Bad choices: This infographic (from the Daily Mail’s ‘This Is Money’ column) shows the effect on Serco of its involvement in overcharging for tagging criminals.
The government should be less reliant on a handful of “quasi-monopoly” private sector contractors like Serco and G4S in future, if it has any sense – according to the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee.
Isn’t it a shame that we already know the Coalition Government doesn’t have any sense – the committee’s report said as much when it criticised government departments for continuing to hand work over to the named companies while they were being investigated for overcharging.
We can bank on the Coalition awarding further contracts to these big firms, too.
The Public Accounts Committee said in its report that there needed to be more competition in the £90bn market for private outsourcing of public services.
Some might say that public services should not be performed by private contractors at all, but it seems there is a logic to it. Why create a government department for cleaning services when you can hire an existing firm more economically?
This seems to be the way the PAC is thinking, as MPs said contracts should be split up to give small and medium-sized firms a better chance of getting business – and to prevent a situation where a handful of firms were “too important to fail” despite questions about their performance (a clear reference to the financial crisis, in which the government had to use public funds to shore up “too big to fail” banks).
Government departments trust contractors too much and rely too heavily on their information, the PAC stated. This clearly provides opportunities for corruption – in a country where PricewaterhouseCoopers can provide advisors to both the government’s Mark Hoban and the opposition’s Rachel Reeves, one is inexorably drawn to the conclusion that the firm’s advice will be to its own advantage and that of its clients – not the nation’s.
But the committee said the government should be taking a much harder line on firms whose “ethical standards have been found wanting” and criticised departments including the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Health, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and HM Revenue & Customs for continuing to award them additional work while a criminal inquiry by the Serious Fraud Office into overcharging was continuing.
It said the electronic tagging contracts were not isolated cases, with two other G4S contracts with the MoJ having been referred to the SFO while another Serco contract with the MoJ was being investigated by the City of London Police.
In response, the Cabinet Office said changes made to the government’s procurement and commercial management since the last general election in 2010 had brought savings of £5.4 billion last year, indicating clearly that ministers don’t understand the problem.
There is no point in saving money if the job is not being done properly!
A spokesman told the BBC: “Our action over the past year shows how seriously we take breaches of those high standards.”
After the NHS, it seems the Tories want us all paying for our social security out of our own pockets. Why pay taxes, then?
In an article headlined “Workers ‘could be forced to pay £5 a week’ to get benefits“, The Independent tells us: “Workers could be forced to pay at least £5 a week into a personal “welfare account” to get higher benefits if they lose their job, under a plan being considered by George Osborne.
“The Policy Exchange think-tank proposes a shake-up of the welfare system to strengthen its original “contributory principle”, under which the amount people receive in benefits is linked to how much people have paid in.”
Writing in The Guardian, he told us: “As taxpayers we have a right to know how much of our taxes go towards healthcare as we enter a particularly intense debate about NHS funding.”
Can you see where this is going?
Firstly, the idea of taxing us separately for the NHS gives us the idea of paying a charge separate from Income Tax, to fund a specific public service. It is still payable by every UK citizen (although as we know, due to the increased involvement of the private sector, some UK citizens will receive the full amount of their tax payment back in shareholder dividends, and non-UK citizens will receive our tax money without having paid anything towards the service at all; this is one of the reasons it is wrong to allow the private sector into the NHS).
Then the idea of people contributing to a personalised account, on which their personal social security payments will depend (should they need to rely on them), provides the notion that the contributory principle isn’t about everybody paying into a national account that is to be accessible to all of us in need. Instead, Policy Exchange wants us to accept that some people should not have to pay into the “welfare account” for the national benefit – people who would not need to draw from it.
Rich people, in other words.
Look further, and you see that the proposed scheme would be run by private sector insurance companies. It is a plan to end public-sector social security altogether and bring in a for-profit insurance scheme to make money for more fat businessmen. This scheme would prey on poor people who are likely to need social security payments at some point in their professional careers, while rich people who could rely on their own fortunes, or Mummy and Daddy, would be relieved of the (very slight, to them) burden of contributing to the nation’s well-being.
The Policy Exchange report’s author, a former Bank of England wonk called Steve Hughes, said: “The current system does not reflect the contributions that people make through their working lives [and] has created a culture of something for nothing, with people becoming reliant on the state.”
He’s right, up to a point – but this is because successive right-wing governments have destroyed the full-employment economy we had before 1979, that made it possible for the system to reflect the contributions made by working-class people. That was the plan. Its aim was to force working-class people into exactly the kind of mass-market, for-profit insurance scheme Mr Hughes is proposing – dishonestly, in this commenter’s opinion.
Who would the government choose to run such a scheme – Unum Provident?
Ultimately, this all relates back to the damn-fool notion that universal benefits “should only be for people who need it“, which allows ‘Old Tories’ (as Alex Little describes them) to say that only the people who need them should be paying for them: “Old Tories are often popping up to say they don’t need their £250 winter fuel allowance. It may be true that they don’t need it, but their motives for mentioning it are so these things will be means tested, the budget will be slashed and then they think they can ask for lower taxes, or more ‘contributory benefits‘ (code for benefits not available to the ‘undeserving’ who’ll need to rely on charity).”
