Tag Archives: compulsory

U-turn again, Tories, as face masks are made compulsory in England’s shops (for today, anyway)

Either the Tories can’t make up their collective mind or they’re arguing in public.

On July 12, Michael Gove said there would be no compulsion for people to wear face masks in English shops. Didn’t he say he trusted people to use their common sense?

The very next day, Matt Hancock – himself a stranger to common sense – at least looked at how well that had worked on the beach and in the pub and announced that face coverings would become mandatory after all.

So if we go shopping in England any time after July 24, we need to put a mask on.

(The date is far enough in the future that the Tories can change their minds again, I notice.)

It’s revealing that the Tories’ initial decisions always seem to be wrong. This is just the latest in a long line. Weren’t they elected because people thought they were more likely to make the right choices? It seems the electorate was very badly mistaken and we should all take note before voting in any future elections.

The decision does fly in the face of concerns raised by retailers and unions that their staff could face violence from customers, as it seems some people find it offensive to be asked to protect themselves and others from Covid-19.

And the Tories seem to have ignored the implications for people who cannot wear face coverings, due to pre-existing health issues. What measures will be put in place to protect them?

Source: Coronavirus: Face masks and coverings to be compulsory in England’s shops – BBC News

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Did Tories not make face masks compulsory because it would cause fights in shops?

Are the English really so stupid that they would start a fight rather than wear a piece of cloth that could save lives?

Days after Boris Johnson was photographed wearing a face mask in a shop, the Conservatives have backed away from making them compulsory in shops.

Was this because retail businesses voiced fears that shop staff would face violence if they were asked to enforce such a rule?

And what about people who would be exempt, because of disabilities or breathing problems? Would they be caught between staff who don’t know they don’t have to wear masks, and customers angry at the exemption?

The UK’s record on face masks is shockingly bad, compared to other countries; only 36 per cent of our people wear them in public compared to 78 per cent in France and 83 per cent in Italy.

So now retail staff must face an increased possibility of catching Covid-19, along with anyone else visiting their shops.

It seems to This Writer that the pig-headedness of the anti-maskers has allowed the Tories to once again increase the risk for us all.

Source: ‘I trust people’s good sense’: Face coverings will not be made compulsory in shops, Michael Gove says | The Independent

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Tories and their media are LYING about Labour MP’s plan for councils to buy private houses

It’s incredible how the lying Tories and their press try to twist information to turn public opinion against good ideas.

The Sun, for example, is trying to push its readers into thinking Labour would “seize” private houses, buying them back into council ownership – and Tories like party deputy chairman James Cleverly are lying that these homes would be bought – not at market value – but at a price of Labour’s choosing.

They are claiming it is a Labour nationalisation scheme.

Drivel!

The newspaper’s article claimed that Labour would demand the mass compulsory purchase of council housing stock that has been sold into the private sector, along with houses that had always been intended for private owners. The facts don’t tally with this claim.

It is based on comments by Corbyn-supporting MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle at an anti-austerity event in London – but it does not directly quote him demanding lower-than-market-value purchases.

Instead, he is quoted as saying: “We need to develop a system that slowly over time takes property out of private hands and puts it into public hands.

“For example, why not give every council the first right of refusal with any houses put up for sale?”

The right of first refusal is not the right to compulsorily buy houses at a value that puts the current owners out-of-pocket.

And it isn’t a right to buy houses that aren’t already on the market.

Finally, this is not a Labour policy – it is an idea put forward by an individual MP.

So, when James Cleverly said, “Your home isn’t safe under Labour,” he was lying:

If you own your own home, you are far more likely to lose it under the Conservatives.

They have allowed the value of mortgages to rise above the ability of most young people – first-time buyers – to support them.

The “Help To Buy” scheme helps the rich – and people who already have homes – more than those for whom it is said to be intended.

And what about those of us who have to rent from private landlords?

Costs have rocketed while standards have plummeted. The Conservatives have ensured that many such dwellings are unfit for human occupation – and have voted down attempts to enforce their improvement.

Changes to the benefit system – the introduction of the Bedroom Tax (for those in social housing) and Universal Credit – mean people on benefits and in low-income employment are finding it hard, and extremely stressful, to maintain their rent payments. Many of them face eviction at least once – some on a regular basis.

