Tag Archives: full-time

Coalition to impose sanctions on housing benefit

130905universalcredit

Part-time workers who are judged to be doing too little to find full-time work could have their Housing Benefit sanctioned by the government when Universal Credit comes into full force, according to Inside Housing.

The revelation is the latest in a long line of benefit betrayals to be inflicted on the poor by the Coalition government. The new development also means landlords stand to lose out.

The Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed to Inside Housing that under Universal Credit, where a tenant is working less than 35 hours per week at minimum wage and is not eligible for JSA or ESA, then the housing element can be sanctioned instead.

It seems clear that the government is determined that it should be able to take income away from everyone who is not being properly paid by their employer. Does this seem fair to you?

Under the present system, Housing Benefit is paid direct to landlords, meaning sanctions against tenants can only be applied to out-of-work benefits like Jobseekers’ Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance. The aim is to use Universal Credit to spread the threat of sanctions so that it covers people in low-paid work as well. Would you consider any government that did this to be standing up “for hardworking people”?

The article quotes a DWP spokesperson who said: “It is only right that people claiming benefits should be aware that not sticking to the rules can have a consequence.”

This, of course, assumes that a person is breaking the rules if their employer refuses to improve their working conditions… but we know that the government has altered working conditions to ensure that employers are under no pressure to do so; the benefit cap, and the one per cent limit on the annual uprating of benefits have ensured that people without jobs will become continually worse-off, so those who are in work cannot demand pay increases for fear of being handed their P45s and told that someone else will do their job for less.

Are these the actions of a government that believes we are “all in it together”?

If anybody thinks they can find justification for this behaviour, please get in touch.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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The State of Osborne: a visitor’s guide

A moment of crisis for David Cameron as he realises it is unlikely that George Osborne has the faintest idea what the Autumn Statement means.

A moment of crisis for David Cameron as he realises it is unlikely that George Osborne has the faintest idea what the Autumn Statement means.

If anybody else had prattled on for 50 minutes while hardly uttering a single sensible word, they would have been consigned to a mental hospital forthwith.

But this is Coalition Britain, and the speaker was George Osborne, the man who likes to tell us all that he is in charge of the nation’s finances. Thanks to his government’s Department for Work and Pensions, nobody is allowed to have mental illnesses anymore; after this speech, it seems likely we all have an idea about the reason for that.

A 50-minute speech is a lot of verbiage, and it is certain that worthier journalists across Britain – if not the world – have already analysed it to exhaustion. Allow me to let you into a secret:

They’re probably trying too hard.

Most of the speech was about putting Labour down. The Opposition has made all the headway over the past few weeks, and we all knew Osborne was under orders to change the mood music of the nation in time for Christmas.

Did he manage it? Not really. His speeches always come across as strained events, where he’s making an effort to be clever without ever achieving it. As a result, the message gets lost. We can therefore discount the Labour-bashing.

That leaves us with what he actually said. Even here, his meaning was at times opaque. What follows is an attempt to provide a handy guide to George-speak, for anyone unfortunate enough to have heard him yesterday.

Osborne: “We have held our nerve while those who predicted there would be no growth until we turned the spending taps back on have been proved comprehensively wrong.”/Meaning: “I am lying. Austerity failed miserably and the economy flatlined. A few months ago I realised that we would have nothing to show at election time so I turned the spending taps back on, with Help To Buy and Funding For Lending. I know that these are exactly the sort of Keynesian economic levers that I preached against for three years but I’m hoping that nobody noticed.”

The hard work of the British people is paying off, and we will not squander their efforts./Osborne appears to be celebrating his three years of stagnation. He inherited growth and decided to trash it. (MagsNews on Twitter)

There was no double-dip recession./“Phew! Lucky escape there!”

At the time of the Budget in March, the Office of Budget Responsibility forecast that growth this year would be 0.6 per cent. Today, it more than doubles that forecast and the estimate for growth will be 1.4 per cent./“Please God don’t let anybody remember that three years ago, the forecast for this year was 2.9 per cent.”

