Daily Archives: March 17, 2016

Opposition MPs: This Short money ‘compromise’ is an insult. Reject it.

The Conservative Government has offered a compromise deal on Short money – the cash given to opposition parties in Parliament to carry out their business – and it is just as bad an insult as the original plan.

The scheme has three components:

  1. Funding to assist an opposition party in carrying out its Parliamentary business
  2. Funding for the opposition parties’ travel and associated expenses
  3. Funding for the running costs of the Leader of the Opposition’s office

The original plan was to cut the amount available by 19 per cent, on the pretext that this was in line with savings expected of unprotected Whitehall departments.

But opposition parties aren’t Whitehall departments, and they need to be able to function.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have not cut the amount of money available to the government for the same three components. In fact, funding of Tory travel and associated expenses has hit scandalous highs.

After harsh criticism, the Tories have come back with an offer to shift the formula for calculating the payments from taking account of the Retail Price Index to instead using the Consumer Price Index, which is always a lower rate.

There would be a demand for greater transparency regarding the uses to which the money is put.

And there would be a floor below which Short money cannot fall for the smallest parties in the House of Commons – those with between one and five MPs – of £75,000 a year, and a ceiling of slightly more than £200,000.

The offer would cut the amount of money available to opposition parties by £3.5 million by the end of the decade – a tiny amount in relation to total government spending but a huge loss to its current recipients.

This is not a deal worth taking.

It will hinder Her Majesty’s Opposition parties in the execution of their duties and diminish the effectiveness of Parliament as a check on the behaviour of the Conservative Government.

There should only be one response.

Under long-standing convention, issues of party funding are agreed on a cross-party basis. The Tories have scrapped this in their bid to end Parliamentary democracy and are trying to force a new system on MPs.

If they are determined to behave in this totalitarian way, they should receive a totalitarian response.

Opposition parties should suspend all co-operation with the Conservatives over Parliamentary business, including ‘pairing’.

As a result, it should become impossible for the Conservative Government to pass any legislation at all.

It seems that is the only way to get through to them.

Commons sources say the government is to propose a compromise deal on the funding opposition parties are entitled to – and put it to a vote next week.

There has been a row brewing at Westminster for some time over cuts to so-called Short money.

But sources are confident MPs will back a plan that will save 10% from the total in a vote expected on Wednesday.

Ministers say Short money payments are unduly generous given cutbacks elsewhere in the public sector.

In November, George Osborne’s Autumn Statement revealed plans to cut the funding – named after former Labour MP Ted Short – by 19%, saying this would be in line with savings expected of unprotected Whitehall departments.

The plans have been strongly criticised by opposition parties.

Source: Short money cuts ‘compromise’ expected – BBC News

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We can stop this renewed attack on disabled people | Owen Jones

‘Consider the multitude of raids on the living standards of disabled people over the past few years.’ A woman protests against the bedroom tax in London, February 2016 [Image: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images].

The government believes the vulnerable have to subsidise the strong. Labour must force a climbdown

The discomforting truth is that the government is indeed paying for tax cuts for the rich and for its own economic failures through money stripped away from disabled people. And it believes it can get away with this with minimal repercussions. One of its hopes is that disabled people will simply be invisible. They are more atomised than, say, an organised workforce. Their mobility may be limited, and they may lack money, making it difficult to travel to, say, London to protest.

There are striking exceptions. Disabled People Against Cuts, for example, has staged determined, militant demonstrations against government attacks. Disabled activists have often used the world of social media effectively too.

But Labour must surely make this latest attack on disabled people a political priority. There are reports that even some Tory backbenchers are refusing to accept this latest attack – many of them have to meet disabled people in their surgeries, after all – and we often forget that the Conservatives have a small majority.

That some Tory MPs are jittery may reflect weakening public acceptance of cuts hitting disabled people. Labour needs to lead a public offensive with the aim of maximising a Tory rebellion, focusing on examples of individuals affected by these cuts: people relate better to stories, rather than statistics. The government was forced to partially climb down on cuts to tax credits. Our democracy has to prove that the rights of sick and disabled people matter: let another government retreat be the evidence.

