Tag Archives: cap

Check your direct debits to energy companies, warns Martin Lewis

Martin Lewis: last time I used this image, a reader said he never attaches his image to advertising so the story must be fake news. Let’s not have any of that silliness this time, please!

Energy firms are increasing customers’ direct debits by more than the 54 per cent cap imposed by Ofgem, according to ‘Money Saving Expert’ Martin Lewis.

He’s saying – well, see for yourself (this version of the clip by the Mirror):

There is no point having a price cap imposed by a regulator if the regulator won’t enforce it.

So, come on – check your direct debits and, if you’re being charged more than 54 per cent extra, contact Ofgem.

And come on, Ofgem.

Let’s see some hefty prosecutions.

Source: Martin Lewis urges MPs to crack down on worrying trick used by energy companies

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Why is Rishi Sunak depriving the most vulnerable people of help with their energy bills?

Rishi Sunak: his job is to pretend to help you with loans that will bite you later, while attacking people who can’t fight back straight away.

Regulator Ofgem is raising the energy price cap by £693 this year in response to increasing wholesale gas prices, and the Tory government has acted – to protect the privatised energy firms’ profits.

The average bill will rise from £1,277 to £1,971.

In response, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that the government will cushion the blow with a £200 rebate on electricity bills next year – but this is a loan; the Tories will expect us to pay it back later.

Sunak has made no comment on how he expects us to repay this money, once we are paying the full amount of these increased bills.

Isn’t it a contradictory move from a governing party that spent years telling us that austerity was needed because we should pay off a huge national debt immediately, rather than making people pay it in the future?

Sunak is also providing a £150 rebate on Council Tax bills for English properties in bands A to D.

But this won’t help people on benefits who receive Council Tax Support.

He’s providing £150 million for local authorities in England to help lower income households, along with £565 million for the devolved administrations in the rest of the UK.

This Writer has seen no information demonstrating how he reached this figure and/or knows that it will be enough.

Of course, working people will have to find the funds to meet a 10 per cent National Insurance increase from April, as well.

People on Universal Credit – which also includes working people, remember – are already struggling to cope with a cut of more than £1,000 per year.

The Bank of England has pushed interest rates up to 0.5 per cent, meaning mortgages and other debts will become more expensive.

Oh, and the threat of Russia invading Ukraine means we could face a further gas price shock if the supply from eastern Europe is disrupted.

There’s also the hidden cost increase that this price rise will create: businesses will face increased energy costs and we know from experience that, rather than absorb that cost and take lower profits, they’ll simply pass it on to customers in higher prices.

And this leads us back to the privatised energy firms themselves, and the elephant in this particular room.

Ever since gas and electricity were privatised, back in the bad old days of Thatcher, we have been paying extra in order to provide dividends to shareholders – many of which are now organisations belonging to foreign governments, allow me to remind you.

The logical choice when faced with a situation this bad would be to nationalise all these firms again.

Not only would it eliminate the requirement to provide dividends to shareholders (sending money out of the UK where it can’t do anybody living here any good) but it would also allow the government to set its own prices, relieving much more of the burden from customers.

A nationalised energy service would not feel the temptation to retain raised prices after wholesale costs come back down, as privatised, shareholder-run firms certainly would, and would be able to pass on that benefit to customers – phased to ensure the current high costs could be paid off.

This is anathema to the Tories and Labour opposes it too – because they are both now neoliberal parties that love privatisation and exist to serve the greed of the very rich.

So you get a cobbled-together, contradictory mishmash from Rishi Sunak that Labour has tried to counter by saying VAT on energy should have been scrapped.

That’s ridiculous because – as the Tories rightly pointed out – it helps the rich, who are easily able to fund the increased bills, as much as the poor; it doesn’t put all the help where it needs to go.

The fact that Labour even tried to suggest this as a serious alternative shows that it is not fit for government under Keir Starmer and his cronies.

