Tag Archives: authorities

After This Site suggested it, Tories are letting experts tackle Covid-19 instead of their chums

I know. It’s just a coincidence.

But isn’t it interesting that, the day after This Site asked, “Don’t you agree that giving control of the response to Coronavirus back to people who actually know what they’re doing might turn the tide?” the Tories are talking about doing just that?

I had suggested, “Let’s see the Tories reopen the contract system to multiple tenders, with assignments of Covid-related contracts going to the firms best-suited for the work. Or – indeed – to the public organisations and authorities best-placed to handle it.”

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick made the admission that this will happen on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show today (October 11): “People who know their own community… are bound to be better than Whitehall or national contact tracers.”

Here’s the clip:

There’s an obvious question to be answered here:

Yes – why weren’t they used in the first place?

The obvious answer is that individuals within the Johnson government have corruptly and opportunistically used the pandemic as a chance to funnel cash to their fellow-Tory friends. Certainly there is a movement now to find out how much money has been wasted on so-called services that haven’t worked at all:

That question of wasted time is crucial because many people have died.

What happens if we find that those deaths happened because the Tories were giving money to their friends – for nothing – rather than to people who could actually keep that death toll down?

Will there be any accountability?

Or will Boris Johnson just shrug his shoulders, say “Now is not the time,” and forget about it?

For further information, here‘s the Mirror‘s piece.

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Vox Political scrapbook: June 8

The news was dominated by the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol, but there were two snippets from the States.

One showed how the American public had reacted to their president’s decision to wall himself inside a big fence (he likes putting up barriers, doesn’t he?):

The other shows how the American authorities respond to police officers who attack members of the public.

I hope people in the United States have aken note, and realised that the system they have created has been perverted against them.

No longer government of the people, by the people and for the people, it is government by the elite, against the people, and terrorising the people.

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George Floyd death: asphyxia finding creates potentially catastrophic collapse of trust

Trump: while all this is going on, he’s been sitting in a White House bunker, writing incendiary tweets that could burn down his country.

People in the United States cannot trust their police or the services who work for them, after a private post-mortem found that he was asphyxiated by Minneapolis police officers.

The county medical examiner had previously claimed that the death of George Floyd was caused by the combined effects of being restrained, underlying health conditions, including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease, and potential intoxicants in his system.

Now we hear that this was not true.

It means the people of the United States cannot trust the officers they appoint to keep the law – either to enforce it properly or to tell the truth about it when others have failed in that duty.

In such circumstances, they cannot afford to trust in those who provide the services they fund. People of colour must feel particularly at risk.

This has happened in the term of exactly the wrong president.

Whereas Barack Obama (for example) might have agreed that there are serious problems with the authorities in Minneapolis, authorised an investigation and promised to get to the bottom of it, Americans have to face whatever decision Donald Trump makes instead.

He is likely to try to brazen it out – pretend that the county medical examiner’s finding was right and threaten action against anyone who says otherwise. In other words, he is likely to make a terrible situation disastrous.

If he’s not careful – and we know he isn’t – Trump could turn every US citizen against their neighbours. People across that country have already participated in violent confrontations over this.

There’s nothing to stop Trump from escalating that violence catastrophically. For example:

How is that helping?

And then there’s the fact that this is happening in the middle of the worst disease pandemic in a century.

If Trump is stupid enough to turn the American people against each other, then they’ll probably spread the virus like wildfire.

And – thanks to Trump’s daft-headed policies – the death count in the States is already higher than anywhere else in the world.

Source: George Floyd died of asphyxia, private post-mortem finds – BBC News

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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The Tories have been lying hard – instead of increasing education and local government funding, they’ve cut it by billions

Damian Hinds: He has been Education Secretary for less than a year but has managed to be rebuked four times for lying to the public.

There was a time when the Conservatives could expect to broadcast any old rubbish and expect it to be swallowed wholesale by a complicit media and a gullible public.

That time has passed.

The UK Statistics Authority has mauled Education Secretary Damian Hinds after he tried to lie to us about Tory cuts to school budgets. Here‘s the Mirror:

“Sir David Norgrove said he had “serious concerns about the Department for Education’s presentation and use of statistics”.

“Sir David highlighted four occasions that had caused the authority concern but stressed that there was no sign that ministers had learned from their mistakes.

“Ministers downplayed concerns from headteachers who marched on Parliament to protest school funding by insisting that the UK was “the third highest spender on education in the world”. Sir David [said] the original way it was presented used “a wide range of education expenditure unrelated to publicly funded schools” to “give a more favourable picture”.

“The Minister of State for School Standards Nick Gobb wrote that, in an international survey of reading abilities of nine-year-olds, England “leapfrogged up the rankings last year, after decades of falling standards, going from 19th out of 50 countries to 8th.” Sir David said in this letter: “This is not correct. Figures published last year show the increase was from 10th place in 2011 to 8th place in 2016.”

