Tag Archives: subsidise

Why have UK university students had to waste £1 BILLION on digs they couldn’t use?

Rent strike: students are permanently penniless. When you see how much this year’s alumni have had to pay – for NOTHING – you’ll understand why they’re raging.

Those Tories really are selective about who they help with the costs of Covid-19, aren’t they?

I remember being a student. Most of the time, I hardly had two pennies to rub together. The rented accommodation available to us was – mostly – diabolical. And expensive.

One place was damp. It gave me bronchitis.

But at least I got to live in it!

Since the Covid crisis started, according to a survey, the

average student has so far paid £1,621 in rent for unrefunded empty rooms.

In total, according to advice website Save the Student,

university students have wasted nearly £1bn on empty rooms in flat shares and halls of residence that they have been unable to use because of coronavirus restrictions this academic year.

The website estimates rents are so high that they take up three-quarters of their maintenance loans at an average of £146 per week, so it’s no wonder that

Students’ anger with high rents… boiled over on UK campuses this term as students launched the largest rent strike in 40 years.

There has been a patchy response from universities, private halls of residence and landlords, with some refusing discounts while others have offered full rebates.

I have a lot of sympathy for the universities, and for the landlords – as well as for the students themselves.

It is unfair for the accommodation providers to foot the bill for thousands of empty rooms when the situation was thrust on them by the government – albeit admittedly in response to a nationwide pandemic.

It just happens to be even more unfair for them to demand that students pay the bill, rather than the government. This is loaned money, remember – they have to pay it back, plus interest, over a period of decades to come.

Businesses – especially the bigger ones – have received huge subsidies, and employees have had 80 per cent of their wages paid by a government “furlough” scheme. Why weren’t students added to that, at the very least?

The Guardian story tells us the government has provided students with £70 million in hardship funding, which seems to fall quite a long way short of what they’ve had to shell out.

Considering the billions given to Tory cronies and their – let’s be honest – fake firms for nonexistent or inadequate Covid-related services, this is an insult to the next generation of the UK’s movers and shakers.

Let’s hope they remember it.

Source: UK university students wasted £1bn in a year on empty accommodation | Student housing | The Guardian

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.

1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.

2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical

3) Like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VoxPolitical/

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at http://voxpoliticalonline.com

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.


The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Was ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ really meant to help super-rich Tories get cheap meals at the taxpayer’s expense?

Nadhim Zahawi: this image from a few years ago highlighted his choice to strip people with disabilities of much-needed benefits while guzzling taxpayers’ money in expenses claims. Now fat Nadhim is using our money to guzzle cheap restaurant meals too.

It seems the chief beneficiaries of Rishi Sunak’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme are… his fellow Conservative MPs.

Here’s a tweet from multi-millionaire Jeremy Hunt, confirming that he has been using public money to subsidise a meal:

For all we know, he may have claimed the rest of the cost on expenses…

Also vowing to take full advantage of the public – I mean, public money being put up for the scheme – was another Tory multi-millionaire, Nadhim Zahawi, who told BBC Breakfast:

“I’m looking forward to going out and using the Eat Out to Help Out scheme to make sure me and my family enjoy a nice meal over those few days.”

Asked if he will be having a half price meal, Mr Zahawi said: “I’ll be going out and helping those restaurants in Stratford-on-Avon, in London, wherever I can, of course. I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Asked if he could choose to pay full price, he replied: “Well… It’s worth all of us going out and if the Government is supporting the sector, why not?”

It’s exactly as some of us predicted – while poor people starve under the privations forced on them by the Tories’ ridiculous Covid-19 policies, the super-rich are stuffing themselves silly and charging it to the taxpayer.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.

1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.

2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical

3) Like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VoxPolitical/

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at http://voxpoliticalonline.com

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.


