his behalf.

The decision made by the Minister regarding changes to job seeking requirements for those Income Support claimants with an LTIA award of 35% did not require medical advice to be sought from medical practitioners, as the change was not about assessing or challenging any LTIA claimant’s condition or percentage award. The decision made was an operational one, to extend the range of support to a wider group of Income Support claimants.

Our goal at Back to Work is to provide support to all those who are capable of work. The percentage of LTIA awarded to a claimant is compensation for a loss of faculty; it is not based on, nor an indicator of someone’s capacity or ability to work. There are already a number of people with 35% LTIA who work. In fact, the proportion of those working and on LTIA only, is three times greater than those who work and are on 35% LTIA and Income Support. We want to give full support to Income Support claimants by extending the Back to Work service to include those on 35% LTIA, and therefore honour the Council of Minister’s strategic priority of providing support to key groups (including long-term sick) to remove any barriers that prevent them fulfilling their potential in rewarding employment.

We work closely in partnership with a number of external agencies that provide services for those with health conditions. Agencies such as Jersey Employment Trust are fully supportive of this initiative as they, like us, recognise all the benefits of being in suitable work – improvement in a person’s well-being, as well as greater financial independence.

To summarise, this was an operational decision, with the reason for the press release being to keep the public fully informed and aware of the work the department does.

I hope this information is useful.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Memories of a remarkable Bishop

From "The Pilot" in 1987.

By Edward J. Bastin

Forty-five years ago (I believe on St Swithin's Day) Bishop Mervyn George Haigh was Enthroned Bishop of Winchester. Among others who attended that Service was my intrepid wife.

Dr Mervyn Haigh had been Bishop of Coventry since 1931. At the time of his coming to this See he was forty three years of age but brought with him his gifts and remarkable experience. Of those I would mention his apparent desire to seek and promote for the Church of England, mature Wisdom. If called upon to speak, he would so with brevity, clarity, and charity. Add to that he had dignity and graciousness reflecting as it seems to me, the life of the Precincts of Canterbury. He would have been 100 years old this September, but he died at Dolgellau on May 20th 1962, having retired there ten years earlier.

Mervyn Haigh was ordained in the London Diocese in 1911. He was in various parishes doing parochial work until he became an Army Chaplain in World War I. On returning in 1919 he joined Canon F. R. Barry at the Test School Knutsford as Tutor. His unique experience was to follow later by his being asked by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, to be his principal Chaplain in 1924. This post might be compared to being "A Chief of Staff." He continued in this responsible office until 1931 with Archbishop Cosmo G. Lang.

Concern for the Channel Islands

The years 1924-1931 were years of many changes and difficulties in our country. They were also years of development in the church's life at home and abroad. I mention a few of the developments. Church Assembly and Parochial Church Councils were fairly new. There were abortive attempts to provide an Alternative Book of Common prayer in 1927 and 1928. Then it fell to Mervyn Haigh to prepare for the Lambeth Conference of 1930 of which he was the Non-Episcopal Secretary. In addition there was the continuing work in the big Canterbury Diocese including the setting-up of the first Diocesan Board of Finance.

At the time of his Enthronement in Winchester Cathedral 1942, Dr Mervyn Haigh could not have been unmindful of that part of his Diocese from which Britain was cut off. However, it is recorded by F. R. Barry (Mervyn Haigh SPLK 1964) that the Bishop did manage to keep in touch with the Channel Islands by `devious routes' and some-times through prison camps in Germany.

Though Mervyn Haigh was by nature rather reserved he was extremely sensitive to `situations' which were poignant. It troubled him much that it took so long after your liberation for permission for him to visit the Islands as their Bishop. He had considerable mental anxiety about what he would find - it might well be clergy and people in a starvation plight needing every kind of help while facing the most unlikely problems. He almost dreaded the visit but steeled himself to do what he regarded as his honourable duty for Christ and His Gospel'. He wrote about his visit afterwards in his Diocesan leaflet but most of that is gone and now forgotten.

He was rich within in charity for others. He was inclined to be `distant' but not indifferent. As a Bishop we found him firm but always trying to understand, especially those who in Church Assembly differed from him. From time to time he was unwell, yet did not allow that to prevent him doing his work if that were possible.

I close this article by relating a simple incident I remember of Bishop Haigh. It was in May 1939 and he was preaching at a Sunday School Festival in the Mission Church of the Mining Village being a part of the parish north west of Coventry, to which parish he had appointed me in 1936.

