Tag Archives: price

#LabourLies: its offer to help with #Energy bills is what you neither want nor need

Here’s the problem with the binary choice that both the Conservatives and Keir Starmer’s Tepid Tories insist that voters in the UK have: it asks you to choose between options you don’t want.

The example here is energy bills. The Tories say the cost of energy is rising and you have to pay it. Labour has countered by saying they would impose measures to make that cost lower than the Tories would.

But Labour – under Starmer – is trying to deceive you with a tactic known as “Relative Privation”.

Here’s The Agitator to explain:

A tax on oil and gas producers would only induce them to increase our bills even more so that we cover the cost and their shareholders don’t take a hit; this is a natural consequence of handing control of a monopoly over to private companies.

And improving homes with insulation or by using better building methods – both of which are measures for which Insulate Britain has been campaigning and which are therefore anathema to the Tory government – would make those dwellings more expensive to future buyers, pushing home ownership even further beyond the reach of most people (which is not to say that Insulate Britain are wrong; the issue is about providing these features affordably).

The answer to the problem of our energy bills is, of course, re-nationalisation.

With the energy companies back under state control, the government could dictate the price we pay to heat our homes and subsidise the difference between that and the cost of the fuel until such time as it reduced – or until the government was able to provide energy using a different fuel source.

And perhaps it would be worth reminding you that people like This Writer’s parents, who installed solar power collectors on the roof of their home many years ago, haven’t paid a penny for their energy in years; the National Grid pays them for the power they supply into it.

So, if successive governments had supported a national campaign for domestic homes to install solar power, the UK would not be facing this problem now.

They didn’t because they were all neoliberal twits who wanted poor people to enrich the shareholders of the privatised energy firms (one-third of which are owned by foreign governments, if I recall correctly).

Why should we accept two bad choices? Why aren’t you demanding re-nationalisation of energy and a mass project to generate cheap, clean energy?

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Energy prices have quadrupled and Kwarteng is lying about the government response

Kwasi Kwarteng: you can’t trust a word he says.

This is refreshing! The BBC is actually doing its job and checking government ministers’ claims against the facts!

Here’s the evidence:

In fact, the rebuttal from the Treasury was far harsher than the BBC misled us to believe, if you take Sam Coates’s word for it (and I’m inclined to):

Still, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. The fact that the BBC has actually checked a minister’s claim is a huge step forward for the quality of journalism at the Corporation.

Maybe they have. This Writer went on the course before embarking on a career in professional journalism. But then, I’m not related to anybody at the BBC, which is allegedly how most of their staff are recruited these days.

It is entirely possible, though, that the BBC’s sudden zeal for facts is merely a bid to hide the extremity of the disaster that the Tories have created over the 40 years since Margaret Thatcher started privatising energy suppliers:

And Kwarteng? He’s not bothered. He went off to Sky (presumably avoiding Mr Coates) and had good fun chatting with Islamophobe Trevor Philips about how sick and old people can eliminate the choice between heating and eating by putting on a few extra layers of clothes…

… so they end up doing neither:

The whole situation is reminiscent of the early-1970s oil crisis that led to power cuts across the UK.

That was during a Conservative government, too – Edward Heath’s.

He introduced a three-day working week in order to conserve electricity – and it seems Boris Johnson’s government has brought us back to that.

This has been a long time coming – and some of us have been warning about it, every step of the way.

The Tories privatised the energy suppliers on the promise that prices would stay low and systems would improve, in order to stay competitive. Instead, prices quadrupled and control of the new companies was bought by foreign firms, many of them wholly-owned by the governments of EU nations.

And then the UK left the EU, annoying those governments.

And now we are facing the threat of being deprived of our power supply.

It would not be possible if the UK had retained control of its own energy supply. But that’s another truth you won’t hear from Kwasi Kwarteng.

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Private employment agencies are making a killing by paying nurses a pittance

What do you think of this little racket?

Remember when the Conservative government introduced privatisation into NHS procurement? It means the health service in England can hire nurses from private agencies.

