Tag Archives: dividend

UK government spending watchdog confirms what we already knew: There really is NO BREXIT DIVIDEND

The Leave campaign infamously claimed Brexit would result in a £350m a week dividend for the UK.

This is not news.

We’ve been saying this ever since the stupid ‘Brexit bus’, with its lie that £350 million per week would become available for the NHS, was first rolled out.

And the Institute for Fiscal Studies made it clear that there is no ‘Brexit dividend’, exactly one month ago – as reported by This Site here.

It isn’t even news that known liar Theresa May has used the Leave campaign’s lying ‘Brexit dividend’ claim to lie to the country again. What else are we to expect from a liar?

The Government’s official and independent spending watchdog has confirmed that there will be no “brexit dividend” for the UK, despite the claims of ministers.

Theresa May said last month that the extra £20bn a year pledged to fund the health service would be partially paid for by UK money no longer being sent to the European Union.

That claim was universally slammed by economists as grossly misleading, since the Government’s own projections suggest Brexit is already weakening the public finances, rather than strengthening them and that any fiscal gains from zero EU payments will be wiped out by feebler tax revenues.

The Government has also already earmarked much of those net £13.3bn a year EU budget payments for other major spending items such as support for farmers and science.

And on Tuesday the Office for Budget Responsibility, established in 2010 to provide authoritative and independent fiscal forecasts for the Government, confirmed that no Brexit boost for the public finances is expected.

“Our provisional analysis suggests Brexit is more likely to weaken than strengthen the public finances overall,” the OBR said in its latest Fiscal Sustainability Report.

Source: ‘Brexit dividend’ for health service a myth, Government’s official spending watchdog confirms | The Independent

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Theresa May’s 70th birthday present for the NHS: A big, fat funding LIE

Unconvincing: Theresa May couldn’t make her announcement seem realistic, even under the friendly interrogation of Andrew Marr.

UK prime minister Theresa May has said the National Health Service in England is to receive a funding boost of £20 billion a year by 2023, with money from a so-called ‘Brexit dividend’ and a rise in taxes.

She said: “There will be that Brexit dividend. We will have that sum of money that is available from the European Union.”

There’s only one problem: Like most things she says, her promise is a big, fat lie.

For a start, there is no Brexit dividend.

If you’re a Tory, or a Leave supporter, this may be hard to accept at face value. Let’s have an educated opinion on it – from Paul Johnson, director of the financial think tank, the Institute of Fiscal Studies:

Here he is on the BBC’s Daily Politics, explaining the facts to a reluctant Sarah Smith:

There is no Brexit dividend; Theresa May lied. Are you happy with that?

The Patients’ Association isn’t. It responded, “A giant sticking-plaster is still a sticking-plaster.”

The IFS itself said the NHS needed an increase of more than four per cent per year to modernise; any less would be treading water. It is getting 3.4 per cent.

Here’s another thing: Theresa May has said there must be “efficiencies” alongside the new money. Why? The NHS has already been pared to the bone and there is no more efficiency to be squeezed out of it. In fact, the reason extra funding is required is that her government’s ruthless cuts and introduction of profit-grubbing into the UK’s healthcare system has made it more inefficient.

And she has refused to say which taxes will rise to pay for her mythical spending splurge – possibly because this is the only part of the announcement that might actually come true; the promise of more and better service hides the threat to take more money from a population that has already been squeezed hard over the last eight years.

Mrs May said only, “We will be contributing more as a country.” As a resident of Wales, I find this extremely disturbing as the funding increase is said to be for the NHS in England only.

I see no reason why the other parts of the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (what will the DUP think of this?) should pay for funding increases that will not benefit them.

So why make this rash, and completely false, claim?

Simple: Theresa May needs to talk up the benefits of Brexit.

Her EU Withdrawal Bill is returning to the House of Lords for further consideration over the next few days, after Mrs May lied to her colleagues in the Parliamentary Conservative Party in order to prevent a rebellion that would have harmed her as a credible prime minister.

Without any factual benefits to talk up, she has latched onto the biggest lie told during the EU referendum campaign – that, after leaving the European Union, the UK would be able to spend £350 million more, every week, on the NHS.

Her current offer is even more – £394 million a week – but that doesn’t really matter because she is lying.

She has invented a fake boost to the National Health Service in just one part of the UK in the long term, to generate a short-term lift for her government and to hide an increase in taxes – most likely for the poor majority of the population, rather than the obscenely rich minority in whose interest she governs.

It is not a birthday present for the NHS – it is the foretelling of a further theft from us.

This announcement, like Mrs May herself, is nothing but a mealy-mouthed con.


