Tag Archives: premium

‘Pork barrel’ Tories: they quietly changed rules to give money to schools in rich areas

If you live in a poor area, you may soon start wondering why your local school is complaining about having no cash. Here’s the answer:

It’s because Boris Johnson and his Conservatives have quietly changed the way ‘pupil premium’ cash – allocated to children who are classed as deprived – to ensure that most of them could not be registered.

The pupil premium hands over £1,345 for every primary age pupil who claims a free school meal, or £955 for a secondary student.

Allocations have always been based on numbers registered by each January – but was suddenly – and secretly – switched to “the number of eligible pupils recorded by schools in their census in October 2020” – just a few weeks after the new school year started.

Many parents had not provided the necessary information by that time – they tend to need reminding of it because the Tories refused point-blank to introduce a fair system of automatic registration.

Schools in poorer areas are likely to lose around £40,000 each – the equivalent of a full-time teacher or two support staff. Schools in rich Tory areas are said to be likely to benefit.

This is ‘pork barrel’ politics – rewarding people who voted for the Conservatives with cash benefits.

It’s forbidden in election campaigns but sadly there is no way to prevent a government from diverting funding to benefit areas that voted for it; they’ll always have an excuse.

And they have one in this case. Accused of making the change when it was too late to act, the Department for Education responded that the intention was to “allow schools a chance to know their budget earlier in the year, helping them to plan ahead”.

How many had been complaining that they couldn’t plan ahead with the previous system? We’re not told that, which suggests the Tories just made up something they thought would sound good.

This revelation follows a previous discovery that the Tories have stripped £100 million of emergency funding from poorer parts of England – including many Covid-19 hotspots – and given it to Tory constituencies instead.

The government stripped deprivation out of its calculations, despite announcing plans for that switch had been shelved – and despite saying the money was to “fight the pandemic”.

[The cash] is intended to fund getting rough sleepers off the streets and domestic abuse victims into safe accommodation, as well as to help manage funerals and bolster frontline services; all tasks more onerous in deprived areas with more virus cases.

The poorest areas in England lost funding, while the 10 richest areas enjoyed huge boosts.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it was providing funding in “the fairest way possible” but this rings hollow when compared with the black-and-white figures.

But it’s what the UK’s Tories voted for – a fat bung from a corrupt government, taken from the people who genuinely need the funds.

Source: Millions of pounds swiped from England’s poorest schools in fresh ‘political’ funding switch | The Independent

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Tories launch court battle to strip severely disabled people of sorely-needed benefits

How can the Tories justify their determination to retain the discredited Universal Credit ‘benefit’ when the courts have ruled that it deliberately makes disabled people worse-off?

Not only that, but the courts also ruled that the Tory government lied to benefit claimants when they were told they wouldn’t lose money.

Judges ruled that the uneven rollout of Universal Credit makes the benefit system a postcode lottery, with people moving into areas with the new system likely to be seriously disadvantaged.

And – possibly worst of all – why are the Tories determined to waste public money appealing against those rulings in court when it is clear that, in legal terms, they don’t have a leg to stand on?

That is what the Tories are doing to two disabled men – known only as TP and AR.

They had been forced onto Universal Credit when they moved into a local authority area where the new system had been rolled out.

This meant they lost out on the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP), leaving them suddenly around £180 a month out-of-pocket, despite being repeatedly assured they would not be worse off.

A High Court judge found that this was unlawful because those that moved to a different local authority area were being treated differently to those who moved within their local authority area – the Tory government had created a postcode lottery.

Take note of this:

The judgment in this first case described a “striking” lack of evidence from the [then-] Secretary of State that she had understood or considered the far-reaching consequences for severely disabled people who moved into a different local authority and would be forced onto Universal Credit.

As a result of the case, the Tory government proposed that those who had already moved onto Universal Credit would receive transitional top-up payments – but at a rate of £80 per month rather than the £180 per month they had actually lost.

TP and AR again took the Tories to court, arguing that short-changing them was unlawful as they were being unjustifiably treated differently to those who had not moved onto to Universal Credit and would continue to receive the full amount of SDP and EDP. The High Court again found in their favour.

And now the Tory government is appealing against both decisions.

Rather than accept the self-evident facts that their flagship “benefit” system is deliberately depriving severely disabled people of the money they need simply to survive – and rectify the change…

The Tories are demanding that the courts rubber-stamp this act of governmental daylight robbery.

And they are currently campaigning to win a general election, with a claim that they will solve problems with Universal Credit, when in fact they are actively trying to make it worse.

These are all excellent reasons to vote Labour – that party will abolish Universal Credit once and for all.

Source: Court of Appeal to hear two Universal Credit claims

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Rail fare rises driven by demands of shareholders and foreign corporate owners

A Virgin Trains East Coast train at King’s Cross station in London [Image: David Parry/PA].