“[Sir David] also highlighted a recent tweet and blog from the department in which he said “figures were presented in such a way as to misrepresent changes in school funding.” He explained that spending was “exaggerated by using a truncated axis, and by not adjusting for per pupil spend”.

“In his speech to Tory party conference, Mr Hinds said that 1.9 million more kids are “studying in good or outstanding schools” under the Conservatives, prompting the Labour frontbencher to demand an investigation… Sir David said that while the claim was “accurate as far as it goes,” it had failed to “give a full picture” and should have been put in context with an overall rise in pupil numbers as well as changes to the way inspections are carried out.”

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner responded to the letter as follows: “This is a humiliating rebuke for Tory ministers. The Education Secretary has not even been in office for a year, yet this is the fourth time he has been caught by the government’s own watchdog making a claim that is wildly misleading or blatantly false.

“They need to come clean and stop deceiving the public in a desperate attempt to cover up their shocking record.

“They have used misleading figures on school funding to hide the fact that they have cut billions of pounds from school budgets, leaving head-teachers forced to beg for donations from parents to pay for books and stationary.

“And their claims on school standards are now in tatters. Instead of relying on discredited statistics they should use the Budget to invest in schools and genuinely improve standards.”

“The next Labour government will fairly fund all schools, as part of a National Education Service for the many, not the few.”

It does seem strange – doesn’t it? – that Mr Hinds should claim an increase in education budgets when schools are begging parents to pay for pupils’ pens, and head teachers are forced to choose between laying off staff and paying them for fewer hours in order to service a pay rise Mr Hinds announced but failed to properly fund.

On October 1, Treasury Minister Liz Truss told the BBC’s Newsnight that the Conservative government was not cutting funding to local government.

She said: “What we have done with local authorities is that they are able to raise much more money locally than they were before.

“We are not making cuts to local authorities. What we have done is give them more revenue raising powers so that decisions can be taken locally.

“It’s really important that local councillors are responsible for the decisions they make.”

She was saying the Tories have turned council funding into a postcode lottery, with services dependent on the property wealth of local residents.

And the Local Government Association spelled out the facts that Ms Truss was trying to hide:

“Main government grant funding for local services will be cut by a further £1.3 billion (36 per cent) in 2019/20 despite many councils already struggling to balance their books, facing overspends and having to make in-year budget cuts.

“Almost half of all councils – 168 councils – will no longer receive any Revenue Support Grant [the primary source of central government funding] next year.

“Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 the Government had provided for services.

“The financial viability of some councils is now under threat and many others are increasingly unable to provide dignified care for our elderly and disabled, protect children, boost economic growth, fill potholes, build homes and much more.

Funding pressures and rising demand for services, such as adult and children’s social care and homelessness support, will leave local services in England facing a £3.9 billion funding black hole next year.

Still, it isn’t all bad.

If the Tories are lying about the amount of funding they are providing to services, they may also be lying about this:

How about it, Brandon Lewis? Let’s see your membership figures!

Grenfell Tower fire ex-council leader launches consultancy for firms working with councils

Nicholas Paget-Brown, former leader of Kensington Council, has set up NPB Consulting [Image: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Stock Photo].

Let’s get this straight: The Tory politician who tried to hold a council meeting about the fire at Grenfell Tower in secret – and had to resign because of the ensuing row – is now advising businesses on how to work with councils?

The man who, as leader of Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council, allowed firms to get away with putting dangerous flammable material all over a housing block is now offering advice to firms on how to get what they want?

Does anybody else think it would be a bad idea to associate with him at all?

Still, it does show one thing:

Tories have no shame.

Nicholas Paget-Brown, the former leader of Kensington Council, has set up a consultancy service for organisations who wish to work with local authorities.

Paget-Brown, who was forced to resign last month in the wake of the council’s response to the Grenfell Tower disaster, has set up NPB Consulting.

According to his LinkedIn page, the company offers “policy analysis, seminars, briefings and drafting assistance”.

Source: Former Kensington Council leader Paget-Brown forms consultancy to work with local authorities | PR Week


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Government’s ‘troubled families’ programme is failing; we knew it would

[Image: historyextra.com]

[Image: historyextra.com]

Remember back in April last year, when Vox Political said the Coalition government’s plan to stop children in ‘troubled’ families from playing truant, while finding work for the adults and stopping both from committing crime, was doomed to failure?

If you don’t, it’s not surprising (our readership back then was around a quarter of its current level) – and you haven’t missed much, because the scheme is back in the news as it is (again, unsurprisingly) failing.