Means testing would take place if social security was handed over to private insurance firms. It’s just as complex and costly as it was in the alittleecon article that Vox Political paraphrased (above), and the system proposed – especially if Unum does get its hands on it – would mean people who need the benefit won’t claim it because the process will be (intentionally) too difficult for them to manage.
At risk of repeating ourselves – because this message is too important not to get through: We must question the motives of rich people who say they don’t need a particular benefit and don’t want to pay for it.
Provision for some depends on provision for all and nobody – no matter how wealthy – should be allowed to pick and choose how they contribute to British society.
You’re either in or out – and if you choose to be left out then you must go all the way out.
Esther McVey: Has never taken a test to discover if she is “bewildered” – but should.
The articles debunking myths about the Labour Party, published on Friday and yesterday (Saturday), have stirred up the Tory-supporting trolls into a frenzy of misinformation and the Vox Political blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed have all been straining under the weight. For this reason, the blog has not had a chance to address the latest evil plot to scapegoat the unemployed for their own joblessness while funnelling cash to undeserving private firms like there’s no tomorrow.
Fortunately, here’s Jayne Linney with her take on the government’s new psychological test to discover benefit claimants’ resistance to work.
She writes: “Last December Sue Jones and I wrote an article, The Just World Fallacy, considering the purpose of the Governments Nudge Unit; therein we demonstrated how unemployment is not caused by psychological barriers but by Government’s failure to invest in appropriate growth projects, and how the aforementioned Nudge Unit works to spread the Tory mantra- the fault of worklessness lies firmly with the claimant.
“Yesterday Esther McVey announced the latest ‘ psychological test’ for unemployed people, an attitude profile of their ‘psychological resistance to work’; an assessment to identify if they are “determined”, “bewildered” or “despondent” about seeking employment.
So no conflict of interest there, then! </sarcasm>
“Claimants in three unidentified Jobcentres are currently being interviewed to assess their attitudes, norms and self belief regarding work; this along with a ‘background profile’, reported to determine if they come from a ‘troubled family’, the likely support of any partner in looking for work and their job history; will decide the ‘segment they are directed to.
“Having undertaken the assessment, it appears claimants will directed into one of the WorkFare programmes, or for those being deemed less ‘mentally prepared” for work, they’ll become subject to intensive coaching, most likely to be claimants physically spending 35 hours a week in the Jobcentre learning how to write cover letters and sit interviews!”
For the rest of the article, you’ll have to nip over to Jayne’s own blog, but her conclusion hits the nail right on the head:
“I believe it is Time this Government STOPPED playing games with the public purse, STOPPED developing programmes of no public benefit and STOPPED LYING to the People – What do you think?”
Not happy with its attempt to sell your health details to private companies, the moneygrubbing Conservative-led Coalition wants to sell off your personal tax data to companies, researchers and public bodies.
The government is considering how much to charge for the information, and claims that all data accessed by third parties will be “confidential”.
But the public has already been stung once by the Coalition’s incompetent attempts to go commercial. The proposed initiative to share NHS medical records with the private sector had to be suspended after a public outcry over “pseudonymised” data – a process by which medical records were said to be anonymous but it was in fact possible to trace exactly whose they were.
The plans for HM Revenue and Customs to share its data are, apparently, being overseen by Treasury minister David Gauke, whose relaxed attitude towards private firms led him to sign off on the infamous “sweetheart deals” that allowed multinational companies to keep billions of pounds of tax that they owed to the Treasury but didn’t want to pay.
Worse still, it turns out the government has already allowed private firms access to our data.
The government has strict rules about what can be released outside HMRC, with a near total ban on data sharing unless it is beneficial for the organisation’s internal work. But according to The Guardian, despite the restrictions, HMRC has quietly launched a pilot programme that has released data about VAT registration for research purposes to three private credit ratings agencies: Experian, Equifax and Dun & Bradstreet.
To comply with the law, the private ratings agencies, which determine credit scores for millions of people and businesses, have been contracted to act on behalf of HMRC and are “therefore treated as part of the department” – giving them access to tax data about businesses that would otherwise be confidential.
The government’s plans to change the law to allow the sale of anonymised individual tax data and release of the VAT register were buried in documents as part of the autumn statement and recent budget.
An HMRC spokesman told the BBC: “HMRC would only share data where this would generate clear public benefits, and where there are robust safeguards in place.
“Last year’s consultation made it very clear that there would be a rigorous accreditation process for anyone wanting access to the data and that any access would take place in a secure environment.
“Those accessing data would be subject to the same confidentiality provisions as HMRC staff, including a criminal sanction for unlawful disclosure of taxpayer information.”
So there. Do you feel better now?
Emma Carr, deputy director of civil rights campaign group, Big Brother Watch, doesn’t. She said: “The ongoing claims about anonymous data overlook the serious risks to privacy of individual level data being vulnerable to re-identification.