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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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Social mobility? The Coalition’s flag should be the ‘Old School Tie’

It's not what you know - it's who: This is the only ticket to upward social mobility in David Cameron's Britain - an Eton tie.

It’s not what you know – it’s who: This is the only ticket to upward social mobility in David Cameron’s Britain – an Eton tie.

Congratulations to Alan Milburn for completely destroying the Coalition government’s ‘Making work Pay’ policy.

It was always critically flawed, of course – how could it not be? It was based on the idea of reducing the money available to people on benefits, in order to make the amount taken home by working people seem like more.

Meanwhile, the real winners were company bosses and shareholders for whom the line ‘Making Work Pay’ is a complete misnomer. A shareholder takes home dividends after investing in a company. Such a person doesn’t do any work for that money at all!

Mr Milburn’s study focuses on working parents, according to the BBC’s report. This makes sense because social mobility is historically based on a child managing to achieve more than a parent.

For decades, Britons have been able to say, proudly, that each generation has been better-off than the last; now, the Conservative-led Coalition has reversed that trend. Working parents simply don’t earn enough to escape poverty and two-thirds of poor children are now from families in which at least one adult has a job.

Falling earnings and rising prices mean the situation is likely to worsen – and what the report doesn’t say (but we can infer), is that this is an intended consequence of government policy. David Cameron will not be thanking Mr Milburn for pointing this out.

Mr Milburn has recommended diverting money currently used to provide universal benefits to pensioners, so that the richest senior citizens would lose their free TV licences and winter fuel allowances, in order to relieve the burden on the poorest families.

But Mr Cameron, who knows that pensioners are more likely to vote than younger people (including working parents), won’t accept that. A spokesman told the BBC those benefits will be safeguarded until after the 2015 general election – in order, we can infer, to ensure that pensioners will vote Conservative.

At least this admission makes Cameron’s reasoning clear!

Some have chosen to lay the blame on Education. That’s right – with a capital ‘E’. Apparently, although Tony Blair was right to put the emphasis on education back in 1997, people just haven’t been interested in taking it up, along with the massive opportunities it offers to attain a comfortable life.

That just doesn’t ring true. Look at Yr Obdt Srvt. I left school with nine GCE ‘O’ Levels and three ‘A’ levels, went on to get a degree and then went beyond that to get a post-graduate qualification in Journalism (making me one of the few news reporters, these days, to have one).

I have never received more than poverty wages – even when I was editing a newspaper. But the effect I have on my surroundings is completely disproportionate to the money I have received – I recently wrote that when I left my last full-time newspaper job, that paper lost £300,000 per year as a result (according to my sources). This very site is currently rated 16th most influential political blog in the UK.

Yet I am as poor as a church mouse!

So Education is not the culprit – and putting teachers on performance-related pay is to chase Education up a blind alley. How would Special Needs teachers benefit from such a system? All pupils have a range of abilities and no two are the same, so how can performance-related pay ever be judged fairly? Suppose a teacher correctly realises that some pupils will never achieve academic excellence but that their talents lie in practical pursuits – should that teacher lose pay for trying to get the best result possible for those pupils? Of course not.

Once again we see government policy following the ‘divide and conquer’ pattern. ‘Take from the needy and give to the greedy’, as the slogan states.

And the flag of the conquering elite is the ‘Old School Tie’.

You’re on very shaky ground in Cameron’s Britain – if you weren’t at Eton.

Sort out the tax dodgers, Labour, then the benefit bill won’t be a problem

Off-message: If Rachel Reeves had promised to get as tough on tax avoidance in her previous job as she is promising to be on benefits now, Labour might have had more credibility.

Off-message: If Rachel Reeves had promised to get as tough on tax avoidance in her previous job as she is promising to be on benefits now, Labour might have had more credibility.

A lot of people have been getting their knickers in a knot about Rachel Reeves’ interview in today’s Observer – and rightly so.

In it, she tells us (wrongly), “We are not in an environment where there is more money around,” and says that Labour will be tougher than the Tories when it comes to slashing the benefits bill. She stressed that she wanted to explode the “myth” that Labour is soft on benefit costs.

There are a few myths feeding into these statements. Firstly, the myth that millions upon millions of British citizens are living a life of luxury on benefits, which is, quite frankly, infantile nonsense. Benefits do not pay the ordinary claimant enough to afford huge luxuries and never did. They were always intended to cover the cost of survival while the recipient looked for something better. Anything else is a lie concocted by unscrupulous politicians, that you would be a fool to believe.

