Tag Archives: earning

Employers should never be allowed to dictate the minimum wage

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Here’s an interesting development: Ed Miliband announced today that a Labour government would link the minimum wage to average earnings, after the Low Pay Commission proved itself woefully inadequate for the job.

Employers’ organisation the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) immediately leapt up to scream that politicians should not set wages, completely missing the point that, under Miliband’s plan, politicians wouldn’t.

CBI chief policy director Katja Hall gave verbal evidence of her inability to understand a simple issue when she told Radio 4’s Today programme: “The system we have at the moment has been really successful and that system involves the setting of the minimum wage by an independent Low Pay Commission… They have done a really good job and we think it’s much better the job is left to them rather than given to politicians.”

… Really?

The Miliband plan would not give the job to politicians. It would make the minimum wage a percentage of the average wage.

Mr Miliband said it was a “basic right” that hard work should be rewarded with fair pay.

He also took time to talk to Today, saying: “This gets at what is a terrible scandal in this country… that we still have five million people in paid work, unable to make ends meet.”

Perhaps the reason the CBI doesn’t like this idea is the fact that the average wage includes its own members’ massively over-inflated salaries. Under the proposed scheme, every increase in their own paycheques would require a similar raise for the lowest-paid workers in the country.

There is no reasonable argument against that, but it is what they are arguing against, nonetheless.

Perhaps politicians’ next target should be the CBI itself.

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‘Social cleansing’ of London is well under way – BBC documentary

Cartoon by Martin Shovel.

Cartoon by Martin Shovel.

Leading Conservatives must be delighted with the success of their benefit cap in getting single mothers and people with large families out of London – as depicted in the BBC Panorama special, Don’t Cap My Benefits, yesterday evening. (Thursday)

The change means that nobody in the UK is allowed to receive more than £26,000 in benefits per year. The government has claimed this is the same as the average family income, but readers of Vox Political will know that this is a flimsy lie and average family income is in fact more than £5,000 per year higher, at £31K+. The reason benefits weren’t pegged at that level is that far fewer people would be affected by it. Make no mistake – this measure was enacted to shift people from the capital.

The film shows the effects of the change on a number of families in Brent, one of London’s worst-hit boroughs, during a period of just six months. Some of them were forced to move away from their lifelong homes to other cities, with one person being threatened with deportation to Manchester. Even people with jobs were forced to go, by council workers whose attitude bordered on the offensively hostile.

Partway through, Vox Political received this comment: “I am watching Panorama, about the benefit cap. It is heart-breaking, mothers are being split up from small children, a single mother who is volunteering at a children’s centre – a good tenant, according to her landlord – is evicted, she has gone from a house to a B&B and the council woman said, ”At least you’re not on the street”. What hope is there?”

Very little, it seems.

The strongest message the documentary gave was that the benefit cap targets minorities and drives them out of London to areas, most commonly in the Midlands or the North, where people are already suffering similar social deprivation. Perhaps the Tories who dreamed up this idea believe the axiom that ‘Misery loves company’.

Of the families or individuals featured in the film, only one was of British ethnic origin – and she was painted as a troublemaker by her landlord. Some were people who had immigrated into the UK (many years ago – so let’s not have any anti-immigration propaganda levelled at them); some were black. All had children – including some who had many more than the average (there were seven in one family). Some were single mothers. Some were in work, but were told that the amount they were earning could not keep them housed in London and they had to go. Some said they were in work but were doubted by housing officers who forced them out anyway (only to discover later that they were telling the truth, and move them back into Brent, possibly at great expense to the taxpayer).

Perhaps we were supposed to look down on these individuals. Were we supposed to believe they had brought these troubles on themselves because they had too many children without considering the cost, or because they had split up from the fathers of their children, or because their jobs paid too little or their rent was too high?

That’s not what this documentary showed at all.

It showed the intentionally vicious effects of a government policy specifically designed to inflict suffering, in order to remove these unwanted social dregs (as Cabinet ministers no doubt see them) and make London more available as a playground for the rich. It is a policy that goes back (as many do) to Thatcherism.

Thatcherism relied on a massive increase in unemployment, the lowering of wages and the increase of housing prices to undermine the self-confidence of working-class communities – and succeeded on a massive scale. But these were the economics of “planned misery”, in the phrase of Rodolfo Walsh, according to The Impact of Thatcherism on Health and Well-Being in Britain, a new report – strongly recommended.

