Tag Archives: average

Forget AVERAGE incomes! What’s happened to the LOWEST incomes in the UK?

Average incomes in the years up to 2012. Source: ONS.

Average incomes in the years up to 2012. Source: ONS.

Average household incomes have risen by 0.2 per cent since the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats took office in 2010. Well, whoopee do!

That means for every £1,000 you earned then, you get £1,002 now. At long last you can buy that car you always wanted! That luxury holiday you’ve always been putting off; that mansion in the country!

Maybe not.

In fact, we know that average incomes are skewed by the disproportionately high earnings of the mega-rich, while the poorest in the country are losing more and more every day.

A far more indicative figure would be the change in the lowest incomes in the UK over the last five years – but you won’t see Cameron crowing over that!

Didn’t he once say the measure of a government was how it treated the least privileged people in society?

It’s amazing how they forget these comments when they’re asked to explain their record.

If anyone can provide figures showing the trend in the lowest UK incomes, please get in touch.

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The Mail is silly to whip up a storm over a t-shirt

zfeministshirt

It wouldn’t be a Sunday without a bonkers story from the Mail, would it?

This week, that pillar of the rabid-right press has got the knives out for Ed Miliband – because he put on a t-shirt without knowing its full history.

The shirt, emblazoned with the words, “This is what a feminist looks like,” was given to him by the women’s-interest magazine Elle, in association with equal rights charity the Fawcett Society, in the hope that he would agree to be photographed wearing it for a forthcoming special issue of the magazine on feminism.

The Fawcett Society had commissioned the shirt and said it had been told the garment would be made ethically.

But Mail on Sunday reporters weren’t satisfied with such assurances! Stung by the criticism attached to their idol David Cameron, after he refused to wear it (on the basis that he didn’t have the time, if the BBC’s News Quiz is any kind of reliable source of information), they travelled to Mauritius, where the shirt was made.

There, they learned that “Migrant women in Mauritius are making the £45 tops for 62p an hour” and that, when they weren’t working, they “sleep 16 to a room and earn less than average wage on island”.

Two thoughts occur: Firstly, the Mail on Sunday is wrong to direct its anger at Mr Miliband (and at Labour’s Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman, who wore the shirt in the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions, to highlight the lack of women in Cameron’s cabinet).

Everybody who put on that shirt and allowed themselves to be photographed wearing it did so in good faith. They did it for the Fawcett Society – a charity that supports ethical employment and equality – and for Elle, to support its edition on gender equality.

How many times have you ever asked if anybody was exploited in the making of a clothing item before buying it?

If anyone has been caught in the wrong, it is whoever the Fawcett Society contracted to manufacture the shirt. If the Mail allegations are accurate, then the organisation was misled, the t-shirts will have to be withdrawn from sale and the charity will (now) have to apologise to anyone whose name has been besmirched by association with it.

Secondly, it is hypocritical in the extreme for the Mail to be criticising the treatment of migrant workers who have been paid less than the average wage and forced to live in overcrowded conditions.

The Mail‘s attacks on people who immigrate into the UK are now the stuff of legend; it supported Lord Freud after he commented that some disabled people could be made to work for less than the minimum wage; and it is a strong supporter of the Bedroom Tax and other changes to housing-related social security benefits which can lead to eviction for families who cannot make ends meet in David Cameron’s low-wage, no-benefit Britain. When people become homeless, their local council has to pay for them to be housed in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, often sharing with many other people, often in entirely inappropriate conditions.

In writing the article, the Mail set out to expose Ed Miliband as a hypocrite.

In fact, all it has done is expose its own double-standards.

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New employment figures mean workers are worse-off

Do today's lower unemployment figures really mean fewer people are out of work?

Do today’s lower unemployment figures really mean fewer people are out of work?

The government will no doubt be ecstatic about new figures from the Office for National Statistics, claiming that unemployment has fallen again and now stands at 2.02 million, or 6.2 per cent of the workforce.

That does not mean more people are in work!

