Category Archives: privatisation

‘Caring Conservatism’ in (In)action: Four Holidays Dave Grows Fat And Brown While His People Go Hungry

images (2)  cameron-2-way_2651184b

So… six days after  chemical weapons were unleashed in Syria prompting world leaders to think about launching attacks on Assad the Prime Minister finally dragged himself away from the beach in Cornwall where he’s been enjoying his FOURTH holiday this year to do the job we pay him for. What was he waiting for? Did he hope the crisis would go away if he buried his head deep enough in the Cornish sand?

135090548__444154j    Sadly, ‘bucket and spade’ Dave doesn’t give the impression of a man dedicated to hard work despite being the leader of a party that claims to ‘be on the side of hard working people’.  He has the most responsible job in the country, one that requires him to be ‘on call’ 24/7, and whilst this can obviously be pretty gruelling and hard on his family, the remuneration he gets more than reflects that. This isn’t the first time he’s been slow to return from holiday in a crisis.

British+Prime+Minister+David+Cameron+bikini+MxsbrZBhgbbl   He did the same back in August of 2011 when the London riots kicked off, claiming he could handle things just as well from his deckchair over the phone. He doesn’t seem to get it. He doesn’t seem to understand that when you’re Prime Minister of a country that’s suffering the pain of a dire economic recession you need to be there for your citizens; you need to show some solidarity with them and at least give the impression that you’re prepared to suffer alongside them. When you introduce the most stringent austerity package in recent history , claiming (falsely) there is no alternative because the country’s practically bankrupt  and even the rich have to make sacrifices because ‘ we’re all in it together’  and when some of those who are worst affected by your actions go off the rails as a result, you don’t stay put on a foreign beach and order another cold lager – you get your pampered arse back to Downing Street right away and you bloody well deal with it.

British+Prime+Minister+David+Cameron+bikini+v7N0oAfSTR0l  Lots of other professions require being ‘on call’ round the clock yet pay nowhere near as much as the PM’s salary. My father was a detective sergeant and we hardly saw him. Many’s the time we’d be sitting down to Christmas dinner on what should have been his day off, and the phone would ring and off he’d have to go. It goes with the job, you get used to it.  Junior doctors work a ridiculously punitive schedule for a fraction of the wages Cameron takes home. And don’t get me started on the injustice of zero hours contracts…

F3A1BCC9-DF6C-BF16-D0A54A569FF86361  Truth is Cameron hasn’t got what it takes to be a serious statesman. Back in 2008 Obama called him an intellectual  ‘lightweight’, a criticism also echoed by Rupert Murdoch more recently. He got away with this in opposition because the job really only required him to be a PR man, a man who projected the image of modern conservatism that the party wanted to sell a gullible public; a public long conditioned to look no deeper than the surface, the packaging. So someone wrote his speeches, he delivered them and did the photo opportunities, selling the party ideology. He hugged hoodies and huskies, rode his bike (followed by his chauffeur driven car for when the cameras had buggered off) went for the odd fun run and learnt the manifesto off  by heart so he could blindly repeat bits of it when asked questions. He hosted a few country suppers  and wined and dined and arse-licked Murdoch and potential rich party donors; then every three months or so he jetted off to a posh beach somewhere  to ‘chillaxe’. He was, and still is, a mannequin with a mouth through which the Tories broadcast their empty  sound-bites, a vacuous, expensively suited cipher of so-called ‘caring conservatism’.

2008      Three years on, the stark truth of what that oxymoronic slogan actually means is literally embodied by the public who’ve lived with its pernicious consequences – as it is by a Prime Minister who’s cold-bloodedly  imposed it with aloof indifference to any responsibility for the damage he’s caused.

1-s2.0-S0735675703000834-gr1  rickets

Whilst the PM’s body has grown fat and brown on his many holidays from inconvenient duty so the bodies of his citizens are being reshaped by the malnourishment he’s decreed for the likes of them. Diseases once eradicated by social policies that improved diets and damp and squalid housing conditions are returning to Britain with a vengeance at a time when the NHS that could alleviate them is being ruthlessly dismantled to puff up the profits of the Prime Minister’s cronies. Diseases such as scurvy and rickets which deform bodies are back with us. Asthma and other respiratory illnesses exacerbated by damp and mouldy houses are on the rise. And Cameron’s ‘caring conservatives’ who will never suffer this fate, and know it, don’t give a monkeys.

2009 2010

His holiday photographs, which he no doubt thinks of as photo opportunities, that sell him as a ’family man’ devoted to his wife and kids, when put into perspective and contrasted with the lives of the families he’s destroying,  instead bear witness to the truth of Cameron’s upper class essence: a weak,egotistical wealthy man who likes the lifestyle of the idle rich. 

child-poverty-007Family-poverty

Cameron is a man who is either totally oblivious to the irony of his throw away words when he said his wife had an ‘unconventional’ childhood because she went to a day school – or is totally dismissive of the millions to whom he owes a duty of care and for whom  this is the norm, because we are of no consequence in his world except as ‘human resources’ judged merely by our use value and thus can be discarded like used tissues when we’re all used up.

images (3)images (4)

Cameron is a millionaire who claimed DLA for his disabled son because , like Tesco and all good capitalists he knows that ‘every little helps’ in the ‘global race’ for bigger profits in which the real effort is never theirs and the real risks are borne by those with least to lose.

nov 2012David+Cameron+Double+Olympic+Champion+Mo+Farah+OL_UPS0ZWjMl

Cameron is a vain, elitist man who secretly believes that hard work is something that the servants should do. whilst, purely in the interests of political expediency, publicly pretending  to ‘care’ about a class of people he really thinks of as nothing better than livestock.

And sadly, he is the man we call ‘Prime Minister’.

The Trauma of Tory Britain 1982 or The More A Tory ‘Changes’ The More They Stay The Same.

liv  524753_361523703952737_1257585945_n

Back in 1982 after 3 years of  Thatcher government policies unemployment soared. Apart from the names, this news item from the BBC sounds remarkably like its describing today’s situation after 3 years of Cameron’s rule:-

1982: UK unemployment tops three million

The number of people out of work in Britain has risen above three million for the first time since the 1930s. The official jobless total, announced today, is 3,070,621. It means one in eight people is out of work.

Rates of unemployment vary across the country – in Northern Ireland it is nearly 20% and 15 or 16% in most parts of Scotland the North East and North West – only in the South East does it drop below 10%.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was given a rough ride when she tried to defend the government’s record on employment in the Commons this afternoon.

Mrs Thatcher was frequently heckled as she insisted there were “encouraging signs” the economy was improving. The Speaker was forced to intervene and call for order.

 “There are 32 people chasing every vacancy”  said Labour leader Michael Foot

Afterwards, Labour leader, Michael Foot, said: “When Mrs Thatcher came into office there were five people chasing each job and that was bad enough. Today there are 32 people chasing every vacancy and in some parts of the country, it’s double that.”

More than 750,000 people are now classed as longterm unemployed.

Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit did not appear to be offering any quick fixes when he said: “We are gradually fighting back in competitive terms against our rivals. As we can expand the economy so there will be more jobs available in the future.”

The level of unemployment in Britain is almost the highest in Europe – second only to Belgium.

The two main factors behind the rise in the jobless total are the economic recession and the restructuring of industry.

 In cities like Coventry, workers are being made redundant by the closure of traditional manufacturing industries. The British Leyland factory making MGs closed 15 months ago, putting 700 people out of work.

After 21 years working for MG, Eddie McAvinue is now looking after his grandchildren. He says he felt bitter to start with – but not any more: “When I look round and there’s young people with A and O levels and they can’t get jobs, I just accept it now. I can’t do anything else”

maggie4  The controversial drama series “Boys from the Blackstuff” was aired on television during 1982 and became hugely popular. 

