Category Archives: Consultation

ONS consults on plan to axe data on people who die while homeless. Why hide it?

Frozen: These snow effigies of homeless people were created in 2018 to demonstrate that rough sleepers were freezing to death. Has anything changed since then?

Is this another Tory government bid to hide the effect of its policies on the people of the UK?

It seems the Office for National Statistics is consulting the public on whether to scrap its annual count of the number of people who die while they are homeless.

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Read the following – and the source article too, if you want more information – and then please take part in the consultation here. It is running until March 5 so please share it with your friends.

Official statistics counting the number of people who die while homeless in England and Wales could be axed despite frontline organisations warning rising homelessness means “now is not the time”.

The ONS count uses death certificates to ascertain whether someone died while homeless alongside modelling to produce an estimate. The most recent count, published in November 2022, found an estimated 741 people died in 2021.

“This proposal does not reflect our view on the seriousness of the issue of deaths of homeless people. However the current homeless deaths statistics have included major caveats around factors including time of death, the definition of homelessness and their alignment with statistics on the total number of homeless people,” an ONS spokesperson said.

“ONS is open to re-establishing these statistics in future, and would value users’ views on their relative importance compared to other health and social care statistics through the consultation currently running.”

The move has faced criticism from frontline homelessness organisations.

Balbir Kaur Chatrik, director of policy and communications at youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, said: “Of the more than 700 deaths in 2021, 31 were under 25, thirteen still teenagers. Youth homelessness has increased significantly since then and we’re worried even more lives will have been lost.

“Statistics alone won’t end homelessness – but without a solid evidence base it will be impossible to tell how far we have to go.”

Again: the ONS consultation on whether it should stop publishing information on people who die while homeless is here until March 5. Please take part and share the link.

Source: Anger as ONS plans to axe data on people who die while homeless


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If Labour and the Tories use the same consultants, aren’t THEY the same?

KPMG: just one of the ‘Big Four’ consultancies on which both Labour and the Tories rely.

Keir Starmer’s Labour Party has quadrupled its use of consultants from the so-called Big Four firms – who also advise the Conservatives.

Have a think about that.

It seems,

The opposition party received £287,000 in donations of staff time from consultancy firms in the year to September 2023, up from £72,000 in the prior 12 months, according to Electoral Commission data.

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Meanwhile,

Government expenditure on consultants in core departments, including the Home Office and Ministry of Defence, rose 130 per cent to £723mn between 2018-19 and 2021-22, the Financial Times previously reported.

Oh, and

Labour under Ed Miliband received a total of £767,000 worth of donated staff time from PwC, Deloitte and KPMG in 2014, the highest figure for Labour since 2001.

Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour stopped the practice and no donations from consultants were recorded between 2016 and 2020.

The Tories in 2009, when they were in opposition, accepted nearly £600,000 in staff time from groups including EY, PwC and KPMG. The party last accepted significant donations of consultant staff time in 2010.

Here’s the issue:

Corporations have their own political agenda; they can’t help it, it is informed by the politics of their bosses. If political parties are employing the same corporate consultants, then their policies are likely to mirror those of their employees.

That’s what economist Richard Murphy thinks:

Murphy said the practice of offering staff time for free gave consultancies an opportunity to gain “influence, access, phone numbers and a competitive advantage”.

See?

Starmer’s Labour won’t have it, of course:

Dame Meg Hillier, Labour chair of the House of Commons public accounts committee, said it was “completely right” that opposition parties preparing for government would use external consultants with “the right skills and expertise at their fingertips”.

“One thing that the Big Four do have is expertise in crunching numbers. It doesn’t mean they are carrying out a sales pitch to the party at the same time,” Hillier added.

And the companies themselves won’t admit any kind of manipulation. Here’s the official word from PwC:

“We have no political affiliation and don’t develop policy on their behalf.”

Believe that if you like. This Writer prefers to maintain a healthy scepticism.

Oh, and the other matter? The issue of Labour cutting down on the use of consultants if it gets to form a government?

Work it out for yourself. If Labour is willing to accept a lot of freebies in the run-up to an election, these corporations will be able to exert moral pressure on the party afterwards.

