Tag Archives: budget

Why are individual schools being asked to pay millions for Covid-19 safety?

Schools: it seems the cost of measures to protect children from Covid-19 will be paid using individual school budgets, meaning less money for teaching. Won’t that harm their education?

If the Tory government wants children to go back to school, then why isn’t Gavin Williamson prepared to pay the £216 million we’re told will be needed to protect them from Covid-19?

Here’s The Mirror:

Heads will have to pay the £216million cost of making schools safe for pupils to return this week.

And staff fear they will have to raid cash meant for teaching.

One union boss said: “The Government should cover these costs.”

Teachers’ leaders say that England’s 21,622 schools – already cash-strapped after a decade of austerity – are each spending an average £10,000 to prepare.

It seems strange to This Writer that people like Boris Johnson and the afore-mentioned Williamson are claiming that children’s education will suffer if they stay away from school, when they are ensuring that kids’ education will suffer due to lack of funds for teaching.

Source: Struggling schools must find cash for £216million bill to keep our kids safe – Mirror Online

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Distraction tactics: why pay attention to all this right-wing fiddling while your country burns?

Jeremy Corbyn: it’s nice that a Twitter poll has rated him the best prime minister the UK never had, but the PM that we’ve got is turning the UK into a major disaster and this stuff is nothing more than an attempt to distract you. Did it work?

We all know bank holiday Mondays are where the news goes to die but August 2020 was particularly bad.

Judging by Twitter, the event that caught everybody’s imagination was a poll by right-wing Times Radio that resulted in a nobody presenter – This Writer has never heard of him – having to declare that Jeremy Corbyn is the best prime minister the UK never had.

(It means he would have been a better choice, not only than Boris Johnson or Theresa May, but better than many others as well – according to those who took part in the poll.)

Certain right-whingers immediately took it upon themselves to alleged – without any factual basis – that Corbynista Twitter users had ganged up to rig the poll.

Who cares?

It doesn’t matter. We didn’t get Corbyn. We got Theresa May in 2017 and Boris Johnson now – partly because Labour apparatchiks conspired to bugger up Corbyn’s campaigns on one or both occasions, if you believe a certain report (I do).

And it diverts attention from the failures of the government we have – especially at a time when Parliament is about to resume sitting after the summer recess.

The Guardian‘s editorial has identified a few of the political crises from which the poll has diverted our attention. For example:

Rishi Sunak is determined to end his Job Retention Scheme – the furlough to you and me – at the end of October, triggering a huge wave of unemployment. That’s right, even more people are about to learn what Universal Credit is all about – and they’re not going to like it.

He’s facing an annual national deficit that will have grown to twice the amount faced by Gordon Brown’s Labour government during the so-called “great recession” of 2008 or thereabouts. His party made a lot of mileage out of criticising Labour’s handling of that recession, slithering back into office by claiming it would end deficit spending and cut the national debt as well (instead the Tories more than doubled the debt to £2 trillion).

And in November Sunak has to produce a budget that will boost the economy and return the national finances to some semblance of balance (fat chance! He’s already facing a backbench rebellion on his mooted plans for tax rises).

Nobody’s going back to work because they don’t trust the government’s proclamations that it is safe from Covid-19. Nobody is likely to go back to universities for the same reason. The only people likely to want to go back to school are the kids – and that’s because they’re probably a bit bored by now and want to see their buddies again.

The Johnson government’s determination to push through Brexit as planned by December 31 means the party that pledged to end the scourge of “red tape” is more likely to throttle us with it, as businesses have to deal with an avalanche of pointless bureaucracy.

These are all problems that the Tories have created for the rest of us, either by incompetence or by design, since they first came back into power in 2010 – and most particularly since Boris Johnson became prime minister last year.

You need to be thinking about that, but instead you’re being seduced into thinking about a dopey Twitter poll that doesn’t mean anything at all.

You’re watching the right-wingers fiddling around while your country burns around you.

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‘Build, build, cut’? Or did Johnson simply announce continuation of Budget promise?

Caught out again: but if anyone demands clarity from Boris Johnson, isn’t this the best response we can hope to get?

Boris Johnson seems to have painted himself into a corner with his claim to be putting more money into building affordable homes.

Read this:

Boris Johnson’s claim to “build, build, build” his way out of the coronavirus pandemic was thrown into confusion amid claims that he appeared to have cut funding for affordable housing.

As he delivered a speech in Dudley, No.10’s website suggested that £12bn would be spent on housing over the next eight years – even though the Ministry of Housing said after the Budget in March that the same amount would be spent over five years.

The PM faced fresh claims that the Tory party was doing favours for its “housing developer mates” after he unveiled sweeping planning reforms to allow high street shops to be turned into housing.

