Tag Archives: park

Brexit will ruin the Garden of England; Brits respond in typical style

Farage’s legacy: it may not look like much now, but when it’s finished, this huge segment of the Garden of England will be a lorry park for 1,700 vehicles – the Farage Garage. The Jacob Rees-Bogs haven’t been installed yet.

This has been cracking me up since I first heard of it this morning (October 16) and I’m only sorry I had to wait until now to write an article about it.

It seems the practical upshot of Brexit is that Kent – also known as the Garden of England – is being bulldozed, in order to turn it into an enormous lorry park.

This is all being carried out by a political organisation that describes itself by the misnomer of “Conservatives”. What are they conserving, exactly?

British people, knowing that this is a result of the nation leaving the European Union, have dubbed the first such lorry park – set to hold 1,700 vehicles – the ‘Farage Garage.

Apparently the on-site toilets have been designated the ‘Jacob Rees-Bogs’.

Twitter has been gridlocked with it. See for yourself:

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National Trust closes open spaces to restrict coronavirus – but it seems disabled people were blocked anyway

An attempt by the National Trust to provide an open space for people to enjoy while still observing guidelines on social distancing seems to have failed spectacularly.

The Trust had announced that it was closing its houses but keeping its gated gardens and parks open, to give people a chance to enjoy fresh air and the beauty of nature, in the belief that we will need it more than ever.

But a huge volume of visitors yesterday (March 21) convinced bosses that it would not be possible to ensure that people maintain the kind of distance necessary to protect people from contracting coronavirus.

We should not blame these visitors for coming – but it could be claimed that they abused the offer by staying when it was clear that so many others had also turned up.

In any case, there seems to have been confusion about the situation, with disabled people complaining about the closure of car parks in gated parks.

The trust has waived car park fees for their open countryside areas, but the gated parks were supposed to be remaining open, with their car parks closed.

This site was contacted by a person who relayed a conversation with a National Trust representative about access to one of its parks.

In it, they said: “My elderly parents have been visiting the park twice a week since my mother had a stroke. They do not get out of the car… Simply sit in the park and watch the world go by. It is a source of great comfort especially to my mum who was robbed of so much by the stroke. They live locally but will be unable to access the park because my mother is virtually unable to walk.

“I understand that you need to take precautions but can you have a rethink and allow blue badge holders to access the car park please.”

The response: “In order to allow access to a select few we would need to have the gate manned all day from 8am-6pm as there is no digital way that we can self-select cars.

“In the current climate, we cannot put a staff member in that position. I am sorry that there is not more we can do.”

Were the car parks open or not?

Ultimately, it seems a moot point as cars were reportedly parked along access roads to National Trust parks and gardens as people queued up to get in – making a mockery of the Trust’s attempts at social distancing.

Publicity the Trust received when it announced that it would keep its parks and gardens open was positive.

This Site has been told that people with disabilities took a different view as a result of the apparent car park prohibition.

Perhaps the best way to look at it is as a genuine attempt to help that simply has not succeeded – partly because of the way people reacted to it.

A shame.

Source: Latest statement on coronavirus (COVID-19) | National Trust

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If you hear Boris Johnson making a claim, it’s probably a lie – as his PMQs performance proves

Duper’s delight: This is the smile Boris Johnson wears when he is lying. He would have been wearing it in Parliament during PMQs but he was too busy wagging his hands around.

How reassuring it was to hear Boris Johnson claim that the bursary for trainee nurses has been restored and that hospital parking is free.

There’s just one small issue: trainee nurses shouldn’t apply for that bursary and anyone visiting hospital should bring their cash with them.

Because both of Johnson’s claims were lies.

The UK now has a prime minister so dishonourable, so low, that he thinks nothing of telling falsehoods to the nation, wholesale.

In Prime Minister’s Questions, he boasted: “We’ve restored the nurses’ bursary, introduced a bill to ensure a record cash boost for our NHS, and ensured there is free hospital car parking for everybody who attends a hospital.”

That reminds me: adjust the figures for inflation and his “record cash boost for our NHS” turns out to be nothing of the sort.

