Tag Archives: taxpayer

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/


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Conservatives run up other people’s bills – unlike socialists, who always pay theirs

Voting for Theresa May’s minimum-wage Tories is like trying to dig your way out of a hole; they will only put you deeper into debt.

Yes – the headline paraphrases the late, unlamented Margaret Thatcher, but reverses her claim in the name of accuracy.

Here’s her original comment, in an infographic from Twitter – but pay attention to the weblink attached to it:

Read the article and the reason I edited the late Blue Baroness’s claim should be clear:

Companies in the UK are paying their workers so little that the taxpayer has to top up wages to the tune of £11bn a year. The four big supermarkets (Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons) alone are costing just under £1bn a year in tax credits and extra benefits payments.

This is a direct transfer from the rest of society to some of the largest businesses in the country. To put the figure in perspective, the total cost of benefit fraud last year was just £1bn. Corporate scrounging costs 11 times that.

Worse, this is a direct subsidy for poverty pay. If supermarkets and other low-paying employers know they can secure work even at derisory wages, since pay will be topped up by the state, they have no incentive to offer higher wages.

None of this makes sense. We are all, in effect, paying a huge sum of money so that we can continue to underpay the 22% of workers who are earning below the Living Wage – the level at which it is possible to live without government subsidies. The only possible beneficiaries are business owners.

So you can see very clearly that big businesses – which are predominantly run by people who vote Conservative, are members of the Conservative Party or are donors to the Conservative Party – are clearly refusing to pay their bills. As employers they have a duty to pay a reasonable amount to their workers.

Libertarians will undoubtedly be heading for the ‘Comment’ box to claim that all contracts are valid as employees have freely entered into them – but this of course ignores the fact that people are effectively coerced into accepting unfair wage offers because government policy on unemployment benefits forces them to accept any offers given to them, and this provides an incentive for businesses to keep those offers low.

So there is an argument that none of these contracts are valid as they are not entered into by people in equal positions. Hmm…

Socialists of course expect people to fully fund everything that benefits them. So, for example, the NHS was founded on the principle that everybody pays a little towards the health service, to ensure that all those who need its care will benefit from it. From each according to their ability, to each according to their need. It’s an insurance policy – but, strangely, capitalists approve of private insurance but criticise the system that funds public services. Odd people.

Consider also their willingness to use systems and services that are publicly-funded, while taking advantage of tax avoidance schemes to ensure that they don’t have to pay for them. That’s fraud and theft, isn’t it?

We may conclude that Mrs Thatcher was lying – and so is anybody who echoes her words or their meaning.

Also that the Conservative government is acting against contract law by forcing people into unfair employment conditions.

And that businesses are unfairly profiting from these harmful contracts.

I could go on to explain how this damages the UK economy by reducing the flow of cash through it, but you should be aware of this fact already – in practice.

It won’t change under a Conservative government because Conservatives are greedy and do not understand economics. So we need to end Conservative government.

Spread the word.


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Council boss uses taxpayer cash unlawfully to make blogger homeless for filming meeting

Mark James (left) used taxpayers' money to sue Jacqui Thompson (right) for libel, claiming she had waged a campaign of "harassment, intimidation and libel" against council staff.

Mark James (left) used taxpayers’ money to sue Jacqui Thompson (right) for libel, claiming she had waged a campaign of “harassment, intimidation and libel” against council staff [Composite: The Canary].

Congratulations to The Canary for getting a story out before I could.

If anybody wants to read the gritty details, take a look here, here and here.

I notice Mark James has been invited to respond to the story but has not yet done so, leading me to suggest a note of caution for Canary boss Kerry-Anne Mendoza:

Is this litigious man consulting his lawyers, do you think?

Blogger Jacqui Thompson tried to film a public Carmarthenshire Council meeting in the interest of accountability. She’s now being ordered to sell her home after council boss Mark James sued her for libel, despite him unlawfully using taxpayer cash to pay legal costs.

Thompson began filming what she viewed as “the latest travesty for democracy” at the council back in 2011. She felt the council leadership was ignoring strong local opposition to its plans at the public meeting. After trying to film the proceedings on her mobile, the council had her arrested, handcuffed and detained at a police station for two hours.

