Well we were quiet last week as we all stood by to see the outcome of the Scottish Independence vote, but now we’re back with your weekly round up.
1) Scotland votes no, but this is not a return to ‘business as usual’
Scotland votes no but only just, as the split ended 55/45 in favour of remaining as part of the United Kingdom. It was an emotional time for many, especially in a country split so passionately down the middle. However, the incredible rise of the Yes campaign clearly sent shivers to some Westminster folk, with Cameron almost begging and incriminating himself in an attempt to reach out to Yes voters by saying he wouldn’t be around forever.
Still, political leaders were quick to demonstrate to Scotland the nature of Westminster promises by reneging on ‘DevoMax’ – a promise made in the eleventh hour prior to the vote, removed within hours of the result.
Still, the ’45’ remain strong with new campaigns and energy being driven into ensuring that it is not a return to ‘business as usual’, and the Scots have inspired other regions such as Manchester to campaign for devolution from Westminster HQ to make their own decisions on policies and where to place money.
2) Claimants face spending 35 hours a week in job centre
In the latest of the unbelievable continuance of a programme of punishment and voyeuristic shaming of the unemployed, pilot schemes from October will see claimants forced to spend 35 hours a week in the job centre or face sanctions.
Claimants will have to check in at 9am and remain at the centre till 5pm.
If they fail to do so, they will face sanctions, with the first sanction resulting in the loss of one month’s worth of benefits, and the second sanction culminating in the withdrawal of three months’ money.
It is plain to see that this system is highly punitive and not productive. The real problems of unemployment however, such as low pay, insecure employment and so on are entirely overlooked by our government.
The Office for National Statistics released some employment figures last week:
“Comparing May to July 2014 with February to April 2014, the number of people in employment increased by 74,000 (to reach 30.61 million), the number of unemployed people fell by 146,000 (to reach 2.02 million) and the number of people not in the labour force (economically inactive) aged from 16 to 64 increased by 114,000 (to reach 8.93 million).”
Unemployment has fallen by 146,000 yet employment has only risen by 74,000 – while the government pretend that they are solving unemployment they ignore that some 72,000 people are now either economically inactive or have fallen out of the welfare system, most likely for reasons of punitive and unbearable treatment from the system. This is not solving unemployment, it is simply making the system too unbearable to go through – potentially pushing people further from work and help.
3) Mps claiming more expenses than at height of expenses scandal, 2009
Seven MPs have claimed more than a million pounds in expenses within a year.
The latest figures show Britain’s members of parliament are claiming more in total than at the height of the expenses scandal in 2009.
“The highest claimer locally for 2013-14 was North Dorset MP Robert Walter with a bill of £164,138.
“He said: “This issue was dealt with five years ago. We now have an independent standards authority and you should put any questions to them.”
“Christchurch MP Christopher Chope, who claimed £107,592, was among members who employed spouses. He hires his wife Christine at between £45,000 and £49,999 a year.”
4) Chris Grayling’s legal aid cuts ruled ‘illegal’
Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, acted illegally when trying to drive through multi-million pound cuts to the legal aid system which could see the closures of many legal aid firms, a High Court judge has ruled.
“The Government has been told to halt its cost-cutting plans for legal aid payments for duty solicitors at police stations. Under the plans, the work currently carried out by 1,600 firms would be limited to 525 contracts, leading to closures and mergers of high-street legal firms attempting to make the new system pay.”
A judge ruled that Grayling had failed to fairly consult the profession with the changes.
The government says it just means that certain parts of the process will have to be repeated but they will continue to push ahead with controversial reforms. However, some campaigners believe this could delay the reforms until after the election and thus, could kill them off altogether.
“These so-called ‘reforms’ were sold in the name of austerity,” said Nicola Hill, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association. “They’re being railroaded through by a Justice Secretary determined to push through an ideology.
“The cuts have been nothing short of an assault on justice, compromising fair representation for people accused of a crime in police stations and courts. They threatened the principle of innocent until proven guilty and equal access to justice.”
5) Labour pledge £8 minimum wage by 2020, Greens say £10
Labour have pledged to raise the minimum wage to £8 by 2020, partly through cuts to welfare.
Greens however have pledged a raise to a minimum of £10 an hour in the next parliament in a move that is thought to steal support from Labour. Further, the Greens promise that once raised to this standard the minimum wage will be linked to living costs and inflation, a notion which has been all but eroded within the last few years.
“Like Ukip, Bennett said the Greens were also a party that was “not offering people business as usual”. “Under our plan no one would be paid less than £10 an hour in 2020,” she said. “It is a scandal that under the coalition government the number of workers earning less than the living wage has risen by a staggering 50%. It makes a mockery of David Cameron‘s 2010 statement that a living wage is ‘an idea whose time has come’.”
“It is our policies such as making the minimum wage a living wage, a wealth tax on the top 1%, re-nationalising our railways and having a publicly owned and run NHS that are both encouraging people to join as members and vote Green in growing numbers.”
6) NHS workers back strike action over pay by 2-1
NHS workers including nurses, therapists, medical secretaries, cooks and more have voted to back strike action over pay.
“A total of 68% voted in favour of being prepared to take part in a strikes while 32% said no. The ballot also asked if they were prepared to take part in action short of strike action and 88% agreed while 12% voted against.”
The action is against blocks to pay rises of over 60% of NHS staff and 70% of nurses over the next two years, leaving staff ‘demoralised and demotivated’ according to Dave Prentis, leader of Unison, a union with over 300,000 NHS staff.
The last action by health workers took place over 32 years ago, but Prentis feels that blocks to rises of even 1% demonstrate the government view of health workers, adding that inflation has continued increasing since 2011 whilst pay value has dropped by 12%.
7) People’s Global Climate Change March demands action
Marches took place in more than 2,000 locations worldwide demanding action against climate change, ahead of the UN climate summit in New York next week.
New York saw the biggest demonstration with over 600,000 people taking to the streets. London saw over 40,000 take part.
“On Tuesday, the UN will host a climate summit at its headquarters in New York with 125 heads of state and government – the first such gathering since the unsuccessful climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009.
“Mr Ban hopes leaders can make progress on a universal agreement to be signed by all nations at the end of 2015.”