Here’s Nursing Notes on Johnson’s lies:

While a new educational grant of up to £8,000 per year will be offered to all nursing students on courses from September 2020, it falls significantly short of the bursary system previously scrapped by the Conservative Party as students will graduate with up to £60,000 of debt.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has previously confirmed that from April 2020 some hospital staff and visitors will be entitled to free parking. However, this will be limited to blue badge holders and the parents of sick children staying overnight.

And for those of you who prefer audio-visual records:

Source: ‘Nursing bursary restored and hospital parking is free’, insists PM | NursingNotes

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Sign the petition to end the hospital car parking tax on the sick

Car park charges at Royal Surrey County Hospital Guildford [Image: North Downs Picture Agency].


This Writer lives in Wales, where the only hospital that charges for car parking is in Cardiff – and has been pilloried for the practice.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have to pay for hospital parking – my nearest hospital is in Hereford (England) and Mrs Mike has treatment at a hospital in Gobowen, near Oswestry (also in England). Both charge a small fortune for parking.

Now we discover – well, see for yourself:

Here’s the information as relayed by the Daily Mirror:

Patients, NHS staff, visitors and politicians from across the divide last night joined forces to demand the end of crippling hospital car parking charges.

The hated fees … last year raked in a record £175million for NHS trusts and private contractors.

The sick, disabled, relatives and workers were being charged £500,000 a day to use hospital car parks at up to £4 an hour. It comes as it was revealed only 0.001% of income from the fees is spent on health.

The Mirror is calling for the charges – described as a “tax on the sick” to be dropped, nationwide. Notably, disabled Tory MP Robert Halfon has joined the call. Labour is, of course, in support of the campaign:

There is a petition, calling for the charges to be cut. This Writer has signed, and I urge you to do the same.

Sign the petition calling for cruel hospital car parking charges to be scrapped.


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Bristolians rise against austerity with ‘Fund our city!’ call

On the march: The Rally for Bristol.

As I write this, the people of Bristol are staging a rally against austerity-driven Tory cuts to funding and services for their city.

The event was called by city mayor Marvin Rees – and This Writer (a former Bristolian) agrees with his reasons.

Only today, I had to write about funding cuts to another local authority that have endangered Women’s Aid services there – putting lives at risk.

Tories don’t care. They think money is more important than human lives.

The event’s Facebook page states:

“Mayor Marvin Rees has called a march and rally on Saturday September 9th … to demand the Conservative government gives Bristol and other cities the funding we need for our public services and stops the cuts that are damaging the lives of so many.

“The general election and polls since have shown that austerity is now opposed by the great majority of the public. But despite its weak position this government is handing £70 billion to the wealthy in tax breaks over five years, even as it burdens Bristol City Council with cuts to bare-bones essential services totalling £104 million (10% cut each year).

“On September 9th, three days before the Mayor is set to lobby ministers at Westminster, let’s send a powerful message by marching in our thousands in Bristol and other cities: we won’t take any more cuts – not to our social care and NHS, our children’s services, our housing, our libraries, our arts, our community centres, our parks, our schools, our children’s crossing patrols…

“We’ve had enough of closures, privatisation and job losses, and we’re uniting – as workers, service users and citizens – to fight all the way for the investment we need in the public services and the living standards of our communities!”


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Russell Howard tells it like it is about tax credits and tampons (STRONG LANGUAGE)

Russell's opinion of Philip Davies after the Shipley filibusterer talked out a proposed law to help carers park at hospitals.

Russell’s opinion of Philip Davies after the Shipley filibusterer talked out a proposed law to help carers park at hospitals.

This Blog has been waiting more than a week to put up this clip of Russell Howard taking the Tories to task over their plan to cut tax credits and their refusal to end the tampon tax.

Here it is, but be warned – the language is spicy!

Russell is originally from Bristol, just like This Writer. He has been dishing it out to our dish-faced prime muppet since his new serious began on BBC2 a few weeks ago. It airs at 10pm every Thursday – last time round he gave Philip Davies a trouncing for talking out the Bill to end hospital parking charges for carers.