The article states: “As the relative value of benefits fell, and as wage rates for increasingly insecure and feminised, unskilled work were held down, the poorest were becoming poorer and increasingly ‘socially excluded’, blamed, and stigmatised for policy outcomes that the government had in fact fully anticipated.”

It continues: “All of this generated – and was designed to generate – sharply increased inequalities of income and wealth across Britain and a dramatic increase in poverty… Thatcher’s governments wilfully engineered an economic catastrophe across large parts of Britain and sowed the seeds… of a subsequent collapse – which ironically has provided the highly spurious legitimation for a new generation of ‘uber-Thatcherites’ in the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government to go where Thatcher herself had hesitated to tread – a complete dismantling of the welfare state.”

In other words, this government’s answer to poverty is to remove the safety net – and that is what we saw in the Panorama film.

The answer to the problems it depicted isn’t to ship poor people off to the deprived North! The answer is a cap on rents, so they don’t become so high that people can’t pay them. It’s a living wage, to ensure that working people don’t need to claim state benefits – as someone else recently said, how can any industry consider itself ‘private’ if its employees need funding from the state to survive?

Otherwise, as a commenter on the BBC’s Question Time said, a little later in the evening, there will be nobody left in London to provide services such as education, for all the rich kids the Tories and Tory Democrats are no doubt already inviting in.

Right?

What do you think?

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Workers blamed for sinking wages by Tory-controlled BBC

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Congratulations are due to BBC business body Jonty Bloom, who should get an award for the bilge he blathered to justify the fact that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have engineered the longest drop in wages for 50 years.

He blamed employees, saying that they weren’t productive enough.

The Office for National Statistics had reported that real wages have fallen by 2.2 per cent every year since David Cameron took over as Prime Minister in 2010 and, as the Tory’s mass-media mouthpiece, the BBC seem to have tasked Mr Bloom with finding plausible deniability for the Coalition, so that ministers won’t have to take responsibility.

Real wages are worked out by taking the rising cost of living into account while calculating the value of earnings.

The ONS report followed one from the Institute for Fiscal Studies on Thursday, suggesting that a mid-range household’s income between 2013-14 was six per cent below its pre-crisis peak.

Both of these reports were latecomers to this particular party, though. A Labour Party report from August 2013 stated that prices had risen faster than wages in all but one month of Cameron’s premiership – April 2013, when he cut taxes for millionaires and bank bonuses soared. The overall fall in annual real wages was £1,350 at the time that report was written.

The Labour report went on to say that figures from the House of Commons Library forecast that, after inflation, wages will be £1,520 lower in 2015 than in 2010, meaning working people, on average, will have lost £6,660 in real terms during the Coalition Parliament.

You’ll notice the BBC report only provides percentages. Interesting, that.

Over at the BBC, Mr Bloom tried to convince us that “workers have, on average, been working fewer hours during the downturn and that in turn has meant that they are earning less.

“The wage an employer pays… will be based on the productivity of the employee. So if a firm’s output falls, it will respond by reducing either the level of wages or the number of people employed in order to maintain its viability… Many firms seem to have held on to staff but output per hour worked fell, putting downward pressure on wages.”

He also suggested that a shift from higher-paid manufacturing jobs to lower-paid service jobs had contributed.

Sadly for Mr Bloom, we can punch holes through all of his arguments. Firstly, this is the government that insisted private sector jobs growth would outweigh the loss of public sector jobs it was going to inflict on the country. That claim alone suggests that ministers may have pressurised firms to keep employees in-post.

But the downturn meant there was less demand for firms’ products. How could they remain viable? Answer: Cut the hours worked by employees. Could this be the reason part-time and zero-hours contracts have exploded during the course of this Parliament? Part-time workers have fewer holiday entitlements and do not cost employers as much in National Insurance. Zero-hours workers are only called when they are needed and therefore the firm’s overheads are hugely reduced. Bosses benefit while workers go without.

Could this also be why firms have hired outside contractors on a self-employed basis, paying them a set amount per job, no matter how long it takes, in order to bypass the minimum wage law? Contractors earn less than the minimum wage but work far longer hours (without upsetting Mr Bloom’s average).

