Archives For May 2014

On June 14th tell Vodafone to pay their taxes and tell our government we demand an end to cuts to housing and homeless services. 

Uk Uncut are coming home – make it down to a #VodaHome near you.

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Taken from UK Uncut:

“We are in the midst of a national housing crisis caused by cuts to housing benefits, the bedroom tax, a lack of housing for disabled people, social cleansing of our cities and soaring rents. Evictions and homelessness have risen, while providers of services for the homeless have been cut.

“The government says we can’t afford to fund social housing and benefits but Vodafone has not paid a penny of corporation tax since 2011. On June 14 – ahead of Vodafone’s AGM – UK Uncut will be going back to Vodafone to remind them if the Government won’t make them pay their tax then we will. So gather your friends and family as we transform branches up and down the country into living rooms, shelters, refuges, bedrooms and hostels. We will show that we are here to keep the pressure up on tax avoiding millionaires, and that empty words from Cameron’s Government won’t stop us.

“If you’re angry about unaffordable rents, the bedroom tax, housing benefit cuts, social cleansing, empty houses and millions being left without safe and secure homes, then take action! If it makes you sick that Vodafone can get away with not paying tax, then take action! If you say NO to the government sheltering tax-dodging companies and YES to safe, affordable, secure homes for all then take action!


“So grab your sleeping bags, lamps, chairs, rugs, mates, toys and turn your nearest Vodafone into a home. Check the actions pageto find an action near you. If there isn’t one, why not start one off? We’ve got a step-by-step guide on how you can organise one yourself. UK Uncut actions are creative and fun. If you need any help get in touch on ukuncut@gmail.com – we need to make sure the Government and Vodafone hear us roar!”

“Power to us, power to you.

“See you on the streets!”

See UK Uncut’s Action list here.

 

It was Tony Benn’s 5th and most important question for the powerful, and likely a huge factor in voting apathy – How do we get rid of government? 

With a record of 70 broken pledges and counting, including increasing transparency, tackling youth unemployment, greener energy (Vote Blue, Go Less Green), the coalition have shown that governments are currently free to run roughshod over promises and proceed with any plan they wish.

But, if governments are not accountable to the public, we are not living in a democracy.

Image: London 24

Image: London 24

 

Some may bemoan the non-voters in Thursday’s 33.8% turnout, but when you note that the government we have (you know, the one that no one voted for) have reneged on all but a sorry handful of their election promises and yet are allowed to continue with impunity, I can’t blame them.

There should be ways to rid ourselves of a government. A system of accountability that keeps the political party in power in fear of exploiting votes that got them in.

If politicians thought they would be pulled from power when reversing on election promises, perhaps we’d see less flamboyant, but more honest pledges. Perhaps the PR machine would be less well adjusted to maintain the pantomime. I’m sure at least, we’d see more votes.

Not that politicians are interested in all that. There seems to be an enjoyment taken from the disaffected, under-served majority. Have you heard the new plans the government are undertaking to engage some of that whopping 66%? No, neither have I. Even for those that do vote, there’s a purgatory of mind-boggling strategic voting that no one knows the rules to. Pushing us to opt for a party you think might win rather than the one you want, frantically making compromises on our basic values before we’ve reached the ballot box. Democracy, circa 2014.

RFM - Government Transparency?

Creating conditions as opposed to unabashed free reign would be a restoration in the power of the collective public, undermining Westminster egos, ulterior motives and hidden agendas. If we want a government that works for us, this is a huge part of getting it.

It would also take some power from corporations, who at present gift change from bottomless bank balances, lobby and stuff influence-buying backhanders into the pockets of our decision makers. You need only type the words ‘white collar crime’ into Google to see the rollicking, sordid bed shared by politicians and millionaires.

Indeed, political impunity seems to extend to the fact that cabinets and MPs don’t even have to come close to representing us. I mean, what can we really expect when our government is vastly staffed with the same 1% of people that have continued siphoning wealth and resources whilst austerity rings out across the rest of us.

Perhaps if there was a conditionality to being in power, some of these people wouldn’t be our candidates.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Citizens UK are an important and growing community organisation that aims to “reweave the fabric of society” by empowering, training and providing advice to local groups and campaigns on taking their demands to politicians and achieving change. 