As a carer myself, I could not agree with Russell more.

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IDS should be a candidate for his own Work Programme

zParked

Iain Duncan Smith has failed to get Work Programme providers to “support” harder-to-help claimants into work, according to the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee.

It used the example of Employment and Support Allowance to illustrate its criticism, saying almost 90 per cent of claimants on the Work Programme have not moved into jobs.

This is no surprise to anybody. If it’s news to you, where have you been for the last three years?

Work Programme providers hit back against criticism in 2013 by saying they needed more money – a move that Vox Political reported as “an insult to everyone they have mishandled”.

This week, that criticism was justified: “Evidence shows that differential payments have not stopped contractors from focusing on easier-to-help individuals and parking harder-to-help claimants, often those with a range of disabilities including mental health challenges,” said the PAC report.

“Data from Work Programme providers shows that they are, on average, spending less than half what they originally promised on these harder to help groups.”

Here’s the knockout blow: “It is a scandal that some of those in greatest need of support are not getting the help they need to get them back to work and are instead being parked by providers because their case is deemed just too hard.”

Why is it a knockout blow? Because it is using the language of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan ‘Returned To Unit’ ‘Services No Longer Required’ Smith.

Almost two years ago, on November 22, 2012, that blowhard appeared on the BBC’s Question Time, where he told Owen Jones that his DWP would make sure that nobody stayed parked on benefits.

“I didn’t hear you screaming about two and a half million people who were parked, nobody saw them, for over 10 years, not working, no hope, no aspiration,” he ranted.

And yet, here we are today. “Some of those in greatest need of support are… being parked by providers [chosen by Iain Duncan Smith, no less] because their case is deemed just too hard.”

In February 2013, Vox Political received BBC figures that suggested the Work Programme providers were being paid £1 billion per year by Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP – to park people on benefits where “nobody saw them”.

That day’s article suggested that the government should “adopt a strategy that we all know these companies use in order to boost their profits. Because they get paid on results, they concentrate on people more likely to generate a fee and sideline jobless clients who need more time and investment – a process known as ‘creaming and parking‘.

“It’s time to “park” all the work programme provider companies… The money saved will total billions.”

Alas, VP‘s recommendation fell on deaf ears and we have all paid the price – literally – in the year and nine months since.

Of course, as with all critical reports by Parliamentary committees, the PAC report falls flat where it makes its own recommendations.

“The Department must do more to encourage providers to work with harder-to-help groups by tackling poorly performing prime contractors and sharing information on what works. It should also collect and publish information from each provider on how much they are spending on different payment groups.”

For crying out loud – what’s the point of that? We know that Work Programme providers are never going to do anything other than park people in the ‘harder-to-help’ groups, as long as the taxpayer is funding them for results.

This report says nothing on how ‘poorly performing contractors’ are to be ‘tackled’, therefore that is not going to happen.

And publishing information on how much providers are spending on different payment groups – why? This information will not be made available if it is uncomplimentary to the government. Freedom of Information requests will fall on deaf ears – like those relating to the deaths of ESA claimants.

No, there’s only one way to use this information: As ammunition against Iain Duncan Smith.

He said he was going to help people who had been parked. He didn’t.

He said – to the Work and Pensions committee only yesterday, that the Work Programme was “outperforming” expectations and was “set to do even better”. It isn’t.

Let’s tell everybody we know about this liar. Get him kicked into his own Work Programme and see how he likes it.

Further reading

Other sites have produced excellent articles on this subject; here are some that have come to VP‘s attention:

Order of Truth

Ipswich Unemployed Action

Same Difference

 

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Why the Tories should know privatising Job Centres won’t work

Parked on the dole: Closing Job Centres and handing responsibility for finding work to private companies would condemn thousands - if not hundreds of thousands - of people to a life on benefits (if they don't get sanctioned and starve).

Parked on the dole: Closing Job Centres and handing responsibility for finding work to private companies would condemn thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of people to a life on benefits (if they don’t get sanctioned and starve).

