Tag Archives: Wales

#Wales gets it right with #fines for firms forcing employees not to #workfromhome

Do it online if you can: but will employees really be penalised by the new Welsh Government rule?

I can think of at least one employer of people in Wales that will hate this:

From Monday (December 27), workers will receive a £60 fixed penalty notice and companies will be fined £1,000 every time they are found not to be working from home, with no good reason for being at their normal place of work.

For employers, this could rise to a maximum fine of £10,000.

The new measure to limit the spread of Covid-19 (in the light of the rise of the Omicron variant) is being imposed by the Welsh government.

Employers will be expected to take all reasonable steps to facilitate home working and provide employees with the support they need.

Unions have raised concerns that employers will be able to protect themselves from fines by placing liability on workers, but I don’t see how this can work.

It should be fairly obvious if an employee is able to work from home, and if an employer if restricting them from doing so.

For example, as a journalist, I’m entirely capable of working from home. I’ve been doing it successfully for 10 days short of 10 years, at the time of writing.

But a previous employer, that wanted to move its branch office to 41 miles away from my home for no very good reason, demanded that I travel that distance every day, even though it was possible that I would have to travel back again (to my patch) during the day, and then return to the office to write up my stories.

I was capable of working from home. My employer was restricting me from doing so.

I honestly think my then-bosses were mystified when I resigned. I went on to better things and the local edition of the newspaper folded. I think other changes had to be made in the firm to cover its losses, although that may just be gossip.

All because an employer refused to allow an employee to work from home.

I’m not suggesting that anyone should quit their job if their employer orders them to attend a workplace that may infect them with Covid-19.

Obviously, being compelled by their boss should be a good enough reason for them to do so. Then the burden of responsibility would fall onto the employer.

If the Welsh Government was really serious about this, though, there’s an obvious answer:

A contact system for whistleblowers.

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Welsh Labour is finalising plans for UBI pilot that could slash poverty and galvanise the economy

Mark Drakeford: Wales’ First Minister has promised to devote the rest of his time in office to rolling out a Universal Basic Income that will lift everybody in Wales out of poverty.

While England suffers under Boris Johnson’s tyranny, Wales may soon prosper under a coalition of Labour and Plaid Cymru led by Mark Drakeford.

Flagship policy is Drakeford’s plan to roll out a Universal Basic Income that could slash poverty by at least 50 per cent in a stroke. A pilot is planned for the spring involving young people leaving care, with other groups to be added.

The aim seems to be to find a way of introducing it without provoking sanctions from the deeply neoliberal – and poverty-encouraging – UK government run by Tory Boris Johnson in Westminster.

It seems the aim is to present Johnson with an argument he can’t refute, like showing the plan improves economic activity by giving people more spending power – as indicated by research from the Autonomy think tank.

According to Autonomy’s report, an introductory UBI of just £60 per week for adults aged 18-65, across the whole of Wales, would immediately cut poverty in half – and child poverty by two-thirds (to 10 per cent from 28 per cent, currently the highest level in the UK).

Pensioners would get £175 on this system, and pensioner poverty would be cut by 61 per cent.

A more substantial (and, yes, more expensive) UBI rate would almost wipe out Welsh poverty entirely. It is suggested as a long-term goal for policymakers.

The report forecast that UBI could create £600 million of extra spending in Wales by putting more cash in the pockets of lower-income households – the group acknowledged to spend most of its income into the economy, rather than saving it.

This would generate tax income for the Welsh government, allowing it to push on with further progressive policies.

The income security provided by UBI will improve the nation’s health and increase life expectancy – people in Wales will be able to expect longer and healthier lives.

And people will enjoy more freedom to try new things like finding appropriate jobs, starting businesses of their own, or improving their education or skills. These are all things that the Tory system of means-tested and heavily-restricted benefits suppress.

And the Welsh people support it by a clear majority. Surveys show 69 per cent of the Welsh public want UBI, while only 11 per cent oppose it.

And the First Secretary of Wales, Mark Drakeford, has said he will devote the remainder of his time in office to rolling out UBI in Wales.

This could be hugely important, not just for Wales, but for UK politics as a whole.