Mr Russell-Moyle’s plan would restore the public housing stock – at least in part – without harming the finances of people selling the homes, and without demanding that people who don’t want to be rooted out of their homes should have to. And it would provide secure homes for people on low incomes.

That’s a big difference from the Tory way.

Isn’t it a better way?

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Peter Oborne is right to support the 50p tax rate

140127oborne

… but wrong about many, many other matters.

The Torygraph‘s chief political commentator was right to come out as a supporter of Ed Balls’s pledge to raise the top tax rate back to 50p in the pound.

He was right to say it was “profoundly shaming and offensive” for Conservative voters – especially those who are not super-rich – when George Osborne lowered the top rate to 45p, two years ago.

He was right when he wrote that “to make the rich richer at the same time as making the poor poorer – what George Osborne has been doing – is simply squalid, immoral and disgusting.

“Any decent human being must surely feel sick in the stomach that he is taking this action at the same time as cutting the amount of tax paid by people earning more than £150,000.”

To that, let’s add a point about the kind of people who are benefiting from the lower tax rate – the kind of people who take home around £1 million a year in basic pay, who are promised bonuses of up to twice those yearly salaries, and who caused the financial crisis that has allowed Osborne to pursue his policy of impoverishing the poor.

That’s right: George Osborne’s 45p tax rate is a £100,000 extra bonus, every year – in gratitude for all their help, one must presume – for bankers.

Oborne is also right to say that Labour’s decision in the 1970s, to impose a top tax rate of 83p in the pound, was a huge mistake – for whatever reasons. It genuinely drove people out of the country, whereas at 50p they just grumble and threaten to go.

All of the above being said, Oborne continues to espouse some utterly wrong-headed nonsense. He claims that “the Conservative Party is not an interest group which represents only the very rich” when all of its actions since getting into office in 2010 demonstrate ample proof that a minority group representing only the very rich is exactly what it is.

Oborne actually puts in print: “The Coalition government has devoted a great deal of effort to lowering the living standards of the poor. I support this project.”

It’s great to see a Tory voter actually admitting this, but imbecilic behaviour for a columnist who (one presumes) wants people to respect his point of view.

He goes on: “I believe that Gordon Brown’s welfare state forced some people into a life of dependency… There have been many people on welfare who need much more of an incentive to return to work.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The reason many people are without jobs and claiming benefit is, there are almost five jobseekers for every job. This is a situation created by the Tory-led government in order to keep wages low; with so many people clamouring for jobs, people who do have work but are on the bottom rung of the employment ladder can’t ask for a raise – they would be jettisoned and replaced by a jobseeker (most likely on lower basic pay than the original holder of the job).

Nobody was forced into a life of dependency by Gordon Brown; the vast majority of unemployed people genuinely want to improve their situation with a job that allows them to avoid claiming benefits – and it is good that the Labour Party, if returned to office next year, will work hard to bring the Living Wage into force for all working people.

You see, Mr Oborne and his ilk conveniently forget that the vast majority of people whose living standards have been hit by the Tory war on the poor are in work. They are so poorly-paid by George Osborne’s corporate friends that they have to claim tax credits – or, as I like to call them, Employer Subsidy – and housing benefit – otherwise known as Landlord Subsidy.

That’s improper use of our tax money. We should not be subsidising fat corporates with our hard-earned taxes, so they can deliver ever more swollen dividends to their shareholders; and we should not be subsidising greedy landlords who charge multiples of what their properties are worth to tenants who have nowhere else to go if they want to keep their pittance-paying job.

It is valid to criticise Gordon Brown for allowing this to happen, but who knows? Maybe this figurehead of neoliberal New Labour was using tax credits as a stop-gap, intending to persuade corporate bosses round to the Living Wage in good time. We’ll never know for sure.

There remains a strong argument that government schemes to get people into work should have checks and balances. As underwriters of these schemes, we taxpayers need assurances that the firms taking part will not abuse their position of power, using jobseekers until the government subsidy runs out and then ditching good workers for more of the unemployed in order to keep the cash coming. That is not a worthwhile use of our cash.

We also need assurances that participants won’t drop out, just because life on the dole is easier. I was the victim of several personal attacks last week when I came out in support of Labour’s compulsory job guarantee, because they hated its use of sanctions. I think those sanctions are necessary; there should be a penalty for dropping out without a good reason.