It’s incredible that allies of George Osborne are backing proposals to shut down all Job Centres and let private companies fill the void.

The proposal to let the private sector find work for Britain’s unemployed is actually being considered for inclusion in the Conservative Party’s election manifesto for 2015, according to the Huffington Post.

It quotes a ‘senior Tory’ who told The Sun: “Introducing competition into the job search market is a natural Conservative thing to do.”

This means Conservatives are naturally unimaginative, if not altogether stupid.

Have they already forgotten the lessons learnt from the way work programme provider companies treated jobseekers that were sent their way – as Vox Political reported last year?

The process is known as “creaming and parking”.

Work programme providers knew that – because they get paid on the basis of the results they achieve – they needed to concentrate on the jobseekers who were more likely to find work quickly. These people were “creamed” off and fast-tracked into work, thereby creating profit for the companies.

And the others? Those who need more time and investment? They were “parked” – left without help, to languish in the benefit system for months and years on end – in a situation that Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has said many times that he wanted to reverse.

In fact, his policies have perpetuated the problem.

And now George Osborne wants to spread this practice to all jobseekers, across the country.

It’s time the voting public woke up to what the Conservative Party is, and “parked” it in the history books where it belongs.

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Osborne promising full employment – is this an April Fool?

Bottom of the class: If you believe George Osborne's talk about jobs and benefits, you must have been educated at one of Michael Gove's 'free schools'. [Image: Gaianeconomics]

Bottom of the class: If you believe George Osborne’s talk about jobs and benefits, you must have been educated at one of Michael Gove’s ‘free schools’. [Image: Gaianeconomics]

The answer has to be in the affirmative. Conservatives can’t promise full employment because it simply isn’t part of their philosophy.

As this blog has stated many times, Tories need a discontented underclass fermenting away beneath the lowest-paid members of the working class, in order to create the level of fear necessary to keep wages down.

The argument is that a person will not ask for a pay rise if they know their boss will turn around and say, “There are hundreds out there who will work for less than you – pick up your cards on the way out!”

For a more easy-access disproval of Osborne’s claim, we only have to look a little further into his speech – from the part where he said: “For it’s no good creating jobs – if we’re also paying people to stay on welfare.”

Hang on! When did our great Social Security system change from being a safety net to help get people back into work to “paying people to stay on welfare”?

Oh yes, that’s right – when we had an unelected Conservative government foisted on us. Tories pay people to stay on welfare because they need that fermenting underclass. The aim is always not to pay enough (as you will see).

The next few lines contain unfounded claims and opinions. See for yourself:

“We inherited a welfare system that didn’t work.” According to whom?

“There was not enough help for those looking for a job – people were just parked on benefits.” But there isn’t enough help now. Come to that, there aren’t enough jobs. Where are all the jobs, George?

“Frankly, there was not enough pressure to get a job – some people could just sign on and get almost as much money staying at home as going out to work.” How many people, George? Five? Six? You make it seem as though more than a million jobseekers were sitting at home and drawing as much money in social security as at work. That would be a lie, George.

“That’s not fair to them – because they get trapped in poverty and their aspirations are squashed.” Whereas Conservative policy means what? Oh yes – they get trapped in poverty and their aspirations are squashed.

“It’s certainly not fair to taxpayers like you, who get up, go out to work, pay your taxes and pay for those benefits.” Tory divide-and-rule. You are different to them, because you have a job. If you are low-paid, it is because they are sucking down your tax money to pay for their extravagant lifestyles (I think we’ve all quite thoroughly killed that particular myth, haven’t we? It doesn’t exist outside the Tory political mind).

“Next Monday is when we do more to encourage people without jobs to find them… Benefits will only go up by 1 per cent – so they don’t go up faster than most people’s pay rises, as used to be the case.” This means people on benefits will start to become much worse-off than they are already. Jobseekers’ allowance used to be pegged at around one-sixth of average pay but will now drop to a far lower proportion, because the Tories lied to you when they said benefit rises were far greater than pay rises. One per cent of Jobseekers’ Allowance at a weekly rate of £71 is 70p; one per cent of the average weekly wage in April 2013, which was £517 per week, is £5.17. You see the difference? Oh, and one more thing: Where are all the jobs, George?

