Archives For IDS

1) #FatCatTuesday demonstrates income inequality continues to grow

On Tuesday of last week, most Top CEOs already earned more than the average worker will earn over the whole year in the UK.

Image: High Pay Centre

Image: High Pay Centre

 

The High Pay Centre who coined the phrase #FatCatTuesday, say that figures demonstrate the inadequacy of government to deal with the pay gap and the excesses of the super rich which are ‘unfair, disproportionate’ and don’t make ‘economic sense’:

“FTSE 100 Chief Executives are paid an average £4.72 million. The High Pay Centre found that even if CEOs are assumed to work long hours with very few holidays, this is equivalent to hourly pay of nearly £1,200

“When the High Pay Centre made the same calculation last year, the think-tank estimated that top bosses would have to wait until the first working Wednesday of 2014 to surpass the earnings of the average worker. But while pay realised by FTSE 100 Chief Executives has risen by nearly £500,000 since last year, the annual pay of the average UK worker has increased by just £200, from £27,000 to £27,200.

“The figures will raise doubts about the effectiveness of Government efforts to curb top pay by giving shareholders the power to veto excessive pay packages. The High Pay Centre has argued that further measures are necessary, such as representation for ordinary workers on the company ‘remuneration committees’ that set executive pay and compulsory publication of the pay gap between the highest and lowest earner within a company.”

Read more about this story here.

2) Iain Duncan Smith urged to suspend sanction regime

Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has been urged to suspend sanctions on benefit claimants until an investigation into their impact has been carried out. Concerns have been raised from many groups, individuals and professionals on their effect, particularly on mental health and the disabled.

“Experts, ranging from academics, food bank administrators, disabled groups and employment service professionals, told MPs on the work and pensions select committee on Wednesday how sanctions were “more likely” to hinder their target’s journey into work, rather than help them.

“A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union told the Huffington Post UK: “There’s no evidence that sanctions spur people into finding sustainable work, All they do is poison the relationship between jobcentre staff and claimants, which makes it much more difficult to build the kind of relationship that is required.

“A jobcentre should be a place that supports people into finding a job, not a place of conflict and suspicion.”

A DWP-commissioned review, carried out by welfare expert Matthew Oakley, who has worked for the Treasury and the centre-right thinktank Policy Exchange, revealed that the most vulnerable were often left punished by a system that they barely understand.”

Read more about this story here.

3) Hinchingbrooke hospital declared ‘inadequate’  by Care Quality Commission

Hinchingbrooke hospital has had to be put into special measures following a ‘scathing’ report by the Care Quality Commission which revealed serious failings, putting patients in danger.

Circle, a private health firm which has won £1.36bn of NHS contracts, told the London Stock Exchange that the CQC report was one of the reasons they were pulling out of running the hospital.

RealFare

RealFare

“The report said some children arriving at the A&E department were left “potentially unsafe” at times because of a lack of specially trained paediatric nurses both there and in some operating theatres.

“Patients told inspectors that the response of nurses to them ringing a bell for assistance was poor, especially at night. Drinks were found to have been left out of reach of patients, even after inspectors had pointed that out.”

The report also noted that the hospital was substantially and frequently short staffed.

This is the first time the watchdog has declared a hospital to be ‘inadequate’ in how it cares for patients.

Allowing private firms, who’s top interest is profit, is a danger to the NHS and the patients it serves. It is not done in the interests of the public but the private interests of a few.

Read more about this story here.

4) ‘Liam Fox wants to kick half a million Indians and Pakistanis off the electoral register’

The Times recently reported that the Conservatives wanted an emergency change to a well-established law allowing those in the UK from the Commonwealth and Ireland to vote in elections. Interestingly, The Times referred to the law as ‘obscure’. The piece read:

“Senior Tories called for an emergency change in the law last night as official figures revealed the scale of foreigners who will be free to cast a vote in May.

“This could result in them being able to decide the outcome of what is set to be the closest and most unpredictable election result in decades. Under an obscure law that has never been reformed, people from Ireland and the Commonwealth who live in the UK are given voting rights. Irish, Indian and Pakistani citizens top the list of those allowed to cast a vote…

“Some Conservatives believe that the number of voters from ethnic minorities included in the list will provide a boost to Labour. The previous election showed that Labour was far more successful in winning the votes of those from ethnic minorities…

“Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, said: “It is ridiculous that the government of a country like ours could be decided by those who are not British citizens. It is high time we brought this law up to date.”