In a properly-run scheme, those sanctions should never be put into effect, though. That means that any government job scheme needs to be driven, not by targets but by results.

Look at the Welsh Ambulance Service. Targets imposed by the Welsh Government mean that ambulances are supposed to arrive at the scene of an emergency within eight minutes – even if they are 20 minutes’ fast drive away, on the wrong side of a busy city like Cardiff, when they get the call. This means the Welsh Ambulance Service faces constant attack for failure to meet targets.

But what kind of results does the service achieve? Are huge numbers of Welsh patients dying, or failing to receive timely treatment because an ambulance arrives a minute or so after its target time? No. There will, of course, be some such occasions but those will most likely be the result of many contributory factors.

So: Results-driven schemes will put people into jobs and improve the economy; there is no need to impoverish the poor; the very rich never deserved their tax cut; and Ed Balls is right to want to re-impose the 50p rate.

The Conservatives are wrong to attack poor people; there is no need to impose further cuts on social security as part of Osborne’s failed austerity policy; and these things show very clearly that the Tories are a minority-interest party supporting only the extremely rich.

In the end, I find myself agreeing with one more comment by Mr Oborne; Ed Balls really has “given ordinary, decent people a serious reason for voting Labour at the coming election”.

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Workplace battleground: Labour and Tories at war over employment

cameronmaths

Labour is forging forward with new plans to improve work prospects and the skills of those seeking employment, while the Conservatives are plunging backward with proposals to penalise people who lack the ability to speak basic English.

Already right-wingers in the media have been trying to undermine the policies announced by Rachel Reeves in a speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research. They say Labour is planning to strip people of their benefits if they don’t take classes to improve their English and Maths skills, if necessary.

This talk of punishment for people who need help is completely wrong-headed. If someone can’t get a job because they can’t read, write or do their sums, then they should get help. Of course they should.

One has to wonder what has gone wrong in our schools, to lead to this situation. Perhaps Michael Gove would like to take responsibility? No, didn’t think so.

In fact, the plans announced by the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary are perfectly reasonable – especially in contrast with the latest Tory madness, but we’ll come to that soon enough.

We already know that the centrepiece of Labour’s economic plan is a compulsory jobs guarantee for young people and the long-term unemployed.

This means anyone over 25 who has been receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance for two years or more, and anyone under that age who has been receiving the same benefit for one year or more would get a guaranteed job, paying at least the minimum wage, for 25 hours a week – coupled with training for at least a further 10 hours a week.

This is perfectly reasonable. If you have been looking for work for more than a year, and couldn’t get it yourself, then the extra income provided by such a placement (especially coming in line with Labour’s plan to increase wages, in order to really make work pay, rather than depressing benefits and putting everyone in poverty, which is Conservative policy) will be welcome.

It doesn’t mean that people will have to put their own ambitions on hold. The best advice I ever received was to get a paying job during the day, in order to put food on the table and clothes on my back, and work on what I really wanted to do in the evenings. Eventually, with perseverance, it should be possible to replace the day job with what you really want to do.

Most of the jobs are likely to be in small firms where, once a company has invested six months in a new recruit, the chances are they will want to keep them on after the subsidy has ended.

The jobs guarantee would be fully funded by repeating the tax on bankers bonuses – they were in the news recently, when it was announced that these people would be receiving unearned bonuses worth twice as much as their salary so they’ve definitely got the cash to spare – and a restriction on pension tax relief for those on the very highest incomes.

But – of course – putting people into a job isn’t much good if they don’t have the knowledge of English and Maths that most of us use without thinking in our everyday lives.

In her speech, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said: “The shocking levels of English and maths among too many jobseekers are holding them back from getting work, and trapping them in a vicious cycle between low paid work and benefits.

“Nearly one in 10 people claiming JSA don’t have basic English skills, and over one in ten don’t have basic maths. IT skills among jobseekers are even worse; nearly half don’t have the basic email skills which are now essential for almost any job application.

“And we know that this keeps people out of jobs: those out of work are twice as likely than those in work to lack basic English and Maths,” she said, proving that her own lack in that area hasn’t held her back. Twice as likely as those in work, Rachel.

She said research has shown that, when people who lack these skills do get jobs, they too often find themselves in short term or temporary work, with a swift return to benefits. Nearly one in five of those who have made multiple claims for unemployment benefits have problems with reading or numeracy.