To follow this incident II Kings 2 verses 19-22 should be read. It is about Elisha `healing' the waters. As the Bishop was relating the story to the adults and children, he `lost' the word he wanted for `a new cruse' and he turned to me saying "What is the word I want?" fortunately I had followed his reasoning (and, I may add I had married a Nursing Ward Sister) I said it, `Sterile.' I leave you with that thought and the memory of a remarkable man.

(Our thanks to the Rev. Edward J. Bastin, incidentally a reader of 'The PILOT; for providing this article. Mr Bastin has himself written a personal history, of the Diocese of Coventry: "Seen in a Sec."

Saturday, 28 March 2015


As we approach Easter. I've also had a fall recently and my left arm is in some considerable pain, not as much pain, but it gives me a way into the subject of this poem.

Pain, sharp, agony, in wrists and hands
I know why I am here, I know my fate
And why I came to these bleak lands
And I curse my fellow in my hate

Breathing is hard; I have done wrong
I know my guilt, but that man is good
I am going soon, I will not last long
Remember me, I plead, if you would

Today you will be in Paradise, he said
And he suffered too, laboured breath
But it was tears of sorrow that he shed
At last cried out, and went to death

Paradise can weave the strangest thread
Even on the cross, when full of dread.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Thoughts on the Economics of Parking

Thoughts on the Economics of Parking

“Formulating policy means making choices. Once you make a choice you please the people you favour but you infuriate everyone else.” Sir Humphrey Appleby, Yes Minister

E.F. Schumacher noted in “Small is Beautiful” that consumption of oil, including that consumed as petrol to run cars, was virtually inelastic:

“It used to be said that the oil exporting countries depended on the oil importing countries just as much as the latter depended on the former; today it is clear that this is based on nothing but wishful thinking, because the need of the oil consumers is so great and their demand so inelastic that the oil exporting countries, acting in unison, can in fact raise their revenues by the simple device of curtailing output.”

And he noted in his later book, “Good Work”, specifically that:

“Because oil is a nonreproducible, nonrenewable asset of limited duration, and the demand is virtually inelastic--there was just as much motoring after the petrol prices had gone up 20 percent as there had been before, and motoring is only the tip of the iceberg of oil consumption.”

Why is this important? Because I believe the same problem over increased fuel costs applies to increased parking charges, as proposed by Transport Minister, Deputy Eddie Noel.

His strategy is to increase parking charges to such a degree – far above the cost of living – to ensure that people leave cars at home and take public transport. That overlooks the convenience of the car, and often the lack of shelters at bus stops. There are more shelters, but they are still relatively few and far between.

And if you live in a relatively inaccessible location, for example – down at Ouaisne – you have a hefty climb to the top of the hill before you stand a chance of catching the bus. The days are long gone when buses – and even the narrower double-decker buses – actually went down to Ouaisne and up before travelling on to St Brelade’s Bay.

So what will happen if parking charges are increased, apart from a lot of grumbling?

Commuters will still commute, but they will tailor their household budget accordingly. They will spend less elsewhere, just as they do when petrol costs go up.

Moreoever, any increase in car parking charges, if it effects anyone, will effect the poorest first. I don’t expect any lawyers, top civil servants (if they don’t already have free parking), dentists, doctors, top management etc moving to the bus.

If changes apply globally, the short stay shopper, the person who comes into town to shop, to go to the doctor, to visit the market, to eat or have their hair done – will look elsewhere when they can. Outlets with free parking, like Grande Marche, will do well, as will out of town destinations, like Quennevais Parade, B&Q, the JEC showrooms etc.

The only way this can be avoided is to have short-stay shopper car parks run like Sand Street, where there is increased premium on long stays. If that remained low for the short term, that would retain short stay spenders.

But as far as the strategy goes for forcing people onto buses – that will not work, any more than high petrol costs force people to take the bus. The convenience (especially in wet weather) of the car is likely to prove relatively inelastic.

If the Minister decides to raise parking charges, then I do feel that the States should also feel the pain, the pocket being pinched. So let the proposition also include States members beginning to pay 50% of what a motorist would pay for their parking, and moreover, make sure that the States members remuneration or expenses are not raised to cover this.

After all, if parking charges increase, we don’t get an automatic rise in salary – so why should they? It is about time States members ceased to be insulated by virtue of their office from the changes they propose.