The VP article pointed out that the government had been fiddling the figures in its bid to make it seem that 120,000 such families exist in the UK; in fact, “the number came from Labour research on disadvantaged families with multiple and complex needs, rather than families that caused problems,” according to ‘trouble families tsar’ Louise Casey at the time.

The article pointed out that local councils, offered a £4,000 bonus for each ‘troubled’ family they identified and helped (for want of a better word) were shoehorning families into the scheme – whether they qualified or not – just to make up the numbers.

It was doomed from the start.

So today we have figures obtained by Labour’s Hilary Benn, showing that around 106,500 families have been identified for the scheme (according to averages worked out from councils that responded to a Freedom of Information request). Of these, only around 35,500 were engaged by the scheme, which then failed in three-quarters of cases (around 26,600 families).

That leaves 8,878 families who actually came back to the straight-and-narrow – less than one-thirteenth of the target figure.

A success rate this low could have been achieved if the government had done nothing.

(That seems to be a running theme with the Coalition. What else does it remind us of? Ah, yes… The Work Programme. In this context it is extremely interesting that Mr Benn said the biggest obstruction to the scheme was the Work Programme’s failure “to deliver jobs to the poorest people in society”.)

According to The Guardian, “Data from 133 councils out of the 152 participating in the scheme found that almost one in seven families that had been “turned around” were either still on drugs, had children missing from school or involved in criminal acts.

“Another 60 per cent of households deemed to have been successfully helped by the scheme in March still had adults on unemployment benefits after leaving the programme.”

Bearing in mind the £4,000 ‘carrot’ that was waved in front of councils as encouragement for them to take part, you’ll enjoy the revelation that each local authority claimed to have found an average of 812 troubled families – 20 per cent more than central government had estimated.

Again, this is hardly surprising. Government-imposed council tax freezes have starved local authorities of money and £4,000, multiplied by 812, brings an average of £3,250,000 into each local authority that they would not, otherwise, have had.

So much for David Cameron’s plan to “heal the scars of the broken society”.

The Guardian also tells us that the ‘troubled families’ programme was launched by Cameron as a Big Society (remember that?) response to the riots of summer 2011.

In fact it doesn’t matter what the Coalition government does – or, indeed, what Labour plans to do if that party comes into office in 2015; schemes that are imposed on people from above will never succeed.

The problem is that the United Kingdom has become an increasingly unequal society, with money and privilege bled out of the majority of the population (who do most of the work for it) and into the hands of a very small number who have power and – it seems – no responsibility at all.

The vast majority of us are seen as disposable commodities by these exploiters – whose number includes a large proportion of MPs with interests in private business; they use us to make their huge profits and then throw us into unemployment.

Is it any wonder that such betrayal breeds families that turn away from the system and take to crime instead?

When David Cameron slithered into Downing Street he said he wanted to “re-balance” society. In fact, he over-balanced it even more in favour of privilege and wealth.

Now we need a proper re-balancing of society. The only way to solve the problem of ‘troubled families’ – a problem said to cost us £9 billion every year, by the way – is for people to be born into a society where everybody is valued and receives a fair (in the dictionary sense of the term, rather than the Conservative Party definition) reward for their contribution.

That will mean a fundamental shift in attitudes that should be taught to everybody from the cradle upwards.

You won’t get it under the Conservatives or any other right-wing government because they are exploiters by definition.

Will you get it under Labour?

Possibly. But a lot of right-wing Blairite dead wood will have to be cleared out first, and Hilary Benn is not the man his father was.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Manifestly inadequate again: Coalition cuts support for discretionary housing payments

Bedroom tax victim: Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide after the Bedroom Tax - imposed on her in error - left her without enough money to make ends meet.

Bedroom tax victim: Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide after the Bedroom Tax – imposed on her in error – left her without enough money to make ends meet.

The spin doctors at the Department for Work and Pensions are working hard to make a decision to cut funding for discretionary housing payments, by claiming it “builds on the £180 million funding this year”. What a crock.

A cut is a cut. There will be less money available to people in financial trouble as a result of government decisions to cut housing benefit (the Bedroom Tax) or other state benefits (the one per cent uprating, the benefit cap, local housing allowances… pick a benefit and it will probably have been slashed).

The announcement was made yesterday (Thursday), and councils have until Monday (February 3) to bid for top-up funds if they need to provide extra support. How nice of the Conservative ministers at the DWP to put a weekend in the middle of the time councils must use to work out what they need! Hopefully, councils already have the figures ready but, if not, it’s clear that the government wants to make the process as difficult as possible – for councils and for people who need help.

So councils will get £165 million in place of the £180 million they had last year – an amount that, itself, was attacked as far too little by councillors at the time. It was, as the Council of Europe has described the government’s supply of other benefits including pensions, unemployment benefit and incapacity benefit, “manifestly inadequate”.