Source: Energy bills: Rishi Sunak gives one-off £200 discount to households | Energy bills | The Guardian

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#Labour is said to be on verge of #bankruptcy – and we can all see the reason

Keir Starmer: if his job was to destroy the Labour Party, then it is nearly complete.

So there you have it. After less than two years in office, Keir Starmer has turned a bank account of around £13 million into bankruptcy.

And he was the Great White Hope of neoliberal right-wing Labour – the “any other leader” who was going to revitalise the party’s popularity and put it 20 points ahead of the Tories in the polls.

Labour is ahead of the Tories in some polls (just!) – but only because corrupt Conservative prime minister Boris Johnson has disgraced himself by breaking the rules he himself imposed on the people of the UK.

How did Starmer drag Labour to this new low?

Partly by launching a wrong-headed crusade against left-wingers/socialist party members, under the guise of attacking anti-Semitism. We all know it’s a false flag because he has been expelling left-wing Jews.

Court cases both by and against Labour, due to this outrageous behaviour, have cost the party millions.

And ordinary members have been deserting the party, having realised that Starmer is turning it back into a tepid version of the Tories that they simply won’t support.

What better example of this behaviour could we have than Starmer’s response to a vote on the Tory Welfare Cap on Monday (January 10)?

What a shocking indictment against Labour – the party that was set up to stand up for common people everywhere!

You can probably work out most of the Labour MPs who voted against the plan to restrict benefits to poverty levels and increase child poverty, but here’s the list:

Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon, Ian Byrne, Dan Carden, Margaret Greenwood, Kate Hollern, Kim Johnson, Ian Lavery, Andy McDonald, John McDonnell, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Marie Rimmer, Zarah Sultana, and Beth Winter.

Jeremy Corbyn and Claudia Webbe also voted against it but of course Starmer has thrown them out of his Parliamentary party for no good reason.

183 Labour MPs abstained, including Starmer himself and his Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth – indicating tacit support for the harm the Tory measures will inflict on vulnerable people across the UK.

That is why Labour is nearly bankrupt: if Starmer won’t stand up for us, we can’t support him.

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Why is ‘Lord Fraud’ attacking the Benefit Cap that he helped impose?

Lord Freud: his policies were nonsense and he talked nonsense in support of them. Now he is attacking his own Benefit Cap. Why?

A formerly-Labour turncoat who helped impose on millions of people the Bedroom Tax and the £30/week cut in Employment and Support Allowance has turned again – on his own party.

Lord Freud was commonly known as ‘Lord Fraud’ in response to the many false claims he made about his draconian policies – and now he has as good as admitted that the label was true.

He has said that the Benefit Cap, imposed while he was a minister at the Department for Work and Pensions in 2013 under Iain Duncan Smith, David Cameron and George Osborne, did nothing to improve the nation’s finances.

Instead, it whipped up support for the Tories among the public, who had been taught to believe that people on benefits were “scroungers” and “skivers” by the Tory rhetoric of the time.

This Writer has been commenting on the Benefit Cap, almost since This Site began, pointing out continually that its claim to be an austerity measure was a sham. Now, once again, I have been proved right.

The cap was initially set to limit benefits at £26,000 a year, but this was reduced to £20,000 for people outside London and £23,000 for those in the capital in 2015.

The saving was £190 million – slightly more than 0.1 per cent of the then-£177 million social security bill. It did nothing to pay off the huge debts we were told had arisen as a result of the 2008 financial crash and the Great Recession that followed.

According to the Mirror, Freud is now saying

Mr Osborne’s chief of staff Rupert Harrison told him: “I know it doesn’t make much in the way of savings but when we tested the policy it polled off the charts. We’ve never had such a popular policy.”

Freud himself is now pleading for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to lift the cap:

I urge him to use a small proportion of [a £25 billion surplus Sunak is said to have] to alleviate the real hardship suffered by our very poorest citizens.

I doubt his sincerity.