Today in Britain, employment is at an all-time high… We have the lowest proportion of workless households for 17 years./These jobs have increased the numbers of the working poor. Too few are full-time; too many are part-time, zero-hours or self-employed, serving up no National Insurance contributions from employers, no holiday or sick pay, or making contractors work long hours for less than the minimum wage.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit has fallen by more than 200,000 in the past six months—the largest such fall for 16 years./“And we have imposed sanctions on more people on Jobseekers’ Allowance than ever before, in order to produce that figure.”

By 2018-19, on this measure, the OBR does not expect a deficit at all. Instead, it expects Britain to run a small surplus. These numbers mean that the Government will meet their fiscal mandate to bring the structural current budget into balance and meet it one year early./Although of course the books were initially supposed to be balanced by 2015. (Huffington Post live blog)

This year, we will borrow £111 billion, which is £9 billion less than was feared in March./…and £41 billion more than forecast in 2010.

We will cap overall welfare spending./But this will not include the state pension (half the social security budget) or the most cyclical jobseeker benefits./”A living wage would mean less dosh on in-work benefits; letting councils build would mean less subsidies for private landlords.” (Owen Jones on Twitter)

Pensioners will be more than £800 better off every year./But as usual he’s ignoring the VAT elephant in the room. (Mark Ferguson on Twitter)

We think that a fair principle is that, as now, people should expect to spend up to a third of their adult lives in retirement. Based on the latest life expectancy figures, applying that principle would mean an increase in the state pension age to 68 in the mid-2030s and to 69 in the late 2040s./But life expectancy depends on where you live and how much money you have, meaning the poor continue to pay more towards the pensions of the rich./”Current pensioners better off – future pensioners paying for it. What was that about “making our kids pay for current spending” George?” (Mark Ferguson of LabourList on Twitter)

Most wealthy people pay their taxes and make a huge contribution to funding our public services; the latest figures show that 30 per cent of all income tax is paid by just one per cent of taxpayers./Estimates of the amount of tax that is not collected range between £25-£120 billion per year and it is not the poor who aren’t paying up.

This year the rich pay a greater share of the nation’s income taxes than was the case in any year under the last Labour Government./Because they now have more income. Simple really. (Tom Clark of The Guardian, on Twitter)

Today we set out in detail the largest package of measures to tackle tax avoidance, tax evasion, fraud and error so far this Parliament. Together it will raise over £9 billion over the next five years./Including capital gains tax for foreign investors on sales of UK property, which has nothing to do with tax avoidance/evasion, fraud or error.

We must confront this simple truth: if we want more people to own a home, we have to build more homes… The latest survey data showed residential construction growing at its fastest rate for a decade./The rate of house building is at its lowest peacetime level since the 1920s

This autumn statement has found the financial resources to fund the expansion of free school meals to all school children in reception, year 1 and year 2, announced by the Deputy Prime Minister and supported by me./On Wednesday, the Lib Dems and Michael Gove’s education department argued over who had to pay for it.

Extra funding will be provided to science, technology, and engineering courses [in universities]. The new loans will be financed by selling the old student loan book, allowing thousands more to achieve their potential./And pushing thousands into the hands of debt collectors.

The best way to help business is by lowering the burden of tax. KPMG’s report last week confirmed for the second year running that Britain has the most competitive business tax system in the world./KPMG would know – it writes the tax system and also runs some of the larger tax avoidance schemes.

From April 2015 we will introduce a new transferable tax allowance for married couples… Four million families will benefit, many of them among the poorest working families in our country./Osborne says the Tories are backing British Families – but only ones who are married it seems. (Mark Ferguson on Twitter)/While the new tax arrangements bribe families to marry, the benefit cap will bribe big families to split up. (Tom Clark on Twitter)

We are all in this together./The biggest lie of this Parliament.

We are also helping families with their energy bills./Commence the cutting of the “green crap”. This from the “Greenest government ever”. (Mark Ferguson on Twitter)

Next year’s fuel duty rise will be cancelled./This is a cut in a tax that was never imposed in the first place.