She was arrested on peacekeeping grounds, despite only calmly filming from a balcony.

The Coalition government’s guidelines were at odds with the decision to phone the police. They read that kicking people out of council meetings only for filming is “at odds with the fundamentals of democracy”.

In the aftermath of her arrest, James accused Thompson and her family of “running a campaign of harassment, intimidation and defamation of council staff”. The arrest received a lot of negative press. So Thompson viewed James’s online post as a character assassination attempt and sued the council boss for libel. But James successfully counter-sued, with the judge ruling that Thompson conducted a smear campaign as “revenge”.

James is now forcing the sale of Thompson’s family home to retrieve damages which have risen to £35,392 after interest. The mother has 14 days to respond. Unlike the council boss, Thompson will also have to pay her own legal costs of £190,000.

Source: A blogger made a brave stand against a council boss, now he’s making her homeless | The Canary

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Government determined to lose money on RBS share sale

The total (expected) loss to the UK taxpayer from the sale of RBS will be £13 billion. Lucky for some, eh?

Yes – lucky for those who are rich enough to be able to afford shares in this bank; shares valued at much less than they were when the taxpayer bought this bank as a loss-making firm, and shares that will be worth huge dividends each year, now that this bank is starting to make profits again.

It isn’t the government that will make a loss on the sale, though – it’s the population of the UK. Note that the sale is happening now that RBS is starting to turn a profit again – that’s not for the likes of you and I, though! No, we must suffer the loss, at a time when the United Kingdom needs the money.

Isn’t it strange, how the Conservative Government that demands that we must shoulder any burden, including the premature deaths of our loved ones due to the removal of £12 billion of social security funding…

Isn’t it strange how these Tories are happy to accept a loss greater than that, in order to give the undeserving rich an undeserved reward?

The government has started to sell off its 78% stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland.

UK Financial Investments, the body that holds the government’s RBS stake, said it would offer about 600 million shares, representing 5.2% of the bank, to institutional investors.

It is expected that the government will make a loss of about £1bn on the sale.

Source: Government starts RBS share sell-off – BBC News

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Voting with the Tories on ‘welfare’ will end any credibility Labour has left

George Osborne is a liar, from a party of liars - one only has to consider the UK's secret bombing of Syria - after Parliament voted against it - to see the truth in that.

George Osborne is a liar, from a party of liars – one only has to consider the UK’s secret bombing of Syria – after Parliament voted against it – to see the truth in that.

What an amazing piece in The Guardian about George Osborne’s call for “progressive” Labour MPs to support his entirely regressive changes to social security (the only people who call it “welfare” are Tories)!

Will people believe this pack of lies?

The article starts by saying he has urged “progressive” MPs in the Labour party to back his cuts in a major Commons vote today (Monday) on the Tories’ Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

He wants Labour MPs – but more importantly, the electorate, to think that the plan to cut child tax credits (among other measures) is what the public wants, and also builds on “mainstream Labour thinking”.

This is moonshine.

Labour believes that the profits of all our work should be shared out to ensure a decent standard of living for everybody, including those who cannot work but contribute to society in other ways. For example, if you have children, then you get child tax credits because their contribution to society has yet to be made.

Removing the tax credits and lowering the standard of living – as the Conservative chancellor’s plans would do to many people – is therefore the opposite of “mainstream Labour thinking”.

Osborne also calls on Labour to “stop blaming the public for its defeat”. This is typical Tory gaslighting. As a party, Labour has not blamed the public. The prevailing mood in the party is that Labour needs to draw the correct conclusions from the election result and create policies that acknowledge what the public wants, while fitting Labour values.

That’s real Labour values – not George Osborne’s fantasy.

You can tell that Labour isn’t doing as Osborne claims. Nowhere in the Guardian article is any factual evidence provided to show Labour has blamed the electorate for its defeat. Harriet Harman is paraphrased as having said the party needed to recognise that the electorate had sent Labour a message – which is quite the opposite.

Osborne also fails to support his claim that the majority of the electorate support his cuts. The majority of the electorate voted against the Conservative Party on May 7, with the Tories managing to gain only a 24.3 per cent share of the possible vote and a tiny 12-seat advantage in Parliament. That does not indicate majority support for the cuts programme.