This is the man who, after advising New Labour on ways of making the benefit system more harmful to claimants, joined the Conservatives in order to continue inflicting harm on vulnerable people with the new government that was formed in 2010.

In addition to policies like the Benefit Cap, Bedroom Tax and the cuts to sickness benefit ESA, he also tried to suggest that people with disabilities should be forced to work for less because they were not “worth” the minimum wage.

After his words created an outcry, he apologised. Perhaps he thought his own job was at risk?

When he retired to his eight-bedroomed mansion, I said he based his policies on nonsense and defended them with nonsense – and now, according to his own words, we can all see that I was right.

Now he has spoken up to attack one of those policies, on a pretext of trying to help struggling families, and I don’t believe it.

He is a Tory. He hates the poor and his policies between 2010 and 2016 demonstrate this with a horrifying consistency.

So I have to ask:

What’s in it for him?

Source: Benefit cap scandal as Tory ex-minister claims cruel policy was designed ‘to win votes’ – Mirror Online

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Tory message to people on benefits: have yourselves a MISERABLE little Christmas

Therese Coffey: computer says no.

The worst part of this is that Therese Coffey probably didn’t even think about the consequences of her actions.

It is doubtful she gave a moment’s consideration to the fact that the Tory government’s so-called “grace period” exempting many people who claimed Universal Credit due to the Covid-19 crisis from the benefit cap will end this month – right before Christmas.

The number of households affected by the Benefit Cap has doubled since the Covid-19 crisis started – to 170,000. And a further 160,000 will reach the end of the nine-month grace period in the remaining weeks before Christmas.

How nice for them to have to work out how to make up the sudden shortfall just when they are likely to need more!

Still, it could be worse – they could be claiming Employment and Support Allowance, like many people with long-term illnesses and disabilities.

These people were diddled out of a £20-per-week rise in benefits that was given to people on Universal Credit. Coffey babbled a bobbins “computer says no” claim – that changes to computer systems could take months.

For UC claimants, the increase will last at least until next April, although there are demands for it to be made permanent, in the light of increasing uncertainty about the nation’s economic future.

ESA claimants are already £660-a-year worse-off – each – because of Ms Coffey’s computer-illiteracy, and this could almost double to £1,000 if they don’t see the rise in April.

Now for the most insidious part: Ms Coffey hasn’t ruled out the possibility that ESA claimants may get their benefit increase in the future.

But (firstly) she hasn’t said anything about whether they’ll have the rise backdated to cover all the time they’ve had to cope without it.

And (secondly) there’s an enormous orange elephant sitting in the middle of this room: people on Employment and Support Allowance die. One could say it is what they are best-known for.

The most common reason they die, that is known to those of us who check, is lack of money. ESA claimants need more cash because their medical conditions mean their lives are more expensive than those of people who are able-bodied.

And here the Tories have said they are deliberately denying sick people the extra cash that they have said everyone else needs to cope with the extra costs of Covid!

I fear that, for many, that is the equivalent of writing a death warrant.

And, given the Tory record on these matters, I fear that death is exactly what Ms Coffey is hoping will happen to these people – whose only crime is failure to be a “functioning work unit” (as Tory jargon describes the rest of us).

AFTERTHOUGHT: Shortly after I posted this, I received the following comment on Twitter, which I think makes a very good point:

And this:

Source: Two million disabled people set to lose £2 billion in Tory benefits freeze – Mirror Online

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Don’t believe Boris Johnson on benefits – he is only offering more poverty, misery and death

Boris Johnson: He can clap his hand over his mouth but he won’t stop the cruelty. That can only come with a government headed by somebody else.

Boris Johnson has finally published the Conservative manifesto amid a stink of embarrassment – and, for benefit claimants, a hard slap of insult.

Mr Johnson offers just one promise to benefit claimants – to reduce the frequency of Personal Independence Payment reassessments –  and I don’t believe it.