But let’s get back to the spin. The DWP press release states that local authorities are getting the money “to provide extra help for claimants as they move through the government’s welfare reforms”. This avoids the fact that people would not need “extra help” if the government had not imposed these regressive changes in the first place. And they’re not “reforms”. Reform takes us forward. These are just cuts.

“The reforms [cuts] are a key part of the government’s long-term economic plans [cuts] to deliver a strong economy [based, as we know, on a debt-fuelled housing bubble centred on the southeast of England alone] that delivers for people who want to work hard [for extremely low pay] and play by the rules [that are made up by Coalition ministers as they go along].

Work and Pensions Minister Esther McVey said: “Capping benefits is returning fairness to the welfare system and reform of the spare room subsidy is absolutely necessary to make a better use of our social housing when over 300,000 are living in overcrowded homes in Britain and around 1.7 million are on social housing waiting lists in England alone.”

The phrase “capping benefits is returning fairness to the welfare system” is inaccurate as the cap is set too low. The government claimed an average family income is £26,000, but in fact it is slightly more than £31,000. The reason the cap was set at the lower figure is that, at the more appropriate amount, hardly anybody would be affected; the system was fair before the Coalition interfered. Also, the UK has social security, not welfare.

The phrase “reform of the spare room subsidy” is redundant, of course. She meant: “Our arbitrary choice to cut housing benefit – illegally, in many thousands of cases“. In fact, let’s edit out “spare room subsidy” from the rest of our analysis and call it what it is.

She continued: “We are ensuring all working age tenants are treated equally – as claimants receiving housing benefit in private sector already receive support for the number of bedrooms they need and not for spare rooms.” Is that so? How many private sector tenants have been hit by their own bedroom tax in the same way? Is there not a difference in income between private renters and those in social housing? Where are the figures to support this claim?

According to the press release, an advertising campaign was launched in the local papers this week, “to ensure claimants affected by the [Bedroom Tax] are fully aware of the support available to them from Discretionary Housing Payments, home swapping services or to get into work”. I just checked my own local papers…. No. Nothing.

The press release ends with a couple of long-demolished assertions. Neither of these are factually accurate:

“The removal of the [Bedroom Tax] means all working age housing benefit claimants in both social and private rental sectors receive support for the number of bedrooms they need – but not spare rooms.” Wrong. It removes support on an entirely arbitrary basis, according to whether an assessor decides a tenant has a spare bedroom – without reference to any definition of the word “bedroom”. Now, a judge in an Upper Tribunal case has determined that a “bedroom” must be one furnished with a bed and/or used for sleep. In addition, the use of the word “all” for affected housing benefit claimants is inaccurate because those who were in their current accommodation and receiving the benefit before 1996 are exempt from the Bedroom Tax. Many thousands were billed in error and at least one person is known to have committed suicide because of that mistake. That unnecessary death is one of many for which the Coalition government, and the DWP in particular, is responsible.

The other false assertion – that “the benefit cap means claimants no longer receive more in benefits than average household earnings” – has already been dismissed elsewhere in this article.

Keep your wits about you.

The government will continue pumping out this kind of disinformation in support of its ever-more repressive policies – remember, this announcement states that it is cutting the money available for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) – and the right-wing-controlled mass media, including the BBC, will keep on mindlessly repeating it until the general election at least.

That is why sites like Vox Political need to keep reinforcing the facts as they become clear – and why you need to spread those facts, any way you can.

Don’t let them win this battle with lies.

Vox Political opposes the Bedroom Tax.
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Divisions in Coalition as MPs demand independent inquiry on poverty

130617childpoverty

Calls for a ‘commission of inquiry’ into the impact of the government’s changes to social security entitlements on poverty have won overwhelming support from Parliament.

The motion by Labour’s Michael Meacher was passed with a massive majority of 123 votes; only two people – David Nuttall and Jacob Rees-Mogg – voted against it.

The debate enjoyed cross-party support, having been secured by Mr Meacher with Sir Peter Bottomley (Conservative) and John Hemming (Liberal Democrat).

Introducing the motion, Mr Meacher said: “It is clear that something terrible is happening across the face of Britain. We are seeing the return of absolute poverty, which has not existed in this country since the Victorian age more than a century ago. Absolute poverty is when people do not have the money to pay for even their most basic needs.”

