Tag Archives: relief

MPs split off from the Labour Party. Voters say ‘Good riddance!’

Chuka Umunna: Good riddance.

A group of seven MPs has split off from the Labour Party – to gasps of relief across the United Kingdom.

The reaction is probably not what they wanted.

The group includes Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker and Angela Smith as expected.

Joining them are Luciana Berger – quitting before her Liverpool Wavertree CLP pushes through the “no confidence” vote that members have been readying? – along with Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey.

The group has released a statement but it seems its website is having teething problems – odd since it has been registered since 2015 – and I can’t really be bothered unless Vox Political readers are genuinely interested. Are you?

It’s much more fun to highlight the public response, which is primarily relief. The flood of comments yesterday (Sunday, February 18) when rumours spread that the split would happen today, speaks for itself. Some thought this was another publicity stunt and they would not go through with it:

Others pointed out the qualities of the expected splitters and the likely tensions between them:

The prevailing mood – especially in the case of Mr Umunna, was clear:

And some posted wish lists of other Labour members they would like to see split off – for a very obvious reason:

Mr Jeffery will be pleased to see Ms Berger and Mr Gapes among the splitters. Mr Gapes is also on Matt Zarb-Cousins’s list:

Speculation on what the “Independent Group” would represent has been overwhelmingly negative towards them:

And the departure will provoke comparisons with the “Gang of Four” who formed the SDP in 1981. That decision led to the formation of the Liberal Democrats, a party that apparently killed itself off as a national political organisation by forming a coalition with the Conservatives between 2010 and 2015. Here’s Martin O’Neill:

As ever, Tony Benn called it correctly – 38 years ago.

Last word goes to Liam Young:

Damn straight – good riddance.

Where are all the Grenfell Donations? The families aren’t getting them

A vigil near Grenfell Tower in London [Image: Victoria Jones/PA].

Is it true?

Will the money donated after the Grenfell Tower fire for the good of the victims be used to fund work by authorities that should be paying for it from their own pockets?

Apparently £20 million has been provided by well-meaning people including Adele and Usain Bolt (see below) – but if any of the former residents, or anybody representing them, asks for some of it they are refused.

Where is this money?

Why is it not being used to help the former residents of Grenfell Tower?

And who has decided to deny them this help?

Time for a Freedom of Information request, I think.

Thank you FA and Adele and Usain Bolt and all the wonderful people in this country and abroad who have donated money in response to this awful tragedy.

But the truth is that no one knows where this money is, who is controlling it, making decisions about disbursement. There have been rumblings for about 4 weeks now but finally the Residents got to vent about it in a closed door meeting with the people who’re supposedly taking care of the money.

With £20m in the bank RBKC is drawing down on this money ‘for ongoing voluntary organisation commitments’ and presumably interest is accruing on a daily basis too.

My sneaky suspicion is that RBKC will present a bill for the hotel accommodation and all the ridiculous keyworker system they put in place that had everyone going bonkers for over 6 weeks. All these expenses will be added up and my instinct is somehow deducted from the £20m donations. Wait and see.

Meanwhile some bloke I know has to rummage to find a pair of trousers to fit him, another a jacket and a woman who had the most miraculous escape from the jaws of hell, says ‘I don’t know what I can ask for. What can I have? I don’t want to be greedy or ask for anything.’

Source: Where are all the Grenfell Donations? – National & International Issues – Dorset North


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This is how the ‘annual tax statement’ SHOULD have appeared!

We all owe a debt of thanks to Richard Murphy, over at Tax Research UK. He has broken down the information in George Osborne’s misleading ‘annual tax statement’ into its component parts and then put a new version together, under categories that more accurately describe the spending concerned.

Then he turned the information into a handy pie chart – similar to Osborne’s but with one major change:

This version is accurate.

Here it is:

141105richardmurphy1

Let’s just compare it with Osborne’s…

141105osbornetaxsummary

Big difference!

The most interesting to Vox Political is the perception gap between Mr Murphy’s calculation of the total proportion of tax spent on unemployment benefits – 0.67 per cent – and Osborne’s ‘Welfare’ heading, which constitutes 24 per cent of spending.

Talk to most people about ‘Welfare’ and they’ll think you mean unemployment benefits – so the Osborne chart will make them think that government spending on the unemployed is no less than 36 times as much as is in fact the case.

When a government minister exaggerates the facts by that much, he might as well come out and admit that he’s lying to the people.

Mr Murphy wrote: “This is the statement George Osborne would not want you to see because it makes clear that subsidies, allowances and reliefs extend right across the UK economy. And they do not, by any means, appear to go to those who necessarily need them most. The view he has presented on this issue has been partial, to say the least, and frankly deeply misleading at best.”

He wrote: “Add together the cost of subsidies to banks, the subsidy to pensions and the subsidy to savings (call them together the subsidy to the City of London) and they cost £103.4bn a year – more than the cost of education in the UK.

“It’s also no wonder house prices are so distorted when the implicit tax subsidy for home ownership is £12.6 billion a year.”

He also pointed out that unemployment benefits cost only half the amount used to subsidise personal savings and investments.

For full details of Mr Murphy’s calculations, visit his article on the Tax Research UK site.

Mr Murphy tweeted yesterday: “Almost every commentator now agrees that Osborne is going to spend a fortune sending out tax statements that are wrong. Why not cancel now?”

He won’t unless he’s forced to; he has a political agenda to follow.

That is why Vox Political launched a petition to achieve just that.

If you haven’t already, please visit the petition on the Change.org website, sign it, and share it with your friends.

While you’re at it, feel free to share the infographic, created to support the petition:

ztaxleaflets

Please also read yesterday’s Vox Political article on Osborne’s ‘annual tax summaries’, if you haven’t already.

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Tax the rich? Hardship payments for benefit claimants? Sorry Nick – we believed you once before

Nick Clegg: He must have had his forked tongue in his cheek when he wrote the Liberal Democrats' latest list of pledges.

Nick Clegg: He must have had his forked tongue in his cheek when he wrote the Liberal Democrats’ latest list of pledges.

The Liberal Democrats have launched a desperate attempt to win back voters, packing their General Election manifesto with meaningless pledges.

Why are they meaningless? Because the Liberal Democrats, under the same leader (Nick Clegg), made pledges to us before the 2010 election – having already hammered out an agreement with the Conservatives that meant they would not be able to honour those commitments.

There is evidence that teams representing the Tories and Liberal Democrats negotiated what would be in a coalition agreement on March 16, 2010 – and abolishing student tuition fees, a principle Liberal Democrat pledge, was not part of it.

In this light, how can we believe Liberal Democrat plans to push for higher capital gains tax, bringing it more closely in line with income tax? How can we believe they would change tax relief for entrepreneurs, so it does not provide a tax loophole for the super-rich – or even the modest plan to cut tax relief on pensions from £1.4 million to £1 million? And how can we believe they will restrict access to “non-dom” tax status for foreigners living in Britain who do not pay tax on their earnings abroad?

The BBC has an even more hard-to-believe report that the Liberal Democrats will cut the Winter Fuel Allowance and free TV licences for better-off pensioners, in order to pay for a 66 per cent discount on bus travel (in England only) for young people aged 16-21.

This is doubly insulting to our intelligence. Firstly, a concession on bus fares is no consolation for the tripling of student tuition fees in which the Liberal Democrats participated after promising to abolish them instead – and don’t they know that means-testing benefits to discover who deserves them is not a simple matter? It is complex and costly – as Alex Little told us only a few days ago.

This comment of his is particularly apt: “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).”

The Liberal Democrats are being more than a little disingenuous with that promise, then.

And does anybody really think the plan to decriminalise possession of restricted drugs for personal use will ever happen? The Liberal Democrats know their performance in the Coalition means they won’t win any elections soon and are hoping to be part of another hung-Parliament alliance. This means they would be sharing public office with one of the other parties who, they state, have “blighted” UK drugs policy with “kneejerk prejudice and the wish to appear tough”. This is another pledge they can make safely, knowing it is never likely to happen.

You’ll notice, also, that the Liberal Democrats say next to nothing about the National Health Service – that foundation stone of British fair play and decency that they allowed the Conservatives to sell off to private companies (in which many of them are shareholders) in order to make a profit from the suffering of the sick.

They will increase its budget in line with inflation so the private companies leeching off of it won’t lose profit. How caring of them.

To cap it all off, Clegg repeated what has become the Liberal Democrat mantra ever since he first used it in December 2012: “Liberal Democrats are committed to building a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling people to get on in life.”

It’s the ‘party message script’, you see. Back in 2012, he added: “We will stay the course on the deficit. We will cut income tax bills and help with childcare bills. We will invest in boosting jobs and we’ll reform welfare to get people into work.”

Considering his party’s record on those matters, there is certainly no reason to buy any of what he’s peddling today.

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The benefit debate is a diversion – that’s why it will go on and on

140218benefitstreet

How many of you tuned into the last episode of Benefits Street on Channel 4, and stayed on for the debate that followed?

Quite a few, I reckon.

They were worth watching, but the feeling that was left with this viewer (and I’ve been reviewing television for 20 years or more) is that we are talking ourselves around in circles – led by politicians with a vested interest in perpetuating the discussion.

They don’t want a solution. They want us to keep going over the same ground – which they have laid out for us with very specific limits – and they want to concentrate our anger about this issue so that we blame, not the people responsible – the tax dodgers who put money into tax havens that could be invested in British industry, the private landlords and low-paying bosses who are subsidised by the benefit system and the bankers who caused the economic crisis a few years ago – but the people who have been forced onto benefits through no fault of their own and are being persecuted for it by a punitive system that penalises them for failing to find jobs that really do not exist.

Look at the way David Cameron leapt forward with fistfuls of cash to pay for flood relief when Tory heartlands were affected, saying that money was no object and Britain is a rich country. We’re rich enough to look after the playing fields of Eton, but not our poorest citizens, according to his mentality. Property is worth more to him than people.

Why? Because the people who send their children to Eton are the people Cameron hopes will elect him (he can’t be re-elected; he didn’t win the 2010 election) in 2015. The unemployed are less likely to vote for him – in fact they are less likely to vote at all. It seems there is something about being rejected by society that instils a sense of listlessness and despair in the human psyche. People ask themselves: Why bother?

There are solutions, but it is cause for concern that we are not hearing about them from our MPs and politicians. Journalist Owen Jones came out with the clearest plan during the debate on Channel 4 last night, and it is well worth quoting in full.

He said: “Firstly let’s make it clear – work does not pay in this country. We hear that as a mantra, when most people in poverty get up in the morning and earn that poverty.

“We’re talking about people milking the system. Let’s talk about the low-paying bosses who are being subsidised with in-work benefits because, in the seventh-richest country on Earth, they won’t pay.

“If we’re talking about getting people into jobs I actually think we need to talk about solutions here. One in six workers in the last two years have claimed Jobseekers’ Allowance at some point; that’s a lack of security.

“What we need firstly is a massive house-building programme that would reduce the amount spent on Housing Benefit which, by the way, is not going into the pockets of these tenants – it’s lining the pockets of private landlords charging rip-off rents. If we build housing, it would create jobs and we would stimulate the economy as well.

“It goes the same with the need for an industrial strategy because what successive governments have done, and it started in the eighties, is let the secure jobs go to rot, if you like. Now, other countries like Germany, what they’ve done is had an industrial strategy. Instead of saying, ‘Hands off, let the market decide,’ they’ve said, ‘Actually we want to create jobs in renewable energy.’ Now we’ve just seen the floods; we’re going to have a lot more extreme weather, so let’s have an industrial strategy to go and create renewable energy jobs, giving people secure, dignified jobs, taking on the environmental crisis.

“These are solutions… We’ve got to change the debate we have at the moment where the real villains of the piece, like the tax dodgers who get away with not paying £25 billion a year in tax, like the private landlords and the low-paying bosses milking our welfare state, like the bankers who caused the economic disaster – they get away with it, but all we ever hear about is kicking people at the bottom.”

Absolutely right. And that’s all we’ll hear about it for the foreseeable future, as well. We won’t hear about returning to a full-employment society (which is perfectly possible), because that means the greedy rich will have less money for themselves in the short term.

In the long term, ensuring that there are properly-paid jobs for the most people, so they do not have to claim benefits, means that there is more money moving around the economy – and money makes money. The parasites – who are making a fortune unsustainably by working people hard and paying them poverty rations – would be just as rich in the long run, but they cannot bear to consider the possibility.

One has to consider whether they want to force people into poverty, just to make their own wealth seem more remarkable – the poverty trap as ego-trip, if you like.

But we won’t hear about that because it is politically inflammatory. Far better to set the lower classes against each other, laying blame on each other for problems that are caused by different people entirely – and laugh all the way to the offshore bank.

If I had to describe Britain to a foreigner, I would ask them to imagine a person being robbed outside a public lavatory, by the mayor of his town, while council workers started demolishing the building; the rich are destroying our public services and mugging us at the same time.

Very soon, the same people who are mugging you will be asking for your vote…

… while blaming you for problems they have done nothing to solve.

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Workplace battleground: Labour and Tories at war over employment

cameronmaths

Labour is forging forward with new plans to improve work prospects and the skills of those seeking employment, while the Conservatives are plunging backward with proposals to penalise people who lack the ability to speak basic English.

Already right-wingers in the media have been trying to undermine the policies announced by Rachel Reeves in a speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research. They say Labour is planning to strip people of their benefits if they don’t take classes to improve their English and Maths skills, if necessary.

This talk of punishment for people who need help is completely wrong-headed. If someone can’t get a job because they can’t read, write or do their sums, then they should get help. Of course they should.

One has to wonder what has gone wrong in our schools, to lead to this situation. Perhaps Michael Gove would like to take responsibility? No, didn’t think so.

In fact, the plans announced by the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary are perfectly reasonable – especially in contrast with the latest Tory madness, but we’ll come to that soon enough.

We already know that the centrepiece of Labour’s economic plan is a compulsory jobs guarantee for young people and the long-term unemployed.

This means anyone over 25 who has been receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance for two years or more, and anyone under that age who has been receiving the same benefit for one year or more would get a guaranteed job, paying at least the minimum wage, for 25 hours a week – coupled with training for at least a further 10 hours a week.

This is perfectly reasonable. If you have been looking for work for more than a year, and couldn’t get it yourself, then the extra income provided by such a placement (especially coming in line with Labour’s plan to increase wages, in order to really make work pay, rather than depressing benefits and putting everyone in poverty, which is Conservative policy) will be welcome.

It doesn’t mean that people will have to put their own ambitions on hold. The best advice I ever received was to get a paying job during the day, in order to put food on the table and clothes on my back, and work on what I really wanted to do in the evenings. Eventually, with perseverance, it should be possible to replace the day job with what you really want to do.

Most of the jobs are likely to be in small firms where, once a company has invested six months in a new recruit, the chances are they will want to keep them on after the subsidy has ended.

The jobs guarantee would be fully funded by repeating the tax on bankers bonuses – they were in the news recently, when it was announced that these people would be receiving unearned bonuses worth twice as much as their salary so they’ve definitely got the cash to spare – and a restriction on pension tax relief for those on the very highest incomes.

But – of course – putting people into a job isn’t much good if they don’t have the knowledge of English and Maths that most of us use without thinking in our everyday lives.

In her speech, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said: “The shocking levels of English and maths among too many jobseekers are holding them back from getting work, and trapping them in a vicious cycle between low paid work and benefits.

“Nearly one in 10 people claiming JSA don’t have basic English skills, and over one in ten don’t have basic maths. IT skills among jobseekers are even worse; nearly half don’t have the basic email skills which are now essential for almost any job application.

“And we know that this keeps people out of jobs: those out of work are twice as likely than those in work to lack basic English and Maths,” she said, proving that her own lack in that area hasn’t held her back. Twice as likely as those in work, Rachel.

She said research has shown that, when people who lack these skills do get jobs, they too often find themselves in short term or temporary work, with a swift return to benefits. Nearly one in five of those who have made multiple claims for unemployment benefits have problems with reading or numeracy.

The response: “A new requirement [will be] for jobseekers to take training if they do not meet basic standards of maths, English and IT – training they will be required to take up alongside their jobsearch, or lose their benefits.

“[We] will ensure that people’s skills needs are assessed, and basic skills gaps addressed, from the start of a Jobseeker’s Allowance Claim, not after months and years of neglect.”

Contrast this with the Conservative Party’s latest plan to hammer immigrants and people on benefits – announcing a new policy of repression every week ahead of the election in 2015, according to politics.co.uk

It seems right-wing Australian election chief, and tobacco lobbyist, Lynton Crosby thinks this kind of bully-boy behaviour will make the Tories more popular! Don’t laugh.

This comes after satirical radio comedy The Now Show featured a sketch in which people tried to justify xenophobic attitudes without saying the words “I’m not racist, but…”

Let’s try the reverse – putting those words into the new policies announced on politics.co.uk:

“I’m not racist, but we should strip benefits from anyone who can’t speak English!” (Does this include the English people who can’t speak their own language properly, who Labour plan to help?)

“I’m not racist, but we should axe the service telling people about benefits in foreign languages!”

“I’m not racist, but we should end translation services in benefits offices!” (According to politics.co.uk, David Cameron is very keen on that one).

The site said “Iain Duncan Smith is understood to already be working on them”. (He’s not racist, but…)

Tory backbencher and former scandal Liam Fox tried to justify this lunacy by saying: “The ability to speak English is one of the most empowering tools in the labour market and we should be encouraging as many people as possible to learn it.” By cutting off their income? How does that work?

Plans to focus on the government’s increasingly racist tough anti-immigrant message come despite warnings that a reduction in immigration would make it harder for Britain to pay back its national debt.

The site said that, last week, a long-awaited report into benefit tourism had to be shelved in secret, after failing to find any evidence of it.

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Coalition policy success: 80,000 children homeless for Christmas

shame

Tory politicians don’t care and Liberal Democrats don’t have any power – that’s why 80,000 children are being housed in temporary accommodation, alongside drug users and enduring threats of violence, as reported by Shelter today.

The government’s own figures show 2,090 families living in bed and breakfasts – an increase of eight per cent on 2012 and the largest number in 10 years, according to The Guardian. Of these, 760 have been living in B&Bs longer than the legal six-week limit – a 10 per cent increase on last year.

More than 43,000 other homeless households with children are in other emergency accommodation – usually privately-rented short-term flats, which are expensive. This is an increase of nine per cent on last year.

To put this into context, a Labour government commitment to halve the number of families in this kind of emergency accommodation meant the total fell between 2005 and 2010 – but it has been rising again since June 2011.

This is a human disaster created by the Coalition government.

Most families interviewed by the charity said they felt unsafe, with one child directly threatened by a man after an argument over a shared bathroom. Almost half said their children had witnessed incidents such as sexual offences, drug use and dealing.

One mother of three said: “One of the reasons we left was one of the residents trying to sell us crack cocaine.”

Most of the 25 families Shelter interviewed lived in one room; half said the children were sharing beds with parents or siblings and the family was sharing kitchen facilities with others. All but three said it was hard to find a safe place for their children to play. Three families had no cooking facilities and one reported sharing a cooker and fridge with 22 other people.

More than half had to share a bathroom or toilet with strangers, with 10 families sharing with seven or more other people; two-thirds had no table to eat on, and schoolchildren were finding it hard to do homework.

And their health is suffering: “It’s so hard to give him a balanced diet as it’s impossible to make proper meals here, let alone a Christmas dinner. He’s getting really pale and is so tired all the time. He gets so scared but it’s difficult when I’m scared myself. This is no place for a child to live,” said a mother in a Hounslow B&B.

“This shouldn’t be happening in 21st century Britain,” said Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, who described the charity’s findings as “shocking” and the conditions forced on families as “shameful”.

He said: “No child should be homeless, let alone 80,000. But tragically, with more people struggling to make ends meet and homelessness on the rise, we’re bracing ourselves for an increase in demand from families who desperately need our help.”

Housing minister Kris Hopkins couldn’t care less. “We’ve given councils nearly £1bn to tackle homelessness and to support people affected by the welfare reforms,” he sniffed.

“I am very clear that they should be fully able to meet their legal responsibility to house families in suitable accommodation.”

Let us be very clear on this: the problem is not that Tories like Hopkins don’t understand. This is exactly the result that they wanted; they just won’t acknowledge it because it is electorally damaging.

Look at the policies that created this problem: The bedroom tax; the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’, otherwise known as the Council Tax reduction scheme; the benefit cap that so many people in this country seem to support without understanding any of its implications.

Vox Political reported back in January what they would mean: “There will be a rise in rent and mortgage arrears… affordable housing will be less available and landlords less able or willing to rent to tenants on benefits… Private sector rental may become less attractive to landlords if tenants aren’t paying the rent. This will lead to a growth in homelessness. Councils have statutory duties and may see an increasing burden.”

But increases to the Discretionary Housing Payment fund have been entirely insignificant compared with the extra burden councils have faced. They received £150 million between them; Durham County Council had £883,000 and spent it all within eight weeks.

We have seen the start of the social cleansing predicted by this blog back in August 2012, when we noted that at least one council would use these measures to “clear out the poor and set up shop as a desirable residence for the rich”.

The housing bubble created by George Osborne with his ‘Help To Buy’ scheme will accelerate this process.

So don’t let a Tory tell you it’s nothing to do with them. They wanted this. In fact, 80,000 homeless children at Christmas is probably not enough for them.

Employee ownership: Has the government actually done something right?

Long live co-operatives: At long last, it seems the government (or at least the Liberal Democrat side of it) is offering support to the most successful and supportive business model available - and we can hope that Labour will do the same. But where are the Conservatives in all this?

Long live co-operatives: At long last, it seems the government (or at least the Liberal Democrat side of it) is offering support to the most successful and supportive business model available – and we can hope that Labour will do the same. But where are the Conservatives in all this?

Today, July 4, is officially Employee Ownership Day – did you know that?

Employee ownership means all employees of a business have a significant and meaningful stake in it. This could include financial participation but must include provision of access to organisational structures. Where financial participation does take place, there is currently no set rule on what percentage of issued shares is a significant and meaningful stake, and this is something that I believe should be changed to ensure it is worthwhile.

Employee ownership can generally take one of three forms:

  • Direct employee ownership – employees become individual owners of shares in their company;
  • Indirect employee ownership – shares are held collectively on behalf of employees, normally through an employee benefit trust; and
  • Combined direct and indirect ownership – a combination of individual and collective share ownership.

The Employee Ownership Association estimates that UK-based employee-owned companies had a turnover of more than £30 billion and employed more than 130,000 people in 2011. Employee-owned businesses enjoy greater staff retention, innovation and motivation than non-employee owned businesses and, in turn, these deliver wider economic benefits including increased productivity, profitability and more resilience to economic shocks.

The sector has grown by more than 20 per cent since the start of the recession in 2008; while 65 per cent of conventional businesses survive their first three years, 90 per cent of co-operatives remain in business; and 37 per cent of directorships in co-operatives are held by women, compared with 13 per cent in leading UK companies (this last point should not be relevant in this day and age, but the gender gap is quite clearly still there, so it is).

All of the above is from a government press release issued today, but eerily resembles comments made on this blog in the past – like this one or this.

According to the government, not only will this successful model of business be easier to understand and quicker to set up after Vince Cable publishes new guidance today, but the government is also consulting the public on the possibility of providing two new tax reliefs to help indirect employee-owned businesses get themselves set up.

To my way of thinking, this seems spectacularly useful, but this is the Coalition government so there must be a catch. Right?

It seems the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will be publishing:

  • Guidance for employees who want to request a move to employee ownership;
  • Model documentation on a move to employee ownership with accompanying BIS and HMRC guidance;
  • Guidance from the Employee Ownership Association explaining the different models of employee ownership; and
  • Guidance from Co-operatives UK on how co-operative principles and ways of working can be implemented into employee-owned businesses.

“The government is committed to supporting this business model and will today launch a consultation on providing two new tax reliefs to encourage employee ownership,” according to the press release.

“This sector has the potential to benefit the wider economy, therefore the government is seeking views from people both inside and outside the employee-ownership sector to ensure the reliefs are supportive and effective.

“The Employee Ownership Association, in conjunction with the government, has helped to organise a number of events in the UK where employee-owned businesses are opening their doors to showcase the benefits of their business model.”

Nick Clegg actually said something I can support: “The benefits of employee ownership are clear. Staff who have a stake are more motivated and are rewarded for thinking in the long-term. That’s good for business and good for families, as it means lower absenteeism and lower levels of staff turnover.” This is something I have been saying for many months; it’s as though he has been reading this blog.

He said the government has set aside £50 million per year, starting next April, to give businesses and employees an incentive to adopt employee-owned models, and will be providing Capital Gains Tax relief for those who sell a controlling stake in a company to their staff.

It will be interesting to see how many firms take up the offer; from that information we can work out whether the greed that increased bosses’ pay by 700 per cent over the last 10 years – while employees got a miserly 27 per cent rise – is still rampant.

There is also a question over whether this is the right time – the middle of the longest economic slump in recent history.

It could be!

Cable reckons “there has never been a more important time to support different ways of running a business”.

He said: “The evidence is clear that employee-owned businesses not only help us build a stronger economy, but boost the retention, innovation and motivation of their employees.”

Co-operatives UK Secretary General Ed Mayo said his organisation would be supporting today’s events by launching its own publication, Simply Buyout – an essential guide to employee buyouts and becoming a co-operative employee owned business.

The consultation on the two new tax reliefs can be found online here. This stage of it will run until September 26 this year. The government will publish a summary of the responses in the autumn, and they will help to inform draft legislation.

The first is a Capital Gains Tax relief which would apply when the controlling share of a business is sold into an indirect employee ownership structure, and the government hopes it will encourage individuals wishing to sell their business to consider it.

The second tax relief is an Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) exemption, that would allow indirectly employee-owned companies to pay employees a certain amount every year that is free of Income Tax and NICs. There would also be an employer NICs exemption for the company.

The government announced in the March Budget that it would provide £50 million annually, from 2014-15, to support employee-ownership models and to incentivise growth of the sector.

The press release features a quote from yet another Liberal Democrat – Danny Alexander – who said: “We want to encourage greater use of employee ownership in UK businesses and want to ensure that we provide reliefs that are supportive and effective. Views are invited from both people inside and outside the employee ownership sector.”

So that’s three high-ranking Liberal Democrats speaking up for it, and no Conservatives. Interesting. Do the Blue Meanies have nothing to say in favour of the proles part-owning the firms where they work?

And what about Labour? Does the Party of the Workers support this activity? This Party member hopes it does.

It will be hard to tell from the press coverage, however.

At the time of writing, there hasn’t been any.

Lib Dem denial machine moves into full swing

Some Tory drone - I think his name was 'David Cameron' released an image earlier today, claiming 24 million people were £600 better-off as a result of this month's changes. This is what the poster SHOULD have said.

Some Tory drone – I think his name was ‘David Cameron’ released an image earlier today, claiming 24 million people were £600 better-off as a result of this month’s changes. This is what the poster SHOULD have said.

We have all seen the Liberal Democrat Party losing its grip on reality during its years in Coalition with the Conservatives.

One of my favourite examples of this was the claim that the Lib Dems had mitigated the hated Health and Social Care Bill (as it was then) – Andrew Lansley’s NHS privatisation effort – to ensure that rampant privatisation would not take place, and that they could therefore vote in favour of it with a clear conscience.

Earlier this year, of course, we all learned about SI 257, the statutory instrument that would have imposed mandatory marketisation on nearly every NHS service, without the requirement of a Parliamentary debate or vote. Clearly the Lib Dems had been hoodwinked. There was a massive public campaign against this betrayal and SI 257 was withdrawn, but only to be replaced by something that was so vaguely-worded that it is almost as bad (possibly worse, in fact).

Now, they’re crowing about the fact that the Personal Allowance – the amount a person can earn before paying Income Tax – has risen to £9,440. Apparently this means people on low incomes are now £600 per year better off than they were at the time of the last general election, in 2010.

But wait! What about all the benefit changes – by which I mean cuts – that came in at the same time? We’ve all seen the figures that show they will make low-earners £891 per year WORSE-off.

Put those together and, no matter which way you slice it, people earning less than £9,440 will be up to £291 worse off than in 2010.

Meanwhile, the top rate of Income Tax has fallen from 50p in the pound to 45p, for people with incomes of more than £150,000 – that means people earning more than £1 million will be £100,000 better-off.

Danny Alexander was on Radio 4’s Today programme, trying to talk up the changes. He said the Coalition “is working hard to help those on low and middle incomes” – into poverty?

Other changes mean the amount pensioners can take home every year will no longer rise with inflation but has been frozen, meaning they will be worse-off this year. It has been dubbed the “Granny Tax”. They do get a rise in the state pension, by 2.5 per cent – but that only equals £110 per week.

And Mr Alexander was also keen to talk about the so-called “Tycoon Tax”, which imposes a limit on the amount of tax relief people can claim by investing in business or donating to charity.

This – again – avoids the possible consequences of such a measure. How many businesses and charities will fall into difficulty because benefactors no longer have the financial incentive to help them out? I’m not sure, so I am unwilling to condemn it immediately – but I fear the worst.

One conclusion we can draw from this – and previous changes – is the obvious:

Liberal Democrats ignore their mistakes.

The denial machine is not only in full swing – it’s in danger of overheating.

“Unfair, incompetent and completely out of touch” – the chance(llo)r’s autumn statement

(Please note: This is a first-glance appraisal; it may contain inaccuracies, gloss over parts that you find important or miss things out entirely. Feel free to mention anything you feel important in the ‘Comments’ column)

In May 2010, the Conservatives asked us to judge them by two yardsticks. The first was that they would cut the deficit – completely – by the 2015 election. The second was that they would protect the National Health Service.

We all know what they did to the National Health Service, and everybody living in England who must now rely on a now-corrupted and degenerate system has my complete and utter sympathy.

Now we know that they have completely failed with the other measure as well. The deficit will not be eliminated by 2015 and the national debt is unlikely to be falling.

That was the main message from Gideon George Osborne in his Autumn Statement as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The announcement adds validity to predictions that the UK will soon lose its AAA credit rating.

Estimates for government borrowing over the course of this Parliament have – of course – risen and it is now estimated that the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition will borrow £212 billion more than stated after the 2010 general election.

Austerity is therefore likely to continue until 2018 and the deficit in 2015 – when it was supposed to reach zero – is now expected to be £73 billion. The message here is that the government will eliminate the deficit in five years’ time.

Wait a minute! Isn’t that what Gideon said in 2010? Have we been taking welfare cut after welfare cut, pay cut after pay cut, attacks on public sector pensions and cuts to economic investment for two and a half years, only to be told that we have been standing still?

This is not just incompetence; it is endangerment. This government is harmful to the UK economy. International readers should note that this entails a knock-on effect, dragging the world backwards as well. You are all endangered by this disaster.

It’s also a breach of a Conservative manifesto promise from 2010 – thanks to the BBC’s Paul Mason for this snippet.

Let’s have a look at the growth forecast from the Office of Budget Irresponsibility. You may recall that in 2012 the economy was initially expected to grow by 2.8 per cent. Don’t laugh! Now the OBR has downgraded that, by a massive 2.9 per cent, to show a contraction of 0.1 per cent. We’re expected to go back into recession for a TRIPLE-dip.

It’s supposed to be the economy, Gideon! Not a rollercoaster ride!

He blames the woes of the Eurozone countries, even though I am reliably informed that it has been comprehensively proven that our economic woes are NOT in major part due to the Eurozone.

So what’s going to happen? Well, millionaires are going to get a tax cut. That’ll help, won’t it? £3 billion, going to the people who need it the least, as Ed Balls said in his response to the Statement.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the 1,000 richest people in the UK are now worth a total of £414 billion – up £155 billion in the last three years. If you were wondering where the money that could stabilise our economy has gone, wonder no more.

What about taxing businesses? We know that the biggest corporations have been hiding their cash in tax havens – is Osborne doing anything about that?

Apparently he is. He’s planning to close tax loopholes and he’s bringing in 2,000 more HM Revenue and Customs staff to do it. Let’s just remind ourselves that he cut HMRC by 15,000 a little while ago.

In the meantime, we have Corporation Tax – is he increasing it? No. He’s cutting it by a further 1 per cent. This means that this tax has been cut by a quarter – 25 per cent – since the Coalition came into power in 2010. And he still can’t get firms to pay up!

Incidentally, Osborne would like us to believe Corporation Tax is keeping the economy weak. However, the US rate is 40 per cent and the economy there is growing.

Where’s the business investment bank we were promised?

Oh! Here’s something: tax relief on pensions slashed for the very high earners. £1 billion expected revenue. Be still, my beating heart.

So: tax cuts for the rich. What do the poor get?

The rise in working-age benefits will be frozen to 1 per cent for the next three years. RPI inflation is currently 3.2 per cent. This means the poor will get six per cent poorer over that period. The Liberal Democrats were crowing about defending inflation-related increases to benefits last year; I notice they have nothing to say today.

The majority of people losing from cuts to tax credits will be people in work.

Disabled people were no doubt completely unsurprised when Osborne wheeled out his tired old line about working people looking at their neighbours’ closed curtains during the ‘scrounger-bashing’ segment of the speech. Let’s all bear in mind that sickness benefit fraud is 0.4 per cent while the government is eliminating 20 per cent of claimants from the welfare bill. That’s 19.6 per cent of claimants who deserve the cash, even if the fraudsters are caught and weeded out (and they probably won’t be).

Disability benefits will be exempt from the freeze, he said, trying to make it seem that the disabled won’t take a hit. This was a lie. Employment and Support Allowance will be affected, and since two-thirds of those who claim ESA long-term are also on the disability benefit, DLA, those most disabled will be hit the hardest.

Scrapping the worse-than-useless Work Programme and Universal Credit would save more than £10 billion, but apparently this won’t happen for fear of upsetting Iain Duncan Smith. As Ed Balls pointed out, though, “You can’t have a successful Welfare to Work programme without work!”

Child benefit remains frozen at the moment, but will increase from 2014. We all know why, I hope. Electioneering. Osborne is hoping that families with (two or fewer) children will support the Tories in the 2015 elections, because of this increase. Pathetic. And anyone who falls for it will be even worse.

Hardly any new infrastructure projects were announced; no new road schemes, no new housing schemes. There’s no repeat of the bankers’ bonus tax.

I could go on and on. You’ll probably hear more about the Statement than Kate’s baby over the next day or so, though; therefore I’ll stop.

One last point: Osborne’s 1.2 million figure for new private sector jobs is a complete fiddle. He is including jobs that have been reclassified from the public to the private sector, also part time jobs and people on the work programme/Workfare, who are working for no pay other than Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Oh, and the government’s borrowing figures may have been fiddled as well; according to Andrew Neil on the BBC it could be £56 billion higher than claimed, by 2017-18.

In March, we had Pasty-gate the day after the Budget Statement. I wonder what we’ll have tomorrow?