Daily Archives: April 1, 2016

Jobseekers on council-run course face cash fines for tutting or answering phones

It seems this Scottish council was using jobseekers referred to its course by the Department for Work and Pensions as a source of easy cash.

The list of fines [Image: Yvonne Lamont].

The list of fines [Image: Yvonne Lamont].

People on the course found themselves between a rock and a hard place – either they paid the fines for ridiculous offences like having their hands in their pockets, or they would be thrown of the course, triggering an instant sanction from the DWP.

While the Department appears to have done the right thing in this case, one wonders whether the result would have been the same had the course been run by one of the many private provider companies that the DWP employs.

Their methods are more subtle – they aim to spend as little as possible on the service they provide, in order to keep more for themselves – but the end result for jobseekers is the same: No help.

A North Ayrshire Council scheme designed to help out people who are searching for work has been lambasted for fining people who attend it for as little as tutting or having their hands in their pockets.

And the Department of Work and Pensions has now suspended referrals to the STRIVE programme pending investigation into the workings of the fines system.

North Ayrshire Council have hit back at the claims and have backed their programme but one person who attended the course, who wishes to remain anonymous, has hit out at the fines system and explained what it is like.

“Today was day two of the course and we were informed of a “fine” system they have in place that is mandatory.

“Now most of these fines are really cheap for things like hands in pockets etc… but checking your phone or having it go off outside of break time is an INSTANT £5 fine and if you don’t pay it on the spot you get kicked off the course….and since the Job Centre sent me there, getting kicked off the course is an instant sanction.

“One person got fined when their phone went off but only had £3 and had to borrow the rest from other people on the course.”

Source: Jobseekers on a North Ayrshire Council run course face fines of up to £7.50 for a number of things (From Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald)

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Was substandard steel to blame for India’s Kolkata flyover collapse?

Buckled steel: What happened in Kolkata was a tragedy. Is the UK government creating the conditions for a similar disaster here?

Buckled steel: What happened in Kolkata was a tragedy. Is the UK government creating the conditions for a similar disaster here?

This tragedy could have serious repercussions for the United Kingdom.

Was substandard steel to blame for this tragedy?

Where was the steel sourced? China?

Do UK construction projects – such as the Forth Bridge refurbishment – source their steel from the same place?

And will the UK government consider cancelling some of its foreign steel contracts and invest in the superior British product instead, as a result of this wake-up call?

This Writer thinks we all know the answer to the last question.

Hopes of finding more survivors trapped under a collapsed flyover are fading in the Indian city of Kolkata (Calcutta).

Rescuers have worked through the night in the Girish Park area, where the bypass was under construction when it collapsed suddenly on Thursday afternoon.

At least 24 people were killed and scores injured.

The cause of the disaster was not immediately clear, but safety issues such as lack of inspections and the use of substandard materials have plagued construction projects in India.

Source: India Kolkata flyover collapse: Hope fading for survivors – BBC News

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Success rate for claiming disability benefit falls a quarter in just one year | Sentinel News

160401PIPawardrates

The success rate of new applicants for a key disability benefit has fallen by a quarter in the last year, and by more than 40 percent in two years, according to government figures.

The news comes after Budget proposals to restrict who can claim the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) sank amidst a storm of protests by disability campaigners and rebellious Tory MPs, even leading to the resignation of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

PIP helps with the extra costs caused by long term illness and disability, and is available to people both in and out of work at up to £7,280 per year.

The government introduced PIP to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) benefit, and many DLA claimants are now being reassessed for PIP. But for both new applicants and those looking to transfer over from DLA, the chances of being accepted onto PIP are diminishing.

In early 2014 the percentage of new applicants for PIP who succeeded with their claims was in the mid-60s, excluding those with terminal illnesses and those who withdrew their claims.

This success rate – or “award rate” – declined to around 53 percent for much of late 2014 and early 2015, before falling again to 40 percent and now below even that.

Source: Exclusive: Success rate for claiming disability benefit falls a quarter in just one year – Sentinel News

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Steel: Tories lied when they said they had talked with Tata

[Image: UK News.]

[Image: UK News.]

In an election year it’s good to know that when an entire industry is at stake, Conservative ministers can be relied on – to lie about what they’re doing.

Yesterday, David Cameron told the world his government had been in talks with Tata Steel over the future of the company’s UK assets.

Cameron said yesterday (March 31):

“This industry is in difficulty right across the world. There’s been a collapse in prices, there’s massive over capacity but we’re doing everything we can.

“We were concerned that there was the chance that there could have been an outright closure of Port Talbot and that is why we work very hard with the company to make sure there is a proper sales process.

His words gave the impression that the Conservative Government had been in contact with Tata over the future of the UK steel operation.

There had been no such dialogue:

Tata steel has had no contact with senior government ministers since they announced they were selling its UK assets, ITV News has learned.

Correspondent Romilly Weeks told News At Ten: “Incredibly sources within Tata are telling us that they have had no contact, at this crucial juncture for the British steel industry, with any senior government ministers today.”

The British side of Tata Steel is currently losing £1 million a day and could close altogether if a buyer – or several buyers – are not found soon.