He said the evidence was all around:

  • There are at least 345 food banks and, according to the Trussell Trust, emergency food aid was given to 350,000 households for at least three days in the last year.
  • The Red Cross is setting up centres to help the destitute, just as it does in developing countries.
  • Even in prosperous areas like London, more than a quarter of the population is living in poverty.
  • According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, for the first time, the number of people in working families who are living in poverty, at 6.7 million, is greater than the number of people in workless and retired families who are living in poverty, at 6.3 million.
  • Child poverty will rise from 2.5 million to 3.2 million during this Parliament, around 24 per cent of children in the UK. By 2020, if the rise is not stopped, it will increase to four million – around 30 per cent of children in the UK.
  • The use of sanctions depriving people of all their benefits for several weeks at a time, had increased by 126 per cent since 2010 and 120 disabled people who had been receiving jobseeker’s allowance had been given a three-year fixed duration sanction in the previous year.
  • There are now more than 2,000 families who have been placed in emergency bed-and-breakfast accommodation after losing their homes.
  • The per cent rise in the overall homelessness figures last year included nearly 9,000 families with children, which is the equivalent of one family losing their home every 15 minutes.
  • A third of families spent less than £20 a week on food and that the average spend on food per person per day was precisely £2.10. That is a third less than those families were able to afford three months before that.
  • The proportion of households that had to make debt repayments of more than £40 a week had doubled and the average level of debt was £2,250.
  • A third of families had council tax debt.
  • 2.7 million people had lost out through the Government’s changes to council tax benefit – many of them disabled people, veterans and some of the most vulnerable in our communities.
  • Households were having to spend 16 per cent more on gas and electricity.
  • There are 2.5 million people who have been unemployed for the best part of two years, and there were 562,000 vacancies when the debate took place (Monday), so four out of five of those who are unemployed simply cannot get a job whatever they do.
  • Cuts to local authorities mean many home care visits are limited to 15 minutes.
  • The 10 per cent of local authorities that are the most deprived in the country face cuts six times higher than those faced by the 10 per cent that are the most affluent.
  • 60 per cent of benefit cuts fall on those who are in work.

Mr Meacher said the biggest cause of absolute poverty was the huge rise in sanctioning, often for trivial reasons such as turning up five minutes late for a job interview or the Work Programme:

  • A dyslexic person lost his Jobseekers Allowance because his condition meant that in one fortnightly period he applied for nine jobs, not 10. He was trying to pay his way and already had work, but it provided only an extremely low income.
  • The jobcentre didn’t record that a claimant had informed them that he was in hospital when he was due to attend an appointment and he was sanctioned.
  • A claimant went to a job interview instead of signing on at the jobcentre because the appointments clashed – and was sanctioned.
  • A claimant had to look after their mother who was severely disabled and very ill – and was sanctioned.
  • A Job Centre sent the letter informing a claimant of an interview to their previous address, despite having been told about the move. The claimant was sanctioned.
  • A claimant was refused a job because she was in a women’s refuge, fleeing domestic violence and in the process of relocating, but I was still sanctioned.

Mr Meacher also quoted what he called a classic: “I didn’t do enough to find work in between finding work and starting the job.”

The latest DWP figures suggest that more than one million people have been sanctioned in the past 15 months and deprived of all benefit and all income. “Given that the penalties are out of all proportion to the triviality of many of the infringements, and given that, as I have said, four out of five people cannot get a job whatever they do, the use of sanctioning on this scale, with the result of utter destitution, is — one struggles for words — brutalising and profoundly unjust,” said Mr Meacher.

Other reasons for the rise in absolute poverty included:

  • Delays in benefit payments.
  • The fact that it is impossible for many poor and vulnerable people to comply with new rules – for example a jobseeker who asked to downsize to a smaller flat who was told he must pay two weeks’ full rent upfront before getting housing benefit. He does not have the funds to do so and is stuck in a situation where his benefits will not cover his outgoings due to the Bedroom Tax.
  • The Bedroom Tax, which applies to around 667,000 households, and two-thirds of those affected are disabled. More than 90 per cent of those affected do not have smaller social housing to move into.
  • The Benefit Cap, imposed on a further 33,000 households.
  • Mistakes by the authorities; up to 40,000 working-age tenants in social housing may have been improperly subjected to the Bedroom Tax because of DWP error (although Iain Duncan Smith claims a maximum of 5,000).

Mr Meacher said: “The Chancellor’s policy of keeping 2.5 million people unemployed makes it impossible for them to find work, even if there were employers who would be willing to take them, and the 40 per cent success rate of appeals shows how unfair the whole process is.”

Responding to a comment from David TC Davies (Conservative) that those who are not looking for work must realise there will be consequences, particularly when a million people have been able to come to the UK from eastern Europe and find work, Mr Meacher said, “Those who come to this country are more likely to be employed and take out less in benefits than many of the indigenous population.”

He asked: “Is all this brutality towards the poor really necessary? Is there any justification in intensifying the misery, as the Chancellor clearly intends, by winding up the social fund and, particularly, by imposing another £25 billion of cuts in the next Parliament, half of that from working-age benefits?