“Given the huge uproar about similar plans for medical records, you would have hoped HMRC would have learned that trying to sneak plans like this under the radar is not the way to build trust or develop good policy.”
Ross Anderson, a professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, told The Guardianthe information could be highly useful to credit rating agencies, advertisers, and retailers wanting to practise price discrimination.
“This is going to be a big battleground,” he said. “If they were to make HMRC information more available, there’s an awful lot of people who would like to get their hands on it. Anonymisation is something about which they lied to us over medical data … If the same thing is about to be done by HMRC, there should be a much greater public debate about this.”
It seems the Conservatives in the Coalition are determined to sell information that doesn’t belong to them, and intend to grind us down with a relentless bombardment of initiatives and plans until they succeed.
They seem to by relying on the possibility that we will get ‘complaint fatigue’ and give up any protests. This is how they have beaten disabled people into submission to the draconian system for withdrawing state benefits from them; the system for appealing is drawn-out and convoluted, and many people with illnesses are too tired or weak to go through the process.
Also, this is another way of contracting-out government work to private firms, as evidenced by the VAT “research” that has been handed over to credit ratings agencies.
You can be sure of two things: Your data is not safe in their hands, and they won’t stop trying to sell it until they have been pushed out of government.
Swivel-eyed loon: This is the kind of man who listens to George Osborne’s comments about the economy. [Picture: Left Foot Forward]
It must be panto season because the Conservative Party’s very own Ugly Sisters have just wheeled themselves out to deliver another helping of hilarious family fun:
Even more cuts are needed, worth billions of pounds, and there are still huge underlying problems with the economy, said Sister George, even though he knows that cuts are not the answer.
The small upturn he managed to engineer last year came from a natural upswing in the economy and the artificial housing boom that he created by Keynesian means and was nothing to do with austerity cuts. As for the economy, he’s had three and a half years to fix it! It seems clear that if there is an underlying problem, its surname is Osborne.
We may also extract some bitter humour from his words. Only days ago, his cabinet colleague Michael Gove attacked TV comedy Blackadder Goes Forth for claiming that our leaders in World War One never learnt from their mistakes but merely repeated them, over and over again, at huge cost in the lives of the working-class people who had to suffer the consequences of their decisions.
So we will see another £25 billion cut out of the British economy after the next election if the Conservatives win, including £12 billion from social security, he told us, providing everybody with an income lower than £50,000 per year with a perfect reason not to vote Conservative in 2015.
Come to think of it, why do working-class people ever vote for clowns like him?
He’ll cut departmental budgets by £13 billion, starving already wafer-thin public services and paving the way for their takeover by the private sector – on the long-disproved premise that profit-making businesses can do a better job for less money.
He’ll cut housing benefit for young people (under-25) who are just trying to get started in work – but he won’t force under-paying firms to boost their wages in order to offer a decent standard of living!
He also said – no, wait, that’s all he had to offer.
George justified his plan by trotting out the now-classic justification line of this Parliament – that the deficit was down by a third since 2010. He has been saying this for the last two years, and in all that time, the deficit hasn’t dropped at all! Last year the difference was a fraction of one per cent.
This is because the drop was achieved by cutting capital projects and there aren’t any more to cut. Taking billions out of the economy with benefit cuts and investment cuts actually harms the economy – there is less money moving through the system and therefore less opportunity for the fiscal multiplier effect to take place, for profit to be made and for taxes to be taken.
George has always had a bit of a blind spot there.
Sister George said he supported universal benefits for the elderly as they will only save around £10 million – but Sister David has suggested cutting free TV licences, bus passes and winter fuel allowances. Pensions are also taking a battering – never mind what they’re saying about the triple-lock.
David also said he wanted to cut taxes for the poor before the wealthy – but planned to do so by raising the threshold at which they begin to pay tax. This means they will not pay National Insurance either, and will have to find a higher-paying job before they can expect to contribute to their own pension fund. This means some people may never qualify for the state pension.
So they’re starting 2014 by promising austerity cuts that will harm the economy, cuts in benefits for the elderly that will save a comparatively negligible amount but will cause misery, and cuts in government budgets that will open the way to further privatisation and corporatisation of the state.
Those are the real hard truths – but you won’t hear these two characters admitting them.
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Demonstrating for justice: Campaigners against the Bedroom Tax gathered outside Parliament while MPs debated it inside.
“I’m amazed Labour have chosen to spend their allotted day in Parliament arguing for more unfunded spending on housing benefit.” That’s what Matt Hancock, Conservative MP for West Sussex, had to say about the Opposition Day debate on the Bedroom Tax in the House of Commons on November 12.
Hancock is, it seems, author of a book entitled Masters of Nothing, which sums up his understanding of the situation rather well. He clearly has not mastered the fact that the State Under-Occupation Charge will not save money. He has not mastered the fact that emptying dwellings of their current owners will not make them available to new familes as these people are afraid they will themselves be tipped onto the street when their circumstances change – instead the premises will be left empty, at huge cost to social landlords; and he has not mastered the fact that anyone evicted because of the tax will become a burden on local authorities, who have a duty to rehouse them in bed and breakfast accommodation, even though the money provided to them for this purpose by the government is ludicrously inadequate to the task.
