Tag Archives: Olympic

G4S suspends detention centre employees – but why does this firm still get government contracts?

Brook House is operated privately by G4S on behalf of the Home Office [Image: BBC].

The only question here is why G4S was given a contract to run an immigration centre in the first place.

Shall we consider some of the firms other recent disasters?

The biggie that everyone remembers was the Olympic security debacle in 2012.

There was the fraud investigation over tagging contracts.

G4S has been fined more than 100 times since 2010 for breaching contracts for prisons it runs.

Labour dropped G4S from providing security at its annual conference over human rights concerns.

G4S was stripped of its contract to run a scandal-hit youth prison.

The company even has a cheesy sub-Bon Jovi theme song.

Now this:

G4S has suspended nine members of staff from an immigration removal centre near Gatwick Airport, following a BBC Panorama undercover investigation.

The programme says it has covert footage recorded at Brook House showing officers “mocking, abusing and assaulting” people being held there.

It says it has seen “widespread self-harm and attempted suicides” in the centre, and that drug use is “rife”.

G4S said it is aware of the claims and “immediately” began an investigation.

Read more: Detainees ‘mocked and abused’ at immigration centre – BBC News


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G4S – Securing More Fraud!

You would think that, in the week of the Maria Miller scandal, the Conservative-led Coalition would spurn any contact with people or organisations responsible for financial irregularity in connection with the government – right?

Wrong: Here’s G4S.

(You really need to be playing the Soundcloud clip – above – to get the full effect of this article. The song is the G4S anthem ‘Securing Your World’; it is sub-Bon Jovi cheese that sets you up perfectly for the facts about the firm.)

G4S is the company that famously failed to meet the terms of a contract to provide security guards for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. This was a brutal embarrassment to our privatise-everything Government because it had to call in public servants – the Army – to do the work instead.

Not content with that cock-up, in July last year the Serious Fraud Office launched an investigation into G4S after it was alleged that the company was overcharging for the electronic ‘tagging’ of criminals in England and Wales. It was claimed that the company was charging for people who were in prison, outside the UK, and also for people who were dead.

It seems highly unlikely that there was any danger of this last group absconding.

The company agreed to pay £109 million back to the Treasury, which is as good an admission of guilt as any. G4S breached its contract; in fairness it should have paid back all monies provided to it by the UK government.

That was last November. Now – less than six months later – Francis Maude wants us to believe G4S has cleaned up its act and is worthy of our trust once again. Seriously.

For this reason alone it is worth checking whether Mr Maude has shares in the company.

Our government of crooks couldn’t wait to get back into cahoots with this company of crooks, could they? Delaying new contract bids until the start of the 2014-15 financial year was as much as they could manage.

If you ran a firm that behaved in this manner, you would face civil action for breach of contract and possibly criminal action for fraud – profiting from false claims. You would most likely be barred from ever bidding for such contracts again, and possibly even from working in the same industry for the rest of your career.

Yet here’s G4S, Securing More… well, you can read the headline.

It all bodes well for Maria Miller. Accepting her resignation, we are to understand, David Cameron made it perfectly clear that he would have the fraudster back in his Cabinet just as soon as he possibly could.

Villainy loves company.

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A few words on the large government-funded corporations who don’t pay their taxes

[Picture: Another Angry Voice}

[Picture: Another Angry Voice}

Apologies are due to readers for the fact that new articles have been few and far between this week; Vox Political creator Mike Sivier has been occupied with other concerns including work at the Citizens Advice Bureau and campaigning to be a Labour candidate in the 2015 election. Normal service will resume (hopefully) on Monday.

In the meantime, here’s some information from a VP reader (who very kindly asked not to be credited) on some of our favourite private companies with entire fists – never mind fingers – in the public sector pie.

With around half of all public sector spending now paid to private companies, lets look at some facts about the four largest recipients – Serco, Capita, Atos and G4S.

In total, they have received more than £4 billion of taxpayers’ money in the past year, making a cumulative profit of £1.05 billion. This means that, if the work had been carried out within the public sector, the taxpayer would have saved more than a quarter of the money used. That’s a lot of money!