Their website says: 

“Community Organising is based on the principal that when people work together they have the power to change their neighbourhoods, cities, and ultimately the country for the better. We work with people who want to transform the world, from what it is to what they believe it should be. To do this we listen to our members, asking them about their concerns and developing strategies to improve our communities. We ensure that civil society is at the negotiating table alongside the market and state, so that our communities are included in the decisions that affect them.”

Citizens UK provide an alternative way of achieving the needs of society and takes back the debate in favour of what local groups want and need.

Watch their video “The Road To 2015” below. Visit their website here.

1) BBC Bias and the rise of the right

66% of people didn’t vote. European voters were turned away and told to vote in their own country. What did the BBC report on? A continued creaming over UKIP. Time to tune out of mainstream media. Listen to Chunky Mark.

 

2) Day after elections, Cameron announces plans to frack without permission

Cleverly timed release of this news with minimal coverage and attention, could it have been planned d’you think?

Image: BBC - Gas test Well

Image: BBC – Gas test Well

Cameron has announced proposals for new plans to allow land access to frackers. Following the reactions he has had to fracking, it seems Cameron is attempting to undermine a debate he is losing. Now the Euro/local elections are over, it’s time to take back the debate on this – Click here and like this page for forthcoming Fracking debates, news and campaigns.

“The UK government has proposed new rules regarding rights to access land in a bid to speed up the introduction of fracking.

“It proposes that shale oil and gas companies are granted access to land below 300m from the surface.

“It also suggests firms pay £20,000 per well to those living above the land.”

BBC News

Read more about this story here.

3) £16bn of benefits go unclaimed each year, as charities urge people to claim their entitlement

You read right. £16bn.

In America things like the workfare programme caused people to fall off the books, just so they would not have to face the undignified process of the welfare system. Similar things are happening here. Yet, the coverage you see of welfare remains an over-reporting of fraud and villification of benefit claimants. In the year 2012/3 around 24% of all media coverage of welfare was about fraud despite fraud accounting for less than 1% of welfare spending, and amounting to £1.2bn. The term scrounger has become the icon of one of the most destructive and divisive campaigns our government has ever set upon.

On top of this, there is clear evidence that the welfare system is hard to navigate, there has been removal of support and there is a distinct lack of information about what people are ENTITLED to. All this against a backdrop of rising poverty and food bank usage.

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Now, 27 charities including Save The Children, Help The Aged and Citizens Advice have written a letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper, stating that £16bn of benefits go unclaimed and urging the DWP to ensure that money earmarked for children, families and pensioners who need it most is received.

“They said as many as four out of five low-paid workers without children were missing out on tax credits worth at least £38 a week, while half of working households entitled to housing benefit, worth an average of £37.60 a week, do not claim it.

Up to three million households are also thought to be missing out on council tax benefit, while as many as 1.7 million pensioners are thought not to be claiming the pensions credit, which would boost their income by an average of £31 a week.

Take up of housing benefit and council tax benefit have both fallen during the past decade, while take up of child tax credit is lower in London than other parts of the country and is around 10pc lower among people from ethnic minorities.”

The Telegraph

Read more about this story here.

4) ‘NHS will not exist under Tories’

Shadow Chancellor, Oliver Letwin told a private meeting that the NHS would not exist in 5 years under a Conservative election victory.

The remarks have been denied by Letwin since, but confirmed by several audience members and used by Labour to call out Conservative’s real plans for the National Health Service.

“The Shadow Chancellor said that the health service would instead be a “funding stream handing out money to pay people where they want to go for their healthcare”, according to a member of the audience.”

Read more about this story here.

5) PCS call for end to sanctions and workfare

Labour exchange employees have called for an end to sanctions and workfare schemes following a PCS union conference where Jobcentre workers explained the attacks taking place on welfare and how their jobs were making them depressed.

Image: The guardian

Image: The guardian

Jobcentre worker, Martin Humphrey said:

“We have to say to people that they have to live on nothing for two weeks. To make people destitute for two weeks is despicable.”

Many felt that frontline civil servants were used to dole out the attacks on the most vulnerable, whilst also facing the brunt of anger from the disabled, elderly and unemployed.

