Poor Sarah Vine! After marrying the odious Michael Gove and spending years enjoying the Tory limelight, now that she and he are splitting, she wants to be left alone!
Normally, This Writer might be inclined to support such a request. After all, I said Boris Johnson’s wedding to… whatsername… shouldn’t get huge media coverage because it was only the wedding of a public servant to his long-term fiancee, and that sort of thing happens all the time. A divorce should get similar treatment.
There’s the hypocrisy we see here:
And finally, there’s the very ugly hypocrisy of this:
Given the way Vine has pursued public figures – my understanding is that Meghan is only the latest and highest-visibility in a series – and has tried to influence public opinion about them, it would be unfair to allow her the kind of relief she denied to them.
To me, it seems only fair that even the slightest details of her divorce are entirely appropriate for discussion on every possible public forum.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Boris Johnson likes to be in the news, although one wonders whether he really wanted this kind of publicity.
The man currently considered the UK’s worst-ever Foreign Secretary is facing divorce proceedings after – the entire nation presumes – his wife was asked to put up with one affair too many.
Now he is facing private prosecution over the long-debunked lie that Brexit would bring £350 million a week back into the UK economy, and that this cash could be used to boost the National Health Service.
But hey, ladies… He’s available! Form an orderly queue.
A private prosecution case is set to be lodged against the former foreign secretary who sensationally quit the cabinet after the prime minister revealed her Chequers plan.
Marcus J Ball has spent the past two years building the case against Johnson and even put his career on hold to spend more time gathering evidence.
The 28-year-old is now working with Lewis Power QC, of Church Court Chambers, to bring a charge of misconduct in public office. The specific accusation focuses on the claim that the UK sends £350m to the EU each week which Mr Ball disputes.
It is clear that Mr Davis lied about the existence of these documents. If anybody wants to split hairs about the difference between an “analysis” and an “assessment”, This Writer would urge them to look up a dictionary definition of both terms and consider whether there really is a huge difference between them.
Now he has said the last-minute agreement on the Irish border, citizens’ rights and the financial settlement between the UK and the EU27 on Brexit is “non-binding”.
According to the BBC: “He stressed that the deal struck by Theresa May on Friday to move to the next phase of talks was a “statement of intent” and not “legally enforceable”.
“Mr Davis has said “full alignment” would apply to the whole of the UK, not just Northern Ireland, but the Sunday Telegraph said Conservative Brexiteers had been reassured that it was “non-binding” and had been included to secure Ireland’s backing for the deal.”
This shows an extraordinary lack of intelligence from Mr Davis.
Only a few weeks ago, his colleague Boris Johnson caused an international incident when he said he believed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been teaching journalism in Iran – confirming the claims of the Iranian authorities who had arrested her (such actions are considered to be ‘soft’ campaigning against the ruling regime there). In fact, she had been on holiday.
Of course the Iranians took Mr Johnson at his word and threatened to double Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s prison term. The imbecilic foreign secretary is in Iran at the time of writing, trying to put right his monumental blunder.
Now Mr Davis has made almost exactly the same kind of blunder – but one that could have far more serious repercussions for everybody in the UK.
What chance the EU 27 will decide that David Davis’ suggestion that the UK’s EU agreement is just ‘a statement of intent’ and so not binding is now good reason for delaying progress on trade talks? High, I’d say
Theresa May meets Jean-Claude Juncker for their early-morning meeting. She’s smiling because she thinks she’s found a way to hoodwink us all into believing she has achieved something solid when all she has done is kick the Brexit can down the road.
Am I wrong? Let’s consider.
Here’s what Theresa May and the Tories want you to think has just happened:
Today’s Brexit deal delivers: – No hard border in Northern Ireland – Secures a good financial deal for British taxpayers meaning more money for our priorities like housing, schools, and the NHS – Secured the rights of EU citizens living here, and UK citizens living in the EU pic.twitter.com/h4QtXdwnFv
On the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the announcement today states: “In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South co-operation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.”