With Corporation Tax currently standing at 23 per cent, let’s look at how much tax they paid: £75 million (around 7.5 per cent).

But the situation is actually worse than that! This is only the tax paid by Capita and Serco.

Atos and G4S paid no tax at all.

Furthermore, none of these companies has successfully delivered the public services they were contracted to carry out, despite having been paid anyway. Did G4S successfully manage security at the 2012 Olympics, or was that the British Army? Did Capita provide adequate court translation services? Has Atos carried out work capability assessments for Employment and Support Allowance in a professional and unproblematic manner? What about Serco and out-of-hours GP services?

These firms have been content to take taxpayers’ money but avoid paying tax on it, and then provided botched services. Two of them – Serco and G4S – are currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging on electronic tagging of offenders.

It seems we were paying for these companies to monitor 3,000 phantom offenders. They were charging for 18,000 while only 15,000 were being monitored.

Coalition Justice Secretary and part-time clown Chris Grayling told MPs in July that an external audit had revealed the overcharging, which included bills for tracking the movements of criminals who had moved abroad, who were back in prison, who had had their tags removed and even, in a few cases, those who had died.

Even so – and despite sanctions against the companies as a result, the scenario presented in the image (above) is still possible, thanks to the Coalition government.

Outsourcing – a good deal for taxpayers? You decide…

(Source: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/nov/12/public-sector-paid-outsourcing-firms-4-billion-pounds)

First Mail/Miliband, now Mail/Mehdi – don’t they know two wrongs won’t make them right?

131004mailmehdiIt was a virtuoso performance, and one that earned Mehdi Hasan congratulations from Vox Political, just as soon as I could get to a keyboard.

For those who missed it, the panel on BBC Question Time was discussing the Daily Mail‘s veiled attack on Ed Miliband, which cast suspicion on the Labour leader’s motives by questioning those of his late father. It’s about the lowest kind of attack a newspaper could possibly launch – the kind that one might have expected from the News of the World in its latter days.

The piece in question was headlined The man who hated Britain and referred to Ralph Miliband’s “evil legacy”.

Mehdi Hasan, political editor of the Huffington Post‘s UK edition, tussled with Quentin Letts, a political sketch-writer for the Mail – winning the argument (and thunderous applause) with the following:

“Let me ask you a question,” he said. “When you talk about ‘Who hates Britain’ or ‘Who has an evil legacy’, who do you think has an evil legacy? A man who sucked up to the Nazis, who made friends with Joseph Goebbels and praised Hitler in the run-up to World War II – the owner and founder of the Daily Mail, Lord Rothermere – or a man who served in the Royal Navy, risked his life for his adopted homeland – Ralph Miliband. Who do you think hated Britain more?

“And this isn’t just about Ralph Miliband actually, because this has actually opened up a whole debate about the Daily Mail – if you want to talk about who hates Britain.

“This is a paper that, in recent years, said that there was nothing natural about the death of the gay pop star Stephen Gately, who said that the French people should vote for Marine Le Pen and the National Front, who attacked Danny Boyle for having a mixed race couple in his Olympics opening ceremony, who called Mo Farah “a plastic Brit”.

“So let’s have the debate about ‘Who hates Britain more’, because it isn’t a dead Jewish refugee from Belgium who served in the Royal Navy, it’s the immigrant-bashing, woman-hating, Muslim-smearing, NHS-undermining, gay-baiting Daily Mail.”

It did my heart a lot of good, typing that up – not just because of the Mail-bashing at its centre but because it was a speech that brings a few other groups together. Here was a Muslim praising the character of a Jew (for all those out there who think that adherents of Islam have nothing but hate to offer the rest of the world). He was also speaking up for homosexuals, mixed race couples, immigrants, women, the health service and anyone who opposes political extremism – especially of the right-wing variety.

Apart from the very last group, none of these include yr obdt srvt in their number, but I don’t think I’m alone in believing that anyone who agrees it is right to fight prejudice would support Mehdi’s opinion.