The British Film Institute described it as a “seminal drama series… a warm, humorous but ultimately tragic look at the way economics affect ordinary people… TV’s most complete dramatic response to the Thatcher era and as a lament to the end of a male, working class British culture.”

Set in Bleasdale’s home city of Liverpool, and reflecting many of his own experiences of life in the city, each episode focuses on a different member of the group. The series was highly acclaimed for its powerful and emotional depiction of the desperation wrought by high unemployment and a subsequent lack of social support. Although the series is and was noted by many reviewers as a critique of the Margaret Thatcher era, which was seen as being responsible for the fate of many of the unemployed lower and working classes, particularly in the North of England (and in fact fuelling the North-South divide), most of the series had actually been written in 1978 during Labour’s James Callaghan’s prime ministership, therefore preceding Thatcher’s Britain by a year. Unemployment stood at a 40-year high of more 1.5million by the summer of 1978, compared to some 600,000 just four years earlier, but by early 1982 had reached 3 million (some one in eight of the workforce) as a result of economic recession and Thatcher’s  restructuring of industry.

This episode “Shop Thy Neighbour” starring a very young Julie Walters brings home the trauma suffered by the unemployed brilliantly. The fact that it applies just as much today as it did then hammers home the message Labour should now be shouting from the rooftops: Never trust the Tories with the welfare state.

 

               

                

“The Hidden Agenda”: The Planned Destruction Of The Welfare State?

bs_Greetings_from_the_Welfare_State The report reproduced (with kind permission) below is a short summary of the vitally important research into the origin of the current government’s campaign against disability and incapacity benefits and the involvement of Unum (formerly UnumProvident) and ATOS.  This remarkably detailed  work was carried out over the last three years by former healthcare professional and disabled veteran, Mo Stewart*. Mo has worked relentlessly and determinedly, despite her own pain and fatigue, to bring together a vast amount of damning evidence against this cruel system which has and continues to bring misery and even death to people whose only ‘crime’ is to be chronically sick or disabled. What you are about to read below is but a tiny example of far, far more material some of which can be found on her website here or by following the links she provides in her reference list at the end of the articles.

*(Mo Stewart is a former healthcare professional, a disabled female veteran and, for the last 3 years, has researched the links between the DWP, Atos Healthcare & Unum Insurance. To date, the research evidence has been quoted during welfare debates in the House of Lords, the House of Commons and in Westminster Hall. Mo routinely shares all research evidence with academics, medical and healthcare professionals, frontline national charities, selected
politicians and service users.)

THE HIDDEN AGENDA: a research summary by Mo Stewart

(The Hidden Agenda © Mo Stewart – March 2013)

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is exclusively conducted on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by the corporate giant Atos Origin IT Ltd Medical Services, better known as Atos Healthcare. This ‘non-medical assessment’ was introduced in 2008 by the Labour government, and was identified as a ‘medical examination’ to be used to identify genuine claimants for long term sickness and disability benefit. However, what was unknown at the time was the fact that the WCA was a continuation of the planned agenda of the previous Thatcher government, whose ultimate goal was the destruction of the Welfare State.(1) The WCA was promoted as a ‘fitness for work’ assessment for claimants of what was once known as Incapacity Benefit, now re-named as the Employment and Support Allowance.(ESA) In reality, in order to reduce the welfare budget, the WCA was designed to resist as many sickness benefit claims as possible regardless of confirmed and identified permanent illness or disability. By 2010 the planned DWP welfare budget reduction was deemed to be
too slow. The new Coalition Government enhanced the WCA and, following the previous Labour Government’s lead, it became much more difficult to qualify for the ESA(2) as the WCA totally disregarded diagnosis, prognosis or limited life expectancy.

Aided and abetted by the national press, using insidious press headlines to manipulate public opinion(3)(3b), the Coalition Government successfully introduced tyranny, fear and despair to the nation’s most vulnerable people, using a disability assessment model as designed in consultation with Unum [Provident] Insurance; one of the most discredited corporate insurance giants in the world.(4)(4b) At the same time, reported disability hate crimes in the United Kingdom(UK) were rising to record levels.(5) The first two years of independent research into the WCA concluded at the end of November 2011 with the
exposure of two government memorandums provided by Unum Provident Insurance.(6) Initially, the link between the UK welfare reforms and the likely move to an insurance based benefits system was identified by Baroness Tanni Gray-Thompson during the welfare reform debates in the House of Lords.(7) Nine months later, the link between Atos Healthcare and Unum Insurance was exposed by Kevin Brennan MP during debate in Westminster Hall(8) and, more recently, during an emergency Backbench Business debate in the House of Commons(HOC), Michael Meacher MP identified the possible influence of Unum Insurance with the UK Government.(9)

Of course, this destruction of the welfare state could never have been so readily achieved without the unelected former Labour adviser, David Freud. He was ennobled to permit appointment initially to the Shadow Cabinet but, following the 2010 General Election, he was appointed as the Minister for Welfare Reform for the Coalition where he has excelled. Indeed, one of Lord Freud’s most recent claims was that: “Poor people should be prepared to take more risks because they have the least to lose…”(11) Clearly, this man is yet another millionaire Minister who demonstrates no concern, and no comprehension, of human need.
The ongoing DWP medical tyranny, masquerading as welfare reform, has permitted Atos Healthcare to conduct the WCA by employing the totally discredited Bio-Psychosocial(BPS) model of disability assessment that remains free from all public accountability according to the General Medical Council and the Care Quality Commission. The BPS is the assessment model as used by Unum Insurance when assessing healthcare insurance claims, and it is also the assessment model enthusiastically promoted by Professor Sir Mansel Aylward. The Professor is the Director of the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University, initially sponsored by Unum Insurance from its inception in 2003 to 2009.

However, prior to his move to the Centre, the Professor was the DWP’s Chief Medical Officer who, in 1994, was in post when Unum Insurance was invited to become corporate ‘advisers’ to the UK government.(12) Whilst the BPS model is an interesting theory, the selective use of the BPS model of disability assessment, as used by both Unum Insurance and Atos Healthcare, was exposed long ago as an invention of the insurance industry.(13)(14) By concentrating on the psychological model of disability, to the detriment of the social model, the WCA was always destined to promote unacceptable results for many thousands of ESA claimants. In one six month period alone 37,100 people had waited up to a year to have their ESA benefit reinstated following appeal, yet no-one is asking what would have happened to these genuinely sick and disabled people if they had not had the strength to pursue their claim to appeal?(10)

Indeed, a recent Panorama documentary: ‘Disabled or Faking It’,(15) demonstrated quite categorically the dangers of the WCA with seriously ill patients, diagnosed with life threatening conditions such as heart failure and end stage emphysema, being found fit for work.(15) However, with the national press still refusing to expose the identified influence of Unum Insurance with the DWP welfare reforms, the British public remain in ignorance as the government covertly convert the UK welfare state into the American healthcare system, ultimately to be funded by private insurance.(12)(13)(14) Meanwhile, Unum Insurance is happy to continue to offer new careers to former government ‘advisers’. (16) The WCA is an American imported ‘disability assessment model’ and has no medical credibility whatsoever, as confirmed by the British Medical Association(17), yet it is enthusiastically employed by the DWP and causes devastation to those least able to protest. This ‘medical assessment’ is working very well as the thousands of genuine claimants that have either died, committed suicide, been forced into poverty due to mounting debt, or who have developed a mental health problem due to anxiety are now the disregarded victims.(10)

Many had been in receipt of Incapacity Benefit before being re-assessed by Atos Healthcare, using the fatally flawed WCA, only to fail to qualify for benefit following ‘assessment’. The Internet provides evidence to this government imposed suffering at a cost to the tax-payer of £110million per annum for the confidential Atos contract and an estimated £60 million pounds per annum, and rising, for the costs of the appeal tribunals. Yet, still, Members of Parliament (MP) continue with their very courteous and diplomatic debates(8)(9) as the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and, especially, their corporate partners all celebrate the ongoing planned destruction of the welfare state that appears to be unstoppable.