A government spokesman insisted there had been no cut to funding and that the eight year timeframe was a reference to the delivery of the new homes, rather than the five-year allocation of cash for them.

“This is in line with what was announced at Budget – there has been no cut in funding or delay in delivery.”

If it’s in line with what was announced in the March Budget, then Johnson isn’t offering any extra money.

And in fact, it seems he’ll be giving cash to his “housing developer mates” to do cheap conversions of shops into housing.

So it seems clear that Johnson’s speech was, if not riddled with lies as such, at the very least misleading.

It’s what we’ve come to expect from the Tories – and from Boris Johnson in particular.

You can’t ever take him at his word.

Source: Johnson ‘Build, Build, Build’ Pledge Under Fire Amid ‘Cuts’ Confusion | HuffPost UK

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Budget claim of help to Universal Credit claimants is way off the mark

If this is what Tories call help, then they need to buy a better dictionary.

The small print of Rishi Sunak’s Budget offers a couple of crumbs to claimants of Universal Credit.

Readers of This Site will be well aware that UC claimants must wait five weeks for their first payment – an eternity in which the only option for many of them, if they want to survive, is to request an advance.

That money is then paid back, in the form of 30 per cent of subsequent UC payments, over the course of the claimant’s first year on the so-called benefit.

But Mr Sunak’s Budget includes changes: the money will be paid back at the rate of 25 per cent, over the course of two years.

But here’s the punchline – and it’s a punch in the face: this will not even start to happen until October 2021.

It is no use at all to any current Universal Credit claimants.

Campaigners working to help benefit claimants wanted the five-week wait to be ended altogether. Fat chance.

They also wanted an above-inflation benefit uprating to restore their value – and were disappointed.

The UK’s Conservatives want to persecute vulnerable people – especially benefit claimants – and will continue to do so for as long as the electorate keeps voting them into office.

Source: DWP gives Universal Credit families longer to repay debt – but not everyone is helped – Mirror Online

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Post-budget death revelation shows it’s still business as usual for disabled people under the Tories

How disheartening for sick and disabled people that on the day the Tories made a big show of acting on coronavirus, another of their number has died after being (wrongly?) deprived of benefits.

Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced one measure after another to (financially) encourage people to help reduce the effect of the pandemic.

Did he make any offer at all to people on disability benefits?

Did he offer to increase the amount being paid to people, in order to make it possible for them to actually survive with some dignity?

Did he promise that medical evidence would be heeded by benefit assessors, rather than routinely ignored in order to pretend that people don’t qualify?

If he did, then I didn’t hear him.

And now we hear that Christian Wilcox, who had schizophrenia along with physical disabilities, has died after being told he did not qualify for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

He had stated on the social media that an assessor had ignored the amount of pain he was in – and this tallies with information that has come into the public domain, showing that more than 7,000 PIP applications were doctored by DWP-employed assessors over the last two years.

Charities have demanded an independent inquiry into the deaths of benefit claimants but they might as well be spitting into the wind for all the good it will do them.

Even if the Tories did eventually agree to one (don’t hold your breath waiting), experience suggests that they would accept its findings, say they would work to make the system better… and then do nothing at all about it.

The Tories are making a fuss about coronavirus because they know that the majority of the general public are concerned and their behaviour could affect the way people vote in the future.

They can’t give a rat’s rear end about sick and disabled people because they have spent years indoctrinating the majority into thinking that such people are “useless eaters”, as the Nazis called people with the same conditions in the 1930s.

Bear that in mind when you hear commentators giving any kind of praise to the Tories for their Budget.

Source: Disabled man dies after speaking out about his benefits being cut | The Independent

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Call for Budget boost to tackle poverty and boost incomes is naive political optimism

Money: Boris Johnson is rolling in it but his policies have starved the UK of the cash that is the lifeblood of the economy.

Give the SNP its due: at least the Scottish nationalists are keeping Tory impoverishment of the public in the national conversation.

On the eve of the Budget 2020 statement, they are calling on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to boost the incomes of the poorest people.

But it’s never going to happen.

Not under a Tory government, anyway.

Tories like keeping people poor.

They planned a strategy to make us all poor, back in the 1970s – and have been following it faithfully ever since. Did you think the attack on trade unions and the dismantling of our industry was a mistake?

Think again.

We already know the call to abolish the Bedroom Tax will fall on deaf ears; the Tories just announced that they’re not lifting it from people who have suffered discrimination because of it, so they certainly won’t help anyone else.

We know that calls to halt Universal Credit until “fundamental flaws” are fixed – like the five-week wait for initial payments that push people deep into debt – won’t attract attention. Therese Coffey said last week that the five-week wait will remain.