As England sinks into the mire of Tory corruption, its people forced deeper and deeper into poverty by higher costs for groceries, commodities and – very soon – health care, they may find themselves staring across Offa’s Dyke at a land of healthy, happy, people in a country that is moving forward, not downward.

The Tories will do their best to obstruct it, of course, but they can’t stop it. Indeed, any overt attempt to do so will be rightly condemned as anti-democratic.

Done properly, it may stand as a demonstration of the harm being done by Tory – and Westminster Labour – neoliberalism that promised us increased wealth for the rich minority that would trickle down to the rest of us once they’d had enough but only proved that the rich minority never have enough and enjoy keeping the rest of us in poverty and misery anyway.

In short: this could be the pebble that starts an avalanche, overturning failed right-wing economics for good.

Or am I overstating it?

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Welsh Tory claims that ‘voter ID’ Bill is ‘nothing to fear’ are nonsense

Voting: if the Tories get their way, don’t bank on being allowed to put your ‘X’ in any boxes unless you are prepared to go through a new layer of pointless bureaucracy.

The Welsh Conservatives: what a ridiculous, small-minded clutch of creeps!

Their current wheeze is trying to pretend that the new Elections Bill in Westminster – that will cheat 3.5 million people out of being able to vote – is “nothing to fear”.

Well, it might be nothing for them to fear, but for Welsh voters it is very serious! This Site calls it the Voter Restriction Bill.

The Welsh Government is rightly opposing the Bill, for reasons we’ll discuss shortly.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Constitution, Darren Millar (who?) said: “This is nothing more than mischief making from the Welsh Government and its allies.

“Voters in Wales have nothing to fear from these proposals. The only people who should be concerned are those who intend to commit election fraud.

“People are required to present ID to vote in many vibrant democracies around the world including Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Iceland and Italy so I see no reason why this shouldn’t be the norm here in Wales.”

Fortunately there are adults in Welsh politics who are able to explain to these Tory might-as-well-be children what their own party’s legislation means.

Jess Blair, Director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru (Wales), said: “This Elections Bill could lead to a ‘two tier franchise’ in Wales, with some elections banning those without ID, and others remaining open and free.”

It means that, if any UK and Welsh elections took place on the same day, two sets of rules about how people take part would apply. Some people would be certain to become confused and fail to take ID – if they had it – meaning they would be excluded from voting in the Westminster election.

“This bill would ban anyone without ID from voting, while forcing over-stretched council workers to become bouncers at the ballot box, turning away potentially thousands of would-be voters each election. There is simply no need for this costly barrier to democracy. At a cost of up to £180m per decade, forcing this through is a strange priority for UK ministers right now.

“Moreover, the changes to the Electoral Commission represent a UK government power grab, with ministers given new controls over our elections watchdog. This is a dangerous and unprecedented move that the Welsh Government is right to oppose.”

Other plans would remove the 15-year limit on overseas electors in UK general elections – to allow Tory donors to continue participating in elections; ban party campaigners from handling postal votes, and stop people from collecting postal votes from people who are unable to get to post boxes and handing them in.

In a paper published on the Senedd website Counsel General Mick Antoniw wrote: “The Welsh government does not support the introduction of voter ID, the placing of unnecessary constraints on postal and proxy voting, or the extension of the overseas franchise.”

Do not be confused: the BBC may claim the move toward voter ID is a bid to prevent possible fraud from people pretending to be someone they are not at a voting station – but how can it be, when such crime is practically nonexistent in the UK and this legislation will cost £180 million per decade?

No – this is a bid to make it harder for working class, older and black, Asian and minority ethnic people to vote.

And the reason is clear: these are all people who are unlikely to vote for Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.

Source: Welsh Tories claim there’s ‘nothing to fear’ from bill that bans those without ID from voting

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Northern Ireland and Scotland want a referendum on leaving the UK. And Wales?

The ballot box: come on, Wales – let’s have a chance to tell Boris Johnson to get stuffed!

Welsh people are showing surprising loyalty to the United Kingdom after being progressively abused by Tory governments since 2010.

