Tag Archives: commerce

Will Sunak bow to pressure over cost of living – or will he stick to doing the wrong thing?

Rishi Sunak: he knows he’s doing wrong but he’s doing it anyway.

With Parliament about to reconvene with a new legislative programme, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is being urged to (at last) address the cost-of-living crisis.

The British Chambers of Commerce have called for a three-point plan that would slash VAT on energy bills from 20 per cent to five per cent, offer free Covid tests for companies and the reversing of a recent National Insurance hike.

You can read the rationale for it here.

Sunak is making vague noises about tax cuts – which would be just as well, considering his government has inflicted more tax hikes on the UK’s population than any other in decades.

But he hasn’t actually done anything yet.

Instead, it seems, he’s taking billions from pensioners by freezing something called the Lifetime Allowance for five years.

Confused? So was I. Here‘s the lowdown:

The Lifetime Allowance is currently £1,073,100, which may seem substantial to many.

However, many could find themselves propelled over this sum due to the Chancellor’s decision to freeze the Lifetime Allowance for five years.

It is thought a saver who withdraws cash in a lump sum will lose an extra £180,125 to the taxman by 2025.

The figure represents the tax payable on the difference between the frozen lifetime allowance and the £1.4million had the sum been unfrozen.

Apparently this means he’ll take £6 billion off of people, when he’s being asked to let us keep more.

How is that supposed to help?

Source: Rishi Sunak urged to announce emergency budget as living costs spiral

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Britain’s worst idlers – the MPs who wrote Britannia Unchained

I have been saddened to learn of two events that will take place in the near future: The death of The Dandy, and the publication of Britannia Unchained.

The first needs little introduction to British readers; it’s the UK’s longest-running children’s humour comic, which will cease publication (in print form) towards the end of this year, on its 75th anniversary. The second appears to be an odious political tract scribbled by a cabal of ambitious right-wing Tory MPs, desperate to make a name for themselves by tarring British workers as “among the worst idlers in the world”.

The connection? Even at the end of its life, there is better and more useful information in The Dandy than there will be in Britannia Unchained.

The book’s authors, Priti Patel, Elizabeth Truss, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore, and Kwasi Kwarteng, all members of the Free Enterprise Group of Tory MPs, argue that British workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”, that the UK “rewards laziness” and “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”.

They say the UK needs to reward a culture of “graft, risk and effort” and “stop bailing out the reckless, avoiding all risk and rewarding laziness”.

Strong words – undermined completely by the authors’ own record of attendance at their place of work.

Chris Skidmore’s Parliamentary attendance record is just 88.1 per cent – and he’s the most diligent of the five. Kwasi Kwarteng weighs in at 87.6 per cent; Elizabeth Truss at 85.3 per cent; and Priti Patel at 81.8 per cent. Dominic Raab is the laziest of the lot, with Parliamentary attendance of just 79.1 per cent.

To put that in perspective, if I took more than a week’s sick leave per year from my last workplace, I would have been hauled up before the boss and serious questions asked about my future at the company. That’s a 97.9 per cent minimum requirement. Who are these slackers to tell me, or anyone else who does real work, that we are lazy?

Some have already suggested that these evil-minded hypocrites are just taking cheap shots at others, to make themselves look good for promotion in an autumn reshuffle. Maybe this is true, although David Cameron would be very unwise to do anything but distance himself from them and their dangerous ideas.

I think this is an attempt to deflect attention away from the way the Tory-led government has mismanaged the economy, and from its murderous treatment of the sick and disabled. As one commentator put it: “They get a token Asian, a token African, a token Jew, mix in the middle class/grammar school rubbish propaganda, and suddenly they are just ordinary people? No they are not; they are stooges for the ruling elite.”

Britain doesn’t reward laziness among its working class. What it rewards is failure by managers, directors of industry, financiers. These people continually increase their salaries and other remuneration while their share prices fall, their dividend payments are lacklustre and shareholder value is destroyed. What have they given shareholders over the past 10 years? How many industrial or commercial leaders have walked off with millions, leaving behind companies that were struggling, if not collapsing? Does the criticism in Britannia Unchained apply to senior executives and bankers?

Our MPs are as much to blame as big business. They vote themselves generous pay, pensions and extended vacations (five months per year). They never start work before 11am, never work weekends (or most Fridays, when they are supposed to be in their constituencies, if I recall correctly). They enjoy fringe benefits including subsidised bars, restaurants and gyms. They take part-time directorships in large companies which take up time they should be using to serve the public. Only a few years ago we discovered that large numbers of them were cheating on their expense claims. They take more than £32,000 in “Resettlement Grant” if we kick them out after one term – which, in my opinion, means all five authors of Britannia Unchained should be applying for it in 2015.

