Tag Archives: ring fence

If banks want regulation costs cut, they should be more trustworthy

With people like this in charge of banks - and then going on to important roles in Conservative-led governments, can either the banks or the government be trusted to do what's right for UK citizens?

With people like this in charge of banks – and then going on to important roles in Conservative-led governments, can either the banks or the government be trusted to do what’s right for UK citizens?

Banks and other financial organisations want the Conservative government to slash the cost of complying with new regulations, according to the Confederation of British Industry. Doesn’t your heart just bleed for them?

Thse are the organisations that sucked the UK into the global financial crisis and allowed the Conservatives to form a government after the 2010 election (they didn’t win it) with a false claim that Labour overspent.

Now they want the regulations that prevent them from causing another crisis to be eased.

Considering the banks’ record, it would be madness to do so. Let’s see how long it takes the Tories to comply.

According to The Guardian, “As the City recovers from the financial crisis, companies are lobbying for an end to criticism of the banking industry and an easing of rules designed to prevent another crisis.

“They argue the sector is a big employer and that the City’s position as a financial centre is important for the UK’s economy.”

Finance is indeed a big employer, here in the UK – but only because Conservative-led governments since 2010 have utterly failed to build up any other industry while continuing to pander to the banks.

Meanwhile, the taxpayer has been supporting banks heavily, with 4.21 per cent of government spending – that’s £41 billion per year – being supplied to these very profitable institutions for no very good reason.

And they’re complaining about the cost of regulations!

It gets better. The regulations against which they are complaining include:

  • The ring-fence required by 2019 to separate retail and investment banking, so that bad investments cannot affect the safety of depositors’ money.
  • The introduction of criminal liability for senior executives whose reckless behaviour causes their company to fail.

That’s right – bank bosses are angry that the government is actually trying to stop them from penalising ordinary account holders for their gambling losses, and upset that they might have to pay a debt to society if their decisions harm the viability of their firms.

Clearly these bankers have not learned their lesson and want to inflict further debt upon the taxpayer while making off like the bandits they are.

According to The Guardian, “HSBC has taken the lead for the banks by threatening to leave the UK if it decides the cost of remaining is too great. Britain’s biggest bank listed ringfencing and the [bank] levy, which HSBC says affects it disproportionately, as important considerations.”

This is the bank that, earlier this year, was implicated in one of the biggest organised tax avoidance schemes to be uncovered in the UK in recent times.

It is important to note that the survey was compiled with accounting firm PwC, which has been singled out by HM Revenue and Customs as having created hugely lucrative schemes to help companies and the hugely wealthy to avoid paying their taxes.

Shouldn’t the government’s response be: “F*** off, then – but pay your back taxes first”?

The last thing the government should do is give in to these demands, and taxpayers across the country should write in to George Osborne, warning him against any such move.

There is no reason to trust the banks with any more responsibility than the bare minimum. They simply haven’t earned our trust back yet.

If the banks want more freedom, they should be told to bloody well earn it.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Hypocritical Tories plan attack on pensioners while protecting themselves

Someone's raiding the pensions piggy-bank: Government changes mean the rich will be subsidised by the poor.

Someone’s raiding the pensions piggy-bank: Government changes mean the rich will be subsidised by the poor.

It seems the Conservatives cannot wait to betray their most loyal voting group. If you are a pensioner – beware!

As trailed on Vox Political last November, the Department for Work and Pensions appears to be planning to delete the cold weather payment from its chequebook, along with free bus passes and free TV licences.

We already know that the age at which the state pension will be paid is rising, meaning people will have to continue working for longer before they qualify for the £144/week payment (with a minimum National Insurance record of 30 full years). This is a betrayal of promises made by both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in their document ‘The Coalition: Our Programme for Government’.

Because life expectancy depends on where you live and your social class, this means many poorer people will enjoy only three-to-six years of retirement on average, while richer pensioners get 17-20 years of pension payments. That’s right – rich people even get a better deal from the state pension.

Meanwhile, the taxpayer is being asked to fund three-fifths of the pension scheme for members of Parliament, who qualify at the age of 60 after 20 years’ service (or after 15 years if aged between 60 and 65) and receive an average of £353/week (see House of Commons Library SN6283: MPs’ Pension Scheme – 2012 onwards).

MPs (along with civil servants and judges) will receive transitional protection as the pensionable age rises – meaning they won’t lose out. More than 700,000 working women, on the other hand, have received less than two years’ notice of changes that will deprive them of up to £7,500 per year.

Iain Duncan Smith announced at yesterday’s meeting of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee that he was considering removing benefits that are exclusively for pensioners, in order to bolster his Benefit Cap.

He said: “We need maximum flexibility with the cap. Pretty much all existing ringfences will have to disappear.”

Asked if pensioner benefits would be included in the cap, he said: “These are matters which are still under discussion.”

The Benefit Cap was hailed as a hugely popular policy after its introduction last year, but it is now questionable whether pensioners will be quite so enthusiastic.

Including pensioners’ benefits among those that are capped means they may have to be means tested in the future, as the number of pensioners grows – putting pressure on the £200 billion benefits budget.

The Daily Mirror reported that Treasury sources played down this prospect last night, saying the annual spend on pensioner benefits was dwarfed by other payments. This is disingenuous as the annual spend on pensions is more than on all the other benefits combined. Cutting pensioner benefits and forcing people to work longer before they receive their pensions will deprive senior citizens of billions of pounds.

While changes to pensioners’ benefits are still under discussion, changes to the age at which pensions are paid have already become law.

The hypocrisy of MPs in imposing new rules that disadvantage ordinary people while protecting themselves, judges and civil servants has led to the creation of a petition on the 38 Degrees website, calling for the changes to be reversed.

The petition states: “It is discrimination to impose ‘rules’ that disadvantage one group of people more than another. It is against the law to treat someone less favourably than someone else. How can this Government be allowed to get away with this?

“Because of this broken promise those of us affected are now being forced to work longer and wait longer to receive our state pension, which is an entitlement and something to which we have contributed, all of our working lives.

“These changes will also have a detrimental impact upon employment opportunities for young people. The longer we are being forced to work, the fewer jobs there will be for them. Is this an honourable way to treat people?

“The right to retire with financial security, at the age that has been promised throughout our working lives, has been denied.

“This broken promise is unfair, unnecessary and totally unacceptable. Ministers need to do a u-turn on this mean-spirited move and honour their word.”

The petition currently (February 4) has around 7,100 signatures. If you agree with it, please visit the 38 Degrees website and sign.

And don’t forget to mention it to anyone you know who is coming up to retirement age.

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Three letters: F-O-X

liamfox

Has anybody examined the verbal vandalism attempted by former Defence Secretary Liam Fox on the National Health Service this week?

Mr Fox’s known financial interests include receiving £5,000 to run his private office in October 2012 from investment company IPGL Ltd, who purchased healthcare pharma company Cyprotex.

That didn’t stop him from trying to starve what’s left of the publicly-owned part of our health service of the ever-dwindling portion of taxpayers’ cash earmarked for it.

He demanded that NHS funding should not be ring-fenced after the 2015 general election, saying its performance does not justify the favour.

He told The Times: “I think we’ve tested to destruction the idea that simply throwing lots more money at the health service will make it better.

“The increase over the last decade has been phenomenal and yet a lot of our health indicators lag behind other countries, particular things like stroke outcome or a lot of cancer outcomes.

“We’ve become obsessed with throughput and not outcomes and that has been hugely to the detriment of the patients in our system.

“If you treat the National Health Service itself as being the important entity, and not the patients, then you’re on a hiding to nothing.”

There’s a lot of material in there that isn’t worth the time it took to cut and paste it (from the Guardian article) – but it needs to be addressed because there will be people in this country who believe it.

Firstly: Ring-fencing the budget does not mean it has remained at pre-2010 heights. In fact all parts of the NHS have had to cut budgets by four per cent, year on year, in order to meet the so-called ‘Nicholson challenge’ to cut £20 billion from the overall budget by 2015. In addition, while David Cameron has insisted that his government will have increased that budget by £12.7 billion by 2015, figures up to 2013 show a decrease in funding.

They haven’t been “throwing lots more money at the health service”; they’ve been starving it. This came after a decade of, yes, record investment – which resulted in record levels of public satisfaction as it met ambitious targets to cut waiting times and improve patient care.

It was only after the Conservative-led Coalition government came into office that NHS providers began to be cut and squeezed into downsizing, mergers, centralisation and closures. The aim is to reduce the NHS in England to a very few short-staffed, demoralised and overloaded central units, covering only those services deemed unprofitable by private sector providers – including the company that gave Mr Fox his five grand.

He’s not alone – 78 per cent of his fellows in the Parliamentary Conservative Party, including Prime Minister David Cameron and Andrew Lansley, the former Health Secretary who pushed through the unwanted legislation that made this possible, also have financial or vested interests in private healthcare.

You’ll have noticed that Mr Fox did not declare that he had received money from a company associated with private healthcare when he made his comments. The fact is that his fellow Tories, when discussing the then-Health and Social Care Bill, didn’t declare theirs either.

Since the Bill became law, it seems MPs have been falling over themselves to talk the NHS into the grave. But consider this: They all have a financial interest in doing so. If they succeed in their plan to turn over taxpayers’ money to private firms and let the public service wither away, then they are likely to receive dividends from the various companies in which they are involved.

This is known as ‘obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception’ or, more commonly, fraud.

Mr Fox already had to resign his cabinet position because of an inappropriate business relationship.

Now he is making the same mistake again – and risking more than his reputation.

(Much more information on the Tory-led privatisation of the NHS is available in NHS SOS, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis and published by Oneworld. To find out how you can work to reverse the damage being done to the most cherished organisation in the UK, please visit www.keepournhspublic.com and www.nhscampaign.org.uk)

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Our entertainers give us facts while our politicians have nothing to say

Speaking their mind: Rufus Hound and Kate Nash had the courage to speak their mind about the NHS and education - but they don't have enough influence to change government policy. What will it take?

Speaking their mind: Rufus Hound and Kate Nash had the courage to voice their opinions about the NHS and education – but they don’t have enough influence to change government policy. What will it take to make that happen?

This could have been designed to follow my rant about politics being about perception: In response to a news report that NHS doctors’ surgeries have been found to be filthy, radio listeners were treated to a lengthy monologue on why the media are running down the health service to make it easier for the government to sell it out from under us.

This lesson was delivered, not by an eminent politician, but by the comedian Rufus Hound. He was speaking on Radio 4’s The News Quiz.

And he said: “Does this not scare anyone, though?

“There are a lot of stories coming out at the moment about all the ways that the NHS is failing. At the same time there is privatisation by stealth. Now, if you’re a conspiracy theorist, maybe those two things just resolve themselves. If you’re a normal person, you’ve got to become a conspiracy theorist, haven’t you?

“The number of contracts being put out to private companies has gone up through the roof. All of the pre-election promises of no privatisation of the NHS, and that the budget would be ring-fenced – it was ring-fenced but not in real terms, so it is a cut in the truest sense…

“The NHS is being sold out from under us, and yet all the stories that come out from the powerful oligarchs who run the media are either about how it’s failing and how much better off we’d be if it was privatised, or why privatisation can’t happen quickly enough for any one of a number of other reasons.

“The reason those surgeries are filthy is, there’s not enough investment to keep them clean and tidy. The argument isn’t ‘privatise’; the argument is ‘invest more’.

“In the Olympics, there was that big moment where they had ‘NHS’ and everybody stood up and applauded, and I think it was Norman Lamont who said, ‘The nearest thing the British people have to a religion is the NHS’ – and we’re just letting it go.

People should be on the streets.

“And I realise that, for this to make the edit, it should have a punchline.”

He knew, you see. He knew that this great speech was in danger of being lost if it wasn’t sufficiently entertaining.

Thank goodness producer Sam Michell kept it in, but it should not be up to an entertainer like Rufus to tell us these things. Such matters are the province of politicians. The simple fact that our representatives aren’t “on the streets” with us about this says everything we need to know about them.

Here’s another example: Education. I was in the unfortunate position of having to sit through Andrew Neil’s This Week on Thursday evening. I’m not a fan of that show, but it meant I was lucky enough to see former pop starlet Kate Nash, there to talk about her film (The Powder Room) and modern manners, slip in a quick observation about education that undermines everything ever said by Michael ‘rote-learning-is-the-only-way’ Gove.

She said, “There are certain things we need to be addressing, that are being completely missed – and that’s to do with education being inspiring and interesting for young people, rather than just about purely passing tests and pressure.”

She hit the nail on the head without even looking; Gove couldn’t find it with a map and a guide.

Again, she is an entertainer; she should not be having to say these things, but we should be glad that she did. The moment was glossed over entirely in the BBC News website report of the debate. Perhaps we should be happy that they didn’t edit the comment out altogether (it starts around two minutes, 15 seconds into the video clip).

We are left with politicians who refuse to do their duty and defend our services from those who would destroy them, and celebrities who are left to pick up the slack – if, with a biased media, they can find a way to keep their words from ending up on the cutting-room floor.

What hope can we possibly have that anyone with any clout will defend our beloved, but beleaguered, taxpayer-funded services?

Worst of all is the fact that it falls to people like myself to even write about these matters, and we all have lives of our own. Rufus and Kate made their speeches on Thursday; it is now Sunday, and I could not have written this article any sooner.

We’ve all heard that a lie can travel around the world several times before the truth has got its boots on. This is because the liars own the media, and those of us who are interested in the truth have small voices, are easily ignored, or can be dismissed because “it’s only entertainment”.

At least high-profile figures have a better chance of being heard. There will be those telling Rufus and Kate and who knows who else to get back in their box and shut up, but I won’t be one of them. I think we should be “on the streets” with them.

I’m wondering if any more members of ‘The Great And The Good’ will have the bottle to speak their mind.

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