We know from other statistical releases that the highest rise in – let’s call it – ’employment’ is due to people claiming they are self-employed (whether they are actually doing any work or not – some are sole traders who have stayed on past retirement age because business has been poor, while others are unemployed but prefer to claim tax credits rather than run the gauntlet of unfair benefit sanctions at Job Centre Plus (until HMRC catches up with them)).

And the proliferation of ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ schemes means another large proportion of people without jobs are being wiped from the books every month, while they slave for large corporations at the taxpayers’ expense.

This is reflected in the fact that average wages have risen by just 0.6 per cent in the last year. Take out executive pay and you can bet that average pay has fallen.

Now let’s add in the fact that CPI inflation is at 1.5 per cent – almost one per cent higher than the fiddled rate of pay. And RPI inflation is even higher, at 2.4 per cent.

This means, as the BBC News article points out, that “for most of us, there’s more month left at the end of the money and not vice versa”.

These figures are a disaster for the majority of British people who are on low pay and/or benefits.

Do not let Tory politicians or their mouthpieces in the media fool you.

It is all part of your government’s policy to weaken and enslave the most vulnerable.

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The great jobs deception

[Image: ONS.]

[Image: ONS.]

It is sad that many people are likely to see this month’s headline increase in employment and take it as a sign that the British economy really is on the mend, as the Coalition keeps claiming.

Silly, silly people.

Exactly one week ago, the Department for Work and Pensions announced “the steepest annual fall in unemployment in a quarter of a century“, adding that “unemployment fell by 437,000 over the past year – and 132,000 in only the past three months – which is the biggest annual fall in 25 years”.

This blog has already pointed out that it is possible to account for all of the drop in unemployment over the last three months as being due to sanctions placed on jobseekers by the Department for Work and Pensions. The figure is meaningless.

The DWP also stated that the number of people in work was continuing to rise, “with 820,000 more people in a job compared with 12 months ago”. This masks an inconvenient truth that ministers would rather you didn’t know – about self-employment.

Self-employment, the government would have you believe, is one of the great success stories of the Coalition. More people are self-employed now than at any point over the past 40 years – with the total number of people in self-employment rising by 408,000 in the last year, to 4.59 million according to the Office for National Statistics.

The ONS also tells us that the rise in total employment since 2008 is mostly among the self-employed, which may – on the face of it – seem good.

Here’s the hammer-blow: Average income from self-employment has fallen by 22 per cent since 2008-9.

Self-employed people are a lot worse-off than they used to be.

It seems Flip Chart Fairy Tales was absolutely right to say fewer people were leaving self-employment (the ONS confirms this), and we may conclude that FCFT is right in its belief that this is because people have not been able to reach their target in terms of pensions (the number of over-65s who are self-employed has more than doubled in the past five years to reach nearly 500,000), or there is no employed work available for people of their expertise or experience.

These are people who are seeing their business shrink but have nowhere else to go. For them, there has been no economic upturn at all.

Figures also show an increase in the number of self-employed tax credit claimants. This is because claiming self-employment and taking tax credits is easier than signing on the dole and living in fear of being sanctioned.

More people are in work – those figures aren’t wrong, but the reasons behind them are not what the government would have you believe.

Self-employed people are remaining in business, despite dwindling returns, because they simply cannot afford to stop.

Those who are claiming tax credits are not contributing to the economy – quite the opposite, in fact.

So the latest employment figures are nothing to shout about and the government is deceiving you in doing so.

A better indicator of our economic well-being would be to measure the number of people who contributed to the Treasury by paying income tax.

The government does not provide that figure.

Quelle surprise.

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Employers should never be allowed to dictate the minimum wage

130829milibandstatesman

Here’s an interesting development: Ed Miliband announced today that a Labour government would link the minimum wage to average earnings, after the Low Pay Commission proved itself woefully inadequate for the job.

Employers’ organisation the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) immediately leapt up to scream that politicians should not set wages, completely missing the point that, under Miliband’s plan, politicians wouldn’t.

