Tag Archives: poverty

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

               

                

Remember This? Impoverished Britain:The 1997 Tory Legacy.

3521   Hang_on_until_next_election-by_Blair

For the last terrible three years we’ve heard David Cameron and George Osborne and every other Tory MP who’s given a chance to speak on TV blame the suffering they’ve brought to millions of us on ‘Labour’s legacy’ of profligate public spending. Even the lily-livered LibDems have echoed this mantra with enthusiasm. Even now, when the evidence against this ridiculous claim has been featured in the more enlightened press and even that neoliberal stalwart, the IMF, has warned Osborne to go easy on austerity, they persist with the myth. And sections of the British public, having heard the lie repeated so often, now believe its true. Meanwhile, instead of defending themselves, the Labour party , particularly Ed Milliband and Ed Balls, have preferred to hang their head in unnecessary shame whenever its hurled their way in Parliament, instead of nailing Cameron and his crew through the heart with the lie. It makes my blood boil!

images (1) Osborne’s  priggish stubbornness in refusing to be diverted from his great Austerity Scam, however, has some very chilling echoes from the not so distant past. Margaret Thatcher was infamous for declaring that ‘there is no alternative’ when challenged about the cruel cuts she presided over when in power. And her words issued forth from the same moral high ground as Osborne’s, blaming the ‘immoral’ behaviour of the working classes for Britain’s failing economic performance. Just as she waged war on the workers by demonising trade unions and destroying the livelihoods of whole communities, so equally does Osborne. aided and abetted by Duncan Smith, whip up hatred for those whose only ‘sin’ is to have inherited the poverty she created, or to be sick and disabled, sometimes as a result of her social destruction.

So_much-by_Blair We’re encouraged to have short memories by those currently in power over us. We’re encouraged to look no farther than the last few years before that power dropped into their pampered laps by a cruel fluke of a flawed electoral system that has allowed a party with only 37% of a diminished vote (how many stayed at home and refused to vote?) to dictate our non-futures. But there is a much longer history to this dire situation we find ourselves in now and its time we remembered it. Watch this video filmed in 1996, before the country elected New Labour in a desperate hope that things would or could change for the better. It will remind you of the real legacy we live with today. This Tory led-by-the-nose government is merely taking up where the last Tory governments were forced to leave off…

Cameron Has Created More Income Inequality in Three Years Than Thatcher Did in Eleven Years.

inequality-cleese-and-bar-002  The following article written By Howard Reed last month for The Fabian Society is a shocking indictment of a Cameron-led government and their relentless programme of austerity for the poor. Using the now discredited and tired excuse that the previous Labour government ‘got us into this mess’, they have managed to create a low wage economy increasingly characterised by zero hours contracts and have callously denigrated the disabled and the poor, forcing many people who were just getting by before onto the breadline. Ministers, such as Iain Duncan Smith, have shown no compassion whatsoever for the thousands of people who now suffer a precarious existence and sometimes die under their regime of work capability assessments and forced workfare. And it seems there are even more cuts to welfare to come.

wealth  In statistical jargon welfare recipients are classed as being in the 1st decile whilst millionaires like Cameron, Clegg and Osborne are in the 10th decile. The huge gap in terms of wealth between these two extremes can be seen on the graph above. According to Howard Reed’s research the gap really began to open up after Thatcher came to power in 1979 and it widened dramatically during her eleven years in power. It levelled off for a while during New Labour’s reign but began to take off again in 2010 when the coalition took over. Reed shows that on Cameron’s watch inequality became turbo-powered.

david_cameron_pm_1910795 David Cameron, in my view, is no intellectual. In fact he’s a bit of an air head who never gets drawn into honest debate but simply parrots Tory sound bites. I’m sure Ed Milliband could wipe the floor with him if he wanted to. Sadly, though, the Labour opposition are giving the impression they agree, on the whole, with Cameron’s policies on welfare cuts. They’ve not shown much enthusiasm for standing up for the people who are really suffering the brunt of Cameron’s attack. Neither has Ed Milliband made any real attempt to defuse the constantly repeated myth that they were responsible for a wrecked economy despite there being plenty of hard evidence this was not the case. For three years Milliband has allowed Cameron to belittle Labour on this issue at every opportunity without defending himself. As a result of his failure and the perpetual repetition of the myth by every LibDem and Tory MP at every opportunity its now firmly fixed in the mind of the public as unquestionable truth and has done untold damage to Labour’s credibility as a safe guardian of the economy.  Why on earth has Milliband stood by and let this happen?  Its high time the Labour Party took back a little self respect and spoke out for the people its supposed to support – the working class – who are being bullied into poverty and despair by the Coalition.