The PCS have resolved to fight welfare attacks with groups like DPAC and other trade unions.

Read more about this story here.

6) Martin Hadfield, 20, tragically commits suicide because he couldn’t get a job

20 year old Martin Hadfield applied for dozens of jobs, with no success. His self-worth was deeply affected, say his family. And less than 24 hours after meeting with a Jobcentre adviser, Hadfield killed himself.

Image: Mirror

Image: Mirror

This tragic, tragic story speaks of the pressure put on the unemployed as well as being “the inevitable result of a system that tells people their only value is in selling their bodies for money – or ‘employment’.”

Read “The Fetishisation Of Work Must Stop.”

7) JSA Sanctions – A guide

A handy Sanctions document, detailing how to avoid them has been circulating. Read here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

The death of a young man and the following media coverage highlights fundamental problems with our society, Thomas Barlow writes.

Martin Hadfield’s death was the natural result of a society that fetishes ‘work’ above all else. As reported on the front page of the Metro on Wednesday, Martin Hadfield took his own life, demoralised by his inability to get work, at the age of 20.

Image: Mirror

Image: Mirror

This sad, sad occurrence was coloured by the way it was reported, firstly by the response of the coroner.  He suggested that Martin had reacted ‘impulsively to life’s events’, which may or may not be true, but it takes away the agency of someone who was trying to live his life exactly according to the mores enforced by the rest of society. His death was not merely an impulsive reaction to life’s events, but the inevitable result of a system that tells people their only value is in selling their bodies for money – or ‘employment’.

The unemployed are worthless, a drain on society, despite the fact that levels of unemployment are out of our control, yet we must take personal responsibility for a situation not of our own creation. Having said that, this message leads us down an even worse road – the idea of there being the ‘good’ unemployed and ‘bad’ unemployed.

“He isn’t like some people his age, happy on the dole watching Jeremy Kyle day after day.”

Peter O’Gorman, Martin’s well meaning stepfather paints Martin as a special person, who wasn’t like the other ‘bad’ unemployed youth. Undoubtedly this is a kindness meant to show the sensitivity and hard work ethic of Martin, and should be taken as such, but it speaks of a deeper prejudice against the unemployed.

Stereotypically, the unemployed watch Jeremy Kyle in their undies drinking Tennants super, before a bleary eyed blagging of the jobcentre to get their undeserved dole check. Whilst this is patently untrue about a huge amount of unemployed people, it is a quandary for the progressives in society who usually fall into the good and bad, divide and rule debate.

“People want to work,” the liberals say. “If only we had a stronger government who cared and we could create jobs (wage slavery) for all!”

So the debate falls into arguing how to create as many jobs as possible, and sometimes about how good the jobs should be, instead of admitting the fact that some of us just don’t want to ‘work’. Something which is patently true, yet we castigate right-wingers for saying it is so. Of course we are smarter than that, and our castigation of the right is not for pointing out that some people don’t want to work, it is that they disproportionately mock the poor, whilst giving the rich a free ride. In fact, thieves at the top of society are lauded as wealth creators, whilst the poor, eeking out their survival through handouts and ’graft’ are labelled scroungers.

Not only do the rich conive to avoid sharing any of their wealth through tax, they live on wealth earned off the backs of others working, whether through owning the people who work for them, owning the houses they live in, the land they get food from or through the exclusive ability of the rich to let their money make more money.

So we mock the unemployed, or we spitefully (maybe enviously) hate their laziness, or we condescendingly pity them, trying to fix something that doesn’t want to be fixed. All of this stems from our fetishisation of ‘work’ – of the idea that employment is the signifier of a worthwhile human being. Yet 70% will never make it to uni, and of those a great deal will never have an opportunity to be a wage slave with anything approaching a satisfying job.

Image: Jeffreyhill.blogspot.com

Image: Jeffreyhill.blogspot.com

 

So can we blame, mock, or worry about those who worked out, early on, that the life of ‘work’ isn’t for them?  If I knew my fate was Poundland for the majority of my life, and had no inspiration to do anything else, I may very well pull up a chair, crack open a can, and see what was on the telly midday.

Do any of us, in fact, want to ‘work’?  Does anyone want to be employed by another, bossed about, told what to do all the time, just so we can collect the means to just sustain ourselves?