Hancock is not alone in having misconceptions about the Bedroom Tax. Most, if not all, of the Conservatives who spoke during the debate uttered howlers – and the purpose of this article is to name them and explain why they should be ashamed of their words.
Please take the opportunity, Dear Reader, to look for your own MP in the catalogue of calamity that follows, then use it to attack them in their own consituency. Let’s make them realise that actions have consequences.
If you don’t have a Tory MP, feel free to use what follows in order to make sure you never have to put up with one.
We begin with Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) who asked of Rachel Reeves: “What does she say to the almost 400,000 families who are living in overcrowded situations when they look over their shoulders at the almost one million spare bedrooms in Britain?”
The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary responded without hesitation: “I say that instead of presiding over the lowest rate of house building since the 1920s, this Government should get on and build some houses.”
The Minister of State, Steve Webb, came back to this point later, saying: “Who was doing the house building for 13 years?” Well, we all know who hasn’t been doing it for the last three.
Mr Ellwood said the Tax was brought in because the cost of housing benefit was rising alarmingly: “After 13 years of Labour the cost of housing benefit doubled to £21 billion. That is unacceptable. The cost to taxpayers was £900 per household. The system was getting out of control.” His failure is that he refused to accept the explanation offered by Labour’s Katy Clark – that this was due to the rising cost of rent in the private sector (private rents have indeed been rising massively and the government refuses to take action because this would interfere with the market. Bizarrely, the Conservative-led Coalition seems to believe it is acceptable to pay huge gobs of housing benefit to private landlords – who make unreasonable demands – and then blame social renting tenants for it). He also, by inference, rejected the evidence that the Bedroom Tax will not save any money.
Mr Ellwood also referred to the deficit run by the Labour government of 1997-2010. He said: “Labour lived beyond its means. In 2002-03, it spent £26 billion beyond its means. Four years later that rose to £33 billion. In its final year of office, the deficit rose to £156 billion. That always accumulates.”
This is disingenuous. As he must know, not only did Labour run a lower deficit than the Conservative governments of both Thatcher and Major (average 41 per cent of gross domestic product) from 1997 to 2007, it also made a surplus in the 2000-2001 financial year – something that the previous Conservative governments never did. This means Labour actually paid off some of the debts that had been accumulating. With that pedigree, even the 43 per cent deficit of 2008 looks respectable. The higher deficits of 2009 and 2010 were entirely caused by the bankster-instigated financial crisis, when the actions taken by Labour were entirely supported by the Conservative Party.
He went on to condemn Labour for voting against £83 billion of welfare savings; if the reasoning for them was as shaky as that for the Bedroom Tax (and it was; see previous VP articles) then Labour was quite right to do so!
It should be noted that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, was not present at the debate. RTU (as we like to call him) was woofing it up in Paris, rather than accounting for his misbehaviour to the taxpayer.
Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) echoed a comment by Mr Webb, but did it in such an inept way that we’ll look at her words rather than his. Following Labour’s Stephen Twigg, she referred to the too-low allocation of Discretionary Housing Payment to families having to cope with the Bedroom Tax: “Perhaps he would like to speak to his Labour-run Liverpool council and ask why, when it received £892,000 in discretionary housing payments last year, it actually sent back £337,000.”
Mr Twigg put her straight: “Does she accept that the figures that she has given are from before the bedroom tax was introduced? This year, Liverpool city council will certainly spend the entire discretionary housing pot.”
His words echoed fellow Labour MP Lucy Powell, who had previously berated Mr Webb: “The Minister incorrectly gave figures for last year—the bedroom tax was introduced only in April. I was talking about money that will come back this year. I can guarantee that the Minister will not be getting any money back from Manchester this year — the year of the bedroom tax.”
Referring to the 400,000 disabled people affected by the Bedroom Tax, Mrs Reeves said 100,000 disabled people live in properties specially adapted for their disability, but the average grant issued by local authorities for adaptations to homes [when they are forced to move out by the Bedroom Tax] stands at £6,000. The total cost of doing the adaptations all over again could run into tens of millions of pounds.
At this moment, Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire), said while seated: “They’re exempt.”
The response: “The hon. Lady said from a sedentary position that disabled people are exempt, but she would not say it when she was on her feet because she knows it is not true.” In Vox Political‘s home constituency, at least one disabled person has already been evicted because of the Bedroom Tax.