Fabian_Society_Logo_CMYKHere’s Howard Reed’s article in full:-

 The Inequality Boom

Howard Reed

22 July 2013

Howard Reed finds that the impact of the coalition’s tax and benefit measures could end being as bad for inequality as the Thatcher government’s record. Turning the tide needs to be at the heart of Labour’s strategy for government

Concern about the extreme inequalities of incomes produced by capitalist societies has traditionally been a central component of left-of-centre politics, and the progressive taxation systems and redistributive welfare state put in place by the 1945 Attlee government was at least partly motivated by a desire to reduce inequalities. But how unequal is Britain now, 35 years after the Thatcher government and the end of the post-war consensus? What are the consequences of the current policies of the coalition government for inequality? And how much might impact on inequality might a Labour government expect to make if elected in 2015?

Inequality from 1961 to 2012

Inequality in the distribution of incomes is the result of a combination of two factors. One is the distribution of gross market incomes, ie income before taxes or transfer payments. The largest component of gross incomes is earnings, but the distribution of incomes from investments and (private) pensions, and property income, are also important. The other main factor determining the distribution of net income is the extent of redistribution by the government through the form of taxes and transfer payments (eg benefits, tax credits). Inequality can rise thanks to increasing dispersion of gross incomes, a reduction in the extent of redistribution, or both. Thanks to household surveys conducted on an annual basis from 1961 to the present day, we now have around half a century of data on the UK income distribution on a reasonably consistent basis. Figure 1 is based on analysis of this data by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and shows the evolution of inequality in disposable income since 1961. The measure of disposable income used is net household income before housing costs, adjusted for family size. The figures go up to the 2011-12 tax year which are the most recent figures currently available[1].

The measure of inequality used is the Gini coefficient, which is a number between 0 and 1 showing the extent of inequality in a distribution of incomes. A Gini of 0 would correspond to a situation where every household had the same net income, whereas a Gini of 1 would correspond to a situation where one household had all the income and the rest had nothing. Hence, the higher the Gini is, the greater is inequality in incomes. The figures are for Great Britain (including England, Scotland and Wales but excluding Northern Ireland) because the Family Expenditure Survey, which was the survey used to measure incomes until 1992, did not cover Northern Ireland but data for the whole UK from 1993 onwards using the Family Resources Survey (which does cover Northern Ireland) show a very similar picture.

Figure 1. Inequality of household incomes Before Housing Costs, 1961 to 2011/12

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Source: Institute for Fiscal Studieshttp://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn19figs.xlsx

Broadly speaking, the evolution of inequality in Britain over the past 60 years comprises three distinct phases:

  • Between 1961 and the late 1970s, inequality was roughly stable, with a Gini coefficient in the range 0.24 to 0.27.
  • Inequality rose consistently from 1979 onwards, with the Gini moving above 0.27 in 1985. By 1990, the Gini had reached 0.34 – a rise of 0.07 in just five years. The 1980s were a period of persistent rises in inequality.
  • From 1990 onwards, inequality stabilised at a Gini of around 0.33 to 0.36 and has remained at that level until the present day.

In terms of the relationship between inequality and UK politics, it looks like the period of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership (1979-90) was very different from Labour or Conservative governments before or after it. Mrs Thatcher’s tenure in Downing Street coincided with a massive increase in inequality of household incomes in the UK. What caused this rise in inequality? Research by Stuart Adam and James Browne of the IFS[2] shows that between 1978 and 2008, reforms to the tax and benefit system increased the Gini by around 0.034 compared with a situation in which the 1978-9 tax system had been kept in place and uprated according to the uprating rules in place at that time. This increase in inequality appears to result mainly from two reforms undertaken by the Thatcher government: firstly, the reduction in income tax rates, with the top rate of income tax falling from 83 per cent in 1979 to 40 per cent in 1988; and secondly the decision to uprate means-tested benefits in line with price inflation rather than earnings, which (given that this was a period where average earnings were growing by about 2 per cent above inflation every year) meant that incomes for poorer families who were dependent on benefits for a large proportion, or all, of their net income lagged behind working families.