These are desperate lengths to control election results. It is not ‘obscure’ for people who live here to have the right to vote.

Mark Pack, Liberal Democrat commentator added in his post:

“Who would such a change kick off the electoral register?

  • 345,000 Irish
  • 306,000 Indians
  • 180,000 Pakistani
  • 73,000 Australians
  • 52,000 Zimbabweans
  • Other countries in the top ten are Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Canada and Bangladesh.”

As Mike Sivier of Vox Political commented:

“Let’s hope those of minority ethnic backgrounds, living in the UK, get the message:

“Conservatives don’t want your vote.

“Like UKIP, they want to deport you.

“They’ll say it’s “fair” that you don’t get a say in who governs the country where you live.

“In that case, would you say it’s “fair” that you’ve been paying taxes for the last five years of Conservative-led rule?”

5) Shelter is here to help – Pass It On

January is infamous for being a tough money month, and as housing prices and rents continue to rise, if you are struggling, you can seek help from Shelter, who are offering advice and assistance in the Pass It On initiative.

1 in 5 rent or mortgage payers have borrowed money to cover housing costs and 1 in 4 would feel too ashamed to ask for help if they couldn’t pay the rent or mortgage. If you’re in this situation, make sure you get advice on managing your rent or mortgage worries.

“Getting advice from Shelter could make all the difference.

“Please share our advice and pass it on!”

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Find out more about Shelter here.

 6) Real Media 

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Real Media – a coalition of independent bloggers, journalists and media organisations for independent journalism and against mass media misinformation – now has a temporary site so you can find out more and stay ahead of events and announcements ahead of the launch in March.

We have new organisations joining us all the time and so far include Bristol Cable, Bella Caledonia, Salford Star, Transition Free Press, Counterfire, Media Reform Coalition and more.

We also have a gathering in February in Manchester supported by John Pilger, Red Pepper, Open Democracy and more…

Go to http://www.realmedia.press and show your support by joining the below…

Like Real Media on Facebook here.

Follow Real Media on Twitter here.

Please join our Thunderclap here

And find out more about the gathering in Manchester in `February.

 

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On 14th November a jobs fair was held in Chingford, the constituency of Iain Duncan Smith.

Under threat of sanction and checked for letters from the jobcentre, unemployed people from around the borough attended (According to the PCS union, there has been a 350% increase in sanctions for those on sickness benefits, and 920,000 people on JSA have been sanctioned in the year up to March 2014).

Despite being the poster boy due to open the fair, IDS snuck in at 08:30am and scarpered way before the 10am start. Outside a small herd of police manned a handful of protestors. We went along to speak to some of them. Thanks to Lucas Hinchey for the film work here.

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Kam Sandhu

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.
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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.

 

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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.

 

1) Britain’s slow recovery is historically unprecedented

We said before that this had been the slowest recovery for a hundred years, but it seems Osbourne is breaking records with this one, as it is in fact the slowest recovery in 314 years! (We are still using the word ‘recovery’ in a mocking way, bytheway). David Blanchflower, Independent Journalist, decided to dig a little deeper at the record of the coalition, and found that not only is this the slowest recovery in over three centuries but the Coalition did choke the recovery’s progress.

Image: the Telegraph

Image: the Telegraph

“First, all previous recessions’ lost output was restored in four years or less, in contrast with just over six years – in fact 76 months according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research – for the current recession. Second, it is apparent that the steepness of the path of recovery in all previous recessions was approximately the same, that is to say, the slopes of all the upward lines pre-2008 is approximately the same. Third, the recovery under Labour between Q32009 and Q32010 also broadly followed that same path, as does the current recovery over the last year or so.

“Finally, what is unprecedented is the flatlining of the economy in the Great Recession under the Coalition, once the recovery was already underway, from around months 37 (February 2011) through month 59 (December 2012). In February 2011 GDP was 4.9 per cent below the starting level; it was 4.2 per cent below it in January 2012 and still 4.2 per cent below in December 2012. It had still only reached minus 3.1 per cent by May 2013, in month 64. The Coalition killed off recovery at birth.”

Read more about this story here.