“After £80 billion of public spending cuts, with about £23 billion of cuts in this Parliament so far, the deficit has been reduced only at a glacial pace, from £118 billion in 2011 to £115 billion in 2012 and £111 billion in 2013. Frankly, the Chancellor is like one of those first world war generals who urged his men forward, over the top, in order to recover 300 yards of bombed-out ground, but lost 20,000 men in the process. How can it be justified to carry on imposing abject and unnecessary destitution on such a huge scale when the benefits in terms of deficit reduction are so small as to be almost derisory?”

Suggested alternatives to the punitive austerity programme of cuts came thick and fast during the debate. Challenged to explain what Labour’s Front Bench meant by saying they would be tougher on welfare than the Tories, Mr Meacher said: “As the shadow Chancellor has made clear on many occasions, is that we need public investment. We need to get jobs and growth. That is the alternative way: public investment in jobs, industry, infrastructure and exports to grow the real economy, not the financial froth, because that would cut the deficit far faster than the Chancellor’s beloved austerity.”

He asked: “How about the ultra-rich — Britain’s 1,000 richest citizens — contributing just a bit? Their current remuneration — I am talking about a fraction of the top 1 per cent — is £86,000 a week, which is 185 times the average wage. They received a windfall of more than £2,000 a week from the five per cent cut in the higher rate of income tax, and their wealth was recently estimated by The Sunday Times at nearly half a trillion pounds. Let us remember that we are talking about 1,000 people. Their asset gains since the 2009 crash have been calculated by the same source at about £190 billion.

“These persons, loaded with the riches of Midas, might perhaps be prevailed upon to contribute a minute fraction of their wealth in an acute national emergency, when one-sixth of the workforce earns less than the living wage and when one million people who cannot get a job are being deprived of all income by sanctioning and thereby being left utterly destitute.

“Charging the ultra-rich’s asset gains since 2009 to capital gains tax would raise more than the £25 billion that the Chancellor purports to need. I submit that it would introduce some semblance of democracy and social justice in this country if the Chancellor paid attention to this debate and thought deeply about what he is doing to our country and its people.”

Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley, Lab) suggested that the Government might save a lot more if its members “showed the same energy and enthusiasm for getting those who evade their taxes and run to tax havens as they do for going after the poor, the sick and people on the dole”.

Against this, David TC Davies offered insults and distortions of the facts, quoting the Daily Mail as though it provided an accurate account of current events: “Members of the shadow Cabinet might need a boxing referee to sort out their disputes at the moment, as we read today in the Daily Mail.”

He said: “We took office with a deficit of £160 billion and a debt that was rising rapidly to £1 trillion. That was after years of overspending in good times, as well as in bad, by Labour, a cheap money supply and lax banking regulation under the former Government.” Labour’s spending, up until the financial crisis, was always less than that of the previous Conservative administration; Gordon Brown and Tony Blair both ran a lower deficit than John Major and Margaret Thatcher, and at one point actually achieved a surplus, which is something that the Conservatives had not managed in the previous 18 years. While Mr Davies here complained about the “lax banking regulation”, Conservatives supported it at the time and in fact demanded more DE-regulation, which would have made the financial crisis worse when it happened.

“We had disastrous economic decisions, such as that to sell gold at a fraction of its real rate,” said Mr Davies. Yes – the UK lost around £9 billion. But compare that with the disastrous economic decision by George Osborne to impose more than £80 billion worth of cuts to achieve a £7 billion cut in the national deficit. The UK has lost £73 billion there, over a three-year period.

And Mr Davies said: “Worst of all and most seriously, we had a welfare system that allowed people to get into a trap of welfare dependency, leaving them on the dole for many years, but at the same time filling the consequent gap in employment by allowing mass and uncontrolled immigration into this country, which completely undercut British workers.” The first assertion is simply untrue; the second is a legacy of previous Conservative administrations that agreed to the free movement of EU member citizens, meaning that, when the eastern European countries joined in 2004, citizens migrated to the UK in the hope of a better life. Labour has admitted it should have negotiated for a delay in free movement until the economies of those countries had improved, making such migration less likely, but the situation was created before Labour took office.

Challenged on the Coalition’s record, Mr Davies fell back on the Tories’ current trick question, which is to counter any criticism by asking: “Is he suggesting that we are not doing enough to pay down the national debt? Is he suggesting that we should cut further and faster? If so, and if we had the support of other Opposition Members, that is exactly what the Government could do and, indeed, possibly should do. I look forward to seeing that support for getting the deficit down.” This disingenuous nonsense was batted away by Labour’s Hugh Bayley, who said “investing in the economy, creating jobs and thereby getting people off welfare and into work” was the way forward.