Source: We can stop this renewed attack on disabled people | Owen Jones | Opinion | The Guardian

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Will there be a Tory backbench rebellion over disability benefit cuts?

Tory backbenchers are concerned about cuts to disability benefits. [Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images]

I’ve had it confirmed to me this morning that around 20 Conservative MPs, apparently led by MP Andrew Percy, have written to the Chancellor concerned about the recent cuts to disability benefits, writes Paul Brand of ITV news.

The letter was sent the day before the Budget, but a source has told me that many Conservative MPs are even more concerned now that the contents of the Chancellor’s red box have been delivered.

One MP said the Chancellor should have raised fuel duty rather than cutting disability benefits, with concerns about how the narrative plays out to voters.

Conservative backbenchers are convinced that they could get far more than 20 signatures if they canvassed support against the measure today.

Labour say around a third of George Osborne’s savings will come from cutting benefits to disabled people, although the Chancellor insists the overall funding will actually rise.

It seems a backbench rebellion, similar to the one over working tax credits last year, could be brewing for the Chancellor.

Source: Government facing rebellion over disability cuts – ITV News

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Osborne’s economics and the return of ‘Aktion T4’

160316killingdisabled

This is the heart of the matter. Osborne is persecuting the disabled and harming the UK economy while claiming he is helping.

Look at the people who will benefit from his tax cuts – the high-rate taxpayers and corporations.

What will those people do with the extra cash they get? Will they spend it, thereby helping the economy?

No. It’ll go into their bank accounts and stay there.

Meanwhile the people who are losing money in order to pay for this cut – the disabled – actually do spend out the money straight away and help the economy.

So you have to ask yourself: Is Osborne really trying to reduce the deficit and debt… or is he just shrinking the state so his friends can be even richer than they already are – and saying, damn the disabled; they’ll all be dead soon?

It really is the return of Aktion T4 – the Nazi policy of euthanizing disabled “useless eaters” under the claim that they do nothing useful for the economy.

The reasoning was wrong in 1930s Germany and it is wrong now. Osborne has stupidly tried to cover up his homicidal intentions by claiming he is targeting benefits on people who need them the most. That’s impossible to argue when the cuts mean help is being taken from people who simply can’t get by without it.

All he has done is show us what he is.

George Osborne’s latest tax cuts for the wealthy will leave him with a Herculean task of reducing borrowing by £32bn to meet his budget surplus rule in 2019-20, according to the Resolution Foundation.

A string of giveaways in the next couple of years will increase government borrowing above his previous forecasts and force him to find £32bn of tax rises and spending cuts in the last year of the parliament.

The thinktank said the decision to offer tax cuts to wealthier groups in the form of higher tax thresholds and lower capital gains tax was “misguided” when official forecasts showed there was a £56bn gap in the government’s finances.

Source: Osborne tax cuts for wealthy create £32bn headache, says thinktank | Politics | The Guardian

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The Devil Really Is In The Detail: Homelessness Services and Women’s Refuges Face Wipe Out | the void

George Osborne’s luxury home. Paid for by the tax payer.

A vicious cut buried in this year’s budget document makes a mockery of George Osborne’s pledge of more money for homelessness charities.

The Budget Red Book confirms that from 2017 additional funding in the housing benefit system for homeless people’s hostels and women’s refuges will be scrapped completely from April 2017.  Payments to cover rents in the supported housing sector will be reduced to the Local Housing Allowance rate for that area – which can be less than £50 a week for those under 35 in some parts of the UK.

Source: The Devil Really Is In The Detail: Homelessness Services and Women’s Refuges Face Wipe Out | the void

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Was anybody watching share prices of fizzy drink companies during Osborne’s Budget statement?

George Osborne’s budget has provided riches to the nation – albeit, alas, only in terms of comedy. Sort of ‘gallows’ humour.

