Daily Archives: November 11, 2015

The perfect scam: We will pay higher broadband bills so the government can spy on us

This is beyond the pale.

Not only is the government planning to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to spy on all their clients, but ministers are offering to provide only a fraction of the cost.

This means the vast majority of the financial burden will fall on Internet users. Our broadband bills will increase – possibly pricing many of us out of the market.

Those who are left will be paying for the government to spy on them. It is perhaps the greatest insult that a government can inflict upon its internet-using citizens.

Worse still, if the cost of broadband increases, there will be no guarantee that the terrorists the Snoopers’ Charter – sorry, the Investigatory Powers Bill – are intended to catch will even use the internet after the new prices have been set.

This legislation is expensive, insulting and pointless – much like the government.

Consumers’ broadband bills will have to go up if the investigatory powers bill is passed due to the “massive cost” of implementation, MPs have been warned.

Internet service providers (ISP) told a Commons select committee that the legislation, commonly known as the snooper’s charter, does not properly acknowledge the “sheer quantity” of data generated by a typical internet user, nor the basic difficulty of distinguishing between content and metadata.

As a result, the cost of implementing plans to make ISPs store communications data for up to 12 months are likely to be far in excess of the £175m the government has budgeted for the task, said Matthew Hare, the chief executive of ISP Gigaclear.

Hare and James Blessing, the chair of the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), also warned the science and technology committee on Tuesday of the technical challenges the government would face in implementing the bill.

Source: Broadband bills will have to increase to pay for snooper’s charter, MPs are warned | Technology | The Guardian

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Privy council: Jeremy Corbyn did not kneel for the Queen. So what?

This Writer is willing to bet Her Majesty didn’t care one jot.

And if she didn’t, why should anybody else?

Now watch all the Tories, the Tory media, and the would-be Tories in the Labour Party, getting in a froth about it.

Labour leader attends ceremony to join council but does not follow tradition of kneeling on a stool before the monarch

Source: Privy council: Jeremy Corbyn did not kneel for the Queen | Politics | The Guardian

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Cameron’s ‘preferential treatment’ offer to council leader breached ministerial code – claim

Wednesday really wasn’t a good day to be David Cameron.

First he was labelled stupid, for failing to realise what his cuts to local government funding actually meant.

Then he was called a hypocrite, for claiming that Oxfordshire County Council – his own local authority – should not cut particular services; services that were only endangered because of his cuts.

Now – most seriously – he has been accused of breaching the ministerial code, by offering help to the same authority that could only be provided by the prime minister, while corresponding with its leader in his capacity as a constituency MP.

There is a strict rule that ministers may not use the resources afforded to them as members of the government to provide preferential treatment to others – such as special access to top advisers.

David Cameron has been accused of offering a Conservative council chief special access to No 10 advisers as a way to resolve a disagreement about proposed budget cuts.

The prime minister is facing questions about his conduct after he wrote to Ian Hudspeth, the leader of Oxfordshire county council, chastising him for considering cuts to day centres, libraries and museums. Cameron’s own constituency of Witney falls within the area.

In the letter, Cameron extended an offer for how to help to manage the cuts, saying he would be happy to “initiate a dialogue” with the No 10 policy unit about the possibilities of devolution deals and suggesting that Hudspeth contact his aide Sheridan Westlake, who used to work in the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Jon Ashworth, a shadow Cabinet Office minister, has written to the civil service chief Sir Jeremy Heywood asking for advice on the propriety of Cameron offering extra help for Oxfordshire.

He points out that the letter appears to have been written by the prime minister in his role as a Witney MP, even though the ministerial code states that he must keep separate his government and constituency role.

“Is it the case that if the prime minister has made this offer of ‘further dialogue’ available to the leader of his local county council, similar offers should be made to all the leaders of other councils?

“Surely the leader of the prime minister’s county council should not be given preferential treatment?” Ashworth writes.

Source: David Cameron ‘offered Oxfordshire council leader access to advisers’ | Politics | The Guardian

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Clueless Cameron has never considered the true impact of his cuts – until now

Stupid David Cameron pulls a stupid face. He's probably just realised how stupid his letter to Oxfordshire Council Council really was. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian

Stupid David Cameron pulls a stupid face. He’s probably just realised how stupid his letter to Oxfordshire Council Council really was. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian

David Cameron will go down in history as the British Prime Minister who was so out-of-touch with the impact of his own policies that the leader of his local council – who is a member of the same political party – had to spell it out to him “as if to a slow learner”.