If Tories target a disabled person to lose their benefit, they will find an excuse to do so. Scheduled reassessments may be cut – but Mrs Mike has been threatened with random reassessments on many occasions, triggered by any reason the DWP could cook up.

The end to the freeze on working-age benefits is not a new policy; it has been set to happen in 2020 since it was introduced.

Universal Credit goes untouched, despite being possibly the biggest catastrophe to hit vulnerable people in the UK since the welfare state was introduced in the 1940s.

Mr Johnson has promised to continue impoverishing people from the moment they are forced to claim the benefit, with a five-week wait that we know pushes people towards starvation and homelessness as they struggle to pay the bills and stay out of the food bank.

(Tories think food banks are fantastic, by the way – except when they want to pretend Labour is responsible for their proliferation.)

Beyond that, the Tory manifesto offers nothing else but a vague promise to “do more to make sure” UC works.

Hang on! I’ve heard that before, somewhere! Isn’t it what the DWP says, every time the news reports a Universal Credit-related death?

Bang! Someone dies. The Tory-run DWP says, “We promise to learn the lesson.”

Boom! Another one bites the dust. The Tory-run DWP says, “We will do more to make sure UC works.”

There is only one conclusion to be had:

Universal Credit will never work for its claimants.

And as far as the Conservatives are concerned, it works best when it is killing people.

But what of other aspects of the benefit system? Here’s a quick rundown:

The Conservatives with NOT end the cruelty of the Bedroom Tax, nor do they have any intention of increasing the Local Housing Allowance to protect people against the threat of eviction.

The Conservatives will NOT end the so-called “digital barrier” that obstructs people who have trouble coping with computers and the internet from claiming benefits. They like putting obstacles before the poor.

The Conservatives will NOT end the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments.

The Conservatives will NOT end Work Capability Assessments, or PIP assessments.

The Conservatives will NOT end their cruel sanction regime.

The Conservatives will NOT scrap the benefit cap.

The Conservatives will NOT end the two-child limit on benefits and scrap the so-called ‘rape clause’. They like humiliating women who have already been violated.

The Conservatives will NOT try to ensure that women are no longer forced to stay in abusive relationships by the system by paying the child element of benefits to the primary carer.

Still, the Liberal Democrat offer is little better.

Jo Swinson is quite happy to keep Universal Credit. She thinks reducing the wait from five weeks to five days might help – apart from that, she offers nothing to anybody apart from the self-employed, to whom a Lib Dem government (that will not happen, of course) would be “more supportive” – whatever that means.

Other Liberal Democrat offers are just plain vague. What do they mean when they say they’ll abolish Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) and replace them with “a new system that is run by local authorities and based on real-world tests”? Does anybody know?

How will Ms Swinson “enshrine in law the government’s responsibility to ensure that existing and new public policy is audited for its impact on food security”?

These are brutal times. People need hard promises, not meaningless mummery.

In fairness, the Liberal Democrats do make a few good, hard promises. But another party has made the same promises and does have a realistic chance of forming a government and making them real: Labour.

Yes, it’s great that the Lib Dems would like to end the two-child limit on benefits, end the benefit cap, abolish the Bedroom Tax and increase local housing allowance, reverse cuts to Employment and Support Allowance for people in the Work-Related Activity Group, and reinstate the Independent Living Fund.

But you can be sure that the only way the Liberal Democrats will get into government in December is in coalition with another party; having already ruled out allying with Labour, that means Ms Swinson’s only option is the Conservatives, and the Tories will never allow any measures to relieve the pressure on the poor.

A Labour government would actually do those things.

And Labour would cancel Universal Credit and replace it with a system that is a genuine benefit for people claiming it.

Labour would dissolve the DWP and replace it with a revamped Department for Social Security, ending the environment of suspicion and persecution that was instilled by Iain Duncan Smith and replacing it with support for those in need.