Source: ITV News

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Sajid Javid Deliberately Collapsed British Steel | Craig Murray

160330JavidNOTonSteel

Sajjid Javid was on a jolly to Australia when Tata announced it was going to sell its UK steelworks. That’s how much the UK business minister cares about UK business.

The Conservative show of dashing home to look after the British steel industry is just smoke and mirrors. Savid Javid was fully aware it was being collapsed by subsidised and dumped Chinese imports, but argued that this cheap Chinese steel was beneficial to the UK economy more generally. Arguing against higher EU tariffs on Chinese steel dumping, Javid stated to MPs only six weeks ago

“The responsibility of government is to look at the overall impact on British industry and jobs,” the Business Secretary said.

“If duties get disproportionate it would have an impact in Britain and elsewhere on consumers of steel. Those businesses tell us it will cost jobs and exports if duties got out of control…

“To go further might in the short term look the right way to go to protect industry but you have to remember in Britain there are also companies that consume steel as part of the production process.”

This is pure Thatcherism. On Javid’s instruction, last year the British diplomatic mission to the EU (UKREP Brussels) was lobbying the EU commission against higher punitive tariffs on Chinese steel than the 13% the UK supported – even though the Commission found that dumped Chinese steel had an effective state subsidy of up to 72%. I have this from a British diplomatic source.

So the apparent flurry of activity now is a blind. This is a situation the government was quite happy to see develop. Of course, the effects are in Wales, Scotland and Northern England. There are no steel mills in Tory constituencies.

Source: Sajid Javid Deliberately Collapsed British Steel – Craig Murray

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Here’s how the Tories are campaigning for the local elections

This terrific post turned up on the Vox Political Facebook page today, courtesy of Lizzie Fletcher, and I want to share it with you.

voteHere’s how the Tories are campaigning for the local elections:

We need your help.
And here’s why –
In just a few weeks’ time we face some tight elections right across the UK. In each of these elections the choice could not be clearer: a strong, Conservative team that will stand up for the really rich people they represent or Jeremy Corbyn and his people-picked candidates.

If we fail to take the fight to Corbyn’s Labour Party, the next four years could bring misery to our families at eton and across the south , home counties of Britain.

This is what Friday 6th May could look like:

Our councils and our local police forces led by a party whose leader wants to look after people who’ve been injured and have to leave our Armed Forces, abandon our nuclear deterrent which is a great way to hide all the money we’re nicking ! and make excuses for the terrorists who seek to do us harm just because we caused the wars and supplied the arms that killed all their families .

An opposition in Scotland that wants to get some tax off our corporate families, would bring back secondary strike action for the plebs we’re using as slave labour and would take OUR money to pay for public services !
Labour clinging on to power in Wales for another five years, meaning the Welsh NHS will continue to be better than ours , continued plebs in the education system and an economy that might draw level with the rest of the UK.

Sadiq Khan as the Mayor of London. The same man who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader and who said he would do it again.

Unlike Labour, we cannot rely on the unions to fund our campaigns or people to vote for us .so we need your support to help us stand up to Labour and to stand up for mega rich people across our country. Donate £20, 000 now (decare it as a charitable donation) to get your free mug and help us deliver for Britain.

Thank you for your support,

Conservative Campaign Headquarters

PS: Want the chance to win a Campaign 2016 mug signed by David Cameron? Donate £50, 000 or more (no need to declare this to anyone) and we’ll enter your name into a draw.

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Steel crisis: they do not give a sh*t | Paul Mason

160401osbornesteel

There’s a meme that keeps resurfacing in the genteel world of rightwing financial thought: that the term “neoliberalism” is in some way just a term of abuse, or a catch-all phrase invented by the left.

Well, as the UK steel industry faces instant closure — and let’s be clear that’s what Tata would do if it had to — we about to get a textbook lesson in what neoliberalism actually means. It means, when market logic clashes with human logic, the market must prevail and you must not give a sh*t about the social consequences.

At stake are two things.

First 40,000 manufacturing jobs in Tata and its supply chain. These are very high quality jobs. In the Stocksbridge Tata plant, for example, you’ll see three or four people using hand-held controllers operate a facility the size of an aircraft hangar, melting and re-forming massive bars of metal. At Port Talbot there’s a half-mile long rolling mill operated, last time I was there, by a shift of twelve people. At each site there are tens of apprentices currently studying to do these jobs, which if Tata closes will not exist.

So question number one is does the British government want to intervene to save these jobs, and the communities that depend on them.

The second issue is steel as a strategic resource. If you want an independent defence industry you have to have a steel industry. Given the nature of war, many of the things you need to fight it — like tanks, submarines and missiles — have to be made of metal. At some point that metal has to be produced in a furnace. Furnaces use large amounts of energy. Energy is expensive because we need to wean ourselves off carbon. So energy policy, trade policy and defence policy are at odds — fundamentally because there is no industrial policy to tie them together.

Indeed the ministry that should have an industrial policy is run by a man who, when the space between his ears registers a thought at all, believes there should not be an industrial policy.