2) Osbourne suggests welfare money should be redirected onto high-speed rail links for north

George Osbourne has suggested that welfare payments which provide no ‘real economic return’ should be redirected into creating high speed rail links and infrastructure for the north of country.

Osbourne suggested that welfare payments can indeed ‘trap people in poverty’ – this is true in some ways, but if we were to remove these welfare payments to build more trains, people would still be trapped in a state of poverty, whilst a train they cannot afford a ticket for is built outside their house.  We have a suggestion for what we could do with redirected welfare payments – start the Universal Basic income – an unconditional income of £7000 a year could be granted to every citizen if we removed the welfare system altogether. Stay tuned for our article explaining the UBI this week.

3) 300,000 people wait five weeks for benefit payments in UK

A report published on Thursday by the TUC revealed that the Universal Credit scheme hits 300,000 people a month with a five week wait as it assesses benefit payments. Previously, you had to wait two weeks for payment. image

The new waiting time could see people going into 2 months of rent arrears before receiving support. The report revealed that 39,000 newly unemployed people will be hit by the wait each month. The report also revealed that only 1 in seven people knew about the plans, with 70% saying they would be worried if they had to wait this long if they lost their job.

The TUC has now launched their new campaign, Save Our Safety Net, highlighting the holes in the welfare system, including the five week wait.

Read about this story here.

4) Iain Duncan Smith interview

Image: theweek.co.uk

Image: theweek.co.uk

IDS gave a interview to a BBC journalist which demonstrated that he is achieving exactly what he set out to.

“And what of those stories of people suffering hardship because of benefits being reduced or not paid. “These stories about people in difficulty didn’t start the day I walked through the door. But of course those stories are sad and I want to find out about them – the speed with which you pick those up is what you really test yourself on.

“The reality is that the change itself should help resolve that, if you don’t change it they’re still going to be screaming.”

“Speed” as demonstrated by the previous story, doesn’t seem to be the Minister’s strong point. 1 million people using a food bank should probably sound alarms for IDS, or perhaps the fact that the main reason given for needing a food bank is benefit delays, and yet an even longer wait has been installed in the new flagship welfare system Universal Credit. Although, yes, we should have known from the fact this MInister has remained in his place past the reshuffle, that he is wholly being rewarded for the work he has done. The work that is so good, that IDS wants to suppress the reports of failures and costs of implementation from the public. All at public expense of course.

Read the interview here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) Judge rules work programme ‘incompatible’ with human rights

Retrospective law changes made by Iain Duncan Smith and the Department for Work and Pensions, following flaws identified by three judges in a case that involved the use of workfare in Poundland, have been deemed in contravention of European Human rights laws. Human rights lawyers say the ruling is a “damning assessment” and if the appeal is upheld, government will owe jobseekers £130m.

Appeal judges agreed that “the 2011 regulations failed to give the unemployed enough detailed information, especially about sanctions, including loss of jobseeker’s allowance, for refusing jobs under the schemes.”

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To avoid re-paying jobseekers for unfair sanctions and withdrawal of benefits, Iain Duncan Smith changed the laws retrospectively – a callous abuse of his position to avoid giving any justice to the unemployed people who had been unfairly treated.

Iain Duncan Smith will, unsurprisingly, appeal against this decision.

Iain Duncan Smith is also appealing a third time against a decision to release a report problems of the Universal Credit scheme – a flagship policy that has seen hundreds of millions of pounds wasted. All of these appeals are paid for by the public purse.

Read more about this story here.

2) Police begin inquiry into treatment of protestors at Westminster Abbey

Last week, we posted an account by Rob Punton, from Disabled People Against Cuts, about his experience at Westminster Abbey when the group attempted to start a protest against the closure of the Independent Living Fund.

300 police kettled 100 protestors

300 police kettled 100 protestors

Rob Punton also posted his experience on his blog, and detailed that police would not allow food, water or medication into the site, where some 300 police surrounded 100 protestors.

Metropolitan Police are now launching an inquiry into the treatment of protestors at the site.

Read more about this story here.

3) Calum’s List an important resource in understanding the effects of welfare reform

Calum’s List, a website dedicated to remembering the people who have committed suicide as a result of welfare reforms or delays and which was shut down last month, is a ‘valuable resource.’