There is a shortage of nurses, meaning that agencies like Thornbury Nursing can pretty much ask whatever price they fancy, and NHS England will have to pay.

The agency then pays its nurses less than half of what it charged the NHS – making the work unattractive to all but those who are most desperate for cash, and perpetuating the staffing crisis.

Here’s the punchline: Thornbury Nursing is run by a private equity fund owned by a major donor to the Conservative Party.

I’m not saying this person pulled strings to ensure that a situation developed from which they could profit.

I don’t have any information either way.

But if that isn’t what’s happening, why doesn’t this company either lower its charge, or increase the amount it pays its nurses?

Source: Private agencies paying workers less than half what they charge NHS to hire – Mirror Online

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Boris Johnson’s big NHS meltdown

After their campaign on law and order dissolved into chaos, the Tories tried to take the moral high ground on health. It didn’t work.

Most particularly, it didn’t work for Boris Johnson, who was challenged on the subject by prime minister-in-waiting Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Mr Corbyn was keen for Mr Johnson to explain why his government had held secret trade talks with US firms that would nearly triple the price of medicines bought by the NHS, creating serious pressure on the service at a time when it is already under enormous strain.

I discuss the issue here, or you can watch this video to have it in a nutshell:

Note also that “drug pricing” is now to be known as “valuing innovation”. And, as a TV comedian once said, from now on radiation will be known as “magic moonbeams”.

Here’s Mr Corbyn, opening his questioning in PMQs – and Mr Johnson’s answer:

Of course, Mr Corbyn was well aware of the situation regarding the cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi; it was his intervention that succeeded in getting it provided on the NHS, we’re told.

Mr Johnson’s claims about building 40 new hospitals fare less well in the fact-check. As Mr Corbyn put it: “As for the fabled 40 hospitals, that figure dropped to 20 and then finally dropped to six.” They’ll be down to none in the event of a Conservative election victory.

Mr Corbyn continued: “We learned this week that Government officials have met US pharmaceutical companies five times as part of the Prime Minister’s planned trade deal. The US has called for “full market access” to our NHS, which would mean prices of some of our most important medicines increasing by up to sevenfold. While the Government are having secret meetings with US corporations, it is patients here who continue to suffer.”

And he said: “Of course we need to import medicines from various places; I just want it to be done in an open and transparent way. I do not want secret talks between Government officials, on behalf of Ministers, and big pharma corporations in the USA.”

He slammed Tory privatisation of NHS services, which has skyrocketed with more than £10 billion being frittered away to private companies and their shareholders, rather than supporting the health of UK citizens.

He said: “What we do not want is private companies like Virgin Care suing our NHS for contracts that they did not get. Our NHS should be focused on making people better, not making the wealthy few richer.

“National health service A&E departments have just had their worst September on record. This morning, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said that this winter the NHS needs more than 4,000 extra beds.” But under Boris Johnson’s government, he said, the number of people in England waiting for an operation has now reached a record high of 4.4 million.

He continued as follows:

And he concluded: “Despite the Prime Minister’s denials, the NHS is up for grabs by US corporations in a Trump trade deal. Is it not the truth—the Government may not like this—that this Government are preparing to sell out our NHS? Our health service is in more danger than at any other time in its glorious history because of the Prime Minister’s Government, his attitudes and the trade deals that he wants to strike.”

It is indeed the truth.

Mr Johnson spluttered on for a while but the best he could do in his defence was quote a discredited CBI claim that Labour would spend nearly £200 billion on a privatisation programme; the CBI itself has admitted that the claim was based on questionable assumptions and withdrawn it.

He lied that Labour would tax corporations, people, pensions and businesses – in fact Labour will only increase taxes on the people earning the most, who are therefore most able to accommodate such a charge.

And he said Labour would condemn the UK to two more referendums – on Brexit and Scottish independence. He neglected to say that he would consign us all to even more Brexit uncertainty as he would try – yet again – to push through a departure on the worst possible terms for the majority of the nation.

Finally, he appears to have become tongue-tied in his predictions of the future, mixing the roles of his party and Mr Corbyn’s.