What is still disregarded is the fact that Professor Sir Mansel Aylward’s research activities were funded for six years by Unum Insurance.(12) Indeed, due to his significant contribution to the future reduction of the DWP welfare budget by promoting the use of a ‘non-medical’ assessment, the Professor was rewarded with a Knighthood for “services to disability assessment.” Therefore, his support for the BPS disability assessment model was presumed to be guaranteed. Yet, when confronted six months ago, the Professor actually confirmed that he now considered the BPS model to be “unsatisfactory” and that he believed it “no longer addresses the real needs of disabled people and the exclusion of disabled people from society”.(18) Of course, the question remains as to why there was no official DWP announcement following this amazing change of ‘expert’ professional opinion, as the entire national press totally disregarded the press release that was distributed last September following Sir Mansel’s unexpected statement. Perhaps the Professor was safe in the
knowledge that the press release would be ignored, and perhaps this is why he continues to travel widely, still lecturing about the virtues of the totally discredited BPS model of disability assessment? The most recent lecture was at the Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference in Birmingham, from 5th-6th March 2013,(19) where Professor Sir Mansel Aylward was listed as a keynote speaker on the subject of: The New Public Health Agenda: Its Impact on Health and Wellbeing at Work. Given the title of his speech, one can only presume that the Professor has yet to advise other professionals of his reported change of expert opinion.(18)

This is how the UK welfare state will be destroyed. There is a BPS ‘expert’ in place, and an American corporate insurance giant has influenced the UK Government to totally disregard human suffering, in favour of a reduced welfare budget, using an identified bogus ‘medical assessment’. Unum Insurance have begun their mass marketing to encourage able bodied members of the British public to invest in their ‘Income Protection Insurance’ or their ‘Back-up Plan,’ that’s only available via the workplace, and these are the healthcare insurance policies that the company has historically tried very hard to resist funding when a claim is made.(20)(21) Given that the unacceptable practice of Unum Insurance was previously exposed by MPs during a House of Commons debate in 1999(22), the question remains as to why was this highly discredited American corporate insurance giant ever permitted to influence UK welfare reforms and why the national press, en masse, refuse to expose this insurance company’s confirmed influence despite it being identified by a BBC News report in 2007?(23)

The recent exposure of a 2005 internal Unum report, that actively boasted that the company was ‘driving government thinking’ regarding the reform of Incapacity Benefit (24) leads to the much more sinister possibility that the DWP are simply administrators of these brutal welfare reforms, and that the perpetrators of the devastation caused to the victims of this UK government funded medical tyranny are, in fact, Unum Insurance. Michael O’Donnell was the author of the 2005 internal Unum report that was written when he was the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Unum Insurance. Michael O’Donnell is now the CMO for Atos Healthcare…..

The difficulty remains that no-one is asking the relevant questions. Perhaps MPs should be asking the Prime Minister why he’s been funded by ‘healthcare companies’ to the value of £750,000(27) since he became Prime Minister (25) or why every report produced by the President of the Appeal Tribunals, all of which identified the Atos Healthcare WCA assessments as “failing to coincide with reality”, was totally disregarded by the DWP? (12)
Until and unless more significant questions are asked in the House of Commons, victims of this government funded medical nightmare will be forced to turn to the law for help, just as in America.(26)

Until and unless the national press demonstrate that the UK really does benefit from a free press, and not a government controlled press, the most vulnerable of all British people will continue to suffer and the British public will continue to be deceived.(12)

References:
1) Margaret Thatcher’s role in plan to dismantle welfare state revealed:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/dec/28/margaret-thatcher-role-plan-to-dismantle-welfare-state-revealed
(2) Cuts to UK benefits: http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/library/type/text/cuts-to-uk-benefits.html
(3) ‘Ello, John, got a new Motability motor? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2047593/Motability-schemes-starting-resemble- worst-excesses-Arthur-Daley-.html
(3b) Half a million incapacity benefit claimants are fit for work, Government’s own figures show: Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2115476/A-incapacity-benefit-claimants-fit-work-Government-s-OWN-figures show. html#axzz2JqkmNFAR
(4) New York Attorney General Spitzer’s ruling: http://www.insure.com/articles/healthinsurance/unum-settlement.html
(4b) The Ten Worst Insurance Companies in America – The American Association of Justice

Click to access tenworstinsurancecompanies.pdf


(5) Hate crimes against disabled people soar to a record high:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/hate-crimes-against-disabled-people-soar-to-a-record-level-7858841.html
(6) The truth behind welfare reforms: http://www.whywaitforever.com/dwpatosveteransreport20111120.html
(7) BnsTanni Gray-Thompson: House of Lords, welfare reforms
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/110913-0002.htm
(8) Private Members’ Debate: Atos Healthcare: 4th Sept 2012
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120904/halltext/120904h0001.htm
(9) Backbench Business: Atos Work Capability Assessment debate: 17th Jan 2013
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130117/debtext/130117-0002.htm
(10) British people are committing suicide to escape poverty. Is this what the State wants?
http://poultonblog.dailymail.co.uk/2012/03/people-are-choosing-suicide-to-escape-poverty-is-this-the-states- final-solution.html
(11) Lord Freud’s welfare ‘lifestyle’ comments show ‘nasty party is back’, say Labour:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9698985/Lord-Freuds-welfare-lifestyle-comments-show-nasty-party-is-back-say-Labour.html
(12) Government use might of American insurance giant to destroy UK welfare safety net – update 27th Oct : http://www.whywaitforever.com/dwpatosveteransreport20121027.html
(13) An academic responds to statement by Prof Aylward:
http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2012/09/18/dwpatosunum-scandal-an-academic-responds-with-disbelief-to-professor-aylwardsstatement- to-black-triangle-and-dpac-outside-the-ifdm2012-conference-on-11th-september-2012/
(14) A Tale of Two Models: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/jolly/A%20Tale%20of%20two%20Models%20Leeds1.pdf
(15) Panorama: Disabled or Faking It?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01lldrc/Panorama_Disabled_or_Faking_It/
(16) Peter Dewis: Steppin’ Sideways from Government to Unum:
http://downwithallthat.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/peter-dewis-steppin-sideways-from-government-to-unum/
(17) GPs call for work capability assessment to be scrapped:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/may/23/gps-work-capability-assessment-scrapped
(18) Former DWP medical boss makes WCA pledge to protesters:
http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2012/09/former-dwp-medical-boss-makes-wca-pledge-to-protesters/
(19) Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference, NEC Birmingham: http://www.healthatwork2013.co.uk/
(20) “The denial on the part of Unum in the Mondolo case appears to mirror denials of other Unum disability claims historically, going back several years. To that end, the Court noted Unum’s history of biased claims administration.” (MARCH 2013)
http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/first_unum/unum-lawsuit-insurance-disability-claims-12-18506.html?utm_expid=3607522-
0&utm_referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lawyersandsettlements.com%2Flegal-news-articles%2Fcase%2Ffirst_unum%2F
(21) CBS News 60 minutes: DID INSURER CHEAT DISABLED CLIENTS:
(see below)
(22) Permanent Health Insurance debate, Westminster Hall, 21st December 2009
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199900/cmhansrd/vo991221/halltext/91221h01.htm#91221h01_head0
(23) BBC Ten ‘o Clock News report: 6th Nov 2007 http://www.meactionuk.org.uk/UNUM_on_BBC_News_061107.wmv (BBC NEWS report – video)
(24) Unum bragged about ‘driving government thinking’ on incapacity benefit reform:
http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/02/unum-bragged-about-driving-government-thinking-on-incapacity-benefit-reform/
(25) MPs’ links are so unhealthy: http://www.express.co.uk/comment/expresscomment/378233/MPs-links-are-so- unhealthy
(26) High Court rules Work Capability Assessment arguably unlawful:
http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2012/07/victory-in-first-stage-of-fitness-for-work-court-case/
(27) NHS reform leaves Tory backers with links to private healthcare firms set for bonanza:
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/nhs-reform-leaves-tory-backers-105302

images (1) Now watch the US video below (referenced above) and compare what is being described with what people are experiencing here in Britain at the hands of the DWP and its sidekick ATOS…chilling?