This means Theresa May and her EU counterparts have sidestepped the competing demands facing them – not to have a ‘hard’ border, and for Northern Ireland not to enjoy separate rules from the rest of the United Kingdom. And:
If this means what I think it means, then May just gave a massive boost to the prospect of an economically united Ireland – its the only way to read it
The BBC states: “It’s not entirely clear how full alignment could be maintained without Northern Ireland staying in the single market and the customs union, especially as there is no such thing as partial membership.”
The Daily Mirror is more scathing: “Everyone’s kicked the can down the road… The UK wants to secure Northern Ireland’s status without any special treatment through an overall EU-UK deal later in the process.”
There will be no hard border, but Northern Ireland will get unfettered access to the internal UK market – even though the UK is leaving the EU’s single market and customs union.
Even if an overall UK-EU deal does not secure NI’s status without special treatment, the plan now offers NI “full alignment” with some current EU rules it shares with the Republic – possibly including some aspects of the Customs Union as mentioned above.
The Mirror continues: “The words “regulatory alignment” – which enraged the DUP so much they called Mrs May midway through a lunch to scupper a previous deal – have been dropped from the agreement. Instead the Northern Ireland government will get a veto on any new “regulatory barriers” between Northern Ireland and the UK.”
Won’t this simply scupper talks further down the line?
“Meanwhile, the UK and Ireland can continue to sort out between them people’s rights to move across the border under the Common Travel Area. This will not affect Ireland’s obligations under EU law.”
And what about NI’s obligations under UK law?
“And Irish Premier Leo Varadkar said Northern Ireland citizens can continue to “exercise his or her right” to EU citizenship” – further complicating matters as not every NI citizen is going to do that.
On the financial settlement – often known as the ‘divorce bill’, Theresa May wants you to think she has beaten back the EU, and the UK will not pay any more than it must, meaning more cash for domestic concerns like “housing, schools and the NHS”.
But she won’t be devoting £350 million a week to those concerns, as Leave campaigners offered in the run-up to the referendum, so UK citizens should rightly feel short-changed.
And the wording of the financial settlement is opaque to the point of impenetrability. It states: “The second phase of the negotiations will address the practical modalities for implementing the agreed methodology and the schedule of payments.” In other words, everyone’s kicked the can down the road.
The BBC says: “A method for calculating the bill has been agreed, but the calculation of an exact UK share will depend on exchange rates, on interest rates, on the number of financial commitments that never turn into payments, and more. The question of how and when payments will be made still needs to resolved, but it will be a schedule lasting for many years to come, and it is highly unlikely that anyone will ever be able to give an exact figure for the size of the divorce bill. UK sources say it will be up to £40bn, but some EU sources expect it to be higher than that. No-one can say for sure, and both sides want to keep it that way.”
The Mirror adds a few details that Mrs May would probably prefer you didn’t know:
“The financial settlement itself will be drawn up and paid in Euros – meaning Britain will lose out because the pound plummeted on referendum night.
“Britain will have to pay its share of budget commitments “outstanding at 31 December 2020”.
“It will take 12 YEARS [for the UK] to be repaid the huge pot Britain has in the European Investment Bank. The sums will be repaid in instalments of 300 million Euros a year.
“Britain will honour commitments it made before 2019 for refugees in Turkey.
“It will also continue to pay into the European Development Fund in full until the current round ends in 2020.”
Is this really a good financial deal? It looks like a fudge to This Writer.
All right, then – what about citizens’ rights?
It seems that Mrs May has given in to the EU on most of the details – although the announcement that this is a reciprocal deal, meaning everything that applies to the UK will also apply to EU citizens, is a bit of a breakthrough for the minority prime minister.
Brextremists will hate the agreement that, although the European Court of Justice will not have direct jurisdiction over citizenship cases, UK courts must continue to give “due regard” to its decisions – indefinitely. Not only that, but UK courts will have to refer questions of interpretation (of the rules) to the ECJ for no less than eight years after Brexit.