“It includes cases such as that of Martin Rust from Norwich, a schizophrenic who had been found fit to work by a DWP assessment, and committed suicide two months later. The Coroner cited the “distress” caused by the DWP’s decision as a contributory factor in his decision to end his life. And that of Elaine Christian, who was found dead in Holderness Drain after self-harming and taking an overdose. The inquest heard that she had had to stop work because of poor health and was worried about a medical appointment to assess her eligibility for disability benefits she was due to attend the next day. Vicky Harrison, a 21-year-old who took an overdose after being rejected by what her family estimated to be around 200 jobs in two years. Her case is one of the few on the list to have been reported by the national press.”

The list is important as many of these stories may be reported by local press, but are often not picked up by national media, and this sort of body of evidence is vital in ensuring we understand what is taking place.

Read more about this story here.

4) UK needs 4 day week to combat stress, says leading doctor

One of the UK’s top doctors has called for a move to a four day week to reduce stress, allow people to spend more time with family, and to reduce unemployment.

Dr John Ashton added that this would also benefit people’s health.

“When you look at the way we lead our lives, the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, [work-related]mental health is clearly a major issue. We should be moving towards a four-day week because the problem we have in the world of work is you’ve got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that haven’t got jobs”, Ashton said.

“We’ve got a maldistribution of work. The lunch-hour has gone; people just have a sandwich at their desk and carry on working,” added the leader of the UK’s 3,300 public-health experts working in the NHS, local government and academia.”

Read more about this story here.

5) Glenda Jackson makes an excellent speech speaking out against Iain Duncan Smith and DWP

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) Britain’s poor now on par with Eastern Bloc

The poorest fifth of UK households are significantly worse off than the poorest fifth in other Western European countries, according to analysis of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data published by the High Pay Centre last week.

High Pay Centre Director Deborah Hargreaves said:

 “These figures suggest we need to be more concerned about inequality and how prosperity is shared, as well as average incomes or aggregate measures like GDP. The fact that the rich are richer in the UK than many other countries hides the fact that the poor are poorer.

“Most people think our living standards in the UK are similar to economies like France and Germany, but being poor in the UK is more like being poor in the former Soviet Bloc than in Western Europe.”

The High Pay Centre analysis also notes that if the UK’s total income of around £1 trillion was divided in the same way as total incomes in Denmark or the Netherlands, 99% of UK households would be better off by around £2,700 per year.

Image: The Huffington Post

Image: The Huffington Post

 

Read more about this story here.

2) Labour announces plans to cut benefits for 18-21 year olds, replacing with means-tested training allowances

Ed Miliband announced Labour’s first plans on cuts to welfare, with a plan that would remove benefits from 100,000 18-21 year olds, replaced instead with a means-tested allowance based on whether the claimant is in training.

The move follows a YouGov poll released last week which found that 78% of the British public felt that the welfare system was unfair and failing to reward those who had contributed to it.

The move is also meant to symbolise Labour’s dedication to welfare reform, apparently tapping in to the need to reward people in a way that is closer to what they pay in. It does however, entirely ignore the fact that opportunities for young people are scarce in a far more insecure and lower-paid environment than the previous generation.

The removal of Jobseeker’s Allowance for those below skills level 3 will affect seven out of 10 young people, and save around £65m.10431489_686788578035740_8042865362329683316_n

Read more about this story here.

3) Royal College of Nurses threaten to unseat MPs who do not support a pay rise for NHS staff

Nursing leaders have pledged that they would work to unseat MPs who do not support a pay rise for NHS staff, at the next election.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has denied frontline health professionals a one percent pay rise across the board, infuriating health unions.

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Some have put forward the idea of strike action, Dr Peter Carter, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing has suggested that rather than risking patient care through strike action, nurses should pursue “alternative forms of industrial action” at the ballot box.

“There are many MPs on all sides of the House of Commons that have small majorities, some just a few hundred, some even as low as 30 or 40” he told RCN members. “There are about 1,000 nurses in each constituency and if we mobilise ourselves I know many of those MPs will be looking over their shoulders and wondering if they’ll be re-elected at the General Election next year.”

Power to them.

4) Don’t let them tell you that our NHS is failing or needs privatisation. It is the best healthcare system in the world.