They are lagging behind Northern Ireland and Scotland, where polls show a majority of people in both countries want referenda on whether to quit the union.

In Northern Ireland, 68 per cent of people are demanding the right to choose whether to stay in the UK or join the Republic of Ireland.

Scotland will get its referendum if Nicola Sturgeon has her way.

Only Wales is dragging its feet over the chance to show national displeasure with Boris Johnson’s travesty of leadership – widely believed to be the worst government in UK history.

The latest poll in Wales shows just 28 per cent of people wanting independence.

It makes you wonder where people here get their news.

Source: 68% in Northern Ireland want referendum on leaving the UK

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Universal Basic Income pilot scheme to be launched in Wales. May I suggest Powys?

Money: a Universal Basic Income scheme guarantees that people receive enough money to support them, at all times. Some claim that this discourages them from working, but this is nonsense. Everyone wants more than the bare minimum, right? Or is the problem that employers only offer the bare minimum?

This is great news.

The Labour-run Welsh government was softly suggesting that it might support a Universal Basic Income (UBI) pilot scheme before the local elections.

But the election result has put 25 AMs in Cardiff Bay who signed a pledge promising to put pressure on governments and councils to launch trials.

That seems to have been enough to encourage Mark Drakeford to green-light projects in Wales, to be organised by new Social Justice minister Jane Hutt:

This Writer has had contact with Jane Hutt. I asked her for advice on a matter involving an acquaintance of mine and she took the time to provide a very full and helpful response. I think she is an effective and responsible public servant and that this project is in good hands with her.

The Guardian‘s article suggests that Rhondda Cynon Taff is among several Welsh councils that have expressed an interest in running a UBI pilot. I hope that my own home county – Powys – has also done so.

Powys is the biggest and most rural county in Wales, with many employment problems associated with having a sparse population. UBI could hugely help people here by removing the threat of sanction associated with the current benefit system and allowing people to concentrate on tackling local issues in a creative and adaptive way.

And it would be a real feather in Mr Drakeford’s cap to be able to say he’d managed to make UBI work across an entire quarter of Wales.

Source: Wales to launch pilot universal basic income scheme | Universal basic income | The Guardian

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Labour wins historic SIXTH term in succession in Welsh government – and may consider independence vote

Mark Drakeford: Wales’ First Minister has described the Tory government in Westminster as “utterly shambolic”.

Has any UK-based government won six successive terms? That’s what Labour just achieved in Wales.

It shows the advantage that sitting governments can use, when they actually deliver on their promises and do their best to help the population.

The mainstream media have been unforgivably quiet about it. Perhaps the London-based hacks think Wales doesn’t matter. They certainly pay more attention to Scotland, where the SNP has won only its fourth successive term.

That could all change very soon, with both devolved governments likely to support independence referenda if proposals are put before them.

I know Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to make it happen. The surprise here is that Mark Drakeford has said he will support an independence referendum in Wales, if there is a majority in the Senedd for holding one.

The contrast with Labour’s performance in England could not be more extreme – as social media commenters have merrily pointed out:

The lesson was very clearly put by Simon de Jever: “Drakeford is a left wing Corbyn supporting leader. Starmer is a Corbyn bashing centrist. Drakeford has had a spectacular win even in Brexit areas and Starmer has reduced the Labour vote to 29%.”

And Andrew Feinstein added: “Makes you think Starmer’s purge of the left and massive shift to the right might have been a mistake!”

 

 

Ya think?

The victory creates huge problems for Keir Starmer because his failure will be measured against Drakeford’s success. Some are already laying bets that Drakeford’s suspension from the Labour Party is already in the mail.

But if Drakeford is serious about permitting an independence referendum, it could create a monumental problem for Boris Johnson.

He can’t refuse permission for such a poll on the basis that we’ve had one recently (as in Scotland) because we haven’t.

He can’t rely on Wales rejecting independence because he knows his government has been so appallingly useless that many Welsh people may consider going it alone to be preferable – even if it means a few lean years in the immediate future. We’ll have hardship under the Tories indefinitely.

And it means he could be in line for a double dose of shame as the prime minister who presided over the end of the United Kingdom.