There is an interesting 2013 study – “Re-Think! Parking on the High Street: Guidance on Parking Provision in Town and City Centres” by Ojay McDonald.

The report is produced by the Association of Town & City Management, British Parking Association, Parking Data & Research International and Springboard Research Ltd. It looked at off-street parking tariffs in around 90 locations around the UK.

It warns that: “Car parking charges cannot be viewed one dimensionally as a simple revenue source for local authorities. If such charges damage the viability of a town centre it will have a knock on effect on the resources available to the authority. Car parking charges must be viewed more holistically as part of an accessibility strategy for town centres which takes into account the need to promote its businesses.”

“Some might question why it is so important to protect the our town centres if out-of-town shopping caters for the car borne consumer, the Internet for those that want to stay at home and the traditional centre for everyone else. The truth is, not thinking strategically about car parking can be an extra step towards the erosion of the town centre’s viability and lead to the under-utilisation of a centre’s assets.”

And they note, for example, that:

“Interventions have also been used to entice shoppers into the town centre but encourage commuters to park edge-of-town to ensure town centres are able to capture spend.”

In their advice, they say: “Calculate the potential impact a rise in car parking revenue will have on the local business community and the subsequent collection of business rates before implementation”

On the high level of car ownership in the UK – certainly also in Jersey, it notes that “the cost of the family car today is the equivalent of just 20 months average annual salary compared to four years average annual salary in 1952” That’s important when it comes to Eddie Noel’s “Stick Argument” for getting people off the roads.

What the Minister is proposing is a very blunt stick, and we haven’t seen any carrots, although they have been mooted on occasion – and are very much what is recommended by the “Re-Think!” report:

“Use smart technology to reward consumers for visiting the town centre and link rewards to the payment process for parking. Smart ticketing, smart cards or even smart phones can provide consumers with intelligent services that could influence their behaviour in a number of ways from switching to public transport or receiving discounts for driving into the town centre during off-peak periods.”

The report “Spaced Out Perspectives on parking policy” (2012) also makes some important point, for example:

“Builders of new estates generally try to maximise their profits by achieving the highest density per acre within local planning constraints, thus restricting off-street availability”

Joined-up government would suggest that transport and planning get together, especially where large developments such as that at Gas Place are proposed. There are not enough parking spaces for one car per flat for the proposed flats, which perfectly illustrates the point made above. Plans should not be approved for large scale development without adequate parking provision, despite the reduction in profits this entails.

On pricing for parking, it notes that:

“The price of petrol, and the cost of parking and its availability, affect drivers in similar ways, with around a half saying that these factors do not affect their behaviour at all, and about a quarter each saying only that they affect their behaviour to a limited extent, whether positively or negatively. When interpreting these views it should be borne in mind that expenditure on fuel is 30 times as high as expenditure on parking.”

That statistic should also give the lie to the idea that increasing car parking charges will force more people to use public transport. If fuel expenditure – which it has already been noted is fairly inelastic – has little effect on commuter behaviour, it is unlikely that parking charges would.

But one effective way is Park and Ride Schemes. These are where drivers leave their cars on the edge of towns and continue into the centre by bus:

“Research by Meek (2010) identified that surveys of P&R users show that up to a third transfer from conventional public transport. This induces car travel for the access portion of the P&R trip, which generally consists of long trips compared to the bus portion, owing to the edge-of-town location of P&R sites” The problem is that it does require high-frequency bus services to be effective.

In conclusion, the use of parking charges as a “blunt instrument” to force commuters to take public transport is too rigidly focused on one objective, and could cause significant harm to footfall in the high street. Existing surveys elsewhere suggest this would be the case, even if there is not a direct link between the two.

Shoppers short stay car parks should all be based on the Sand Street model. This allows differential rates which can be used to penalise the commuter, while not impacting on the shopper and te high street. With only Sand Street currently running this scheme – Minden place is not – it is important to implement this before making significant changes to prices.

Another option – which was successful in changing commuter behaviour – was a Park and Ride Scheme. That should also form part of any successful parking strategy.

As it stands, from the seemingly off the cuff remarks reported by the JEP, this is an ill conceived scheme with no proper data, making untested assumptions on driver behaviour (but ones which will very likely be false given the inelastic nature of the effect of price), and seems to be isolated from a transport strategy in general. It is atomic, and what is needed is a holistic approach to parking.