And we know the Tories won’t boost support for pensioners; their contempt for the WASPI women is well-demonstrated.

Instead, we’re likely to see Mr Sunak announcing measures that appear to be generous without actually helping the majority of the people.

He’ll try to boost business – so very rich businesspeople will profit more.

And he’ll probably make good on some of the empty promises that Boris Johnson has already made – the extra NHS funding that the Tories say is the biggest boost in history, but isn’t; the doubling of flood defence funding that they were forced to announce out of embarrassment.

So don’t expect change of any value to you at all.

Just be ready to attack the Tories for their habitual cruelty.

Source: Budget 2020: Tories must reverse benefit cuts to tackle poverty and boost incomes – Welfare Weekly

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Lords bid to block ‘no-deal’ Brexit as OBR raises recession fears

An anti-Brexit demonstration outside Parliament on June 12 last year.

The possibility of a Tory prime minister trying to prorogue Parliament – discontinuing it without dissolving it – in order to pass a “no-deal” Brexit has been pushed back by the House of Lords.

Peers voted by a majority of 103 to ensure Parliament will sit in the weeks leading up to the October 31 deadline, making it impossible for Boris Johnson (or, indeed, Jeremy Hunt) to ensure the deadline can pass without MPs interfering.

The vote happened the day before the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) warned that a “no-deal” Brexit could trigger a recession, shrinking the economy by two per cent by 2020.

The organisation said increased uncertainty and falling confidence would deter investment and hit trade.

The decision was an amendment to the Northern Ireland (executive formation) Bill which returns to the Commons today (July 18).

Voting by MPs is likely to be tight.

Supporters of Mr Johnson are saying that concerns over the economy are fear-mongering, and that it is buoyant at the moment.

That may be, but the OBR is saying leaving without a deal would add £30bn a year to borrowing from 2020-21 onwards and 12 per cent of GDP to net debt by 2023-24.

Watch how your MP votes – and take note of the effect on the economy. There will be an election soon, and you should judge your MP on whether they are reckless about your well-being.

Source: House of Lords passes amendment to help prevent no-deal Brexit | Politics | The Guardian

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It’s a Tory total collapse as they are forced to accept every Labour amendment to the Budget

Labour could have moved that the Treasury be re-named “Philip Hammond is a dunce” and the government would probably have agreed to it.

Too harsh? Well, let’s be satisfied with the amendments to the Finance Bill on tax evasion, gaming duty and Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – and with the promise that there is worse to follow for Theresa May and her cronies.

She had to capitulate because, if a vote had been taken and she lost, it would have been considered proof that her government does not have the confidence of the Commons. By convention, any government in such a position should resign and allow the main Opposition party a chance to form an administration.

Instead, Mrs May is now the head of a minority government, critically vulnerable to collapse if the Opposition parties demand a vote of “no confidence”, because the Democratic Unionist Party has withdrawn its support over her disastrous Brexit agreement with the EU.

As Mrs May is determined to have her deal or no deal, and the DUP’s MPs believe neither will support what they consider to be good for Northern Ireland, it seems unlikely that they will restore their support for her government.

I predict that if the current Brexit deal goes to a vote, Mrs May will lose badly. Labour may then demand a vote of “no confidence” in the Conservative Party’s ability to govern – and such a vote seems certain to topple the government.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was quick to capitalise on the situation. He said: “It’s absolutely staggering that the Government has accepted all Labour amendments to the Finance Bill because it couldn’t rely upon the DUP’s support. The Tories are in office but not in power. We’re watching a government falling apart in front of us.”

Mrs May is currently in Brussels, where she is probably begging the Eurocrats for latitude to resolve the impossible situation into which she has put herself – because we should all remember that this is a crisis entirely of the Conservative government’s own making.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond are both set to appear at the DUP’s conference over the weekend. If they think they can bully the Irish into backing them again, they’ll be in for a shock.

It has been great fun watching the drama play out on Twitter:

So the current situation can be summed up as follows:

https://twitter.com/MsParaDoxy/status/1064673997974065152

Of course we now know that Mrs May’s strings are being pulled by the Opposition parties – and any opportunity available (to mention the backdrop sign at the Tory conference) will be theirs.

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The end of the affair – and does it also herald the fall of a government?

Partners no more? Theresa May (left) with Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, in happier times.

When the Conservative Party announced its marriage of convenience to the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, many of us had tears in our eyes.

We were upset that Theresa May had found some stooges who were willing to prop up a minority Conservative government for the sake of a large bung – £1 billion, almost half of which has been delivered – and we were weeping for the future of the country we love.