CBI chief policy director Katja Hall gave verbal evidence of her inability to understand a simple issue when she told Radio 4’s Today programme: “The system we have at the moment has been really successful and that system involves the setting of the minimum wage by an independent Low Pay Commission… They have done a really good job and we think it’s much better the job is left to them rather than given to politicians.”

… Really?

The Miliband plan would not give the job to politicians. It would make the minimum wage a percentage of the average wage.

Mr Miliband said it was a “basic right” that hard work should be rewarded with fair pay.

He also took time to talk to Today, saying: “This gets at what is a terrible scandal in this country… that we still have five million people in paid work, unable to make ends meet.”

Perhaps the reason the CBI doesn’t like this idea is the fact that the average wage includes its own members’ massively over-inflated salaries. Under the proposed scheme, every increase in their own paycheques would require a similar raise for the lowest-paid workers in the country.

There is no reasonable argument against that, but it is what they are arguing against, nonetheless.

Perhaps politicians’ next target should be the CBI itself.

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Osborne promising full employment – is this an April Fool?

Bottom of the class: If you believe George Osborne's talk about jobs and benefits, you must have been educated at one of Michael Gove's 'free schools'. [Image: Gaianeconomics]

Bottom of the class: If you believe George Osborne’s talk about jobs and benefits, you must have been educated at one of Michael Gove’s ‘free schools’. [Image: Gaianeconomics]

The answer has to be in the affirmative. Conservatives can’t promise full employment because it simply isn’t part of their philosophy.

As this blog has stated many times, Tories need a discontented underclass fermenting away beneath the lowest-paid members of the working class, in order to create the level of fear necessary to keep wages down.

The argument is that a person will not ask for a pay rise if they know their boss will turn around and say, “There are hundreds out there who will work for less than you – pick up your cards on the way out!”

For a more easy-access disproval of Osborne’s claim, we only have to look a little further into his speech – from the part where he said: “For it’s no good creating jobs – if we’re also paying people to stay on welfare.”

Hang on! When did our great Social Security system change from being a safety net to help get people back into work to “paying people to stay on welfare”?

Oh yes, that’s right – when we had an unelected Conservative government foisted on us. Tories pay people to stay on welfare because they need that fermenting underclass. The aim is always not to pay enough (as you will see).

The next few lines contain unfounded claims and opinions. See for yourself:

“We inherited a welfare system that didn’t work.” According to whom?

“There was not enough help for those looking for a job – people were just parked on benefits.” But there isn’t enough help now. Come to that, there aren’t enough jobs. Where are all the jobs, George?

“Frankly, there was not enough pressure to get a job – some people could just sign on and get almost as much money staying at home as going out to work.” How many people, George? Five? Six? You make it seem as though more than a million jobseekers were sitting at home and drawing as much money in social security as at work. That would be a lie, George.

“That’s not fair to them – because they get trapped in poverty and their aspirations are squashed.” Whereas Conservative policy means what? Oh yes – they get trapped in poverty and their aspirations are squashed.

“It’s certainly not fair to taxpayers like you, who get up, go out to work, pay your taxes and pay for those benefits.” Tory divide-and-rule. You are different to them, because you have a job. If you are low-paid, it is because they are sucking down your tax money to pay for their extravagant lifestyles (I think we’ve all quite thoroughly killed that particular myth, haven’t we? It doesn’t exist outside the Tory political mind).

“Next Monday is when we do more to encourage people without jobs to find them… Benefits will only go up by 1 per cent – so they don’t go up faster than most people’s pay rises, as used to be the case.” This means people on benefits will start to become much worse-off than they are already. Jobseekers’ allowance used to be pegged at around one-sixth of average pay but will now drop to a far lower proportion, because the Tories lied to you when they said benefit rises were far greater than pay rises. One per cent of Jobseekers’ Allowance at a weekly rate of £71 is 70p; one per cent of the average weekly wage in April 2013, which was £517 per week, is £5.17. You see the difference? Oh, and one more thing: Where are all the jobs, George?