Thus, changes to taxes and benefits under the Thatcher government account for around half the overall increase in inequality seen between 1978 and 2008. The rest of the increase in inequality can largely be explained by two factors: firstly, increasing dispersion of earnings, with growth in earnings for top earners far outpacing average or low earners; and secondly a shift in the distribution of national income from wages to profits (income from profits is far more unequally distributed than income from wages).[3]

The record of the Labour governments between 1997 and 2010 on inequality is also worth commenting on here. New Labour was much more concerned with reducing poverty, and child and pensioner poverty in particular, than with reducing inequality per se. However, there is an obvious link between poverty and inequality in that redistribution via the tax and benefit system from richer households to poorer households – aiming to reduce poverty by increasing the net incomes of the poorest families – will tend to reduce overall inequality in net incomes as a by-product. Overall, the IFS research by Adam and Browne shows that New Labour made the tax-benefit system more redistributive (as a result of increased benefit payments for poorer pensioners and tax credits for low-income families with children). However, inequality in gross incomes continued to increase over this period. Overall, the two effects more or less cancelled each other out, meaning that inequality in 2010 was almost unchanged from its 1997 level.

The impact of coalition government policies on inequality

Figure 2 presents a breakdown of the distributional effects of most of the reforms made to the tax, benefit and tax credit system over the course of the current parliament using a tax-benefit micro-simulation model constructed by Landman Economics for the Institute for Public Policy Research. The analysis divides families in the UK income distribution into ten equally sized deciles ranging from decile 1 (the poorest) to decile 10 (the richest). The line in the graph shows the overall impact of reforms to the tax, benefit and tax credit systems as a percentage of disposable income, averaged across all families in each decile. Overall, the reforms introduced by the coalition are regressive across most of the distribution – the poorest families lose over 12 percent of their net income on average, compared with only around 3 percent of net income for families in the ninth decile. At the very top, the reforms are slightly progressive, with the top decile losing a slightly higher percentage of their income than the ninth decile; this is mainly due to increases in national insurance contributions and below-inflation increases in the higher rate income tax threshold.

The main factor driving the regressiveness of tax and benefit reforms between 2010 and 2015 is cuts to benefits and tax credits, particularly for working age families with children. The generosity of working tax credit, in particular, was cut back severely over this period. Furthermore, the uprating regime for working age benefits and tax credits has been changed from the retail price index (RPI) to the consumer prices index (CPI), and as annual CPI increases are typically smaller than RPI, this means that households reliant on benefits and tax credits lose out increasingly as time goes on. The decision in the 2012 Autumn Statement to limit working age benefit and tax credit increases to 1 per cent in nominal terms – well below CPI inflation – exacerbates the regressiveness of the reforms to social security. Meanwhile, coalition reforms to income tax and national insurance contributions during this time – principally the above-inflation increases in the income tax personal allowance and the lower thresholds for national insurance contributions – help families in the middle of the income distribution more than the poorest families, most of whom were not earning enough to pay income tax or national insurance in the first place.

Figure 2. Impact of Coalition Tax and Social Security Reforms introduced in 2010-15 Parliament, by income decile

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Source: author’s own calculations using IPPR/Landman Economics tax-benefit model and Family Resources Survey data for 2010-11

The impact of the total package of tax and benefit reforms between 2010 and 2015 is to increase the Gini by 0.018 points – more than half as much again as the total increase in the Gini which arose from tax and benefit reforms over the period 1978 to 2008. There are additional reforms that it is not possible to model due to insufficient data on benefit claimants in the UK Family Resources Survey (such as many of the changes to housing benefit, and the replacement of disability living allowance by the personal independence payment). However, if they were added in to Figure 2, it is quite possible that the impact of the coalition’s tax and benefit measures would be as bad for inequality as the Thatcher government’s record, despite the fact that by 2015, David Cameron will have been prime minister for less than half the duration that Margaret Thatcher was. Looked at in this way, the coalition government’s tax and benefit reforms are like a speeded-up action replay of Thatcherism. This may come as a particular shock to Liberal Democrats in the government, many of whom spent the 1980s railing against the kind of increase in inequality which I forecast to occur as a direct result of policies introduced in this parliament.

