Tag Archives: rethink

The big Tory ‘Rethink Reskill Reboot’ blunder that has backfired badly

Boris Johnson should have known better but he didn’t. Neither did his Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who is more directly responsible.

You see, after he announced that he was re-focusing government support to concentrate only on “viable” employment, Sunak had to answer questions about what was to be done with people whose jobs were “unviable”, according to his reckoning.

His answer? “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.” He wanted people to re-train for different jobs.

No doubt he is now left wondering why people in some employment sectors have taken his words as an attack…

… especially after a government advert that appeared today:

It specifically targets entertainers – “Fatima” is a ballet dancer, and therefore belongs to a highly-exclusive corner of the live entertainment sector.

And it suggests that her time would be better-spent working at a desk, in front of a computer, making money for somebody else. Hence this response:

(Of course the reference is to the fact that the government lost more than 16,000 positive Covid-19 traces because it was recording them on an Excel spreadsheet that ran out of fields.)

Others have responded equally bitingly – and often amusingly. I’ll intersperse what follows with some of these.

But it is important to mention the elephant in this particular room: the fact that entertainment is a multi-billion pound industry that deserves government support that Sunak and Johnson aren’t providing.

The case was made very well by Rou Reynolds. If you’re not familiar with the name, he’s the lead singer of the band Enter Shikari – a personal favourite of This Writer’s stepdaughter, before you all start labouring under illusions that I’m suddenly “with it”.

In an open letter to Sunak, published by that venerable pop periodical Kerrang!, he made the case for entertainers to receive support – and he made it well:

Musicians rely on live performance for their main source of income.

The music industry has been one of the most drastically hit industries throughout the whole [Covid-19] crisis. And as the government furlough scheme ends in a few weeks, your government has decided to give the least amount of support for one of the hardest hit industries.

Like a fish writhing in the dust at the bottom of a drained lake, in losing the option of gigging, those in the music industry have been deprived of their life-source.

And the government is standing on what was once the shoreline, suggesting to the fish that it retrains as an elephant.

Most people in the music industry are now being told they no longer have a “viable job” and must retrain or otherwise adapt. There is to be no financial support for them. This, from the same government that wasted £2 billion on helping businesses that are actually thriving during the pandemic. From the same government that wasted millions painting planes, handing out dodgy coronavirus contracts to its ill-equipped pals and employing inept private companies to do jobs they aren’t trained for.

Lots of people are rightly focusing on the economics, pointing out that the music industry adds £5 billion a year to the UK economy. Live music specifically adds the same amount as the whole of the UK fishing industry.

But I would argue that even more important than the economics, live music creates community, friendships and it brings people together indiscriminately – something that this country desperately needs. It is a reliable tonic for our mental health, both for the performers and the listeners. It heals, it unites, it gives hope, it provides escape, it motivates us and it connects us.

Of course, these things are not measured in our economic statistics. Nor do they seem to be acknowledged at all.

Telling artists to diversify, retrain, or simply get another job is even odd in itself, to be honest. Most artists do have other jobs already. Most artists juggle multiple aspects of their own career already. Many could attempt to get more hours in the jobs they have outside of the music industry and just what…? Leave it to rot? Leave it in the safe hands of the well-funded, “establishment-approved” mainstream, and lose all the beautiful diversity and nuance of the underground, the alternative and the more esoteric scenes? The very scenes that have made UK music the world’s most inventive and leading cultural force for decades.

And it’s not just artists that are going to struggle either without support, is it? It’s not just whinging, complaining singers like me!

You remember those iceberg diagrams? The musicians are the little bit of the iceberg we see above the water. Look below the surface and you witness the true extent of the colossal size of the industry: it’s huge.

It’s the stage technicians, lighting designers, engineers, management and production teams, agents, press teams, media, photographers, videographers, promoters, venue staff, security, bus and truck drivers, caterers, even the kebab shop near the venue that relies on the gig-goer’s custom to keep its doors open. What happens to them?

And if you remove an artist’s main source of income, how are they then supposed to afford to record new music? You’re then impacting the record producers, the studio engineers, the mixing and mastering engineers, the session musicians, the video directors and music video production teams, the labels and the publishers.

You and your government must reconsider.

Yours,
Rou Reynolds (unviable content creator, awaiting retraining)

Source: An Open Letter To Rishi Sunak, By Rou Reynolds — Kerrang!

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Labour MP demands PIP rethink – so nothing will happen because Tories like torturing disabled people

Emma Hardy makes excellent points – but she’s a Labour MP and the Tories aren’t interested in changing the criteria for Personal Independence Payment.

Tories hate disabled people. They’re pretty much like the Nazis in 1930s Germany in that respect, as This Site has mentioned many times in the past.

Of course, there’s always a way to change the situation.

The UK had a chance to do that on December 12 – and 14 million people chose not to.

They decided that the torture – to death, in many cases – of disabled people was a price worth paying, in order to achieve a UK with a much worse-performing economy that is a vassal state to the USA (if Boris Johnson gets his way), rife with racism and right-wing thuggery.

And they’re dragging the rest of us down with them.