The article states: “Osborne sprung a surprise in the budget by proposing cuts to the level of tax credits, but balanced these in part by a rise in the minimum wage to more than £9 an hour by 2020 for those over 25.” Notice that the tax credit cut is immediate, but the minimum wage will only rise to more than £9 per hour in five years’ time. How are people supposed to survive in the years between?

Also, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the cut in tax credits, along with the other cuts that ‘Slasher’ Osborne wants to make, will remove £12 billion from the economy – but the minimum wage rise – when it finally happens – will only add £4 billion.

So the Conservatives want Labour to support an £8 billion cut in living standards for the people who can least accommodate it.

Osborne’s argument that the responsibility for ensuring decent living standards should be rebalanced, from the state handing out subsidies towards employers providing decent wages, falls because he has no intention of making employers pay decent wages.

Osborne also writes: “Three in four people – and a majority of Labour voters – think that Britain spends too much on welfare.”

Are these the same people who think 41 per cent of the entire social security budget goes on unemployment benefits, when the actual proportion is just three per cent?

Are these the same people who think 27 per cent of the entire social security budget is claimed fraudulently, when the actual proportion is just 0.7 per cent?

Are these the people who believe George Osborne’s lies, and the lies of the Conservative Government?

In case anybody is wondering, the figures quoted above are from a TUC poll that was carried out a couple of years ago. It seems that, with the help of compliant media (such as The Guardian?) the Conservatives have succeeded in continuing to mislead the general public.

Osborne continued: “For our social contract to work, we need to retain the consent of the taxpayer, not just the welfare recipient.”

People receiving social security payments are also taxpayers; indirect taxation accounts for around three-quarters of the taxes received by the UK Treasury from the 20 per cent of people in the lowest income group.

The lies keep coming: “For those that can work, I believe it is better to earn a higher income from your work than receive a higher income from welfare.” If this was true, then he would have forced the minimum wage up to a point at which people would no longer need to claim tax credits in order to receive the same amount. He didn’t; he lied.

Osborne goes on to praise interim Labour leader Harriet Harman for capitulating to the Conservatives over child tax credits. There is only one reason he would do this – to undermine support for the Labour Party by suggesting that it really is ‘Tory-Lite’. Shame on Ms Harman for allowing this to happen!

His claim, “She recognised that oppositions only advance when they … recognise that some of the arguments made by political opponents should be listened to,” would be reasonable if the argument for cutting tax credits was sound, but it isn’t – people will be worse-off in this instance. If people were to become better-off afterwards, he might have a point. As it is, it is drivel.

His very next point confirms this: “A previous Conservative opposition realised [this] 15 years ago when it accepted the case for a minimum wage.” The Conservative Party only accepted this case in 2008, under David Cameron – a Tory leader who, when campaigning unsuccessfully for the Stafford constituency seat in 1996, had said it would “send unemployment straight back up” (The Chronicle (Stafford), February 21 1996). Even now, many Tory supporters despise the minimum wage.

Osborne ended with an appeal for “moderate” Labour MPs to vote with his party.

That would be the end of any credibility Labour has remaining, as a party of Opposition.

According to The Guardian, Osborne said: “The proposals are part of a common endeavour by Labour and the Conservatives to implement difficult welfare reforms.” Again, he is trying to make the public think Labour and the Tories are the same. Labour MPs would have to be complete idiots to help him.

Some of the complete idiots in Labour who have already helped him are, according to Osborne, “New Labour work and pensions secretaries such as John Hutton, David Blunkett and James Purnell [who] all tried to reform the welfare system… Alistair Darling [who] says tax credits are ‘subsidising lower wages in a way that was never intended’ [and] Frank Field… [who] agrees the system as it stands is simply ‘not sustainable’ and the budget represents a ‘game-changer’.”

Wouldn’t social security be a little more sustainable if George Osborne spent less time obsessing about wringing more money from those who can least afford to lose it, and more time getting his extremely rich corporate friend to pay up more of the £120 billion a year they are believed to owe in unpaid taxes?