I’ll fix that for him now:

“That is the future for this country: drift and dither under the Conservative party, or taking Britain forward to a brighter future under Labour. That is the choice this country faces.”

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Shock revelation: Liar Boris Johnson has been secretly selling out the NHS

Boris Johnson has been selling out the National Health Service in negotiations on a trade deal that would allow US companies to set drug prices, it has been claimed.

The revelation about these secret talks could not come at a worse time for the Tory government, as it prepares to dissolve Parliament and launch a general election campaign.

This is electoral poison for the Conservatives as Boris Johnson, health secretary Matt Hancock and international trade secretary Liz Truss have all insisted that the NHS is “off the table” in talks with the US if the UK leaves the European Union.

The threat is that NHS finances would be put at risk by a trade deal with the US that would force the health service to buy more expensive drugs.

And there is evidence that it is an overarching Tory policy to lay the NHS open to exploitation by US pharmaceutical monopolies, as the talks began under Theresa May (who also lied about them) but have continued under Mr Johnson.

Who will vote for a government that is bad for our health – and deliberately lies about the harm it is doing?

Here’s the information from Channel 4’s Dispatches:

The Independent has reported that more than one-third of people surveyed in a recent poll said they were “very concerned” about the future impact of a deal with Washington on the NHS.

Meanwhile, Tories like Michael Gove have apparently been lying through their teeth (metaphorically, on Twitter)…

… and the public isn’t having any of it:

The message for the general election is clear:

Your NHS is not safe with Boris Johnson – or any of his Conservative liars.

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Rail fares to rise yet again – this time by 2.8 per cent

This is more evidence to support Labour’s plan to re-nationalise the UK’s railways.

Regulated train fares are set to rise by 2.8 per cent next year, in line with the July rate of Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation.

Commuters from the new transport secretary’s constituency will pay an extra £84 a year to get to work in London from the start of 2020.

Grant Shapps is MP for Welwyn Hatfield. From January next year, the price of an annual season ticket from Welwyn Garden City to London will rise from £3,016 to £3,100.

Source: Rail fares set to rise by 2.8% in 2020 | The Independent

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Grayling’s failings are piling up – rail fiasco adds to his Brexit ferry woes

Fiasco: It costs an average of 3.1 per cent more to board a train than it did in December – and the chances are it will still be delayed.

Chris Grayling is failing as Transport Secretary, just as he failed as Justice Secretary and as a minister for employment.

His latest disaster is the latest increase increase in ticket prices on Britain’s railways – most of which are owned by foreign companies and all of which have creamed £3.5 billion in profits off of us, while failing to provide adequate services.

The Mirror describes it as a “gravy train” for the privatised rail operators, which were once a national utility owned by all of us.

Its report stated: “Private train operators have creamed off £3.5 billion from running our railways over the past 10 years.

“These gigantic profits come despite passengers having to deal with overcrowding, delays, cancellations, strikes and among the highest ticket prices in Europe.

“It got worse yesterday as fare increases were introduced.”

Those increases amount to 3.2 per cent this year – totalling 36 per cent since 2010. The Mirror reported that top executives were making a fortune from them. So what do you think Mr Grayling had to say about it?

He blamed the employees.

A different Mirror report stated: “Chris Grayling blamed rail workers three times in an interview.

“He claimed the “biggest factor” behind the fare rises is “pay pressure from the unions”.

“”They want pay rises that are much higher than [Shadow Transport Secretary] Andy McDonald was talking about.

“”They threaten strike action across the country to get those pay rises.””

According to Rachael Maskell MP, he also attacked Network Rail:

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald had withering words for Mr Grayling – after disembarking from a train that was – predictably – late.

According to the Mirror‘s report, he said: “This is a pathetic attempt to shift the blame for Tory fares policies onto the staff who run the railway.

“It’s telling that Grayling doesn’t suggest slashing the salaries of train company bosses or dividends paid to shareholders of private train companies.”