Only the very lucky, the smug, or the (self) deceitful say they love their job.  ‘Work’ is something you get through to do the things you love. Even if you are one of the lucky ones who loves their job, you probably love the element of doing something rewarding, not the contract that puts you at the mercy of another.

Is unemployment a bad thing, even if we could control it?  Shouldn’t we all enjoy a bit more time to play ping pong? How many of us do jobs that are even necessary, and how much time do we devote to them that is unnecessary? How many telesales operatives, or Poundland employees does a society need?

According to the New Economics Foundation, we could maintain the standard of living we have now, and yet all of us could reduce our working hours to 21 per week.

New_Economics_Foundation_logo

When my Aunt lost her job at Tesco in her late fifties to a self service machine, it was a death knell for the family.

Instead of celebrating the end of another pointless job as a blessed machine robbed her of something as degrading as bagging and pricing food for other people, the insanity of our system made us curse the day people worked out how to scan food for themselves.

We should not be ashamed of the ‘lumpen proles’, as Marx called them, we have bigger fish to fry.

This is why I support a Universal Basic Income, it frees us all. It gives us time, a safety net, and releases us from developing jealous hatred of others.

“As the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (2013: 6) recently concluded, ‘a comprehensive approach to tackling in-work poverty is the missing piece of the Government’s policy jigsaw’.”

Joseph-Rowntree-Foundation

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has released some research on tackling low-pay. The report, Rewarding Work For Low Pay Workers, looked at possible ways to deal with the growing problem of low pay, and to find the causes of it’s prevalence. The growth of in-work poverty is damaging, and tackling low pay is one way of addressing the issue, though the JRF noted, it is not the full story.

The report found that the complexity of the issue could lead to no single one size fits all approach, but there are definite actions that could improve the jobs landscape and opportunities for jobseekers.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

Encouraging better pay from those who can afford it

“There are organisations, including large organisations in sectors with a high incidence of low pay such as retail, that could clearly pay substantially more to those they employ, either directly or through contractors, without this having any discernible impact on costs or profits,” according to the JRF report.

However, the report also highlights that this is not universally true, and smaller companies or contractors struggle to pay the National Minimum Wage, thus “policymakers prefer to play safe and combine a modest NMW with tax credits for low-income households.” This has meant that while the NMW has abolished “extreme low pay,” it hasn’t stopped the widening numbers of those on low pay, as large companies who can afford to pay more take advantage of tax credits and the state help to top up wages.

Concentrating the help the state can give to those who most need it would be helpful here, but this over-widening of resources and help to the point of benefitting those that don’t need benefitting is common in other areas of policy too.

Take for example the introduction of childcare vouchers by George Osbourne last year. Families earning up to £300,000 can claim £1200 in childcare vouchers to help them get into work or work more. However, the scope to upper levels of income in this scheme take away concentrated life-changing help from those in need, who are at the bottom of the pay scale. We spoke about this with Giselle Cory, from the Resolution Foundation a while back:

“I think a much better way to spend the money, is to make sure the people who can be persuaded into work and can be helped into work… we focus whatever funds we can on childcare for these families, because it’s firstly, unlikely that higher income families would change their decision about work based on that support, and secondly, it’s unlikely that a large proportion of their income would be taken up by childcare. So we’re not changing their lives much. We’re helping them a little bit, but the life changing stuff is for the people on low incomes. The government have proposed £200 million of extra childcare for this group, but the problem is that £200 million doesn’t really go far enough. You either have to target a specific sub-group or it’s spread out amongst everyone and you lessen it’s bite significantly.”

In a similar way, concentrating tax credits and help to smaller companies who are struggling to pay the NMW would allow more resources for those who distinctly need it, and less cost to the taxpayer for topping up wages that can be afforded by the employer.

“Influence of Conceptual frameworks”

Amongst the organisations where low pay is present but not necessary, conceptual motivations can help push them to pay more. Hence when the Living Wage concept entered the mainstream and companies were called on to adopt the wage voluntarily, many did in order to align themselves with being good employers. Awareness in the public field and reputation can encourage employers who are able to raise wages to do so.

