Archives For cost of living

1) Bills soar 4 times quicker than wages

The cost of living is rising 4 times faster than wages, according to new figures released last week.
The average income after inflation is down more than £1600 under the coalition according to Labour, and talks of recovery are blighted as incomes continue to fall and struggle against rising outgoings.
Inflation slowed last month, according to the coalition, from 1.9% to 1.6%. But the figures used by the Office for National Statistics, which unlike the coalition index, include housing costs, put inflation at 2.5%.
House prices also rose by 10.2% in the last year.
2) People’s March for the NHS gets underway
A 300 mile march across 23 towns and cites ending up at Parliament, in protest against attacks and privatisation of the NHS, has begun.
peoples-march-for-the-nhs
The march was set up by a group of mothers outraged at coalition attacks which have seen the Tory government renege on promises not to privatise the NHS, and not to affect front line services. Instead, contracts have been sold to private companies, some of which have strong ties to the Conservative party and the government have claimed that the NHS requires reform despite it remaining the best health care system in the world according to the Commonwealth Fund.
The march calls on anyone to join in to show their support as the march continues. So get involved. The website reads:

We will serve notice to every politician that voted to destroy our NHS – Join the fight back.

“Support for the NHS is growing day by day. We need our NHS so it’s time to join the thousands already campaigning together to keep it.

3) Government spending watchdog accuses DWP of hiding Universal Credit failings
The public accounts committee has accused the Department for Work and Pensions of deliberately hiding errors and avoiding scrutiny by making up a new category in the rating of the Universal Credit system.
The Major Projects Authority, which oversees all large government projects, put the Universal Credit System at ‘reset’ status in their report in 2013 – a status never used before.
It was not used for any other project either, having been handily crafted only for the Universal Credit system, pulling it out of the usual five-tier rating system used by the MPA, and making the rating obscure as to the scheme’s success, or more likely, failure.
4) Increase in right-to-buy sales sees calls for reform

Right-to-buy sales of council owned properties have increased by a third in the second quarter of the year, with 2,845 properties sold between April and June.

Image: capita Software

Image: capita Software

Some are now calling for drastic reforms and changes to the scheme as housing stock is lost and not replaced at a time when more and more people are needing affordable homes and help with housing.

Schemes offering reductions and discounts on housing deposits and repayments have also been called into question.

“Darren Johnson, Green party member of the London Assembly, said right-to-buy was “a disaster” for London, where 948 council homes were sold to tenants over the quarter.

“He said: “A lot of council homes sold today will be in the hands of private landlords tomorrow. Fewer low-rent homes will drive more low paid people out of inner London. The mayor should lobby for it to be scrapped and for councils to be allowed to borrow to invest in building many more.”

Read more about this story here.

5) Cameron rebuked over comments that ‘migrants take most new jobs’

David Cameron has been rebuked by the statistics watchdog for comments claiming migrants take most new UK jobs.

 

David-Cameron1

Cameron made the comments in an article for the Daily Telegraph, but was quickly challenged by Sir Andrew Dilnot – the chair of the UK Statistics Authority.

“Sir Andrew pointed out that figures from the Office for National Statistics show only that native Britons made up 76% of the increase in the number of people in work over the same period. “These official statistics do not show the number of ‘new jobs’,” he wrote.

“The number of people in employment and the number of jobs in the economy are not the same. One person may have more than one job, and some jobs may be shared by more than one person.”

“From the available official statistics, it is therefore not possible to estimate the number of new jobs, nor the number of new jobs that are filled by UK nations, nor the number of new jobs that are filled by non UK nationals.”

Read more about this story here.

6) Property expert says benefit cap will not save money

George Osbourne’s benefit cap of £26,000 in London, and £23,400 outside London and the South East was part of further cuts of £12bn from the welfare budget.

However, Ajay Jagota insists that this will ‘not save a penny’ and just push up prices elsewhere. Jagota claims that the policy fails to tackle the broken housing market in London and does not encourage people to move away from the capital.

“Mr Jagota said: “If this really was a problem, wouldn’t the streets of the North East be awash with southern jobseekers, migrating North for an easier life? It’s certainly not something I’ve seen much evidence of.”

Read more about this story here.

 

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1) Real Talks: A Job’s Worth – Employment in 2014 – 24/04/2014

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We announced our first live debate in collaboration with Inner City Theatre last week. On 24th April at Hoxton Hall, we tackle employment in 2014 in an environment of wage pressures, rising living costs, zero hour contracts and continuing unemployment. We aim to start the conversation on the ground with an audience, panel and some UK artists, and without the usual question-avoiding officialese of usual political debates.

We are pleased to announce our panellists as follows:

Natalie Bennett – Leader, Green Party

Thomas Barlow – Equalities Officer, Greater Manchester Union

Kam Sandhu – Founder, RealFare

YEUK representative – Youth Employment UK

If you want to attend, the tickets are free for unwaged and £5 for waged. You must register first by emailing admin@innercitytheatre.co.uk to save your place.

Please see our trailer here:

 

2) ATOS quits fit-to-work tests

French healthcare company ATOS, who were awarded the £500m contract to administer all fit-to-work tests until next August, will end their contract early, the government have announced.

With mounting call and evidence from campaigners and many sick and disabled people up and down the country that ATOS were wrongfully administering the test and results, leading to inhumane and stressful consequences for those facing the tests, the company have decided to exit the contract by early next year. They will receive no compensation for doing so, and have agreed a penalty payment with government.

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However, whilst many charities and campaigners welcome the exit of ATOS, they say the whole system needs overhauling, rather than continuing with the same tests with another company.