It seems the powers-that-be at the newspaper in question were listening carefully, and were keen to enter the next stage of the debate about the Daily Mail – by demonstrating just how much further they were prepared to debase themselves, just to smear the reputation of anybody who dared to stand up to them.

It seems clear that somebody in a high-ranking position at the Daily Mail went to their files and dug out a letter Mehdi had written in 2010, applying to become a writer for the newspaper. That letter then mysteriously made its way to those in charge of the Guido Fawkes blog, where it was published in full. It seems the intention was to prove that Mehdi was a hypocrite – how could this man apply for work at the Mail at one point, and then attack it so viciously only a few short years later?

Silly, silly mistake.

It seems that they didn’t read the letter very well at all.

“I am on the left of the political spectrum, and disagree with the Mail’s editorial line on a range of issues,” Mehdi2010 wrote.

“I could be a fresh and passionate, not to mention polemical and contrarian, voice on the comment and feature pages.”

In case the editors and proprietors of the Daily Mail are reading this: You seem to have mislaid your lexicons. A polemic is a passionate argument, against an established viewpoint (such as, perhaps, that put forward by yourselves) – and a contrarian is a person who always takes an opposing side.

Mehdi’s application letter was saying that he did not agree with the Daily Mail‘s opinions but he admired the forthright way it stood behind them and believed the paper would be strengthened by contributions from a writer with a different point of view to put forward.

This practice is not alien to the Daily Mail. One of the very earliest Vox Political articles praised the Mail for printing a piece by a columnist called Sonia Poulton, attacking the Coalition government’s treatment of the disabled in direct opposition to the paper’s established skivers/scroungers/shirkers rhetoric.

So it seems that, by ensuring that all journalists working in the UK now know that their confidential correspondence is likely to become public property the instant they upset the Mail‘s proprietors, by overreacting to fair, balanced and reasonable criticism of an extremely unreasonable article published in that newspaper, and by doing all this in defence of a piece intended to undermine support for one of Britain’s largest political parties – in line with its support for the most right-wing government in recent UK history, the Daily Mail has managed to destroy its own credibility (such as it was), render itself a no-go area for reputable journalists, and tarnish its readership by guilt-through-association.

Meanwhile, it has already boosted public support for Labour and the leader it hoped to harm and, if there is any justice, the current attack on Mehdi Hasan should bolster his career considerably as well.

That’s what happens when people who think a little too much of themselves overreact to criticism.

Daily Mail? It might as well be called the Daily Flail.

Sunny summer was good for the economy – shock! All YOU get is a tan

130920camspeechblower

At risk of seeming to be ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’: Why, oh why, oh why is everybody making such a big fuss about the fact that the economy bounced back a little bit over the summer?

Did nobody think that, perhaps, the fact that it was more sunny than in recent years meant our tourism industry might get a much-needed shot in the arm – not least from run-down British people, desperate for relief from the constant, grinding monotony of the Conservative/Lib Dem Coa-lamity government’s austerity agenda?

Did they not recall that the holiday season is a traditional ‘lull’ period and that, therefore – unless unusual situations apply (as they have in previous years) – government spending should be less? What’s the relief to the public purse from not having any Olympic Games to stage this year? What’s the benefit of having no riots?

And, finally, for the vast majority of the British people, these figures are no reason to celebrate because they make no difference. The cost of living is going up while average real-terms earnings have plummetted. If we are seeing a recovery, it is a recovery for the rich alone.

As was always intended.

For the record, public sector borrowing for August was £13.2 billion – £1.2 billion lower than the amount recorded in August 2012. This puts the UK’s net national debt at £1.19 trillion – 74.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

GDP itself grew by 0.7 per cent in the second quarter of 2013 (April-June), and tax revenues have been 2.8 per cent higher than in the same period of 2012. Total government spending has fallen by 2.2 per cent, led by a sharp drop in spending by individual departments.

You can read all this on the BBC News website and might find it pleasant enough, but then David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce had to ruin it by saying “Our ability to generate tax revenues will struggle to return to pre-recession levels, even when the pace of growth picks up. As a result, the government must continue to make cuts in current spending in order to reduce the deficit further.”