Now, Cameron’s letter of protest to Oxfordshire County Council has prompted the Labour Party to accuse him of hypocrisy – supporting harsh cuts while pretending not to know their implication for the country.

In fact, it is more likely that he is just plain stupid – but neither explanation excuses him for what he has done.

Here’s Guardian columnist (and fellow Mid Wales resident) George Monbiot on the latest blunder of the Stupid Party:

In leaked correspondence with the Conservative leader of Oxfordshire County Council (which covers his own constituency), David Cameron expresses his horror at the cuts being made to local services. This is the point at which you realise that he has no conception of what he has done.

Cameron complains that he is “disappointed” by the council’s proposals “to make significant cuts to frontline services – from elderly day centres, to libraries, to museums. This is in addition to the unwelcome and counter-productive proposals to close children’s centres across the county.” Why, he asks, has Oxfordshire not focused instead on “making back-office savings”? Why hasn’t it sold off its surplus property? After all, there has been only “a slight fall in government grants in cash terms”. Couldn’t the county “generate savings in a more creative manner”?

Explaining the issue gently, as if to a slow learner, the council leader, Ian Hudspeth, points out that the council has already culled its back-office functions, slashing 40% of its most senior staff and 2,800 jobs in total, with the result that it now spends less on these roles than most other counties. He explains that he has already flogged all the property he can lay hands on, but would like to remind the prime minister that using the income from these sales to pay for the council’s running costs “is neither legal, nor sustainable in the long-term since they are one-off receipts”.

As for Cameron’s claim about government grants, Hudspeth comments: “I cannot accept your description of a drop in funding of £72m or 37% as a ‘slight fall’.”

Again and again, he exposes the figures the prime minister uses as wildly wrong. For example, Cameron claims that the cumulative cuts in the county since 2010 amount to £204m. But that is not the cumulative figure; it is the annual figure. Since 2010, the county has had to save £626m. It has done so while taking on new responsibilities, and while the population of elderly people and the numbers of children in the social care system have boomed. Now there is nothing left to cut except frontline services.

Have you ever wondered how the prime minister sleeps at night? How can he live with himself after imposing such gratuitous pain upon the people of this nation? Well now, it seems, you have your answer: he appears to be blissfully unaware of the impact of his own policies.

Source: David Cameron hasn’t the faintest idea how deep his cuts go. This letter proves it | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian

Amazingly, the stupidity does not even end there. In a related Guardian article, a stupid spokesman for stupid David Cameron said, stupidly: “There is still significant scope for sensible savings across local government to be made by back-office consolidation, disposing of surplus property and joining up our local public services; we will be discussing with Oxfordshire how this can be taken forward to help protect frontline services.”

What part of “the council has already culled its back-office functions” is in a foreign language to this stupid spokesman for the Stupid Party? What part of the information that the council “has already flogged all the property” available to it? What local public services does he envisage “joining up” – waste collection and adult social care, perhaps?

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Gove to crack down on human rights and build more prisons| The Canary

mr-gove-lays-down-the-law-cover

The UK government’s plans for a British Bill of Rights have been leaked to the Sunday Times, the newspaper claims. This is a new bill that, if passed, would replace the current 1998 Human Rights Act, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into UK domestic law.

The article in the Sunday Times claims the plans include allowing UK judges to defy European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings, exempting soldiers from legal challenges for military behaviour abroad, and placing limits on the amount of compensation that can be claimed in human rights violation cases.

In reality, UK judges can already choose whether to follow the ECtHR rulings or not. This is why, despite the ECtHR ruling that prisoners should be entitled to the right to vote, the UK has not done so.

That this leak in the Sunday Times happened shortly before Gove’s announcement to start a ‘prison building revolution’ is telling. These plans to close old inner-city prisons, sell off the lucrative buildings, and have nine new prisons built to replace them are partly financially driven. The relentless push by the UK government to cut budgets does not falter, no matter what rights are at stake, or on what side of the bars you stand.

Source: Gove to crackdown on human rights, and build more prisons instead | The Canary

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Fears raised over ‘cheaper justice’ policing plans | The Canary

Apparently the plan is that they’ll be able to interview him on the spot.


This is another hammer-blow against British justice – for all the reasons given below.