We are going to abolish the jobs tax on young people under the age of 21. Employer national insurance contributions will be removed altogether on a million and a half jobs for young people./Young people will therefore have less chance to get contribution-based benefit. National Insurance assures people their pension contributions – except when it isn’t paid. So they will have no contributions to show for any years they worked before 21 and will have to work until their late 60s.

The cost for a business of employing a young person on a salary of £12,000 will fall by over £500./This is a bonus for businesses, not employees.

“Jobs tax” – it’s ludicrous, isn’t it? National Insurance has been a respected part of British life for more than 100 years but Osborne, living as he does in a mythical Victorian-era golden age that never actually existed, thinks it is a “jobs tax”. Either that or he’s still bruised by the fact that Labour’s labelling of the under-occupation charge as a Bedroom Tax caught on with the public.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls got on his feet and immediately attacked Osborne’s “breathtaking complacency” for denying the drop in living standards faced by everyone in the country, with families already £1,600 per year worse off. Osborne laughed. He thought that was funny.

The Shadow Chancellor pointed out that we are enduring the slowest recovery in a century, and that average real wages will have dropped by 5.8 per cent by the end of the Parliament (except for fatcat business bosses).

He was having a hard time getting his points across, however, because Tory MPs were heckling him very loudly. Owen Jones tweeted, appositely, “Do the Tories think that a bunch of braying MPs dripping with privilege, while ordinary people’s living standards crash, is good TV?”

Maybe they did. Maybe they thought they had the public on their side.

Let’s have a look at a few comments from the public – courtesy of the Huffington Post:

“Planning to kill more people, George?” (Robin Stacey)

“Spend more you wet lipped monkey.” (Will Moriarty)

“No one has an ounce of faith in anything you say, you parasitic pool of curdled warthog’s puke.” (Anthony Nicholas)

And finally: “Hope you end the speech with your resignation x” (Joanne Wood – and yes, she did mean to end with a kiss).

What a shame Osborne did not follow her advice.

 

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Windbag Cameron is afraid to give us the facts

Leading us down the garden path: Cameron wants us to believe the economy is growing but, like a bad gardener, he hasn't fertilised it, and has allowed it to be overrun with weeds. [Image: Andy Davey www.andydavey.com]

Leading us down the garden path: Cameron wants us to believe the economy is growing but, like a bad gardener, he hasn’t fertilised it, and has allowed it to be overrun with weeds. [Image: Andy Davey www.andydavey.com]

“The week before the autumn statement, and the right honourable gentleman [Ed Miliband] cannot ask about the economy because it is growing. He cannot ask about the deficit because it is falling. He cannot ask about the numbers in work because they are rising. People can see that we have a long-term plan to turn our country around.”

Strong words – uttered by David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday (November 27).

What a shame he chose to give Parliament bluster instead of facts.

Does he think that the economy is growing because of the housing price bubble engineered by his deranged Chancellor via his ‘Help to Buy’ scheme? It is massively increasing the cost of housing in London but will inevitably lead to a crash and the loss of serious amounts of money for both buyers and the government (as mortgage underwriter). The Bank of England has revealed that it has no power of veto and can only advise on whether the scheme should continue – it is for the Conservative-led government to decide how long it will last.

Gideon’s ‘Help to Buy’ offers unsupported mortgage guarantees to buyers and lenders. He has not said where he will find the money for it. Critics have warned that this is simply creating another housing-fuelled debt bubble that will burst in a couple of years’ time, leaving even more people in debt than after the financial crisis hit us all.

Michael Meacher has read the £130 billion scheme right – as we can see from his blog: “Where does that sort of money come from when the public accounts are under extreme pressure to make enormous cuts? State-subsidised mortgages for the well-off (houses valued at up to £600,000) seems, even for Osborne, a strange decision when some of the poorest tenants in the country are at the same time being expelled from their homes by the bedroom tax.

“It can only be explained by Osborne panicking at the time of the March budget this year that the economy showed no sign of recovery in time for the 2015 election, made worse by his mistaken increase in VAT and big cuts in capital spending. He chose a big artificial stimulus of the mortgage market to kick-start the moribund economy, repeating the mistake of every previous boom triggered by consumer borrowing and a pumped-up housing market, an inevitable forerunner eventually of yet another round of boom and bust.”

