Column Eight: Birt gets money moving

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The Independent Online
Staff loyalty reaches new heights at the Beeb. At Bush House yesterday World Service employees launched a sweepstake to predict the time and date when John Birt, their fiscally challenged boss, announces his resignation. Guesses are pounds 1 a throw. The closest scoops the pool.

After the Taurus fiasco, the favourite game in the City yesterday was naming financial backwaters that have managed to introduce paperless share registration - cheaply and painlessly.

Shanghai is a good one. It has an excellent electronic system. Made in Taiwan, apparently. Now I hear Slovakia is going ahead with its system. Jozef Mezaros, director of the Bratislava exchange, expects to switch on this month.

The 'hot-desking' debate won't die. You may recall how IBM and Ernst & Young are saving on office space by forcing staff to time-share their desks, storing belongings in portable cabinets.

A plaintive letter arrives from IM Arnott, a deskless VAT inspector in Peterborough, where 'flexible working arrangements' have just been introduced and staff are obliged to keep photos of loved ones in 'wheelie bins'.

'We now spend an inordinate amount of time scouring the office for our wheelies,' says the frustrated Vatperson. 'They seem to have a life of their own. There is a wheelie park, but naturally it is too small.'

Finally, a solution to last week's mystery about which branch of the services has outraged British boatbuilders by spending pounds 200,000 on German yachts. The buyers of the four 34-foot Dehlers - to be used for training at Devonport - are those staunch patriots, the Royal Navy.