The response: “A new requirement [will be] for jobseekers to take training if they do not meet basic standards of maths, English and IT – training they will be required to take up alongside their jobsearch, or lose their benefits.

“[We] will ensure that people’s skills needs are assessed, and basic skills gaps addressed, from the start of a Jobseeker’s Allowance Claim, not after months and years of neglect.”

Contrast this with the Conservative Party’s latest plan to hammer immigrants and people on benefits – announcing a new policy of repression every week ahead of the election in 2015, according to politics.co.uk

It seems right-wing Australian election chief, and tobacco lobbyist, Lynton Crosby thinks this kind of bully-boy behaviour will make the Tories more popular! Don’t laugh.

This comes after satirical radio comedy The Now Show featured a sketch in which people tried to justify xenophobic attitudes without saying the words “I’m not racist, but…”

Let’s try the reverse – putting those words into the new policies announced on politics.co.uk:

“I’m not racist, but we should strip benefits from anyone who can’t speak English!” (Does this include the English people who can’t speak their own language properly, who Labour plan to help?)

“I’m not racist, but we should axe the service telling people about benefits in foreign languages!”

“I’m not racist, but we should end translation services in benefits offices!” (According to politics.co.uk, David Cameron is very keen on that one).

The site said “Iain Duncan Smith is understood to already be working on them”. (He’s not racist, but…)

Tory backbencher and former scandal Liam Fox tried to justify this lunacy by saying: “The ability to speak English is one of the most empowering tools in the labour market and we should be encouraging as many people as possible to learn it.” By cutting off their income? How does that work?

Plans to focus on the government’s increasingly racist tough anti-immigrant message come despite warnings that a reduction in immigration would make it harder for Britain to pay back its national debt.

The site said that, last week, a long-awaited report into benefit tourism had to be shelved in secret, after failing to find any evidence of it.

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Olympic borough fights the Tories’ new Rackmanism

The government has been extremely relaxed about letting landlords in England charge huge rents on tiny, single-room accommodation with diabolical health and safety standards. Newham Council - the Olympic borough - has said enough is enough.

The government has been extremely relaxed about letting landlords in England charge huge rents on tiny, single-room accommodation with diabolical health and safety standards. Newham Council – the Olympic borough – has said enough is enough.

It’s 2013 – a new dawn; a new year.

Same old Tories, though.

Look at this: Newham Council in London has started a compulsory system of landlord registration. Owners of privately-rented homes must now declare criminal convictions and will be monitored to ensure they meet health and safety standards on their properties. If they don’t, they could be fined up to £20,000.

This is terrific – it is, after all, landlords’ responsibility to make sure their properties are clean and in good working order. Scotland already has a compulsory licensing system and Wales is working on one.

But in England, ministers oppose a national scheme.

Scotland is run by the SNP; Wales by Labour. England is ruled by the Coalition government – the Tories, in essence.

From this, we can deduce that Tories want landlords to continue charging substantial rents for people to live in unacceptable accommodation.

We can also deduce that they have no problem with landlords getting rich while tenants live in slums, paying hundreds of pounds every month to live in a single, basic room.

Perhaps the threats posed by faulty wiring or dangerous gas appliances, pest infestations and overcrowding do not mean anything to the Tories. But then, they’ve never experienced those things, have they?

Let’s also bear in mind that, when considering how to remedy what they say is an ever-increasing housing benefit bill, the Tories chose to find ways to cut the benefit: the bedroom tax, the benefits cap (housing benefit is the first to be affected if households are earning more than £500 per week).

Responsibility for making up the lost benefit will fall on tenants, who must find it in what little of their income is not tied up with other bills.

My brother once told me they’d have us back to Rackmanism and rack-renting if they thought they could get away with it. Isn’t that what’s happening?

The Tories chose not to cap rents instead, with supporters of the move saying this would distort the market and would therefore be unnecessary interference.

What are we to make, then, of the fact that other English councils are free to devise their own landlord registration systems, which may differ from that in Newham or those in Scotland and Wales, leading to a piecemeal system with excessive bureaucracy and – yes – distorting the market?

As ever, when we are ruled by those who have known only luxury and cannot understand what it is to survive in poverty and squalor, we get what we’ve always had:

Double standards.