“It is no wonder that organisations most willing to sign the pledge on the Living Wage are large, highly profitable corporates in sectors such as banking and finance (Bain, 2013).”

One very successful example of this is the “Best Companies to Work For” list. This has often been “cited as a reason why some large employers in sectors such as retail choose to pay employees more than the NMW or offer an array of non-wage benefits to boost their reputation in the eyes of employees, potential employees, customers and the community at large.”

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Adding value to low wage employers

“But what would be of little consequence for these organisations is at the same time likely to result in a significant profit squeeze for many low-paying organisations. Those that find this difficult – where raising prices means less business and they’re unable to absorb costs through increased efficiency – may have little choice other than to cut the number of people they employ or the hours of work they offer simply in order to survive, to the detriment of low-paid workers themselves.”

On the other side of the scale are the companies who would struggle with raising wages, and this JRF report looked into ways to improve the working conditions and benefits for employees that could see an increase in value in the job and employee experiences.

“With increased demand for higher level knowledge skills generally outstripping increased supply, the underlying tendency has been for pay at the top of the distribution to rise relative to the pay in the middle. By contrast, the supply of people seeking work in service-oriented jobs has generally exceeded demand, thereby depressing pay toward the level of the NMW, making the UK’s low-paid labour market, in the words of the first Chairman of the Low Pay Commission, ’increasingly bottom heavy’ (Bain 2013).”

As well as this, rewards and non-pay benefits have also stalled in the make up of low pay organisations. Between 2004-2011 there was “no general increase in the provision of flexible working practices; indeed, the proportion of workplace managers who consider balancing work and family responsibilities as down to individual employees rather than the organisation increased from 56% to 71%.”

These attitudes are also symptomatic of a jobs market which is moving in the direction of greater (undue) power to the employer, whilst reducing power and stability for the employee. These conditions are growing in the jobs market with statistics from the ONS last week revealing that 1.4 million Brits are not on Zero hour contracts with one in ten employers now using these casual employment contracts, that do not commit employers to holiday pay, sick pay or a minimum promise of work.

The JRF report stated, “given that labour turnover is costly and low employee morale can be detrimental to their productivity or overall organisational performance, it is thus contended that low-paying organisations could improve their financial bottom line by improving the working conditions of their employees.”

This is also conducive to other benefits for the employee and wider society:

“The Government Office for Science, through the Foresight Unit, has stressed the importance of good working conditions to mental well-being in the workplace and society as a whole (Foresight Unit, 2008).”

The JRF used the example of the care sector, to demonstrate where rewarding workplaces are necessary in low pay sectors, to provide a good service, as documented in the final report of the Commission on Dignity in Care for Older People (2012:13):

“Caring for older people is skilled, demanding and often stressful work. Staff who are appropriately trained and who feel valued and empowered to make decisions will be the ones who support dignified care. Staff who are denied the right to training and development, who do not feel valued by their organisation, who are not encouraged by their managers, and who do not feel that they have the freedom to make the right decisions for patients and residents are far more likely to deliver poor care.”

However, improving working conditions can differ in meaning and approach from workplace to workplace. “The Good Work Commission, established by the Work Foundation, describes the concept of GW (Good Work) as ‘inherently ambiguous’, with some definitions emphasising the interests of the employees while others focus on what it means for employers and the wider community. According to the Commission, for employees GW concerns the development of skills; choice, flexibility and control over working hours and the pace of work; trust, communication and the ability to have a say in decisions that affect them; and a balance between effort and reward. For employers, GW is about engaging employees to encourage their contribution to organisational success. For the community, GW is about organisations being socially aware, ethical and sustainable.”

Logo_Head-1

This requires the close attention and respect of the role of human resources and development (HRM/D). Managers and owners would need to lock into what would make a difference to their employees. The JRF noted that the presence of HRM/D personnel lowered the smaller a company or workplace got, however, their presence is also not useful unless they are committed to making a difference.

“If managers merely pay lip service to HRM/D practices, this will limit their effectiveness. But this lip-service effect might itself be a reflection of deeper inadequacy in leadership and management, or indicative of a low-trust organisational cultures that also impinges on performance.”