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Bulb Growing - A Great Success

Here’s an article from Jersey Topic in 1967, which just shows how easy it is to be right in the short term, but wrong in the long term.

I remember when we sometimes went up to the Le Feuvre’s farm in St Lawrence when we were growing up, and how we would see the fields were full of flowers for that export market – that would have probably been in the 1970s. In those days, the flowers for the Battle of Flowers were mainly sourced locally – why import when you were already growing plenty, and there was sufficient surplus?

But that success story has now gone completely. Flowers are imported from Holland for the Battle of Flowers. There are no longer any fields full of vibrant flowers in April, May, June. The one legacy may be the daffodils which proliferate on the edges of fields, perhaps the last bulbs dumped there when the fields were turned back to use for growing crops or cattle grazing.

Bulb Growing - A Great Success
From Jersey Topic, 1967

The greatest success story in Jersey in recent years has, of course, been that of bulb and the flower growers, who recently held their extremely novel and fruitful Spring Show at Hotel de France.

In the last three years, exports of flowers have increased by almost a third, from £678,000 to £865,000.

It is conceivable in the years ahead the total value of flower exports may reach that of tomatoes.

Much of the merit for this success goes to the former presidents Mr. Arthur Adkins and Mr John Le Gallais. Their drive was matched by the untiring and business like energy of the young, now retired, Secretary of the J.B. &F.A.

Mr John Le Sueur has been equally successful in his own private venture which he has brought up from small beginnings to a flourishing business.

While the transporting of potatoes and tomatoes, on the whole, presents few problems as regards availability of ships, flower and cattle exports do run up against formidable difficulties.

Mr. Dick Byman, Chairman of the new limited company formed by the bulb and flower growers for the express purpose of finding reliable air transporters, told me that at times, some three hundred growers may be found queuing at the docks or at the Airport in the hope of getting their fragile flowers away. With the yearly increase in exports, the crush would get much worse. "We want organised transport, not individual scrambles," said Mr. Byman.

The week of the Mothering Sunday and the week before that the flood of flowers leaving the island was such that the growers new Transport Company with its Secretary-Transport manager Mr. A. Greenlee, had to charter no fewer than six aircraft. Here is enterprise for you.

The cattle exporters are in an even more difficult position. Shipping companies fight shy of taking on cattle, except in large numbers. Also sea carriage is prohibitively expensive. So, here again, a special Sub-Committee of Cattle Exporters, with Mr. John Vint as its Secretary, is studying ways of finding air transport instead.

Their thoughts are turning towards appointing an expert agent from the travel and air cargo profession who would co-ordinate transport for them.

An aircraft, chartered and paid for on a single flight basis, can be, Mr. Vint told me, considerably cheaper than carriage by sea which now costs up to £20 per cow to Southampton.

One of the snags of transporting cattle to Britain by air is, however, that Coventry Airport is at present the only one having a lairage.

With so many branches of our agriculture depending so much on transport to get their goods to the markets as cheaply and quickly as possible, one wonders if the day is not too far distant when the States will set up a special committee to deal with transport in a comprehensive and systematic way! If the Common Market comes, this may become a question of survival!

It is now generally known that the Committee of Agriculture intends to set up a Semen Bank and A.I. [. Centre, probably at the States Farm in Trinity. Many people say that selling our best cattle abroad is giving away our best assets, Be that as it may, one thing, though, is certain, that all the daughters of registered bulls will have to be recorded otherwise the semen will have no export value nor will it be possible to further our own island strains.

The Committee of Agriculture, under its able Chief Executive Officer. Mr. John Abraham, is enlarging its Advisory Service. Already advisers are active in the spheres of agriculture and farm economics and individual crops profitability. Now, soon, a new adviser is to be engaged to provide expertise in the one sector in which many farmers are no doubt the weakest. That is to advise on Farm Management. The Howard Davis Farm which is to become a practical demonstration station is already the seat of the Farm Advisory Panel under Deputy Major John Riley.

Together with the Horticultural Courses run next door by Mr. Denis Shaw the sails are set in the direction of knowledge and practice.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

In the States

Order, Order…

The debate on the continued funding of the Jersey Care Inquiry took place today but has been adjourned. Because of problems with electrics and a fire alarm, it was moved for the first time to the Town Hall.

And unusually – although it has happened in the past – the “speaker” was a States member, and not the Bailiff, who apparently recused himself because of a conflict of interest.