Hull West and Hessle MP Emma Hardy has called for an overhaul of the way benefits assessments are carried out for disabled people.

She spoke out after new government figures showed nearly half of people previously claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) lost out when they were re-assessed under the replacement Personal Independent Payment (PIP) regime.

In Ms Hardy’s Hull West and Hessle constituency, 1,140 out of 2,173 people previously receiving DLA who were reassessed for PIP saw their support either decreased or stopped altogether.

In the Yorkshire and Humber region as a whole, 63,033 people out of the 132,421 reassessed saw their level of support shrink or stop, representing 48 per cent of all those assessed.

Source: MP Emma Hardy wants PIP re-think to end ‘stress’ for disabled people – Hull Live

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‘Evasive’ Osborne must rethink tax credit reforms, MPs warn

Swallow your pride, George: Osborne must accept that his plan to impoverish working people is not going to be accepted.

Swallow your pride, George: Osborne must accept that his plan to impoverish working people is not going to be accepted.

A damning report on George Osborne’s plans for tax credits has demanded that he must rethink the cuts, saying they run against the government’s stated objective of “making work pay”.

The Commons Work and Pensions select committee told Osborne to get his act together in its report, A reconsideration of tax credit cuts, published on November 9.

It stated: “The proposed changes to tax credits in April 2016 will result in very substantial cuts to the incomes of working families, including many with children. There is now general agreement that it would be right for the Chancellor to rethink reforms that went too far and too fast and may have most impact on those in work and striving to succeed.

“Furthermore, by increasing the rate of withdrawal in taxes and benefits to as much as 93 per cent of additional income, the cuts run against the Government’s objective of making work pay.”

That’s an effective tax rate of 93 per cent on extra money earned. Isn’t Osborne the Chancellor who said a 50 per cent tax on high earners was too much?

The committee warned that Osborne was being disingenuous in his claim that in increase in the income tax personal allowance, the gradual introduction of a higher minimum wage and an expansion of free childcare would mitigate the tax credit cuts – make them less harsh.

“These measures are welcome,” the report stated. “However… they benefit very different parts of the working population. The majority of working families affected by the proposed cuts would still be worse off in 2020-21 as a consequence of the Budget package. We therefore welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to additional measures to lessen the impact of the tax credit cuts.”

But there was a warning that any more tinkering with separate policies would be frowned upon, if they were announced in the autumn statement: “In the same way that the increase in the personal allowance and minimum wage announced in the Budget do not offer targeted respite from the tax credit cuts, further such changes are not the Chancellor’s answer.

“The gains are to individuals rather than households and are too diffuse to efficiently compensate families facing tax credit cuts.

“The way to focus on those households is to use the tax credits system. The answer to tax credits is tax credits.”

There was a stinging rebuke for Osborne and the Treasury over its failure to provide information about the effect the proposed changes would have on people in different income groups.

“The Treasury has been unacceptably evasive,” the report stated. “The Government ought… to have been more forthcoming with statistics about flows on and off tax credits. Their obfuscation is not consistent w

ith effective scrutiny; nor is it consistent with effective policy-making.

The conclusion was clear: Osborne must swallow his pride and accept that he can still achieve a balanced budget by 2019-20, without imposing cuts of £1,100 per household in a single stroke.

“There is no magic bullet within the tax credit system,” the report stated. “One of three things has to give: the impact on poverty, work incentives or the cost. If one accepts both that the proposed cuts to some families are too great and that the limits of damage to incentives to work have been reached with deduction rates of up to 93 per cent, then a reduction in fiscal savings is inevitable.

“The Government’s commitments, both to cut working-age welfare expenditure and to achieve overall fiscal balance, are to be achieved by the end of the current Parliament. Their achievement would not be compromised by the phasing-in of the tax credit cuts.”

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‘Gagging Bill’ put on hold as government fears defeat

[Picture: PR Week]

[Picture: PR Week]

The Coalition government’s latest attack on democracy has been halted before it reached the House of Lords, after ministers realised peers weren’t going to put up with it.

The ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration’ Bill was due to be discussed by peers this week, but the part dealing with third-party campaigning such as that carried out by charities and popular organisations has been put back until December 16 after a threat to delay the entire bill for three months.

The government wants to “rethink” its plans to restrict campaigning by charities, it seems. Hasn’t it already done so twice before?

Andrew Lansley tabled a series of amendments, including one reverting to wording set out in existing legislation, defining controlled expenditure as any “which can reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success”, on September 6.

But the plan was still to “bring down the national spending limit for third parties, introduce constituency spending limits and extend the definition of controlled expenditure to cover more than just election material, to include rallies, transport and press conferences”, as clarified by the government’s own press release.