The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Call for inquiry over foreign state-owned firms taking over UK rail services Unemployed in Tyne and Wear

UNTyne&Wear brings us the following, originally in the Hartlepool Mail:

Easington  MP Grahame Morris has called on Parliament to launch an inquiry into foreign state-owned companies owning UK rail firms.

Mr Morris said British commuters, who suffer the highest rail prices in Europe, are subsidising foreign passengers.

MPs from Parliament’s rail group have called for an urgent inquiry.

It follows a decision to award the Scotrail franchise to Dutch state-owned firm Abellio, and also research showed 20 of the UK’s 27 private rail services are owned by foreign state-owned or backed railways.

Mr Morris said British commuters have experienced substandard services for decades adding:

Often the very same operators that are using British commuters as cash cows are foreign state-owned companies that then hold down fares and improve services back in their own countries.

“That British commuters are expected to both suffer the failure of rail privatisation as well as subsidise commuters in Holland, Germany and France adds insult to injury.”

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
bringing you the best of the blogs!

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Why is it fair for taxpayers to subsidise businesses but not the disabled?

Swivel-eyed loon: This is the kind of many who thinks subsidising businesses to be lazy, while refusing to support disabled students (no matter how intelligent they are) is a clever idea. [Picture: Left Foot Forward]

Swivel-eyed loon: This is the kind of many who thinks subsidising businesses to be lazy, while refusing to support disabled students (no matter how intelligent they are) is a clever idea. [Picture: Left Foot Forward]

George Osborne was today set to attack both the Labour Party and UKIP as being bad for business. Isn’t that a bit rich, coming from a man whose party uses taxpayers’ money to subsidise private firms?

Across the UK, firms of all sizes – ranging from huge multinationals right down to the smallest traders – take advantage of the taxpayer-funded benefit system that supports people who earn less than the Living Wage (the minimum amount necessary for a working person to be able to pay their own way).

Osborne would have you believe this is good for Britain; more firms are employing more people – and that’s got to be good, right?

Wrong. More people may be employed, but on increasingly less money, meaning the burden on the taxpayer is increasing all the time.

But the taxpayer has increasingly less money to give to the Treasury, meaning that – instead of saving the economy – Osborne has put us into a vicious spiral of diminishing returns.

That’s what you get when you ask a towel-folder to do a real job!

It would be far better to demand that businesses pay the Living Wage. It isn’t an impossible dream – only a few decades ago, it was possible for one parent to earn enough to house and feed an entire family. Why doesn’t this happen anymore?

There is, in fact, no reason for it to have stopped.

The only conclusion we can reach is that the Tory government is using the system to leach money into the pockets of wealthy businesspeople. By pushing benefit payments so low that the unemployed and low-paid struggle to support themselves, they have made it possible for employers to pay less and pocket more.

That is why the names on the Sunday Times Roll Call of Shame (otherwise known as the Rich List) are so much richer this year than they were before the Tories weren’t elected.

The answer is simple: Compel businesses to pay the Living Wage.

Oh, but you think that will be bad for business too, do you?

Mr Osborne would tell you so, would he?

How odd – because this would be no different from a policy his government has been happily forcing on benefit claimants since 2010.

You see, as stated above, the policy has been to make living on benefits extremely difficult in order to force people to seek employment. This in turn allows firms to depress wages because they can tell the workforce there are plenty of other people waiting to take their places.

Only today, on this blog, we were discussing Tory David Willetts’ plan to cut Disabled Student Allowance. He wants us to believe that this will get students with disabilities to work harder, rather than expecting the taxpayer to lay everything at their feet; in fact, he is taking away their lifeline and leaving them to starve.

But the argument works just as well with employers. Any government with the guts to tell them that the crutch of in-work benefits is being removed and they will have to pay the difference is sending out the same message to employers as they did to benefit claimants: You’ve had it easy for too long. Now it’s time for you to earn your keep.

Some firms will go under. Unlike the disabled people being victimised by David Willetts (et al), we should shed no tears for them; they weren’t helping the economy.