The Conservative government wants us to believe the agreement is entirely voluntary and will only apply to two or three cases a year. We’ll see.
There are multiple blows for people who wanted Brexit to mean the UK will be able to control the number of people moving here from EU states:
EU citizens will be able to move here at any time up to the date of Brexit (March 29, 2019), and their rights will be protected under today’s agreement.
According to the Mirror: “If an EU citizen is living legally in Britain before March 2019, a huge range of relatives will all have the right to move to Britain – for the lifetime of the person already living here. That includes their spouses, registered partners, children and grandchildren (“direct descendants”) under 21 – even if they’re not born yet – and spouses’ dependent direct relatives.”
The Mirror goes on to provide a long list of other conditions that will have made Brextremists choke on their breakfast today:
“Mrs May’s plan to force EU citizens to apply for “settled status” appears to be intact – she wanted to let people apply after they’ve been in Britain for five years. But the arrangements must be “transparent, smooth and streamlined”, the deal says.
“People who’ve settled in Britain can now leave for up to five years without losing their settlement rights. Theresa May wanted it to be just two years.
“Residence documents must be issued either free of charge, or no more expensive than similar documents would be for UK nationals. A “proportionate approach” will be taken to those who “miss the deadline with good reason”.
“People who already have UK residence documents issued under EU law must have them converted to the new status free of charge – with only a security and background check.
“Benefits and healthcare arrangements will continue as they are now for people living in a country under the agreement before 29 March 2019.
“But in a blow for expats, there’s no deal on whether UK citizens settled in the EU will be able to move to other EU countries freely, or will be fixed in the country they’re in now.”
Is that really “securing” everybody’s “rights”? Or is it simply doing as we’re told by the EU negotiators?
Let’s all remember the following, from the agreement document: “Under the caveat that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, the joint commitments set out… in this joint report shall be reflected in the Withdrawal Agreement in full detail.”
This means nothing has been delivered at all.
Everything that has been agreed so far could be thrown away if future stages of Brexit negotiations run into difficulty or unravel altogether.
And commentators in the social media have already sniffed out the devils in the details:
I am not celebrating May’s Brussels Deal. A) We don’t know what it is B) It’s a colossal waste of money C) I don’t know Parliament will agree it D) It means we leave the customs union E) It sounds like a Norwegian deal, only worse. So, F) It’s the enfeebling of the UK.
Complete Capitulation – UK-EU joint report: "In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain FULL ALIGNMENT with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation."
The details of the Irish border agreement have been delayed, as has the final agreement on the financial settlement, despite the fact that we were all told these must be finalised before negotiations move on to trading deals.
And the deal on citizens’ rights seems to be everything the EU could want it to be, while ‘Leave’ voters will feel that they have been left out in the cold.
But all the negotiating parties seem happy to let this non-deal stand.
I wonder what Parliament will do with it, let alone what the representatives of the EU’s 27 remaining states will think, when they discuss it on December 14.
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How much indeed: Cartoonist Patrick Blower on the Brexit bill that the UK is agreeing to pay.
UK negotiators from the Conservative government have caved in completely to demands by the EU27 and will pay up every penny of unpaid bills, loans, pension and other liabilities, costing anything up to 60 billion Euros.
The money will be used to support, among other things, projects to improve eastern European economies, according to discussion on the BBC’s Daily Politics today.
Theresa May offered only 20 billion Euros in her Florence speech, so the Tories have completely failed to hold the cost down. In fact, according to The Guardian (below), the gross total could be £89 billion.
That’s money we’ll be paying.
But it seems we won’t be told the final, settled amount, as both the UK and the EU27 seem keen to keep schtum about it, afraid that it will provoke fury here in Blighty.
That means we should be angry.
It means David Davis has utterly failed in the government’s aim to keep the bill down.
Mr Davis has other things on his mind, though – he should be dragging himself shamefacedly before the Commons Brexit committee to answer allegations that he is treating Parliament with contempt by delivering a single, edited, copy of his Brexit impact assessments, in paper form rather than digitally, rather than providing it in the form demanded.
