Archives For universal credit

1) HSBC offers full page apology only for the least of their crimes

“They don’t mention all the tens of thousands of beheaded people in Mexico and Columbia. They don’t mention all those ripped off by all the Libor rigging, or all the clients they ripped off in the Forex scandal.”

Stacey Herbert

Max Keiser hits the nail on the head in this video, putting some perspective on the actions, treatment and non-punishment for years of mass criminal behaviour and financial terrorism at one of our largest banks, including the fact HSBC funded terrorist groups. The media has worked hard to shape the debate and limit our understanding of the gross injustice inflicted on the world by banks like HSBC. In the video, co-host Stacey Herbert highlights that the Department of Justice in the UK failed to prosecute and punish HSBC because of ‘collateral consequences’ suggesting they are too big to punish. However, Iceland has punished, sentenced and regulated their financial industries and guess what? Their economy has not collapsed, and their public are much safer.

2) Peter Oborne publicly resigns from The Telegraph over ‘fraudulent’ coverage

Political Commentator, Peter Oborne publicly resigned from The telegraph with this letter posted on Open Democracy where he accuses the Telegraph of having committed a fraud on its readers over coverage of HSBC.

 

Image: The Commentator

Image: The Commentator

From the letter:

“With the collapse in standards has come a most sinister development. It has long been axiomatic in quality British journalism that the advertising department and editorial should be kept rigorously apart. There is a great deal of evidence that, at the Telegraph, this distinction has collapsed.

“Late last year I set to work on a story about the international banking giant HSBC. Well-known British Muslims had received letters out of the blue from HSBC informing them that their accounts had been closed. No reason was given, and it was made plain that there was no possibility of appeal. “It’s like having your water cut off,” one victim told me.”

“When I submitted it for publication on the Telegraph website, I was at first told there would be no problem. When it was not published I made enquiries. I was fobbed off with excuses, then told there was a legal problem. When I asked the legal department, the lawyers were unaware of any difficulty. When I pushed the point, an executive took me aside and said that “there is a bit of an issue” with HSBC. Eventually I gave up in despair and offered the article toopenDemocracy. It can be read here.

“I researched the newspaper’s coverage of HSBC. I learnt that Harry Wilson, the admirable banking correspondent of the Telegraph, had published an online story about HSBC based on a report from a Hong Kong analyst who had claimed there was a ‘black hole’ in the HSBC accounts. This story was swiftly removed from the Telegraph website, even though there were no legal problems. When I asked HSBC whether the bank had complained about Wilson’s article, or played any role in the decision to remove it, the bank declined to comment. Mr Wilson’s contemporaneous tweets referring to the story can be found here. The story itself, however, is no longer available on the website, as anybody trying to follow through the link can discover. Mr Wilson rather bravely raised this issue publicly at the ‘town hall meeting’ when Jason Seiken introduced himself to staff. He has since left the paper.

“Then, on 4 November 2014, a number of papers reported a blow to HSBC profits as the bank set aside more than £1 billion for customer compensation and an investigation into the rigging of currency markets. This story was the city splash in the Times, Guardian and Mail, making a page lead in theIndependent. I inspected the Telegraph coverage. It generated five paragraphs in total on page 5 of the business section.

“The reporting of HSBC is part of a wider problem. On 10 May last year theTelegraph ran a long feature on Cunard’s Queen Mary II liner on the news review page. This episode looked to many like a plug for an advertiser on a page normally dedicated to serious news analysis. I again checked and certainly Telegraph competitors did not view Cunard’s liner as a major news story. Cunard is an important Telegraph advertiser.”

In this short video, Oborne explains how news judgements were made based on advertising partners which severely distorts journalism. This is why we need Real Media.

3)  Cameron takes aim at working poor and ‘unhealthy’

While David Cameron claims to be on the side of the ‘hardworking’ he quietly slipped through plans for a pilot scheme beginning in April targeting and punishing those in low paid or part time work.

It is important to bear in mind that Cameron has garnered an environment of low pay and insecure employment with record numbers of people in in-work poverty. The Prime Minister has taken steps to remove power and rights from employees, and give more to employers. This allows large employers to exploit desperate workforces, keeping them on poverty wages, while company profits are subsidised by the state when topping up low pay. And for this, Cameron now plans to make the lives of employees even harder with the kind of bureaucratic delays, sanctions, punishment and hardship which halt people’s ability to function or get on in society.