The honeymoon period – in which we watched the DUP supporting the Tories’ terrible policies time and time again – was bitterly uncomfortable, and no doubt many of us wondered if we would be able to stomach it for the full five-year term of current Tory governments.

Fortunately, it seems unlikely that we will have to put up with it that long.

And it was the Conservative Party – the partner that needed the alliance to succeed – that was unfaithful.

Theresa May ran off to the EU and promised that Brexit would include a deal on the Northern Irish border that the DUP could not tolerate, as it allots special treatment to NI that is not afforded to the rest of the United Kingdom.

Either she had not mentioned it, or she thought she didn’t need to do so, because Tories have such a monumental sense of entitlement that she probably thought the DUP was lucky to be in a “confidence and supply” deal with her.

That was a huge mistake, and a sign that Mrs May doesn’t know her history, which shows that Hell hath no fury like an Irishwoman scorned.

Yesterday evening (November 19), Arlene Foster’s followers in Westminster pointed this out to Mrs May – by abstaining on Budget votes, and actually supporting the Labour Party on one amendment.

It isn’t the end of the deal between the Tories and the DUP – to continue the marriage metaphor, it’s the equivalent of a slighted partner making their displeasure felt and warning that worse may follow if the other partner doesn’t get back in line.

None of the votes had a serious effect on the Conservatives because they did not have financial consequences for the government.

But the message is clear: The deal with the EU, as agreed by Mrs May, is unacceptable to the DUP and the government will lose its Parliamentary majority – and therefore its ability to function – if the prime minister refuses to change it.

Now for the important part: This puts Mrs May in an impossible position.

The EU will not accept changes to the deal, and it seems unlikely that it will be possible to negotiate a new agreement before the UK decouples from that bloc on March 29 next year.

But the alternative is an effective vote of “no confidence” in the Conservatives’ ability to govern, which traditionally leads to the resignation of the government and the main Opposition party taking office.

The current Tory government is an unscrupulous crowd, and may refuse to honour that convention – but the alternative is powerlessness. What will Mrs May do?

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Chancellor’s billions ‘will not halt universal credit humanitarian crisis’ | Disability News Service

I stated as much on This Site immediately after Philip Hammond’s budget speech, but John Pring provides expert comments. See:

The chancellor’s decision to pump billions of pounds into universal credit will not halt the “humanitarian crisis” that will be caused by its systemic flaws, disabled activists have warned.

Philip Hammond announced in this week’s budget that he had found £1 billion – spread over five-and-a-half years – to ease the delayed “managed migration” process that will see about three million claimants of “legacy” benefits such as employment and support allowance (ESA) moved across to the new universal credit.

He also promised another £1.7 billion a year to pay for more generous work allowances for universal credit, which combines six income-related benefits into one.

Bob Ellard, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, which is campaigning to scrap universal credit altogether, dismissed any suggestion that the budget signified an end to austerity.

He said: Universal credit will still be the cause of a humanitarian crisis in this country, whatever last-minute tinkering the Tories do.

“And the elephant that wasn’t allowed into the room was the extreme poverty that many disabled people are living in, even before being forced to transfer to universal credit.”

Disability Rights UK said that “while these changes may be positive, all are subject to delay and overall do not remove universal credit’s delivery and design problems”.

Dr Victoria Armstrong, chief executive of Disability North, said her organisation witnessed the “devastating impact of the roll out of universal credit on a daily basis”.

She said: “Whilst in principle the idea to have a universal benefit could be seen as a step forward, we have seen it be used as a vehicle for cutting basic income for disabled people.

“The way that it has been administrated is not fit for purpose, for example the unacceptable waits, pushing people further into poverty, the use of food banks.

“The £1 billion … should be going to local, user-led organisations like ours so that people can be supported to understand and access the system (including digital access) and appeal incorrect decisions.”

Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of Shaping Our Lives, said: “Pumping big money into a model failing because it is overly-simplistic and over-reliant on technology won’t solve its problems.

“Disabled people are among those worst affected by this government’s failing policies and politics.”

In a blog published the day after the budget, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, the new chair of DWP’s social security advice body, the social security advisory committee, welcomed the “positive steps” on universal credit announced in the budget, but said the managed migration process was still “enormously ambitious”.

He said his committee was concerned that the government’s plans “load an unreasonable level of risk onto the claimant” and added: “We fear that, in too many cases, they may be adversely impacted by the proposals or fall out of the social security system entirely.”

Disabled activists have repeatedly warned that universal credit is “rotten to the core” with “soaring” rates of sanctions and foodbank use in areas where it has been introduced.

Source: Budget 2018: Chancellor’s billions ‘will not halt universal credit humanitarian crisis’