Why isn’t Labour making this point, whenever Tories like Osborne start bleating that anything is “unsustainable”?

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‘Two-kitchens Miliband’, Tories? At least he didn’t use public cash like Cameron!

There is a skill to political attacks; you have to pick your target very carefully, know that attacking it won’t backfire on you, and you have to make it effective.

The Conservative Party has clearly forgotten all this as it is currently firing blindly into the darkness in the vain hope that it will hit something… and this is a vain hope as it is firing blanks.

Look at yesterday’s attack on Labour leader Ed Miliband, who is apparently so rich he can afford to spend the money he has earned on a second kitchen at his home:

150314kitchens

It might be enough to fool the unwary, but has everybody forgotten David Cameron’s little kitchen secret? The Guardian reported it, back in 2011, when it stated that Cameron “has spent more than £680,000 of public money renovating Downing Street in the year that his government inflicted the biggest ever spending cuts across the public sector… including £30,000 for work he and his wife, Samantha, carried out on the No 11 flat last summer.

“The centrepiece of their revamp was the kitchen.”

Just so you can compare and contrast, here’s how the Cameron kitchen looked after the £30,000 revamp for which we paid:

The Cameron kitchen in Downing Street after a £30,000 renovation, funded by the taxpayer, in 2011. Sofa modelling by America's First Lady and some woman who works for a company of tax avoiders.

The Cameron kitchen in Downing Street after a £30,000 renovation, funded by the taxpayer, in 2011. Sofa modelling by America’s First Lady and some woman who works for a company of tax avoiders.

It seems Ed Miliband’s claim to be a man of the people is more secure than David Cameron’s!

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Sign our petition to kill Osborne’s ‘tax statement’ propaganda sheet

141104taxleaflet2

[Image: Daily Mirror.]

Remember when the Transparency of Lobbying, Third-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act (otherwise known as the Gagging Act) was passed, in January this year? Vox Political warned that it marked the end of free speech and free protest in the UK.

The article showed that the new law means you may no longer link up with others to protest government actions in any meaningful way – as such action may breach Liberal Democrat and Tory government-imposed spending limits. Your personal complaints will be deemed unrepresentative of the people.

In that article, this blog asked why the government has launched its attack on free speech and free protest, and suggested the following: Perhaps it wants to control the information you receive, on which you base your voting intentions?

This week we received confirmation of that theory – or at least, some of us did.

The ‘tax statements’ being sent out to Income Taxpayers by the Treasury – on the orders of George Osborne – are nothing less than party political electioneering, being carried out using those taxpayers’ own money rather than the Tory Party’s funds. The leaflet is worded in a very carefully-chosen way that betrays a clear intention to mislead readers – most particularly about the amount of our Income Tax that is spent on ‘welfare’.

To illustrate the extent of the problem: We cannot say this is the same as social security, as – according to the terms of the leaflet – it isn’t. Apparently a quarter of our money is spent on ‘welfare’, which is then broken down into bizarre categories like ‘social protection’ – including, alongside social security, personal care services which nobody has defined as ‘welfare’ until know, and the pensions of retired mandarins, colonels and lowlier public servants who will be appalled to hear their hard-earned retirement provision re-labelled as ‘welfare’, according to The Guardian‘s editorial on the subject. David Cameron’s pension would be defined as ‘welfare’, according to this categorisation.

Meanwhile, state pensions have been defined as being paid from an entirely different source (they aren’t), in order to safeguard the Grey vote from the indignation that – clearly – this piece of politically-prompted propaganda is intended to stoke.

The fact is that – as the Mirror points out – Income Taxpayers put a lot more than 12p in every pound towards pensions, and a lot less than 24p in every pound towards working-age benefits.

Here are another couple of tricks – possibly the nastiest of the lot: Firstly, the leaflet does not make it clear that ‘welfare’ payments are made to people who have a right to them “because of family or medical circumstance, or indeed a record of national insurance contributions”. The impression foisted on the reader is of “unearned handouts to the poor”, according to the Guardian editorial.

Secondly, the leaflet as a whole does not mention the contribution of VAT payments to the national purse. This is because the government has cut Income Tax (irrationally – it has a huge deficit and debt to pay off but has reduced its own income). The thinking behind this is that people will think they have been allowed to keep more of the money they have earned. But the same government has increased VAT, meaning that – in fact – people are being taxed more heavily!

What is the intended result of all this deception? It is as Vox Political described, back in January:

“You would be led to believe that the governments policies are working, exactly the way the government says they are working.

“You would not have any reason to believe that the government is lying to you on a daily basis.

“You would be tranquillised.

“Anaesthetised.

“Compliant.”

What a relief that nobody believes that filthy liar Osborne – even his own backbenchers!

This is how they see him – offering empty promises as a ‘carrot’ to encourage voters to support the Tories.

Osborne’s behaviour is so appalling that this blog has started a petition, calling on the government to withdraw these propaganda sheets that pretend to be official government information – and apologise for ever releasing them in the first place.

It is on the Change.org website, please sign it by clicking here.

Other blogs on the ‘tax summaries’ are available from Virtual Gherkin and Same Difference.

We must not allow this abuse of public authority – and public funds – to take place.

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Taxpayers are being misled into funding the private firms that are raiding our NHS

NHSRIP

It seems more than half of the UK’s voting public would be willing to pay more income tax in order to fund the National Health Service.

Pollsters ComRes told The Guardian that 49 per cent of people would accept a tax hike if the money went directly to the NHS, compared with 33 per cent who would not and 18 per cent who didn’t know what they would do.

This must be very gratifying for David Cameron, whose creeping privatisation of the NHS is at least partly to blame for the increasing deficit faced by the UK’s flagship public service. The Private Finance Initiative, introduced by the Conservatives in the early 1990s, must also take much of the flak, along with a reduced funding commitment from the Coalition government.

(We can’t be sure about the government’s funding commitment. Back in 2010, then-NHS chief exec Sir David Nicholson said it would have to make £20 billion of efficiency savings within four years – but the Coalition Agreement of 2010 promised “We will guarantee that health spending increases in real terms in each year of the Parliament”. However – again – by late 2012 the figures showed a real-terms cut in expenditure which meant the government was not taking its commitment seriously.)

Professor Chris Ham, chief executive of health thinktank The King’s Fund, reckons people want to help the NHS because they have been led to believe that it is starting to struggle financially and clinically, and because they value it very highly.

This indicates that the public has been misled.

Look at the Private Finance Initiative. According to Private Eye (issue 1,369, p34), buying its way out of a PFI contract for Hexham General Hospital will cost Northumbria NHS Foundation Trust no less than £114.2 million. That’s exorbitant enough, but consider this: the buy-out will save around £3.5 million a year on PFI costs over the 19 years the contract would otherwise have had to run.

How badly are PFI contracts crippling the NHS? Well, according to The Guardian, PFI repayments were costing the service £1.76 billion – that’s almost two per cent of the £100+billion budget.

That pales into insignificance next to the amount spent on contracts for private companies to carry out NHS work – £6 billion. Some of that, admittedly, will go into healthcare – but a large proportion will be hived off as profit.

And then there are the real-terms expenditure cuts that appear to be part of government policy. Spending has not risen in real terms since the Coalition government came into office in 2010.

No wonder the NHS is in trouble.

So thank goodness for all the kind-hearted earners who are happy to pay an extra penny from every pound they earn, for the NHS. But that won’t cover the projected £30 billion gap in its finances by 2020.

Taking average earnings to be £26,000 per year (as the government does), then every earner would have to pay an extra 4p in the pound. Tax paid on £26k per annum is 20p in the pound, so that’s a tax increase of nearly 17 per cent or one-sixth.

Earners would be £1,040 per year worse-off. That could put many of them in financial difficulty.

And they would be paying debts accrued by big businesses who wanted to profit from healthcare.

Happily.

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Housing benefit bombshell has been building up for decades

housing-benefit-graph

Why are we being asked to believe it is such a surprise that the number of working people who have to rely on housing benefit has doubled in the last five years – at huge cost to the taxpayer?

It is all part of the “long-term economic plan” that the Conservatives keep mentioning, every chance they get.

That plan is to provide government support to major employers and to private landlords rather than the people who need it.