“When I took this job, some people were getting huge payouts – receiving £50,000, £60,000 even up to £100,000 in benefits. More than most people could get by working.” How many people, George? Five? Six? One, perhaps?

“So we’ve capped benefits, so that a family out of work can’t get more in benefits than the average working family.” I’m not actually opposed to ensuring that people on benefits can’t take home more than people in work. However, while accurate, this line is disingenuous. George has ensured that a family out of work takes home at least £5,000 less, per year, than an average working family because of the way he and his Tory friends rigged the system. He’s lying to you.

“And we are bringing in a new Universal Credit to make sure work always pays.” He means “pays more than benefits”. He doesn’t mean “pays a living wage”. Spot the difference?

Now here comes some more oppression, based on a really big lie.

“From this month we’re also making big changes to how people go about claiming benefits. We all understand that some people need more help than others to find work.” What work? Where are all the jobs, George?

“So starting this month we’ll make half of all people on unemployment benefits sign on every week – and people who stay on benefits for a long time will have to go to the job centre every day so they can get constant help and encouragement.” Help and encouragement, is it, George? Have you witnessed the kind of “help and encouragement” they get at the job centre? DWP employees should face harassment charges for the disgraceful way they treat their fellow citizens.

“We’re going to require people to look for work for a week first before they get their unemployment benefit. From now on the deal is this: look for work first; then claim the dole. Not the other way around.” Why? In order to drive people into grinding poverty as early as possible? Forcing people to wait until they claim means they could be without money for food, accommodation and utilities for up to a month, while the system processes them. This is not fair. It is cruel and demeaning – especially when Tory George knows there’s no work to be had.

“When people turn up at the job centre they’ll be expected to have a CV ready and to have started looking on our new jobs website.” This is the Universal Jobmatch website that is habitually used by criminals for identity theft, or to offer jobs in the sex industry. It’s so bad that the government itself is planning to ditch it when the contract with its provider runs out in two years’ time. Why would anybody in their right mind use that?

And now here’s the clincher:

“We will ask many of the long term unemployed to do community work in return for their benefits – whether it is making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, or working for a local charity.”

In other words, they will ensure that fewer jobs are available by making jobseekers do the work for nothing. Brilliant idea, George – you are wrecking our economy.

“All of this is bringing back the principles that our welfare state was originally based on – something for something, not something for nothing.” A lie, couched in truth. The Welfare State is based on the principle that people on hard times were able to take advantage of benefits because, when in work, they paid into the system via taxes and National Insurance. That’s the “something for something”. It is not based on the idea that jobseekers have to take jobs off the market by doing them for free. That’s just plain silly.

In fact, George, you are just plain silly.

So, returning to the question in our headline, it’s clear to see the answer.

If anyone here is an April Fool, it’s George Osborne.

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Work Programme providers’ plea is an insult to everyone they have mishandled

The truth about the Work Programme: The BBC's piece of 'managed' news was among the most despicable distortions to have blemished our TV screens.

The truth about the Work Programme: The BBC’s piece of ‘managed’ news was among the most despicable distortions to have blemished our TV screens.

It isn’t very often one can say a news report was shocking – not because of the subject matter, but because of the way it was reported.

That was the situation tonight with the BBC’s item in which Work Programme providers complained that they need more money to “help” the most challenging jobseekers into work.

This group, of course, being benefit claimants in the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance.

This group being the most consistently abused and neglected element of the new underclass created by the Conservative-led Coalition government, demonised and hated by the right-wing press, often attacked in the street (to judge from first-hand accounts), many of whom have been driven to suicide or death caused by their conditions, which have been worsened by the unacceptable (and to most people reading this, inconceivable) amount of stress the DWP, Atos (the private company assessing their fitness for work) and the private Work Programme providers have put them through.