An international panel of experts declared that the NHS is the best healthcare system in the world, rating it’s care superior to other countries who spend more. The report ranked the USA as the worst in healthcare provision.

“The United Kingdom ranks first overall, scoring highest on quality, access and efficiency,” the fund’s researchers conclude in their 30-page report. Their findings amount to a huge endorsement of the health service, especially as it spends the second-lowest amount on healthcare among the 11 – just £2,008 per head, less than half the £5,017 in the US. Only New Zealand, with £1,876, spent less.”

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Read more about this story here.

5) DWP caught out as over half a million sickness benefit appeals were won, but figures were hidden from the public

From ilegal:

“DWP ministers said only 9% of ESA decisions were wrong.  Our research reveals the DWP have been quoting from figures which state 151,800 appeals have succeeded.  Our evidence shows the true figure to be at least 567,634 – casting serious doubt over 43% of 1,302,200 ‘fit for work’ decisions.”

“These figures completely negate all of the DWP’s claims that it is getting the majority of its decisions right. Government ministers in conjunction with the DWP’s Press office have been telling us that a million claimants have been found fit for work whereas these figures show that in reality this is only a small part of the true story and that huge numbers have gone on to successfully appeal decisions which were wrong.

“These new figures highlight the dubious practice of using the unchallenged assessment results, which only encourage media sensationalisation, with headlines such as those appearing in the Daily Express in July 2011 stating that ‘75% on sickness benefits were faking’. The same article goes on to say that out of ‘…2.6 million on the sick, 1.9 million could work’ before receiving an endorsement from the Prime Minister with an assurance that his government was “producing a much better system where we put people through their paces and say that if you can work, you should work”.

Read more about this story here.

6) 50,000+ march in People’s Assembly demo against austerity, and BBC fails to report on it again

Thousands took to the streets in London on Saturday against austerity, with speakers including Russell Brand, Owen Jones and Christine Blower. Solidarity reigned supreme as the demonstration brought together a coalition of unions, political parties, activist groups and community leaders. The march also celebrated one year of the People’s Assembly.

The march comes ahead of a 1 million strong strike planned on 10th July for public sector workers against pay freezes – sending a clear message to government that damaging austerity will not be tolerated. And the People’s Assembly plan to stage the biggest demonstration ever seen later this year.

As with the Manchester march against the privatisation of the NHS, where 50-70,000 took to the streets, the BBC turned a blind eye to the demonstration, slipping out a small report late in the evening on their website.

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by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) ‘The Sun’s free copy sees backlash and a potential fine, and Ed Miliband apologises for endorsement

‘The Sun’ circulated 22 million free copies of it’s paper last week with the front page headline ‘This Is Our England,’ as a commemorative  World Cup edition.

But it was not a war reception from the public with thousands of people burning the paper, sending it back, or putting up posters to tell Royal Mail not to deliver the tabloid to their address.

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Further, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband posed with the paper as an endorsement, which saw fierce criticism from the public against the tabloid’s history, proprietorship and bias.

Miliband later apologised, though he was the only one. Having said previously, that he would ‘stand up to Murdoch,’ this PR faux pas may have cost him.

Also, the paper forgot to print some legally required details on the paper, which could see them paying up to £50 per copy, or £1.1bn in total for this mistake. It would take 3.5 years for the paper to claw the money back in sales.

Read more about this story here.

 

ATOS fined £30m for Work Capability Assessment errors

In an exclusive report, The Londoner was told that ATOS, the French healthcare company on government contract to supply fit-to-work testing, has been fined £30million for errors in it’s delivery of the assessments.

The company has already announced that they are exiting the contract early, due to huge failures exposed by thousands of people attending theassessments, but details of this pay off were kept secret up until now to avoid further embarrassment for the company.

Read more about this story here.

2) Boris’ water cannons are being phased out in Germany amid safety concerns

The water cannons secured by Boris Johnson, are being phased out in Germany (where Boris is buying them from), amid concerns over their safety.

“The “WaWe 9” vehicle, produced by Ziegler Group and colloquially known as “Mammoth” or “Goliath” among German police, was first, introduced in 1982. It is named after the 9,000 litres it can hold in its tank, which it can spray as far as 65 metres at 18 litres a second – though some reports claim the machines can easily be adjusted to double the water pressure.”