UK On Fast Track to Third World Status Says US Commentator.

not interested      He’s not interested in …

_69113648_69113647  the living conditions of people living here…

He caused them but he doesn’t have to put up with them.  

Read what an American observer thinks of Breadline Britain… 

 

 

Force-Fed UK Austerity

By Stephen Lendman
4-11-13

Since 2008, America, Britain and other European nations force-fed austerity harshness. Neoliberal and imperial priorities take precedence.

Bankers, war profiteers, other corporate favorites, and privileged elites alone benefit. Ordinary people lose out entirely. Public needs go begging. Human misery grows. Things go from bad to worse. Nothing ahead looks promising.

Britain made things harder. Parliament imposed the largest welfare cuts in modern times. More on them below.

They come when Prime Minister David Cameron wants UK nuclear defenses upgraded. He wants billions of pounds spent doing so. He claims Britain faces threats that don’t exist. An “ultimate weapon” is needed, he says.

His Daily Telegraph op-ed headlined “We need a nuclear deterrent more than ever,” saying:

(A)s prime minister, with ultimate responsibility for the nation’s security, I profoundly disagree with” naysayers. The “nuclear threat has not gone away.”

“My judgment is that it would be foolish to leave Britain defenceless against a continuing, and growing, nuclear threat.”

Saying so defies reason. Wanting billions of pounds spent on what’s not needed reflects deception writ large. Britain’s FY 2014 budget allocates 44.7 billion pounds for defense.

Billions go for nuclear deterrence. Cameron wants billions more. It’s worth the cost, he says. No cheaper options exist, he claims.

He wants Brits to think wasteful spending will protect Britain from nuclear attacks. Estimates run up to 20 billion pounds. It reflects multi-year spending.

At the same time, he supports massive welfare cuts. They come when Queen Elizabeth got a five million pound pay increase. In FY 2013-14, she’ll receive 36.1 million pounds (around $54 million). It’s up from 31 million last year.

She gets regular pay increases. They come from the Crown Estate. Its properties are worth eight billion pounds.

She’ll now receive 15% of their profits. In 2011-12, they earned 240.2 million pounds.

The Queen claims she needs the money. Royal priorities aren’t cheap. Annual expenses keep rising. She’s having a hard time making ends meet.

She’s dismissive about ordinary people’s suffering. It’s their problem, not hers. Let ’em eat cake doesn’t wash. A former monarch learned the hard way.

Tough times keep getting tougher. Ordinary Brits struggle to get by. Britain’s coalition government made things harder. On April 3, Russia Today headlined “UK govt imposes avalanche of cuts,” saying:

Low-income and financially vulnerable families will be hit hardest. Opposition Labour MPs called new cuts announced “the beginning of ‘Black April.’ ” It’s hard imagining why. They’re as neoliberal as Tories.

From June 2007 – May 2010, Gordon Brown was prime minister. Austerity began on his watch. Budget cuts hit ordinary Brits hardest. Brown said “Labour will cut costs, cut inefficiencies, cut unnecessary programmes, and cut lower priority budgets.”

He targeted public sector worker wages, pensions and other benefits. At the same time, Britain spent 94% of its GDP on bank bailouts. It amounted to taxing every Brit about 30,000 pounds.

Labour and Tories conspire against ordinary people. Austerity is policy. So are harsh welfare cuts. Imposed them inflicts enormous hardships. Earlier amounts totaled tens of billions of pounds. In January, another 14.2 billion were announced.

New ones are toughest of all. Britain’s Baptist Union called them “unjust (forcing) the most vulnerable (to) pay a disproportionate price.”

Methodist Church Public Issues Policy Adviser Paul Morrison said they “make April fools of us all.”

“We are witnessing what happens when we create a culture that blames poor people for their poverty.”

“It is a lie to say that most people on benefits are lazy, that they have an easy life or that they are responsible for the nation’s financial deficit.”

“When people are willing to believe those lies, poor families pay the highest price.”

At the same time, wealthy elites got a tax cut. In late March, Britain slashed its 50% top rate to 40%. Corporations got a 1% cut.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s “granny tax” left around five million middle-class pensioners up to 323 pounds worse off. It’s when they most need help. They face other harsh budget cutting measures.

Welfare benefits will be cut another 10 billion pounds by 2016. On average, around 18 million Brits will lose 500 pounds annually. Billions more welfare cuts were announced earlier. Where this ends who knows.

Cameron wants public spending cut 5.3%. Expect more cuts to follow. Since financial crisis conditions erupted in 2008, one in 10 Brits lost their jobs.

The latest measures are worst of all. They include a new “bedroom” tax. It’s on local council and housing association tenants. They get housing benefits.

Recipients claimed to have a “spare” bedroom face cuts totaling 14%. Those with two “spare” ones lose 25%. Britain calls the measure an “under-occupancy penalty.”

Imposing it seeks to encourage more efficient social housing use. It inflicts enormous harm on vulnerable households. Expect more ahead hitting them harder. It’s coming in waves. One measure leads to others. Like America, Britain’s heading for third world status.

Hundreds of thousands of people are affected. Many will become homeless. Britain’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said the new bedroom tax will “end up costing more than it saves as tenants are forced to go homeless or move into the expensive private renter sector.”

Around 90,000 households are affected. Less than 4,000 smaller homes can accommodate them. In April, “personal independence  payments (PIPs)” replace disability living allowances.

Private consulting and information technology services firm ATOS will assess whether benefit claimants can work. It’ll be paid up to one billion pounds to do so. In the past, it claimed stroke victims were fit to work.

ATOS aims to remove another 500,000 claimants from benefit rolls. Doing so will throw many of them in the street. They’ll risk losing out entirely.

New Health and Social Care Act legislation affects them. Enactment reverses 1946 free, universal National Health Service care. Government no longer has a legal duty to provide it.

Newly created Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) now have a “duty to arrange” what used to be mandated. Doing so shifts costs on the backs of vulnerable Brits least able to afford them. Commercializing healthcare lets predatory private profiteers take full advantage.

Combining austerity with welfare cuts heads Britain for third world status. Poverty and unemployment will rise further. So will public anger. On March 30, protesters targeted London’s Trafalgar Square.

Unionists joined anti-poverty campaigners, the disabled, homemakers and others.

Simultaneous gatherings were held in cities and towns nationwide. Thousands turned out in Glasgow. “Axe the bedroom tax,” signs read. One protestor spoke for others, saying:

“We won’t forget what they are doing to working class people.”

Another said:

“They have just shut the soup kitchen in Waltham Forest despite having a real problem with homelessness. I’m a working single parent. Now I’ve a tiny boxroom, and I’m faced with the choice between food, heat or paying the ‘bedroom tax.’ ”

At issue are numerous other cuts. Expect new ones to follow those announced. More recent ones began last October. Dozens of imposed changes were made. They include:

 

cutting support for mortgage interest from 6.08% – 3.63%;

 

scrapping the Child Trust Fund;

 

reducing the Council Tax benefit;

 

ending the Health in Pregnancy grant;

 

abolishing the Disability Living Allowance;

 

cutting legal aid;

 

freezing the Child Benefit and Working Tax Credit for low-income workers; and

 

much more implemented from October 10 through mid-April.

