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Which is more irresponsible – overspending billions of public pounds or ‘financial repression’?

Rishi Sunak: I like this shot because he looks nervous. If I was in his position, asking Tory backbenchers to raise taxes, I’d be nervous too.

Rishi Sunak has been accused of wasting billions of pounds of public money – your money – because he failed to insure against interest rate rises on government debt.

It means higher than necessary payments on £900bn of reserves created through the quantitative easing (QE) programme, according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

The loss over the past year is around £11 billion, the think tank estimates.

The Treasury has retaliated by saying NIESR’s proposal would undermine the independence of the Bank of England and be “hugely damaging” to the credibility of how public finances are managed.

Not only that, but there is an argument that, even if the Treasury had been able to predict the rate rise (which is possible), it would have been a potentially expensive bet – taking chances with the system.

Really?

Read the arguments here – if you can make sense of them.

The question for us as laypeople is, what do we think is more irresponsible – damaging the credibility of the public finances by pressuring the Bank of England to take a particular action, or damaging the credibility of the public finances by wasting £11 billion?

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Why is the Bank of England trying to stop us spending when we’re already doing that?

The Bank of England: it seems, behind this imposing facade, there lurks a circus complete with clowns.

It seems the economists at the Bank of England don’t have much of a clue.

They say they have raised interest rates to make it more expensive for consumers and businesses to borrow, so people start spending less, helping cool demand for goods and services and, in turn, slowing the pace of price rises; it’s a bid to curb inflation.

But people are already reining in their spending, because of inflation!

So the interest rate increase is pointless. Right?

Furthermore, as people are choosing to save (where they can), rather than spend, the growth of the economy is slowing – which is what the interest rate rise aims to do anyway. So it isn’t needed.

In fact, it may throw the economy into reverse, sending us into a recession.

And economists have warned that increases in interest rates may have little effect given rising global oil and gas prices, over which domestic changes can have little effect.

So there seems to be only one possible reason for the Bank’s decision:

Insanity.

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Interest rates may rise by a quarter of a per cent. Don’t panic!

The Bank of England: it’s raising interest rates in what looks like another bonus for the super-rich – and penalty for the rest of us.

Yes, it seems interest rates are set to rise to their highest point in 13 years but for those of us with mortgages and loans to pay, it’s only likely to go up to one per cent.

It’s potentially good news for those of us with savings – and remember that such people are expected to use their savings to smooth over the cost-of-living increases that are being forced on us by Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak – because it means we’ll have higher interest payments.

That’s if our savings last long enough for any interest to be recorded, of course. Otherwise it’s just another bonus for the super-rich.

The Bank of England is expected to increase its base interest rate to the highest level in 13 years in a bid to tackle inflation.

It is predicted to rise to 1% amid soaring food, energy and fuel prices that saw inflation hit a 30-year high of 7% in March.

Markets expect the bank rate to hit 1.25% later this year, going up to 1.5% by mid-2023.

There’s no explanation in the Sky News report (quoted above) of exactly how increasing interest rates will tackle inflation, so This Writer will believe it when I see it happen.

Source: Bank of England expected to raise interest rate to 13-year high to tackle inflation

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Tories are forcing ‘mortgage prisoners’ to pay up to three times a competitive interest rate

Houses: are their mortgages competitive or will buyers become ‘mortgage prisoners’ because of decisions made, not by them, but by the Tory government?

Is this part of that “bonfire of red tape” that David Cameron and his cronies were trumpeting a few years ago?

I wonder how many of the quarter-of-a-million so-called “mortgage prisoners” merrily voted Tory in the belief that this meant they would find it easier to switch lenders.

And I wonder how they feel, now they know that the opposite is the case.

The salt in their wound, of course, is the fact that it is the Tory government itself that sold their mortgages to unregulated lenders – and is now blocking a change in the law that would help them.

Tougher affordability checks have made it hard to change lenders if a home owner’s mortgage is large compared to the price of their house, if they are close to retirement or have bad credit.

While many lenders are able to switch to different deals with the same lenders, that have lower interest rates, around 250,000 are blocked from doing this because the lenders to whom the Treasury sold their mortgages don’t offer such deals.

The upshot is that they are stuck forking out two or three times what they would pay in a competitive mortgage.

The House of Lords has passed an amendment to the Financial Services Act to cap rates for borrowers in that position, but government whips are instructing Conservative MPs to vote against the amendment on Monday.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak reckons capping the interest rate would be “unfair” on other borrowers.

I don’t see why. How is it unfair to let these people have the same deal as everybody else?

Or does Sunak mean it would be unfair on the lenders to deprive them of one- or two-thirds of their profits?

Should we perhaps be asking questions about how the Treasury chose these particular firms to receive these particular mortgages?

Is this another aspect of the lobbying scandal that we have yet to grasp?

Source: Treasury snubbing ‘mortgage prisoners’, say MPs – BBC News

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Tory hypocrisy exposed again as Brandon Lewis won’t explain why the UK has worst Covid-19 death rate in the world

Caught out: Brandon Lewis was happy to trumpet the UK having the highest vaccination rate in the world but could only say it was “too early” to compare Covid-19 death rates.

Tory minister Brandon Lewis was left struggling to find words after his government’s hypocrisy was exposed (again) on live television.

Interviewed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Lewis was challenged to explain why the UK has the worst Covid-19-related death rate in the world. He said it was “too early” to make comparisons.

But, Piers Morgan pointed out, this government is happy to compare itself with the rest of the world when it suits – such as its claim that the UK is leading the world in vaccinating the population.

Lewis had nowhere to go. He and his government were exposed; their attempt to hoodwink us marked out – for all the world to see:

And the world did see:

For clarity and completeness, you’ve seen Lewis failing to explain why the UK has the worst Covid-related death rate, so here’s the Conservative boast about vaccination:

It is typical Tory policy and, yes, it is an attempt to mislead the public.

There is no point in crowing about a large number of injections if the UK still has more people dying of Covid-19 than any other nation in the world.

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Hancock lied yet again: if anything, suicides have INCREASED during the Covid-19 pandemic

Smug little liar: when Matt Hancock opens his mouth to make a claim, it will probably be wrong.

There was a time when lying to Parliament meant immediate expulsion but don’t expect to see deceitful health secretary Matt Hancock thrown out on his ear.

When the whole government is corrupt, he is merely one liar among many.

His latest attempt to mislead us is in the number of people committing suicide.

He told the Commons that figures for England showed a decrease but this is not true.

Here’s Full Fact:

“Some cautiously positive news announced today ​by the Office for National Statistics shows that the number of suicides during the peak of the pandemic was down from 10.3 per 100,000 to 6.9 per 100,000”. – Matt Hancock MP, 1 September 2020

While the figures quoted by Mr Hancock are the latest reported by the ONS, it has clearly said that this data “cannot be used to show the number of suicides with a date of death in 2020, including those that occurred during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic”.

The provisional data, released on 1 September, shows the rate and number of suicide deaths registered up to June 2020. This data reported 10.3 suicides per 100,000 people between January and March (equivalent to 1,262 registered deaths), and 6.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 people between April and June, equivalent to 845 registered deaths.

It is important to note that these figures show when these deaths were registered, not when they happened.

The 845 suicides registered in the second quarter of 2020 is the lowest number of any quarter since the figures began in 2001, and the ONS said it is “unlikely that the reduction in registered deaths reflects a genuine reduction in the number of suicides”.

Mr Hancock was wrong to say that suicide deaths fell during the peak of the pandemic, as it is too early for the evidence to show what happened.

Hancock’s lie was all the more blatant when we remember that the ONS – the same organisation whose figures he quoted so wrongly – has reported that suicides in England and Wales last year were at their highest in nearly two decades:

Men accounted for around three-quarters of suicide deaths registered in 2019 – 4,303 compared with 1,388 women.
The male suicide rate of 16.9 deaths per 100,000 people was the highest since 2000, but is in line with 2018’s figures.

For women, the rate was 5.3 deaths per 100,000 – the highest since 2004, but again consistent with the previous year.

Source: There’s no evidence the number of people taking their own life fell during the Covid-19 pandemic – Full Fact

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‘R’ rate speculation show how even ‘experts’ say what suits them rather than what you need to know

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So, are Covid-19 infections about to rise exponentially again, now that the ‘R’ rate has risen above 1 for the first time on record?

Apparently not. The so-called ‘experts’ are telling us outbreaks in a few “hotspots” are pushing the average up.

But wasn’t that always the case?

Here in This Writer’s part of Mid Wales there have been very few cases. But the rate for Wales as a whole is between 0.80 and 1.1, meaning we should all probably be bracing ourselves for another wave of the disease.

The ‘R’ rate – in case there’s anybody left who doesn’t know – is the rate at which the disease is passed on; the average number of people an infected person is likely to pass it to.

If it is lower than 1, then the disease may be said to be in decline. But if it rises past that number, there are fears it could multiply uncontrollably again.

The Johnson government, announcing its rules for lockdown, initially said that if the ‘R’ rate passed one the country would go back into lockdown.

But the Johnson government has said a lot of things and it has now become nigh-on impossible to keep a record of all the backtracking and outright lies.

It would be pleasant to think that the ‘experts’ are right and this is no reason for concern. After all, they’ve managed to explain away every other spike (most notably those caused by the government’s lockdown easings.

But winter is coming, and coronaviruses like Covid-19 multiply in the cold.

Source: Covid: UK’s R value may be above 1 for first time on record | World news | The Guardian

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Awkward! Johnson proved wrong to ease lockdown as ‘R’ rate rises in most English regions

One of the main reasons Boris Johnson has given for easing lockdown conditions in England from July 4 is a reduction in the reproduction rate of Covid-19.

He said that, with ‘R’ well below 1 – meaning for each person infected, fewer than one person would catch the disease – restrictions could be loosened.

But it seems he spoke too soon. Look at this:

Skwawkbox explains:

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has tweeted the latest regional ‘R’-rate table showing how fast the coronavirus is spreading across England’s twelve regions – and the news is bad in all of them but one.

As Burnham pointed out, the ‘R’ has risen in every region except the south-east – and is at or above one in almost half, meaning the pool of infection was either increasing or not reducing. The latest table shows data as of 10 June and so would not reflect the acceleration effect of Johnson’s more recent relaxations of England’s lockdown.

The increases mean that, across the whole of England, the ‘R’ rate is no longer below one – yet Johnson ploughs ahead with a reduction in social distancing and the re-opening of retail and hospitality

Maybe it’s a blip!

Maybe the ‘R’ rate will settle down again.

But other countries have slammed their own lockdowns back on at the slightest increase.

Johnson is being dangerously – possibly homicidally – cavalier with our lives.

Source: ‘R’ rate rises in every English region but one – before Johnson’s lockdown changes – SKWAWKBOX

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Coronavirus transmission rate is increasing, so why all this talk of easing lockdown?

Dominic Raab: he reckons it will be all right to lift some lockdown restrictions, despite the fact that more people are catching Covid-19 (again).

Covid-19’s reproduction rate must be decreasing if the UK’s lockdown is to be lifted – and this critical ‘R’ rate is actually rising.

So why is all the talk about lifting the lockdown?

We’re told the speed of coronavirus infections is rising because of the epidemic that has been revealed in care homes…

… and what about the deaths in mental health hospitals and among people with learning disabilities?

These are places that may be reasonably expected to have the proper procedures in place if a pandemic sweeps the UK – unless the government failed to ensure that those procedures were in place, and all the necessary equipment was available.

(It was the government that had responsibility for emergency planning, and for ensuring that preparations were properly carried out.)

But we have a government that is also keen to lift the lockdown because its donors in big business are not making the profits they normally expect, while the people who generate those profits are being told to stay home for their own safety.

This is further evidence that, if Boris Johnson lifts his lockdown even slightly, he will set us on course for a bigger disaster.

The critical ‘R’ rate measuring the spread of coronavirus infections is on the rise again, the national statistician says – raising fresh questions about any lockdown easing.

A reproduction rate of anything above 1 means each infected person is, on average, passing it on to more than one other, but experts agree it must be well below 1 to prevent a second peak of the pandemic.

Crucially, it is the most important of the five tests before the lockdown can be eased significantly. The prime minister himself admitted there is still a “pandemic” in care homes.

The warning came as Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said any relaxation of restrictions – to be announced by Boris Johnson on Sunday – would be “modest, small and incremental”.

Source: Coronavirus rate of transmission is increasing, says chief government statistician | The Independent

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Tory concession to young voters is too little and too reluctant

Theresa May has pledged to listen to young people. This is what she looks like when she tries [Image: Getty].

It’s also too obviously focused on the privileged young.

The announcement that tuition fees will be frozen is pointless, coming as it does after a rise of £250 a year was introduced earlier this month. When tuition fees were brought in, by Tony Blair’s New Labour, they were pegged at £1,000 per year and means-tested. Considering the astronomical increases since then – mostly under the Tories – it seems clear that Mrs May’s party has already done its worst here.

An increase in the repayment threshold will mean little to people who do not earn much after finishing their university courses as they are never likely to earn enough to do any more than pay interest on their loans. The offer to consider cutting interest rates on student loans is neither here nor there. Theresa May will probably u-turn on it as soon as it becomes expedient to do so.

Obviously, considering the cost of tuition fees and the debt burden of loans, being a student is now an occupation intended for the very rich; these are offers to the privileged, not to the population at large.

As for Help to Buy, which is intended to allow first-time buyers to get a mortgage – the scheme has been hit by several scandals: Some buyers were forced to pay ground rent at prices that increased hugely; others on Help-to-Buy ISAs found they could not use the money to actually buy a house. And in the meantime the scheme created an artificial increase in house prices, making them even less affordable for people on average or below-average wages.

So, again, this is a concession to the rich. It would be a trap for the poor.

It seems incredible that the media are touting this as Theresa May’s answer to Labour’s overwhelming popularity among young voters.

All anybody younger than 24 has to do is think about it, and they’ll never want to vote Tory again in their lives. I predict a u-turn on the whole idea.

Theresa May is set to announce that tuition fees will be frozen at £9,250, as part of an effort by the Tories to appeal to younger voters.

Speaking ahead of the Conservative Party Conference, the Prime Minister told the Sun on Sunday there will be an increase in the repayment threshold, meaning graduates only start paying their loans back once they are earning £25,000.

The changes to the loan system will be accompanied with another pledge to extend the Help to Buy scheme, with Ms May acknowledging that the generation gap in terms of wealth and opportunity has opened up in the country.

With the number of first-time buyers falling steadily, the Prime Minister will pledge another £10 billion to expand the Help to Buy scheme, which attracted criticism for artificially inflating prices in the already overheated London housing market.

The extra funding will go to a further 135,000 first-time buyers, allowing them to get a mortgage on a new-built home with a deposit of just five per cent.

The Conservatives are also considering cutting interest rates on student loan repayments – which have rocketed for recent graduates.

Source: Theresa May pledges to freeze tuition fees and extend Help to Buy scheme ahead of Tory conference


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