It has been said that part of the problem of having a speaker chosen from among States members is that one Parish will probably lose some of its representation in the House. This does happen in the UK, but the numbers of members are so plentiful that the loss of one vote is not significant.

But why not adopt what I would term the “Have I Got News for You Approach”? The TV show suffered the sudden departure of the Chairman Angus Deayton, after various misdemeanours involving sex and drugs. The solution could have been to replace him, but instead they opted for different presenters for each show.

Now there is no reason why this could not happen with the States. A rotating chairmanship, perhaps for a month or two months, by a number of nominated States members would mean that the House and the electorate were not wholly deprived of a member by being set aside as speaker. States members can already take the helm; it would require but a small change to regularise it.

Moreover, having different speakers would also ensure that the post would not accrue to itself a rival status to that of Bailiff, who would remain the Civic Head of Jersey, which I think is the main worry of those who don't want an elected speaker.

The Jersey Care Inquiry

Deputy Anne Pryke made this case for not appropriating badly needed funding from current demands on Health and Social Services; in doing so, she made substantially the same kind of argument that was made by John Refault, the Constable of St Peter:

“We know that funding for health will increase over the years but we only have a finite budget. Indeed there are 2 propositions to come to increase funding for the voluntary sector. I just have not got a bottomless pit.."

"The pressures we are under for waiting lists, time and time again people can read that in the paper; I get a lot of complaints. Public health: improve and campaign to raise the awareness of psychoactive drugs in young people, face-to-face work; that can be one-off. Also to support the Y.E.S. (Youth Enquiry Service) project in that work that they do to cope with the increased demand; that would be one-off payments. So I am afraid I will not be supporting this”

But when was this said? This was said at the time of the Plemont debate, and true to her word, Deputy Pryke (and indeed also the Constable of St Peter) voted against handing over £3.575m of public money to buy the headland.

Deputy Susie Pinel, on the other hand, said that “the approaches that have been made to me with regard to the proposition have been overwhelmingly to vote in favour which I fully intend to do.” There was none of the wholly forensic style of focus on the economic arguments, despite Social Security badly needing extra funds, especially for Income Support, even back in 2014.

It will be interesting to note, when it comes to the vote, how those members – 35 of them – who felt the money could be grabbed from the Criminal Confiscation Fund and used to help the National Trust buy the headland, will somehow have lost all hope that the new Treasury Minister can pull economic rabbits out of his bag like his predecessor.

The Jersey Care Inquiry is not a vanity project, nor could it ever been seen as such. Despite the strong emotive appeals made, the funding of the purchase of Plemont could have been seen as a vanity project. So isn’t there a shocking inconsistency with those members who - like Susie Pinel – urged splashing out on Plemont, but now tell the States to draw in the purse strings?

In fact the said Deputy also voted for the purchase of Plemont by compulsory purchase in 2012, when essentially the vote (which was lost) was one for a blank cheque! One could say: "Wake up, little Susie", to your blatant inconsistency.

And how much money is still available in the Criminal Confiscation Fund? If there was no better use, it would be to support the inquiry. Or has it been frittered away elsewhere by clever creative accounting?

I am in favour of prudence, and better accountability, and I do worry that the legal costs have been significantly greater than expected – but that suggests that an examination should be taken to see how that has happened. Clearly something is amiss.

But if a business needs better financial controls to run well, closing the business down should be the final option, and an admission of failure - bringing better financial controls should be the first. Should we have shut down Economic Development because they gave away £200,000 under Senator Maclean's tenure? Should we give up on Digital Jersey and shelve it because of the money which it has wasted? Or do we have better controls on spending? 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Are you being served? London's Department Stores

A guest posting today, from Jeff Hathaway, looking back at the old London Department Stores.

It reminds me of "Are You Being Served", the TV show which, in its early years before it got very silly, very much captured a type of department store, and like the other shows - Dad's Army, It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Hi-De-Hi - had its genesis in real life experience.

The idea for the show came from writer Jeremy Lloyd's brief period in the early 1950s working at Simpsons of Piccadilly, a clothing store which traded for over 60 years until 1999. The inspiration for the store has also been credited to Rossiters of Paignton department store from the time Lloyd and producer David Croft spent there, and the former Clements of Watford.

London’s department stores.

London - on Oxford Street. A London that in the 1970’s was undergoing considerable change both in appearance and in shopping habits. The out-of-town super-centres, as there were first called, were taking their toll while the buildings that these big departmental stores occupied were showing their age and inadaptability.