The Tory government has betrayed us over Brexit because it is weak, yet arrogant. Why are we putting up with it?
The UK has bowed to EU demands on the Brexit divorce bill in a move that could result in the UK paying £50bn to Brussels, in an attempt to get France and Germany to agree to move negotiations to trade.
Non-stop behind-the-scenes negotiations have led to a broad agreement by the UK to a gross financial settlement of £89bn on leaving the bloc, although the British expect the final net bill to be half as much.
A senior EU official told the Guardian that the UK appeared ready to honour its share of the EU’s unpaid bills, loans, pension and other liabilities accrued over 44 years of membership. “We have heard the UK wants to come along with the money,” the official said. “We have understood it covers the liabilities and what we consider the real commitments. But we have to see the fine print.”
The bill could total £53bn to £58bn (€60bn to €65bn), although EU officials are not discussing numbers and the British government will fight hard to bring the total down. While EU sources have spoken in recent months of £53bn to £58bn, both sides are trying to avoid talking numbers to help the British government deal with the potentially toxic political fallout.
The key objective of Theresa May’s speech in Florence has been rejected by France and Germany [Image: PA Wire/PA Images].
Theresa May’s Florence speech can’t have been all that well-received if France and Germany are rejecting its main message.
This is what she gets for assuming she can dictate the pace of Brexit negotiations and the subjects under discussion.
It has been said before, and will be said again – the UK is the weaker participant in these talks; the EU can basically do what it wants and if Mrs May doesn’t like it, she’ll have to lump it.
See if she doesn’t.
Paris and Berlin will reportedly reject requests for Brexit talks to move on to a possible transitional arrangement until the so-called “divorce bill” is settled, in a huge setback to Theresa May after her well received speech in Florence.
In that speech, the Prime Minister proposed a two-year transitional period after the UK leaves the EU, in a bid to break the deadlock of the negotiations.
But, according to the Financial Times, any hope of moving on to discussion of establishing a transitional deal will be effectively vetoed by France and Germany, until the question the UK’s exit settlement is fully agreed.
Why is the cumulative effect of the government’s raid on benefits and other public services continuing to be ignored by the public at large?
Are people deliberately sticking their heads in the sand, perhaps in the hope that, if they avoid it long enough, it’ll go away?
That’s not going to happen.
Here’s an analysis of what’s happening, compiled by Vox Political for a local Mid Wales organisation. It makes sobering reading.
THE HEADLINE FIGURES
Working-age benefits including Jobseekers’ Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support
One per cent rise in each of the next three years, from April 2013.
Frozen until April 2014. Will rise by one per cent in each of the following two years.
Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Pay
One per cent rise in each of the next three years.
Carers’ Allowance and Disability Benefits (other than ESA)
Rise in line with inflation (2.2 per cent in April)
Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits
Rise by one per cent for the next three years, from April 2013. Basic and 30-hour elements – uprating will not apply until 2014.
Local Housing Allowance
Capped at a one per cent rise for two years from April 2014
The one per cent cap in those benefits that are affected will take £3.7 million out of the UK economy over the next three years.
THE BENEFIT CAP
A limit will be put on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. This is called a ‘benefit cap’. Local councils will be introducing this between 15 April and 30 September 2013.
This affects: Carer’s Allowance, Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Employment and Support Allowance (barring support group), Housing Benefit, Incapacity Benefit, Income Support, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Maternity Allowance, Severe Disablement Allowance, Widowed Parent’s Allowance (also Widowed Mother’s Allowance or Widows Pension if receipt began before April 9, 2001), Bereavement Allowance, Guardian’s Allowance.
The expected level is £500 per week for couples and lone parents – equivalent to £26,000 per year (net); and £350 per week for single adults.
Across the UK, 56,000 households will be affected by the benefits cap, including 1,680 in Wales. Job Centres have already notified those who will be affected; they do not include “a vast amount” in Powys.