Philip Davies (also known as ‘Stupid of Shipley’) weighed in with a shocking error, in an attempt to attack his local housing association and its director, a Labour MP: “Does the Minister agree that the spare room subsidy is one reason why we do not have the right mix of housing? Social housing providers could build houses as big as they wanted, knowing that the Government would cover the full bill irrespectively. In that respect, does he deplore the social housing provider in my area, of which a Labour MP is a director? It complains on the one hand that it has too many three-bedroom houses—”
That’s as far as he got, and just as well. Let’s go through this one more time: The ‘spare room subsidy’ is a fiction. It never existed and therefore could never have been abolished by the Conservative-led Coalition government. Being entirely make-believe, it could never have affected the decisions of social housing providers. This is just one of the many reasons why Mr Davies is rightly considered to be one of the biggest twits in the Tory Party (among hefty competition). Another might be his claim that disabled people should work for less than the minimum wage.
David TC Davies (Monmouth) complained: “Opposition Members… do not want to talk about the fact that they introduced a measure like this for the private sector.”
He was among many Tories who complained about this apparent double-standard. Labour members reminded them that the Bedroom Tax is retrospective (affecting people currently in social housing) while the private-sector measure was for new tenants only. One may also ask why, if these Conservatives were so disturbed by the apparent discrepancy, they were not calling for this earlier measure to be scrapped as well.
George Hollingbery (Meon Valley) said: “We need to pose ourselves a question: what is dealing with the spare room subsidy about? Is it about reducing the housing benefit bill? Yes, of course it is. The Government propose a £500 million saving, which is important.”
It is important, because Conservatives seemed confused throughout the debate about whether they were trying to sort out overcrowding by putting people into appropriate accommodation, or trying to save money. The two are mutually exclusive. The only way to make money on the policy is for people to remain locked in housing that, thanks to the Bedroom Tax, is now too expensive for them – but this cannot last because they will soon be evicted for non-payment of rent. Moving people around, so that nobody is under-occupying, will result in a higher housing benefit bill because more people will be claiming – the original tenants in their new properties (which, if they are run by private landlords, will be more expensive) and the new tenants who will be occupying to the limit of a property’s capability and therefore may claim the full amount of housing benefit. Either way, Mr Hollingberry’s claim of a £500 million saving is pie-in-the-sky.
Margot James (Stourbridge) made a proper fool of herself. She said: “The Opposition… want to position the end of the subsidy and the creation of a level playing field between all recipients of social housing support as a modern day poll tax.” This is the least of her mistakes as some Labour members may have suggested such a thing; in fact it is Eric Pickles’ Council Tax Reduction Scheme that is the modern-day Poll Tax, because every household must now towards it.
Margot James went on to deny that the Bedroom Tax is a tax, saying: “A tax is a government levy on somebody’s income, whereas we are clearly talking about reducing a subsidy.” This is wrong on two counts. Firstly, there has been no subsidy to reduce – unless she was referring to housing benefit in its entirety. The spare room subsidy is, as already mentioned, as mythical as the “unicorns and fairies” to which Anne Main referred when she tried to dismiss the existence of the under-occupation charge as a tax on bedrooms. Both ladies are wrong, because a tax may also be defined as a government levy on property owned or used by a citizen (such as, say, a bedroom). So – not quite as mythical as unicorns and fairies. One has to wonder why Mrs Main mentioned these, as she has clearly been away with the fairies herself.
Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne) breezed in from another committee to provide the benefit of his own ignorance. He asked: “Is it fair that someone on a low income who is in privately rented accommodation should pay taxes in order to subsidise someone else’s spare room? Is it fair to raise taxation from low-paid workers to subsidise other people’s accommodation?”
The answer, of course, is yes. It is fair. In fact, it is a principle of our system of taxation. Everybody pays into the national treasury, in order to allow the state to provide services – such as housing – for those in need. This may be a detail that current Tories have missed, considering the government’s vigorous attempts to write the highest earners out of taxation altogether. If he wanted to help low-waged people in private rented housing, the answer to that is also simple: cap their rents.
And doesn’t he know that the very low-paid have been lifted out of taxation by his own government, as the Coalition has been raising the threshold for payment of income tax every year, aiming to reach a target of £10,000 income per annum by 2015.
At the end of the day, the motion to scrap the Bedroom Tax was lost by 26 votes. Some have already said that Labour could have won it if all members had been present, but that was never really on the cards; the government has the numbers, even if some Liberal Democrats (like VP‘s own MP, Roger Williams) abstained.
So what are we to make of it all? Simply this: The Conservatives do not have a credible narrative to describe what the Bedroom Tax is about. It doesn’t save money; it won’t put people into appropriate accommodation; and it certainly won’t cut homelessness!
Work out what it’s really about, and you will understand why they are so desperate to keep it.
It goes on to say that the number of people receiving support under the Access to Work programme between April and June this year increased by 10 per cent on the same period last year, to 22,760. Access to Work “provides financial help towards the extra costs faced by disabled people at work, such as support workers, specialist aids and equipment and travel to work support”.
Apparently the new stats show the highest level of new claims since 2007 – 10,390; and more people with mental health conditions than ever before have taken advantage of Access to Work.
The press release also states that young disabled people can now get Access to Work support while on Youth Contract work experience, a Supported Internship or Traineeship; and businesses with 49 employees or less no longer have to pay a contribution towards the extra costs faced by disabled people in work. It seems they used to have to pay up to £2,300 per employee who uses the fund.