Yesterday evening I caught part of a documentary on Barack Obama, and it mentioned a televised speech about the US economy that was undermined when TV executives put ticker-tape text along the bottom of the screen showing share prices plummeting.

Somebody here in the UK was also watching share prices when George Osborne announced his sugar tax.

Here’s what happened to Scottish firm AG Barr, makers of Irn-Bru:

160317barrshareprice

Perhaps Osborne is a secret Scottish Nationalist, and actually intended to give the people of that country another excuse to secede from the Union?

Other soft drinks firms were also hit – and they don’t even have the possible option of leaving:

160317softdrinkshares

AG Barr has released a statement saying it has already reduced sugar levels in its drinks.

The implication is that the drop in its share price was unfair, and the company wanted to complain to the Chancellor for victimising it.

This Writer’s advice is: Join the queue.

You’ll be behind hundreds of thousands of disabled people.

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Don’t believe the stories – Tories will happily cut payments to the most disabled

[Picture: Skwawkbox blog]

[Picture: Skwawkbox blog]

You know a story is rubbish when sources of information aren’t named.

This one, in The Guardian, would have us all believe that Conservative backbenchers are having a crisis of conscience (poor darlings) and don’t want to support the £4.4 billion of cuts for the UK’s most vulnerable disabled people that George Osborne just announced.

What utter rubbish. They’ll do whatever they’re told.

The plan is to take money away from people who need to pay for particular aids to help them perform normal functions, such as getting dressed or going to the toilet.

We may presume that, by removing their ability to do these things, Osborne intends to hammer their self-esteem so that they will soon consider suicide, in a manner that has been well-discussed on This Blog.

Labour reckons 200,000 people would lose access to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), with a further 400,000 having their benefit reduced.

Let us be clear: They would be just as disabled as they ever were – the cuts are because Osborne wants to make it harder for disabled people to qualify for the benefit.

People around the Tory Party, like David Kirkby of Tory think tank Bright Blue and Graeme Ellis, webmaster of the Conservative Disability Group, have voiced their concerns loud and clear, with Mr Ellis even quitting his job and renouncing his support for the Conservatives.

But the Graun could only suggest that “one Tory MP” had spoken to the paper – and no name is attached to this person.

Comments from the Department for Work and Pensions that this was the least harmful option offered by the Chancellor in the run-up are also made by Mr or Mrs Nobody.

These people do not exist, and nor does the backbench rebellion they suggest. It is simply an attempt to defuse public disquiet.

If you want to know the situation, look at the comments from real people:

The economist Jonathan Portes, who used to work at the DWP, accused ministers of making “a mess of disability benefits”.

He argued that the shift from disability living allowance to personal independence payment was done to reduce costs, but the savings had not been realised.

“They didn’t listen to economists, bureaucrats or doctors, nor did they listen to disabled people,” he said, calling on ministers to stop cutting the current system and instead have a proper review.

Research by the charity Scope shows that disabled people face an average of £550 extra costs a month, compared with the able-bodied.

Mark Atkinson, chief executive of Scope, said disabled people, who were already struggling to pay bills, were very worried. The charity had received many anxious calls to its helpline as a result of the announced cuts. He urged the chancellor to think again.

He said: “Today the chancellor confirmed benefit changes that will make many disabled people’s lives harder. Half of disabled people say that they have struggled to pay the bills because of the extra costs of disability that they face.”

Phil Reynolds, policy and campaigns adviser at Parkinson’s UK, described the cuts to PIP as “devastating” and said they would have a profound effect on the lives of people with the disease.

He said the disability benefit system was no longer fit for purpose: “Thousands of people with Parkinson’s, who rely on aids and appliances for basic tasks like using the toilet or dressing themselves, will now find PIP even tougher to claim. Instead of being able to receive the support they so desperately need, they’re being penalised and shut out at every turn.”

Source: Disability benefit cut: Tory backbenchers call for rethink | UK news | The Guardian

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