“When I took this job, some people were getting huge payouts – receiving £50,000, £60,000 even up to £100,000 in benefits. More than most people could get by working.” How many people, George? Five? Six? One, perhaps?

“So we’ve capped benefits, so that a family out of work can’t get more in benefits than the average working family.” I’m not actually opposed to ensuring that people on benefits can’t take home more than people in work. However, while accurate, this line is disingenuous. George has ensured that a family out of work takes home at least £5,000 less, per year, than an average working family because of the way he and his Tory friends rigged the system. He’s lying to you.

“And we are bringing in a new Universal Credit to make sure work always pays.” He means “pays more than benefits”. He doesn’t mean “pays a living wage”. Spot the difference?

Now here comes some more oppression, based on a really big lie.

“From this month we’re also making big changes to how people go about claiming benefits. We all understand that some people need more help than others to find work.” What work? Where are all the jobs, George?

“So starting this month we’ll make half of all people on unemployment benefits sign on every week – and people who stay on benefits for a long time will have to go to the job centre every day so they can get constant help and encouragement.” Help and encouragement, is it, George? Have you witnessed the kind of “help and encouragement” they get at the job centre? DWP employees should face harassment charges for the disgraceful way they treat their fellow citizens.

“We’re going to require people to look for work for a week first before they get their unemployment benefit. From now on the deal is this: look for work first; then claim the dole. Not the other way around.” Why? In order to drive people into grinding poverty as early as possible? Forcing people to wait until they claim means they could be without money for food, accommodation and utilities for up to a month, while the system processes them. This is not fair. It is cruel and demeaning – especially when Tory George knows there’s no work to be had.

“When people turn up at the job centre they’ll be expected to have a CV ready and to have started looking on our new jobs website.” This is the Universal Jobmatch website that is habitually used by criminals for identity theft, or to offer jobs in the sex industry. It’s so bad that the government itself is planning to ditch it when the contract with its provider runs out in two years’ time. Why would anybody in their right mind use that?

And now here’s the clincher:

“We will ask many of the long term unemployed to do community work in return for their benefits – whether it is making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, or working for a local charity.”

In other words, they will ensure that fewer jobs are available by making jobseekers do the work for nothing. Brilliant idea, George – you are wrecking our economy.

“All of this is bringing back the principles that our welfare state was originally based on – something for something, not something for nothing.” A lie, couched in truth. The Welfare State is based on the principle that people on hard times were able to take advantage of benefits because, when in work, they paid into the system via taxes and National Insurance. That’s the “something for something”. It is not based on the idea that jobseekers have to take jobs off the market by doing them for free. That’s just plain silly.

In fact, George, you are just plain silly.

So, returning to the question in our headline, it’s clear to see the answer.

If anyone here is an April Fool, it’s George Osborne.

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Another Cameron lie: Energy companies’ profits are unaffected by his changes – and we still pay

Cost shock: Even the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph has been complaining about high energy prices - as demonstrated by this cartoon from 2012.

Cost shock: Even the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph has been complaining about high energy prices – as demonstrated by this cartoon from 2012.

To borrow a favourite David Cameron phrase: Let us be clear on this – any savings on your fuel bills as a result of the Coalition government’s policy change will be added to general taxation in another way and you will still pay.

Energy firms’ profits, which have tripled since 2010, will be unaffected. Cameron’s plan is akin to shifting deckchairs on the Titanic (to borrow another well-known saying).

Why on Earth does he think anybody is going to be deceived by this silliness?

Even with the changes in place, prices will still rise by an average of around £70, at a time when people were already being forced to choose between (let’s have yet another now-tired phrase) heating and eating. Average household incomes have dropped by nine per cent since David Cameron made himself Prime Minister by the back door three years ago.

Average pay for bosses of FTSE-100 companies has risen by 20 times the rate of pay growth for most workers, just in the last year. And let’s not forget that they were getting much higher than average pay already!