The productivity of a worker depends on how long they are working; part-time or zero-hours employees work for less time and therefore their productivity cannot be anything but lower than a full-time worker. Self-employed contractors’ pay is fixed in companies’ favour from the start. Mr Bloom’s argument is based on a wages fiddle.

Oh, and that shift from manufacturing to the service industries? Isn’t that something the Conservative-led Coalition has vowed vehemently to reverse, while doing spectacularly little about it? I think it is.

One personal note: My own experience as an employee suggests that firms’ financial woes have far more to do with the idiotic decisions made by executives than with the output of employees. Changes in the market do not lead to inventive and innovative responses; instead, the workers are penalised with lower wages or unemployment. This puts firms in a slow death spiral as continual erosion of the workforce makes managers increasingly less able to cope with the challenges that, unaddressed, rack up against them.

So congratulations, Jonty. You carry on blaming the workers if you want. It won’t make a scrap of difference because the real problems lie with the decisions made by company execs, responding to stupid Tory policies.

What a shame you can’t say anything about that because your employers are so utterly under the Tory thumb.

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The Coalition is creating serious problems and distracting you with phantoms

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According to the beauty industry, women must now start deodorising under their breasts.

I kid you not – it was in The Guardian.

Columnist Jill Filipovic hit the nail on the head when she wrote: “I can already hear your objections: ‘But the area under my boobs doesn’t stink!’ or ‘What kind of marketing genius not only came up with the term “swoob,” but actually thought half the world’s population might be dumb enough to buy into it?’ or simply, ‘This is a dumb product aimed at inventing an insecurity and then claiming to cure it.’

“You would be correct on all three points.

“In fact, inventing problems with women’s bodies and then offering a cure – if you pay up – is the primary purpose of the multi-billion dollar beauty industry.”

The simple fact is that you don’t really need to worry about smells down there – a good old soapy flannel will cure any such problems.

That’s not the point, though. The aim is to get you thinking about it and devoting your energy to it, rather than to other matters.

Now let’s translate that to politics.

We already know that all the scaremongering about Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants storming the country from January 1 was a crock. That bastion of good statistics, The Now Show, told us last week that the total number of Bulgarian immigrants in the last couple of weeks was “around two dozen so far”, according to their ambassador. In the first three months after our borders were opened to Croatians, 174 turned up.

Yet the government wanted you to believe they would flood our immigration service in their millions, “taking benefits and yet simultaneously also taking all the jobs”.

My use of language such as “storming” and “flood” is not accidental. By far the more serious threat to the UK in the early days of 2014 was the weather – and, guess what, not only was the government unprepared for the ferocity of the storms that swept our islands, the Coalition was in fact in the process of cutting funding for flood defence.

This would have gone unnoticed if the weather had behaved itself, because we would all have been distracted by the single Romanian immigrant who was ensnared by Keith Vaz in a ring of TV cameras at Heathrow Airport.

Now the Tories are telling us that our take-home pay is finally on the rise for all but the top 10 per cent of earners, with the rest of us seeing our wages rise by at least 2.5 per cent.

The government made its claims (up) by taking into account only cuts to income tax and national insurance, using data leading up to April last year, according to the BBC News website.

This kind of nonsense is easily overcome – New Statesman published the above chart, showing the real effect of changes to weekly income for people in various income groups, and also provided the reason for the government’s mistake (if that’s what it was).

“The data used … takes no account of the large benefit cuts introduced by the coalition, such as the real-terms cut in child benefit, the uprating of benefits in line with CPI inflation rather than RPI, and the cuts to tax credits,” writes the Statesman‘s George Eaton.”

He also pointed out that other major cuts such as the bedroom tax, the benefit cap, and the 10 per cent cut in council tax support were introduced after April 2013 and were not included in the Coalition figures.

Once all tax and benefit changes are taken into account, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that almost all families are worse off – and the Coalition also appears to have forgotten the five million low-paid workers who don’t earn enough to benefit from the increase in the personal allowance.

Skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock compounded the mistake in an exchange on Twitter with Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). Asked why his analysis “ignores more than four million people in work (the self-employed)”, Mr Hancock tweeted: “Analysis based on ONS ASHE survey of household earnings data”.