So he wants the madness to continue. I wonder… If his business was in trouble, would he cut investment in – say – advertising and then expect profits to improve? That would be madness. Every pound cut from public investment by the government results in a loss to the economy of £1.70-£2.20. It is the government’s own demand for austerity that is slowing the recovery!

And what does this mean for ordinary people?

It means that, after adjusting for inflation, average earnings are £1,350 per year lower than they were at the time of the 2010 General Election. The UK has suffered the biggest fall in income and living standards of any country in the G7. You are worse-off under the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats!

By 2015, average wages are forecast to be £1,520 lower than in 2010 (based on figures from the House of Commons Library). This means working people will have lost an average of £6,660 in real terms while David Cameron has been Prime Minister – enough to support the average family’s weekly shop for one and a half years, at 2012 prices!

Inflation has been higher than in other G7 countries throughout David Cameron’s period in office, meaning that George Osborne’s claim that “rising global prices” have forced the cost-of-living increase is nonsense.

Claims like that of then-Treasury Minister Chloe Smith at the start of 2012 that lower inflation meant “the cost of living is coming down a little for families” were also rubbish – it was still increasing; just not quite as fast.

In fact, price rises have outstripped wage growth in every single month of the Coalition government – except April this year, when David Cameron cut taxes for millionaires and bank bonuses skyrocketed. Who benefited? The rich. Who lost out? The middle classes, workers, and the poor.

A YouGov survey of ordinary people has shown that 70 per cent do not believe the much-touted recent improvements in the economy have helped middle- and lower-income families. Only 10 per cent thought they had.

And 81 per cent had seen prices grow faster than household incomes, with just three per cent (and only one per cent of women) seeing income grow faster than prices.

It doesn’t matter what they say the economy is doing. You will continue to lose money as long as you have a government of millionaires, ruling in their own interests rather than the interests of the country.

It’s as simple as that.

Part-time Chance(llo)r and towel-folder to explain how impoverishing people makes work pay.

Not fair at all: We love this shot of George Osborne because it clarifies perfectly that, as with Michael Howard before him, there is "something of the night" about him. Will YOU believe him when he says it is fair to punish the poor for an economic recession they never made, while rewarding the rich who did the damage?

Not fair at all: We love this shot of George Osborne because it clarifies perfectly that, as with Michael Howard before him, there is “something of the night” about him. Will YOU believe him when he says it is fair to punish the poor for an economic recession they never made, while rewarding the rich who did the damage?

You know the Tories are scraping the bottom of the barrel when they wheel out Gideon George Osborne to defend benefit changes as “fair”.

It’s hilarious (unintentionally, I’m sure) that they’re wheeling out a man whose appearance in last year’s Olympic Games prompted an international crowd in a full-to-capacity stadium to ‘boo’ him – in order to try to popularise their unjustifiable crimes against the poor.

This is a man whose only proper job was folding towels at a department store, if I recall correctly!

He’s due to make a speech at 12.30pm today (April 2, so it can’t even be defended as an April Fool) in which he is expected to say the Tory cuts mean “this month we will make work pay”, and nine out of 10 working households will be better-off.

They’ll be better of than the remaining one-tenth of households, maybe, but the Tories are never going to convince intelligent people that they’re making work pay by cutting anything! Common sense tells us that, in a country where wages are deeply depressed (such as the UK – oh yes they are) the only way to make work pay is to offer a living wage!

But what can we expect from a political organisation that is now focusing its efforts on redefining the dictionary?

The lexicon here at Vox Political gives multiple definitions for the word “fair”, so I’ll pick out those that may be applied, as follows:

“1. Reasonable or unbiased.” The changes include a below-inflation cap for people on working-age benefits and tax credits, meaning they will become worse-off, year-on-year, while the cap remains in place. Meanwhile, people in the top tax band – who therefore take home the most pay – are getting a £100,000 tax break. Reasonable? No. Unbiased? Not a chance in hell.

Let’s also remember that Osborne is the Chancellor who thought it was a good idea to promote tax avoidance schemes on the Daily Politics TV show, on January 9 this year.