As Prem Sikka states,

Once again, we can’t believe a word that comes out of Keir Starmer’s Substitute Tory Party.

Source: Labour quadruples use of consultants in run-up to UK election


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Tories lied again: The Work Capability Assessment is back

The new Tory way to tell whether a sick or disabled person can work: it’s quite an old cartoon by now – but it still works because it is more or less accurate.

That was nice while it lasted, wasn’t it?

Remember when Jeremy Hunt announced a plan to scrap Work Capability Assessments for sickness benefits in his first spring budget earlier this year?

Well, it seems the Tories have changed their collective mind because Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride has launched a consultation on proposed changes to the work capability assessment – the test aimed at establishing how a disability or illness limits a claimant’s ability to work.

According to the BBC, the proposals include:

  • Updating the categories associated with mobility and social interaction
  • Reflecting flexible and home working – and minimising the risk of these issues causing problems for workers
  • Providing “tailored support” for those found capable of work preparation activity in light of the proposed changes

The consultation is expected to run for eight weeks, and the Government hopes the reforms will come into force by 2025 – which will be after the next general election.

The BBC fails to include a link to the government consultation

Reading between the lines, it seems Stride wants to change the guidelines so that people who are too ill to work will be deemed to be perfectly capable of doing so – possibly by working from home.

The BBC report features a dissenting view from James Taylor, executive director of strategy at disability equality charity Scope, said if people are forced to look for work when they are unwell this could make them even “more ill”.

“If they don’t meet strict conditions, they’ll have their benefits stopped. In the grips of a cost-of-living crisis this could be catastrophic,” he added.

Yeah – we’ve witnessed such catastrophic situations before under Tory governments since 2010. Thousands of people died when they should not have had to.

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, who has worked to help sick and disabled people in danger due to government policies, highlighted the problems with the Tory approach in Parliament:

The BBC article fails to include a link to the government consultation. You can find it at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/work-capability-assessment-activities-and-descriptors


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Reinventing the wheel: after replacing civil servants with expensive private consultants, Cummings wants to replace them with… a civil service

Caught out: Dominic Cummings and his puppet Boris Johnson are pretending to be creating a shiny new way to stop spiralling consultancy and private contractor costs for the government – but in fact they are simply trying to revive the civil service after successive Tory governments spent the last 10 years running it into the ground.

Dominic Cummings – what an absolute, utter, dunderheaded nincompoop.

After months in which the Tory government under his puppet Boris Johnson has been doling out cash hand over fist to expensive private consultants for help on Covid-19 – and getting nothing in return…

… and years in which the Tories have been disparaging the expertise of the civil service, pushing leading public servants to quit forever…

Cummings has decided that private consultants are just too expensive and the government should consider creating an in-house organisation for service provision instead.

He has given it a snazzy new name: the Crown Consultancy. The concept will be more familiar to you as the Civil Service.

The plan was presented to the public via the Financial Times – which is behind a paywall, so I’ve been referring to a report in The London Economic instead:

“There’s a lot of reliance on consultancies,” one source close to the plan told the paper. “It would be sensible to look at what we can do internally, rather than externally.”

Isn’t that a description of what the Civil Service does?

This is a story about government spin.

The real headline is that the Conservatives have wasted billions – perhaps hundreds of billions – on private rip-off merchants since they came back into office in 2010, because of their well-professed distrust of so-called “experts”.

Between 2016 and 2020, Britain spent £2.6 billion on just eight consultancies – including KPMG, McKinsey, Deloitte and EY.

The coronavirus crisis has seen the government’s reliance on private-sector consultancies spiral, with at least £56 million spent for help with issues as wide-ranging as data analysis and supplying PPE.

Only £56 million? I make it £100 million – and all because neither Boris Johnson nor Dominic Cummings could be bothered to think for themselves.

But of course these figures do not include the sums spent on private companies recommended to provide services by these consultants.

Look at the privatisation of the probation service: £2.5 billion went down the drain in that disaster.