The actual increase in inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, over the period 2010 to 2015 is likely to be more than 0.018 because of the continuation of the trends which contributed to increased inequality in gross earnings between 1980 and 2010. While earnings at the top of the distribution are continuing to increase, real wages for low-to-middle earners have been falling behind inflation for at least the last five years. And the most recent available data shows the share of wages in national income continuing to fall, to 53.7 per cent of GDP in 2011 (down from 59.2 per cent in 1980).

Reducing inequality in the future

How should a future Labour government respond to these trends? Discussion of the role tax and benefit measures to reduce inequality – or even to reduce poverty – after 2015 (should Labour emerge victorious at the next election) has not figured highly in policy discussions over the last three years. To a large extent, Labour seems to have bought into the argument of the right-wing media – trumpeted loudly by coalition politicians – that redistribution through the welfare state became increasingly unaffordable under New Labour. This is despite the fact that in 2007-08 – the last year before the Great Recession – total spending on benefits and tax credits as a share of gross domestic product was 11.4 per cent, compared with 11.9 per cent in 1996-97, just before Labour came to office[4].

But with the Labour leadership seemingly insistent that the poor state of the public finances rules out further action to reduce inequality through the tax and benefit system, attention has shifted to what the political scientist Jacob Hacker has called ‘predistribution’ – measures to make the distribution of gross market incomes more equal, thus reducing the pressure on the tax and social security systems to do the ‘heavy lifting’ of reducing inequality. This would be a big change in policy away from the New Labour years, where the market was more or less left to ‘let rip’ in delivering increasing inequalities in gross earnings and investment incomes, with the tax and social security systems having to do more and more redistribution to hold after-tax inequality constant.

There are several policy options for more equal predistribution of earnings, mostly focusing around changes in wage determination, bargaining structures and trade union representation, particularly in private sector industries and services, as well as upgrading skills and improving employment and job progression opportunities for the lowest paid.[5]

But while measures to equalise the distribution of gross earnings would be most welcome, they would work best in conjunction with a more redistributive tax and benefit system, rather than one being a substitute for the other. Many features of the current tax and benefit system are needlessly regressive; for example, council tax, which on average charges low-to-middle income households a much higher percentage of their disposable income than the richest households. There is plenty of scope for major reforms of the UK’s tax and social security systems to increase their progressiveness and reduce net income inequality, at the same time as simplifying the system and raising more money to help balance the public finances.[6]

At the same time, a lot of the inequality in incomes from investments is a function of vast inequalities of wealth and assets and therefore it would be necessary to redistribute wealth – perhaps via radical measures such as land value taxation – to equalise the distribution of investment income significantly.[7]

Whichever set of policies Labour chooses in 2015, it will be important for inequality reduction to be at the heart of the party’s strategy for government. As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett show in their book The Spirit Level, there are clear links between lower inequality and a range of better social outcomes (eg lower crime, increased levels of trust in society, and greater social mobility). For Labour to enter government with a mindset that inequality doesn’t matter would be a serious mistake. Instead, it is to be hoped that despite the difficult economic circumstances which the next Labour government is likely to inherit, they can nonetheless place a clear focus on getting UK income inequality down to the levels which prevailed before the Thatcher revolution of the 1980s.


[1] Prior to 1993 the annual surveys used to obtain data on the income distribution were conducted in calendar years; from 1993-94 onwards they changed to fiscal years.

[2] Stuart Adam and James Browne, Redistribution, Work Incentives and Thirty Years of Tax and Benefit Reform, IFS Working Paper 10/24. http://socialwelfare.bl.uk/subject-areas/services-activity/poverty-benefits/instituteforfiscalstudies/132531wp1024[2].pdf

[3] Both these trends, and the reasons behind them, are examined in more detail in Jacob Mohun Himmelweit and Howard Reed, Where Have All The Wages Gone? Lost Pay and Profits Outside Financial Services, TUC, 2012. http://www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/466.pdf

[4] Source: IFS analysis of benefit and tax credit spending as a proportion of GDP. http://www.ifs.org.uk/ff/ben_spend.xls

[5] For more discussion of how to reduce gross earnings inequality see Stewart Lansley and Howard Reed, How To Boost The Wage Share, TUC, 2013.