“2. According to the rules.” The Tory-led Coalition is the government that changes the rules to suit itself. Let’s all remember that when Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions was found, by a court, to have been breaking the law by imposing sanctions against people who refused to take part in the ridiculous ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ schemes that take more than a billion pounds out of the economy every year (almost £900 million for companies offering placements, along with hundreds of millions more for ‘Work Placement Provider’ companies), this administration’s answer was to introduce retrospective legislation to wipe away its guilt.

“3. Describing light-coloured hair or skin, or somebody with this.” Let’s widen this definition a little; a person who is “fair to look at” would be deemed attractive, so let’s go with that. Are these changes attractive? Most definitely not. They are designed to make the claiming of benefits unattractive.

“4. Sizeable, as in ‘a fair number of responses’.” This is accurate – the changes will affect millions of homes, throwing many of them into abject poverty.

“5. Better than acceptable.” If they were acceptable, then we would not have seen thousands of people demonstrating against the new Bedroom Tax, in towns and cities across the UK. Nor would we have seen the huge amount of campaigning against the benefit changes online and via petitions. And there will be motions against implementing the tax in local authorities up and down the country. The people responsible for them don’t think these changes are acceptable; nor should you.

“6. No more than average.” It could be suggested that Grant Shapps has been saying the more stringent application of the Work Capability Assessment to applicants for Employment and Support Allowance has created a more representative average number of claims by ensuring 878,000 people dropped their claims when faced by those changes – but, wait a moment, this has been exposed as a lie, hasn’t it? In fact, the number of people dropping their claims has been revealed – by official DWP figures – to be the natural wastage you get from people getting better or finding work they can do while ill, and the number of people receiving the benefit has, in fact, risen.

“7. Not stormy or cloudy.” Clearly the storm of protest around these changes renders this definition irrelevant.

Osborne, who not only advocates tax avoidance but allegedly participates in it himself – he was the target of a campaign by 38 Degrees, early in the life of this Parliament – also seems a strange choice to talk about fairness and making work pay, because of his involvement in a ‘get rich quick’ scheme which was extremely unfair and had nothing to do with work.

Readers of this blog may remember that Osborne used taxpayers’ money to pay mortgage interest on a farmhouse and associated land that he claimed to use for Parliamentary purposes in his Tatton constituency (this has not been proved), and then sold the properties for around £1 million, pocketing the lot. He didn’t work for the money, and this exploitation of the taxpayer can hardly be considered fair – but he got away with it because his privileged position as an MP, apparently, allows it.

Fair? No.

Corrupt?

This seems more likely.

Olympic borough fights the Tories’ new Rackmanism

The government has been extremely relaxed about letting landlords in England charge huge rents on tiny, single-room accommodation with diabolical health and safety standards. Newham Council - the Olympic borough - has said enough is enough.

The government has been extremely relaxed about letting landlords in England charge huge rents on tiny, single-room accommodation with diabolical health and safety standards. Newham Council – the Olympic borough – has said enough is enough.

It’s 2013 – a new dawn; a new year.

Same old Tories, though.

Look at this: Newham Council in London has started a compulsory system of landlord registration. Owners of privately-rented homes must now declare criminal convictions and will be monitored to ensure they meet health and safety standards on their properties. If they don’t, they could be fined up to £20,000.

This is terrific – it is, after all, landlords’ responsibility to make sure their properties are clean and in good working order. Scotland already has a compulsory licensing system and Wales is working on one.

But in England, ministers oppose a national scheme.

Scotland is run by the SNP; Wales by Labour. England is ruled by the Coalition government – the Tories, in essence.

From this, we can deduce that Tories want landlords to continue charging substantial rents for people to live in unacceptable accommodation.

We can also deduce that they have no problem with landlords getting rich while tenants live in slums, paying hundreds of pounds every month to live in a single, basic room.

Perhaps the threats posed by faulty wiring or dangerous gas appliances, pest infestations and overcrowding do not mean anything to the Tories. But then, they’ve never experienced those things, have they?