More will pay up – finding new markets to fund the extra expenditure. These are the businesses that will build the real economic recovery.

Labour is one of only a few political organisations that support the Living Wage, and therefore the only mass-appeal political party that would have a genuinely beneficial effect on the economy.

Oh, but I forgot.

You were listening to George Osborne.

And he says Labour is bad for business.

But then – he’s no economist.

He’s a towel-folder.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book,
Strong Words and Hard Times
in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

How do we wrestle fairness from a rigged economic system?

The problem in a nutshell - and this cartoon was drawn in 1972! [Image: Alan Hardman]

The problem in a nutshell – and this cartoon was drawn in 1972! [Image: Alan Hardman]

It’s terrific when an article makes you think.

Why Capitalism needs unemployment, by Cheltenham & Gloucester Against Cuts, tells us that unemployment is used as a weapon against the workers – with the threat of it used to force pay cuts on employees, while we are told to fear inflation if unemployment falls.

So fatcat company bosses win either way, it seems.

The article commented on Margaret Thatcher’s ideological mentor, Milton Friedman, who “understood that low levels of unemployment give confidence to workers, who can fight for better pay and conditions. When they’re successful, the profit margins of capitalists are reduced, causing them to put their prices up in response“.

We know this happens; we have seen it many times. Some may argue that it is different from cases in which shortages of particular commodities push up their prices and the prices of products that are made from them – but, with fuel prices as the only notable exception, have you ever seen prices drop after these shortages end?

The system is rigged to ensure that working people stay poor, either through pay cuts during high unemployment or inflation in low unemployment; meanwhile the employers and shareholders ensure that they stay rich, by sharing out extra profits gained by keeping pay low or by putting up prices.

What do they do with this money?

The answer, it seems, is nothing. They bank it in offshore tax havens and leave it there. This is why, we are told, Britain’s richest citizens have more than £20 trillion banked offshore at the moment.

That’s more than £20,000,000,000,000! Enough to pay off this country’s national debt 18,000 times over and still have plenty to spare. Enough to solve the problems of the world, forever. It is, in fact, more money than we can comfortably imagine.

It is doing nothing.

Faced with this knowledge, there can only be one logical question: Why?

Why rig the system so that ever-larger sums of money pour into these offshore accounts, if nothing is to be done with it? Where is the sense in that?

The only logical answer appears to relate to its effect on workers: Keeping the profits of their work away from the workforce means they are kept in misery and servitude to the ruling classes – the parasitical board members and shareholders.

There are knock-on effects. Taxpayers are hit twice – not only are they forced to grapple with ever-more-hostile pay offers, but their taxes pay for in-work benefits that subsidise corporate-imposed pay levels; they support people who have been forced into unemployment unnecessarily and the silly make-work schemes that are forced on those people by the Department for Work and Pensions, under threat of sanction.

It’s a protection racket. There should be a law against it. And this begs the next question: Why isn’t there a law against it? How can this corrupt system be dismantled and what should replace it?

That’s a very good question, because the other cosh being held over our collective heads is the possibility that firms will move abroad if new laws in this country threaten their massive profits. This is where an international agreement between nations or groups of nations would be very useful, if it was carried out in the right way – a Transatlantic, or Trans-pacific, Trade and Investment Partnership, perhaps.

And what do we see? Plans for such agreements have been put together and they do the exact opposite of what they should – tying the workers into ever-worsening conditions. This is why the TTIP, currently being pushed on the European Union, must be rejected – and why bosses will do anything to ensure it succeeds.

This is the situation. It seems clear that nothing will change it for the better until somebody has the courage to stand up to these manipulators (who were probably schoolyard bullies back in the day) and say enough is enough; change is coming – do what you will.

Tax evasion and avoidance is already a huge issue here in the UK; perhaps we need to make a criminal offence of manipulating the economy – with prison sentences for bosses who put their prices up purely to retain high profit margins when their salaries are already dozens of times higher than those of their workers.

But what else is needed? How can such a mechanism be brought in without scaring off business? Or should we let them go, and put something fairer in their place? Ban them from trading in the UK unless they conform to the new model?

These are ideas that need exploration – by many people, not just a few.

What do you think should happen?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book,
Strong Words and Hard Times
in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Tory policy on ‘zero hours’: Beggars can’t be choosers

140507choice

Isn’t it nice to see some clear blue water emerge between the main political parties on an important issue?

Less than two weeks after Ed Miliband announced that he would tackle the “epidemic” of zero-hours contracts if Labour wins the next general election, the Conservatives have confirmed that Universal Credit – if they can ever get it working – will force jobseekers into those very contracts.

Labour said workers on zero-hours contracts should not be obliged to be available outside contracted hours; be free to work for other employers; have a right to compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice; have ‘clarity’ from their employer about their employment status, terms and conditions; have the right to request a contract with a ‘minimum amount of work’ after six months, that could only be refused if employers could prove their business could not operate any other way; and have an automatic right to a fixed-hours contract after 12 months with the same employer.

At the time, the Tories said the number of zero-hours contracts had increased under the last Labour government, which had done nothing about it.

This tired excuse has been trotted out far too many times to be taken seriously any more, but it may have led some members of the public to believe that the Tories were distancing themselves from zero-hours contracts as well. They are, after all, supposed to be The Party of More Choice. Perhaps they are, themselves, less than keen on this kind of exploitation.

Not a bit of it!

The Guardian revealed yesterday that conditions will be imposed on the receipt of Universal Credit, meaning that – for the first time ever – jobseekers could lose their benefits if they refuse to take zero-hour jobs – for three months or longer.

Currently, people on Jobseekers’ Allowance are able to refuse such jobs without facing penalties.

The policy change was revealed in a letter from employment minister Esther McVey to Labour MP Sheila Gilmore. She said Job Centre “coaches” would be able to “mandate to zero-hours contracts” – basically forcing them to accept this kind of exploitation by employers.

The DWP has also stated: “We expect claimants to do all they reasonably can to look for and move into paid work. If a claimant turns down a particular vacancy (including zero-hours contract jobs) a sanction may be applied.”

The message from the Conservatives – the Party of More Choice – is clear: Beggars can’t be choosers.

Their chums on the boards of big businesses want more profits, and know the way to get it – employ people on low pay and with no employee benefits. Zero-hours contracts mean you can be made to work fewer hours than you need in order for employers to have to pay National Insurance credits for you. You don’t get sick pay; holiday pay; or a pension. And you’ll probably still be on benefits, meaning the work that you do is subsidised by other hardworking taxpayers, most of whom earn only a little more than you do.

It’s a racket – as bad as workfare/mandatory work activity/the work programme/whatever-they’re-calling-it-today, in which taxpayers subsidise work carried out by jobseekers for participating employers, hugely boosting those firms’ profits while ensuring that the number of people without proper, paid jobs remains high.

Their attitude is that, if you don’t have a job, you are a beggar.

Beggars can’t be choosers.

So they’ll choose what you do, and they – or their boardroom chums – will benefit from it.

If you are a working taxpayer, think about this before casting your vote later this month – and especially before you do so in May 2015: A vote for the Conservative Party means more of your fellow citizens will be prevented from getting proper jobs and becoming contributing members of society by the greedy – and idle – rich.

A vote for the Conservative Party means more of your tax money going to subsidise fat business board members who already have more money than they can ever use.

A vote for the Conservative Party means a better life for them and their friends – and a poorer life for you.

You’d have to be mad to choose that.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book,
Strong Words and Hard Times
in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

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.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political strives to stand on its own merits.
But the site needs funds if it is to carry on.
Vox Political cannot continue without YOUR help.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book,
Strong Words and Hard Times
in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

Are wages too low, or is the cost of living too high? Or both?

130722sentamulivingwage

How pleasing it is to see the Archbishop of York agrees with the view, long-held by Vox Political, that British workers should be paid a living wage, and that the taxpayer should not be subsidising big business!

Archbishop John Sentamu is to chair a year-long commission investigating the need for a living wage. In The Observer, he wrote: “The holes in millions of paycheques are being plugged by in-work support to the tune of £4 billion a year. But why aren’t those who are profiting from their workers paying up? Why is government having to subsidise businesses who don’t pay their employees enough to live on? It is a question we need to answer and act on – fast. The cost of living is rising but wages are not. In the rush for profit, and for high pay at the top, too many companies have forgotten the basic moral imperative that employees be paid enough to live on.”

This is a sentiment that Vox Political wholly supports.

Needless to say, there are also detractors. A commenter known as ‘neilcon’ pointed out: “The high cost of running a small business in this country is one of the main reasons why the hourly rates are so low. If you employ someone at £8 you then have to pay a further 13 per cent to the government in employer’s National Insurance contributions for the privilege of employing someone; you have to supply that person with suitable equipment for their work.” The commenter reeled off a few other business-related expenses before going on to “the issue of the banks utterly refusing to lend to small businesses, the high cost of renting office premises, business rates on your office premises to the government, the high cost of VAT, together with clients trying to squeeze the final price as much as possible and the very late payments by bigger companies.

“The real cost to an employer of an £8 per hour wage is calculated at about £15 to the business.”

I can sympathise with this sentiment. It doesn’t let off the bosses of larger companies, who have huge salaries and no excuse (FT 350 companies, for example) but they might have a reasonable excuse for not raising pay, if smaller companies say they’ll go out of business if the higher cost is forced on them.

But the simple fact is that the cost of living is too high and – if they had to rely on wages alone – millions of working people, up and down the country, would be unable to pay their bills…

… leading us to a recent blog article by our old friend Michael Meacher MP. He points out that our privatised utility companies are forcing every one of us to pay – through the nose – for substandard services.

He wrote: “More than £100 a year of an average household [water] bill, that is about 30 per cent, goes on profit, compared with 9 per cent in the energy sector which is itself known for egregious profiteering.

“In the last 10 years, water bills have risen by a massive 64 per cent, compared with an increase of just 28 per cent in average earnings. In the last three years alone, average earnings have fallen by 7 per cent while water bills have continued to rise remorselessly. There is no competition in the water industry and the only potential constraint is the industry regulator, but he has chosen to succumb to corporate lobbying in allowing water bills to continue to shoot upwards to feed fancy executive bonuses and big dividend handouts.”

The last sentence tellingly brings us back to the huge profits taken by executives. It seems that a few things are going on:

1. The privatisation of the national utilities – water, electricity, gas (and, some would say, telecommunications) – has failed in its stated aims, which were to democratise capitalism by making it possible for everybody to be a shareholder, to keep bills low, and to end government subsidies for these organisations. Instead, shares have been drawn into the hands of a very few rich investors, bills have risen far beyond wages, and government subsidies have either increased massively (rail) or companies have used the tax system to avoid paying the amount due on their profits (Thames Water and its ‘super sewer’).

2. Company bosses, keen to drive up their share prices in order to create larger dividends for their shareholders and higher salaries for themselves, have successfully held wages down in order to achieve this. As ‘neilcon’ pointed out, lower wages mean less spending on National Insurance, meaning that keeping the employee payout down by pennies per person leads to many pounds in increased revenue.

3. The government is unwilling to do anything about this because it wants to keep wages depressed as much as possible. This is the reason it has cracked down so hard on benefit payments – not because of fraud (which is minimal) but in order to create an urgent need among the unemployed to find work, and terror in those who have jobs that they could be replaced if they complain about the increasingly meagre pittance on which they are being told to survive.