Pilot plans to allow police officers to interview suspects on the streets via body cameras, rather than at police stations, has raised concerns among civil liberties groups.

Currently, while the formal caution that police recite when arresting somebody states clearly that anything they say may be used in evidence against them, officers are not formally able to interview someone until they have been taken to a police station. Crucially, once at the police station, the suspect has the right to independent legal advice, and they are entitled to pre-interview disclosure.

This pre-interview disclosure is vitally important as it is designed to ensure the person and their legal representative understand why the person has been deprived of their liberty, the nature of the allegations made against them, and the reason why they have been arrested. Without this disclosure, and access to a solicitor, the suspect is extremely vulnerable, especially if unfamiliar with the complexities of the law.

Unsurprisingly, given the cuts to the police service, these proposals have nothing to do with access to justice, and are primarily concerned with saving money.

Source: Fears raised over “cheaper justice” policing plans | The Canary

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Town traders move ‘offshore’ to ‘nudge’ government into ending corporate tax avoidance

151111Crickhowell
Congratulations are due to traders in Crickhowell – very near the home of Vox Political – who are using the tools of corporate tax avoiders against them.

The Powys Tax Rebellion, as it has become known, began when independent traders decided they weren’t prepared to pay huge amounts of tax while the likes of Google and Starbucks avoided paying billions. They formed a consortium with its own tax plan – and want to encourage others to do the same.

This is where the scheme turns out to be doubly clever.

You see, for the past few years the Cameron government has been using coercive strategies to ‘nudge’ people into behaviour they would not otherwise display – pushing benefit claimants into carrying out all sorts of silly exercises for no very good reason is a prime example.

With this scheme, participants in the Powys Tax Rebellion are forcing the government to play its own game – ‘nudging’ David Cameron and George Osborne towards tax reforms that might – just might – make the system fairer for everybody.

They wouldn’t do it on their own; they wouldn’t do it under persuasion. Now they are being forced to face the possible loss of billions from small businesses who have had enough.

And it’s about time.

Vox Political is hoping to be able to signpost interested parties towards details of the scheme and information on how they can use it in the very near future. For now, here’s how The Independent reported on the rebellion:

When independent traders in a small Welsh town discovered the loopholes used by multinational giants to avoid paying UK tax, they didn’t just get mad.

Now local businesses in Crickhowell are turning the tables on the likes of Google and Starbucks by employing the same accountancy practices used by the world’s biggest companies, to move their entire town “offshore”.

Advised by experts and followed by a BBC crew, family-run shops in the Brecon Beacons town have submitted their own DIY tax plan to HMRC, copying the offshore arrangements used by global brands which pay little or no corporation tax.

The Powys tax rebellion, led by traders including the town’s salmon smokery, local coffee shop, book shop, optician and bakery, could spread nationwide.

Crickhowell residents want to share their tax avoidance plan with other towns, in a bid to force the Treasury into legislation to crack down on loopholes which allowed the likes of Amazon to pay just £11.9m of tax last year on £5.3bn of UK internet sales.

Source: Crickhowell: Welsh town moves ‘offshore’ to avoid tax on local business | UK | News | The Independent

UPDATE November 11, 2015: Jo Carthew, of Black Mountains Smokery, one of the businesses involved in the Powys Tax Rebellion, said: “”As one of many family businesses based in the small town of Crickhowell, who rely heavily on visitors and tourism, we need to protect our independent high street from big brands.

“We believe in paying tax but firmly believe that big companies should pay their fair share too. The concept we have come up with will hopefully demonstrate that, in principle, small businesses working in coalition could become more tax efficient by mimicking strategies used by multinationals.

“We intend this to serve as a ‘threat’ to government rather than a ‘promise’ – an incentive to encourage them to close loopholes in the tax laws.”

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‘Evasive’ Osborne must rethink tax credit reforms, MPs warn

Swallow your pride, George: Osborne must accept that his plan to impoverish working people is not going to be accepted.

Swallow your pride, George: Osborne must accept that his plan to impoverish working people is not going to be accepted.

A damning report on George Osborne’s plans for tax credits has demanded that he must rethink the cuts, saying they run against the government’s stated objective of “making work pay”.

The Commons Work and Pensions select committee told Osborne to get his act together in its report, A reconsideration of tax credit cuts, published on November 9.