“One change in particular threatens to scupper Cameron’s claim to be on the side of Britain’s hard working people. In an alteration to legislation that went largely unnoticed at the end of last month, the government introduced a pilot for 15,000 low-paid working universal credit claimants. Those participating in the mandatory scheme may find that their benefits are reduced if they do not actively seek to work more hours or increase their salary.

“The change is important because this policy goes beyond targeting jobseekers, the sick and disabled. If penalises those who are hard at work, maintaining part-time, low-salaried jobs

“Labour peer Baroness Sherlock said in the House of Lords before the secondary legislation was introduced: ‘If you have been on benefits and you get a job, you do not expect the department to ring you up at work saying, “Come and talk to me because you’re not working enough”.

‘I think that people who feel that they have escaped the tender ministrations of the jobcentre are going to be a little taken aback when they find that it starts following them to work.’

“Sanctions can apply of claimants working less than 35 hours a week on minimum wage (typically £12,000 a year) who do not comply with the scheme. Failure may include failing to attend ‘job focused interviews’ or failing to apply for a job that might bring in extra hours. Welfare reform minister Lord David Freud says “tougher” conversations will be had with claimants after two months.

“For claimants, one of the most worrying aspects of the programme – called work related requirements – is that it can apply to housing benefit (technically the housing cost element of universal credit). That’s potentially a chunk of your rent lost to the DWP if you do not take active steps to get a better-paid job.”

Cameron also announced that benefits would be cut for obese people and addicts who refused ‘help’, pretending he was a moral crusader by condemning more poor people as moral failures who need to be punished.  Meanwhile, Tory Minister Lord Green is protected and rewarded by Cameron and his party, despite his chairmanship of HSBC during heinous criminal activity remarked on above. He cares so much.

Read more about this story here.

4) Universal Credit Fact Sheet

HuffPost shared this fact sheet on the bewildering Universal Credit system, just in case there was any lingering confusion on the flagship scheme which is now being rolled out nationally.

o-UNIVERSAL-CREDIT-SPOOF-570

(Fact sheet created for HuffPost UK Comedy by David Schneider and David Beresford)

Daniel Pacey, who was featured in the government’s own film about Universal Credit, has since spoken out about the ‘nightmare’ system which left him with no money for six weeks before his first payment, and ongoing problems and delays to his claim. Pacey warned that Universal Credit is likely to push people into hardship.

5) Firefighters strike this Wednesday

Firefighters confirmed plans for a 24 hour walkout taking place this Wednesday, over continued fights for pensions and disputes on retirement age.

The strike comes after fire authorities backed down on promises to not reduce pensions for those failing fitness tests over the age of 55.

The strike begins at 7am on Wednesday with many staff joining a Fire Brigades Union demonstration in Westminster.

Read more about this story here.

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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.

 

Time and understanding how to use it, is an important tactic of any government, particularly our current coalition, in exasperating the pressures put on those facing the brunt of changing policy and austerity.

The element of timing is already understood as innately important in politics. ‘The Grid’ is a meticulous and detailed diary of news and forthcoming announcements used by government. Each entry is labeled as either ‘good news’ or ‘bad news’ and slotted into an appropriate release date which either brings attention to the government’s ‘good news’ achievements, or allows ‘bad news’ to slip out underneath bigger stories or at times where there is less attention being paid by the public or media.

During this period of austerity, where further than reduction of income and household money, there is a marked increase in the presence of debt, time has become an increasingly called upon tool to further implicate those suffering.

The Trussell Trust food bank, the largest in the UK, released data showing that benefit delays were the main reason for people needing to use a food bank. The government has made concentrated efforts to extend the gaps in which people receive help, without any provisions for those who fall into trouble within this time.

Sanctions can be implemented immediately, whereas appeals can take months to complete. In June last year, Osbourne announced that all claimants would have to wait seven days before claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance as opposed to three.

Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit scheme is seeing a claim take an average of five weeks to complete as opposed to two, which could see people falling into two months worth of arrears before receiving money. This is estimated to affect 300,000 people each month.