The effect of creating better working environments and resourceful, supportive management approaches has long been considered effective for employee, who gains the benefits of this environment, and employer, who gains a more efficient and productive employee. The ideas behind improving HRM/D have gathered pace in the last few years, “so much so that ‘personnel economics’ is now considered a major sub-field in labour economics” (Bloom & van Reenan, 2010).

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But it is the application of these approaches which could see their downfall for low wage employers, especially when taking into consideration the poor skill levels of managers in the UK:

“Given this, improving the quality of management and leadership might be a more appropriate means of improving organisational performance than the adoption of HRM/D practices per se – a possibility strengthened by evidence that UK managers are less well qualified than managers in other advanced economies despite being far greater in number (there are 4.8 million ‘managers and senior officials’ in the UK, accounting for one in six people in employment; Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) 2012).

“The definition of ‘manager’ is more loosely applied in the UK compared with other countries – hence the large management cadre – but only one in five has a management-related qualification and of these fewer than two in five are qualified at NVQ level 44 or above. According to the UKCES, only one in three organisations provide management training, another report for the government also commenting that ‘UK provision of leadership and management training tends to be ad hoc rather than strategic’ (BIS 2012: 20).

“Studies suggest that this comparative deficit in management quality contributes to the UK’s well-known productivity gap with major competitors and results in the UK having a ‘long-tail of poorly managed firms’ (ibid).

“One consequence of this is that UK managers are found to be slower and less successful at translating new management practices into improved performance than their counterparts in France, Germany and the United States. Survey-based analysis also shows a statistical relationship between organisations’ commitment to management and leadership development, related HRM/D practices and organisational performance measures (McBain et al 2012). The relationship was found to be associated with a 23% variation in organisational performance measures, though no direct causal process was demonstrated.”

————————————————————————–

The report concluded that there was no clear single answer to tackling low pay, but that a campaign that encourages workplaces to become ‘Anti-poverty Employers’ or something similar could help improve the working conditions and pay in some companies.

Further, HRM/D could help companies who already struggle to pay their staff at NMW to add value to the employment they offer. However, certain industries such as care and hospitality which may be contracted and thus, the aim is to keep costs as low as possible, or that the sector is historically a low paid industry with factors that maintain the pressure on low wages, need closer attention, as the effects of improving the working conditions and pay in these sectors can bear the fruit of better service and efficiency – which these sectors are built to provide.

Facts from Rewarding Work For Low Paid Workers:

  • “At one in six private-sector workplaces, at least a quarter of employees were paid an hourly rate at or below the adult National Minimum Wage (the proportion is as high as two in five in the wholesale and retail sectors; and one in four in the hotel and restaurant sectors). The corresponding proportion in the public sector is 1 in 40.”
  • “The hospitality, retail and cleaning sectors together account for over half (54%) of minimum wage jobs, while social are, childcare, transport, food processing and storage each account for between 3% and 4%.”
  • “The incidence of low pay rises as the size of organisation falls: minimum wage jobs account for one in 20 jobs in large firms (250 or more
    employees) but one in twelve in small firms (10–49 employees) and one in eight in micro-firms (1–9) employees.”
  • “If the Living Wage were paid universally in the private sector, the government would at present save £3.6 billion from increased tax revenues, higher National Insurance contributions and reduced spending on tax credits to the low paid.”

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1. Iain Duncan Smith used false statistics to justify benefit cuts

Image: theweek.co.uk

Image: theweek.co.uk

Following a complaint from the charity Parkinson’s UK, the official statistics watchdog has revealed that the DWP repeatedly used false disability statistics to justify welfare changes and cuts.

The DWP and it’s spokespeople repeatedly claimed that the majority of those on DLA (Disability Living Allowance) were give benefits for life without supporting medical evidence. But the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) has revealed that only 10% of those passed for life support had no supporting medical evidence.

“The DWP also claimed that “under the current system of DLA, 71% of claimants get indefinite awards without systematic reassessments. However the UKSA found that in the last two years of the DLA, just 23% and 24% of claimants were given indefinite awards.

…..Last year Duncan Smith claimed that 8000 people who had been affected by the benefits cap had moved back into work. The UKSA found that this figure was “unsupported by the official statistics.”

Politics.co.uk

Parkinson’s UK policy advisor Donna O’Brien said:

“The Department of Work and Pensions has a long track record of misusing statistics when it comes to the benefits system, and it’s clear this was a tactic to vindicate further welfare cuts.”