Let’s also bear in mind that, when considering how to remedy what they say is an ever-increasing housing benefit bill, the Tories chose to find ways to cut the benefit: the bedroom tax, the benefits cap (housing benefit is the first to be affected if households are earning more than £500 per week).

Responsibility for making up the lost benefit will fall on tenants, who must find it in what little of their income is not tied up with other bills.

My brother once told me they’d have us back to Rackmanism and rack-renting if they thought they could get away with it. Isn’t that what’s happening?

The Tories chose not to cap rents instead, with supporters of the move saying this would distort the market and would therefore be unnecessary interference.

What are we to make, then, of the fact that other English councils are free to devise their own landlord registration systems, which may differ from that in Newham or those in Scotland and Wales, leading to a piecemeal system with excessive bureaucracy and – yes – distorting the market?

As ever, when we are ruled by those who have known only luxury and cannot understand what it is to survive in poverty and squalor, we get what we’ve always had:

Double standards.

How can unemployment be dropping at the same time as claims for joblessness are rising?

Today, the government was very pleased to announce, on the BBC and in all the usual right-wing rags, that the number of people out of work in the UK has fallen to its lowest total for more than a year – 2.51 million or 7.8 per cent of the working-age population.

But the claimant count – which tracks the number of people receiving Jobseekers’ Allowance and is the most timely measure of employment – rose by 10,100 last month, the largest increase since September 2011, as reported by the BBC and The Guardian.

Both figures were released by the Office for National Statistics, which seems to be treading on territory that is practically owned by the Office of Budget Irresponsibility.

Are you as confused as I am?

How can unemployment be down when more people are claiming for it?

No explanation.

It’s interesting that long-term unemployment has increased by 12,000, meaning those out of work for over a year now number 894,000.

Part-time employment rose by 49,000 to 8.1 million, more than a quarter of the workforce and close to a record high.

The fall in unemployment has been attributed to a reduction in youth unemployment, but that still leaves 963,000 people, aged between 16 and 24, looking for work.

Most tellingly, average incomes rose by 1.8 per cent for the year to date, while inflation measured according to CPI is now 2.7 per cent. According to RPI, it’s 3.2 per cent. That means the spending power is falling.

Economists say the job market is worsening, possibly as people who were hired for the Olympics, and other summer events, come off firms’ books.

Bank of England supremo Mervyn King said the figures suggested the labour market was “pretty strong” but said it was hard to reconcile this with the economy’s weak growth.

I’ve got a pretty good idea about that, Mervyn.

The economy is growing slowly because the vast majority of people aren’t being paid reasonably by their employers. Wages have grown by almost (or more than, depending which yardstick you use) a whole percentage point less than inflation. People don’t have the money to spend!

If the economy is to enjoy real growth, then the government needs to launch a major attack on tax avoidance and tax havens, get that money back into the UK Treasury where it belongs, and then use it to invest in British infrastructure and British business. That way, firms can get back on their feet and will have no excuse not to pay a living wage to workers. Then working-class people – the vast majority of the population – will have a higher disposable income and therefore more spending power (they’ve hardly got any to spare at the moment). They will use that money; it will go around the system again, and the economy will grow again.

If I can see that – and I’m no economist – why can’t you? Why can’t Gideon George Osborne?

I think we all know the answer to that. He can.

But it suits his purposes to ignore it.

Why do we tolerate ‘slavery’ schemes that rely on secrecy?

Cait Reilly took the government to court after she was forced to stop volunteering at a local museum – with a view to getting a job as a curator – and go to work in Poundland for nothing. The government said the scheme was voluntary but – and the clue’s in the title, ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ – this is not accurate. Those on the scheme now could be stripped of their benefit for three years if they refuse to take part, so one wonders what would happen if Ms Reilly or someone like her tried a similar court action today.

It’s like the NHS privatisation all over again.This time, the Department for Work and Pensions is refusing to publish the names of charities and businesses where unemployed people – in their tens of thousands – are being forced to work for no pay, for periods of four weeks at a time.

Readers with long memories will recall that, earlier in the year, the Department of Health refused to honour a ruling by the Information Commissioner that it should publish a risk assessment on the effects of the then-Health and Social Care Bill.