Then there’s the myth that the British taxpayer is being defrauded out of a fortune by benefit cheats who are (again) living a life of luxury at our expense. One look at the figures dispels that idea! The fact is that only seven people in every thousand commit benefit fraud – at a consequently small cost to the overall budget – and the amount they receive simply would not support the lifestyle our politicians are suggesting for them.

Let’s move up to a bigger myth – that people prefer to live on benefits than get a job. We’ve now moved from infantile nonsense to dangerous nonsense. The current situation, engineered by the conservatives in both Coalition parties, means there are very few jobs available – around 500,000 at any one time, with 2.5 million people chasing them.

And what kind of jobs are they? How many are zero-hours contracts? How many are part-time? These jobs do not pay more than benefits (“Making Work Pay” – another Tory lie) so anyone taking them will be out-of-pocket.

Meanwhile, the Tories in power have rigged the system so that anyone who does not spend the entire working week pestering local businesses for jobs that they aren’t offering will be sanctioned and will lose their benefit for a period of up to three years! It is entirely disproportionate, considering the state of the economy, and may cost jobseekers a lot more than a few quid a week in the long run.

But this is how the benefits bill will be slashed – by the Conservatives and by Labour, if Rachel Reeves is to be believed. Ministers of any party, living in the la-la land of made-up statistics, will sanction people for failing to work hard enough at securing jobs that don’t exist!

Ms Reeves says Labour’s jobs guarantee will ensure that those jobs do exist but we don’t know that for sure. We do know that she intends to continue Tory policy on sanctions – blindly.

Finally, we have the biggest myth of all – that there isn’t enough money. HM Revenue and Customs just released estimates for the last-but-one tax year (2011-12), suggesting that it failed to collect £35 billion in evaded or avoided tax during that year.

That’s seven times more than the national bill for JSA, and more than 29 times the estimated cost of all benefit fraud. But wait – it gets better! This is only an estimate and it has long been believed that the true cost of the so-called “tax gap” is £120 billion – equal to each year’s national deficit, 24 times the cost of JSA or 100 times the cost of benefit fraud.

Why isn’t our government going after these criminals? Why hasn’t Labour promised to go after them if the Tories won’t?

Simple: Both main parties have been re-writing tax law to make it easier for rich individuals and large corporations to avoid paying tax, and ignoring flaws in tax laws that make avoidance possible.

So for example: In the late 1990s, the then-Labour government removed the tax on dividends that meant companies had to pay tax on profits if they wanted to pay them out to the owners. So for example Arcadia boss Philip Green’s wife Tina, who is technically the owner of the company and lives in Monaco, received a tax-free £1.2 billion dividend in 2005; if this tax had been in place, £300 million of that would have gone to the UK Treasury.

Gordon Brown slashed Capital Gains Tax from 40 per cent to 10 per cent in 2000, meaning income that his friends in private equity managed to engineer into capital gains would be taxed at a lower rate than was paid by their cleaners. Not the finest hour for the Party of the Worker!

And towards the end of its term, New Labour started dismantling the rules that guarded against industrial-scale tax avoidance by British multinationals, meaning profits returned to the UK from overseas subsidiaries would be exempt from tax. This created a substantial incentive for firms to send their income offshore.

Before the 2010 election, our old friend David Gauke made a lot of noise about stopping the limitless tax deductibility of interest payments, that had been used by Boots (the chemist) to slash its tax bill. Six months after the election, when he was in a position to do something about it, he was telling everybody the rules would not be altered because business considered them a competitive advantage.

The Coalition brought in tax exemptions for companies’ tax haven branches and for profits parked in tax haven subsidiary companies. Meanwhile, tax breaks for the cost of funding these offshore set-ups, from the UK, are also provided.

Corporation Tax will drop to 21 per cent by 2014, even though there is no evidence that cutting the rate will make the UK any more competitive in world business.

The Treasury’s mission is now to adjust the framework of tax laws to suit big business. The ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms are now well-entrenched in writing our tax laws for us – and they run the most popular tax avoidance schemes. Consultations have descended into a process of agreeing laws demanded by big businesses.

There are clear and irrefutable arguments that reversing these legislative idiocies and closing every other tax avoidance loophole will do far more for the economy than flogging the unemployed to death, looking for jobs that don’t exist.

But I don’t think former Bank of England economist Rachel Reeves will be interested in that. In 1975, an appalled taxpayer wrote to then-Chancellor Denis Healey, complaining that an employee of the Bank (which is supposed to work on preventing tax avoidance) had been giving advice on how to avoid tax. “I wonder if this is really part of the Bank of England’s duties,” the correspondent wrote.

The behaviour of Ms Reeves, the former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, suggests that she believes it is.

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.