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Why was Hancock given shares in sister’s firm right before it won Welsh NHS contract?

Matt Hancock: stupid, incompetent, or corrupt?

There seems to be a lot of disillusionment with politics in the UK at the moment – evidenced by a lack of interest in political news.

At least, that’s how it seems to this commentator on political news.

It doesn’t help that there seems to be only one story in UK politics at the moment: corruption.

And why not? you may ask. Don’t politics and corruption go hand in hand?

Yes indeed – according to an old cliche.

But there seem to be no other stories right now. Even if there were, it’s likely that we’d be able to find an element of corruption in them. It has become the trademark of Boris Johnson’s government.

It’s also why people are turning away. They don’t like it; they want to get away from it.

But it won’t go away by itself. We need people who are willing to wade in, roll their sleeves up and cut out the rot.

We do have such people – and they are champing at the bit in their keenness to get to work.

But they won’t be able to do anything while the general public is still voting people like Matt Hancock into Parliament.

People like Hancock benefit from the system as it is currently constructed, so they are not going to change it.

I mention Hancock because he is the latest Tory to be associated with a government contract given to a private company.

He recently became a shareholder in a shredding, storage and security firm called Topwood – right before it won two NHS Wales contracts worth £150,000 each to carry out waste disposal including the shredding of confidential documents.

Shares in that firm are now held by three people: Managing Director Thomas Gilruth has 40, his wife Emily has another 40, and the remaining 20 went to her brother – Matt Hancock – after previous shareholders Bob and Shirley Carter gave up their 10 each, earlier this year.

Do we know why they gave up these shares? And it seems Hancock was given them, rather than buying them – isn’t that unusual?

Then there’s the timing – he received these shares right before Topwood won these large contracts, and Topwood coincidentally secured its place on the NHS Shared Business Services framework in 2019, just months after Hancock became Health Secretary.

Doesn’t it seem at least… odd… to you?

Legally, it seems there is nothing wrong. As Health Secretary in the Westminster government, Hancock has absolutely no influence on the awarding of contracts by NHS Wales, and this one was handed to Topwood after a competitive tendering process was completed. His interest in the firm has been declared.

But it doesn’t seem right, does it?

It seems as though Hancock used his influence as new Health Secretary to get his sister’s firm onto the NHS Shared Business Services framework nearly two years ago, and it seems that, now that the firm has a big contract, she and her husband are rewarding him with a share of the profits.

Even if that isn’t true – and I should stress I have no firm evidence in either direction – the fact that this is the way it seems is damaging for Topwood, for Hancock, and for the Johnson Tory government at a time when corruption is hot political news.

Hancock – who has also been mentioned in connection with the Greensill scandal (he had discussions with David Cameron) – should have refused the gift of shares in order to avoid any suggestion of impropriety.

But he didn’t.

As a result, the Tory government’s former anti-corruption champion has laid himself open to suggestions that he is either stupid, incompetent… or corrupt.

I hope someone follows the paper trail to find out how Topwood got onto that NHS Shared Business Services framework. It might be the only way Hancock can clear himself.

Or it might not. Either way, we need to know.

But I can confidently predict that, whatever the outcome, it won’t stop the voters of West Suffolk from supporting him again at the next general election.

Source: Matt Hancock Holds Shares In Sister’s Firm Who Won NHS Contracts | HuffPost UK

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The Tories are running scared into the local elections – and scared Tories are DANGEROUS Tories

Face of fear: Boris Johnson’s time is running out. The local elections will show him just how short that time may be. How far is he prepared to go to hold on to power?

Enjoy this video by Richard Murphy (I did):

Yes – Tory policies are going very badly, and the propaganda machine won’t be able to hide that from the majority of us when those failures hit our quality of life.

Brexit has screwed our businesses.

Covid-19 isn’t over – there could be another wave by July (possibly fuelled by variant strains that have bred in the gap between vaccination doses).

The Conservative government is rife with corruption.

And nationalism is on the rise in Wales and Scotland, while Northern Ireland is on fire because Unionists have realised that they have been sold out by the Westminster government and their own DUP politicians who supported the Tories during Theresa May’s ministry.