Trussell Trust - Voucher Distribution and Reasons Given - between June 2012 - Nov 2013

Trussell Trust – Voucher Distribution and Reasons Given – between June 2012 – Nov 2013

At the same time, the conversation taking place within government is not one that concerns or addresses the problems that come from this engineered timing gap. IDS continues to deny that benefit delays have anything to do with the increase in food bank usage. Osbourne continues to ‘stick up’ for the savers, despite the continuing fall in wages (for all but one of the last 50 months) and working conditions being a huge factor behind 9m of us not having any savings.

For those who dare to fight the hand they are dealt by new policy, time is again used to wear out the individual against government. We spoke about this briefly before:

“Last year, when five families took the Secretary of State to court to exempt disabled children and families from the bedroom tax, the government delayed changing the law as much as possible despite David Cameron publicly announcing that these exemptions existed.

“The government then tried to put the legal fees on the shoulders of the families, as a mother of one of the claimants explained after the hearing:

“I am relieved that at last the position for families like mine is clear and that following the court’s decision in July the government have finally changed the rules which would have had such a terrible effect on families like mine. My son needs his own bedroom because of his serious health problems. Without that bedroom, we were told he would have to go into residential care. I m sure that everyone can understand what heartbreak such a situation would cause any mother. We have been very disappointed by the way that the government have behaved throughout our case, but delighted that at last the position is clear. We will continue with our appeal, because at the moment the government has an order for legal costs against us, which seems ridiculous to me, given that we won our case and that the rules have now been changed as a result. However, we are so happy that the real battle is over.”

Jeremy Hunt has applied for appeal after appeal to enforce his plans for the NHS, which included the closure of Lewisham hospital. Judges have repeatedly ruled that workfare providers must be named, but government continue to appeal against this. A report revealing the failures and expenditure on the Universal Credit system has been postponed by the desperate IDS, now appealing for the third time against it’s release after two failed attempts. Yet, despite these rulings in favour of the public interest, ministers continue to run down the clock, and extend cases as long as possible.

The government has the ability, time, resources, manpower and might to continue appealing, whereas an individual fighting a unjust policy may not. And given that they may be fighting against sanctions, bedroom tax, workfare policies – they are fighting laws that affect the poorest in society, and thus will be the poorest.

This period of austerity is marked by the presence of debt, the obstruction, prolonging and postponement of processes and provision, and the vilification of the marginalised, which suggests this is an era far more focused than ever before, on the psychological control and burden it is putting on the worst off.

The purposeful complexities and delays are of course also an assault on the freedom to fight back. David Graeber, an anthropology professor who had a hand in the start of the Occupy movement, suggests that the vast amount of ‘bullshit jobs’ we have in the world, which provide no real social good or cater to any real human need are there to prohibit dissent: ”A population kept busy with bullshit has no time to start a revolution.” No doubt this can also be applied to the additional bureaucracy in our welfare system, our justice system and beyond.

 

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

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) Jobseekers must now take on zero hour contracts or face sanction

Jobseekers will face sanctions for three months or more if they do not take on zero hour contracts, according to a leaked letter from Employment Minister Esther McVey last week.

For the first time, claimants could be sanctioned for not applying or accepting certain zero hour contract jobs, despite growing concern that these contracts lead to insecure employment and an undue upper hand to the employer. The ONS revealed last week that 1.4 million Brits were now on zero hour contracts, a number that has more than doubled in the last year.

“The senior Tory confirmed that, under the new system, Jobcentre “coaches” would be able to “mandate to zero-hours contracts“, although they would have discretion about considering whether a role was suitable.”

Government insists the change is possible because Universal Credit will be able to track what hours were worked each week and adjust payments to suit. However, the Universal Credit system has been awash with problems and delays, and critics say this could hamper claimant chances of finding more secure work or training.

Image: The Liverpool Echo - Employment Minister Esther McVey

Image: The Liverpool Echo – Employment Minister Esther McVey

Read more about this story here.

2) In-work Housing benefit claimants rise by 60% since coalition

The number of people in-work claiming housing benefits has risen by 60% since the coalition took power in 2010.

The figures were revealed by the House of Commons Library after a request from the Labour Party, and showed “the number of Housing Benefit claimants who are in-work and struggling to keep up with their rent payments increased from 650,561 in May 2010 to 1.03 million by the end of 2013, and is continuing to rise.”