It should surprise nobody that all of the ‘Big Six’ energy firms are part of the FTSE-100 – or were, before foreign takeovers.

This means average pay for these companies’ bosses should be around £2,321,700, while profits have risen to £2 billion – up 75 per cent on last year (according to the Independent reports).

None of this will be changed by David Cameron’s measures, which were hastily cobbled together in a bungled bid to regain the initiative from Labour, whose plan to freeze energy prices and re-order the energy market has captured the public imagination.

Instead Cameron – who once campaigned under the slogan ‘Vote Blue – Go Green’ – will postpone green policy targets to a later date, cutting the so-called ‘green levy’ on the energy firms accordingly. This means the UK will be forced to rely on greenhouse gas-producing carbon fuels for longer.

Subsidies for people in fuel poverty will be moved into general taxation, meaning we pay for them rather than the energy firms who should.

“Even after these changes to levies, energy bills are still rising and the average household will still be paying £70 more for their energy than last winter,” said Labour’s Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Caroline Flint. “Any help is better than none, but you can judge this Government by who they’re asking to pick up the tab – the taxpayer. The energy companies have got off scot-free.

“This shows why nothing less than a price freeze and action to reset the market to stop the energy companies overcharging again in the future will do.”

She was expected to tell the IPPR thinktank today: “If David Cameron and Nick Clegg think just doing what the energy companies ask of them is the answer to bills being too high, they are wrong.

“Energy bills have gone up by £120 this winter alone, so even with a £50 cut in levies, people’s bills will still be higher this winter than last year. The real reason bills are rising year on year without justification is because the energy market is broken.

“Instead of bailing out the energy companies, David Cameron should stand up to them and stop them overcharging people.”

But we all know that David Cameron never stands up to his corporate masters, don’t we?

(Vox Political‘s Mike Sivier will be talking about the energy scandal, along with the continuing cover-up of DWP-related deaths on Sonia Poulton Live today. You can see it by visiting www.thepeoplesvoice.tv, starting at 5pm.)

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Who can afford to buy or rent property in Britain now?

This bubble will burst: The Coalition government has engineered a recovery based on the false inflation of house prices and rents.

This bubble will burst: The Coalition government has engineered a recovery based on the false inflation of house prices and rents. It is bound to burst; the only questions are when – and who will be harmed by the fallout? [Picture: Haynesonfire blog]

Today the BBC reported that average private sector housing rents have hit a record high of £757 per month – just three days after the Corporation told us house prices have also hit a record high (averaging £247,000).

If you are an “average” UK earner (whatever that is), then your income has been cut by almost 10 per cent in the three years and five months since David Cameron became Prime Minister. Who can afford to rent at these prices? Who can afford to buy?

And is this the private rented accommodation that people affected by the Bedroom Tax were supposed to rent instead?

Are these the houses on which the government is going to underwrite 15 per cent of the mortgage in its ‘Help to Buy’ scheme? Already a(nother) huge housing bubble is growing and the debt crisis when it bursts will be appalling.

Meanwhile, everything costs a fortune and you have no money.

But somebody is buying. And somebody is renting.

Somebody rich, obviously.

“Higher rents in almost every region show that, despite government schemes, buying a first home is still a difficult aspiration,” the article quotes David Newnes, director of LSL Property Services.

“This is not only down to low salary growth, but also a general shortage of supply – which is the underlying reason why homes are getting more expensive. The long-term trend to renting therefore looks unlikely to change significantly in the near future.”

So the lack of house-building – either to buy or to rent – has proved lucrative for property developers and landlords. They don’t need to build any more if the value of their current buildings keeps rising. And nobody else can afford to build.

In the meantime, people in social housing are feeling the bite of the Bedroom Tax, with 50,000 families in danger of eviction because of it – putting pressure on local authorities who have to pay through the nose to put them into bed and breakfast accommodation instead.

Was this the Tory plan? To make things – the important things like housing and land – so expensive that only they and their friends could afford them? To push you into dependency by proxy?

