Tag Archives: scheme

Court forces DWP to change scheme deducting cash from benefits to pay debts/bills

Putting a brave face on it: Mel Stride.

The Department for Work and Pensions is being forced to rethink a scheme to pay debts and bills directly out of a person’s benefits without discussing it with them first.

The Court of Appeal has confirmed that the current guidance on the Third Party Deduction (TPD) scheme issued by the DWP is unlawful because it says there is no point in finding out whether a claimant’s personal circumstances affect whether deductions should be made, since it only makes a difference in very few cases.

The court said this is very close to saying that the interests of the claimant are irrelevant, which is precisely the opposite of what the regulations demand.

The decision was in response to Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride’s appeal against the findings of a judicial review brought by benefit claimant Helen Timson.

The review found in her favour last September and the appeal was heard in April. Now the Appeal Court judges have ruled unanimously that the way the DWP operates the scheme is unfair.

Lord Justice Edis said:

The submission of the Secretary of State… comes down to the proposition that because only in very few cases can the personal circumstances of the claimant or their family make any difference, there is no point finding out what they are.

This is very close to saying that the interests of the claimant are irrelevant, which is precisely the opposite of what the regulations say.

The Secretary of State can only make a TPD direction after forming an opinion or being satisfied about the interests of the particular claimant and family under consideration.

The regulations therefore require that their interests are assessed in the light of all relevant information which must include anything they wish to say on the subject. After forming that judgment the Secretary of State may make a TPD direction.

He added:

In my judgment, the regulations, by framing the decision-making as they do, require a consideration of the interests of the individual claimant and their family.

Under the guidance, however, the decision-maker has the option of contacting them, or of investigating their benefit records, but the guidance allows a decision to be made where the claimant or their family has been given no opportunity to supply information beyond what the utility company puts in the spreadsheet.

This appears to me to be obviously unfair.’

This is an important victory for anybody who might be affected by deductions in the future – and the High Court judgment recorded that there were more than 250,000 deductions in respect of water, electricity and gas debts last year.

In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, it seems reasonable to expect the relevant utility firms to make increasing numbers of TPD requests in the foreseeable future.

This judgment means no deductions may be made without first discussing the extent of any hardship they are likely to cause with the claimant. This may lead to the request being turned down.

But it isn’t all good news: the judgment applies to deductions for utility charges from legacy benefit (non-Universal Credit) only. The DWP can make deductions from benefit for other things which don’t have the same statutory requirement to be in a person’s ‘interests’ (e.g. for council tax, fines, and child support) and so will not be caught by this judgment.

Source: Bindmans client success in Third Party Deductions Scheme appeal


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No more help for households, says Hunt, despite energy price cap rise in April

Grinning Hunt: the Chancellor won’t help families cope with energy price increases in April – not because he can’t, but because he doesn’t want to.

Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer and well-known misprint, has said he won’t provide any more help for households to pay for their energy bills.

This means the Tory government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme will end in March, just before the cap on our energy bills rises to an expected average of £3,000.

So we’re all facing a real-terms rise of £900 on our energy bills and Hunt will do nothing about it.

He has said,

“We constantly keep the help we can give families under review.

“But if you’re saying ‘Do I think we’re going to have the headroom to make a major new initiative to help people?’, I don’t think the situation would have changed very significantly from the Autumn Statement, which was just three months ago.”

This is not true.

According to Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, when the announcement that the price guarantee would rise by 20 per cent was made in Hunt’s Autumn Statement, energy prices were significantly higher than they are now.

The current expectation is that in July, energy regulator Ofgem’s price cap (rather than the government’s price guarantee) will drop below both the £3,000 set to come in April and the £2,500 limit in force now, so we will all pay less.

This means the government is likely to save around £10 billion on what it was expecting to spend on the price guarantee at the time of the Autumn Statement.

That’s a pretty significant change, if you ask me!

Mr Lewis has written to the Chancellor, informing him of these expectations and calling on him to keep the price guarantee at its current level until July – a measure that will add only £1.5 billion to the current cost (leaving £8.5 billion in the kitty).

He has said this is better than inflicting poverty – and its devastating effects – on the people of the UK.

You can see him saying it here:

So it seems clear that Hunt has lied; he does have the headroom to help people with a new initiative, the situation has changed significantly and he can give more help to families.

He just doesn’t want to.

Remember this: the Conservative Chancellor would rather inflict poverty on you than do his job, which is to protect you from financial troubles that are no fault of your own.

Source: Jeremy Hunt says no more help for households despite energy bills increase in April


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How has Shell made £32bn profit from inflated energy prices?

I’m confused.

According to this BBC article, Shell should be paying 75 per cent of its UK profits to the government in taxes.