Making ordinary Brits bear burdens they can’t afford is policy. Expect new imposed hardships ahead. Tories and Labour are in lockstep. It bears repeating. Britain’s heading toward third world status. It’s on a fast track toward getting there.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

CAMERON’S ‘GLOBAL RACE’ : THE GREAT LEAP BACKWARDS TO A NEW FEUDAL BRITAIN ?

When I reflect on the past three years of Coalition Rule there’s no doubt in my mind that they are intent on destroying the hard fought rights of ordinary folk to a decent living wage and a secure roof over their heads. Every day, when I read of yet another assault on these rights I fear for the future of my grandson’s generation. The devastation that this government has presided over is astonishing and the insidious and divisive rhetoric of sanctimony that seeps from their mouths and saturates the Tory press is beyond sickening. The question is, why now? The usual trite excuse for austerity  and the complete destruction of the public sector both here and abroad- “its the banks wot dunnit” – doesn’t wash when the only real victims are the poor.

Over the last months it seems every Coalition politician asked to comment on TV or radio for whatever reason has been justifying the decisions and actions of government by referring to the so called ‘global race’ we’re apparently signed up to. What ‘global race’? Who exactly are we competing against here, and what’s the prize? Who’s putting the effort in and who’s reaping the benefits? When did it start? And WHY are we in this ‘race’ in the first place?

01_awelfarea     Back in May 2010, as he took up office at the DWP, the allegedly right honourable Iain Duncan-Smith set out his stall by commenting on the welfare benefit situation he was inheriting. He said,

The rise in working age poverty and continued inequality show that we must make work pay and the first choice for millions of people. It is not right that someone can actually be worse off by taking work, we should be rewarding such positive behaviour by making work pay.

Now tell me if this sounds daft, but if I were going to ‘make work pay’ I’d do something about raising the minimum wage by enough to make it possible for a family to actually have a life worth living; and I’d also do something about making sure there were enough of those jobs for those who needed them.

IDS obviously had other ideas. Since he came out with the quote above we’ve seen his attempts to ‘make work pay’ and heard his sermons with their feeble excuses of ‘fairness’ as justification for shoving more and more people deeper into poverty and precariousness. His reductions in benefits and his welfare caps and his bedroom tax and whatnot have pushed down the incomes of the most vulnerable poor well below the minimum wage level so theoretically it could be said work pays more than benefits – something that a decently paid job always did – assuming there are enough to go round. The point I’m making here, though, is that in order to be able to come on our TV’s and proudly claim that he’s done what he said he would do, in the process he’s made the lives of people who for one reason or another can’t work, far more difficult – and in some cases so impossible they’ve ended those lives in despair – and he’s done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for those people who are desperate to work but can’t find the non-existent decently paid jobs he keeps nagging them to go and get.

Steve Bell cartoon 16.07.2013 The devious lengths he and his ministers have had to go to in order to  impression manage the whole bloody fiasco are mind blowing. The DWP has now become renown for manipulating statistics and reconstructing reality. What with Lord Freud’s completely Freudian denial of the truth about food banks followed closely by IDS’s deadpan attempt to make poverty and homelessness totally disappear through a unilateral act of blind faith I’m left wondering if we should rename the DWP  the Department for Sinister Magic Tricks.

We’ve always known that Tories look down on the poor and do nothing positive to help them and we’ve all seen how our democratic process of government has been even more infected of late by the creeping virus of corporate vested interest. With the imminent EU-US Free Trade Agreement elephant looming large and ominous in the corner, salivating at the thought of all that lovely profit to be made here and rubbing its greedy hands at the thought of cracking its powerful whip if our puny government dares to try to pass any laws to stand in its way, the future for the likes of us is not bright and definitely not as rosy as it will be for companies like Orange.

0 I’m by no means alone in feeling these concerns. There have been numerous reports over the past couple of years presenting the evidence of suffering that Duncan Smith and his ministers want to magic into non-existence. Church groups and charities, the Children’s Commissioner, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and now, writing in today’s Observer, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu have all expressed deep concern and anger at the growing scandal of our low wage economy. Dr Sentamu asks a very pertinent question in his article, a question which goes to the heart of this government’s pretence of a justification for their cruel cuts and tacitly exposes their smear campaign which labels benefits claimants as scroungers as a dirty lie. Talking about tax credits he says,

“The holes in millions of pay cheques are being plugged by in-work support to the tune of £4bn a year… Why is the government having to subsidise businesses which don’t pay their employees enough to live on? “

 shoes b         9-21-2010-12-37-45-PM

Contained in that question are the real shock horror headlines about benefits scroungers that the Tory loving Daily Mail and Telegraph have not been printing. This is the true story:-

FOUR BILLION POUNDS OF TAX BENEFITS GOING TO HELP SCROUNGING CORPORATIONS SO EXECUTIVES CAN LIVE IN LUXURY WHILE WORKERS’ KIDS GO WITHOUT THE BASIC NECESSITIES.

Coalition rhetoric seems to consist of just a few stock phrases that every minister trots out at every opportunity during interviews and speeches. They never engage in real debate. One of their biggest lies is the one where they tell you they’re on the side of “people who want to work hard and do the right thing” and they imply that people who do this will “get on”.This is their definition of  “striver”. I wonder if they realise that some dictionaries define the word as “one who works as hard as a slave”. So if you decode their message what are they really saying? It seems to me they’re saying they want us to work like slaves and do the right wing thing which is basically to help corporations make more profit. Their talk about Britain being in the ‘global race’ is part of this discourse. When Cameron uses it he implies that if we don’t get ‘match fit’ by being ‘strivers'(slaves) we’ll lose the race. Being ‘strivers'(slaves) we attract business to Britain. The goal of the Coalition (Tory) government is to turn Britain into a slave economy that attracts corporate investment to enrich them and their wealthy mates. They’ve already opened up much of the public sector to private investment and will carry on doing that until its all in private hands (they’ve even sold our blood!). It seems the DWP’s job is to manufacture a suitable workforce conditioned to accept lower and lower wages subsidised by more and more expensive credit from their loan shark friends. Enslavement is the only word for it.   Lets take a look at how far they’ve taken us towards that goal in the last three years.

Graphic-02A   No matter how hard IDS and his magicians spin and weave their web of lies about employment statistics the hard facts are that decent paying full time jobs are difficult to find. The graphic above clearly illustrates how many full time jobs have been lost since 2008 and shows just how precarious work has become. The biggest worrying factor, though, is the incredible rise in the number of people who are now employed on zero hours contracts in this country – especially in the 16 to 24 year old section of the labour market. Back in 2005 there were 50,000 working age people on these contracts. Last year that figure was 200,000. You can get an idea of the pace of change when you learn that between 2011 and 2012 the figure doubled in size. 38% of those 200,000 are under 25 and now 23% of employers of over 100 employees use zero hours contracts. The private health sector are now the second largest users of these contracts with 13% of them now employing nurses and healthcare assistants this way, compared to only 7% back in 2004 – another indicator of the creeping privatisation of the NHS. What’s worse most cleaning and catering firms that employ people on zero hours expect their employees to pay for their own training and uniforms. This information was obtained from House of Commons Library Special Note SN/BT/653 last updated on 4th July 2013.

david-cameron-welf_2438993k  Of course, David Cameron and his corporate cronies at the CBI see this sorry state of affairs in a very different light. They can go out and ‘sell’ Britain’s ‘flexible’ workforce. And it has the added value of making the unemployment figures look good; as Neil Carberry of the CBI said on the BBC on 15th May,

It’s zero hours contracts and other forms of flexible working that mean there are half a million fewer unemployed people than there might otherwise have been.”

Precisely, Neil. And with this in mind you’ll be wondering why David Cameron told Archbishop John Sentamu he thought his concept of a living wage was “an attractive idea”. Was he deliberately lying to the priest or was he doing the usual Tory trick of appearing to agree by not finishing his sentence?  What he surely meant was it was “an attractive idea for some but not the Tories.”