The argument was that publication would discourage the civil servants who write these reports from including the more controversial likely effects from future risk assessments on other subjects. The reason that the public accepts as true is that the scale of the changes, the waste of public money in achieving them, and the amount of profit to be made by private ‘healthcare’ companies from UK citizens’ misery would be unacceptable to the British people if they knew about it.

Some details leaked out anyway and, now we are experiencing those effects, we are able to see just how accurate those predictions were (and in many cases, how far short of the mark they fell).

Both the requirement that the DoH publish its risk assessment and the demand that the DWP publish its list of businesses and charities involved in ‘Workfare’ follow Freedom of Information requests made to the government.

So much for open government. It seems that such requests are a waste of time when the government in power is determined to operate in secrecy.

Note that the government’s line on organisations taking part in Workfare is now that they “tend to be charitable organisations”. Previously we were led to believe they were all organisations that provide “social benefit”. It seems, once again, this government has lied to us (and not very well). How many profit-making businesses are involved, then, and what are their names?

The real problem with this one is that the ConDem Coalition seems to be childishly ignoring the facts of the matter, which are (i) Workfare doesn’t work, and (ii) Workfare is unpopular in the extreme.

The government’s own research shows that the scheme does not help unemployed people to get a job. Once they have finished their four weeks of work – for whichever unnameable company or, God forgive them, charity – they get thrown back onto Jobseekers’ Allowance and somebody else is picked up to work for nothing. Workfare has no effect on getting people off benefits in the long term.

In fact, the effect of Workfare on the economy is harmful. I commented yesterday on figures showing that, after Job Centre Plus staff started putting people into jobs instead of any of the government’s several work placement programmes, unemployment has dropped and productivity has gone up. I think this may be a temporary blip, with more jobs available because of special events over the summer like the Olympics, but the statistics are revealing.

The government has ploughed on, with changes in the rules a fortnight ago which mean that unemployed people who refuse to take the unpaid placements can have their JSA benefit stripped from them for up to three years.

Note (again) that one of the reasons Cait Reilly lost her court case against the government over Workfare was that the DWP claimed incessantly that the scheme was voluntary and she had the opportunity not to take it up. I wonder what would happen if someone like her took the scheme to court now?

Whatever happens next, it seems the names of the organisations taking part in Workfare (or Mandatory Work Activity, to give it its current official title) will continue to be secret. The reason? The DWP has said the programme would “collapse” if the names were made public, due to the likelihood of protests against the organisations involved.

Doesn’t that give anyone in the DWP a clue?

These schemes are totally unsuccessful and utterly unpopular with the British public.

So why persist?

I think it’s an ideological programme. The government is complaining that the benefits bill is too high and needs to be shrunk, but no employer in his or her right mind would think of paying the full amount for an employee when they can get them on Workfare instead, and have the taxpayer foot the bill.

Workfare is therefore a way of ensuring that the current lack of full-time jobs continues into the future – thereby allowing the government to use it – and the consequent, high benefits bill – as justification for its welfare benefit cuts.

Insidious.

Cabinet reshuffle: Does Cameron think he’s the Joker?

Today’s blog entry will be relatively short. I had an operation on my leg yesterday (September 4) and it seems to be affecting my ability to think.

… And if you think that’s bizarre and illogical, let’s have a look at the decisions made by David Cameron in yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle!

Firstly, the really shocking news: George Osborne is remaining as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Not really news, I know, but at the outset it makes a mockery of a process that is supposed to be about improving the government of the UK. Osborne’s policies are a disaster; he has sent British industry nosediving while increasing borrowing by £9.3 billion in the last four months. He was booed when he got up to give out medals at the Paralympics and he was booed at Prime Minister’s Questions today. But he remains in the Number Two government job.

Also remaining in post are Home Secretary Theresa May and Foreign Secretary William Hague; Education Secretary Michael Gove surprisingly keeps his brief, despite having proved by his activities that he is not up to the intellectual challenge (see previous Vox articles).

