1) Problems in the left as an investigation begins into Unite and the selection process for election candidates in Falkirk
Unite’s leader Len McCluskey has hit out at Labour leader Ed Miliband and accused him of a ‘smear’ campaign against the unions. After some suspicion arose about the union’s influence over the selection process of local candidates in Falkirk, Labour called for an investigation into the incident.
McCluskey called for an independent investigation, claiming that he had no ‘trust’ in the party’s handling of the affair.
The incident has sparked huge controversy and debate about union influence over the Labour party, and has also been used by the Tory party to brand the left as ‘weak.’ However, McCluskey maintains that he supports Ed Miliband, but that “doesn’t mean that we agree on everything.”
2) Immigrants will have to pay ‘levy’ of up £1000 for healthcare for the first five years, says health secretary
Jeremy Hunt announced on Wednesday that healthcare for short term visitors from outside the EU is to come to an end. Instead they will pay fees for access to GPs in the same way they would pay for a hospital charge. However, access to A&E will continue to be free.
The ‘levy’ is likely to be around £200 a year for five years. But, there is still discussion with the coalition over the amount, which could potentially be much higher.
For those inside the EU, there is still access to both the NHS and A&E for free.
The health secretary may also introduce measures to track the immigration status of clients through their NHS number – allowing surgeries and healthcare staff to spot who is not eligible for free care.
The changes come after a government focus on ‘health tourism.’ The health secretary said that he was “determined to wipe out abuse in the system” and that the measures would be fairer in terms of contribution to the NHS.
However, some fear that the measures may drive away overseas students, who would face the levy charge on top of their visa application, which is already £500.
3) Minister for Disabled orders nine further Remploy factory closures
284 employees of Remploy, an employment service helping disabled people into work, will lose their jobs in an announcement that will see the closure of 9 sites.
Esther McVey, Minister for the disabled, ordered the closures because she claims that the factories lost over £50m last year. McVey added that the government is investing £8m into helping the 284 workers into other “mainstream” employment. However, 80% of those who lost their job last year in another run of closures for Remploy, are still unemployed.
The government have been accused of attacking the disabled and vulnerable, with Remploy officer Les Woodward saying:
“Together successive governments and the very charities that are meant to help disabled workers have made things worse for the people they are meant to help. When 2015 comes these atrocious acts will not be forgotten – we will mobilise an army of disabled people and bring these posh boys back down to Earth with a crash.”
Remploy factories will close in Leven, Cowdenbeath, Stirling, Dundee, Clydebank, Norwich, Portsmouth, Burnley and Sunderland.
4) Welfare minister denies the rise in food bank usage is due to welfare cuts and poverty
Lord Freud angered people up and down the country on Tuesday, when he said that the rise in food bank usage in the UK is due to supply and demand, not welfare cuts.
“Food banks are absolutely not part of the welfare system that we run. We have other systems to support people,” the minister said, despite some referrals to food banks coming from Jobcentres.
The minister was branded out of touch, a liar and ignorant by charities and campaigners. Chief executive of the Trussell Trust food bank (who’s usage has gone up from 40,000 last year to over 350,000 this year), Chris Mould commented, “the only people who seem unable to accept there is a social crisis driven by the cost of living is the Government.”