And we didn’t see it coming?

Gosh.

At least nobody reading this voted for them. Anyone who did that must feel like a real chump now.

Iain Duncan Smith: Big on belief – lacking in truth

Strong beliefs: But is Iain Duncan Smith about to say a prayer - or is he eyeing up his next victim?

Strong beliefs: But is Iain Duncan Smith about to say a prayer, or eyeing up his next victim?

I believe that Chris Huhne really wasn’t a crook
I believe Britannia Unchained is a readable book
I’m prepared to believe that the government isn’t leaking
And that Boris Johnson sometimes thinks before speaking
Yes I believe J Hunt is clever
Norman Tebbit will live forever
And that GM foods will make us healthier
And there were WMDs out in the desert.

I believe that Cameron means what he says.
And that Michael Gove got good ‘O’ Level grades.
And I believe our courts are great;
That the NHS is safe:
And the economy’s professionally-run…
And that George Osborne knows how to do his sums.

And I believe that the Devil is ready to repent
But I don’t believe IDS should be in government.
(With apologies to Rowan Atkinson)

Early to bed and early to rise… means you have a chance to hear the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions put his foot down his own throat on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Needless to say, I missed it. It’s a shame, because the letter of complaint I was to write to Andrew Dilnot of the UK Statistics Authority would have been slightly different if I had.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

In yesterday’s article, I mentioned the need to query a claim attributed by the BBC News website to the Department for Work and Pensions. True to my word, I wrote – and sent – the following:

A report on the BBC website has stated, ‘More than 12,000 people have moved into work after being told about the benefits cap, the government says.’

“It continues: ‘The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said that 12,000 claimants have found jobs over the last year, after being contacted by job centres. The job centres warned them they might have their benefits capped if they did not find employment.’

“I am writing to ask you to investigate this claim, as I believe it may have its origins in a previous statement that you have already shown to be false – relating to a claim that 8,000 people had found jobs because of the benefit cap.”

I went on to quote Andrew Dilnot’s letter containing his verdict on the ‘8,000’ claim – that it was “unsupported by the official statistics” in two documents, one of which “explicitly” stated that the figures were “‘not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact’”, while the other noted “Once policy changes and methodological improvements have been accounted for, this figure has been no behavioural change.’”

I also drew attention to the comments made by John Shield, the DWP’s Director of Communications, at a meeting with the Commons Work and Pensions Committee last Wednesday (July 10) when he seemed to be saying that Mr… Smith ignored his officers’ advice and went ahead with a false statement.

I now dearly wish I had known about the part of the Today interview in which Mr… Smith discussed his own opinion of the affair.

The Huffington Post reported it as follows: “Challenged over the fact his statement was not supported by officials statistics published by his own department, Duncan Smith said: ‘Yes, but by the way, you can’t disprove what I said either.'” We’ll come back to that in a moment!

“‘I believe this to be right, I believe that we are already seeing people going back to work who were not going to go back to work,’ he said.

“‘I believe that this will show, as we move forward ,that people who were not seeking work are now seeking work.'”

“The work and pension’s secretary was mocked by Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Anne McGuire, who tweeted that ‘I believe’ was ‘a substitute for facts in IDS world’.”

Well, maybe his Roman Catholic upbringing makes him a creature of strong beliefs.

Unfortunately, his beliefs don’t hold a candle to the facts – and yes, we can disprove what he said!

The blog alittleecon takes up the story: “Ipsos Mori undertook telephone interviews with 500 of the 8,000 people who had found work since the announcement of the benefit cap to try to show that people had been motivated by the cap to find work.

“The problem is that they did not find that. Remember, IDS originally tried to claim that all 8,000 had moved into work because of the benefit cap. The survey found though that 15% of them hadn’t even heard of the benefit cap, and another 31% only knew a little about it. Only 57% remembered being informed that the cap would affect them, and of these, 71% were already looking for work.