This will cost the taxpayer an extra £4.8 billion by May 2015 and demonstrates that falls in working conditions and pay are also contributing to rises in poverty, and that claimants are not restricted to the unemployed.

The rise also demonstrates the spread of extortionate rents, which people are struggling to keep up with. Yet, the rate of house building remains at it’s lowest for decades, despite the prospect of creating jobs, housing stock and affordable rent prices.

Photo: www.theguardian.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

3) Tory led company made £8m profit from Royal Mail fire sale

An investment bank which made profits of £8m in one week following the sale of the Royal Mail, was led by former Tory Chairman, Archie Norman.

Lazard, a bank which was invited to advise on the Royal Mail deal whilst also given preferential terms in the sale of under-priced Royal Mail shares, was promoted by Vince Cable as one of the firms that would form “a core of high quality investors.” Yet, one of the divisions put their shares up for sale within a few days, taking advantage of the predictable rise in price and trousering £8m in one week.

Financial News reported back in July 2013:

“Lazard, the independent investment bank, has appointed former Conservative minister and ex-Asda chief executive Archie Norman as its London chairman, as the firm works on the privatisation of the Royal Mail.”

“Norman, 59, who has been a senior adviser to Lazard since 2003, will strengthen his ties with the investment bank at a time when a string of UK Government mandates are up for grabs.”

 

Read more about this story here.

4) Britain’s rich now have more than pre-recession wealth

The Sunday Times Rich List has revealed that there are more than 100 billionaires now living in Britain, with a combined wealth of £301 billion.

This has more than tripled from a decade ago, when £700m was required to enter Britain’s top 50 wealthiest people. The entry rate is £1.7 billion now.

The UK has the highest rate of billionaires per head anywhere in the world, and London has the highest rate of any city.

Read more about this story here.

5) “I have no time for you, sir” – BBC Question Time audience member tells Farage.

 by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) Housing benefits to face sanction risk for part time workers

Part time workers who are judged as not doing enough to find full time work will face sanctions on their housing benefit in new criteria for Universal Credit.

Up until now, only those on out-of-work benefits faced threat of sanction, but under new rules, those working under 35 hours per week will be monitored and face sanction on their housing benefit, as they do not receive JSA or ESA payments.

Landlords have already been lobbying government worried at the new prospect of housing benefit being paid directly to claimants, and want the housing benefit payment to be free from sanction under any circumstance.

Read more about this story here

2) Up to 60% of Job Vacancies on Universal Job Match fake

Ministers have revealed that hundreds of thousands of people applying for jobs on the mandatory Jobseeker claimant recruitment system, Universal Jobsmatch, could have been wasting their time, as up to 60% may have been placed by bogus firms.

179 businesses responsible for up to 350,000 of the 600,000 vacancies on Universal Jobsmatch are being investigated. Some of these vacancies asked for money upfront from claimants for fake background checks.

Image: The Liverpool Echo - Employment Minister Esther McVey

Image: The Liverpool Echo – Employment Minister Esther McVey

Read more about this story here.

Universal Credit Boss steps down after one year

Andy Nelson, the Department For Work and Pensions Chief Information Officer, who also has overseen the implementation of the government’s flagship welfare overhaul, the Universal Credit system, which condenses several benefits into one payment for the claimant, has stepped down, after only a year in the role.

The Universal Credit system has been plagued with problems since it’s introduction, including IT problems which have seen up to £174m of taxpayer’s money written off.

The system is thought to now cost an estimated £12.5bn – six times as much as first forecast. However, the government maintain that the system will bring £35bn worth of saving to the country.

The DWP is yet to reveal who will replace Andy Nelson.

Government must help 2 million Children stay warm, says charity

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

 

The Children Society say that 2 million children from poorer households are missing out on help they are entitled to, to stay warm, because the government are failing to publicise help with bills.

Poorer households could see £135 knocked off their electricity bill, but are not being told, at a time when hundreds of thousands of households are having to decide whether to ‘heat or eat.’

Child Poverty strategies have been attacked by several charities and opposition MPs recently, with one Labour representative highlighting that the number of family households unable to find work since 2010, has soared by 46% to over 600,000 families. Labour suggest this is another sign of the coalition’s weak attempt to tackle child poverty.