[6] The bare bones of such a reform package are Richard Murphy and Howard Reed, Financing the Welfare State: Towards a Full Employment Economy, Centre for Labour and Social Studies, 2013. http://socialwelfare.bl.uk/subject-areas/services-activity/employment/centreforlabourandsocialstudies/1464492013_Policy_Paper_-_Richard_Murphy__Howard_Reed_(Social_State_-_Idleness.pdf

[7] Several options for introducing a wealth tax in the UK are looked at in Kayte Lawton and Howard Reed, Property and Wealth Taxes in the UK: The Context for Reform. Institute for Public Policy Research, 2013. http://www.ippr.org/publication/55/10503/property-and-wealth-taxes-in-the-uk-the-context-for-reform

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.

Pride Comes Before A Fall: Problems With Universal Credit Could Leave IDS With Egg On His Face.

Fee-for-use-Iain-Duncan-Smith-1797134 In yesterday’s Observer Iain Duncan Smith once again boasted about how proud he was of his precious welfare reforms. Instead of addressing the very real and totally legitimate criticisms of his performance so far he pointed to the fact that the DWP had delivered their programme of torture on time:-

… we already have a proud record of achievement… We promised a benefit cap and it began, on time, in April in four London areas. It will be completely rolled out by September. We introduced the new personal independence payment as planned and on time. Automatic enrolment started last year, and now 1 million people have been registered into a workplace pension. People are using our Universal Jobmatch website for more than 5m job searches a day. Our Work Programme has launched and the industry tells us that so far 321,000 people have found a job through it.I am proud of this record.

sick  How any decent, sane human being can ignore the thousands of lives that have been devastated by his policies or refuse to acknowledge the deaths and suicides that can be directly linked to his actions is totally beyond my comprehension. Why a newspaper like the Observer gave him the space to make those comments is also a  mystery to me. And his refusal to undertake an impact assessment of the effect he’s had on the lives of disabled people simply shows that he doesn’t want to know. The only conclusion you can draw from this is that he’s irresponsible, unprofessional and should never be allowed to ‘serve’ as a politician again.

shoes But as usual the odious Mr Smith is not giving us the true picture about the DWP’s performance when it comes to the progress of Universal Credit. There are huge problems with it. Two aspects stand out here. The first is to do with their badly thought through devotion to ‘digital by default’. This report from Public Net published today shows that the DWP have overestimated the number of people who will be able to claim the benefit online. The potential for chaos is tremendous.

UNIVERSAL CREDIT PILOTS REVEAL CHALLENGES FACING BENEFIT CLAIMANTS

Headlines: July 29th, 2013

Many benefit claimants will struggle to meet the requirement of the new welfare arrangements which are due to be introduced from October 2013 with the launch of universal credit. Pilot schemes started last year by councils have revealed the scale of the difficulty many claimants will experience.

Universal credit will require all claimants to submit claims on line. Although 86 per cent of the UK population have access to the internet, the pilots have found that in the case of benefit claimants it is closer to 60 percent. Theoretically claimants can use facilities in libraries to submit claims, but they don’t visit libraries and they need support to cope with the technology and with the benefit processes. Some pilots are experimenting with providing access points in council premises and with staff on hand to support the claimants. Other pilots are exploring various approaches to improving access but have found it difficult to encourage take up.

Universal credit will roll up all benefits into a single payment which will be made directly to the claimant. This will meant that currently where some housing benefit is paid to landlords, in future it will be paid directly to the claimant. The pilots have revealed that many social housing tenants have problems with debt and rent arrears which might compound possible problems with personal budgeting.

Some councils have found a reluctance from customers to take part in budgeting and financial training in group sessions. It is thought the reluctance is due to the stigma of engaging in sessions which may highlight personal debt and rent arrears issues. The uptake of group financial education sessions in some authorities has been so low that sessions have been cancelled. This evidence is mirrored in the Direct Payment Demonstration Pilot areas.