These are the people who most strongly represent the ‘something-for-nothing’ sense of entitlement the book decries.

Have any of them ever worked in a factory or carried out manual labour? I’ll answer that for you: With the exception of Elizabeth Truss, who did a few years as a management accountant at Shell/Cable and Wireless, none of them have ever done anything that could be called real work.

In fact, the people they accuse work very long hours – especially the self-employed. When I ran my own news website, I was busy for 12-14 hours a day (much to the distress of my girlfriend). Employees also work long hours, get less annual leave, earn less and pay more – in prices for consumer goods, taxes and hidden taxes – than most of Europe. Average monthly pay rates have now dropped so low that they are failing to cover workers’ costs, leading to borrowing and debt.

Are British workers really among the laziest in the world? Accurate information is hard to find but it seems likely we’re around 24th on the world league table. On a planet with more than 200 sovereign nations (204 attended the London Olympics), that’s not too shabby at all.

Interestingly, the European workers clocking on for the fewest hours are German. Those lazy Teutons! How dare they work so little and still have the powerhouse economy of the continent?

If so many are reluctant to get up in the morning, why are the morning commuter trains standing room only? Or have the Britannia Unchained crowd never used this form of travel?

It seems to me that Britannia Unchained is just another attempt by the Tory right to make us work harder for less pay. The Coalition is currently cutting the public sector and benefits to the bone, while failing to introduce policies that create useful employment, and trying to boost private sector jobs. The private sector has cut wages and pensions. The result is higher unemployment and benefits that cannot sustain living costs, creating a working-age population desperate for any kind of employment at all (even at the too-low wages already discussed).

And let’s remember that Conservatives want to remove employment laws to make it easier to dismiss employees. In other words, they want a workforce that will toil for a pittance, under threat of swift dismissal and the loss of what little they have.

Why do they think this will improve the UK’s performance?

We already work longer hours and have less protective legislation than in Europe (such as the European Time Directive). But we are less productive in terms of GDP than their French and German counterparts, who work fewer hours and are protected by the likes of the ETD.

France is more unionised than we are, yet its production per employee is higher.

The problem is poor management and bad leadership. Poor productivity is almost always due to poor investment and poor training. Workers are abused when they should be treated as an investment. They lose motivation and when managers get their decisions wrong, they blame the workers.

Working class people are sick of grafting for low pay and in poor working conditions, to be exploited by the types of people represented by the authors of Britannia Unchained.

Is it any wonder we feel de-motivated?

I started this article by linking The Dandy to Britannia Unchained, noting that one was coming to the end of its life in print while the other was about to be published for the first time. I’ll end by pointing out a quality they have in common.

The Dandy is closing because it represents ideas that are now tired and out-of-date. Britannia Unchained should never see publication – for the same reason.

‘Lies, damned lies’, the IMF and government borrowing

We interrupt our series on how to get the UK back to work for a few words about the economy: Out of the frying pan, into the fire!

The IMF has downgraded its growth expectations for the UK economy this year by a whole one per cent, from 1.6 per cent to 0.6 per cent.

In other words, the downward spiral that’s been going on – ever since David Cameron and George Osborne decided to halt the promising recovery we were enjoying before they came to office in 2010 – continues unabated.

So austerity doesn’t work, right?

My problem with this is that the information comes from the International Monetary Fund – the very organisation that told us our economy had a completely clean bill of health, immediately before the Credit Crunch. How can we ever trust anything that comes out of it again?

On the ‘plus’ side, every downgrade of the UK’s predicted economic performance since the Coalition came to power has come true, as near as you like, so I think we can rely on this one.

On the ‘minus’ side, this means the UK economy – our industry, our commerce, our way of life – is in one heck of a lot of doodoo. If you think we’re at rock bottom now, imagine our situation at the end of the year, with 12 months of bat guano beneath rock bottom, and us beneath that.

On the very same day that this announcement came out, the government announced that it is on course to meet its borrowing target for the current financial year.

As I understand it, this is the target that was revised upwards in the Chancellor’s autumn statement, and the bank levy, last January’s VAT increase and debt control measures are helping the government reach it.

So austerity does work, right? The BBC even produced a Germanic-sounding pundit to underline the finding, sort of like: “Ja ja, austerity ist vorkink!” (Thank you, ‘Cultural Stereotypes R Us’, for that one).

But… This is the same government that said a majority of disabled people supported its proposed ‘reforms’ of their benefits (they didn’t) and doctors and nurses approved of its plans to change the NHS (they don’t).

Unemployment recently rose to a high point, in recent years, of 2.68 million – nearly 10 per cent of the workforce. How much is the government spending on benefits for these people?

I feel certain that one of the above-mentioned institutions will be making an apologetic climbdown again soon.

And I doubt it’ll be the IMF.

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