 

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) ‘No more Neets’ – IPPR release new report for Labour plan to tackle 1m unemployed youth

The IPPR released a report entitled ‘No More Neets’ aimed at tackling the ‘lost generation’ of 1m unemployed 16-24 year olds not in employment, education or training.

The report has been attacked for removing benefits from young people and replacing it with a new ‘Youth Allowance’ which would require young people to take on training or work experience for up to six months, before being offered a taxpayer subsidised minimum wage or traineeship role, should they not find any other employment.

The plan takes on some of the welfare-to-work programmes and ideas, but these have failed to solve employment problems time and time again. As Johnny Void explains “you can’t fix unemployment by fixing unemployed people, a lesson which has sadly still not been learned by politicians today.”

Rachel Reeves, Labour welfare minister supports the IPPR report Image: BBC

Rachel Reeves, Labour welfare minister supports the IPPR report Image: BBC

Read the report here.

Read Johnny Void’s post on the report here.

2) Training people to use Universal Credit could cost hundreds of millions

Training claimants to use the new Universal Credit system could cost hundreds of millions, according to an unpublished report commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions. The study, carried out by 3 London councils, found that each would have to spend £6m over two years on training and support for claimants, to equip them with digital and financial skills required to use the system.

The report suggests that millions of hours of support, face-to-face training and telephone help from charities, private companies and government will be required to ensure claimants can use the online system, or failure to do so could risk debt, eviction and homelessness. Around one in ten claimants will need intensive support.

Image: gov.uk

Image: gov.uk

Iain Duncan Smith, Minister for Work and Pensions, insisted the system would give claimants a chance “to get back into the 21st Century,” by reaching the digitally tame and socially excluded households. However, the Universal Credit system has already been blighted with overspending and budget problems, with £34m already written off earlier this year due to IT problems.

Read more about this story here. 

3) ATOS launches YouTube channel for Benefit claimants

ATOS, the French healthcare company which administers the controversial fit-to-work tests has launched a new YouTube channel for benefit claimants. The channel has some short videos providing information for disabled claimants applying for the new Personal Independence Payment, fit-to-work testing and Employment Support Allowance.

See more videos here.

4) Petition success will see Iain Duncan Smith questioned over flagship policies

Following a petition that gained over 100,000 signatures, Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith will have to face questioning over the flagship Universal Credit policy and other DWP statistics and spending on 9th December at 4:30pm. Numerous revelations, problems (like the above) and lies have shrouded policy implemented by IDS, in the biggest reforms to happen to welfare policy ever. Yet, the Minister has been regularly absent or unavailable to comment on the problems.

Paula Peters, a disability campaigner posted the following photo and comment after handing in the petition:

“Petition with 105,000+ to call Iain Duncan Smith to account for his lies and corruption. It was taken to Westminister by Jane Linney, Kate Green (Labour Shadow Minister for Disabled People), Liz Kendall (Labour shadow minister for Care and Older People), Paula Peters and Debbie Sayers. The group along with the MPs signed the covering letter that went with the box and then it was handed over. Because of the petition Iain Duncan Smith will appear in front of a select committee on 9th December. So far he has arrogantly evaded attempts to question him, this time he will have to appear. Well done to all the brave and beautiful disabled people who fought long and hard despite facing incredible hardship to make this petition happen.”

1422595_715567895139015_565248047_nRead more about this story here. 

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) Thousands across country falling into rent arrears as reforms and bedroom tax effects deepen

The number of people falling into rent arrears has almost doubled from 35% to 62% in the first three months of the new bedroom tax policy, where social housing tenants deemed to have a spare room are charged.

“Rent arrears for all 500,000 tenants covered by the 45 survey respondents rose by an average of 21 per cent. This is £17.5 million in cash terms, enough to build almost 1,000 homes.”

A combination of a rise in living costs, rising rent, below inflation increases of benefit rates and a lack of smaller housing for tenants looking to downsize is causing people to become trapped in arrears, which forces landlords to lose out on rent and pushes people into poverty cycles.

Bedroom Tax Protest Image: birminghamagainstthecuts.co.uk

Bedroom Tax Protest Image: birminghamagainstthecuts.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

2) Universal credit rolled out further, despite criticism and instability of reform so far

Universal Credit is being rolled out across West London today, in the next step towards a national launch. Hammersmith and Fulham will be the latest councils to take on the government’s flagship reform which will replace several means tested benefits and pay in a single amount, monthly.