Image: Revolution News

Image: Revolution News

The water cannons are two decades old, and first raised concerns in 1985, when activist Günter Sare died after being stunned and run over by a WaWe 9.

An investigation into Sare’s death revealed several flaws in the design of WaWe 9, which contributed to the death.

Germany is seeking to replace the cannons with newer models, explaining why Boris Johnson was able to bag three of them for around £30,000 each – much cheaper than the £1m it costs for new cannon models.

Kerry-anne Mendoza, author of the brilliant ScriptoniteDaily has begun a crowdfund for a People’s Cannon, which you can donate to here.

Read more about this story here.

3) Focus E15 mothers target abandoned houses in protest for decent homes

The excellent Focus E15 mothers targeted local abandoned housing, covering them in posters and photos which said “This family needs a home, this home needs a family.”

Focus E15 mothers will march on July 5th for decent homes for all.

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All photos from Focus E15 mothers facebook page.

4) Farage could face jail for undeclared donations of £205,000

Action is being considered against UKIP leader Nigel Farage after it was found that donations worth £205,000 were undeclared to the electoral commission, breaking electoral law.

The donations, dating back from 2001, made by party supporter John Longhurst were declared to the European Parliamentary register but Farage failed to tell the British Electoral Commission. Donations should be declared within 30 days.

A UKIP spokesperson said “Mr Farage was surprised to learn that the Electoral Commission thought it should be informed as well, as this did not accord with the professional advice he had received at the time.”

Read more about this story here.

5) Salma Yaqoob confronts Iain Duncan Smith on Question Time

Despite the presence of the Minister for Work and Pensions on BBC Question Time last week, welfare and employment played a small role in the discussion. However, Salma Yaqoob, from Birmingham’s Stop The War campaign, did confront Iain Duncan Smith and the ‘scrounger’ rhetoric he has previously relied on.

1) Inside Whitehall: Iain Duncan Smith must go

The Major Project’s Authority (MPA), designed to oversee implementations of public services and schemes, released it’s second annual report last week. In it, contained the failures and successes of government flagship schemes such as HS2 and Universal Credit.

The schemes are graded on a green, amber, red rating. But Universal Credit, had been given a “meaningless” ‘reset’ rating. A lie.

The Universal Credit scheme had been given a red rating by the MPA but this had been changed due to protestations from Minister for Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, and his DWP department.

IDS has shown himself to be incapable of overseeing this scheme time and time again, with losses in the millions written off and damaging staff surveys revealing poor management, high stress and frustration. One member of staff said the work was “soul-destroying.”

Iain Duncan Smith Image: The Guardian

Iain Duncan Smith Image: The Guardian

The MPA’s red rating deems the scheme “unachievable within reasonable timescales and to a reasonable budget without urgent remedial action.” IDS’s attempts to manipulate the outcome and public fallout by falsifying the rating portrays the ignorance which Whitehall uses to gloss over huge failures.

Apparently, David Cameron considered replacing IDS at the last re-shuffle of government, and this is more likely now. It cannot come a minute too soon, because for the rest of us, IDS’s record of failures and abuse of power without consequence, has long since moved past disbelief into outright despair.

Read more about this story here.

See a timeline of how the problems emerged here.

2) Racism on the rise in UK, increasing social division and placing more people at risk of poverty, warns JRF

Joseph-Rowntree-Foundation

Racism has increased since the start of the millennium with 30% of people admitting they at least a little prejudice towards people from other races. No prizes for guessing how this issue has been exacerbated by political discourse recently. But, the JRF warn that this means something far more damaging for our society:

“Over the last two years JRF has funded seven projects that have explored how poverty and ethnicity are linked. They found that racial prejudice can restrict people’s opportunities at work and their earning potential, cut their access to essential services and can affect children’s education, all of which increase the risk of poverty.”

“Racism was not something we asked the researchers to focus on. But it emerged as a key theme from every single study. We found that:

  • “Racism, and the fear of it, restricts access to social networks, preventing people from making links which could lead to jobs, support for small businesses, training and other opportunities.
  • “It can prevent people from being promoted at work, wasting their skills and potential.
  • “In some parts of the UK it leads to people from ethnic minority backgrounds being directed into work for which they are greatly overqualified.
  • “It intimidates people from leaving their own area to look for work or access services.
  • “It underlies some concerns that people from certain ethnic minority backgrounds have about using childcare or formal care for older people.
  • “Children’s education is affected by low expectations among teachers and by racist bullying.
  • “Access to vital services, such as primary healthcare, is affected by experiences of racism, particularly from frontline staff such as receptionists.”