Read more: Steel crisis: they do not give a shit — Mosquito Ridge — Medium

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B&Q in breach of contract as it tries to use so-called ‘living wage’ to force new conditions

[Image: Reuters.]

[Image: Reuters.]

No party to a contract can force new conditions on another.

In trying to do so, B&Q owner Kingfisher is in breach of its original contract with workers.

If they are unionised, employees must refuse the offer and take appropriate action to force Kingfisher to honour its agreements.

If they are not, then they should join a union now.

This Writer would advise them to take their lead from the junior doctors, who have been forced to strike against a contract imposed on them by Health Secretary Jeremy misprint Hunt.

Of course, that puts the Conservative Government on both sides regarding pay disputes.

It should be on the side of the workers in the Kingfisher case, but it is against them when it comes to the NHS.

In the meantime, This Blog advises all readers to avoid B&Q until the company accepts its responsibilities to employees.

This is a large firm that is not short of the money required to pay the increased amount.

How much do managers and executives take home?

Thousands of workers at B&Q face being sacked if they refuse to sign a new contract as the owner of the DIY giant introduces harsh new measures in response to George Osborne’s new living wage.

The national living wage comes into effect today, which forces employers to pay staff over the age of 25 a minimum of £7.20 an hour – a 50p rise from the previous minimum wage.

As a result of the new rate, B&Q owner Kingfisher has demanded employees sign away rights to a range of work-related benefits worth more than £1,000 a year.

Under the new terms workers will no longer be paid double time ‘premium’ pay for working Sundays and bank holidays and they will have their summer and winter bonuses cut.

Other benefits, such as additional allowances for living in London and other high-cost areas, will be lost.

Kingfisher says it has been forced to bring in the new cost-cutting measures so it can afford to pay the new living wage, which will rise to £9 an hour by 2020.

The blunt letter to employees – seen by The Times – warns that if they refuse to agree to all the changes and sign a new contract, ‘unfortunately, this will result in your dismissal’.

Source: Employers fight back over Osborne’s living wage as B&Q tells employees they will be sacked unless they sign a new contract that strips them of perks worth £1,000 | Daily Mail Online

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Who can live on the ‘National Living Wage’?

[Image: Toby Melville/Reuters].

[Image: Toby Melville/Reuters].

This Blog is quoting the BBC article on what is being called the National Living Wage for a reason.

The BBC says “so-called IS”. It refers to the “so-called Bedroom Tax”.

So it should also, when referring to Osborne’s gimmick, say “so-called National Living Wage”.

His increase to £7.20 per hour – for workers aged 25 and above only – is not the same as the actual living wage.

That would be £7.85 per hour for workers outside London, and £9.15 per hour for those within the capital.

So you can’t actually live on the so-called National Living Wage; you’ll still have to claim in-work benefits.

If this affects you: See how this Tory is ripping you off?

The new mandatory National Living Wage (NLW) has come into force, requiring employers to pay workers aged 25 and over at least £7.20 an hour.

It is expected to give 1.3 million workers an immediate pay rise.

The policy was announced in last summer’s Budget by Chancellor George Osborne, in an effort to create a higher-wage, lower-welfare economy.

Workers aged 21 to 24 will continue to be entitled to the National Minimum Wage of £6.70 an hour.

Source: National Living Wage comes into force – BBC News

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Top UK earners will receive as much in benefits as the poorest by 2020

Osborne: He has been helping the rich all along, even though they don't need it.

Osborne: He has been helping the rich all along, even though they don’t need it.


It will be interesting to see what the Tories who visit Vox Political have to say about this.

They have claimed that the wealthiest earners have been paying far too much, when in fact they have been granted just as much in benefit as the poorest.

This is even though the richest don’t need the money, while the poorest have been deprived of help they desperately need.

Among the poor, people have died because the Conservative Government has dumped them into poverty.

How many of our wealthiest earners have died because of what the Tories have done for them?

The wealthiest 20% of Britain’s earners will receive almost as much support from the state through the “shadow welfare” of generous tax-breaks by 2020, as the poorest fifth take home in benefits, according to a new analysis by the Fabian Society.

Iain Duncan Smith used his resignation letter from the cabinet to criticise the March budget as “unfair,”for juxtaposing reductions in benefits for the disabled with tax cuts for some of the wealthiest in society.

But Andrew Harrop, the Fabians’ general secretary, said his research shows the budget was just the latest step in a radical reshaping of the welfare state, which has shifted resources from the poorest in society to the better-off.

“By the end of the decade, if the Conservatives deliver on their manifesto promises, households in the top fifth of the income distribution will be receiving an average of £9,400 a year in tax allowances and welfare payments; while the poorest fifth of households, for whom benefits may be their only source of income, receive an average of £10,200,” he said.

Duncan Smith resigned over unfair choices between tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor. But he spent six years in cabinet supporting welfare cuts and tax allowance rises which have together led us to the position where the basic financial help for a two-earner couple is higher than for an unemployed couple,” Harrop said.

Source: Top UK earners to receive as much in benefits as poorest by 2020 | Politics | The Guardian

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