(This Writer worked in the old DSS, before it was rolled into the DWP. The automatic assumption there was that claimants were telling the truth about their situation, about their disabilities, and about their needs – not that they are lying, as is the claim now. It was a better place to work, and it was better for the claimants too.)

But you know Labour’s offer – it’s all right here.

Boris Johnson’s manifesto shows an intention to continue the cruel Conservatism we’ve endured for nearly 10 years.

Let’s take this opportunity to tell him where he can stuff it.

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Promises on disability and social security show Labour has listened

The Labour Party has paid attention to the people and published a manifesto that promises to end many of the injustices that the Conservative government (with the Liberal Democrats between 2010 and 2015) introduced.

This Writer feels duty-bound to tell you that reading the chapter on Social Security was an uplifting experience on many levels, as so many of the subjects This Site has highlighted have been tackled.

Labour will scrap the Department for Work and Pensions. This Site said the DWP had become so badly damaged by the culture of persecution instilled in it by Tory ministers from Iain Duncan Smith onwards that the only option was to dissolve it and start again. It will be replaced with a new Department of Social Security.

Labour will scrap Universal Credit. Since it began to be developed, This Site has highlighted the fact that UC was a hugely-expensive disaster – a position that was proved when it was implemented; instead of providing a convenient all-in-one safety net for people facing hard times, it has instead deliberately pushed them into poverty. It will be replaced with a new system, to be developed carefully, intending to end poverty by guaranteeing a reasonable standard of living.

While this new system is being prepared, Labour will introduce interim measures to end the cruelty imposed by the Conservatives (and Liberal Democrats), all of which address complaints raised by This Site and others:

Labour will end the so-called “digital barrier” that obstructs people who have trouble coping with computers and the internet from claiming benefits. It will offer telephone, face-to-face and outreach support.

Labour will end the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments.

Labour will reintroduce fortnightly payments, to help people manage their money.

Labour will end the Tory sanction regime.

Labour will scrap the benefit cap.

Labour will end the two-child limit on benefits and scrap the so-called ‘rape clause’, which it describes (as I do) as “immoral and outrageous”.

Labour will pay the child element of benefits to the primary carer, to ensure that women are no longer forced to stay in abusive relationships by the system.

The changes won’t just extend to Universal Credit, though.

Labour will end the Bedroom Tax and increase the Local Housing Allowance to protect people against the threat of eviction.

And the party will reform the benefit system to end its punishment of people with long-term illnesses and disabilities:

Labour will end the “dehumanising” Work Capability Assessments and PIP Assessments.

Labour will stop benefit assessments being contracted-out to private companies and ensure that all benefit assessments are carried out by DSS employees in future.

Labour will increase Employment and Support Allowance by £30 a week for people in the Work-Related Activity Group, reversing the Tory cut.

Labour will raise the basic rate of support for children with disabilities to the same level as Child Tax Credits.

Labour will give extra support to severely disabled people without a formal carer, so they can meet the extra costs they face.

Labour will increase Carers’ Allowance to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance. This is the only measure that This Writer thinks is inadequate. Having been a carer, I know that CA is a pittance, but an increase of a few pounds a week is unlikely to help much. More harmful is the fact that, if a carer earns more than a set amount (around £120 a week), the entire allowance is cancelled. It would be better to introduce a taper, so that the amount of CA is reduced according to the amount a person earns.

And Labour  will help disabled people who want to work by bringing back specialist employment advisors, introducing a government-backed Reasonable Adjustments Passport scheme to help people move between jobs more easily, and reviewing support for disabled people at work, including the Access to Work scheme.

These are all terrific policies.

They make Labour the obvious choice for voters who are currently claiming unemployment, sickness or disability benefits.

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More than HALF A MILLION CHILDREN have been harmed by cruel Tory benefit cap

 

The Conservatives will be celebrating today after it was revealed that they have harmed nearly 600,000 children with their two-child cap on benefits for parents.