Productivity-and-compensation-1  The Tories’ scurrilous insults about working people can be seen to be even more disgusting if you take the time to think about what this little graph shows. The red dotted line refers to hourly wage rates in UK manufacturing while the rising blue line indicates productivity. Its glaringly obvious that since the 1980’s and Thatcher’s era of destruction, workers’ wages have not kept up with their output. People have been working harder and harder for less and less. This is the most up to date graph I could find but even on this you can see the beginnings of a downturn in the hourly rate in 2010. Its surely no coincidence that since Thatcher’s onslaught on trade unions and the consistent curbing and demonising of union activity ever since that time, workers in Britain have been exploited for their labour. And its certainly no coincidence that the gap between the increasing hard work and the poverty of the reward mirrors the increasingly gaping chasm between rich and poor. For me this graph is a testament to the fact that the wealthy are living it up on the backs of the impoverished. And now, it seems, they want more.

images  One of our most basic needs is to have somewhere safe and secure to live. A home. An affordable home. A recent report from Joseph Rowntree Foundation “Keeping up in Hard Times” (2012) has shown that,

  “From a living standards perspective, it is clear that the majority of low income families have insufficient incomes to comfortably meet an adequate standard of living as defined by the Minimum Income Standard and cover their housing costs. Even at the median, family incomes for owners and private renters do not stretch to cover both costs in a third of local authorities. This is not just an issue in London and the South East. Even in cheaper parts of the country and in lower priced tenures, housing costs can be hard for those on the lowest incomes to afford. For a very low income couple with one child, the cost of meeting the MIS alone is greater than their income of £19k. This means that even a subsidised social rent is unaffordable. “

The report demonstrates that in the whole of the South of England  there is no housing option which doesn’t cost more than 25% of the Minimum Income Standard. For a couple with two children this is calculated to be £23,700 p.a. BEFORE rent and childcare costs are added in. According to IDS, its ‘unfair’ for anyone to receive total benefits greater than £24,000. As the bedroom tax and the benefits cap bites deeper families are going to find themselves in very deep trouble indeed. How many will be forced to move into the cheaper housing areas in Wales and the North, looking for scarce, precarious work? If things don’t change they may well have to.

This won’t be just a divided Britain, this will be Ghetto Britain.

What Jeremy Hunt isn’t telling us:ONE MILLION ONE HUNDRED AND TEN THOUSAND good news NHS stories!

STG-65-Birthday-A3-Poster1                          images (8)

An outside observer of some of the right wing media coverage of the NHS over recent months could be forgiven for thinking that our 65 year old system of publicly funded healthcare was failing badly. The hyped up propaganda has painted a hysterical universal picture of NHS hospitals as places where painful death creeps through wards and corridors grimly reaping as it goes; places where nurses and doctors are slipshod, uncaring or downright callous and cruel and patients are constructed as their helpless victims. You can almost hear the melodramatic silent movie music and mad cackling laughter.

NHS1   Nothing could be further from the truth. When I was born in 1950 the NHS and the welfare state were barely two years old and because it existed my mother was attended by trained midwives and as I grew she could take me to a weekly clinic where my weight was monitored and she had access to free baby milk, orange juice and vitamins to help me thrive. Prior to the NHS most working class folk like us couldn’t afford what we now think of as basic healthcare. Our babies were delivered at home by untrained women often in unhygienic conditions. Maternal deaths were high. If a mother was unable to breastfeed, cow’s milk had to suffice. There was little knowledge of the need to sterilise bottles etc and little money for, or knowledge of a healthy diet. I had an aunt whose legs were bent out of shape by rickets and an uncle who died aged 50 from a treatable heart condition because he couldn’t afford to pay for either the doctor or the medicine that would have saved him.

There is no doubt that the NHS has transformed the health of the working class and saved many, many lives.

images   In three short years the Coalition government, with its crazed programme of benefit cuts and its unbelievably savage attack on people with disabilities, has catapulted the working class back to those pre NHS days of my infancy. And it seems determined to finish the job by destroying a system that ensured everyone had access to a level of healthcare previously only available to the well off.

And they’re doing this by trying to turn us against it with the sly tactic of the self fulling prophesy . Because by starving hospitals of cash and staff they aim to create the chaos that they hope will justify privatisation.

images (1)     So now its high time for the GOOD NEWS stories to be told about the NHS to put things back into proportion. Like every organisation under the sun, the NHS doesn’t get it right all the time. But it does get it right an awful lot more times than the government would have us believe and it does it every hour of every day of every year all over the UK.  A simple Google search for the term “the NHS saved my life” yielded ONE MILLION ONE HUNDRED AND TEN THOUSAND hits and I’ve listed some of the links below so people can read something positive about our health service for a change. I’m not claiming that every single one of those hits was a good news story but the vast majority of them certainly were – and they were all stories of how NHS staff from ambulance crews to doctors and nurses and even a dietician had helped to save a life. There’s even one from a Tory MP!

opperman    MP for Hexham, Guy Opperman invited the neurosurgeon who saved his life to Westminster to present him with a cheque from the proceeds of a book he’d written, as a thank  you for the great care he received from the NHS. He seems unusual for a Tory since he’s also campaigned against low wages and first got interested in national politics after giving up his time as a barrister for free to lead a campaign to fight the closure of Savernake NHS Hospital, which he credited with saving his mother’s life from cancer.

   So here are the good news stories that I hope will help heal the NHS reputation (not ‘cure’ it like a side of bacon!).

images (9)

http://guyopperman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/giving-book-proceeds-to-nhs-as-thank-you.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/mar/06/nhs-just-saved-my-life

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1361044/Andrew-Lansleys-NHS-reform-It-saved-life-wasnt-liberated-then.html

http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/examiner-plus/2012/05/09/the-nhs-saved-my-life-now-we-need-to-save-the-nhs-huddersfield-author-gives-his-verdict-after-six-months-in-hospital-86081-30926518/

http://dave-howells.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/how-nhs-saved-my-life-in-aid-of.html

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/120874/Obama-s-stepmother-The-NHS-saved-my-life

http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/yoursay/letterstotheeditor/9181453.To_NHS_knockers__it_saved_my_life/

http://www.cumbriapartnership.nhs.uk/news/royal-recognition-for-simple-act-of-kindness.htm

http://www.bucksfreepress.co.uk/yoursay/opinion/yourletters/8090504.NHS_saved_my_life/

images (2)

http://www.ambulance.wales.nhs.uk/Default.aspx?pageId=153&lan=en&sid=151

http://www.scoop.it/t/brighton-and-sussex-university-hospitals-nhs-trust/p/4000847988/hurstwood-park-saved-my-life-says-jess-county-news-west-sussex-gazette

http://www.justgiving.com/Kevin-Rutherford1

http://www.plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk/ourorganisation/newsandpublications/pressreleases/Pages/RoutineNHSscanwasalife-saver,saysgrandfatherAnthony.aspx

http://www.nhsforthvalley.com/news/2013/bowel-screening-saves-lives

download                                                   http://www.midstaffs.nhs.uk/Our-Services/Have-Your-Say.aspx

http://www.wmsc.nhs.uk/news/grace-says-thank-you-for-saving-my-life-as-west-midlands-trauma-care-system-goes-live

http://www.derbyhospitals.nhs.uk/patients/inpatients/inpatient-experiences/sharon-norton/

http://www.scotsman.com/scotland-on-sunday/opinion/comment/scottish-independence-fears-over-cross-border-nhs-1-2818976

https://www.nhslocal.nhs.uk/story/features/how-air-ambulance-saved-my-life

http://www.nhsggc.org.uk/content/default.asp?page=s1192_3&newsid=8839&back=home

http://www.sthk.nhs.uk/pages/News.aspx?iNewsItemId=571

http://www.southcentralambulance.nhs.uk/foundation-trust/membersstories/apatientsstory.ashx

http://www.enherts-tr.nhs.uk/blog/1985/press-releases/%E2%80%98new-heart-attack-treatment-saved-my-life%E2%80%99/

http://www.channel5.com/shows/brain-hospital-saving-lives/articles/about-the-show

http://www.buckinghamshire.nhs.uk/legacy/2010/04/bowel-cancer-screening-saved-my-life-says-local-woman/

http://www.rbht.nhs.uk/patients/why-us/patients-stories/cancer-testimony/

http://www.bradfordhospitals.nhs.uk/about-us/patient-testimonials

http://www.cht.nhs.uk/news/news-item/browse/20/article/early-diagnosis-saved-my-life/?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=14&cHash=6c9cb0f5e6daaa997fc680fef258ea80

http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/save-our-nhs.html

NHS-thank-you3

Why has Baron Freud been consulting with his Bankster Mates about our Credit Unions?