And Iain Duncan Smith will remain at Work and Pensions – oh yes he will! – despite having been offered Justice by David Cameron. This shows the weakness of the Prime Minister. As LabourList’s Mark Ferguson put it: “Cameron tried to move IDS. IDS said no. Cameron said ‘ah…um…ok’. Weak, weak, weak.”

Fellow Tweeter Carl Maxim added: “Iain Duncan Smith was offered a job at Justice but refused to take it. Therefore his benefits should be cut.”

And a fellow called ‘Woodo’ tweeted: “Gove and Duncan-Smith to stay in roles to ‘get the job done’. ‘The job’ being making educating poor kids harder and killing off the disabled.”

Biggest winner in the reshuffle has to be former Culture moron – I mean secretary – Jeremy Hunt, who has been moved up to take the Health brief. This has been seen as a reward for his work on the phone hacking controversy that led to the departure of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson from the Downing Street press office, and to the Leveson Inquiry into the behaviour of the media.

This seems a nonsensical move. Leveson has ordered not only Cameron, but Cameron’s friends Coulson, Rebekah Brooks (who now faces criminal charges for her part in phone hacking), and Hunt himself to give evidence in hearings that were highly embarrassing for those under scrutiny.

Hunt’s own close connections with Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation owns the papers that were mainly responsible for the crimes, is well-documented, and led to this tweet from James Lyons: “BREAKING – Rupert Murdoch to buy the NHS.”

This may not be far from the truth. Hunt co-authored a book dealing with the NHS at length, with Daniel Hannon MEP who called the NHS a 60 year mistake. The book states: “Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of health care in Britain“.

He reportedly tried to remove the NHS tribute from the Olympic Games opening ceremony and his record in government is as dodgy: he voted to halve the time allowed for an abortion from 24 weeks to 12. His support of homeopathy has also attracted ridicule from some quarters.

Hunt’s arrival at Health follows the ejection of Andrew Lansley, the man who worked for eight long years on his Health and Social Care Bill, that effectively privatised health care in England. This work constituted the biggest lie this government ever sold to the public – that the Conservatives would safeguard the well-loved 64-year-old national institution. His reward? Demotion to become Leader of the House of Commons.

Former employment minister Chris Grayling, a man who believes bed and breakfast owners should be allowed to ban gay couples, has been promoted to the Justice brief. In response, one tweeter asked if Cameron will be building more prisons.

This means the oldest Cabinet member, Kenneth Clarke, has been ejected from Justice. David Cameron reportedly tried to sack him outright, along with departing Conservative co-chair Baroness Warsi, but ended up compounding his weakness by creating new roles for them instead. Clarke will be a minister without portfolio (although it is believed he’ll be sticking his oar into Osborne’s business at the Treasury), and Warsi will be minister for faith and communities.

Nick Parry tweeted: “Now ‘Baroness’ Warsi really knows what it’s like to be Northern and working-class – she’s been made redundant by the Tories.”

And Rory Macqueen asked: “Who has replaced Warsi in the <issue off-the-shelf statement about “Labour’s union baron paymasters”> role? It looks really challenging.”

That would be tireless self-promoter and foot-in-mouth artist Grant Shapps.

Scraping the bottom of the barrel… The new Transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, is afraid of flying.

And the former minister for the disabled, Maria ‘Killer’ Miller, is the new Equalities minister. She’ll be victimising women, gays and ethnic minorities as well, from now on. If you think that’s harsh, bear in mind that she voted for a (heavily defeated) proposal to stop abortion providers like Marie Stopes counselling women, and is on record as being in favour of defining homophobia, racial hatred and prejudice as ‘freedom of speech’.

Beyond that, we’re into comedy territory. For example, Mid Wales Labour member Ryan Myles said: “Apparently David Cameron was planning on moving Eric Pickles but couldn’t afford the crane.”

All in all, it’s been a wholesale replacement of anybody with talent, by idiots. The tweeter who identifies himself with Yes Minister lead character Rt Hon Jim Hacker MP summed it up perfectly: “Expected a night of the long knives, may just be a morning of insignificant pricks!