 Read more about this story here.

2. Farage’s excruciating LBC interview forces him and the public to face his hypocrisy, finally

Farage faced a difficult interview when he agreed to appear on James O’Brien’s LBC radio show which resulted in UKIP’s communications director intervening to stop the interview.

O’Brien questioned Farage on racism and discrimination, highlighting that Farage’s attitude and comments were discriminatory against his own wife and children who are German.

Well done James O’Brien. Just a shame it took so long for this sort of questioning on UKIP policies and rhetoric to happen.

Watch the full interview here.

 

3. Universal Credit could lead to increase in error and fraud, warns Work and Pensions Committee

The government has stated that the IT system IRIS (Integrated Risk and Intelligence Service) will be used to perform safeguards against fraud throughout Universal Credit, as it does with housing benefit now. However, there are now problems with how the system will run, and access the necessary data – which could mean the overhaul of the system and a design of a new one which could put the system back, and increase fraud and error in the meantime.

Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Dame Anne Begg MP, said:

“Through the use of RTI—real-time information on PAYE earnings—Universal Credit has the potential over the longer term to substantially reduce fraud and error in the benefits system. However, this could be seriously undermined because of the uncertainty about how DWP will administer the housing element of Universal Credit without increased risks of fraud and error.”

Read more about this story here.

4. Government quietly announces proposals to privatise child protection services

The Department for Education, under Michael Gove, has a proposal to permit the outsourcing of child protection services to companies like G4S and Serco.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

This has alarmed experts, who say “profit-making companies should not be in charge of such sensitive family matters, and warn that the introduction of the profit motive into child protection may distort the decision-making process.”

Professor Ellen Munro, who was commissioned by Gove in 2011 to carry out a review into child protection services, said:

“……establishing a market in child protection would create perverse incentives for private companies to either take more children into care or leave too many languishing with dangerous families.

“It’s a bad idea,” she told the Guardian. “It’s the state’s responsibility to protect people from maltreatment. It should not be delegated to a profit-making organisation.”

Sign the petition to keep profit out of child protection here. 

Read more about this story here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

An excellent comic from Lucie Kinchin, a teaching assistant who writes on her experiences and wider political issues through comics and illustrations.

How come no-one likes Michael Gove?

By Thomas Barlow

The Tories have trumpeted economic growth, saying the IMF have had to eat their words, after they suggested that austerity was damaging the UK economy.

By some polls they have leapt into the lead for the Euro elections this week, and are almost certainly are putting that down to a positive message of economic recovery and competency. So are the Tories really putting us on the right path, just in time for the elections?

In short, no.

A false housing boom has been created to give the impression of growth, which has only benefited an international class of landlords and shareholders, and what drop in unemployment there has been has come from London centric, insecure and low paid work, mostly self employed.

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Image: Another Angry Voice

All this to create a level of growth lower than at it’s lowest level under Labour.

So let’s walk through the housing boom first, and what it means for us.  Then we will talk about debt, inequality and unemployment.

The government ‘Help To Buy’ scheme seems reasonably benign – helping people to buy houses in a time of economic turmoil is a good thing right?

The Thatcherite dream of being a house owning democracy is still alive – but before we fall too deep into praising the wonders of having your own house, it is worth remembering the three EU countries with the highest rates of home ownership are Greece, Ireland and Spain.

The problems with ‘Help To Buy’ and increasing house prices (which have been encouraged by the Chancellor) are multiple.

First this is consumer led economics – something which the Tories promised they would avoid as it creates the bubbles that got us into this situation in the first place. It means (in part) that growth is based on (mostly unsecured) borrowing, which will lead to another credit crunch, far worse than the last one, as we are all a lot worse off than before.

Second it doesn’t create jobs that actually produce anything.  Manufacturing jobs have fallen by 300,000, whilst the number of estate agents has risen 100,000 (since the 2008 crash). We now have a class of landlords who only make money off owning and selling property.

Thirdly, these houses are too expensive for the local population.  75% of all new homes have been bought by foreign investors, further fuelling the bubble, and making the houses impossibly expensive for people to actually live in.