The scheme is being rolled out more carefully and slowly than anticipated, following problems with IT, staff and responses to the new payment.

Labour have described the reform as “total chaos.”

Still, the Department for Work and Pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith has pressed forward amid strong criticisms and clear failings of budgeting and control, and the reform will be fully rolled out by 2017.

Image: theweek.co.uk

Iain Duncan Smith – Image: theweek.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

3) Mother of four with rare allergy told to find work

A mother of four with an allergy to shoes has been ruled fit-to-work and had her benefits cut.

Tracey Kenny, 45, from Eccles, Greater Manchester has been out of work for 24 years due to an allergy that stops her from wearing shoes. Tracey is allergic to dust, metal, glue, rubber and nickel, and is forced to wear gloves to handle her cutlery.

Doctors even sourced and made some special shoes from Switzerland for Tracey to wear, but they still irritated her feet.

She said: “I don’t know how these  people expect me to go to work or go to job interviews with no shoes on – because that is what I would have to do.”

“I can only wear shoes for ten or 15  minutes, before my feet blister and split. It stops me from doing everything.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Russell Brand’s Newsnight interview calls for revolution against wealth gap, politics and environmental damage, and goes viral

If you haven’t seen it, you must watch:

 

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) Energy prices begin to rise and more winter deaths anticipated as families choose between heating and eating. Meanwhile, PM David Cameron advises wearing a jumper.

British Gas announced a 9.2% price rise this week ahead of winter, and others of the Big Six are expected to follow suit forcing many more families, poor, vulnerable and elderly to choose between heating and eating.

Following the announcement, British Gas made a PR faux-pas in allowing the public to ask questions through the Twitter hashtag #AskBG

Thousands used the hashtag to hit out at British Gas for the price hike and the expected deaths caused by the increase.

PM David Cameron then made a bad move in suggesting that people should wear jumpers in order to keep warm – a suggestion that has inflamed the public and politicians alike. Labour MP John Robertson branded the Prime Minister “patronizing and out of touch.”

Read more about this story here. 

2) DWP Secretary to resign over Universal Credit ‘fiasco’

Robert Devereux, the permanent secretary to the DWP will be criticised in a new report highlighting the problems in the government’s Universal Credit programme.

Deveraux has said to colleagues that he will resign if he is personally criticised in the report made by the Commons Public accounts committee.

Image: Civil Service World

Robert Devereux – Image: Civil Service World

Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith is thought to have fought with Devereux in the rollout of Universal Credit, which puts several benefit payments into one monthly sum.

In August, a leaked survey of staff working on the scheme revealed chaos, a lack of management and frustration. One employee described the work as “soul destroying.”

A report by the National Audit Office in September said it suffered from “weak management, ineffective control and poor governance” and could miss its 2017 deadline for implementation.

Read more about this story here.

3) 150,000 complain about ATOS

Sky News have obtained figures showing that Citizens Advice has had 150,000 complaints about the fit-to-work test administrators ATOS.

Citizens Advice say that the tests are failing genuinely sick and disabled people across the country.

Doctors are also warning that the service is “unfit for purpose.”

Read more about this story here.

Image: The Backbencher

Image: The Backbencher

4) Widow speaks out against ATOS on treatment of husband: “Cancer killed my husband, but ATOS took his dignity a long time before his death”

Lyn Coupe has vowed to continue the fight against healthcare group ATOS following the death of her husband David, who lost his life to cancer.

David Coupe had been ill for 24 years with a back injury, diabetes and a heart condition.

ATOS found David “capable of limited employment” and cut his benefits by £50 a week – a decision he appealed against, though he was told that a ruling would take a year.

Shortly after, David found he had cancer, which left him in even more pain and took his sight and hearing. He died before the appeal ruling. Lyn now says she will continue the fight:

“One night I heard him sobbing downstairs. He was blind, almost deaf and in terrible pain, yet they still said he was fit enough to work. He told me ‘I can’t go on. I’m done in duck’.

“All David wanted to do was stay alive long enough to see them pay back the money he was entitled to. Sadly he didn’t live long enough.”

MP Dennis Skinner brought the case to light in a speech to the Prime Minister, in which he called on David Cameron to end the fit to work tests and the “monster” that is ATOS.

Read more about this story here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass