Tag Archives: proposal

Do you believe this ‘four-day working week to create half a million jobs’ bunkum?

Commuters: to many of them, the idea of a four-day working week may seem highly attractive – but not on these ‘castle in the air’ terms.

Someone’s trying to lead us up the garden path:

The public sector should switch to a four-day week to create 500,000 jobs and help ease a predicted spike in unemployment following the coronavirus outbreak, according to a report.

The Autonomy think tank said “the time has come” for a shorter working week as the end of the government’s furlough scheme in October is expected to cause an unemployment crisis.

Research by the thinktank suggests public sector workers could move to a 32-hour week without any loss in wages at a cost of up to £9bn a year.

This figure, according to Autonomy, represents 6 per cent of the public sector salary bill and costs the same amount as the furlough employment scheme brought in to save jobs during the peak of the pandemic.

Who says any government is going to give public sector workers a cut in their working hours while keeping their wages the same (that’s a massive real-terms raise) – especially a Tory government? They imposed a public sector pay freeze for years!

And the claim that it would cost up to £9 billion a year – the same as Rishi Sunak’s furlough scheme – is just more evidence that it wouldn’t work. Sunak is scrapping the furlough scheme on grounds that it is too expensive to continue indefinitely.

Not realistic.

Source: Four-day working week in public sector could create 500,000 jobs, says thinktank report | The Independent | Independent

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An appointments system for Accident & Emergency is the stupidest NHS idea yet

The whole point of Accident & Emergency is that people don’t need appointments to be seen.

A person who has just become the victim of a life-threatening injury, illness or condition isn’t going to have time to wait around until a doctor is ready to see them.

And the fact that this is being proposed to save face, for a service whose lack of money means it isn’t hitting targets is the biggest insult of all.

Yes, the National Health Service needs major changes.

They are a change of leaders – and a change of government.

Patients could have to start booking appointments in A&E units, and those with only minor ailments wait many hours before they are seen, under a proposed shakeup of NHS targets.

NHS England chiefs are examining whether to relax the longstanding obligation to see 95% of A&E patients within four hours.

They are also under growing pressure from hospital bosses to ease another key NHS waiting time target – the duty to give patients non-urgent surgery within 18 weeks of being referred by their GP.

Source: NHS proposes A&E appointments system in targets shakeup | Society | The Guardian

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After Salzburg we thought it couldn’t get worse for Theresa May. It did

Theresa May: She looks like a horse, bridling at the EU’s rejection of her plan.

Faced with an absolute refusal of her useless ‘Chequers’ plan from the EU, Theresa May has doubled down on her own position – with a public statement that piles embarrassment upon humiliation.

She said this:

And this:

I don’t often swear on This Site but I am sure you will understand me when I say: What a bag of sh*t.

What was she trying to achieve with this broadcast? One look at the two Union Flags behind her and you’re thinking of nationalistic pride. Defiance, perhaps? “Britain stands alone”? The “Dunkirk spirit”?

But this is not defiance. This is petulance.

And it is stupidity:

Commentators from all sides have piled in to pour ridicule on Mrs May’s latest attempt to appear strong:

https://twitter.com/MattTurner4L/status/1043128686164279296

She did insult them; she said she would be a “bloody difficult woman” – right, Angela Rayner?

Right. Tom Pride has put her behaviour in a nutshell:

Is that respect? No.

Her demand that the EU propose a solution to Brexit’s insoluble problems is laughable.

So, what are we to conclude?

https://twitter.com/JJenkinsSJB/status/1043127960084066304

That seems clear.

Leaders and representatives of other political parties had their say, too:

It hasn’t all been condemnation, though. Look at the state of this Express headline:

The facts tell a different story, though:

This is true. Every time Mrs May opens her mouth, she makes the entire country poorer.

And Britons living in the EU remain in limbo. What will happen to them? Or don’t they count to Mrs May?

Add it all up and the effect of her little speech is not Churchillian but evokes lines from Shakespear instead:

“A tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

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POLL: What do you think of Labour’s plan for employment reform?


John McDonnell has outlined Labour’s proposed employment measures to bolster the strength of unions and transform the gig economy in a speech to the Trades Union Congress.

If you’ve managed to miss the details, here’s a short video about the headlines:

And here‘s The Guardian with some of the finer details:

“A Labour government would ban zero-hours contracts, repeal the Trade Union Act, clamp down on bogus self-employment, end private finance initiatives and set up a department for employment to implement the policies, he said. There would be a particular emphasis on workers in the gig economy.

Workers in jobs with flexible hours and short-term contracts could be given similar rights to those in permanent work, including eligibility for sick pay, parental pay and similar benefits, he said.

Government contracts would only be given to firms that allowed collective bargaining and a Labour government would relaunch employee ownership funds, under which staff at larger companies would receive shares in order to give them a stake in the profits and management of their firms.

McDonnell also repeated a promise that Labour would spend £500bn over a decade to fix Britain’s crumbling infrastructure.

This would include road and rail, digital, research and development and alternative energy sources, he said, adding that the £500bn figure was supported by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), with whom Labour was working to develop the proposals.”

That’s fine – but are these plans any good?

Let’s have a poll:

Feel free to use the ‘comment’ column to detail the reasons for your response.

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Constituency boundary changes: Unfair, undemocratic and unlikely to be approved

Boris Johnson: This is probably what he looked like, the moment he realised his own party’s proposed boundary changes mean he would lose his seat.

One of the few joys of the years since the Conservatives tricked their way back into office is their complete lack of success at gerrymandering the boundaries of Parliamentary constituencies to suit them.

First they had to rely on the Liberal Democrats, who abandoned them when the Tories refused to support reform of the House of Lords.

Now they have to rely on the Democratic Unionists, who have never supported the Tory proposals.

The Tories are desperate to rig the next election as the average age of their party’s members is 72, and they have utterly failed to attract support from the young.

The revelation that Boris Johnson would probably lose his Parliamentary seat, if the changes go through, is a double-edged sword; some members of the public might support them for that reason – others might not.

Mr Johnson himself probably wouldn’t approve – and it seems a considerable number of his fellow Conservatives feel the same way.

And Labour?

Let’s see what Cat Smith has to say about it:

“Labour stands ready to work with all parties to ensure that a boundary review can go ahead in a way that benefits our democracy, not just the Conservative Party. However it has been clear from the start that the Tories have only been interested in their own political advantage rather than what is in the best interests of the country.

“To lose 50 MPs at a time we are repatriating powers from Brussels as we leave the European Union risks leaving the UK Government struggling to keep up with the day to day requirements of legislation.

“They need to drop their unfair, undemocratic plans, as well as ensuring the review is based on the most up-to-date register and that there is appropriate flexibility to take into account community ties and geography.”

Good points – especially concerning the fact that the proposals use an out-of-date version of the electoral register from 2015. Many more people have registered to vote since then – mostly spurred to do so by Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader.

So you can see why the Tories wouldn’t want to update their ideas.

It all boils down to mathematics – and the numbers are against Mrs May.

She doesn’t have enough support, even from her own MPs, to push through this legislation.

So This Writer reckons it will be shelved – again.

And anyway, who says we’ll have to wait until 2022 for the next election?

Revised proposals for the shape of parliamentary seats at the next general election have been published.

The proposed constituency boundaries in England, Scotland and Wales have been drawn up on the basis the total number of MPs will be cut from 650 to 600.

Parliament approved the principle of reducing the size of the Commons in 2011, intended as a cost-saving measure in the wake of the expenses scandal.

But it is uncertain whether the Commons will end up backing the detailed plans.

If they do so, the proposed new constituencies – recommended by independent bodies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – will take effect in 2022, the scheduled date of the next election.

Prime Minister Theresa May is reliant on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) for getting legislation through the Commons after her failure to win a majority in June’s snap election.

The DUP opposed the last boundary review when it was put to a vote in 2013, while many Conservatives are thought to have reservations about the scope of the shake-up, which could lead to a scramble for seats as a host of constituencies are abolished.

Source: Boundary changes: Latest plans for Commons seats published – BBC News


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‘Tis the season to be jolly: Cameron insults half the UK, slanders MPs, in eagerness to bomb Syria

151202camterroristsympathisers

Some of you may have noticed that yesterday (Tuesday) was December 1, the first day of Advent and therefore the start of the Season of Goodwill, here in the UK.

It has been marked by a series of increasingly bitter exchanges between those of us who are pro- or anti- the plan to launch air strikes to bomb people in Syria, and topped off by a staggeringly offensive comment by the UK’s own prime minister.

So it’s all going swimmingly. Joy to the World, eh?

Cameron’s foot-in-mouth moment was made in an attempt to persuade fellow Conservative MPs to vote for his war in Syria. The BBC‘s version of the story states:

David Cameron has urged Tory MPs to take a stand on fighting terror on the eve of a vote in Parliament on authorising UK airstrikes in Syria.

The prime minister called on them not to “sit on their hands” and side with Jeremy Corbyn and others he labelled “a bunch of terrorist sympathisers”.

This is, of course, an act of defamation.

Claiming that his political opponents, including not only Jeremy Corbyn (who is named) but also any other MPs who agree with the Labour leader, agree with the unlawful use or threat of violence to intimidate or coerce, usually for political or ideological reasons, certainly seems to be defamation as This Writer learned it!

Does the comment seem intended to expose Mr Corbyn and the others to hatred, ridicule or contempt? Yes.

May it cause them to be shunned and avoided? Yes.

Does it seem intended to lower them in the estimation of right-thinking people generally? Yes.

And does it disparage him in his office, trade, calling or profession? Certainly.

So: Defamation.

(Note that This Blog’s reporting of it is not an act of defamation as it expressly states that there is no reason to believe Mr Corbyn and the others who have been tarnished by Cameron’s words should be described in that manner.)

Anybody who opposes Cameron’s will at the vote – and it seems likely that many more will do so than had intended it, prior to his outburst – will be able to sue him for trying to bring them into disrepute. Some may consider it reason enough to vote ‘No’.

Needless to say, the social media has been having huge sport with this.

For example, Jill Segger tweeted: “Are British Quakers “terrorist sympathisers”, David Cameron? If not, why are MPs with a conscientious objection to airstrikes so called?”

Nick Pettigrew added: “‘Terrorist sympathisers’. Ballsy talk from a bloke recently seen bowing to the Saudi royal family.”

Several people have contacted the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, demanding that Cameron be made to retract his comment and apologise.

Why did Cameron do it?

Long-term readers will be aware that This Blog often compares the behaviour of the current Conservative Party with that of the Nazis who governed Germany between 1933 and 1945. With that in mind, take a look at this:

151202goering-attack-pacifists

Does that clarify matters?

He’s on a hiding to nothing though – according to a new poll he has just insulted more than half the population of the UK:

151202mood-change-against-airstrikes

In related news, the Commons Foreign Affairs select committee has decided that Cameron has failed to address its concerns over air strikes. Those who voted for the motion include Tory John Baron, who intends to vote against air strikes, and his colleague Andrew Rosindell – also a Conservative.

Mr Baron has tabled a cross-party amendment to the motion ratifying air-strikes, with co-signatories including the SNP’s Angus Robertson, Labour’s Graham Allen, Plaid Cymru’s Hywel Williams, the SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell, Green MP Caroline Lucas – and 104 others, according to Labour MP John Mann.

The wording states that the House of Commons, “while welcoming the renewed impetus towards peace and reconstruction in Syria, and the government’s recognition that a comprehensive strategy against Daesh is required, does not believe that the case for the UK’s participation in the ongoing air campaign in Syria by 10 countries has been established under current circumstances, and consequently declines to authorise military action in Syria”.

Eoin Clarke tweeted: “Since we started bombing ISIS 481 days ago, recruitment to ISIS’s terrorist army has grown by 1400%. I [am] less than convinced bombing’s working.”

Dr Clarke also tweeted an image showing 10 reasons he believes bombing is not reasonable:

151202anti-airstrikes-10-reasons

MPs will debate Cameron’s plan – to bomb Syria – for 10 and a half hours, starting at 11.30am today (Wednesday, December 2), with a vote immediately afterwards.

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Ministers unveil plans to cut spending. They’ll hit the poor again because they’re lazy

Local authorities and their representatives have called for £60 billion of government spending to be devolved to them in order to achieve £20 billion of savings – a forlorn hope!

George Osborne, who called for proposals on how to make the savings in advance of November’s spending review, will go for anything that attacks the poor.

He knows his party, you see. Tories are rich and they are lazy – and they want to continue being rich and lazy. Therefore they support policies that support their wealth and indolence, and hammering the poor does that just fine.

There is a reason Tories support austerity – it transfers money away from the poorest in society (who can starve or freeze to death in the street as far as Tories are concerned – and have done so since the Conservatives took office) and hands it to the richest.

Osborne may offer a sop to the Local Government Organisation but This Blog does not expect him to alter course now.

George Osborne is to be given proposals from cabinet ministers on Friday about how they plan to cut their departmental budgets by 25% or 40%, marking the start of negotiations about how the government will slash £20bn in central government spending.

The chancellor set the deadline for submissions from departments with non-protected budgets for Friday, asking them to model the two different scenarios of cuts before November’s spending review.

The reductions will affect all departments except health, spending on education per pupil, national security and international development.

Source: Deadline arrives for ministers’ plans to cut spending by up to 40% | Politics | The Guardian

Threat to automatic union fee payments is petulant obstruction

Conservative ministers know that the automatic payment of trade union subscriptions from salaries is achieved by a simple keystroke these days – it is absolutely no burden on employers.

Their plan to stop public sector workers from paying in this manner should therefore be seen as what it is – a sulky, ill-tempered attack on the workforce for daring to belong to a workers’ representative organisation.

The process is not outdated – it’s bang-up-to-date.

Ending it would not give workers more control – they have control now, simply by saying that they are union members and they want their subscriptions taken from their salaries.

Ending it would increase the burden on workers’ already-limited personal time – they would have to go through the time-consuming process of creating direct debits from their bank accounts.

This is a waste of time for everybody involved.

The purpose is obvious – reduce union funding, making it more difficult for them to take industrial action, as the Conservative Government’s unnecessary attack on workers intensifies over the next few years.

The philosophy is that workers are lazy, and won’t be bothered to create the direct debits necessary to keep the funds flowing to the unions.

It seems unlikely that the plan will be hard-fought in Parliament. Let’s face it, New Labour was hardly union-friendly, despite receiving a great deal of funding from them.

If this proposal is enacted, then it will be up to the unions to make sure members can make the change quickly and easily – most probably by drawing up the direct debit agreement for them, so all they have to do is check it, sign and deliver it.

Clever union leaders will also use this as a springboard for a membership drive, pointing out that it can only be a prelude to further attacks on the UK’s workforce.

Are you going to fight this erosion of your rights – or are you just going to bend over for the Conservatives and let them do whatever they want to you?

Plans to stop public sector workers automatically paying subscriptions to trade unions through their salaries have been unveiled by the government.

Ministers say the process is “outdated” and ending it would give workers more control and save more than £6m a year by cutting employers’ administration.

But unions could lose funds and say it is a “vindictive political attack” that will “poison industrial relations”.

It follows plans for reforms of union laws, including tighter strike rules.

Civil servants, teachers and nurses are among the union members who will have to arrange for the fees to be collected from their bank accounts by direct debit, under the proposals to update legislation in the Trade Union Bill.

 The government says the so-called check-off system of taking union dues through wages was introduced at a time when many workers did not have bank accounts.

It said it was now a “taxpayer-funded administrative burden” on employers.

Source: Automatic union fee payments ‘to end in public sector’ – BBC News

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George Osborne’s financial plans are confused and childish

141204osbornetestfailed

Why do commentators like The Guardian think George Osborne’s plans will make life hard for his political opponents, when they are specifically designed to increase inequality and reduce prosperity across the UK?

You’d have to be an economic imbecile not to understand that his plan for permanent budget surpluses will shrink the national economy, while his tax breaks for the very rich and corporations mean the money that remains will float upwards to the very few people favoured by those changes.

If you don’t understand, think of it this way: Governments create money – they have to, otherwise you wouldn’t have any to spend or pay in taxes. The pound in your pocket had to come from somewhere, and while it may originally have been supported by precious metals or minerals of equivalent value, those days are far behind us.

So, governments create money and invest it in the national economy. If all goes to plan, the money circulates, gaining value on the way through, until it is reclaimed by the government as tax revenue. Even if the amount of tax claimed back was as much as the original value of the money, the economy should still have grown by however much extra value the money has accrued during its journey (the ‘multiplier’ effect).

Osborne wants to take back more money than his government releases. This means somebody will have to lose out – and the system of tax breaks and permitted tax avoidance for the rich (Tory Party donors) means it is going to be the people who do the actual work, who are searching for work, or who are unable to work because of illness, who will be unfairly penalised by this plan.

He can’t claim any of the credit for it, either – it was all worked out back in the 1970s by Margaret Thatcher, Keith Joseph and Nicholas Ridley. Their plan was to create insecurity among those who have to work for a living in order to increase the gap between the amount they earned and the amount their bosses earned. Thatcher lied about this, right up to her very last day as Prime Minister.

The Guardian‘s article on Osborne’s Mansion House speech says that he will challenge the Labour Party “to decide whether it wants to back the proposal that tax revenues should cover spending on both infrastructure and the day-to-day running of government”.

Why? Labour does not have to accept the premise of the question. Important conditions are omitted from it.

For example, if Labour was asked to back the proposal, along with plans to ensure that minimum wages would always be able to cover the cost of living – without the government subsidising employers in tax credits, landlords in housing benefit or lenders in subsidies to the City of London, that would be a far more enticing proposition. But Osborne isn’t offering that.

If Labour was asked to back the proposal on the condition that the extra money necessary to reduce the deficit and debt came from those who could most easily afford it – the corporations and shareholders who are currently reaping the benefits of five years of Conservative economic mismanagement, that would be far more interesting. But Osborne isn’t offering that.

Furthermore, Osborne can only dictate what his government will do. He can’t tell Labour what to do if Labour wins the next election because no government can bind the next. Any claim that he can do otherwise is a lie.

But then, we have already been shown that he has been lying. He will say: “The result of this recent British election – and the comprehensive rejection of those who argued for more borrowing and more spending – gives our nation the chance to entrench a new settlement.”

This is a jab at Labour’s plan to run a surplus on day-to-day spending, but to borrow for investment projects. This is not “more borrowing and more spending”, as Osborne describes it, but investment with a view to see profits in the future. That business principle has been around since commerce began – it’s how most Tory donors operate. Osborne is a hypocrite to scorn it.

But then, Osborne has borrowed more money in five years than every Labour Chancellor put together. That’s hypocrisy on a grand scale!

The Guardian article continues: “During the election, Labour struggled to cope with the accusation that it had spent and borrowed too much in the years leading up to the financial crisis. Some of the contenders to replace Ed Miliband as opposition leader have said subsequently the public finances should have been in a healthy state in the last years of a 15-year period of economic expansion lasting from 1992 to 2007.”

This indicates confusion on the part of the article’s author. Labour did not borrow and spend too much in the run-up to the financial crisis; the nation’s finances were in a much healthier state than at any time under Conservative control in the previous 40 years – and let’s not forget that the Conservatives supported Labour’s spending plans throughout this period.

Furthermore, the crisis was caused by bankers who were too loosely regulated, granting loans irresponsibly to people who could not pay them back. At the time, the Conservative Party was pushing Labour to deregulate banks even further.

So we know that the financial crisis would have been much, much worse if the Conservatives had been in office at the time. Osborne’s criticism of Labour is in extremely poor taste.

Talking of extremely poor taste, here’s more of Osborne’s speech. It seems he wants “a settlement where it is accepted across the political spectrum that without sound public finances, there is no economic security for working people; that the people who suffer when governments run unsustainable deficits are not the richest but the poorest; and that therefore, in normal times, governments of the left as well as the right should run a budget surplus to bear down on debt and prepare for an uncertain future.”

Like all clever lies, this contains a few truths. He’s right that without sound public finances, there’s no security for working people. Osborne’s plan for the public finances is particularly unsound – and targets people who have to work for a living with particular hardship.

But it is not necessarily true that the poorest suffer most when governments run unsustainable deficits. This government has singled out the poorest for suffering because it wants to ensure rich Tory donors can continue enriching the Tory party – we are living in extremely corrupt times.

His final claim – that all governments should cut debt to prepare for “an uncertain future” would have more weight if Conservative governments had not created much of that uncertainty themselves, by dismantling the UK’s industrial base and relying instead on the financial sector that let us all down so badly.

Osborne is full of hot air – but his plan won’t fly.

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Are Labour’s work capability assessment changes really ‘crucial’?

WCAcartoon

This cartoon was created to highlight the difficulties created by the Conservatives for people attending a work capability assessment. But would Labour’s proposed changes make any difference?

According to Benefits and Work, the Labour Party has been emailing people with proposals for three “crucial changes” it is proposing for the way the work capability assessment works for disability/incapacity benefit claimants.

The three problems are:

  • That the WCA is ‘not integrated with employment support’ and so is not helping claimants back into work;
  • That the WCA ‘lacks credibility with disabled people, causing anxiety and stress’; and
  • That the system is ‘riven with poor decision making’, leading to a ‘staggering 45 per cent of appeals against the test’ being upheld last year.

The Benefits and Work report addes that “critics may point out that not only did Labour devise and introduce the WCA, but also that the level of appeal success under Labour was very similar to what it is now” – all valid criticisms, as long as it is also noted that Labour has accepted those criticisms and is trying to do something about them.

Unfortunately – well, see for yourself. Here are the “crucial changes” being proposed:

“Labour will ‘start by transforming the way the WCA is designed to make it more effective at helping disabled people into work’.” Benefits and Work says “there are no details of what this transformation will involve, except that ‘disabled people would receive a copy of the assessor’s report of how their health condition may affect their ability to work, and information about the support that is available in their local area to help them’.”

What about disabled people with progressive degenerative conditions, who cannot, under any circumstances, be put back to work? This “change” makes no allowance for them whatsoever – it is as if they do not exist.

“Labour will also ‘continue to produce an independent review of the WCA’. In addition, they will ‘ask the Office for Disability Issues to support an independent scrutiny group of disabled people to work together with the independent reviewer to assess whether the test is being conducted in a fair and transparent way’.” Benefits and Work tells us “Labour says it will only ‘commit to responding to the recommendations of this report’; there is no undertaking to actually act on them.”

How is the promise of a paper exercise with no commitment to act at the end supposed to reassure anybody?

“Labour will introduce ‘penalties for poor performance by assessors, measured both on the number of times decisions are overturned by DWP decision makers, and the number of times they are overturned on appeal.’” Benefits and Work suggests that these penalties “undoubtedly” would be “hidden behind a cloak of ‘commercial confidentiality’” and “will offer no reassurance whatsoever” – but this is unfair, in the light of Labour’s promise to make commercial firms working in the public sector subject to public sector Freedom of Information laws. Any punishment meted out to these firms would be a matter of public knowledge under a Labour government.

If the information provided to Benefits and Work is correct, then this plan is, at best, weak. At worst, it’s catastrophic.

This blog has been arguing that the work capability assessment should be abolished altogether – and Vox Political stands by that.

Decisions about whether a patient should be granted disability or incapacity benefits should be made by their doctor, in conjunction with the specialists who would naturally be consulted to confirm the nature and extent of the patient’s medical condition.

What – you think doctors are going to be unduly influenced by the fact that they know the patient? That is precisely why their opinion is the most important.

It seems strange. We know some people believe doctors need to be bribed by the government into sending sick people back to work before they are better. They don’t get any extra financial reward for signing patients off-work, though.

Doesn’t this suggest that they are more likely to be honest when signing the sicknote?

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