The Spectator

Who cleans skyscrapers?

Plus: the inflation rate for the job, and a long-term view of prison violence

Who cleans skyscrapers?
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Tough at the top

The clocks on Big Ben were cleaned by abseiling window-cleaners. Some other big cleaning/painting jobs:

— Repainting the Forth Railway Bridge used to be a metaphor for never-ending work, but a new coating completed in 2012 is estimated to have a life of 25 years.

— Sydney Harbour Bridge was, for the first 80 years of its life, cleaned by hand, but last year it was done for the first time by robot.

— The world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, is cleaned by a team of abseilers, with all 24,000 windows taking three months to get through.

— Most New York skyscrapers are cleaned by hand. The World Trade Center had an automated cleaner, but it could not cover the corners or upper windows. Two window cleaners were among the victims on 9/11.

Rates for the job

Rail fares are to rise 3.5%, equivalent to the Retail Prices Index plus 1%. Between 1989 and today inflation measured using RPI has been on average 0.7% higher than another common measure of inflation, the Consumer Price Index. Here are some of the things set using the two rates:

DETERMINED USING RPI

Rail fares, utility bills, business rates, student loans, yield on index-linked

bonds.

DETERMINED USING CPI

State pensions, income tax allowances, incapacity benefit, inheritance tax allowance, general bragging about inflation being under control.

Banged up

Critics blamed overcrowding for a year-on-year rise in violence in prisons. Here is a longer-term view of prison violence:

Year to March 2005

Assaults

13,000

Homicides

2

Self-harm

20,400

Suicides

87

Deaths from natural causes

101

Year to March 2014

Assaults

15,000

Homicides

3

Self-harm

23,500

Suicides

88

Deaths from natural causes

127

Source: Ministry of Justice

Computer love

The government was ordered to pay £224m to the US IT contractor Raytheon for work on the abandoned eBorders system. Some ways to waste money on IT:

£11.4bn NHS IT system (abandoned)

£7.1bn Defence Information Infrastructure system

£5bn National Identity Scheme — for ID cards (later abandoned)

£350m Single Farm Payment system — for farm subsidies (rapidly went wrong)

£155m National Offender Management system (abandoned in 2007)