We know that the Conservatives have spent almost 40 years working to undermine working people, with policies designed to increase financial insecurity among those who have to work for a living. For example, the humbling of the unions ensured that increasingly meagre pay settlements would contribute to an ever-widening gap between the lowest and the highest rates of pay. Huge amounts of wealth have been transferred from the masses to an ever-smaller ‘elite’, guaranteeing their support for the Tories.

Ever-diminishing pay and rising living costs have meant that increasing numbers of people have had to claim benefits, even though they have been in full-time work. Again, this attacks people on low and middle incomes, rather than those who are paid the most; people in the highest tax brackets have been able to take advantage of legal tax avoidance schemes, some of which have been created by the current Chancellor, George Osborne. That has left those on lower pay scales to subsidise housing benefit through the taxes they pay – another drain on their resources.

Depressed rates of pay for those in work have necessitated government action on benefits for the unemployed, in order to justify claims that the Coalition has been “making work pay”. This has meant below-inflation increases in out-of-work benefits that have made them inadequate to cover living costs, forcing the unemployed to face the possibility of losing their homes and possessions to the bailiffs as their debts mount up. In order to avoid this, they find themselves forced to accept work at ridiculously low rates of pay, if they can find it.

This in turn has made it possible for employers to refuse calls for pay increases – anyone making such a request may be told that an unemployed person would happily do their job for even less – and so the wheel turns back to its starting point and the cycle begins all over again.

A consequence of all this is that private landlords benefit from increased inflows of housing benefit into their pockets. The law allows them to increase their rents in line with the going rate, with no reference to tenants’ ability to pay; housing benefit is then used to help tenants achieve that amount, but it is the landlord who benefits from the increase – not the tenant. These are people who are already, by definition, well-off – otherwise they would not have been able to buy the property and make it fit to rent out.

The Conservatives’ “long-term economic plan” is to leech wealth from anybody poorer than them and create a new feudalism, with themselves as lords and everybody else as vassals, only able to make a living under conditions granted by the moneyed few; a modern slave-state.

According to The Independent, the cost to the taxpayer of in-work benefits will be £6 billion by 2018-19, nearly triple the £2.2 billion it cost in 2009-10. LabourList reckons the total cost of in-work poverty by 2019 will be more than double that amount, at £12.9 billion.

The total cost of housing benefit has already almost tripled, from £8.8 billion in 1990 to £24.4 billion now – despite the apparent efforts of Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions. This is because all their cost-cutting efforts have been about finding ways of denying the benefit to people who deserve it.

Helping people earn enough to obviate the need for housing benefit runs contrary to the “long-term economic plan”, you see.

And what do you think this says about where the benefits of economic growth are going?

The Independent article states that the Department for Work and Pensions has claimed the number of unemployed housing benefit claimants has fallen since 2010, arguing that it is better for people to be employed, paying taxes and contributing towards their rents than to be “languishing” on out-of-work benefits, living on government payouts.

Technically, this may seem like a good argument. The minimum wage for full-time work is £11,700 per year, more than the increased tax threshold introduced by the Coalition government – but this means that, with Income Tax at 20 per cent, a full-time worker would lose one-fifth of everything earned above the £10,000 threshold, passing just £340 on to the government. They are likely to receive more than that in housing benefit. And the level of pay is still a pittance.

Worse still, a drop in the number of unemployed claimants does not mean they have all found jobs. Some will have been pushed off the system by the Bedroom Tax, which has made it impossible for some households to meet their rent commitments.

And there is no guarantee that the extra working people are paying taxes either – they might be self-employed (or claiming to be self-employed – see earlier VP articles on the subject) who are not earning anything like enough money to provide for themselves; they might be on zero-hours contracts – technically in work but on health-endangering wages; they might even be on a government-mandated Workfare scheme, in which case their only pay will be state benefits.

Mark Harper, Minister for Disabled People, claimed that the Coalition government had taken action to get the system under control by capping benefits “so no family can claim more than the average family gets by going out to work and we’ve put an end to unlimited housing benefit”.

He added that Labour voted against the cap, and against a general limit on benefits.

But this is disingenuous. The Tory/Coalition benefit cap was set at a level more than £5,000 below the income an average family receives – because it didn’t take into account what such a family would get in benefits! It seems likely that level was pegged lower because the Tories realised that a cap at the proper level would mean almost nobody would be disqualified from receiving benefit.

Harper’s claim that the system under the previous Labour administration “saw some people claiming £104,000 a year,” is also disingenuous as it related to a handful of people in specific circumstances. None of them are receiving anything like that amount now, and it is unclear whether this had anything to do with Coalition policies.

Labour, on the other hand, has hit the nail squarely on the head by pointing out that the rise in benefit claims is entirely due to the Tory-led Coalition’s failure to tackle low pay, insecure work and the cost of living crisis – although the opposition party stopped short of actually claiming that this was the plan all along.

The party has said that, if elected into office, it would build more homes and cap rents, easing the excessive demand that has made it possible for landlords to demand more and preventing abuse of the rental market.

Labour would raise the minimum wage and introduce contracts for the living wage – at which an employee earns enough not to need benefits – wherever possible.

Both sides are treating housing benefit like a disease.

The difference is that the Conservatives want to cure it by attacking the victim, while Labour want to attack the cause.

Which would you prefer to have as your doctor?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Jobs for the boys – and a possible conflict of interest – in new government contract

[Image: Ktemoc Konsiders - http://ktemoc.blogspot.co.uk/]

[Image: Ktemoc Konsiders – http://ktemoc.blogspot.co.uk/]

The Coalition government has named the company that is to carry out its new programme to discourage people from claiming incapacity benefits – and, like all Coalition decisions, it is a disaster.

The contract for the new Health and Work Service in England and Wales will be delivered by Health Management Ltd – a MAXIMUS company.

This is triply bad for the United Kingdom.

Firstly, MAXIMUS is an American company so yet again, British taxpayers’ money will be winging its way abroad to boost a foreign economy, to the detriment of our own.

Next, MAXIMUS is already a Work Programme provider company in the UK. The Work Programme attempts to shoehorn jobseekers – including people on incapacity benefits – into any employment that is available, with the companies involved paid according to the results they achieve (on the face of it. In fact, it has been proved that the whole system is a scam to funnel taxpayers’ money into the hands of private firms as profit, whether they’ve done the work or not). Health and Work, on the other hand, is a strategy to slow the number of people claiming incapacity benefits with an assessment system – think ‘Work Capability Assessment’ designed to fast-track sicknote users back to their jobs.

We know from the government’s original press release that it has failed to reach its target for clearing people off incapacity benefit, so it seems that Health and Work has been devised to make more profit for MAXIMUS by ensuring that it can claim fees, not only for the number of incapacity benefit claimants it handles on the Work Programme, but also for the number of employees it ensures will NOT claim incapacity benefits.

It’s a win-win situation for the company and a clear conflict of interest – logically the firm will concentrate on whichever activity brings it the most UK government money. MAXIMUS may claim there are ‘Chinese walls’ to prevent any corruption, such as one activity being carried out by a subsidiary, but this must be nonsense. MAXIMUS will do what is best for MAXIMUS.

Thirdly, we have a new layer of bureacracy to torture sick people who only want peace and quiet in order to get better. Look at what Vox Political had to say about the scheme when it was announced in February:

“‘The work-focused occupational health assessment will identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their employer and GP, recommending how the employee can be helped back to work more quickly.’

Health doesn’t get a look-in.

“No, what we’re most probably seeing is an expansion of the “biopsychosocial” method employed in work capability assessments, in an attempt to convince sick people that their illnesses are all in their minds. Don’t expect this approach to be used for people with broken limbs or easily-medicated diseases; this is for the new kinds of ‘subjective illness’, for which medical science has not been prepared – ‘chronic pain’, ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, fibromyalgia and the like.

“People with these conditions will probably be sent back to work – with speed. Their conditions may worsen, their lives may become an unending hell of pain and threats – I write from experience, as Mrs Mike spent around two years trying to soldier on in her job before finally giving up and claiming her own incapacity benefits – but that won’t matter to the DWP as long as they’re not claiming benefits.”

That previous article was wrong, in fact. There is a health angle to this.

It is a plan to stitch us all up.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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