What’s Boris Johnson’s response?

He’s provoking people. He’s trying to blame those who oppose as if they are the provocateurs.

Through his ‘identity politics’ process of calling out those he describes as “woke”, who he is therefore chastising for their commitment to equality on a range of grounds… he is trying to provoke [them] to attack him.

That is standard right-wing … fascist policy.

Murphy’s conclusion is accurate, too, I think:

They know that their policies are failing so all they can do is use blunt force to try to maintain their position in office.

… Like the fascists they are.

Hence the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that proposes draconian new powers for the police, who are to be used as political tools, putting down any opposition to Tory dictatorship. And to ensure that these powers are exercised, what do the Tories do?

They are provoking crowds; they are seeking riots.

Because then they can point at the rioters, and at the peaceful people who agree with the reasons for rioting, and claim that they are the enemy.

Toryism is about “othering”. It is about dividing us and setting us against each other, so we fail to act against our real enemy: them.

It is encapsulated in the story about the Tory, the worker and the immigrant:

A Tory, a worker, and an immigrant are sitting at a table with 20 biscuits. The banker takes 19 biscuits, turns to the worker and says: “Watch out, that immigrant is going to take your cookie away.”

Murphy’s last point is chilling:

They’re not sure they want to go without a fight and we don’t know how tough that fight is going to be.

This Writer reckons it will be very tough.

Tories don’t mind spilling the blood of poor people. In fact, they delight in it. When they send the police to break up protest demonstrations, they see it as poor people fighting among themselves. It’s a huge jolly for them.

In the past, Tories have always known when to give up. They’ve recognised the signs and withdrawn before events escalated too far. That’s why the UK has never had a popular uprising or revolution like those in France, Russia, or China, to name a few other countries.

But the current Tory leadership isn’t like those old statespeople. Boris Johnson wants to hold on to power and will do anything to keep it.

I wonder what we’ll be prepared to do when the time comes to take it away from him.

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Local services in Wales will suffer if the Conservatives take over the Senedd

Think before voting: the Conservatives are promising to freeze council taxes in Wales if they take control of the Assembly – but this will benefit the rich far more than working-class people.

The Welsh Conservatives have said they will freeze council tax for at least two years if they take control of the Welsh Assembly after the local elections in May – but this is a threat, not a promise.

The party has said it will fund a council tax freeze, but there is no guarantee that it will follow through on any such pledge. Even if it does, this only means that it will maintain services as they are.

So what happens when events demand spending beyond that level?

Answer: we won’t see it – they’ll say there isn’t enough money (which is a lie).

Also: who benefits most from a council tax freeze? The rich.

Taxation is a way of redistributing wealth, ensuring that poorer people are able to enjoy publicly-funded services for all, rather than those services being restricted only to those who can afford to pay for them out of their own pocket.

It also ensures that funding is available for projects that would not otherwise receive support from private individuals.

By freezing council taxes, then, the Conservatives are pledging to let rich people keep more of their money while depriving the poor of the services they need to get by.

But the Tories don’t tell you that.

Source: Tories pledge to freeze council tax in Wales for at least two years

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.

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Why are devolved governments accused of failure after the Tories couldn’t roll out Covid vaccine properly?

Tory mouthpiece news media seem keen to blame the UK’s devolved governments for failing to roll out Covid-19 vaccines fast enough – but in fact the blame lies with the Conservative-led Westminster government.

Distribution of the vaccines is being carried out centrally from Westminster but has been hampered by delays in obtaining supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines.

It seems that, as a result, the Tories have been restricting supplies to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and then blaming the devolved governments in those other countries (none of which have Conservative-run administrations) for providing a smaller proportion of injections.

According to Nation.Cymru,

In the run up to Christmas Frontline NHS staff in Wales complained they were struggling to get access to the recently launched Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and Len Richards, the chief executive of Cardiff and Vale University health board, warned of “an indisputable supply and demand constraint” in an email and said access to the jab was being rationed because “the supply is so low”.

What do you think of this?

Should the Tories get away with restricting vaccine supplies and then blaming their counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for failing to protect as many people?

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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