In a year when the firm has announced record profits (due to inflated energy prices caused by the Russia-Ukraine war) of £32 billion, that comes to £1.2 billion.

It was supposed to pay a 35 per cent Windfall Tax on its “extraordinary” earnings. That would have come to £560 million – but in fact it only paid $134 million (almost £109 million).

There’s an additional 30 per cent in Corporation Tax, which should bring in £480 million, and a supplementary 10 per cent rate that should bring in £80 million. I notice the BBC piece is silent about whether that happened.

And gas and oil firms like Shell are allowed to reduce the amount of tax they pay by the cost of decommissioning projects like North Sea oil platforms and investments in other UK projects.

Meanwhile, the Tory government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme is costing the public £15 billion. The windfall tax was supposed to help fund it – but how many firms pay into it, and how much are they paying, if they are allowed to claw back so many millions?

The government hopes to make £14 billion per year – which is not enough to cover its costs.

And underlying all of this is the elephant in the room: how are these firms being allowed to make such huge profits in the first place?

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Government outlines plans to postpone energy bills for businesses

Energy bills for UK businesses will be cut to around half their expected level this winter under a government support package that, together with help for domestic energy bills, could be worth £150 billion.

The whole shemozzle seems to be funded by borrowing – meaning that we will have to pay it back in the future, while the energy production companies will get to pocket the £170 billion in profits they have been making while we all struggle to pay.

That’s not very good.

But for the moment, we all have a bit of relief.

Here are the details, from the government’s website:

This support will be equivalent to the Energy Price Guarantee put in place for households.

It will apply to fixed contracts agreed on or after 1 April 2022, as well as to deemed, variable and flexible tariffs and contracts. It will apply to energy usage from 1 October 2022 to 31 March 2023, running for an initial 6 month period for all non-domestic energy users. The savings will be first seen in October bills, which are typically received in November.

As with the Energy Price Guarantee for households, customers do not need to take action or apply to the scheme to access the support. Support (in the form of a p/kWh discount) will automatically be applied to bills.

To administer support, the government has set a Supported Wholesale Price – expected to be £211 per MWh for electricity and £75 per MWh for gas, less than half the wholesale prices anticipated this winter – which is a discounted price per unit of gas and electricity. This is equivalent to the wholesale element of the Energy Price Guarantee for households. It includes the removal of green levies paid by non-domestic customers who receive support under the scheme.

The level of price reduction for each business will vary depending on their contract type and circumstances:

  • non-domestic customers on existing fixed price contracts will be eligible for support as long as the contract was agreed on or after 1 April 2022. Provided that the wholesale element of the price the customer is paying is above the Government Supported Price, their per unit energy costs will automatically be reduced by the relevant p/kWh for the duration of the Scheme. Customers entering new fixed price contracts after 1 October will receive support on the same basis
  • those on default, deemed or variable tariffs will receive a per-unit discount on energy costs, up to a maximum of the difference between the Supported Price and the average expected wholesale price over the period of the Scheme. The amount of this Maximum Discount is likely to be around £405/MWh for electricity and £115/MWh for gas, subject to wholesale market developments. Non-domestic customers on default or variable tariffs will therefore pay reduced bills, but these will still change over time and may still be subject to price increases. This is why the government is working with suppliers to ensure all their customers in England, Scotland and Wales are given the opportunity to switch to a fixed contract/tariff for the duration of the scheme if they wish, underpinned by the government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme support
  • for businesses on flexible purchase contracts, typically some of the largest energy-using businesses, the level of reduction offered will be calculated by suppliers according to the specifics of that company’s contract and will also be subject to the Maximum Discount

A parallel scheme, based on the same criteria and offering comparable support, but recognising the different market fundamentals, will be established in Northern Ireland.

If you are not connected to either the gas or electricity grid, equivalent support will also be provided for non-domestic consumers who use heating oil or alternative fuels instead of gas. Further detail on this will be announced shortly.

We will publish a review into the operation of the scheme in three months to inform decisions on future support after March 2023. The review will focus in particular on identifying the most vulnerable non-domestic customers and how the government will continue assisting them with energy costs.

So it’s pretty much what we were told before, with a few knobs and whistles, and the government still hasn’t come clean on everything.

It doesn’t inspire trust, does it?

Source: Government outlines plans to help cut energy bills for businesses – GOV.UK

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Patel insists Rwanda is safe for asylum-seekers – despite expert advice on torture

Priti Patel: she’s not one to listen to advice she doesn’t like.

The Home Secretary has confirmed that she is ignoring the advice of an adviser who said the Rwandan government tortures political opponents, in pushing her policy of deporting asylum-seekers there.

Priti Patel insisted that Rwanda was a “safe country”.