Wrong – as Mr Portes was quick to show: “Don’t you know the difference between household and individual earnings?”

Apparently not. ASHE (Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings) is a survey of employed individuals using their National Insurance numbers – not of households or the self-employed.

So the Coalition – and particularly the Tories – were trying to make us all feel good about the amount we earn.

That’s the distraction. What are we supposed to be ignoring?

Would it be David Cameron’s attempt to bribe councils into allowing shale gas companies to frack their land? Councils that back fracking will get to keep all the business rates collected from the schemes – rather than the usual 50 per cent.

He has also claimed that fracking can boost the economy and encourage businesses into the country, in a further bid to talk down dissent.

Or is it the growing threat of a rise in interest rates, which may be triggered when official unemployment figures – which have been fiddled by increased sanctions on jobseekers, rigged reassessments of benefit claimants, a new scheme to increase the number of people and time spent on Workfare, and the fake economic upturn created by George Osborne’s housing bubble – drop to seven per cent?

It seems possible that the government – especially the Tory part of it – would want to keep people from considering the implications of an interest rate rise that is based on false figures.

As Vox Political commenter Jonathan Wilson wrote yesterday: “If the BOE bases its decisions on incorrect manipulated data that presents a false ‘good news’ analysis then potentially it could do something based on it that would have catastrophic consequences.

“For example if its unemployment rate test is reached, and wages were going up by X per cent against a Y per cent inflation rate which predicted that an interest rate rise of Z per cent would have no general effect and not impact on house prices nor significantly increase repossessions (when X per cent is over-inflated by the top 1 per cent of earners, Y per cent is unrealistically low due to, say, the 50 quid green reduction and/or shops massively discounting to inflate purchases/turnover and not profit) and when it does, instead of tapping on the breaks lightly it slams the gears into reverse while still traveling forward… repossessions go up hugely, house prices suffer a major downward re-evaluation (due to tens of thousands of repossessions hitting the auction rooms) debt rates hit the roof, people stop buying white goods and make do with last year’s iPad/phone/tv/sofa, major retail goes tits up, Amazon goes to the wall, the delivery market and post collapses… etc etc.

“And all because the government fiddled the figures.”

Perhaps Mr Cameron doesn’t want us thinking about that when we could be deodorising our breasts instead.

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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.

Zero hours, zero benefits, zero enthusiasm. Why would anyone take a job on these terms?

The rise of zero-hours contracts: These figures from the Office for National Statistics may be showing only one-fifth of the picture, according to new research.

The rise of zero-hours contracts: These figures from the Office for National Statistics may be showing only one-fifth of the picture, according to new research.

The rise of the zero-hours contract must be deeply disturbing to all those with an interest in fair employment practices.

The arrangement is that an employee agrees to be available for work whenever required, but with no set number of hours or times of work specified. The employee is expected to be on-call at all times but is paid only for the number of hours that are actually worked.

There appears to be no pension scheme, no sickness cover, no holiday entitlement – no rights other than those laid down by health and safety regulations (which the government is trying to ditch) and the National Minimum Wage Act (also under threat from the Conservative-led government).

Also, the system is open to abuse by managers, who can use it to reward some employees (and the term is used in its loosest possible sense) with extra hours or punish others with fewer.

And how, exactly, is an employee supposed to be engaged in, and enthusiastic about, a job where they are treated as a disposable commodity, to be picked up and thrown away whenever it is expedient?

It seems possible that there is an argument in favour of zero-hours contracts – but only for employees who want to top-up another income stream; people who want occasional earnings and are flexible about when they work. The problem here is that it seems likely employers will want these people to work at times when it will be hard to meet the commitment.

For anyone else – including people who are unemployed, penniless, and need the certainty of a properly-constituted employment contract with set hours, pay and conditions, there seems to be no point in taking up such a contract at all. Yet they are proliferating across the UK.

Is the Department of Work and Pensions, through the Job Centre Plus network, forcing these conditions on jobseekers?

Such a situation might be a huge boost to employment figures, but it would also explain why average pay has fallen so drastically in recent years and the economy has failed – so abjectly – to reignite.

Today (Monday) it is being reported that more than a million UK workers are on zero-hours contracts – four times official estimates.