Mr Davies’ Conservative colleague Jeremy Lefroy took a different view, agreeing that increasing numbers of people are finding it impossible to make ends meet, and that job creation and apprenticeships were a better way out of poverty than changing the social security system alone. He agreed that sanctions were applied to his constituents “in a rather arbitrary manner”. He spoke against George Osborne’s suggested plan to remove housing benefits from people aged under 25, saying this “would have a drastic impact on young people who need to live away from home and who have no support from their families”. He spoke in favour of councils increasing their housing stock. And he admitted that disabled people faced severe problems when unfairly transferred from ESA to JSA: “A lady in my constituency says, ‘I am simply not fit for work, but by signing on for JSA I have to say that I am available and fit for work.’ She does not want to tell a lie.”

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool Walton, Labour) spoke powerfully about the effect of being on benefits: “Lots of people in my city are on benefits for the very first time. Far from being in clover — it beggars belief what we read in the right-wing press — they are struggling to make ends meet, and the problem that thousands of Liverpudlians are facing is new to them. For many, the idea that they might miss a rent payment is totally alien. They have not done that in the past 20 years, but since May 2010, their individual household incomes have been on such a downward trajectory that they now find themselves in rent arrears, seeking advice on debt management and unable to afford the daily cost of travel, food and energy. Figures suggest that 40 per cent of the adult population in Liverpool are struggling with serious debt problems.”

And he said poverty had health implications, too: “David Taylor-Robinson of the University of Liverpool and his fellow academics have highlighted the doubling of malnutrition-related hospital admissions nationally since 2008.”

John Hemming (Birmingham Yardley, LD) raised concerns about “the interrelationship between the welfare cap and victims of domestic violence, and whether there are situations that need more attention. I believe that people can get discretionary housing payment to leave a violent home, but it is important that we ensure that there is a route out of domestic violence for women. I am worried about that issue, just as I am about some wrongful sanctioning that I have seen. That does not help at all, because it undermines the whole process.” He also called for “a substantial increase in the minimum wage, because as the economy is improving the Government should look at that, rather than maintain things as they are”.

The vote gave huge endorsement to the call for an independent inquiry into poverty under the Coalition.

But with an election just 15 months away, how long will we have to wait for it to report?

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Will ‘independent’ study whitewash the Bedroom Tax?

Doesn't he look like a puppet? In fact the correct term is 'marionette' - for a puppet on strings, worked from above. But who's pulling Nick Clegg's strings this time?

Doesn’t he look like a puppet? In fact the correct term is ‘marionette’ – for a puppet on strings, worked from above. But who’s pulling Nick Clegg’s strings this time?

The Government is running an independent study into the impact of the Bedroom Tax, in order to find out if it is really possible for social housing tenants to move into smaller accommodation to escape its effects. The result should more likely be feared than welcomed.

Nick Clegg announced that the study was taking place in response to a Parliamentary question from Harriet Harman – but was immediately undermined by the Department for Work and Pensions. A government spokesman said the DWP routinely commissions research on new policies and an independent consortium was already carrying out evaluation work.

Clegg had to say he was taking action after his own party voted to change its policy on the Tax – the Liberal Democrats now oppose it – but this is not cause for celebration.

Who will carry out this independent study? We are told it is an “independent consortium” but what does that mean? What will be their terms of reference? What questions will they be asking and will they be the questions that need to be asked?

Observers should be raising serious doubts about all of these because this is not a government with a good track record on evidence-led policy.

We all know what this is about – the government’s hugely flawed scheme to claw back Housing Benefit cash from social housing tenants, taking 14 per cent of payments from those with one spare bedroom, and a quarter of the benefit from anyone with two. The Discretionary Housing Payment scheme for local councils was boosted to £60 million in anticipation of extra demand from struggling tenants.

It is true that evidence about the policy is conflicting. Lord Freud, introducing it in the House of Lords, apparently refused to listen to arguments that there were too few single-bedroom properties into which under-occupiers could downsize. Now he is blaming local authorities for the shortage.

The government said the policy would save £480 million, but the increased cost of DHPs must be subtracted from that, and also the costs of people who do manage to downsize. This could range from just four per cent of the 660,000 affected households to 20 per cent, depending on who you believe – a recent study by the University of York suggested that 20 per cent of households intended to move (which isn’t quite the same as actually doing it), but this was based on evidence from just four housing associations.

It seems unlikely that one-fifth of everyone affected nationally is moving to a different property – but even if they were, this would not create a saving for the government because it would have to pay out, not only increased Housing Benefit for those who have moved into smaller but more expensive private rented housing, but also Housing Benefit for people moving into the now-vacant larger social housing.

And then there are the people who cannot downsize but cannot afford the rent if their Housing Benefit is reduced. Recent reports had 50,000 households facing eviction – around one-thirteenth of the total number affected.