Different approaches are being used to support personal budget management. They include sessions in smaller community groups and collaborating with partner organisations. Changing the welfare culture, which universal credit seeks to achieve, is a mammoth undertaking and it raises issues which must be addressed to bring success. While solutions to the problems are available, they will need time and funding on a scale which has probably not been foreseen in the implementation plan.

global race  The second report is potentially more damaging since it concerns the IT system that’s being developed to allow Universal Credit to be calculated. Because it combines all previous benefits into one package claimant information has to be gathered from HMRC systems and the system used by local authorities to calculate Housing Benefit. It seems they’ve messed up and now need to start from scratch. With the next roll out due in only two month’s time (October) its looking increasingly unlikely that even the six centres that are earmarked for the next stage will be able to cope. These computing problems were highlighted earlier in the year but in typical IDS fashion our SoS shrugged them off and refused to acknowledge that his ‘baby’ wouldn’t be born on time. Again Public Net have the story:-

UNIVERSAL CREDIT AMBER RED-RATING VINDICATED

Headlines: July 15th, 2013

Last year’s Government review conclusion that the Universal Credit project should be rated as amber/red because its successful delivery was in doubt and urgent action was needed, has been proved to be correct. Current trialling of the system with simple claims has revealed failings and there is to be a new design for dealing with the more complex claims.

Universal Credit will simplify the benefits system, improve work incentives and reduce fraud and error. It will replace income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance; income-related Employment and Support Allowance; Income Support; Child Tax Credits; Working Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.

The Universal Credit project is being tested in 2 areas of the north-west, with another 2 starting later this month. The pathfinder trial is restricted to new claimants who are specially selected. Despite this narrowing of usage, it is understood that significant manual input by officials is required to verify accuracy and deal with other problems.

This assessment of the pathfinder is supported by the announcement that the next stage of development in October will be restricted to 6 additional job centres. The original project plan was for all new claims for out-of-work support to be treated as claims to universal credit from October 2013.

A potentially more serious aspect of the project is how the system interacts with Real Time Data System which includes information about earnings of claimants from HMRC. It appears that this element of the system design has been scrapped and it is now ‘back to the drawing board’. The official line about this re-think is that there is a need to explore enhancing the IT for Universal Credit working with the Government Digital Service.

The need for a re-think is unsurprising, because the universal credit system design was completed prior to the emergence of the Real Time Data System. Pressing on with the system design without knowing what the final integration requirements would be, involved many assumptions. This was a high risk strategy which proved unsustainable.

Re-writing this element of the system will take time and the trialing of in work claims cannot start until it is possible to use information from the Real Time Data System. Getting the IT system to perform effectively is only one of the major risks to the success of the project. The cultural transformation involving claimants moving to a digital service will be difficult to achieve. In a move to promote this transformation 20,000 Job centre Plus advisers will be involved in a training scheme and ten pilots will test how to best encourage claimants to progress in work.

6a00d8341d417153ef0133f5d6b4ef970b-550wi   Mr Smith’s plans to get everyone including the terminally ill and profoundly disabled working to make Cameron’s pipe dream of winning the ‘global race’ come true seem to be nothing more than pie in the sky. The tragedy is by pursuing their hopeless policies this government are causing misery and death.

TUC’S AUSTERITY UNCOVERED BUS TOUR REVEALS THE HUMAN COST OF THREE YEARS OF COALITION POLICIES

download On 17th June I wrote a post announcing the launch of the TUC’s bus tour of Britain, Austerity Uncovered (http://wp.me/p3mYc5-4J). The tour finished on 29th June and has uncovered  some harrowing stories of hardship from all over Britain. Volunteers who took the bus to towns and cities up and down the country found  devastated high streets, busy foodbanks and crowds of people of all ages queueing to tell stories of their struggle to live with bedroom tax, welfare caps and precarious jobs paying low wages. Below are some of the stories and videos collected during the tour taken from the TUC website  http://austerityuncovered.org/.

thumb-60d0264ae728b8b9c5190f218dc6e7dc  Laurie Heselden , Policy and Campaigns Officer for the TUC’s South East and Eastern England region writes this about her experiences on the bus in Luton:-