“About half of those who remembered getting a letter about the cap took action afterwards. For 31%, this meant looking for work (although half of these were already looking). This means of the 500 surveyed, only around 45 people started looking for work because of the cap that weren’t doing so before. 45!!

“Looking at the results then, and if we assume the survey was representative of all 8,000 people, far from being able to say all 8,000 found work as a direct result of the cap, the best that can be said in reality is that about 720 people started looking for work and found it after hearing of the cap that weren’t looking before. Not a particularly impressive behavioural change.”

There can be no doubt about this. Ipsos Mori is a reputable polling agency and its figures are trustworthy.

It doesn’t matter what Iain Duncan Smith believes, his figures were wrong – plainly wrong.

He has no business peddling them around the TV and radio studios as though they’re set in stone.

He has no business mentioning them at all.

And, if he is determined to keep pushing his falsehoods on us, claiming they aren’t lies because he believes in them, then he has no business being a Cabinet Minister.

The benefit cap reveals the black centre of IDS’ mind

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The long-feared roll-out of the benefit cap happened today. There has been a great deal of shouting about it from all sides, but it is possible to get a balanced view – by linking news articles from opposing sources such as, say, New Statesman, the BBC and the Daily Mail.

Yes, the Daily Mail. I’m serious.

The benefit cap is one of the Coalition’s most popular policies – not the ONLY popular policy; believe it or not, a sizeable proportion of the population think Cameron and Co are doing a good job. New Statesman quotes a YouGov poll in which 79 per cent of people, including 71 per cent of Labour voters, support the cap – with just 12 per cent opposed. The Mail quotes Ipsos Mori, whose poll states 74 per cent support the cap.

We’ll start with the Statesman, which gives us the facts that Iain Duncan Smith – architect of the policy – won’t want people to know:

“1. An out-of-work family is never better off than an in-work family

The claim on which the policy rests – that a non-working family can be better off than a working one – is a myth since it takes no account of the benefits that an in-work family can claim to increase their income. For instance, a couple with four children earning £26,000 after tax and with rent and council tax liabilities of £400 a week is entitled to around £15,000 a year in housing benefit and council tax support, £3,146 in child benefit and more than £4,000 in tax credits.

“Were the cap based on the average income (as opposed to average earnings) of a working family, it would be set at a significantly higher level of £31,500. The suggestion that the welfare system “rewards” worklessness isn’t true; families are already better off in employment. Thus, the two central arguments for the policy – that it will improve work incentives and end the “unfairness” of out-of-work families receiving more than their in-work equivalents – fall down.

“Contrary to ministers’ rhetoric, the cap will hit in-work as well as out-of-work families. A single person must be working at least 16 hours a week and a couple at least 24 hours a week (with one member working at least 16 hours) to avoid the cap.

“2. It will punish large families and increase child poverty

The cap applies regardless of family size, breaking the link between need and benefits. As a result, most out-of-work families with four children and all those with five or more will be pushed into poverty (defined as having an income below 60 per cent of the median income for families of a similar size). Duncan Smith has claimed that “at £26,000 a year it’s very difficult to believe that families will be plunged into poverty” but his own department’s figures show that the poverty threshold for a non-working family with four children, at least two of whom are over 14, is £26,566 – £566 above the cap. The government’s Impact Assessment found that 52 per cent of those families affected have four or more children.

By applying the policy retrospectively, the government has chosen to penalise families for having children on the reasonable assumption that existing levels of support would be maintained. While a childless couple who have never worked will be able to claim benefits as before (provided they do not exceed the cap), a large family that falls on hard times will now suffer a dramatic loss of income. It was this that led the House of Lords to vote in favour of an amendment by Church of England bishops to exclude child benefit from the cap (which would halve the number of families affected) but the defeat was subsequently overturned by the government in the Commons.

“The DWP has released no official estimate of the likely increase in child poverty but a leaked government analysis suggested around 100,000 would fall below the threshold once the cap is introduced.