Legal aid in civil cases is cut by £350 million, meaning people who need qualified advice on social welfare debt, benefits, employment, family problems, clinical negligence, divorce and housing problems will not get it. Those people may have to pursue the cases on their own behalf, clogging up the civil justice system, perhaps for years to come.
More than 500,000 people in need of advice will be denied the help and justice they need.
INDEPENDENT LIVING FUND
The Government has closed this to new applications, and plans to permanently close the scheme from 2015. the ILF provides money to help disabled people live an independent life in the community rather than in residential care.
Disabled people could be forced out of independent living arrangements and into residential care, or trapped at home by the fund’s closure.
This will take £320 million out of the national economy.
NEW BENEFIT – THE PERSONAL INDEPENDENCE PAYMENT
On April 8, 2013, the Personal Independence Payment replaces Disability Living Allowance. PIP will maintain links to passported benefits where possible, and there are special rules for claimants who are terminally ill.
The differences are that claimants must have still have their problem nine months after they apply; and there will be planned interventions and an early reconsideration process.
It is being rolled out gradually and will not affect new claimants in Wales until June. From October, claimants on fixed period awards that are coming up for renewal will be reassessed, along with young people coming up to age 16, and indefinite awards with a change of circumstances. Nobody else will be reassessed until October 2015.
There is no PIP claim form available from the usual sources. Claims are to be made by telephone on an 0800 number, when claimants will be asked general questions – including their bank details. Then a form will be posted to the claimant. It will be individually-addressed and bar-coded with the claimant’s details.
This ‘Digital By Default’ idea creates problems, especially in rural areas. Access to broadband internet is still an issue in places, and capability to use the internet is just as much an issue. People who might have access to broadband may still need help going through the claiming process.
For those with fluctuating conditions, the form will provide an opportunity to explain them.
Claimants can have help completing the form, and reports from health professionals such as occupational therapists and doctors may be added to it.
The form will go to a health professional working for the company Capita (in Wales; other parts of the UK have Atos). They may decide a claimant’s entitlement straight away, but most will be asked to attend a face-to-face interview. It is possible that this company may carry out home visits if the need presents itself.
Attendance with a friend, relative, partner, health professional or similar is encouraged.
All evidence will be reviewed and a report will be sent to the Department for Work and Pensions to make a decision.
The health professional will not make any recommendations at all – a DWP case manager will review the evidence and make a decision.
If a claim is disallowed or reduced, they will phone on three separate dates, at three separate times, to explain the decision. There are concerns that claimants with particular issues such as mental health problems might not understand.
Finally, as part of an ongoing process, questions and replies about PIP will be posted on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page of the DWP’s PIP website, www.dwp.gov.uk/pip
If people are receiving low-rate care component Disability Living Allowance, we believe it is unlikely that they will get Personal Independence Payment.
The www.parliament.uk website itself makes it clear that “A key aim of the new benefit is to deliver savings of over £1 billion a year by 2014-15, rising to £1.5 billion a year by 2016-17.”
HOUSING BENEFIT – THE BEDROOM TAX
People who are working but on low pay, who must therefore claim housing benefit in order to keep a roof over their heads. This means it applies to 93 per cent of people who have claimed housing benefit since the Coalition government came to power.
Separated parents who share the care of their children and who may have been allocated an extra bedroom to reflect this. Benefit rules mean that there must be a designated ‘main carer’ for children (who receives the extra benefit). This is likely to cause friction within these former-family groups.
Couples who use their ‘spare’ bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation.
Parents whose children visit but are not part of the household – but households where there is a room kept for a student studying away from home will not be deemed to be under-occupying if the student is away for less than 52 weeks (under housing benefit) or six months (under Universal Credit). Students are exempt from non-dependant deductions, but full-time students will not be exempt from the Housing Cost Contribution (HCC) which replaces non-dependent deductions under Universal Credit. Students over 21 will face a contribution in the region of £15 per week. Are you confused yet?
Families with disabled children; and
Disabled people, including those living in adapted or specially designed properties (this could mean these people will be required to leave that home for another one, with the added expense of having to re-install all the special adaptations).