Related to that, what about the scandal of privately-run prisons, in which G4S was fined £2.7 million for more than 100 breaches of its contract with the government. Considering the size of the fines, how much was that contract worth?

Or we could consider the fiasco that is Universal Credit. How many billions has that cost by now? I reported on this in 2013 and costs have spiralled upwards exponentially since then.

My report on Universal Credit also mentions that “Michael Gove’s Education Department is now in a terrible mess because he brought in a gang of “advisors” to operate “above” his officials – who have meanwhile faced huge cuts in their workforce and a disastrous fall in morale” and refers to a report on This Site in June of that year.

Who took the blame for the private enterprise failures in the DWP and Education? The Civil Service.

In my June 2013 report, I described the policy as: “Blame the Civil Service for everything, cut it back, and leave the actual mechanics of government unusable by anybody who follows them.

Well, it seems I was right.

And now the Tories are reaping what they have sowed. Their scorched-earth civil service policy has cost them billions and they are still in office to take the blame for it.

Except, of course, that their client journalists in papers like the FT are happy to spin it into a story about a shiny new organisation to save the day, rather than admit it’s just an attempt to revive an old service they ran into the ground.

Well, we’ve all seen through it:

Source: Johnson wants a ‘Crown Consultancy’ to stem private sector spending spree

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Did you know about this consultation on unqualified people giving you unlicensed vaccines?

I’m willing to bet you didn’t.

Boris Johnson’s government is consulting on a plan to allow unqualified non-medical staff to administer unlicensed – and therefore possibly dangerous – vaccines to us. Covid-19 is the reason provided for the change but it would not be restricted to treatments for that disease.

If these unlicensed vaccines damage our health, the plan is that we will not have the right to seek compensation if we did not object to the plan. In other words, this change would allow the government to pump us full of unlicensed drugs, that could affect us in who knows how many ways, with absolutely no responsibility for the consequences.

And, of course, the plan is that nobody (or at least not enough people) will even know this consultation is taking place.

As I stated at the top of this article – I’m willing to bet you didn’t.

The consultation began on August 28 and closes on September 18 – so there isn’t much time left if you want to make your opinion known.

I’ve had a look at the online version and the language is practically impenetrable. I think the Plain English Society would have a fit if its members saw it.

The cover page (for want of a better description) describes the purpose of the proposed new law as

  • authorising temporary supply of an unlicensed product
  • civil liability and immunity
  • expanding the workforce eligible to administer vaccinations
  • promoting vaccines
  • making provisions for wholesale dealing of vaccines

Technically it may be accurate – but it doesn’t tell you exactly what is being proposed, and that is the problem here.

The consultation document itself states:

If there is a compelling case, on public health grounds, for using a vaccine before it is given a product licence, given the nature of the threat we face, the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – an independent, arms-length organisation, which means the Tory government can deny any responsibility if its recommendations cause a disaster] may take the very unusual step of advising the UK government to use a tested, unlicensed vaccine against COVID-19, and we need to make sure that the right legislative measures are in place to deal with that scenario.

It says the main policy objects are to

[enable] the licensing authority to temporarily authorise the supply of an unlicensed medicinal product for use in response to certain specific types of public health threat, including the suspected spread of pathogens.

[Increase] the scope of immunity from civil liability … so that it clearly applies not just to manufacturers and healthcare professionals but also to the company placing an unlicensed medicine such as a vaccine on the market with the approval of the licensing authority.

Ensure that the UK has the available workforce to administer the COVID-19 vaccine and influenza vaccine [by allowing unqualified individuals to do so].

It adds:

Someone other than a registered healthcare professional may actually be administering unlicensed vaccines – and as a basic issue of fairness, we think they should benefit from the same immunity from civil liability as a registered healthcare professional who is performing the same role.

Put it all together and you can see that this is a very dangerous plan – that proposes a large risk to public health with those creating that risk bearing absolutely no responsibility for the possible consequences.

The online page where you can respond to the consultation is here. Please visit it and provide your opinions on this plan.

There is a question about the consultation process: “What could we do better?”

I said they could try actually informing people of consultations like this. I only knew about it because a friend informed me. It should have been national news.

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