Labour – and the Mirror – wants rail services to be renationalised. Privatisation has been an enormously costly mistake. Who knows how much money has been lost due to overcharging by the private companies – and due to the delays their poor services have caused?

Here’s Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn:

His aims are entirely achievable:

The party’s video clip advertising the policy is terrific:

And Labour groups across the country are rising to support the initiative, like the Southampton and Romsey party:

Meanwhile, Mr Grayling remains under fire for his decision to give a £14 million ferrying contract – in the event of a no-deal Brexit – to a firm that has no experience and no ships.

He has doubled down on his decision:

But this only means he has exposed himself to further ridicule:

In response to that last tweet, Tom Pride answered: “Don’t listen to him @theresa_may, I’ll do it for 10…”

But there are serious questions too, like this one…

… and this one:

Uppermost in many minds is how Mr Grayling can hold on to his Cabinet ministerial position after this pair of cock-ups:

They’ll have a long wait, I think.

Mr Grayling will never resign of his own free will, no matter how much chaos his decisions cause.

He doesn’t have the sense of honour necessary – or even the wit to understand that it is what is demanded of him.

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Report warns of health and earnings risk to unpaid family carers


It’s about time the spotlight swung round to illuminate the plight of unpaid family carers.

I’m one, and I can confirm that life for carers like me is a never-ending, thankless struggle to make ends meet, combat government attempts to terminate my partner’s sickness and disability benefits (and my own Carer’s Allowance), cope with my partner’s mood swings that can make me feel entirely unappreciated, and avoid knock-on effects on my physical and mental health as well.

I am fortunate enough to be able to earn a little extra cash by writing This Site (although it has attracted enmity from certain vested interests who are determined to deprive me of this valuable income stream by disparaging my articles and my character – click on the link to my JustGiving site for further information on that).

Others have to rely on government funding that is dwindling in value every year.

It is an agonising struggle to avoid being crushed between the rock of my partner’s needs and the hard place of increasing financial pressures.

The report mentioned below makes recommendations – but these relate only to carers who are also employees.

Much more help is required.

Nearly eight million family carers in the UK are “propping up the care system” by providing unpaid care for relatives and other loved-ones, whilst also paying a significant personal and financial price for the care they provide, according to a new report from the Social Market Foundation (SMF) think tank.

Research has calculated that around 7.6 million adults are giving up their time to provide unpaid care for relatives, up 1 million since 2005 and equal to almost 15% of adults living in the UK.

In [a] report published on Monday, the SMF says the proportion of family carers providing 20 or more hours of unpaid care each week has increased from 24% in 2005 to reach 28% in 2015, with family carers providing an average 19.5 hours of unpaid care each week.

In total, family carers are sacrificing 149 million hours to care for loved-ones every week, equal to 4 million paid care-givers working full-time hours.

However, this level of unselfishness can have a devastating impact on the carers’ health and work prospects, with family carers less likely to be in employment than non-carers and more likely to earn far less.

Source: Nearly 8 million unpaid carers are ‘propping up’ the broken care system

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Another Theresa May manifesto promise evaporates in a puff of hot air

It’s all about gas. While Theresa May is full of it, she has failed to fulfil a promise to cap energy prices – and now an energy company is hiking its bills.

According to The Independent: “British Gas will hike its prices by an average of 5.5 per cent next month, taking the price of its standard tariff to £1,161 for a typical dual fuel customer.

“The energy firm said the increase was due to rising wholesale and policy costs, and blamed government policy for putting more pressure on customers’ bills.”

The minister for energy and clean growth, Claire Perry, was quoted as saying: “We are disappointed by British Gas’s announcement of an unjustified price rise in its default tariff when customers are already paying more than they need to.

“This is why government is introducing a new price cap by this winter to guarantee that consumers are protected from poor value tariffs and further bring down the £1.4bn a year consumers have been overpaying the Big Six.”

Too little, too late!

If Mrs May had been serious about this, she would have imposed the cap immediately – before energy companies had a chance to give themselves pay rises which even the Tory government has said are “unjustified”.

Therefore, she isn’t.

And we all know it:

We all know what to do about it, too:

Right?


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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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