The BBC is reporting that 14 per cent of these could not earn a basic standard of living. If Job Centres are forcing people into these jobs, via the sanctions regime, this is scandalous. Perhaps it is permitted by law, but this would only mean that the government should have a duty to ensure that jobs which are taken under the threat of sanction are capable of providing this basic standard.

Worse still for the government is the allegation, in research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, that public sector firms – those with government contracts – are more likely to use zero-hours contracts than private companies.

This is particularly prevalent in education and healthcare.

And how is the benefits system affected by these contracts?

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese told the BBC: “Zero-hours contracts cannot be used simply to avoid an employer’s responsibilities to its employees.” But isn’t that exactly how they are being used? Don’t the number of people saying they can’t make ends meet, and the wider state of the economy, indicate exactly that?

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis seems to have got it right when he said: “The vast majority of workers are only on these contracts because they have no choice. They may give flexibility to a few, but the balance of power favours the employers and makes it hard for workers to complain.

“The growing number of zero-hours contracts also calls into question government unemployment figures.”

Business secretary Vince Cable has ordered a review of the zero-hours contracts system, to take place over the summer. He played down fears of abuse, saying evidence was “anecdotal” and adding that “it’s important our workforce remains flexible” (in employment terms, this means all the power is with the employer, while the actual worker has to adapt to the circumstances foisted upon them).

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham called for zero-hours contracts to be banned, back in April this year.

It seems clear that they are unsafe and open to abuse. But would an all-out ban be appropriate?

Would it not be wiser for Job Centres to continue advertising them, but with no obligation to recommend them to jobseekers (and certainly no requirement to force anyone into applying for them), and with a requirement to warn anyone considering taking up such a position about the possibility that they will not be able to survive on the pay provided?

This might go some way to redressing the balance of power with employers; without the coercive power of the government supporting these contracts, they might try more traditional (and fairer) employment models.

This is a subject worth more examination. What are your thoughts?

The benefit cap reveals the black centre of IDS’ mind

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The long-feared roll-out of the benefit cap happened today. There has been a great deal of shouting about it from all sides, but it is possible to get a balanced view – by linking news articles from opposing sources such as, say, New Statesman, the BBC and the Daily Mail.

Yes, the Daily Mail. I’m serious.

The benefit cap is one of the Coalition’s most popular policies – not the ONLY popular policy; believe it or not, a sizeable proportion of the population think Cameron and Co are doing a good job. New Statesman quotes a YouGov poll in which 79 per cent of people, including 71 per cent of Labour voters, support the cap – with just 12 per cent opposed. The Mail quotes Ipsos Mori, whose poll states 74 per cent support the cap.

We’ll start with the Statesman, which gives us the facts that Iain Duncan Smith – architect of the policy – won’t want people to know:

“1. An out-of-work family is never better off than an in-work family

The claim on which the policy rests – that a non-working family can be better off than a working one – is a myth since it takes no account of the benefits that an in-work family can claim to increase their income. For instance, a couple with four children earning £26,000 after tax and with rent and council tax liabilities of £400 a week is entitled to around £15,000 a year in housing benefit and council tax support, £3,146 in child benefit and more than £4,000 in tax credits.

“Were the cap based on the average income (as opposed to average earnings) of a working family, it would be set at a significantly higher level of £31,500. The suggestion that the welfare system “rewards” worklessness isn’t true; families are already better off in employment. Thus, the two central arguments for the policy – that it will improve work incentives and end the “unfairness” of out-of-work families receiving more than their in-work equivalents – fall down.

“Contrary to ministers’ rhetoric, the cap will hit in-work as well as out-of-work families. A single person must be working at least 16 hours a week and a couple at least 24 hours a week (with one member working at least 16 hours) to avoid the cap.

“2. It will punish large families and increase child poverty

The cap applies regardless of family size, breaking the link between need and benefits. As a result, most out-of-work families with four children and all those with five or more will be pushed into poverty (defined as having an income below 60 per cent of the median income for families of a similar size). Duncan Smith has claimed that “at £26,000 a year it’s very difficult to believe that families will be plunged into poverty” but his own department’s figures show that the poverty threshold for a non-working family with four children, at least two of whom are over 14, is £26,566 – £566 above the cap. The government’s Impact Assessment found that 52 per cent of those families affected have four or more children.