This bubble has almost wholly occurred in London and the South East, which has meant a completely geographically isolated boom, and a serious problem for the young and poor trying to live in these areas.  The Telegraph went so far as to suggest that it was making London ‘boring’, as only bland rich kids can afford to live there any longer.

Even if buying these houses wasn’t damaging the economy and they weren’t foreign owned, home ownership shouldn’t be the de facto cover for falling pensions and lower standards of living – which currently it is.

We need high quality social housing, higher average wages and better pensions.

What wealth has been created has been unbelievably unequally distributed. Pay for the rich has increased and dividends being paid to shareholders have gone up and up.

Big companies have managed to increase dividend pay outs through stagnating and cutting pay whilst avoiding investing anything in their own companies, or elsewhere. Which may make sense considering they are sitting on private debts of 113% of income.

However real wages have fallen considerably since the crash and they continue to do so.  As Unions struggle to represent the unemployed and the casually employed, and as wages fall, so does the health of the economy, and all of our living standards.

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UK Wages since 1997

On top of this, 4 out of 5 new jobs are in insecure or low waged positions – earning less than a quarter of national average wage!

In the 1980’s Thatcher hid the levels of unemployment by moving lots of people onto disability benefit.  

Here at RealFare we know there are targets for sanctions (depriving the poor of the money they need to live – let’s call it what it is) to lower the unemployment figures, whilst there is also lots of manoeuvring people onto various other benefits that don’t count as unemployment – mainly into self employment through Working Tax Credits.

As the number of Self-employed has increased 375,000 in the past 12 months, average earnings for the self-employed has dropped £5000 a year to a measly £10k P/A. This self-management of poverty is clearly a new feature of the new economy.

To top this all off, for all of us outside London, we’re screwed.  These shitty jobs, with falling wages and no security, are almost entirely being created in London (80% of them anyway), the one place with ever increasing house prices and living costs.

Maybe the fact we can afford a smart phone, and get most of our entertainment for free is going to be enough to make us not notice the real truth of the state of the economy.  On the other hand, the rise of UKIP (despite support for them being bizarrely similar to shitting in your own bed) may suggest otherwise.

Don’t believe the hype, the economy isn’t recovering, and the Tories aren’t the ones to make it all better.  That is going to be down to us.

READ THE EXCELLENT RECOVERY REPORT BY THE NEW ECONOMICS FOUNDATION

And last year’s Open Democracy article on housing

PLEASE CHECK THE WEEKLY DIGEST BELOW -THERE ARE SOME GREAT THOUGHT PROVOKING ARTICLES TO SHARE, AND A LOT OF FUN AT THE BOTTOM

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REGULARS – Some digested pieces to help you fight the war on the mind.

Liberty – Economics – Environment – Good News!

Liberty

One of the greatest attacks to our liberty is through what we think – as we will come to soon – so exploring why we hate immigrants so much as a society is massively important.

One of the things that is very little talked about is the psychological impact of heavy handed, punitive policing.  Those who wish to make a difference to society through protest will be familiar with what this article talks about.

Apparently tweeting about UKIP is illegal now? 

Economics

So much for falling numbers of unemployed – how come there 60% more people in-work, claiming housing benefit?  Because it isn’t a recovery for all.

Gove makes a ‘lunatic raid’ on £400 million for poor pupils to save his shitty free school program

Privatisation – a very British disease.

Environment

Lord Howell, Osbourne’s moronic father-in-law, has yet again called for the Tories not to frack in Tory constituencies and pointed again to the ‘desolate’ north as fair game. Fracking is too unpleasant for nice Tory voters, but fine for northern scum.

Meanwhile Germany manages to power 74% of it’s energy needs through renewable energy!

Good News!

Maxine Peake smashes it out of the park again!

Solar panels could replace roads!

Medical tourism generates millions for NHS and wider economy.

David Cameron gets insulted in a wonderful variety of ways.

Not that we care about how many people live in the UK or where they were born, but for those who scaremonger about ‘hordes’ of immigrants, it is interesting to note that 400 Bulgarians and Romanians actually left the UK since their countries joined the EU.

Not so much good news, but a thought provoker for the end – maybe you should consider voting alternative?

 

From inequalitybriefing.org: