Up your…: last week, Matt Hancock offered carers… a badge. This is what they said he could do with it.
Right after offering carers a badge instead of genuine government investment, Matt Hancock has denied them the real living wage.
Let’s clarify, quickly: the real living wage is a wage that covers real living expenses, and is currently set at £10.75 in London and £9.30 in the rest of the UK for anybody aged 18 and older.
Hancock came out with the mealy-mouthed excuse that carers are already paid the National Living Wage, which is only £8.21 – and applicable only to people aged over 25. It doesn’t cover the cost of living, meaning its description as a “living wage” is false.
And let’s remember that MP’s have been given an extra £10,000 – above their already-enormous salaries – to help them work at home, which is something carers do all the time.
What a charmer.
Hancock was responding to SNP health spokesperson Dr Philippa Whitford who pointed out that carers in Scotland are already paid the real living wage and asked when the Tory government would do the same for those in England.
She also asked him to reverse a 20 per cent cut in public health funding imposed by the Tories in 2015 – but that didn’t even get a response.
It seems the only hand Hancock has for carers is when he’s clapping for them on his doorstep – if he ever bothers.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Congratulations are due to BBC business body Jonty Bloom, who should get an award for the bilge he blathered to justify the fact that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have engineered the longest drop in wages for 50 years.
He blamed employees, saying that they weren’t productive enough.
The Office for National Statistics had reported that real wages have fallen by 2.2 per cent every year since David Cameron took over as Prime Minister in 2010 and, as the Tory’s mass-media mouthpiece, the BBC seem to have tasked Mr Bloom with finding plausible deniability for the Coalition, so that ministers won’t have to take responsibility.
Real wages are worked out by taking the rising cost of living into account while calculating the value of earnings.
The ONS report followed one from the Institute for Fiscal Studies on Thursday, suggesting that a mid-range household’s income between 2013-14 was six per cent below its pre-crisis peak.
Both of these reports were latecomers to this particular party, though. A Labour Party report from August 2013 stated that prices had risen faster than wages in all but one month of Cameron’s premiership – April 2013, when he cut taxes for millionaires and bank bonuses soared. The overall fall in annual real wages was £1,350 at the time that report was written.
The Labour report went on to say that figures from the House of Commons Library forecast that, after inflation, wages will be £1,520 lower in 2015 than in 2010, meaning working people, on average, will have lost £6,660 in real terms during the Coalition Parliament.
You’ll notice the BBC report only provides percentages. Interesting, that.
Over at the BBC, Mr Bloom tried to convince us that “workers have, on average, been working fewer hours during the downturn and that in turn has meant that they are earning less.
“The wage an employer pays… will be based on the productivity of the employee. So if a firm’s output falls, it will respond by reducing either the level of wages or the number of people employed in order to maintain its viability… Many firms seem to have held on to staff but output per hour worked fell, putting downward pressure on wages.”
He also suggested that a shift from higher-paid manufacturing jobs to lower-paid service jobs had contributed.
Sadly for Mr Bloom, we can punch holes through all of his arguments. Firstly, this is the government that insisted private sector jobs growth would outweigh the loss of public sector jobs it was going to inflict on the country. That claim alone suggests that ministers may have pressurised firms to keep employees in-post.
But the downturn meant there was less demand for firms’ products. How could they remain viable? Answer: Cut the hours worked by employees. Could this be the reason part-time and zero-hours contracts have exploded during the course of this Parliament? Part-time workers have fewer holiday entitlements and do not cost employers as much in National Insurance. Zero-hours workers are only called when they are needed and therefore the firm’s overheads are hugely reduced. Bosses benefit while workers go without.
Could this also be why firms have hired outside contractors on a self-employed basis, paying them a set amount per job, no matter how long it takes, in order to bypass the minimum wage law? Contractors earn less than the minimum wage but work far longer hours (without upsetting Mr Bloom’s average).
The productivity of a worker depends on how long they are working; part-time or zero-hours employees work for less time and therefore their productivity cannot be anything but lower than a full-time worker. Self-employed contractors’ pay is fixed in companies’ favour from the start. Mr Bloom’s argument is based on a wages fiddle.
Oh, and that shift from manufacturing to the service industries? Isn’t that something the Conservative-led Coalition has vowed vehemently to reverse, while doing spectacularly little about it? I think it is.
One personal note: My own experience as an employee suggests that firms’ financial woes have far more to do with the idiotic decisions made by executives than with the output of employees. Changes in the market do not lead to inventive and innovative responses; instead, the workers are penalised with lower wages or unemployment. This puts firms in a slow death spiral as continual erosion of the workforce makes managers increasingly less able to cope with the challenges that, unaddressed, rack up against them.
So congratulations, Jonty. You carry on blaming the workers if you want. It won’t make a scrap of difference because the real problems lie with the decisions made by company execs, responding to stupid Tory policies.
What a shame you can’t say anything about that because your employers are so utterly under the Tory thumb.
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It’s farewell to your centuries-old right to free speech today, after your Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs won their bid to get the Gagging Bill passed by the House of Lords. It won’t go back to the Commons because the Lords made no amendments.
While you, personally, will be allowed to continue complaining about anything you want, you will no longer have the ability to link up with others to protest government actions in any meaningful way as such action may breach Liberal Democrat and Tory government-imposed spending limits. Your personal complaints will be deemed unrepresentative of the people.
You will still be able to have your e-petition on the government’s website – if you win enough signatures to have it debated in Parliament – ignored by the Tories and Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons.
The Liberal Democrats and Tories have even managed to rub salt into the wound by creating a register of all the corporate lackeys who will still be able to influence their policies – freelance lobbyists employed by large companies for the specific purpose of swaying government policy. Lobbyists who are company employees will not be listed as the government says their purposes for meeting MPs should be obvious.
This means the new law will do nothing to restrict the power of corporations to write government policy or prevent lobbying scandals such as those involving former Tory MP Patrick Mercer, along with Tories Peter Cruddas and Liam Fox.
The new law protects in-house corporate lobbying operations from official scrutiny, while preventing the public from enjoying the same privileges of access to the government. That is what your Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs have fought so assiduously to obtain, over the eight months or so that this legislation, “one of the worst… any government produce[d] in a very long time”, has spent being digested by Parliament.
In a Commons debate in September, Glenda Jackson MP warned that her constituents “know that the Bill… would prevent democratic voices from being heard”.
In response, Andrew Lansley – the Conservative who gave us the hated Health and Social Care Act 2012, another incredibly poor piece of legislation – said; “I look forward to the Honourable Lady having an opportunity… to go back to her constituents, to tell them that the things they are alarmed about will not happen.”
@UKJCP immediately resurrected itself as @DeadParrotJCP and @Director_UKJCP. We’ll see how long they last.
Let us not forget, also, that the third part of this law cracks down on trade unions, enforcing strict rules on membership records to ensure, it seems, that it is possible to ‘blacklist’ any trade unionist who finds him- or herself seeking work.
With free speech flushed away, you may still resort to public protest – but the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has that covered.
ACPO is an organisation that has tried to put ‘agent provocateurs’ into legitimate protest groups and promoted ‘kettling’ to stop peaceful protests (as used in the student protests early in the current Parliament), among many other reprehensible activities.
Considering its track record, it seems clear that ACPO wants to use water cannons against legitimate political protests, on the assumption that the increasing imposition of ideologically-imposed austerity on the country by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives will lead to more political protests, as people across the UK finally realise that the Tories and their corporate lobbyist friends are actually working against the wider population.
ACPO’s report on water cannons makes it clear that “it would be fair to assume that the ongoing and potential future austerity measures are likely to lead to continued protest” and “the mere presence of water cannon can have a deterrent effect”.
The Home Office response? “We are keen to ensure forces have the tools and powers they need to maintain order on our streets. We are currently providing advice to the police on the authorisation process as they build the case for the use of water cannon.”
So there you have it. Take to the streets in peaceful protest and your police service will assault you with water cannons, with the blessing of your government.
There remains one option open to you – your vote. You could get rid of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats at the next general election in 2015.
But that leads us to ask why the government has launched its attack on free speech and free protest.
Perhaps it wants to control the information you receive, on which you base your voting intentions?
We already know the unelected Conservative and Liberal Democrat government is using the predominantly right-wing media for this purpose. For example: George Osborne made a great deal of fuss earlier this week, alleging a huge resurgence in the British economy. With help from Tory mouthpiece the BBC, he was able to put out the headline figure that the economy grew by 1.9 per cent in 2013 – its strongest rate since 2007.
Osborne also claimed that Britain is doing better than all comparable economies in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and that the upturn is due to his imbecilic “expansionary fiscal contraction” policy, otherwise known as austerity.
All of these claims are false, or intended to create a false impression.
Firstly, his 1.9 per cent of growth started at a much lower level of output than would have been the case if Osborne had not imposed austerity on us all and stopped the 2010 recovery dead. GDP would now be 20 per cent higher than its current levels if not for this single act of stupidity from the stupidest Chancellor in British history.
Secondly: The US economy recovered from an eight per cent fall after 2008 to a five per cent rise above its previous peak by the third quarter of 2013. Germany is the only major European country to enjoy growth of two per cent or higher, after an initial recovery based on increased public expenditure – not austerity. Even France has nearly reached its pre-crisis peak. The UK remains two per cent below its previous economic peak.
Finally, Osborne did not even get to this miserable excuse for a recovery by imposing austerity. He quietly adopted a stimulus policy to avoid going back into recession. What do you think ‘Funding for Lending’ is? Or his mortgage guarantee scheme?
If George Osborne, Home Secretary Theresa May, ACPO and the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition in Parliament had their way, you would not have access to any of these facts.
You would be led to believe that the governments policies are working, exactly the way the government says they are working.
You would not have any reason to believe that the government is lying to you on a daily basis.
You would be tranquillised.
Would you vote against a government that tells you such wonderful things, even when your own circumstances might not reflect that story (real wages fell by seven per cent in the private sector and five per cent in the public sector between 2007-13)?
David Cameron is betting his career that you won’t.
A head up his own behind: David Freud doesn’t want to make work pay – he just wants you to think he does.
Here’s another Tory who should go boil his head: David Freud.
This former Labour advisor on social security – who had previously worked in the city, setting up company share flotations (and if that isn’t a deeply worrying connection, what is?) – crossed the floor to the Conservative Party when he realised Labour wasn’t going to keep power in 2010, and was rewarded with an utterly undeserved peerage.
It is possible that he has done at least as much harm to the unemployed as Unum and Atos, along with an equal amount of harm to those on low wages.
He has written a worthless screed in the Huffington Post, no doubt part of an attempt to soften us all up for a new assault on the workless. We’ll get to his words in a moment. First, let’s look at the current situation, as created by the David Cameron government that Freud serves.
Under the current government, real wages have fallen in 36 out of 37 months – the only month when they didn’t fall was April 2013, when millionaires had their tax cut and bank bonuses rocketed. You can be assured that ordinary wages continued to plummet.
This has been led, of course, by the social insecurity policies adopted by Freud. The plan has always been to make life extremely difficult for the unemployed, ensuring they will chase work wherever they can find it – no matter how poorly-paid. This is why zero-hours contracts have gained the prevalence they have, which would be unacceptable in a civilised society.
It also means that company bosses can push wages down, even if prices are rising and people are facing a cost of living crisis – because they can always say there are plenty of unemployed people willing to take a complaining worker’s place.
And prices are rising. Inflation has been above the current two per cent target throughout Cameron’s administration, meaning that, in 2011, 70 per cent of people saw their real wages fall as pay packets failed to keep up with inflation. Families were an average of £891 worse-off in the current financial year because of tax rises and cuts to tax credits and benefits introduced since 2010 – negating the much-touted £600 that was given back when the Coalition raised the threshold for tax payment.
The government has blamed high inflation on “rising global prices” but this is nonsense – inflation in other G7 countries has been lower than in the UK, disproving the claim.
Wages after inflation are forecast to be £1,520 lower in 2015 than in 2010, meaning that working people, on average, will have lost a total of £6,660 in real terms under the Coalition government of David Cameron.
It is against this background that David Freud has written, in the Huffington Post, about what he seems to think are his government’s successes in forcing unemployed people to chase your jobs, thereby keeping your wages low. They can’t go after other jobs, you see – this government hasn’t lifted a finger to create any!
“The benefit cap is now in place across the country,” he began. “This means that benefit claims are limited to a fair level, a maximum of the average working household earnings of £500 a week.” Instantly, he is distorting the truth. The income of an average household earning that much would be topped-up with benefits totalling a further £105 or thereabouts. The benefit cap is, therefore, intrinsically unfair.
“The taxpayer who funds the welfare state has the assurance that someone in receipt of benefits no longer has an income that’s beyond the reach of the average working family.” A flat-out lie. The average benefit recipient never received more than an average working family. As a rule, benefits totalled one-sixth of wages and the one per cent limit on benefit uprating over the next three years – no matter what inflation does – means a huge drop in real terms during that period.
“The benefit cap has removed the barrier some people faced getting into work.” Another lie. The barrier that was stopping people getting into work was a lack of jobs that paid enough for people to cover their costs. Freud and his government want you to compete for jobs that put you into debt at a s-l-I-g-h-t-l-y slower rate than if you were unemployed.
“I must be clear, the old system failed people. If benefits provide an income well above wages, sticking to receiving state support over going out to work is too easy a decision to make.” A false premise. Benefits never provided an income well above wages – except for people in extraordinary circumstances (and those people had stopped receiving such income before the benefit cap was imposed). It’s lie after lie with this man.
“Our reforms put getting into work at the top of the agenda.” No – they set working class people against each other, scrabbling for jobs that pay marginally more than benefits while employers compete in a race to the bottom, to see who can get away with paying the least.
“Universal Credit will make sure it pays to work and the benefit cap ensures a lifestyle on benefits is not a lifestyle beyond the reach of the average household.” Universal Credit is, as we all now know, a money pit into which Iain Duncan Smith has poured hundreds of millions of pounds and received nothing in return. The average household will soon endure a lifestyle – in work – that is almost indistinguishable from one on benefits, as wages continue to fall.
“That is why alongside putting the cap in place, we made sure that people who get a job and are eligible for working tax credits are exempt.” But hasn’t this government made working tax credits harder to claim?
“We have ensured that households who should be exempt, such as people claiming disability benefits as well as war widows and widowers, have not been affected.” What about sick and disabled people on Employment and Support Allowance, which is not classed as a disability benefit even though it is paid to people with disabilities? They have been dying in their thousands as a result of Freud’s policies.
Yes, this man’s ideas kill.
David Freud’s middle initial is ‘A’. Someone recently pointed out that initialising ‘David A Freud, Tory’ gives you the acronym ‘DAFT’.
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