Does Cameron really think the deficit is falling fast enough to revitalise the nation’s economy? In October, borrowing (excluding the cost of interventions like bank bailouts, so we’re already in the realm of made-up figures) fell by two one-hundred-and-thirds, from £8.24 billion in the same month last year to £8.08 billion.

We are told the aim is to keep borrowing for 2013-14 at £120 billion or below. In his ‘Emergency Budget’ of 2010, Osborne predicted that borrowing this year would be down to half that – at £60 billion, and estimates have been rising ever since.

The 2011 budget had the 2013-14 deficit at £70 billion; in 2012 it was expected to be £98 billion; and now £120 billion – double Osborne’s prediction when he became Chancellor.

As for the numbers of people in work, let’s ask Cameron: If more people are working, why has productivity fallen back to the level it reached in 2005? Is it because employers are taking on workers in part-time, zero-hours or self-employed contracts, rather than full-time, in order to take advantage of the opportunity to get out of their holiday pay, sick pay and National Insurance obligations? This seems most likely.

Average wages have been cut by nine per cent since 2010, in real terms, and are still falling. Should Cameron really be boasting about this?

Now German-owned energy firm Npower is cutting 1,460 British jobs. It seems customer service and back-office functions will be outsourced to those well-known friends of the UK government, Capita and Tata.

Kingfisher, the owner of DIY chains B&Q and Screwfix, has suffered a five per cent drop in share values after profits dipped.

And Hibu, the company that owns Yellow Pages, has gone into administration with £2.3 billion of debts. Another old friend of the UK government – Deloitte – will profit from this as administrator – but who knows what will happen to Hibu’s 12,000 employees?

These are just today’s business headlines on the BBC News website – the day after Cameron boasted that the economy was on the rise, the deficit dropping and employment was soaring.

What we’re seeing is not a Prime Minister and Chancellor leading the country back to prosperity.

It’s time we realised that these two chancers have been leading us down the garden path.

The Tory share of the vote is dwindling – why is Labour chasing it?

"Who's been sitting in MY chair?" Nick Clegg would be right to feel supplanted as Labour moves further rightwards, groping for Tory votes - that aren't even there.

“Who’s been sitting in MY chair?” Nick Clegg would be right to feel supplanted as Labour moves further rightwards, groping for Tory votes – that aren’t even there. [Picture: Reuters]

One of the things that really rankled about Rachel Reeves’ attempt at Tory talk in yesterday’s Observer was the (observable) fact that she didn’t need to.

Why try to out-Tory the Conservatives when their share of the vote has been going down at every election – among a proportion of active voters that is – itself – reducing?

So in 1955, they managed to snag 49.6 per cent of the votes. In 2010 this had dropped to 36.1 per cent. Turnout was 76.8 per cent in the first instance and 65.1 in the second. They got 38 per cent of all available votes in 1955 and 23.5 per cent in 2010.

Some could point out that Labour’s share in 2010 was only 29 per cent – around 18.8 per cent of all available votes – but this just proves the point. Neoliberal New Labour were very close to the Conservatives in outlook and policy and most people in the UK don’t want that.

But Rachel Reeves indicated that these policies would continue on her watch, and that’s why people reacted so strongly against the Observer interview.

Perhaps Labour should have done some research on this. Yes, the party has its ‘Your Britain’ website, for members to bring forward ideas – but I’ve been there and didn’t like it. It seemed needlessly complicated, with efforts made to get people discussing particular policy areas at particular times when it would have been better to let people just say what they want – when they want – and sort it out at the receiving end.

Besides – that’s just for members. How much research has Labour done on the doorstep? What do people who aren’t aligned to either main political party want? That is where Labour will get its votes.

Even pointing to research by the polling organisations doesn’t help here. Ipsos-MORI famously polled more than 2,500 people about the benefit cap earlier this year, and Iain Duncan Smith was delighted to announce that a significant majority of respondents were in favour.

It was left to this very blog to break the news that only 21 per cent of those respondents knew enough about the cap to give an educated opinion. It would be informative to know how many – of all the respondents, not just the 21 per cent – were actually affected by it.

All of this is a great shame that may worsen into a missed opportunity. There are some terrific ideas around at the moment and all Rachel Reeves – and Labour as a whole – has to do is look around for them.

The Fabian Society website carried an article entitled Welcome to DWP the other day, in which most current proposals for reform of the system were rejected – which is a telling indictment of the state of the nation in itself. The stated reasons were that they would reduce the incomes of poor families (no thank you, Labour! You’re not going to out-Tory the Tories!) or fatally undermine universalism.

But among the ideas that were there, it was suggested Labour needs to reform individual benefits before setting its planned upper ceiling on the benefits budget. To that, I would add that the ceiling needs to be described as a proportion of a Labour government’s overall budget – not limited to a particular sum of money. This is the only way to keep it fair as inflation increases costs and devalues the pounds in our pockets, year on year.

Reducing unemployment, involuntary part time work and low pay by getting people into full-time jobs on a living wage could cut billions off the benefit bill (and boost the tax take at the same time).

For right now, the article stated, La Reeves needs to work on Labour’s perception problem – the false image created for it by an unsympathetic mass media, that it is ‘soft’ on benefits. This is based on misconceptions; only a quarter of social security goes on working-age people without jobs, and benefit fraud is – as has been explained ad absurdum on this site – miniscule.

Before the recession, Labour had cut the number of people out of work and really made work pay (with tax credits – not necessarily a great way forward, but a start – and these could be eased out of service as pressure was exerted on employers to adopt living wages). The social security budget was falling, not increasing. That’s what Rachel Reeves needs to be saying. Labour’s policies were working. The public has been misinformed. A new Labour government could create a winning formula again.

It could happen – if Labour stops being the Party of Plastic Tories and starts being the Party of the Worker once again.

UK unemployment is anything up to 12 MILLION, not two and a half!

austeritydolequeue

Please note: As ever, this is a layman’s view of the figures. If anyone can help add colour and detail to what follows – and correct it if necessary – please do.

Let’s hope we all live long enough to look back and laugh at the euphoric reporting of the Coalition government’s slanted employment figures.

“UK unemployment fell by 57,000 to 2.51 million in the three months to May,” the BBC reported, quoting today’s release from the Office for National Statistics.

What a shame that the figure is meaningless as it bears no relation to the number of people who are out of work and not paid the minimum wage (or above), which would be a better yardstick. That figure is anything up to 11.71 million, using estimated figures from the ONS report.

This includes not only the number officially counted as unemployed, but those counted as ‘economically inactive’ and those on government-sponsored schemes such as Workfare or the Work Programme – who work, but are paid only in government benefit money and therefore, as the taxpayer is picking up the tab, should be counted with the unemployed.

People who are ‘economically inactive’ include people who are not seeking work, such as those looking after the family or home, those who don’t want or need a job, and those who have retired early – which is why this group is not included in ONS unemployment figures – but also includes those seeking work but officially unavailable for it, such as students in their final year, people who cannot work for health-related reasons, and ‘discouraged workers’ who believe there are no jobs available.

The trouble is, the statistics do not show the numbers of people in each of these sub-categories, meaning we cannot – for example – get meaningful figures for those unable to work due to poor health. Also, we have no mortality figures – we don’t know how many people have been removed from the workforce because they have died.

This means that the deeply worrying figure of 103,000 fewer people who are economically inactive due to long-term illness is meaningless. Have they died? Have they found work (this is highly unlikely – see Vox’s article on the failure of Work Programme provider companies in this respect)? Have they all miraculously got better and moved into a different category? We simply don’t know, and these figures are extremely frustrating in this respect alone.

The figures suggest that 29.71 million people are in employment, including more than a million who have multiple jobs. They may or may not be among the 8.038 million part-time workers – the statistical estimate does not go into that detail. This adds up to 71.4 per cent of everyone aged from 16 to retirement age (around 41 million of us); excluding the economically-inactive, this goes up to 92 per cent. The part-timers are 27 per cent of the total between 16-64, and 19 per cent of the economically-active.

That means that the 2.51 million people officially designated unemployed constitute eight per cent of the economically-active workforce (or six per cent of the total).

So we’re a long, long way from full employment – and that’s without even going into whether these people are being paid enough!

Not only that, but we should subtract 160,000 people from the ’employed’ figure. This is the number on government-sponsored work schemes, being paid benefit money by the taxpayer in lieu of the proper wage they deserve. So 29.55 million people have jobs and 2.67 million don’t.

This makes little difference to the percentages, nor can we say that anyone has been lying – they have merely been quoting the figures as required of them.

Let’s fill in some of the gaps in the ‘economically inactive’ category: Of the 9.04 million recorded here (up by 87,000) we have 1.95 million students aged 16-24 not looking for work, and 330,000 older students in the same situation, plus 1.38 million early retirements – an increase of 8,000.

Long-term sickness accounts for 2.04 million – an increase of 26,000 on the previous quarter but (as previously mentioned) down 103,000 on a year earlier.

The retired population totals 10.597 million (up 92,000).

We can blow a few myths out of the water:

David Cameron’s claim that a million private sector jobs have been created is absolute piffle. The ONS acknowledges that 196,000 public sector employees were reclassified into the private sector by an Act of Parliament in 2011, to do with educational bodies. Removing this from the statistics, the number of public sector jobs fell by 112,000 in the last year, while the number of private sector jobs did increase – but by only 544,000 – a country mile away from Cameron’s boast.

Claims that the private sector now employs more than 23 million people are also inaccurate – if not so widely. Take away the number of people on government-sponsored work schemes from the 24.059 million private employees claimed by the ONS and you’re left with 23.9 million. Public sector employment stands at 5.697 million.

Those are the facts – as far as we can take them. Without further information about people who don’t want or need a job, and about those who are looking after the home or family, it is impossible to say how many of the ‘economically inactive’ might be looking for work.

And without further details about those in long-term sickness, we can only fear for the condition of the 103,000 who have fallen off the ledger.

Suicide rate is now the strongest indicator of unemployment

Iain Duncan Smith has been crowing about the private sector after the official unemployment figure dropped from 8.2 to 8 per cent of the workforce.

He reckons we should take our hats off to private sector employers for providing the new work. Well he would, wouldn’t he?

His attitude conforms with the narrative the Tories have been trying to build since 2010, that the private sector would rush in to fill the jobs gap left behind after the Coalition cut the public sector to ribbons – providing decent, gainful employment for the masses.

That story went straight into the circular file when the economy flatlined, right after George Osborne took charge – and resurrecting it now seems a desperate act, especially in the light of the facts.

Firstly, the Olympics have distorted the figures. We don’t know how many employers took on extra hands in advance of the games, so we don’t know how many of those jobs will go again, now that the major event is over. We do know that businesses suffered losses during the games because an expected influx of consumers did not materialise; how will that affect future figures?

Second, the number of people working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job hit a record high of 1.42 million – the most since records began in 1992.

Third, the unemployment rate actually rose in around half of the British regions. This supports the claim that the Olympics distorted the figures, and points to a continuing downward trend.

Finally, if Mr Smith wants a more accurate monitor of unemployment, he should look at the suicide rate – according to a new report by the British Medical Journal.

It found that the suicide rate among men rose by 1.4 per cent for every 10 per cent increase in unemployment.   This means that between 2008-2010, 846 more men ended their life than would normally have been expected; the corresponding number for women was an extra 155 suicides.   On average, male unemployment rose by 25.6 per cent in each of those years, while the male suicide rate rose by 3.6 per cent each year. When male employment rates rose briefly in 2010, the suicide rate dropped slightly.

We already know that an average of 32 people per week are dying as a result of Mr Smith’s brutalities against the disabled; now we know that more than 1,000 have been driven to kill themselves because of the government’s unemployment policy.

Meanwhile, among those who do have jobs, we know that average wages now only last 21 days in the month, meaning that workers have to dip into their savings, ask family for funds, or go to loan sharks for help – increasing the national debt problem and creating a trend that could lead to even more suicides.

I notice Iain Duncan Smith, promoter of the private sector, hasn’t got anything to say about that.