She said the comments had been made by “officials in a different government department”.

She added: “But of course it is the Home Office who has led the economic development migration partnership which is our resettlement partnership to Rwanda. Rwanda is a safe country and all our work with the government of Rwanda shows that.”

She was responding to a High Court judgment that seven statements by an adviser should be made public in advance of a Supreme Court ruling on whether the Rwanda deportation policy is legal.

A judge ruled that a further four statements should not be published as they could potentially harm international relations.

It is not unreasonable – on the face of it – for the government to seek advice and then ignore what it is told.

Governments may take opinions from multiple sources before forming their own opinions and policy.

But this has the potential to blow up in the Tory government’s collective face, if the decision to ignore warnings about this foreign government leads to asylum-seekers being harmed.

Court ruling on Rwanda comments that should be published forces questions on those that won’t

Illegal policy? Priti Patel announced the plan to deport asylum seekers arriving in the UK to Rwanda back in April. But a first flight there was aborted at the last minute as the legality of the scheme was challenged.

The High Court has ruled that a government adviser’s comment that Rwanda’s government tortures and kills political opponents – and six others – should be published ahead of a legal battle to decide whether deportations to that country are legal.

But four further comments by the same person were judged necessary to keep entirely secret because of the damage they would do to international relations between the UK and that country.

This leads to an obvious question:

Given the incendiary nature of the “torture” comment, how damning were the four that are being kept secret? And how can the UK’s Tory government justify sending asylum seekers to Rwanda after being provided with such information?

In his ruling, Lord Justice Lewis said:

“I recognise that there is a strong public interest in not undermining international relations with a friendly state. Nonetheless, that consideration is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring access to relevant information in this litigation and by the extent to which the information is already in the public domain.”

Migrants identified for the first aborted flight, and three media organisations – BBC News, including BBC Two’s Newsnight, The Times and The Guardian newspapers – sought the disclosure of the material.

The judge said given September’s major legal action had to decide whether sending asylum seekers to Rwanda was lawful, the claimants and the court needed to consider as much evidence as possible.

He said some of the official’s comments would have “evidential significance” – and the public interest in disclosing them outweighed the government’s case for keeping them secret.

The government has been allowed time to consider an appeal. If the judgment stands, the comments are likely to emerge in public in September.

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Three government ministers among 56 MPs accused of sexual misconduct

Red light district: but it seems some MPs are treating the Parliamentary estate in a worse way than a brothel, as the alleged shenanigans here are not necessarily consensual.

Four years after the so-called ‘Pestminster’ scandal, the UK’s Parliament is still packed with perverts.

That’s the obvious conclusion to draw after it was claimed that 56 MPs have been accused of sexual misconduct under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS).

Three of them are apparently members of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet – and two are alleged to be in Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet.

Allegations range from making sexually inappropriate comments to criminality.

The ICGS was set up as an independent process with cross-party backing in 2018 after Pestminster when, if I recall correctly, it was claimed that Theresa May had details of sexual misbehaviour by dozens of Tory MPs.

This Writer wants to know how many of those on her list then are also on the ICGS list now – and if they are, why haven’t they been arrested?

Source: Three ministers ‘on list of 56 MPs accused of sexual misconduct’

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Gove slams criticism of ‘ungenerous’ scheme that only helps refugees IF YOU KNOW THEIR NAME

Michael Gove: This Site has better pictures but the Spitting Image dummy’s cheeks look like what he was talking in the House of Commons.

Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove had a rather spectacular meltdown in the House of Commons when he attacked critics of the government’s new Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

This Writer recalls there were a few allegations about him flirting with a certain white powder a while ago. Based on this performance, one has to question whether the claim was accurate.

He banged on the Dispatch Box, he strutted up and down the Chamber, he wagged his fingers around in aimless gestures, and as for his language… “Chuck it?” Really?

Let’s have a look at that “ungenerous” claim.

Under the new scheme, people who wish to offer a rent-free space in their home or a separate residence, for at least six months, can register their interest online.

Each household housing a refugee will be offered £350 a month, tax-free. They will not be expected to provide food and living expenses but can choose to offer this.

But they can only sponsor a Ukrainian national to receive an entry visa into the UK if they already know the individual by name.

Bearing in mind that 43,800 people signed up for the scheme in its first five hours, I wonder whether they all have that kind of connection with people from the eastern European country.

Time will tell but people are already having their say about Gove’s outburst – and it hasn’t been complimentary:

(Gove was probably referring to a claim that the “hostile environment” policy was made possible because a Labour Home Secretary (Alan Johnson?) authorised the destruction of many documents proving that people of the so-called Windrush Generation (for example) had a right of residence in the UK. The documents were destroyed during the term of his successor, Theresa May, though.