The government has withdrawn, under pressure, the application to Foster carers. The original rationale was that foster children were not counted as part of the household for benefit purposes.
It has also withdrawn the application to families of young people serving away from home in the armed forces.
Pensioners will not be affected. The government has clarified that couples in which one member is of pensionable age will both be exempt from the Bedroom Tax. But couples of mixed age claiming for the first time under Universal Credit (after it is introduced – possibly in October this year – will have to wait until both are of pensionable age before being exempted from the charge).
Housing benefit will be restricted to allow for one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of the household. However:
Children under 16, who are either both boys or both girls, will be expected to share. This will undoubtedly create many family feuds as puberty is not known for its calming effect on young people.
Children under 10 will be expected to share, regardless of gender. Again, this will create problems for families. It is not a normal situation and it seems bizarre for the government to suggest that it should be.
On the ‘plus’ side, a disabled tenant or partner who needs a non-resident overnight carer will be allowed an extra bedroom for that carer. If you have a ‘spare’ bedroom under the new rules, you will lose 14 per cent of your housing benefit; for two or more extra bedrooms, you’ll lose a quarter of your benefit. According to the government’s impact assessment, this means 660,000 people will lose an average of £14 per week (£16 for housing association tenants).
Now for the complications.
After Universal Credit is brought in, if only one member of a couple is over pension age, the bedroom tax will apply to the household. If one is receiving Pension Credit, they will be unaffected.
There are currently six different rates of ‘non-dependent deductions’ – amounts removed from housing benefit according to the earnings of people aged over 18 who live in a household but are not dependent on the tenant for financial support. This will become one flat-rate ‘housing cost contribution’ that will be deducted from housing benefit. It will not apply to anyone aged under 21.
Under UC, each adult non-dependent will get their own room, but each must pay the full, flat-rate housing cost contribution – unless aged under 21 and therefore exempt.
Under UC, lodgers will not get a room allowance but any income is disregarded. They will not count as occupying a room under size criteria rules. Currently any income is taken into account and deducted pound for pound from benefit, apart from the first £20. As this income is completely disregarded under UC, my best guess is that the government expects this amount to cover any loss in both housing benefit and Universal Credit. I have a doubt about that. Taking in a lodger will also affect home contents insurance policies, potentially invalidating them or raising the premiums.
Bedroom tax will not apply in joint tenancy cases.
Until UC comes in, benefits will be protected for up to 52 weeks after death; afterwards the run-on will be three months.
And until UC comes in, tenants will receive 13 weeks’ protection where they could previously afford the rent and housing benefit has not been claimed in the previous year; afterwards, the size criteria will apply immediately. Pre-1989 tenancies are not exempt from the bedroom tax.
Disabled children are not exempt, even though David Cameron wrongly claimed they were.
If you’re on a low income, aged over 40 with children who have left home, or disabled, you could be not only slightly but severely and unfairly affected. It seems likely you will have to choose to either pay the extra amount, or move. Surveys say around a third of tenants will try to move, mainly to one-bedroom properties. This is far more than the government has anticipated in its planning.
There is a national shortage of one bedroom council and housing association homes, meaning many tenants will have no choice but to move into the more expensive private sector or stay put – even though they will not be able to afford the extra costs.
The majority will stay put, but nearly eight-tenths (80 per cent) of those are worried about going into debt, with two-fifths (40 per cent) fearing they will accumulate rent arrears.
The evidence shows that, whether you move or stay put, landlords will lose income which evictions and homelessness will increase. A trial of the benefit changes in Torfaen saw rent arrears rise SEVEN-fold to £140,000 over seven months. This was a trial of Universal Credit, of which Housing Benefit will be a part. From this we can conclude that Universal Credit will create more problems, possibly much worse than what we are facing now.
I am glad to report that the plan to withdraw Housing Benefit from claimants aged under 25 has been withdrawn. But anyone under 35 will be entitled to only the shared accommodation rate of housing benefit.