There are many subtle sub-consequences as well. You may wish to raise some of them in the ‘comments’ column.

What’s the answer?

This may come as a surprise, but the best place to start might be with the private utility companies. An ultimatum to put their houses in order and charge a reasonable amount, rather than extorting money out of a captive clientele, might produce results – especially if the alternative is re-nationalisation.

This might take the pressure off the smaller private companies by actually reducing the amount calculated as the living wage; with lower utility bills, the amount of money needed for a working person’s survival will also drop.

If the government and the utility companies got their sums right, this could mean the need to subsidise working people’s pay would be wiped out, meaning a large saving on the tax bill. Feed this through to working people in the form of a tax cut and, again, smaller private companies would benefit (along with everybody else, of course). An alternative of using the money to help pay off the deficit would be unhelpful – we need more, and healthier, businesses in this country, employing more people. Get that sorted and the deficit will come down in any case.

On a completely different tack, what about Landlord Subsidy (otherwise known as Housing Benefit)? Why not put a cap on rents, thereby ensuring that the government is not subsidising the rapidly-increasing pace of (some) landlords’ greed?

Unfortunately, this is not likely to happen under the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government – and it seems the Parliamentary Labour Party is to keen to become the Plastic Tory Party to take a stand; it will be up to its backbenchers and the party’s grassroots members to force a policy change.

At the end of the day, wages might still have to rise, due to matters unforeseen in this article.

But a plan that acknowledges the mistakes of the past and aims to redress the shocking way that the supply of money has overbalanced to favour a tiny minority – to the detriment of the vast majority – would constitute the first steps on the way to a nation that can not only provide Archbishop Sentamu’s living wage, but also help our struggling small businesses.

(The first Vox Political collection, Strong Words and Hard Times, is now available and may be ordered from this website)

Britain’s worst idlers – the MPs who wrote Britannia Unchained

I have been saddened to learn of two events that will take place in the near future: The death of The Dandy, and the publication of Britannia Unchained.

The first needs little introduction to British readers; it’s the UK’s longest-running children’s humour comic, which will cease publication (in print form) towards the end of this year, on its 75th anniversary. The second appears to be an odious political tract scribbled by a cabal of ambitious right-wing Tory MPs, desperate to make a name for themselves by tarring British workers as “among the worst idlers in the world”.

The connection? Even at the end of its life, there is better and more useful information in The Dandy than there will be in Britannia Unchained.

The book’s authors, Priti Patel, Elizabeth Truss, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore, and Kwasi Kwarteng, all members of the Free Enterprise Group of Tory MPs, argue that British workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”, that the UK “rewards laziness” and “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”.

They say the UK needs to reward a culture of “graft, risk and effort” and “stop bailing out the reckless, avoiding all risk and rewarding laziness”.

Strong words – undermined completely by the authors’ own record of attendance at their place of work.

Chris Skidmore’s Parliamentary attendance record is just 88.1 per cent – and he’s the most diligent of the five. Kwasi Kwarteng weighs in at 87.6 per cent; Elizabeth Truss at 85.3 per cent; and Priti Patel at 81.8 per cent. Dominic Raab is the laziest of the lot, with Parliamentary attendance of just 79.1 per cent.

To put that in perspective, if I took more than a week’s sick leave per year from my last workplace, I would have been hauled up before the boss and serious questions asked about my future at the company. That’s a 97.9 per cent minimum requirement. Who are these slackers to tell me, or anyone else who does real work, that we are lazy?

Some have already suggested that these evil-minded hypocrites are just taking cheap shots at others, to make themselves look good for promotion in an autumn reshuffle. Maybe this is true, although David Cameron would be very unwise to do anything but distance himself from them and their dangerous ideas.

I think this is an attempt to deflect attention away from the way the Tory-led government has mismanaged the economy, and from its murderous treatment of the sick and disabled. As one commentator put it: “They get a token Asian, a token African, a token Jew, mix in the middle class/grammar school rubbish propaganda, and suddenly they are just ordinary people? No they are not; they are stooges for the ruling elite.”