Isn’t it more likely that the DWP and Work Programme providers, faced with an influx of disabled people into the programme from the ESA WRAG at the end of last year, encouraged them to set up as self-employed with their own businesses in order to get them off the claimant books?
Does it not, then, seem likely that a large proportion of the 22,760 getting help from Access to Work were offered it as part of a self-employment package that also, we are told, includes start-up money (that admittedly tapers away over time) and tax credits. The attraction for WP providers is that they would earn a commission for every claimant they clear off the books in this way.
So it seems likely that a large proportion of the 22,760 may now be self-employed in name alone and that these fake firms are included in the 102,000 new businesses lauded by BIS.
Is it not logical, therefore, to conclude that these are not government schemes, but government scams – designed to hoodwink the general public into thinking that the economy is improving far more than in reality, and that the government is succeeding in its aim to bring down unemployment?
Some might say that this conclusion is crazy. Why would the government want to release information that directly indicates underhanded behaviour on its part?
The answer is, of course, that it would not. This government wants to convince an undecided electorate that it knows what it is doing and that the country’s future is safe in its hands. But its right hand doesn’t seem to know what its left is doing – with regard to press releases, at the very least.
Therefore we can say that, in trying to prove that it is competent, the Coalition government has in fact proved the exact opposite.
So someone really needs to watch what they’re saying – if they don’t want people all over the UK to come to unintended conclusions!
AFTERTHOUGHT: The BIS press release adds that the government’s ‘Plan for Growth’, published with the 2011 budget, included an aim to create “the most competitive tax system in the G20”. By “competitive” the Treasury meant the system had to be more attractive to businesses that aim to keep as much of their profits away from the tax man as possible. It is a commitment to turn Britain into a tax haven and the VP post earlier this week shows that the government has been successful in this aim. What a shame that it also means the Coalition government will totally fail to meet its main policy commitment and reason for existing in the first place: It can’t cut the national deficit if the biggest businesses that operate here aren’t paying their taxes.
This bubble will burst: The Coalition government has engineered a recovery based on the false inflation of house prices and rents. It is bound to burst; the only questions are when – and who will be harmed by the fallout? [Picture: Haynesonfire blog]
If you are an “average” UK earner (whatever that is), then your income has been cut by almost 10 per cent in the three years and five months since David Cameron became Prime Minister. Who can afford to rent at these prices? Who can afford to buy?
And is this the private rented accommodation that people affected by the Bedroom Tax were supposed to rent instead?
Are these the houses on which the government is going to underwrite 15 per cent of the mortgage in its ‘Help to Buy’ scheme? Already a(nother) huge housing bubble is growing and the debt crisis when it bursts will be appalling.
Meanwhile, everything costs a fortune and you have no money.
But somebody is buying. And somebody is renting.
Somebody rich, obviously.
“Higher rents in almost every region show that, despite government schemes, buying a first home is still a difficult aspiration,” the article quotes David Newnes, director of LSL Property Services.
“This is not only down to low salary growth, but also a general shortage of supply – which is the underlying reason why homes are getting more expensive. The long-term trend to renting therefore looks unlikely to change significantly in the near future.”
So the lack of house-building – either to buy or to rent – has proved lucrative for property developers and landlords. They don’t need to build any more if the value of their current buildings keeps rising. And nobody else can afford to build.
In the meantime, people in social housing are feeling the bite of the Bedroom Tax, with 50,000 families in danger of eviction because of it – putting pressure on local authorities who have to pay through the nose to put them into bed and breakfast accommodation instead.
Was this the Tory plan? To make things – the important things like housing and land – so expensive that only they and their friends could afford them? To push you into dependency by proxy?
And we didn’t see it coming?
At least nobody reading this voted for them. Anyone who did that must feel like a real chump now.
Wise words: The ‘People’s Assembly’ hopes to stir people out of their apathy and encourage them to oppose the unelected and unmandated right-wing, ideologically-driven and austerity-led destruction of British society. Are you interested, or is it too much like hard work?
“The people are not ready to embrace Socialism and may never be ready.”
“What, a cobbled together bunch of leftie socialists?”
“It will take more than a few breakfast TV celebrity socialists turning up in community centres to shake people awake, and armchair socialism – like conservatism, capitalism, fascism, communism and any other political ism that involves a minority seeking to impose its will on the masses down at their local community hall – is the last thing that anyone needs.”
“It would just be a talking shop of unelected and ‘celebrity’ allegedly left-wingers, who like to hear the sound of their own voices. It does not have any democratic structure, and would just be a sort of an admiring glee club, that would allow its supporters to have the illusion that something is being done.”
“Even if you got five million people to march through London protesting over the austerity program, the Palace of Westminster wouldn’t hear it.”
These are just a few of the negative responses to a recent article by Owen Jones, on the forthcoming meeting of the ‘People’s Assembly’, organised by the new socialist organisation Left Unity. None of them are saying anything we haven’t heard before. It seems the constant refrain, to which the British people sing along, is “Don’t bother trying to change it; there’s nothing you can do”.