By applying the policy retrospectively, the government has chosen to penalise families for having children on the reasonable assumption that existing levels of support would be maintained. While a childless couple who have never worked will be able to claim benefits as before (provided they do not exceed the cap), a large family that falls on hard times will now suffer a dramatic loss of income. It was this that led the House of Lords to vote in favour of an amendment by Church of England bishops to exclude child benefit from the cap (which would halve the number of families affected) but the defeat was subsequently overturned by the government in the Commons.

“The DWP has released no official estimate of the likely increase in child poverty but a leaked government analysis suggested around 100,000 would fall below the threshold once the cap is introduced.

“3. It will likely cost more than it saves

“For all the political attention devoted to it, the cap is expected to save just £110m a year, barely a rounding error in the £201bn benefits bill. But even these savings could be wiped out due to the cost to local authorities of homelessness and housing families in temporary accommodation. As a leaked letter from Eric Pickles’s office to David Cameron stated, the measure “does not take account of the additional costs to local authorities (through homelessness and temporary accommodation). In fact we think it is likely that the policy as it stands will generate a net cost. In addition Local Authorities will have to calculate and administer reduced Housing Benefit to keep within the cap and this will mean both demands on resource and difficult handling locally.”

“4. It will increase homelessness and do nothing to address the housing crisis

“Most of those who fall foul of the cap do so because of the amount they receive in housing benefit (or, more accurately, landlord subsidy) in order to pay their rent. At £23.8bn, the housing benefit bill, which now accounts for more than a tenth of the welfare budget, is far too high but rather than tackling the root of the problem by building more affordable housing, the government has chosen to punish families unable to afford reasonable accommodation without state support.

“The cap will increase homelessness by 40,000 and force councils to relocate families hundreds of miles away, disrupting their children’s education and reducing employment opportunities (by requiring them to live in an area where they have no history of working).

“5. It will encourage family break-up

Duncan Smith talks passionately of his desire to reduce family breakdown but the cap will serve to encourage it. As Simon Hughes has pointed out, the measure creates “a financial incentive to be apart” since parents who live separately and divide the residency of their children between them will be able to claim up to £1,000 a week in benefits, while a couple living together will only be able to claim £500.”

The BBC opened with a much sunnier perspective that has caused Vox Political to send a query to the UK Statistics Authority.

According to the report, “More than 12,000 people have moved into work after being told about the benefits cap, the government says.” Oh, really?

“The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said that 12,000 claimants have found jobs over the last year, after being contacted by job centres,” the BBC report went on. “The job centres warned them they might have their benefits capped if they did not find employment.”

Didn’t Iain Duncan Smith get into trouble only a few months ago, for reporting that 8,000 people had moved into work after being told about the cap?

Only last week, his own officials told the Work and Pensions committee he had ignored small print in their reports, stating clearly that he could not use the figures to claim that any “behavioural change” had taken place.

Vox‘s article last week quoted Dame Anne Begg, who asked: “So no-one checking the written articles from the Secretary of State – from the statisticians’ point of view – actually said ‘Secretary of State – if you look at the little footnote… It says that you cannot interpret that these people have gone into work as a result of these statistics’. Nobody pointed that out?“

John Shield, Director of Communications at the DWP, responded: “In this instance it did involve the press office. I’m just trying to be clear that not everything that comes out of the department will go through us – particularly when there are political ends.”

In other words, the Secretary of State ignored his advisors to make a political point that had no basis in fact. He lied to the public.

How do we know he isn’t doing it again?

A letter to Mr Dilnot is in order, I think.

Finally, to the Daily Mail, where it was reported that “Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith today accused the BBC of launching a ‘politically-motivated’ attack on government plans to cap benefits at £26,000.

“The Work and Pensions Secretary accused the Corporation of using ‘lots of little cases’ to claim that limiting welfare payments would not get people back to work.”

Unfortunately for Mr… Smith, his story unravelled further down the piece, when it was revealed that he told the nation that HIS evidence is right because it’s from people working in Jobcentres: “This is advisers, they talk to me… I talk to people actually in the Jobcentres.”

That’s anecdotal, and may not be used to suggest a national trend. He is using lots of little cases to claim that his cap will work.

So we go from the cold, hard facts, to the comforting fantasy, to the shattering of the Secretary-in-a-State’s temper on national radio when the flaws in his scheme were exposed.