If they become homeless, local councils will have to find temporary accommodation for them – and this is paradoxically much more expensive than putting them in social housing, because they have to go into bed-and-breakfast rooms. Homelessness was already on the increase before the Bedroom Tax was introduced, rising from 44,160 households in 2011-12 to 53,540 in 2012-13.

Not only that, but there has been a sharp increase in complaints about this accommodation, according to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Finally, let us not forget that at least one suicide has been attributed to the Bedroom Tax – that of Stephanie Bottrill.

So definitive research is certainly desirable. There’s just one problem: The Coalition Government is very good at commissioning ‘independent’ reports that say exactly what ministers want them to.

Look at the report on culling badgers to get rid of bovine tuberculosis. A seven-year study during New Labour’s period in office concluded that this would be useless, and in fact could worsen the situation. The Coalition came in and a new study appeared advocating a cull.

With no knowledge of who is carrying out the report it is hard to predict whether its findings will be accurate – or just what the government ordered.

Nick Clegg is in ‘Bedroom Tax’ denial – how does he sleep at night?

The body language says it all: Nick Clegg appears to goose-step off the stage after his conference speech on Wednesday, Nazi-saluting his fellow party members.

The body language says it all: Nick Clegg appears to goose-step off the stage after his conference speech on Wednesday, Nazi-saluting his fellow party members.

It seems this blog’s prediction that the Liberal Democrat leader would ignore the wishes of his party in favour of cosying up to the Tories has been proved accurate.

The Northern Echo has reported that Clegg is refusing to do anything about the so-called ‘under-occupation charge’, even though it is now his party’s policy to oppose it and demand its repeal.

Instead he has blamed local authorities for any problems suffered by the tax’s victims. He told the Echo that councils were failing to spend – or even returning – Discretionary Housing Payment cash which the government has handed out to them as aid for people falling into rent arrears.

He was lying, of course. It seems unlikely that a falsehood of this magnitude can be ascribed to poor advice.

The example used by the newspaper was that of Durham County Council, which received £883,000 from the government to hand out as DHPs – a sum which the council’s resources director, Don McLure, said would last just eight weeks.

In total, councils have been given £150 million to hand out, which may seem a large amount – but is in fact dwarfed by the demand.

Clegg’s rationale for his claim was that several councils had returned some of their DHP allocation at the end of the last financial year – but this was before the bedroom tax had been imposed and so the claim means nothing – and he must know this.

Excuses for the bedroom tax are flying thick and fast, after research by the Independent and the campaign group False Economy proved that 50,000 families are in danger of eviction because of it.

On the BBC’s Question Time, Shirley Williams claimed that the tax had created problems because suitable smaller accommodation had not been built in readiness for the demand it caused. This is nonsense. If there was already demand for accommodation – and we must assume so, because this is the reason the Conservatives have spent so long bleating about families on waiting lists who need accommodation that the tax’s victims are, allegedly, blocking – then why didn’t the government just get on and build it?

The tax was really brought in for several reasons: It is partly a reaction against the increase in the Housing Benefit bill to accommodate people with jobs whose wages are below their cost of living – this is due to greed on the part of employers; it is partly intended to clear housing – not for people on any waiting list but as a form of social cleansing, getting the riff-raff out of attractive parts of our towns and cities; and it is also another attempt to spite people on sickness, incapacity or disability benefits, who must either face the extra cost and inconvenience of removing special adaptations to their houses and reinstalling them elsewhere if they are able to move, or must lose the company of carers who use spare bedrooms when they have to stay over, or must pay the tax and live without food or heat, thereby risking their health.

According to Facebook friend Shirley Nott, the government’s spokespeople are extremely relaxed about this eventuality: “Apparently, there’s no need for alarm. Under no circumstances should anyone assume anything untoward is occurring.

“The reports of 50,000 potential – imminent (initial) evictions are not (“necessarily”) going to be “representative” of a potential situation in the more medium/long term. The ‘rationale’ for this cheery response is (obviously) that the ‘Not a Bedroom Tax’ is only just starting to make its presence felt and so, (of course) people have only just begun “adjusting” to it.”

So their imminent eviction followed, no doubt, by a nice quiet death in a side street is merely “adjusting” to the new system.

Shirley continues: “Government spokespeople… have been at pains to explain – in words of one syllable – that no-one else should worry. It seems possible that some – even most – of those 50,000 mentioned in today’s news might find such an artfully-delivered response to imminent eviction a little difficult to come to terms with – but interested members of the government are very likely to have reasoned that they’ll probably be far too preoccupied with practicalities to make much of it.”

Maybe not – but they can still rely on blogs such as this one to make the point for them.

Please – everyone – feel free to splash this article around wherever you see fit. Use excerpts in letters to your local newspapers, share it with friends who don’t realise the seriousness of the situation – we’ve already had suicides because of this tax, don’t forget…

Make sure it doesn’t go away.