A Virgin Trains East Coast train at King’s Cross station in London [Image: David Parry/PA].

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald has read this right – so of course his comment appears last in the Guardian‘s article, where nobody is likely to see it.

He said passengers are paying higher fares to subsidise the demands of the privatised rail companies’ shareholders, including foreign firms who will put the money into other nations’ rail systems.

This raises the obvious question, in an atmosphere of (false) allegations that foreign citizens have moved to the UK to take services that should go to the people of the UK:

Why are British citizens (actually) being forced to subsidise foreign services and utilities (rail isn’t the only one) through our privatised companies?

The Virgin Trains East Coast rise appears to be motivated by the failure of the Branson-owned firm to increase passenger numbers – possibly because the prices are too high?

As a result, we are told, the firm is struggling to pay premiums it promised to the Treasury in return for the franchise.

So the passengers are being forced to pay more because of privatisation. Weren’t we all promised that prices would fall?

The 2.3% average UK rail fare rises for 2017 are being driven by much higher increases on the reprivatised Virgin Trains East Coast, where ticket prices set by the operator will far outstrip the rate of inflation.

While regulated fares such as season tickets and off-peak returns, which are set by the government, are to increase by 1.9%, fares on Virgin Trains East Coast will increase by 4.9% overall.

The rail firm said that would be hiking the fares it controls by an average of around 5.5%.

The rail firm – a partnership between Richard Branson’s Virgin and the transport group Stagecoach – won the franchise in March 2015, when it was controversially reprivatised by the coalition government after more than five years of operation in the public sector.

Passenger numbers have not risen in line with projections from the time of the bid, leaving the operator struggling to meet the £3.3bn in premiums it has promised to pay the Treasury by 2023, with the bulk of that due in the later years of the eight-year franchise.

Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said Labour was committed to returning franchises to public ownership to “put an end to Britain’s rip-off railways”. He added: “Passengers are told that higher fares are necessary to fund investment, but vital projects have been delayed by years. Rail fares have risen by 25% on average in the last six years alone, whilst real wages remain below their 2008 levels.

“Money that could be used to keep fares down or reinvested to improve our services is instead subsidising the profits of private companies and other nations’ railway systems – it’s a scandal.”

Source: Rail fare rises driven by hikes on Virgin Trains East Coast | Money | The Guardian

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Disabled jobseekers get a disability premium. Disabled people who are sick don’t. Is that fair?

disabled-man-holding-no-cuts-sign-640x426

It seems George Osborne may have made a bit of a boo-boo over Employment and Support Allowance in his Budget on Wednesday. Let’s lay it out and if anybody can shed light on the situation, please do.

It seems people with disabilities who are claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance now have an unfair financial advantage over those who are claiming ESA, because they receive the DLA-related disability premium, while those on ESA do not.

This cannot be fair.

In his Budget speech, Osborne said new applicants for ESA, who are put into the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG), will now receive the same amount as people on the basic rate of Jobseekers’ Allowance. The extra money people receive for being on ESA will no longer be provided.

Having a disability doesn’t mean you are ill. so it is possible to be claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) concurrently.

It is also possible to be ill and have a disability, so it is possible to claim sickness benefit ESA and DLA at the same time.

DLA normally dispenses a disability premium into your main benefit (JSA or ESA) – a “top-up” amount to help people cope with the extra cost of living associated with disability.

Before Osborne opened his mouth on Wednesday, ESA attracted extra money automatically for people in the WRAG group – this is the cash that Osborne has cut.

Consider this: As DLA also dispenses extra money in the form of a premium, ESA would have attracted two pots of extra cash when it was originally devised in 2008. The government of the day – according to a Vox Political source – decided that ESA should only attract one pot of money so they ruled that the DLA premium would not be applied to people in the WRAG group of ESA .

Now George Osborne has declared that new claimants in the WRAG group will lose their extra money, leaving WRAG ESA claimants with no extra money at all.

This means people who are unemployed and disabled – but not sick – receive extra money from the DLA premium to cope with their disability, while people who are disabled and also sick receive no extra money from the DLA premium to cope with their disability.

This cannot be fair.

This blog invites readers with expertise in this matter to comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, it may be time to write to your MP and demand fair treatment for WRAG ESA claimants.

* What does this mean for PIP – the Personal Independence Payment? Does this dispense premiums to people on ESA and JSA? If not – why not? Their needs are no different, just because they’re on the newer benefit. Vox Political invites comment on this, also.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Is anyone stupid enough to fall for this Tory tax bribe?

131001cameronspeech

So David Cameron wants us to believe further public spending cuts will be used to ease the tax burden on the proles, does he?

He must think you’re stupid. Are you?