Last year, the Work and Pensions Select committee backed this by saying the responsibility for problems with the fit-to-work tests and their administration “lay firmly with the DWP” but that the department was failing to “apply sufficient rigour or challenge to ATOS.”

Read more about this story.

3) Low Income families increase debt by 29% in six months to deal with welfare reforms

Low income families are increasing their debt by £52 a week after being hit by welfare reforms, wage pressures and the rising cost of living, according to research from a poverty project.

“The project found that the average household debt stood at just under £3,000, up by 29% since October, equivalent to £670. Families were typically spending £34 a week repaying debts, from an average income among those surveyed of £176 a week.”

The findings are the third instalment of six, from the Real Life Reform project which examines the financial and social changes and behaviours of up to 100 households.

Andy Williams, chair of the Real Life Reform steer group said:

“In our first report in September, people said they’d resist falling further into debt, yet just six months later this picture has emerged.

“Nearly eight out of 10 people in the study owe money. With an underlying average debt of £2,943, some may never pay this off given that they have, on average, as little as £3 left at the end of each day for food.”

Read more about this story.

4) MPs approve welfare cap

The permanent welfare cap was voted through on Thursday by a vote of 520 to 22. 13 Labour rebels defied Ed Miliband by voting against it. See their names here. It was thought there would have been more rebellions against the cap but the vote fell on the same day as Tony Benn’s funeral and some were absent. It is thought others were convinced to vote for it, as the level of the cap could be adjusted as Labour sees fit should they get in at the next election.

However, Save The Children have warned that the cap will push 345,000 children into poverty. The cap excludes Jobseeker’s Allowance and the state pension, so will pressurise working benefits – affecting families across Britain.

Will Higham, the charity’s director of UK poverty, said: “Parties need to explain how they will work to improve wages and welfare to ensure that work pays. Otherwise, the vote will become a straitjacket, binding future governments from taking action to stem a rising tide of child poverty.”

Image: The Drum

Image: The Drum

Read more about this story here.

The Student Assembly Against Austerity is organising a week of action from 3rd February against a proposed sell off of  student loans to private companies who are able to charge more interest and make profit.

Image: Student Assembly Against Austerity

Image: Student Assembly Against Austerity

 

The Student Assembly Website says:

“The government is planning to sell off the student loan book to private companies. In order to make the student loan book more profitable, a secret report for the government (written by Rothschild Bank) has proposed retrospectively increasing the cap of interest on student loan repayments or scrapping it all together. This essentially means a retrospective hike in tuition fees.

The government is planning to complete the sell off by 2015. It could happen sooner.”

50 campuses are already involved and they have the support of the NUS (National Union of Students).

The Assembly aim to build a broad coalition against the privatisation of student debt, and urge more people to get involved.

 

Find out more here and look out for more information on RealFare next week.

Corporate benefits is a feature which aims to cast light on how big businesses and companies receive benefits and gain profit from welfare policy. Whilst the media have been quick to name and shame the benefit cheats that make up 0.7% of all claimants, they have been quiet on the ways in which corporations profit handsomely from our ‘bloated’ welfare system.

In the last article, we spoke about Workfare – a series of schemes set up by government which hand companies a free workforce, paid unfairly (and unlawfully when referring to laws on the minimum wage) at a cost to the taxpayer and other workers.

This time, we look at Working Tax Credits.

Image: taxcredits.net

Image: taxcredits.net

Working Tax Credits are a means tested benefit for those on low incomes. Essentially, they top up low pay. Working Tax Credits were introduced in the UK in 2003, as a way of encouraging people to take on low paid work. Last year, £14bn was spent on such credits, and as the government pull back welfare spending in all other areas, the solution to saving money here is rarely tackled.

Despite the Working Tax Credit being a huge help to those on low income, it does not address the subject of low pay. And far from the credit being used to help top up the pay of employees of small companies and start up businesses, it now subsidises the pay of employees from huge corporate conglomerates who’s profits are in the billions.

Huge supermarket chains, clothes stores and other companies now have thousands of employees who claim Working Tax Credits. This calls into question the helpfulness of the policy, as what seems to be materialising is a culture of low pay amongst large companies who are aware that the state will pick up the bill.

Whilst the introduction of the minimum wage was meant to protect against the low pay issue, the wage has not increased in line with inflation for years and is running behind at a rate of 10-12%. Thus, the minimum wage is not performing the action of a minimum standard of living. This is why we have recently seen the Living Wage being pressed for in news and media.

Image: citizensuk.org

Image: citizensuk.org

The Living Wage is a rate set according to the basic cost of living in the UK and it recently rose to £7.65 per hour in the UK and £8.80 in London. Companies may take on the Living Wage on a voluntary basis, but as the gap between the minimum wage, inflation and the cost of living increases, the need for the Living Wage is becoming ever more important to those on low pay.

Ed Miliband recently promised a temporary tax break to companies who begin using the Living Wage, if Labour are elected in 2015, and while the momentum for this pay is increasing and positive, legislation is the real power that can change the conditions of all on low pay.

Working Tax Credits, whilst seemingly helping out the low paid worker, is allowing companies – who can afford to pay a living wage – the ability to underpay employees with the knowledge that the welfare system is at hand, and for these companies the tax credit is subsidising profit and avoiding the issue of low pay. Working Tax Credits should only be awarded to those working for small businesses who are trying to grow, as a support to both the worker and the business, if used at all.

Around 20% of welfare spending goes to in-work tax credits, and if the government are serious about cutting welfare spending then it is about time they asked large companies to pay fairly for staff, and put an end to a culture where companies reap the benefits and profits from low paid employees and our welfare system.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass