Tag Archives: inadequate

Conservatives run up other people’s bills – unlike socialists, who always pay theirs

Voting for Theresa May’s minimum-wage Tories is like trying to dig your way out of a hole; they will only put you deeper into debt.

Yes – the headline paraphrases the late, unlamented Margaret Thatcher, but reverses her claim in the name of accuracy.

Here’s her original comment, in an infographic from Twitter – but pay attention to the weblink attached to it:

Read the article and the reason I edited the late Blue Baroness’s claim should be clear:

Companies in the UK are paying their workers so little that the taxpayer has to top up wages to the tune of £11bn a year. The four big supermarkets (Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons) alone are costing just under £1bn a year in tax credits and extra benefits payments.

This is a direct transfer from the rest of society to some of the largest businesses in the country. To put the figure in perspective, the total cost of benefit fraud last year was just £1bn. Corporate scrounging costs 11 times that.

Worse, this is a direct subsidy for poverty pay. If supermarkets and other low-paying employers know they can secure work even at derisory wages, since pay will be topped up by the state, they have no incentive to offer higher wages.

None of this makes sense. We are all, in effect, paying a huge sum of money so that we can continue to underpay the 22% of workers who are earning below the Living Wage – the level at which it is possible to live without government subsidies. The only possible beneficiaries are business owners.

So you can see very clearly that big businesses – which are predominantly run by people who vote Conservative, are members of the Conservative Party or are donors to the Conservative Party – are clearly refusing to pay their bills. As employers they have a duty to pay a reasonable amount to their workers.

Libertarians will undoubtedly be heading for the ‘Comment’ box to claim that all contracts are valid as employees have freely entered into them – but this of course ignores the fact that people are effectively coerced into accepting unfair wage offers because government policy on unemployment benefits forces them to accept any offers given to them, and this provides an incentive for businesses to keep those offers low.

So there is an argument that none of these contracts are valid as they are not entered into by people in equal positions. Hmm…

Socialists of course expect people to fully fund everything that benefits them. So, for example, the NHS was founded on the principle that everybody pays a little towards the health service, to ensure that all those who need its care will benefit from it. From each according to their ability, to each according to their need. It’s an insurance policy – but, strangely, capitalists approve of private insurance but criticise the system that funds public services. Odd people.

Consider also their willingness to use systems and services that are publicly-funded, while taking advantage of tax avoidance schemes to ensure that they don’t have to pay for them. That’s fraud and theft, isn’t it?

We may conclude that Mrs Thatcher was lying – and so is anybody who echoes her words or their meaning.

Also that the Conservative government is acting against contract law by forcing people into unfair employment conditions.

And that businesses are unfairly profiting from these harmful contracts.

I could go on to explain how this damages the UK economy by reducing the flow of cash through it, but you should be aware of this fact already – in practice.

It won’t change under a Conservative government because Conservatives are greedy and do not understand economics. So we need to end Conservative government.

Spread the word.


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The ‘Free Schools’ vanity project has wasted millions when the government said there was no money to spare

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The Tory ‘Free Schools’ vanity project has been a complete disaster, with more than £51 million wasted on new schools that failed to meet inspectors’ standards or proposals for schools that were cancelled or withdrawn.

A report compiled by the Labour Party shows that £50m has been spent on free schools either declared inadequate by the education standards watchdog, Ofsted, or requiring improvement. A further £1.043m was spent on applications that were cancelled or withdrawn.

Of the 79 free schools opened in the first and second waves of the Michael Gove project, no less than one in three have been declared inadequate or requiring improvement by schools watchdog Ofsted. This compares with one in five schools overall – that’s including the institutions that ‘Free Schools’ were expected to outperform.

It is noteworthy that, according to shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, the number of “inadequate” schools is equal to the number employing, as teachers, people with no teaching qualifications – one in three.

Worse still, the government has been caught trying to “massage” the figures. The example provided to us by a report in The Independent shows that the Hartsbrook E-Act Free School in north London, declared inadequate by Ofsted, was given a new name and number. This means the school appears as closed, even though it is now operating under a different name (Brook House Primary School), with the same head teacher and pupils in the same location. The re-designation means it won’t be inspected again until four terms have passed.

That could be disastrous for pupils, who by then will have spent almost another quarter of their primary school career in an environment that has been declared substandard, simply to save the government from embarrassment.

It seems the pupils aren’t the only ones who need to learn how to grow up and act in a mature and responsible manner!

Overall, primary ‘Free Schools’ are underperforming in reading, writing and mathematics, in comparison with the rest of the state sector.

It gets worse: Of those free schools whose 2013 national-curriculum test results were published, all bar one underperformed compared with the rest in their local authority and the national average.

Is this the revolution announced so boldly in the Coalition Agreement?

“We … believe that the state should help parents, community groups and others come together to improve the education system by starting new schools,” it told us in 2010.

“We will promote the reform of schools in order to ensure that new providers can enter the state school system in response to parental demand; that all schools have greater freedom over the curriculum; and that all schools are held properly to account.

“We will give parents, teachers, charities and local communities the chance to set up new schools, as part of our plans to allow new providers to enter the state school system in response to parental demand.”

Which parents demanded this?

Free Schools also offered the opportunity to employ unqualified people as teachers. The Tory-run Education Department claimed this was a way of bringing in expertise that would not otherwise be available – now we know the facts.

‘Free Schools’ have been an expensive waste – not only of money, but of time and the potential of the school pupils they have failed.

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Don’t make a cuppa during the Queen’s Speech – you might miss it!

Frack Cameron: In advance of a new bill to allow fracking under private homes, Greenpeace did this to David Cameron's Chipping Norton home. Fair comment?

Frack Cameron: In advance of a new bill to allow fracking under private homes, Greenpeace did this to David Cameron’s Chipping Norton home. Fair comment?

Picture the scene if you can: Buckingham Palace. Her Majesty is seated, getting on with monarchical business. A staff member knocks and enters with an envelope from Downing Street, containing the proposed text of the Queen’s Speech, which is swiftly opened.

HM takes out a single piece of paper, scans it, turns it over (the back is blank). She speaks:

“Is this it?”

Yup. We could well be about to hear the shortest Queen’s Speech in the history of broadcasting. The evening news bulletins will probably be able to broadcast it in its entirety, instead of the usual excerpts.

Only 11 new bills are to go before Parliament. They involve:

  • Plans to change the pension system (again), split among two bills – look out, pensioners!
  • A bill to make it easier for companies to frack for gas under private property – look out, homeowners!
  • Measures to implement a promise to provide up to £2,000 worth of free childcare – probably not enough.
  • A proposed right for voters to recall their MP – to be judged by other MPs if the rumours are correct. Corruption?
  • The outlawing of “modern slavery” – except, one presumes, that enshrined in law by this government’s own Mandatory Work Activity schemes.
  • Powers to tackle lawyers and other professionals who help criminal gangs – clearly, in this world of government-aided tax evasion (for example), they are helping the wrong criminal gangs.
  • Measures to tackle the abuse of zero-hours contracts – one can’t help feeling that the Tories were shamed into this one by bad publicity.
  • Legal protection for people carrying out “good deeds” such as volunteering or planning local events, who become involved in liability claims. Can you spot the opportunities for corruption in this?
  • The curb on public sector employees claiming huge redundancy payments and then taking new jobs in the same sector, that was mentioned on this blog recently.
  • Help for pub landlords.
  • And a plan to charge 5p for plastic bags in England – copying a successful scheme in Wales. Doesn’t this government mock Wales as a failure? Why, then, is it copying Wales?

Six more bills have been carried over from the last Parliamentary session – which wasn’t exactly brimming with work either.

Considering the scale of the problems facing the UK – many of which have arisen because of Coalition government policies – it is a hopelessly inadequate programme of government.

David Cameron and Nick (who?) Clegg have claimed it shows the government is still capable of “taking bold steps”. Baby steps, more like!

Angela Eagle, Labour’s shadow leader of the House of Commons, responded: “Just because the government announced it’s a bold programme, that does not mean actually that it is.”

What do you think? Do you think the bills listed above with do anything to solve Britain’s biggest problems?

I don’t.

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Food bank blow is new low for the Mail on Sunday

Who do you bank with? This piece of public opinion was picked up from Twitter [Author: Unknown].

Who do you bank with? This piece of public opinion was picked up from Twitter [Author: Unknown].

Isn’t it a shame that on of our national Sunday newspapers has chosen to disrupt everybody’s enjoyment of our Easter eggs with a specious attempt to expose abuses of food banks and make operator the Trussell Trust look hypocritical?

Isn’t it also a shame that the Mail on Sunday didn’t make a few inquiries into the procedure for dealing with people who turn up at food banks without having been referred?

The paper’s reporters and editor could have, at least, opened a dictionary and looked up the meaning of the word “charity”.

Under the headline, ‘No ID, no checks… and vouchers for sob stories: The truth behind those shock food bank claims’, the paper today (April 20) published a story claiming that Trussell Trust food banks are breaking their own rules by allowing people to take food bank parcels without presenting a voucher from an approved referrer, and that they are allowing many times more than the maximum permissible number of repeat visits.

Unfortunately for reporters Simon Murphy and Sanchez Manning, both situations are – in fact – allowed, because food banks must be flexible in the way they deal with individual cases. They would have known that if they had done their homework – as yr obdt srvt (who’s writing this) did at several meetings on the organisation of food banks here in Powys.

The paper’s investigation claims that there were “inadequate checks on who claims the vouchers, after a reporter obtained three days’ worth of food simply by telling staff at a Citizens Advice Bureau – without any proof – that he was unemployed”.

It turned out that this person had to fill out a form providing his name, address, date of birth, phone number and the reason for his visit before an assessor asked him why he needed food bank vouchers. In contradiction of the introduction to the story, he explained – not simply that he was unemployed, but that he had been out of work for several months and the harsh winter had left him strapped for cash and food. He said his wife had left her job and was not earning and that they had two children. These lies were sufficient to win food bank vouchers.

What the report didn’t say was how the details given by reporter Ross Slater would have been used afterwards. The CAB would have booked him in for a further interview with a debt advisor, to which he would have had to bring documentary evidence of his situation. When he didn’t turn up, he would have been identified as a fraud. The food bank would also have taken his details, to be fed back into the referral system. Job Centre Plus would have picked up on the fact that he isn’t unemployed. From this point on, he would have been identified as a fraud and refused further service.

You see, it is true that food banks run on a voucher system, but that is only a part of the scheme. The questions asked of people who need vouchers are used to ensure that they get the help they need to avoid having to come back – that’s why they’re asked. They also weed out abusers like Mr Slater.

If the paper’s editor had looked in a dictionary, he might have seen charity defined as “voluntary provision of help to people in need, or the help provided” in the first instance. However, reading further, he would have seen “sympathy or tolerance in judging” listed as well. It seems the Mail on Sunday would have no such sympathy and would have deserving cases turned away to starve.

It is telling, also, that the paper had to go to Citizens Advice to get its evidence. Far more food bank vouchers are handed out in the Job Centre Plus, where all a citizen’s circumstances are available to advisors. But not one word is said about the fact that the vast majority of food bank referrals are for people in real need and not newspaper reporters.

The paper also stated: “Staff at one centre gave food parcels to a woman who had visited nine times in just four months, despite that particular centre’s own rules stipulating that individuals should claim no more than three parcels a year.”

It continued: “Individuals experiencing severe financial hardship are able to claim food vouchers but there are no clear criteria on who should be eligible. Once received, the vouchers can be exchanged for three days’ worth of food at an allotted centre.

“The Trussell Trust has a policy that an individual can claim no more than nine handouts in a year, but undercover reporters found this limit varied in different branches.”

No – it is far more likely that it varied according to the circumstances of the person who needed the help. Rigid rules, such as one that limits people to only three visits, mean those who need the most help would be cut off while they still needed assistance. People working in food banks would be aware of who these were, and would be more likely to be tolerant towards them.

Meanwhile, the other support services – Job Centre Plus, Citizens Advice, Social Services and so on – would be working to help them. With some people, it simply takes longer. It should be easy for anyone to think of reasons why this may be the case.

This may also explain the situation in which a worker at a Trussell Trust food bank said people “bounce around” locations to receive more vouchers. The assessment system is a way of monitoring these people and determining whether they need extra help.

It is not true that the criteria are not clear – the paper is misleading with this claim. Food banks, the charities running them, and referring organisations all have to agree on the circumstances in which they permit people to receive parcels. You really can’t just walk in the door and expect to get a free handout. That’s why the questions are asked and forms filled out – they will check up on everybody.

Another claim – that “volunteers revealed that increased awareness of food banks is driving a rise in their use” is unsubstantiated, and is clearly an attempt to support the government’s claim that this is the case. But it is silly. Of course starving people will go to a food bank after they have been told it exists; that doesn’t mean they aren’t starving.

And the paper wrongly said the Trussell Trust had claimed that more than 913,000 people received three days’ emergency food from its banks in 2013-14, compared with 347,000 in the previous financial year. This is a misreading of the way the charity records its work, as the Trussell Trust records visits, not visitors. It would be hard to work out exactly how many people attended because some will have visited just once, others twice, a few for the full three times, and some would have required extra help.

The claim that many visitors were asylum-seekers is silly because food banks were originally set up for foreign people who were seeking asylum in the UK and had no money or means of support.

Of course it would be wrong to say that nobody is trying to abuse the system. There are good people and bad people all over the country, and bad people will try to cheat. Look at Maria Miller, Iain Duncan Smith (Betsygate), George Osborne (and his former paddock), Andrea Leadsom’s tax avoidance, Philip Hammond’s tax avoidance, Charlotte Leslie who took cash to ask Parliamentary questions – to name but a few.

The Trussell Trust has agreed to investigate the newspaper’s allegations – but it is important to remember that these were just a few instances of abuse, and only claimed – by a newspaper that is infamous for the poor quality of its reporting.

Nothing said in the article should be used to undermine the vital work of food banks in helping people to survive, after the Conservative-led Coalition government stole the safety net of social security away from them.

UPDATE: Already the Mail on Sunday is facing a public backlash against its ill-advised piece. A petition on the Change.org website is calling for the reporter who claimed food bank vouchers under false pretences in order to make a political point to be sacked. Vox Political has mixed feelings about this – it targets a person who was sent out to do a job by others who are more directly to blame for the piece, but then he did it of his own free will and this action brings all newspaper reporters into disrepute. Consider carefully.

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