Britain doesn’t reward laziness among its working class. What it rewards is failure by managers, directors of industry, financiers. These people continually increase their salaries and other remuneration while their share prices fall, their dividend payments are lacklustre and shareholder value is destroyed. What have they given shareholders over the past 10 years? How many industrial or commercial leaders have walked off with millions, leaving behind companies that were struggling, if not collapsing? Does the criticism in Britannia Unchained apply to senior executives and bankers?

Our MPs are as much to blame as big business. They vote themselves generous pay, pensions and extended vacations (five months per year). They never start work before 11am, never work weekends (or most Fridays, when they are supposed to be in their constituencies, if I recall correctly). They enjoy fringe benefits including subsidised bars, restaurants and gyms. They take part-time directorships in large companies which take up time they should be using to serve the public. Only a few years ago we discovered that large numbers of them were cheating on their expense claims. They take more than £32,000 in “Resettlement Grant” if we kick them out after one term – which, in my opinion, means all five authors of Britannia Unchained should be applying for it in 2015.

These are the people who most strongly represent the ‘something-for-nothing’ sense of entitlement the book decries.

Have any of them ever worked in a factory or carried out manual labour? I’ll answer that for you: With the exception of Elizabeth Truss, who did a few years as a management accountant at Shell/Cable and Wireless, none of them have ever done anything that could be called real work.

In fact, the people they accuse work very long hours – especially the self-employed. When I ran my own news website, I was busy for 12-14 hours a day (much to the distress of my girlfriend). Employees also work long hours, get less annual leave, earn less and pay more – in prices for consumer goods, taxes and hidden taxes – than most of Europe. Average monthly pay rates have now dropped so low that they are failing to cover workers’ costs, leading to borrowing and debt.

Are British workers really among the laziest in the world? Accurate information is hard to find but it seems likely we’re around 24th on the world league table. On a planet with more than 200 sovereign nations (204 attended the London Olympics), that’s not too shabby at all.

Interestingly, the European workers clocking on for the fewest hours are German. Those lazy Teutons! How dare they work so little and still have the powerhouse economy of the continent?

If so many are reluctant to get up in the morning, why are the morning commuter trains standing room only? Or have the Britannia Unchained crowd never used this form of travel?

It seems to me that Britannia Unchained is just another attempt by the Tory right to make us work harder for less pay. The Coalition is currently cutting the public sector and benefits to the bone, while failing to introduce policies that create useful employment, and trying to boost private sector jobs. The private sector has cut wages and pensions. The result is higher unemployment and benefits that cannot sustain living costs, creating a working-age population desperate for any kind of employment at all (even at the too-low wages already discussed).

And let’s remember that Conservatives want to remove employment laws to make it easier to dismiss employees. In other words, they want a workforce that will toil for a pittance, under threat of swift dismissal and the loss of what little they have.

Why do they think this will improve the UK’s performance?

We already work longer hours and have less protective legislation than in Europe (such as the European Time Directive). But we are less productive in terms of GDP than their French and German counterparts, who work fewer hours and are protected by the likes of the ETD.

France is more unionised than we are, yet its production per employee is higher.

The problem is poor management and bad leadership. Poor productivity is almost always due to poor investment and poor training. Workers are abused when they should be treated as an investment. They lose motivation and when managers get their decisions wrong, they blame the workers.

Working class people are sick of grafting for low pay and in poor working conditions, to be exploited by the types of people represented by the authors of Britannia Unchained.

Is it any wonder we feel de-motivated?

I started this article by linking The Dandy to Britannia Unchained, noting that one was coming to the end of its life in print while the other was about to be published for the first time. I’ll end by pointing out a quality they have in common.

The Dandy is closing because it represents ideas that are now tired and out-of-date. Britannia Unchained should never see publication – for the same reason.