italian-banksters    images (11) We’ve all heard the twisted logic coming from David Freud’s lips. Baron Freud’s argument is that because the poor have the least to lose they should take the biggest risks. Perhaps we shouldn’t be all that surprised to hear a former banker talking like this or be further surprised that he seems to measure risk purely in terms of quantities of money and has completely failed to see that while the poor do indeed have less to lose, by losing the small amount of money and possessions they own they would be rendered destitute and homeless. Whereas for the rich to lose the very same amount – the sum total of the poor’s assets – would have no impact whatsoever on the quality of their lives. They certainly wouldn’t go hungry. Freud is not an uneducated man. He’s well aware that the facts I’ve just written above are true. His argument is not based on fact but on a deeply held class prejudice because what he is effectively saying very clearly with his banker’s logic is that the money he and his class own is more important than the very lives of the poor. He knows just as well as we do that when you deprive a human being of the most basic means to survive you condemn them to a slow death. This is the man who has been entrusted with the job of welfare reform. And this is the man who, since early 2011, has been talking to some of the biggest and most notoriously criminal banks about our Credit Unions. Why? images (3)       A Credit Union, as many of you will know, is a member-owned financial cooperative, democratically controlled by its members, and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at affordable rates as well as a few other financial services to its members. Its a very different beast than a commercial bank, not least because it doesn’t exist to make a profit. When the Credit Union Act 1979 was passed it defined the meaning and ethos of Credit Unions and set out their objectives. The central and most basic principle that underpins such organisations is the notion that there is a ‘common bond’ between members. Members were people who had things in common such as being employed in the same industry, living in the same locality, belonging to the same organisation or group or had any other reason to be associated with each other. By virtue of this basic requirement Credit Unions were necessarily small co-operative societies. The objectives laid down in Statute were,

  • the promotion of thrift among the members of the society by the accumulation of their savings;
  • the creation of sources of credit for the benefit of the members of the society at a fair and reasonable rate of interest;
  • the use and control of the members’ savings for their mutual benefit; and
  • the training and education of the members in the wise use of money and in the management of their financial affairs.

Credit Unions were never intended to be banks…. cu_umbrella    Back in July 2006 the then New Labour government started a Growth Fund as part of their Financial Inclusion Fund and in an attempt to encourage growth in run down local economies they handed out grants to Credit Unions so they could provide more loans to local people to help fund small businesses and other projects. They gave Credit Unions grants worth in total £42 million between 2006 and 2008, then pledged a further £38 million to be used between 2008 and 2011. Its estimated that this money benefited around 160,000 people to the tune of £70 million in affordable loans. This was money given up front by government and they took the trouble to do some research and target the most needy areas with the most money. But in 2010 of course the slash and burn Coalition government took over the budget… Mark-Hoban-said-the-euroz-007    In early 2011 DWP Minister Mark Hoban (pictured here with a rather large zit) made a statement about the future of the Financial Inclusion Fund containing a shadowy hint at their plans for Credit Unions,

“The Financial Inclusion Fund will close at the end of March 2011. The Government will work closely with industry and other stakeholders to ensure that tackling financial exclusion remains a high priority. ….. The Financial Inclusion Fund has always been due to close in March 2010(sic). The Government have not yet taken a decision on the future of the projects currently funded from the Financial Inclusion Fund. The Government remain committed to helping poorer households to access appropriate financial services, to improve their financial resilience and to avoid falling into unsustainable levels of debt”

This reference to a commitment to help poorer families access ‘appropriate’ financial services is an ominous one in light of the fate they have in store for Credit Unions. The key is in the use of the word’appropriate’ rather than, say,  ‘affordable’ – because you can be sure its their definition of that word that will prevail given that they have not publicised their plans widely enough to open up the consultation debate to the very poor and low waged who traditionally rely on Credit Unions. We were hearing a great deal about Universal Credit back then  but there was precious little media reporting on this issue at all despite the many opportunities to bring it up whenever there’s been a horror story in the news regarding pay day loan sharks. Its pretty obvious they have deliberately kept it low profile. banks     Whilst a spotty Hoban was speaking in such vague terms to the press, his wily colleague the Baron Freud was consulting with some of the biggest banking and private equity interests in the world. According to DWP records, almost from day one, of the Coalition he was having meetings with a number of big players regarding Credit Unions.

  • In July 2010 he consulted separately with people from Deutsche Bank, UBS and J.P. Morgan for  ‘investment expertise.’
  • In January and February  2011 he met with PMM Partners LLP, a company describing itself as existing for ‘ the purpose of pursuing private equity opportunities in the real estate sector’ and offering help  ‘with all aspects of fund origination, structuring, acquisitions and disposals, due diligence, asset and property management’. One of their customers is Grant Thornton who produced the so-called ‘independent’ report on Furness General Hospital.( http://wp.me/p3mYc5-5J )
  • In April 2011 he met with Barclays who had been ‘donating’ small sums of money -around £30K  – to Credit Unions since 2010 to encourage them to change their business model towards a more mainstream banking version.
  • In December 2011 he met with Barclays again, along with Goldman Sachs and PMM Partners LLP.

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions So what’s going on here? Lord Freud seems to be conducting a consultation about the future of Credit Unions by speaking to the banks but not involving the Credit Unions themselves in the process. Well, not quite, but we’ll get to that in a minute…. social-spending-cuts-cartoon        Its important to remember at this point that the grant funding given to Credit Unions by the previous government was coming to an end and the Coalition wasn’t minded to carry it forward. However, Freud and his gang at the DWP knew that they were about to embark on a massive cut in benefits and it can’t have failed to register with them that this was going to leave the poorest people in dire need and thus create a huge market for small loans. There had already been a number of tales of horror about pay day loan sharks getting in on the act with exorbitant interest rates. Credit Unions were the obvious acceptable alternative to this but the tight-fisted, moralising, capitalist Tory attitude baulked at  the thought of simply handing over money with no return. The Baron, it seems, was hatching a cunning plan, which with the right kind of propaganda would make it look like the government was still supporting Credit Unions out of a paternalistic concern for those they were about to impoverish further, when in fact they were about to facilitate a kind of hostile takeover by the Banksters. To this end, back in 2010, they made ambitious claims in the press to be planning to ‘invest’ over £70 million in Credit Unions. 144359404   Freud and Co.then commissioned Experian to do a feasibility study for what they called their ‘Credit Union Expansion Project’. The study found that,

“a market exists amongst people on lower incomes for locally provided banking, savings deposit and loan services from trusted providers such as credit unions:

  • 1.4 million have no transactional bank account at present
  • 4 million incur bank charges

  • up to 7 million use sources of high cost credit”

    http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/credit-union-feasibility-study-report.pdf rman13158l       So there was definitely a market out there and with the roll out of benefit cuts playing in the background any Tory fool could see this was a growing market. But there were problems. The ethos of the Credit Union laid down in statute which kept such organisations small and that relied on a common bond between members didn’t sit well within a market context. The very nature of Credit Unions is to be co-operative not competitive and has a distinctly socialist flavour to it.  Experian saw this as a major drawback and gave the following advice which Lord snooty Freud and his pals have placed at the heart of their expansion programme,

“A major programme of cultural and behavioural change would be required to achieve the modernisation and expansion needed.By achieving the publicly funded change we propose it can speak to the Big Society Bank and other funding organisations as one ‘organisation’ large enough and financially stable enough for investors to be interested in. However, until real change has been achieved there is no realistic opportunity for it to achieve commercial or social investment because it lacks the capacity to repay.”

