City Diary: Yorkshire Water lights on another controversy

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The Independent Online
More tales of incompetence at Yorkshire Water, the company where the lights are on but no one's at home. Literally. You may recall that last year the hapless utility was forced to tanker in its precious commodity from Northumberland because its own supply had run out. To cope with a manoeuvre of military proportions the company set up a huge trucking site above the moors near Huddersfield, complete with extravagant floodlighting.

The trucking stopped in January and the site has been deserted. But the lights have been on ever since, day and night. The company has now been attacked by conservationists for wasting energy. Yorkshire Water whimpers that it has had to light the site to deter undesirables like gipsies from moving in, though it admits there was no need to have them blazing during the day. "The thing is, we've had a few problems with the switching mechanism and have not been able to turn them off," the company said. Yesterday, it claimed to have found the switch.

Luciano Bennetton, he of the Italian woolly jumper group, is up to yet more incomprehensible marketing stunts. The latest wheeze is revealed in the annual report.

No expense has been spared on the 100-page plus environmentally friendly tome (recycled paper, obviously). But the Italian retailer has chosen some unusual photographs as illustrations. No grisly shots of newly born babies this time, or posters of brightly coloured condoms. Instead, there are lots of pictures of lumps of concrete and bits of roof. And a painting of an angelic figure whose breasts have fallen out of her dress. What can it all mean?

Apparently the shots are all taken at Bennetton's palatial villa headquarters in Treviso near Venice and the painting is a fresco from one of the HQ's ceilings. But why they are included remains a mystery. "I don't understand them either," explains a company spokeswoman.

Crisis at Merrill Lynch yesterday when the main trading floor was blacked out by a power cut. The research department was also affected, leaving legions of highly paid analysts twiddling their thumbs for several hours.

"It's a bit of a problem when your whole day is spent looking at computer screens," one analyst said. "It's a bit like having your arms chopped off." Another number-cruncher denied that the whole bunch decamped to the pub or sat around doing nothing. "We had plenty to get on with even if none of the screens or PCs were working." And the dealers? "Er, twiddling their thumbs, I think."

The housing market may be improving but try telling that to a group of Carmelite monks in Yorkshire. They have had their castle near Tadcaster on the market for a year and have they had a sniff of a buyer?

Have they heck. The castle market is apparently so dire that they have been forced to cut the price of the property, which is used by Zeneca and others for conferences, from pounds 1.5m to pounds 1m.

The local estate agents reckon it would make a perfect corporate HQ for a local company. Nearby brewers John Smiths and Samuel Smiths, take note.

A group of elephants at London Zoo are set to get the full wash and brush up treatment thanks to a bit of corporate sponsorship. Addis, the housewares manufacturer which was sold to its management team in March, has stumped up a cash donation as well as a selection of mops, buckets and brushes to help keep elephants Dilberta, Layang-Layang and Mya in tiptop shape. Heavy-duty wire brushes normally used for cleaning masonry or barbecue racks are apparently just the ticket for jumbo-sized pedicures. Around 500 products have been trucked in for the daily scrub-downs.