I am getting to know Luton well. I was born in London and I live in inner London and I suppose I would have crept off to the suburbs, or the country, if I didn’t like the cosmopolitan nature of city life, the diverse cultures, noise, different foods and the vibrancy, the rough and tumble of street life. Luton has many of those colourful qualities, and yes, it is ‘edgy’. It also has a ridiculous ring road around the town centre. A triumph of planning, a nightmare for building a sense of community but highly advantageous when navigating a double-decker bus to a prime location smack outside the Town Hall, in St George’s Square, thanks to the support of the Leader of the Council, Hazel Simmons, and the positive attitude of Steve the driver. He is already a legend at the TUC. What would the people of Luton tells us about their experience of austerity, of the squeeze in pay and hours and the impact of public sector service cuts? How many of the 200,000 people who live there could we talk to in one day? The answer is lots. With up to 20 people working around the bus the stories came quick and fast, everyone a personal story, but patterns quickly developed. First, were people who had been in receipt of Incapacity Benefit but who have been assessed by ATOS as fit for work and were clearly stunned at the outcome, and really struggling with the new harsh regime of compliance with the Job Seeker’s Allowance rules. And secondly there were seemingly legions of people who had allegedly made an error in the management of their JSA Claim, or their search for work pattern, and received a benefit sanction. If a claimant is deemed to have failed to attend an interview they are likely to get a sanction – a benefit suspension of 4 weeks, rising to 13 weeks. A claimant’s right to benefit can be withdrawn for 3 years! No-one could answer the question, if you are poor enough to receive means tested benefits what are you supposed to do if the state takes the benefit away? And then astonishingly we met people who used to live in cheap rented accommodation in Luton whose landlord has recently refused to extend their tenancy because he can let the property for more money to a family who has been displaced from London by the cuts to Housing Benefit. What should a person in Luton do if confronted by such a problem? One answer is that you should seek help from ‘Luton Rights’, which is an independent centre specialising in advice about welfare benefits, debt and housing. It is one of the few of the Unemployed Worker’s Centres that the TUC recognised in the 1980s that not only survived, but it has evolved to the point where it has a legal aid franchise. At the centre I met a couple who are welfare benefit recipients. At the end of long working lives things have gone wrong for them. He has had a mental breakdown and his career as a manager in the electronics industry is over. She has diabetes, uses two crutches and has numerous other health problems. But ATOS has judged her to be fit for work. Luton Rights will do all they can to help the couple but the couple’s stark summary of their prospects was that they were “Too poor to live, and too poor to die”, as they live hand to mouth and have no means of paying for plain but dignified funerals. But Luton has attitude and it has strong communities. Its people are determined to help themselves, and mostly this means the poor helping the poor, such that those in need help those in even greater need. We met Sanum at the newly launched Luton Food Bank where she and 30 volunteers gather, sort and allocate food parcels, which are then distributed from 5 collection points. I have never seen so much breakfast cereal, but that is great, because the food bank already has hundreds of users, all of who are referred from specialist agencies in the community. Sanum and the volunteer’s good humour, good will and positive can-do attitude was a welcome antidote to the stories of hard times that we heard by the bus. But when I asked about the impact of impending changes to welfare benefits, including the introduction of welfare Universal Credit she said, “there is a storm of need coming our way in the next few months”.

article-2031262-0D9D041400000578-408_233x321_popupWriting in the Morning Star on 19th June Peter Lazenby reported on the tour bus’ visit to Liverpool:-

Nightmare images of hunger, poverty and deprivation are emerging as the Trade Union Congress tours Britain gathering evidence of life in austerity Britain. Its “austerity uncovered” bus arrived in Liverpool today on the third day of its two-week tour. People have already offered up first-hand testimonies of the appalling effects of the policies being implemented by the Tories and their Lib-Dem accomplices. The bus called first at Liverpool’s dockland Echo Arena, where public-service union Unison is holding its annual conference. Hundreds of delegates gathered to welcome the bus, along with TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis and Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson. Workers queued up to tell stories of hardship.

Among them was care worker Joan Pritchard-Jones from Bolton in Lancashire. The Unison convener said: “We’ve got home-care workers who by the third week of the month have no money for petrol to do their jobs, and that is regular. I ring the manager and explain and the manager says: ‘Tell them to just come to work and I’ll give them a walking programme.’

“People are living in fear of not having enough money to live on week-to-week. It’s appalling. Our members are living in poverty. Our members are going to food banks. It’s an absolute disgrace. And people are in fear of their jobs. Jobs have gone but the work is still there to be done by those that are left.”