“3. It will likely cost more than it saves

“For all the political attention devoted to it, the cap is expected to save just £110m a year, barely a rounding error in the £201bn benefits bill. But even these savings could be wiped out due to the cost to local authorities of homelessness and housing families in temporary accommodation. As a leaked letter from Eric Pickles’s office to David Cameron stated, the measure “does not take account of the additional costs to local authorities (through homelessness and temporary accommodation). In fact we think it is likely that the policy as it stands will generate a net cost. In addition Local Authorities will have to calculate and administer reduced Housing Benefit to keep within the cap and this will mean both demands on resource and difficult handling locally.”

“4. It will increase homelessness and do nothing to address the housing crisis

“Most of those who fall foul of the cap do so because of the amount they receive in housing benefit (or, more accurately, landlord subsidy) in order to pay their rent. At £23.8bn, the housing benefit bill, which now accounts for more than a tenth of the welfare budget, is far too high but rather than tackling the root of the problem by building more affordable housing, the government has chosen to punish families unable to afford reasonable accommodation without state support.

“The cap will increase homelessness by 40,000 and force councils to relocate families hundreds of miles away, disrupting their children’s education and reducing employment opportunities (by requiring them to live in an area where they have no history of working).

“5. It will encourage family break-up

Duncan Smith talks passionately of his desire to reduce family breakdown but the cap will serve to encourage it. As Simon Hughes has pointed out, the measure creates “a financial incentive to be apart” since parents who live separately and divide the residency of their children between them will be able to claim up to £1,000 a week in benefits, while a couple living together will only be able to claim £500.”

The BBC opened with a much sunnier perspective that has caused Vox Political to send a query to the UK Statistics Authority.

According to the report, “More than 12,000 people have moved into work after being told about the benefits cap, the government says.” Oh, really?

“The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said that 12,000 claimants have found jobs over the last year, after being contacted by job centres,” the BBC report went on. “The job centres warned them they might have their benefits capped if they did not find employment.”

Didn’t Iain Duncan Smith get into trouble only a few months ago, for reporting that 8,000 people had moved into work after being told about the cap?

Only last week, his own officials told the Work and Pensions committee he had ignored small print in their reports, stating clearly that he could not use the figures to claim that any “behavioural change” had taken place.

Vox‘s article last week quoted Dame Anne Begg, who asked: “So no-one checking the written articles from the Secretary of State – from the statisticians’ point of view – actually said ‘Secretary of State – if you look at the little footnote… It says that you cannot interpret that these people have gone into work as a result of these statistics’. Nobody pointed that out?“

John Shield, Director of Communications at the DWP, responded: “In this instance it did involve the press office. I’m just trying to be clear that not everything that comes out of the department will go through us – particularly when there are political ends.”

In other words, the Secretary of State ignored his advisors to make a political point that had no basis in fact. He lied to the public.

How do we know he isn’t doing it again?

A letter to Mr Dilnot is in order, I think.

Finally, to the Daily Mail, where it was reported that “Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith today accused the BBC of launching a ‘politically-motivated’ attack on government plans to cap benefits at £26,000.

“The Work and Pensions Secretary accused the Corporation of using ‘lots of little cases’ to claim that limiting welfare payments would not get people back to work.”

Unfortunately for Mr… Smith, his story unravelled further down the piece, when it was revealed that he told the nation that HIS evidence is right because it’s from people working in Jobcentres: “This is advisers, they talk to me… I talk to people actually in the Jobcentres.”

That’s anecdotal, and may not be used to suggest a national trend. He is using lots of little cases to claim that his cap will work.

So we go from the cold, hard facts, to the comforting fantasy, to the shattering of the Secretary-in-a-State’s temper on national radio when the flaws in his scheme were exposed.

Mail readers, in that paper’s ‘comment’ column, seem to have supported his viewpoint – despite the facts.

Will their opinions change when the horror stories start appearing – or will they stick their fingers in their ears and scream, “La la la I’m not listeniiiiiing!” – as Mr… Smith did (figuratively speaking) on the Today programme?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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