May went on to coin the term in a 2012 speech: “The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants.” So it is her policy – Conservative policy.

The last point is very good: the accusations aren’t that the UK isn’t generous but that the Conservative government running it isn’t.

The UK’s citizens didn’t create the conditions under which Windrush people were thrown out, and they didn’t create the conditions in which Ukrainian refugees are being refused entry.

A Tory government is – one that contained Michael Gove in some capacity.

He’s got a lot of cheek, coming out with that.

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‘Unpopular’ Johnson to fight shortages with temp EU driver scheme – with too few places

Empty shelves: Boris Johnson created the shortages with his stupid Brexit – as this satirical image makes clear. Now he’s scrambling to find short-term solutions because he’s upset that the backlash is harming his popularity.

Boris Johnson’s idiocy has painted him into a corner so tight that his only choices make him look even more blindingly daft.

His Brexit stopped EU haulage drivers from working in the United Kingdom and this led to a worsening of the shortage the country was already facing.

Johnson refused to put HGV drivers on the list of those who would be allowed to work in the UK, saying that the country (in fact, only a quarter of current UK citizens) had voted to end freedom of movement.

How true those words became!

Now we have no freedom to move groceries…

No freedom to move other goods…

And because fuel tankers aren’t reaching filling stations, no freedom to move at all. On this, Johnson’s Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, tried to assure motorists that there was no crisis – and they ignored him, sparking mass-hysteria panic-buying.

This response from the public indicates that the population at large has no confidence in government claims.

That’s what happens when a prime minister lies constantly – and leads a government of liars.

Now, Johnson is planning a U-turn, saying he will put EU drivers on the visa scheme allowing them to work in the UK.

So he is making a liar of himself – again.

And he is saying the scheme will be restricted to 5,000 drivers – nothing near the 100,000 who are needed.

If he’s saying this will be enough, he’s making a double liar of himself.

That’s according to haulage bosses:

Toby Ovens, managing director of Broughton Transport Solutions, said he is not convinced a temporary visa scheme will solve the current shortage of HGV drivers.

This is just another Tory bid to hoodwink us.

Johnson is saying what he thinks will calm us down: “All is well. We are solving the problem. Go home. Go back to sleep.” That sort of thing.

He’s just looking for short-term relief from the pressure this situation has created – not on the UK’s transport infrastructure, but on him.

He doesn’t like the fact that people are – rightly – blaming him for a crisis that would not have happened if he had not insisted on forcing on us all a Brexit deal that he had not even read.

And This Writer doesn’t think for a moment that it will do him any good.

Because we know we can’t trust him and his promises are worthless.

Source: Temporary visas for 5,000 foreign lorry drivers will NOT solve supply crisis, haulage boss warns  | Daily Mail Online

Johnson and Sunak shamed into self-isolation in U-turn over ‘Covid Javid’

How humiliating for Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak that they have to follow the rules for the plebs and self-isolate after being in contact with Health Secretary and Covid case Sajid Javid.

It says everything about the UK’s pitiful protections that Javid hasn’t been in post for more than a month yet, and already he has contracted the virus. He’s out of the picture for the moment because he’s getting treatment.

But both Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson are also having to take action, because they have been in contact with Javid during the incubation period.

Johnson has already had the virus. What does it say about the body’s natural immunity, let alone the various vaccines that we’re all having pumped into us, when the prime minister is still having to isolate himself – despite having developed the former and received the latter – for fear of spreading the infection?

Worse still is the fact that both Johnson and Sunak wanted to take the Michael Gove route and opt into a privileged scheme whereby they could keep working but would be tested for the virus on a daily basis.

Nobody had ever heard of this scheme before Gove went to Portugal to watch the Champions League final and mixed with people who had Covid-19.

On being told about the contact, he promptly announced that he wouldn’t be self-isolating like a member of the common crowd – and that is how we learned about the daily test regime for the elite.

He was given hell for it and rightly so.

It can hardly be surprising, then, that after Downing Street announced that they would be on the same scheme – and the same criticisms started – Johnson and Sunak gave up and accepted the inevitable.

They only did it because they were caught.

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth [said] it was unfair politicians appeared to have access to “VIP testing” to avoid self-isolation, while Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey asked if it was only available to the “privileged few”.

The u-turn means that Michael Gove should now have to answer some uncomfortable questions, especially after Johnson said it was “far more important that everybody sticks to the same rules”.

Gove didn’t!

And neither Johnson nor Sunak were going to.

So it seems Johnson didn’t make the change because of any principles, but because of shame.

Source: Covid-19: PM and chancellor self-isolate after rapid U-turn – BBC News

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