This group who have been sent on so-called “back to work training” with Work Programme providers, consisting of minimal and elementary exercises that are an insult to the intelligence, rather than an aid to employment. Does anyone remember the exercise in which people are asked to draw a pig? Apparently the direction it faces indicates whether you’re the kind of person who faces their challenges head-on, or someone who takes a more circumspect attitude (so, nothing to do with whether you think a side view is more interesting, then).

This group, being cynically exploited by Work Programme provider organisations in a blatant bid to screw money out of the taxpayer, despite having done the bare minimum to “help” people back into work.

This group, consisting mostly – if not entirely – of people who belong in the support group of Employment and Support Allowance but were placed among those who should be able to go back to work within a year because the Atos Work Capability assessors are under orders to place no more than 12 or 13 per cent of everyone they see into the support group. Oh, you don’t believe me? Ask yourself why, when the fraud rate for disability benefits is 0.4 per cent, the percentage of people being told they are lying and are fit for work is 70 per cent, to which a further 17-18 per cent can be added who are deemed likely to be fit for work with this so-called training from the WPPs.

This is why the Work Programme companies can’t get these people into jobs: They are too ill to work.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. This isn’t about the facts. This is about ‘managing’ the news, to present the public with a cosy story to make Work Programme providers look nice and friendly. They’re not failing because of any lack of will on their part (the BBC story tells us); they’re failing because the government isn’t making them rich enough!

Let’s take this BBC story apart. We’ll use the article on the corporation’s website.

First factual claim: “Of those who have been on the scheme for at least a year, a third have begun a job, figures seen by the BBC show.” This may be true. Unfortunately, statistics tend also to show that these jobs do not last long and the individuals in them end up back on the Work Programme within a few weeks or months. The DWP’s own mark of success is a person keeping a job for six months or more. That’s not exactly permanent by anybody’s standards.

Second factual claim: “In the most challenging group – who claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – only 10 per cent have found work”. This may also be true. Readers will recall the fuss over government lies that 900,000 people had signed off ESA rather than take the Work Capability Assessment, that were proven to be the normal “churn” of claimants signing off for perfectly ordinary reasons such as finding a job they could do, even though sick/disabled, or getting better. ESA is not a lifetime benefit!

So with this figure – totalling around 1.7 per cent of the total number of claimants over a 12-month period – it is entirely likely that some will have found a job they can do, or got better, after taking the assessment. The figures for fraud aren’t touched by this possibility, as there is no reason to believe a fraudulent claimant would be put in the WRAG.

In other words, the 90 per cent of WRAG members left on the Work Programme are, most likely, those who belong in the support group, who are unlikely to find lasting employment because (let’s repeat it): They are too ill to work.

Work Programme providers have their own representative organisation called the Employment Related Services Association, or ERSA. This organisation claimed that the Work Programme cannot “fix” the “complex” health and skills requirements of ESA claimants on its own, but needed to tap into “skills and health budgets”. This is fascinating, because the Work Programme is supposed to be specifically designed to meet the needs of its users. We know it doesn’t, because it has been running since 2011 and we have first-hand accounts to the contrary from people who have been on it, but that was the claim.

ERSA figures “suggest around a quarter of ESA jobseekers have been unemployed for at least 11 years”. This seems likely – they belong in the support group, not the WRAG, and are unable to work.

“The DWP says it recognises the ‘particular barriers facing many of the hardest to help’. Hang on! Wasn’t the DWP under heavy fire only weeks ago because work programme providers were ‘parking’ the most difficult claimants – admitting there was no way to get them into jobs? And that, after the Secretary of State, no less, Iain Dunderhead Smith, went on the BBC’s Question Time and railed about people who had been “parked” on benefits for decades at a time, making it clear in no uncertain terms that he was going to get them off benefits, come Hell or high water?

This is the same story, but now the providers have got the begging bowl out. They’re already paid millions (don’t believe the payment-by-results claim) but they want more money.

Have they forgotten the aim is to save the taxpayers’ cash?

I thought George Osborne’s Mansion House speech would be the most infuriating thing I’d hear this evening.

I was wrong.