The stated aim of the cap on child benefit is to stop people having large families whilst on benefits.

But this is a fallacy. Most of the people hit by the cap are in working families.

And it is in fact harmful to the UK and its economy. The number of children born here is lower now than in the past, making it economically difficult to sustain the ageing population; there needs to be a large working-age population generating the economic activity needed to pay for services.

One solution has been to attract immigrants – but Brexit and the racism that it has engendered have made the UK extremely unattractive to foreign talent.

Then there’s the “rape” clause, which requires women to tell strangers that their children were born from controlling or coercive relationships, filling out a four-page form and reliving the trauma.

And there can be no doubt that this has contributed to the increase in child poverty under Conservative rule. Currently more than one-third of children in the UK are in poverty.

So the harm meted out to the children of the poor – and some parents – is revealed as what we always knew it would be: Cruelty for cruelty’s sake.

Nearly 600,000 children have seen their family’s finances slashed by the Tories’ “nasty” two-child cap on benefits.

The damning figures – from the first two years of the cap alone – sparked fresh calls from MPs, charities and more than 100 academic experts to axe the “cruel” austerity cut.

And they smashed claims the cap would force benefit claimants to make the same choices as working families – as it emerged 59% of victims have a job.

This distressing information has come at the beginning of Boris Johnson’s period as the new Conservative prime minister.

What do you think BoJob intends to do about it, apart from rejoice?

Source: DWP two-child benefits limit hits 500,000 children in cruel Tory crackdown – Mirror Online

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Another Theresa May manifesto promise evaporates in a puff of hot air

It’s all about gas. While Theresa May is full of it, she has failed to fulfil a promise to cap energy prices – and now an energy company is hiking its bills.

According to The Independent: “British Gas will hike its prices by an average of 5.5 per cent next month, taking the price of its standard tariff to £1,161 for a typical dual fuel customer.

“The energy firm said the increase was due to rising wholesale and policy costs, and blamed government policy for putting more pressure on customers’ bills.”

The minister for energy and clean growth, Claire Perry, was quoted as saying: “We are disappointed by British Gas’s announcement of an unjustified price rise in its default tariff when customers are already paying more than they need to.

“This is why government is introducing a new price cap by this winter to guarantee that consumers are protected from poor value tariffs and further bring down the £1.4bn a year consumers have been overpaying the Big Six.”

Too little, too late!

If Mrs May had been serious about this, she would have imposed the cap immediately – before energy companies had a chance to give themselves pay rises which even the Tory government has said are “unjustified”.

Therefore, she isn’t.

And we all know it:

We all know what to do about it, too:

Right?


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Bankers’ bonus cap could be scrapped after Brexit

Mark Carney speaking at the Bank of England. The governor said it was important to take a tough regulatory stance on the banking sector [Image: Andy Rain/EPA].

Is this the reason certain people in the financial sector are so keen on Brexit?

Bankers caused the crash and subsequent Great Recession, around a decade ago, but Tories tried to blame it on the Labour Party in an attempt to divert attention away from the huge bonuses that were still being paid out.

It wasn’t until 2014 that a cap was introduced on bankers’ bonuses. Now, it seems, that cap could be removed with our departure from the EU, making it possible for bankers to fleece the rest of us, all over again.

Why are these people so greedy? Isn’t twice (or even three times) an already-enormous salary enough?

The governor of the Bank of England has raised the prospect that, after Brexit, the EU rule which puts a cap on bankers’ bonuses could be scrapped.

Mark Carney, a long-standing critic of the bonus rules, listed the cap as among the tweaks that could be made to financial regulations when the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

The bonus cap was introduced in January 2014 and was a reaction to the financial crisis when bankers received multi-million payouts despite huge losses. The cap limits payouts to 100% of salary or 200% with explicit approval from shareholders.

Source: EU rule capping bankers’ bonuses ‘could be scrapped after Brexit’ | Business | The Guardian


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