Now where have I heard that phrase ‘cultural and behavioural change‘ before? 01_awelfarea     It seems the sheer arrogance of this government knows no bounds. Just like IDS the Baron is acting like a feudal lord towards the Credit Unions and by extension to all of us who use them. As members we have shares in them, we OWN them yet here he is treating them as if he has the right to consult with banks behind their backs and make decisions about their future in order to make them a more attractive prospect for the sharks to invest in then impose those decisions on them as a condition for government money which they’ll have to pay back. There’s much more of this draconian approach in the feasibility study that should raise the alarm.

  • Government investment being made in stages on a payment by results basis, with the next stage not approved for commencement until the objectives of the previous stage have been achieved
  • Strict criteria will be applied to ensure that only suitable credit unions, which have already demonstrated sufficient progress are involved.
  • Change programme will need to demonstrate at an early stage a greater capability and willingness to change if Credit Unions want to be selected to participate in a program of behavioural, process and systems change.
  • Legislation to be changed to allow them to charge up to 3.0% pcm ( approx 43% APR) on loans from April 2014.

credit unions    It gets worse. There are over 400 Credit Unions in the UK, some smaller than others. The one I belong to is one of those smaller concerns. Experian didn’t think that government should fully subsidise the gap between income and expenditure for the credit unions in the financial model they produced. This is, in part, because they thought they should be asked to find ways of bridging some of the gap themselves.They point out that this would pose risks for the smaller Credit Unions and as evidence for this they mention that 55 Credit Unions have already had grant funding withdrawn, 25 of which have been forced to cease trading. They also mention that during the course of their study around 80 of the bigger Credit Unions had agreed to sign up for the program BUT they advise this is too big a number, and advise that government  “ will want to select the credit unions you work with in future very carefully.” Following this report the Baron has revised down the figure for investment into this so-called ‘expansion’ of Credit Unions from the £70+ million originally announced to a mere £38 million  to be delivered in phases over 5 years on a payment by results basis. This will effectively be a loan not a grant. So if less than 80 Credit Unions are to be signed up for this what will happen to the remaining 300 plus Credit Unions whose funding will disappear altogether?  images (13)    I said above that it wasn’t quite true that the Baron had only been consulting with big banks over this cunning plan. In fact both he and IDS had just one meeting back in February 2011 with the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd. (ABCUL) who say they represent 70% of Credit Unions and ‘provide a full range of advice, training and development services to help our member credit unions grow and become sustainable financial co-operatives.’ Except for organising a get together of several of the larger Credit Unions in May 2012 where the plans were announced and this year making a patronising token gesture of opening an account for himself at one of the London Credit Unions this is the only serious meeting the Baron has had with anyone who has a grass roots stake in Credit Unions. http://www.abcul.org/media-and-research/news/view/342 On 22nd April this year the Baron announced that ABCUL were ‘the winning bidder in the recent DWP Credit Union Expansion Project (CUEP) procurement exercise.’ The wording of this suggests that there were several bidders for this contract – you can only win something if there’s competition – yet there’s no information on the DWP website at all about this procurement exercise, despite others being available for public scrutiny and despite the government’s trumpeting of itself as aiming to be ‘the most transparent government ever’.(FOI applied for yesterday). And given the lack of evidence of any wider consultation with the shareholders of Credit Unions you have to wonder if ABCUL were given the nod back in early 2011 that the contract was theirs. They have form for this with ATOS. city-of-london1   The question now remains over what part the banks consulted by the Baron are hoping to play in all this. And why he was involving a company like PMM Partners LLB, a private equity firm specialising in real estate. Maybe we can get a taste for what their intentions are by looking across the Atlantic to the United States where the model proposed by the Baron has been playing out for many years, long before the 2008 meltdown. Here are three reasons why Credit Unions should give the big banks a very wide berth indeed

images (4)

The NCUA – the American equivalent of ABCUL – accused London- based Barclays Capital  of breaching state and federal law when it allegedly made misrepresentations in the course of selling securities valued at more than $555 million to the U.S. Federal Credit Union and to the Western Corporate Federal Credit Union between February 2006 and June 2007.Both credit unions were placed under the agency’s conservatorship in March 2009, then into liquidation in 2010. When the NCUA sued Barclays contested it on the grounds that NCUA had left it too late. Both these Credit Unions were part of a corporate consortium of the kind proposed by the Baron for the UK.

http://www.law360.com/articles/381613/credit-union-agency-sues-barclays-over-555m-in-risky-rmbs

download (1)

The National Credit Union Administration Board on Thursday hit a UBS AG unit with claims that the banking giant misrepresented the risk of more than $1.1 billion in residential mortgage-backed securities it sold to two now-defunct credit unions. Again these credit unions were part of the consortium. UBS are another bank to have consulted over here by the Baron …and of course he used to work for them.

http://www.law360.com/articles/376102/credit-union-watchdog-says-ubs-falsely-sold-1-1b-in-rmbs

 y69_07-22-09_goldmansachs_risk1

A federal watchdog for the credit union industry slapped Goldman Sachs with a lawsuit in 2011 alleging violations of federal and state laws tied to the sale of mortgage-backed securities

.goldman-sachs-cartoon    The NCUA filed suit in California district court against the financial firm for damages in excess of $491 million. Specifically, the NCUA claims that Goldman’s misrepresentations caused the credit unions to believe certain investments carried minimal risk, while that was not the case.

http://money.cnn.com/2011/08/09/news/companies/goldman_ncua_lawsuit/index.htm images (18)   The government have already changed the law concerning Credit Unions. Enacted in last year it means the following changes have already happened with few of the people it will really affect noticing, let alone being consulted about it.

  • Credit unions  no longer have to prove that everyone who can join a credit union has something in common. This means they are able to provide services to different groups of people within one credit union.
  • Credit unions are able to open up membership to new groups, such as tenants of a housing association or employees of a national company, even if some tenants/employees live outside the geographical area that the credit union serves.
  • Credit unions are no longer limited to providing services to just individuals.
  • Credit unions are able to choose to offer membership to unincorporated associations and corporate bodies such as companies, partnerships and social enterprises.
  • Non-individuals can only make up a maximum of 10% of a credit union’s total membership hold a maximum of 25% of shares in the credit union and be granted a maximum of 10% of loans
  • Credit unions can choose whether to offer ordinary shares – ownership of which will bring all the benefits of credit union membership, or deferred shares, which will only be repayable in restricted circumstances and which will count towards the capital of a credit union.

krauzeyield     The government eventually plan to deliver the new Credit Union services through local Post Offices where most people draw their benefits. Perhaps we can now see why they called their shiny new system Universal Credit. As benefit are slashed further and further Baron the Bountiful is providing the masses he so despises with access to credit, possibly from the same account their benefits are paid into. With the planned increase in interest rates that Credit Unions can charge to around 43% APR these loans won’t necessarily be all that cheap. A quick browse on the internet revealed a number of companies offering far lower rates. Tesco have a loan at 5.1% APR and some companies even offer bad credit risk customers under 20% APR. For Banksters like the Baron it seems the future is bright…..