Mail readers, in that paper’s ‘comment’ column, seem to have supported his viewpoint – despite the facts.

Will their opinions change when the horror stories start appearing – or will they stick their fingers in their ears and scream, “La la la I’m not listeniiiiiing!” – as Mr… Smith did (figuratively speaking) on the Today programme?

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Lord Young – a talking example of why working people should never vote Conservative

Unrepentant: Ignorant old Tories like Lord Young cannot see anything wrong with starving workers - and, through lack of tax revenue, the benefits bill - to make fat profits for greedy business bosses. The families of all those who have died because of these policies might have a different point of view.

Unrepentant: Ignorant old Tories like Lord Young cannot see anything wrong with starving workers – and, through lack of tax revenue, the benefit budget – to make fat profits for greedy business bosses. The families of all those who have died because of these policies might have a different point of view.

Apparently we are living in an excellent time for businesses to boost their profits – because labour is cheap.

That is what Lord Young, who advises David Cameron on enterprise, told the cabinet yesterday (May 11). His words make it crystal clear that working people who vote Conservative are classic examples of turkeys voting for Christmas. They beg to be exploited.

He said low wage levels in a recession made larger financial returns easier to achieve – in other words, he actually admitted that bosses could use the current state of the UK economy, as caused by his own government (not the previous Labour administration, for reasons we’ve covered in the past), to push workers’ wages down and keep more moolah for themselves.

Vox Political has accused the Conservatives of exactly this behaviour in the past, but we never expected to see a member of the government admit it so brazenly.

Perhaps this is more of the government’s pet ‘nudge’ theory at work. We have seen that benefit increases have been lowered in order to instil fear of destitution in the jobless, and in those who have low-paid jobs. Now, businesses are being urged to capitalise on this, exploiting their workforces with the obvious threat: “There are plenty of other people out there who’ll do it for less!”

Let’s just back this up with some statistics, courtesy of The Guardian , shall we? UK employees’ average hourly earnings have fallen by 8.5 per cent, in real terms, since 2009. That’s adjusting for inflation, and the newspaper got its figure from the Office for National Statistics.

Meanwhile, the 1,000 richest people in the UK are now worth more than £414 billion – up more than £155 billion in the three years to December 2012. And in April, the Tory-led government gave those people a £100,000 per year tax cut.

Lord Young is not to be confused with Sir George Young, the Tory Chief Whip who once famously said “the homeless are what you step over when you come out of the opera” – but he is cut from the same cloth.

He had to apologise after telling the Daily Telegraph that “for the vast majority of people in the country today, they have never had it so good, ever since this recession – this so-called recession – started”.

For this reason it is easy to suggest that he would have stepped over the body of Stephanie Bottrill, had he been the first to find it.

Oh – do you think that statement goes too far? Please, reserve your judgement until I have explained my reasoning.

Like so many members of the Tory government, this is a man who absolutely point-blank refuses to understand the relationship between the decisions he makes and the conditions in which the majority of us are forced to live.

This former advisor to the Prime Minister on health and safety laws has advocated relaxing them, ignoring the fact that this will increase the likelihood of work-related injury that makes it impossible for people who need the money to go to work.

This enterprise advisor was asked to conduct a “brutal” review of the relationship of government to small firms, presumably with a view to cutting off as much public assistance for small businesses as possible.

This former chairman of the Manpower Services Commission advised the late Baroness Thatcher on unemployment, and we may take it that it is due to this advice that joblessness skyrocketed during the Thatcher years.

He refuses to see that his attitude is causing the problem: By ensuring that Britain’s labour market remains “flexible” (read “low-wage”), he ensures that the national tax take remains far lower than it should be; low-paid workers form the overwhelming majority of the workforce. In turn, the low tax take means the government cannot pay off its debts and provides it with an excuse to cut public spending – especially on benefit payments.

Stephanie Bottrill had an auto-immune system deficiency, Myasthenia gravis, which meant she was permanently weak and needed constant medication. Doctors said she was too ill to hold a job, but she never qualified for disability benefits.

She committed suicide because she could not afford the cost of living after the Bedroom Tax was forced on her, and it has been said by others that she died for want of £20 per week.

It is the attitude of Tories like Lord Young that has deprived her of that money – and ultimately, of her life.