It stated: “The proposed changes to tax credits in April 2016 will result in very substantial cuts to the incomes of working families, including many with children. There is now general agreement that it would be right for the Chancellor to rethink reforms that went too far and too fast and may have most impact on those in work and striving to succeed.

“Furthermore, by increasing the rate of withdrawal in taxes and benefits to as much as 93 per cent of additional income, the cuts run against the Government’s objective of making work pay.”

That’s an effective tax rate of 93 per cent on extra money earned. Isn’t Osborne the Chancellor who said a 50 per cent tax on high earners was too much?

The committee warned that Osborne was being disingenuous in his claim that in increase in the income tax personal allowance, the gradual introduction of a higher minimum wage and an expansion of free childcare would mitigate the tax credit cuts – make them less harsh.

“These measures are welcome,” the report stated. “However… they benefit very different parts of the working population. The majority of working families affected by the proposed cuts would still be worse off in 2020-21 as a consequence of the Budget package. We therefore welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to additional measures to lessen the impact of the tax credit cuts.”

But there was a warning that any more tinkering with separate policies would be frowned upon, if they were announced in the autumn statement: “In the same way that the increase in the personal allowance and minimum wage announced in the Budget do not offer targeted respite from the tax credit cuts, further such changes are not the Chancellor’s answer.

“The gains are to individuals rather than households and are too diffuse to efficiently compensate families facing tax credit cuts.

“The way to focus on those households is to use the tax credits system. The answer to tax credits is tax credits.”

There was a stinging rebuke for Osborne and the Treasury over its failure to provide information about the effect the proposed changes would have on people in different income groups.

“The Treasury has been unacceptably evasive,” the report stated. “The Government ought… to have been more forthcoming with statistics about flows on and off tax credits. Their obfuscation is not consistent w

ith effective scrutiny; nor is it consistent with effective policy-making.

The conclusion was clear: Osborne must swallow his pride and accept that he can still achieve a balanced budget by 2019-20, without imposing cuts of £1,100 per household in a single stroke.

“There is no magic bullet within the tax credit system,” the report stated. “One of three things has to give: the impact on poverty, work incentives or the cost. If one accepts both that the proposed cuts to some families are too great and that the limits of damage to incentives to work have been reached with deduction rates of up to 93 per cent, then a reduction in fiscal savings is inevitable.

“The Government’s commitments, both to cut working-age welfare expenditure and to achieve overall fiscal balance, are to be achieved by the end of the current Parliament. Their achievement would not be compromised by the phasing-in of the tax credit cuts.”

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Brutal Government cuts forcing disabled people to sleep in wheelchairs and wait 14 hours to use toilet

151111socialcutswheelchair

Disabled people are having to sleep in their wheelchairs and wait 14 hours to use the toilet due to savage cuts to social care, a report warns.

Council social care budgets have been slashed by almost £5billion since 2010.

Now the most vulnerable in society are suffering the “horrific consequences” of the Tory cuts, according to charity Scope.

It said disabled people were now being forced to sleep fully-clothed in their wheelchairs because no one is visiting their home to help them into bed.

Shockingly, some have to wait 14 hours to go to the toilet while others are left unable to eat.

Source: Brutal Government cuts forcing disabled people to sleep in wheelchairs and wait 14 hours to use toilet

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DWP cuts specialist disability employment advisors in Jobcentres by more than 60 per cent

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign]

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign]


This is not news to Vox Political – or to many of its readers.

Sick and disabled benefits claimants have found their lives seriously inconvenienced. One commenter told This Blog a Job Centre adviser had told them to attend an office many miles away because, while their own establishment had no specialist disability advisers, the other office – which was practically unreachable to a disabled person – had two.

Are you sick or disabled? What does this withdrawal of important – and promised – help mean to you?

Tell us all.

Between 2011 and 2015 the number of Jobcentres employing a full-time advisor to help disabled people navigate the support system and find employment fell by over 60 per cent from 226 to just 90, with reductions in every recorded year.

Charities say the specialist advisors are crucial for people with disabilities who have to navigate the support system and that their reduction will undermine the Government’s own goal of getting people in to work.

But the Government is intent on reducing the numbers of disability advisors and instead wants disabled people to be dealt with by general non-specialist “work coaches” as part of its Universal Credit programme.

The cut to specialist employment support for people with disabilities comes despite Iain Duncan Smith telling the group they should be working their way out of poverty.

Source: DWP cuts specialist disability employment advisors in Jobcentres by over 60 per cent

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