Lansley published further amendments on September 26, claiming that these would:

  • Remove the additional test of “otherwise enhancing the standing of a party or candidates”. This is to provide further reassurance to campaigners as to the test they have to meet in order to incur controlled expenditure. A third party will only be subject to regulation where its campaign can reasonably be regarded as intended to “promote or procure the electoral success” of a party of candidate,
  • Replace the separate listings for advertising, unsolicited material and manifesto/policy documents with election “material”; this is the language used in the current legislation that non-party campaigners and the Electoral Commission are already familiar with, and on which the Electoral Commission have existing guidance,
  • Make clear that it is public rallies and events that are being regulated; meetings or events just for an organisation’s members or supporters will not be captured by the bill. “We will also provide an exemption for annual events – such as an organisation’s annual conference”,
  • Ensure that non–party campaigners who respond to ad hoc media questions on specific policy issues are not captured by the bill, whilst still capturing press conferences and other organised media events, and
  • Ensure that all “market research or canvassing” which promotes electoral success is regulated.

But this blog reported at the time that anyone who thinks that is all that’s wrong with the bill is as gullible as Lansley intends them to be.

As reported here on September 4, the bill is an attempt to stifle political commentary from organisations and individuals.

New regulations for trade unions mean members could be blacklisted – denied jobs simply because of their membership.

Measures against lobbyists – the bill’s apparent reason for existing – are expected to do nothing to hinder Big Money’s access to politicians, and in fact are likely to accelerate the process, turning Parliamentarians into corporate poodles.

Where the public wanted a curb on corporations corruptly influencing the government, it is instead offering to rub that influence in our faces.

In fact, the Government’s proposed register would cover fewer lobbyists than the existing, voluntary, register run by the UK Public Affairs Council.

And now a bill tabled by Andrew Lansley has been given a “pause” for reconsideration. Is anybody else reminded of the “pause” that took place while Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act was going through Parliament? In the end, the government pushed it through, regardless of the screams of outrage from the medical profession and the general public, and now private health firms are carving up the English NHS for their own profit, using Freedom of Information requests to undermine public sector bids for services.

In the Lords last night, according to The Independent, ministers were pressured to include in-house company lobbyists in the proposed register, if it is to have any credibility.

But Lord Wallace said the proposed “light touch” system would be more effective and the register was designed to address the problem of consultant lobbying firms seeing ministers without it being clear who they represented – in other words, it is intended to address a matter that isn’t bothering anybody, rather than the huge problem of companies getting their chequebooks out and paying for laws that give them an advantage.

We should be grateful for the delay – it gives us all another chance to contact Lords, constituency MPs and ministers to demand an explanation for this rotten piece of legal trash.

If they persist in supporting this undemocratic attack on free speech, then they must pay for it at the next election.

DWP allowed to appeal against ruling that ‘fitness for work’ test is illegal

All rise: The British court system is supposedly the best in the world - but can we trust it to make the right decision when it is the government that is appealing against a ruling?

All rise: The British court system is supposedly the best in the world – but can we trust it to make the right decision when it is the government that is appealing against a ruling?

It may have taken almost a month and a half, but judges have agreed to let the Department for Work and Pensions appeal against the judgement that the work capability assessment discriminates against people with mental health problems.

According to the Mental Health Resistance Network the DWP was denied permission to appeal on the first attempt.

Iain Duncan Smith’s lackeys then resorted to a second route – applying directly to the Court of Appeal – and it was this court that granted permission.

A spokesperson for the Mental Health Resistance Network said: “This is not the news we wanted, but the Tories were never going to give up without a fight as they are desparate to destroy our welfare state.

“Needless to say we will be fighting back.”

Vox Political was one of many who reported, back in May, that a judicial review had ruled that the work capability assessment actively discriminates against the mentally ill.

The tribunal found that, no matter how ill or even delusional a person may be, the system places on them the responsibility for gathering their own medical evidence and sending it in – otherwise the material will not be considered.

For the DWP to win at appeal, it will have to prove that this is possible for anyone, no matter how severe their mental illness may be.

The current system, for which the DWP lost the judicial review, means that paperwork sent in by anyone else on behalf of a patient with mental illness may be ignored and their ability to work judged using evidence from a 15-minute interview with a stranger who is unlikely to have had any mental health training, and who has no idea what expert opinion has to say.

Vox Political said at the time that we all knew Iain Duncan Smith would not accept this. That prediction has been borne out by current developments.

Paul Jenkins, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness, said after the tribunal decision that it meant the government should halt the mass reassessment of people receiving incapacity benefits immediately, until the system is fixed.

Does anybody think this has happened?

If not, then the government has been acting illegally for almost a month and a half. It is to be hoped that the appeal tribunal takes this into account when considering its decision. If assessments have continued, then the DWP has shown flagrant disregard for the legal process.

Such behaviour would also add emphasis to the Black Triangle Campaign’s comment in May, that the assessment system was “completely at odds with the government’s repeated insistence that mental health is a top priority”.

The campaign’s spokesperson said it was “sad that it took a court case to force the DWP to take action”.

It’s even more sad that the only action so far has been an appeal against the decision.

Some commentators speculated that Iain Duncan Smith might introduce retroactive legislation to re-legalise the work capability assessment – as he did with workfare after Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson won their cases against the department.

Unfortunately for him, the current controversy involves a breach of the Equalities Act, which has far-reaching effects.

If he tries to repeal it, we’ll know two things for sure:

1. Iain Duncan Smith is a dangerous fool.

2. The Coalition government has no respect for the rule of law.

To be honest, we knew both of those already.