There will be an impact on family relationships – people will be forced to move into properties together. Young people under 35 who can’t live independently because the shared accommodation route won’t let them do that. People are being forced into ‘pressure-cooker’ situations.
People will have to move their home because of the bedroom tax. That will have an impact – not just on individuals, but on education if a child has to move away from a school where they have friends, to a new area.
The government claims the bedroom tax will save £480 million, affecting £660,000 homes who will have to pay at least £700 per year each. But this is only if families refuse to – or are unable to – move to what the government calls suitable accommodation. There is no chance of this happening because the government has not allowed such accommodation to be built; therefore we may see it as a trap, from which to plunder millions from the poor.
THE WIDER IMPLICATIONS
There will be a rise in rent and mortgage arrears.
There will be generally less income – less money available. That’s also for people owning local businesses as benefit income is spent locally and High Street shops will receive less.
There is a huge risk that more and more people will access ‘lenders without conscience’. Responsible lenders, such as credit unions, are fantastic places to put money, but the services provided are different, depending on the union. They will see more and more people coming to them. That will impact on their business model and the risks will be greater.
An increased demand for advice – for example from the Citizens Advice Bureau – is already happening. The figures will ramp up significantly over the next 12 months and beyond. Funding is decreasing.
There will be a big impact on social landlords and the housing market – the availability of affordable housing and landlords’ ability and willingness to rent to tenants on benefits.
Pressure on the appeal system means people waiting longer for the outcome of appeals.
There will be pressure on public sector resources – local authorities will bear the brunt of this, at a time when they have received difficult financial settlements.
The fund for Discretionary Housing Payments is increasing, though – but not by enough. These payments may help people top-up to pay accommodation costs. Given the effects of the reforms, people will also be looking for these payments and in those circumstances, the budget won’t touch the sides of what’s needed.
And the cumulative impact on child poverty will be huge, with an extra 200,000 children falling below the poverty line.
What do you call a Justice Secretary who wants to ensure that access to the justice system is restricted to the fewest people possible – only, in fact, those who can afford it?
What do you call a Justice Secretary who is overseeing plans to ensure that legal aid in civil cases is cut by £350 billion, meaning people who need qualified advice on social welfare debt, employment, family problems, clinical negligence, divorce and housing problems will not get it? Those people may have to pursue the cases on their own behalf, clogging up the civil justice system, perhaps for years to come.
What do you call a man who, as Employment Minister, presided over a scheme of ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ for the unemployed that was worse than useless at getting them into employment but made a great deal of money for the useless ‘Work Placement Provider’ companies to whom he funnelled government money like there was no tomorrow?
You call him Chris Grayling, that’s what.
This walking, talking blight on common sense is now talking about cutting legal aid in criminal cases, eyeing up £1 billion that is currently spent on it.
He wants to sell off guilty defendants’ cars to pay their legal costs. What does he think that’s going to do? Well, let’s put it in his own language. If cutting people’s benefits is likely to “encourage” them into work, taking away a thief’s car is likely to “encourage” him to steal another. His policies will increase crime.
And he wants to introduce price competition into criminal legal aid, ensuring that the cheapest lawyers – not the best – get the work.
He calls it “working to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system as a whole, to move towards swifter resolution of cases before the courts”.
But Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger has said the cuts already going ahead are likely to restrict access to justice. That’s not efficiency.
And Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, has spoken of similar fears that cutting legal aid might undermine the rule of law, with people resorting to violence.
The bar council has warned that the introduction of price competition is “a blunt instrument” assuring “none of the safeguards and qualities which we must expect from our justice system”.
And, as Lord Bach has pointed out, there will be no savings in the end, as the state “will eventually have to pick up the pieces when things get much worse than they need to”.
Sadly, Mr Grayling – who has no legal grounding whatsoever – will ignore this sensible advice. One can only conclude that he wants to increase criminality.
This blog has already discussed the possibility that Defence Secretary Philip Hammond wants to use the armed forces to quell any civil disturbances in the UK. Is Grayling trying to engineer such disturbances deliberately?
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