So I thought I would write a little piece about the London Stores I remember and in particular Bourne & Hollingsworth where I worked for about 2 years as ‘House Promotions and Ticket Department Manager. A mouthful of a title which really meant I was in charge of all instore signage.

While some of London’s departmental stores have hung on and able to re-invent themselves and even become icons in their own right Harrods and Selfridges for example, so many have fallen by the wayside.

They are just names now from a bygone era when London’s streets were dominated by the large departmental store; Swann & Edgar, Derry & Toms, Gamages, Marshall & Snellgrove. Peter Robinson and my old company, Bourne & Hollingsworth.

I found this nostalgic reference from novelist Christopher Fowler:

“As a kid I went to Gamages to see Santa, and my mother would go to Marshall & Snellgrove. Swan & Edgar was more mysterious, being situated on Piccadilly Circus – what did they sell there? It suffered the indignity of becoming a Tower Records.

In the 1970s such stores suffered from the birth of style-shopping, and were unable to update their services fast enough to attract the newly-monied young. Old-fashioned concepts like knowledgable staff, politeness and advice were less important than stocking the latest fashions.

If the old department stores had managed to hang on for just a few short years until mass tourism arrived, they would doubtless have been reborn as flagship British stores.

We still seem to have more department stores than most cities, some of which are specialised, like Lillywhites, the sporting store in Piccadilly, and Fenwicks, which seems entirely aimed at county ladies of a certain age who are in town for the day.

But more and more, like Simpsons and Whiteleys, are slipping away to leave us with TK Maxx and the nightmarish souk Primark”

Gone two are their histories - save that Wiki has provided opportunity for those who experienced London Departmental stores in their heyday to leave their own snapshots and ‘Time Out’ has dedicated a section of there website to the long-lost departmental stores

It contains masterful précis of Bourne & Hollingsworth.

“Howard Hollingsworh and Walter Bourne opened their shop on Oxford Street in 1902. The business grew and took over the whole block which was redesigned in the art deco style in 1928. Bourne and Hollingsworth became renowned for selling the best quality goods and for looking after their staff, providing accommodation at Warwickshire House on Gower Street for up to 600 female workers. Like much of Oxford Street, the store suffered bomb damage in 1940, however today much of the art deco facade still survives. Now housing the Plaza Shopping Centre the initials of it's previous occupants can be seen either side of the bronze ballerina statue. Warwickshire House is now used by UCL for student accommodation.”

Working for the company came something of a family tradition. My grandmother worked there as a wages clerk in pre-war years and during the war, and my mother as a sales assistant in ladies underwear (no the department not the mode of dress) in post war years.

The store reeked of 30’s art deco grandeur – although by the time I worked there in the 1970’s it was showing signs of its age and the wear and tear of the millions, perhaps even billions, of footsteps that had traipsed over its five floors – and its encounter with German bombers during September 1940 - during the early days of the London Blitz.

“Bourne & Hollingsworth - an imposing edifice built in 1894 and remodelled in art deco style in 1928 - was hit in the night raid of 17 September by high explosive bombs which gouged a huge hole in the store's interior and severely damaged several shop floors.

Shards of glass carpeted its Oxford Street locale and adjoining Berners Street. But the next day, in a powerful example of the 'Blitz spirit', the staff were back at work, unfurling large Union Flags to cover bomb damage to the store front.”

I remember my grandmother telling us that the staff cleaned up sufficiently for the store to re-open is east wing to customers just 7 days later. Signage guided people around the the remaining debris, each sign carrying the Great British understatement: ‘We apologise for any inconvenience caused’.
For Bourne & Hollingsworth you could easily read Grace Brothers as if the BBC series ‘Are You Being Served’ had been modelled upon the store. Perhaps it was. The characters are also there from John Inmans camp Menswer Department Manager to Mollie Sugdens 'mutton as lamb' Mrs Slocombe - complete with blue rinse. 

There was even a parallel with young Mr Grace. Although the Hollingsworth side of the business has long since departed, three generations of the Bourne family now ran the business including patriarch Stafford Bourne on whom surely young Mr Grace character took its inspiration. It was however a wonderful family run business in which the Bournes were known personally to all, and at their instruction were to be addressed as Mr Edward, Mr Christopher and Mr Stafford. Gentleman all. Happy times. 

The store finally closed its doors in 1983, but the name survives – as a basement bar in nearby Rathbone Street.