The bus and TUC team left the docks for Kirkby and a visit to the town’s unemployed centre. It has been in operation since 1981, when it opened to help people thrown out of work by the Thatcher government’s wrecking of industry. Today it’s as busy as ever – but the job of helping people is even more difficult than in the 1980s because of the extreme government attacks on Britain’s benefit system, in particular the vicious bedroom tax. Hundreds of victims turn to the centre for help every week. Lynne Dempsey has been a money advice worker at the centre for 18 years.

“Since April there has been a change to the climate, particularly with the bedroom tax,” she said. “There are clear cases of people who cannot afford to pay it and it’s difficult for me to advise them what to do about paying their rent when they don’t have enough money for food. Last week for example there was a client who had not eaten for a number of weeks and he’d lost 16 pounds in weight. The reason he hadn’t eaten was that he had been paying the rent – he didn’t want to get into arrears.”

Cannock-051-550x309 The tour also produced some short videos to document the views of numerous people. Here are a few. You can find more on the dedicated website (see link above).

DUDLEY RESIDENTS.

MAYOR OF LIVERPOOL

ROBERT EXELL TALKING ABOUT THE BEDROOM TAX

BEN RAPIER, BRANCH ORGANISER AT NEWPORT PASSPORT OFFICE

TIM ROACHE GMB UNION SPEAKING IN HALIFAX

PAUL CLAY CWU REGIONAL SECRETARY SPEAKING IN NEWCASTLE ABOUT ROYAL MAIL

So, the people have spoken…but will the government listen?

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.

Osborne’s 7 day wait is not a DELAY in payment, it means NO PAYMENT: Saving him £1/4 billion

uk-child-poverty

I came across this disturbing piece by the Baptist and Methodist Joint Public Issues Team this morning. I’ve reproduced it as it appears on their website here

http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/comprehensive-spending-review-7-days-is-a-long-time-in-poverty/

jpit-header-0911121

Comprehensive Spending Review: 7-days is a long time in Poverty

Posted on 9 July 2013 by Paul Morrison

 It is entirely appropriate that I have waited 7 days before posting a blog on the Comprehensive Spending Review. As part of the increasingly “tough” rhetoric about welfare the main story from the review was a 7-day wait until you can apply for benefits.

As the chancellor put it: “And we’re going to introduce a new seven day wait before people can claim benefits. Those first few days should be spent looking for work, not looking to sign on.

osborne The implication is that unemployed people need to be threatened into looking for a job immediately after being made redundant. What it took some time to come to light, and what was not announced in the speech, was that benefits would not be delayed for 7 days, but rather not paid at all for a 7 day period.  This will take an estimated £1/4 billion a year from the unemployed.

The dispiriting thing about listening to the review was that every crafted phrase played into the myth of the lazy unemployed person who needs to be intimidated into getting off their backside and going to work. People do not need to be forced and threatened into looking for work. The Department for Work and Pensions and many others have strong evidence that people delay claiming benefits as long as possible, that people start their job search quickly, and they tend only to apply for benefit quickly when they have few financial reserves to fall back on. The data is clear but it doesn’t fit the “tough rhetoric” so it is ignored, and the poorest are misrepresented again.

The actual effect of this policy is to exquisitely target the poorest low paid workers – strivers if you buy-into that unpleasant narrative. You may be surprised that such a small measure with take away so much money – £1/4 billion – from the poorest: the reason is the “low-pay no-pay cycle”.

Huge numbers of people go into low paid insecure jobs each year – and huge numbers of people lose those jobs – often many times in a year. It is these people who will lose a week’s benefits every time they transition into and out of work. It is those people who are living hand to mouth trying to stay in work and will find it hugely difficult to save a week’s wages in order to be able to get through their next churn round this nasty cycle. Poverty campaigners are appalled; Wonga should be rubbing its hands together and preparing some more of its characteristic small loans charged at 5853% APR[1].

It is important to note that although only unemployed people were mentioned, when Universal Credit is introduced people seeking help with high rent, disability, sickness or their children’s needs will also have to wait a week.

Although the chancellor said, “We’re doing these things because we know they help people stay off benefits and help those on benefits get back into work faster.” As usual what the minsters “know” about benefit claimants, and what they have evidence to support, bear no relation to each other.


[1] 5853% was the actual rate advertised on the Wonga frontpage 08/09/2013. There is no decimal point.

Isn’t it time we exposed the REAL scroungers?

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