This is, of course, lazy nonsense. You hear it from people who genuinely can’t be bothered and, more perniciously, from supporters of the status quo (in this case, the Coalition or UKIP) who know that a discouraging word at the right moment can nip a potential rival organisation in the bud. It’s called conditioned helplessness, and I’ve discussed it before.
Remember, the ‘People’s Assembly’ has not had its first meeting yet. Already people are trying to tell us it is a failure, a “talking shop” for “armchair socialism” that would not be heard in the corridors of power.
I wish I could attend, but geographical issues and other responsibilities mean this is impossible (I live in Wales and have responsibilities as a carer).
One thing we should all remember is that this is a socialist movement, not the creation of a political party. We already have a democratic socialist political party, although our Labour members of Parliament seem to have forgotten that (here’s a clue, folks: Read the top line on the back of your membership cards). They appear to be taking the soft option and following the Coalition narrative. But that’s no reason to let them get on with it.
It seems to me that the ‘People’s Assembly’, like the Left Unity organisation that is staging the event, will work best putting pressure on systems that are already in place. Labour presents the best chance we have for ousting the Tories and their little yellow helpers, without putting something equally right-wing in their place. People of good faith just need to encourage the Party to do the right thing.
And that is: Ditch all the idiotic follow-my-Tory-leader austerity-driven policies announced in recent weeks. Austerity has failed as a way of balancing the books; it was never intended to do so in the first place. Ditch the divisive Tory-soundalike rhetoric that shows Labour also wants to blame the poor for problems that they never created. Clear private sector ‘advisors’ out of Labour Party meetings and thinktanks – corporate influence will only benefit corporations and their shareholders; they have the Conservatives for that.
Devise new policies for health, workplace safety and social security that will aim to prevent not only workplace-related sickness and disability, but also congenital conditions that blight lives. That will bring down the bills for health and social security far more than misplaced attempts to punish those whose ill-health is already an unjust punishment, as they have not committed any crime.
Reconsider policies relating to business. Labour has long since admitted that nationalisation of all industry does not work, and it doesn’t. But there are some services that should be run – as a business, perhaps, but under the authority of the state – in the national interest. These are the public utilities – water, electricity, gas. Possibly rail transport as well, because the current privatised situation is costing the taxpayer far more than when the service was nationalised.
Encourage self-employment where practical. People can only be assured of the ability to sustain themselves if they own the means of production. The best way to do that is to work for themselves. For businesses involving more than a single trader, encourage mutualism or co-operatives. This is the best way to ensure that all workers get the most benefit from the products of their labours. With employees encouraged to put more effort into their trade by the promise of getting more out of it, progress towards meeting and exceeding the Living Wage seems more likely.
And support new technologies, especially those that are environmentally-friendly. This is where many of the new jobs will be generated and the UK has delayed its support of these advances for far too long.
I don’t think these are impossible ambitions.
They can be achieved if the progressive members of British society get their act together and stand up for them. And let’s all admit it, they would be much healthier than the cuts that have spawned a continuing storm of protest ever since the Coalition first inflicted them upon us, just because most of us are poorer than they are.
People are realising that they can’t expect their political representatives to do the right thing without being told what it is. What’s holding them back is the concern that this is a minority view. That is why they may welcome an umbrella organisation like Left Unity and the ‘People’s Assembly’, to show them they’re not alone.
I would like to say that in Central Hall, Westminster, on Saturday but I can’t be there.
Would anybody like to say it for me – or something better?
Or shall we all just sit back in our armchairs and mutter, while the country goes to hell in a handbasket?
A true pro: It is a testament to the Queen’s professionalism that she is able to get through her speech at the annual opening of Parliament without either laughing at the stupidities or choking in horror at the implied threats to her citizens.
Today the Queen made her speech at the official opening of Parliament. Her words were, as always, written by the government of the day, and therefore it seems appropriate to provide a translation, as follows:
“My government’s legislative programme will continue to focus on building a stronger economy so that the United Kingdom can compete and succeed in the world.” Focus on it, but do nothing about it.
“It will also work to promote a fairer society that rewards people who work hard.” If you haven’t got a job, you’re shafted.
“My government’s first priority is to strengthen Britain’s economic competitiveness. To this end, it will support the growth of the private sector and the creation of more jobs and opportunities.” There is no intention to take any action in this regard; the government will simply applaud actions taken by others.
“My ministers will continue to prioritise measures that reduce the deficit – ensuring interest rates are kept low for homeowners and businesses.” Interest rates are nothing to do with the government. It is easy to make promises when no action is required.
“My government is committed to building an economy where people who work hard are properly rewarded. It will therefore continue to reform the benefits system, helping people move from welfare to work.” My government is committed to building a low-wage economy where people have to work hard simply to keep what they’ve got. It will therefore continue to erode the benefits system, forcing people to move from welfare to destitution as a warning to those who’ve got jobs, that this will happen to them if they make a fuss.