Exactly one month ago (February 5), the Institute of Fiscal Studies reported that Cameron’s Coalition government will be less than halfway through its planned spending cuts by the end of the current financial year, as Vox Political reported at the time.

These are the cuts that the government considers vital in order to bring the nation’s bank account back into some kind of balance in the near future.

If Cameron abandons the “long-term economic plan” his Tories have been touting for the last few months, in a bid to bring voters back on-side, it means he will want to make even more cuts if he is returned to office in 2015.

We can therefore draw only two possibilities from his claim:

There will be no tax cuts; he is lying, in the same way he lied about keeping the NHS safe from private companies – the same way Jeremy Hunt has lied about your medical records being kept away from companies who will use them to raise your health insurance premiums, and the same way that Iain Duncan Smith has been hiding the true extent of the deaths caused by the Atos- (sorry, OH Assist-) run work capability assessments.

He will make a few tax cuts (probably in the March budget) but any benefit will be clawed back as soon as the Tories have secured your votes and won another term; the only people they want to help are rich – and you don’t qualify.

According to yesterday’s (March 4) BBC report, “every efficiency” found could help provide a “bit of extra cash” for households.

But we already know from the BBC’s article about the IFS that “additional spending, population growth and extra demands on the NHS meant more cuts were needed”.

Cameron even contradicted himself in his speech! At one point he said, “Every bit of government waste we can cut… is money we can give back to you.” Then he went on to add: “If we don’t get to grips with the deficit now, we are passing a greater and greater burden of debt to our children.”

Which are you going to do, David? Give money back to the people in tax cuts or tackle the deficit? If you want to achieve your goals within the time limit you have set yourself, you can’t do both!

Not that deadlines mean anything to him, of course. As noted in the earlier Vox Political article, it is more likely that the Conservatives have been working to give themselves an excuse for more cuts, rather than to restore the economy and balance the books.

And if he does cut taxes, what public services will we lose forever as a result?

Think about it.

Don’t let this liar make a fool out of you.

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The end of patient confidentiality as NHS information is sold to insurers

Americanised healthcare: It is appropriate that the only appropriate image I could find features dollars instead of pounds - because it is clear that the Tory government is changing the NHS into an Americanised insurance-based service.

Americanised healthcare: It is appropriate that the only appropriate image I could find features dollars instead of pounds – because it is clear that the Tory government is changing the NHS into an Americanised insurance-based service.

Confidential information on NHS patients has been sold to insurance companies who used it in combination with information from credit rating agencies to identify customers and “refine” their premiums – increasing the costs of policies for thousands of customers, despite all the Tory-led government’s assurances to the contrary.

According to the Daily Telegraph, “a major UK insurance company… was able to obtain 13 years of hospital data – covering 47 million patients.

“As a result they recommended an increase in the costs of policies for thousands of customers last year.”

The revelation comes only days after plans to sell the confidential medical information of every NHS patient in England were put on hold amid a public outcry.

The care.data system, also called variously the General Patient Extraction Service (GPES) or the Health and Social Care Information Centre, was dreamed up as a money-spinning device by Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health.

The aim is that, if you are an NHS patient in England, your GP will be forced to provide your confidential records, showing every medical condition you have ever had and providing intimate details of your current state of health, to a huge national database.

From there, your information may be sold on to private healthcare and pharmaceutical companies for “research”. The government has said the information would be “pseudonymised”, in an attempt to reassure you that you cannot be identified from the information to be provided to outside organisations.

Only last Friday the BBC was reporting that critics of the scheme were “scaremongering”.

The Corporation – which has failed to report the new development – quoted Tory MP George Freeman, founder of Patients4Data, which represents charities and drug companies (and not patients, apparently) as follows: “We cannot let opponents peddling scaremongering myths stop patients benefiting from this quiet revolution of modern medicine.”

And last month, NHS England categorically stated: “No data will be made available for the purposes of selling or administering any kind of insurance.”

Vox Political has made it clear from the outset that this is not true, and in fact it will be entirely possible to trace your medical information back to you. Now we have proof.

NHS England has delayed compiling the new database of English NHS patients until the autumn. You could help sink the scheme altogether, if you don’t want your government – and your NHS – to sell your information into the wrong hands. Just opt out of the data sharing scheme, using a form designed by the medConfidential website.

Make no mistake – the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats in Parliament have betrayed you.

They have already sold hospital patients’ information to insurance companies, and there can be no doubt that the intention is to do the same with GPs’ confidential records, with a consequential increase in insurance costs to people across the country.

They are turning your beloved National Health Service into an insurance-based scheme, on the same lines as the vastly more expensive American system.

They have been lying to you.

They intend to profit from selling your information – to companies that intend to profit by using it against you.

Are you going to sit there and let them?

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