Read more about this story here.

3) Council Tax Arrears now most common debt problem for Citizens Advice

Council tax arrears have become the most common debt problem for families needing help due to welfare reforms and changes in support, Citizens Advice announced on Monday.

The charity have dealt with 27,000 people needing help with council tax in the first three months of this year, up 17% on last year.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

Citizens Advice said that the increase had come since the abolition of help with council tax in April 2013, with new rules introduced relying on councils to offer help. There are varying degrees of support from council to council but 244 out of 325 in England now require all working-age households to make some contribution. Council tax has now overtaken credit cards and loans as the number one debt problem for those seeking advice.

“Of those contacting the charity about council tax arrears, 42% were employed and 28% unemployed. The rest were full-time carers, or similar.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Labour will not undo unpopular coalition cuts

Shadow chief secretary to the treasury, Chris Leslie announced on Friday that Labour ‘could not afford’ to undo unpopular coalition cuts. Sorry to say but you will get more of the same from a Labour government, who undoubtedly released this news to prove they are ‘responsible’ with money. We would prefer if they were just as focused on being responsible with people’s lives too.

‘I’m not heading into this expecting popularity. Quite the opposite. All government departments in the next Labour Government will have to face fundamental questions as never before. We won’t be able to undo the cuts that have been felt in recent years. And I know that this will be disappointing for many people. A more limited pot of money will have to be spent on a smaller number of priorities. Lower priorities will get less.’

 

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

1) ‘Help To Work’ comes into effect today

A new government scheme starting today will put tough new requirements on the long-term unemployed to continue receiving benefit.

‘Help To Work’ will affect those who have already completed the Work Programme and have been out of work for longer than two years. These claimants will now have to take part in community placements for 30 hours a week, which could include picking up litter or removing graffiti. They will also have to ‘sign on’ at the job centre every day, and receive at least 4 hours of intensive job search monitoring with advisers each week.

Should claimants not find work after six months, they will be re-enrolled on the programme and sanctioned if they do not comply.

Recent statistics show that only 3% of those on the Work programme have gone on to find gainful employment, which suggests problems within the government system and approach. Community placements also seem a lot like community service under threat of sanction, a worrying treatment of the unemployed like criminals and once again an attempt by the coalition to fix unemployment by fixing the unemployed.

Image: theweek.co.uk

Image: theweek.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

2) Occupy Wonga – May 1st

Occupy, DPAC and UK Uncut have joined to stage an action on May 1st against ludicrous interest rates and pay day loans. The action will form part of the Worldwide Wave of Action running from April 4th to July 4th.

The plan for the day is:

“May Day Itinerary:-

12:00 (High Noon) Assemble at Clerkenwell Green.

13:00 March sets off

2:30 Rally in Trafalgar Square in Honour of Tony Benn and Bob Crow.

As soon as the rally is finished, we march. When we arrive at the target we will occupy a space and Occupy London will hold a General Assembly on site; the assembly agenda will be confirmed on the day, by those present.

Supporting this action on the day will be:- *Occupy London *Disabled People Against The Cuts *Fuel Poverty Action *ClassWar *The Resistance Movement Of The UK”

Image: Occupy

Image: Occupy

Read more about this story here.

 3) Councils are sitting on £67m of emergency help

A Freedom of Information request obtained by the Guardian revealed that councils are sitting on £67m of the £136m given out to help with emergency appeals.

Record numbers of families are being turned down for help despite many being left penniless and hungry by benefit sanctions, welfare reforms and the bedroom tax. 4 in 10 applications are turned down for emergency help. In some places as few as one in 10 receive crisis loans.

Councils told the Guardian that they had given out less help than in the past because the public knew less about the schemes, with some failing to advertise that there was help available.

Read more about this story here.

4) Real Talks: A Job’s Worth

Real Talks’ first event went well on Thursday last week with a great discussion about current experiences, unemployment, policies and alternatives. Keep an eye on RealFare for the video and photos! Thanks to all those who attended.

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