“Measures will be brought forward to introduce a new employment allowance to support jobs and help small businesses.” A bung for our friends.
“A bill will be introduced to reduce the burden of excessive regulation on businesses. A further bill will make it easier for businesses to protect their intellectual property.” Deregulation worked so well with the banks in 2007, we thought we’d give other businesses a chance to ruin the economy. And it’s not enough that Facebook now owns everybody’s photographs – corporations want everything else as well.
“A draft bill will be published establishing a simple set of consumer rights to promote competitive markets and growth.” The rights of the consumer will be restricted to what we say they’re allowed, to protect corporate freedoms.
“My government will introduce a bill that closes the Audit Commission.” We don’t want the public to know the facts about our spending and where it goes (into our pockets).
“My government will continue to invest in infrastructure to deliver jobs and growth for the economy.” But we’re not saying where the money will go (into our pockets).
“Legislation will be introduced to enable the building of the High Speed Two railway line, providing further opportunities for economic growth in many of Britain’s cities.” Future economic growth, of course – we won’t see the benefit for many, many years.
“My government will continue with legislation to update energy infrastructure and to improve the water industry.” At huge cost to everybody who has to pay the bills.
“My government is committed to a fairer society where aspiration and responsibility are rewarded.” This is meaningless.
“To make sure that every child has the best start in life, regardless of background, further measures will be taken to improve the quality of education for young people.” This is meaningless.
“Plans will be developed to help working parents with childcare, increasing its availability and helping with its cost.” Private childcare organisations, starting cheaply but costing more as they get a grip on parents.
“My government will also take forward plans for a new national curriculum, a world-class exam system and greater flexibility in pay for teachers.” We’re going to stamp on teachers hard. And the new national curriculum means nobody from state education will be able to compete with our children at Eton.
“My government will also take steps to ensure that it becomes typical for those leaving school to start a traineeship or an apprenticeship, or to go to university.” We’ll shoehorn the state-school mob into something under threat of destitution, and save university for people who can pay for it (like us).
“New arrangements will be put in place to help more people own their own home, with government support provided for mortgages and deposits.” More second homes for Tory voters, as set out in the Chancellor’s Budget speech in March.
“My government is committed to supporting people who have saved for retirement.” If they have savings, they won’t need the national pension and can give it back, like Iain Duncan Smith suggested.
“Legislation will be introduced to reform the way long-term care is paid for, to ensure the elderly do not have to sell their homes to meet their care bills.” They can die there instead.
“My government will bring forward legislation to create a simpler state pension system that encourages saving and provides more help to those who have spent years caring for children.” It’ll encourage saving because it won’t be enough; and carers can have the kids taken away from them.
“Legislation will be introduced to ensure sufferers of a certain asbestos-related cancer receive payments where no liable employer or insurer can be traced.” Otherwise we’ll get the blame for abandoning them.
“My government will bring forward a bill that further reforms Britain’s immigration system. The bill will ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute and deters those who will not.” We’re scared that UKIP is taking our voters away.
“My government will continue to reduce crime and protect national security.” We will privatise the police, MI5 and MI6.
“Legislation will be introduced to reform the way in which offenders are rehabilitated in England and Wales.” If you thought our prisons were schools for criminals before, we’re turning them into universities.
“Legislation will be brought forward to introduce new powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, cut crime and further reform the police.” We will privatise the police and introduce curfews.
“In relation to the problem of matching internet protocol addresses, my government will bring forward proposals to enable the protection of the public and the investigation of crime in cyberspace.” We want to know how it works so we can make money off the internet.
“Measures will be brought forward to improve the way this country procures defence equipment, as well as strengthening the reserve forces.” We’ll buy the cheapest equipment we can find and ask the reservists to do it for no pay.
“My ministers will continue to work in co-operation with the devolved administrations.” Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will get even less cash.
“A bill will be introduced to give effect to a number of institutional improvements in Northern Ireland.” It’s too peaceful over there and we need something to distract the plebs from the mess we’re making in the rest of the country.
“Draft legislation will be published concerning the electoral arrangements for the National Assembly for Wales.” If we give the sheep the vote, they might vote Tory.
“My government will continue to make the case for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.” We want their money; we want their oil.
“Members of the House of Commons, estimates for the public services will be laid before you.” Prior to privatisation.
“My government will work to prevent conflict and reduce terrorism. It will support countries in transition in the Middle East and north Africa, and the opening of a peace process in Afghanistan.” We want their money; we want their oil.
“My government will work to prevent sexual violence in conflict worldwide.” We can’t even stop it here.
“My government will ensure the security, good governance and development of the overseas territories, including by protecting the Falkland Islanders’ and Gibraltarians’ right to determine their political futures.” They’re strategically important so we’ll rattle the sabre for them.
“In assuming the presidency of the G8, my government will promote economic growth, support free trade, tackle tax evasion, encourage greater transparency and accountability while continuing to make progress in tackling climate change.” We’ll blame the other nations when none of these things happen.
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