Somebody should remind the Conservative Party of the old adage that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
We certainly have monkeys running the UK government at the moment, because more than 80,000 full-time civil servants have left their jobs since the Conservatives started their reign of idiocy in 2010.
Now you know why nothing works properly.
The Tories actually thought it was a good idea to get rid of the people who actually know how to run government properly – Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove have been particularly keen on this.
Now, despite planning to get rid of a further 80,000 experienced and intelligent public servants – and thereby plunge the United Kingdom further into their new Dark Age, the Tories have started re-hiring some of the old hands they have already laid off.
Here’s the catch: They’re coming back on zero-hours contracts.
At one level, this might seem a good idea. Zero-hours work was always intended for people who had made their money already and merely wanted something productive to do in their spare time.
But no formerly-senior civil servant with any self-respect should be taking it up because they should know they are worth more – and because zero-hours work has been tarnished by the abuses of such contracts to harm the prospects of the genuinely poor.
This Blog predicts the only people taking up the offer will be ideological Conservatives, who will blindly follow the Tory line without advising on any better alternatives because they believe in it, and those who need the money and will do what they’re told for fear of losing it.
That will not give us good government.
Retired and redundant civil servants are being re-recruited to government jobs under a pilot scheme launched by the Cabinet Office. Some former staff are being re-employed using zero-hours contracts when full-time employees cannot cope with the workload, a leaked document shows.
The disclosure of the pilot, dubbed by opponents as a “Dad’s Army” solution to Whitehall’s staffing crisis, comes as mandarins brace themselves for further cuts. More than 80,000 full-time civil servants have left their jobs since 2010 with a similar number expected to leave during the current parliament.
Number of people employed on a “zero-hours contract” in their main job was 697,000 for October to December 2014, representing 2.3% of all people in employment. In the same period in 2013, this was 1.9% of all people in employment (586,000).
The number of people saying they are employed on “zero-hours contracts” depends on whether or not they recognise this term. It is not possible to say how much of the increase between 2013 and 2014 is due to greater recognition rather than new contracts.
Number of contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours where work was carried out was 1.8 million for the fortnight beginning 11 August 2014. The previously published estimate was 1.4 million for the fortnight beginning 20 January 2014.
The two estimates of contracts should not be directly compared. They cover different times of year so changes in the numbers may reflect seasonal factors.
On average, someone on a “zero-hours contract” usually works 25 hours a week.
Around a third of people on “zero-hours contracts” want more hours, with most wanting them in their current job, compared with 10% of other people in employment.
People on “zero-hours contracts” are more likely to be women, in full-time education or working part-time. They are also more likely to be aged under 25 or 65 and over.
Over half of businesses in Accommodation and Food Services and a quarter of businesses in Education made some use of no guaranteed hours contracts in August 2014.
This is at a time when the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has said the UK has bounced back strongly from the recession and has one of the strongest economies in the G7 nations.
Admittedly, the OECD has said productivity – stagnant for many years now – must improve in order for living standards to rise, but this is not part of the zero-hours plan. The Conservative-led Coalition wanted to put as many people as possible into jobs of any description, in order to claim a drop in unemployment – but zero-hours contracts, while helping businesses by eliminating in-work benefits like sick pay and holiday pay, do not help productivity at all; they use more people to achieve the same result.
In the case of the UK, it seems, they have been achieving worsening results, as dipping tax receipts have made all-too-clear. George Osborne claimed a surplus in January, but this is clearly a manufactured result, formed from panic after the last few tax revenue figures became public.
So what does Labour say about all this?
Scottish Nationalists will be surprised to learn that the party Pete Wishart believes is “cuddling up to the Tories” was unequivocally critical.
“The Tories’ plan is failing working families,” said Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary.
“While they prioritise a few at the top, for others there’s a rising tide of insecurity. Ministers have watered down every person’s rights at work and zero-hours contracts have gone from being a niche concept to becoming the norm in parts of our economy.
“The ONS’ findings today that there are now 1.8 million zero-hours contracts and that the number of people reporting they are on a zero-hours contract for their main job has risen by almost 20 per cent is yet another stark illustration of a recovery which is not working for working people.”
He said: “Labour’s Better Plan for Britain’s Prosperity would ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, prohibit employers from requiring workers to be available on the off-chance they are needed, ensure zero-hours contract workers who have shifts cancelled at short notice receive compensation and give employees who consistently work regular hours the right to a fixed-hours contract.
“Ministers have sat on their hands and opposed our plans, in the face of rising insecurity for people.”
Good riddance: Tony Blair (pictured on his return from his final Prime Minister’s Questions on June 27, 2007) tried to marry left-wing social policy with neoliberal economics. This ‘Third Way’ failed when the right-wing economies of the western world fell apart in 2007-8 [Image: Telegraph].
Here’s a lunatic for you: Janet Daley, writing in the Telegraph.
By now, most of you are probably sighing wistfully and murmuring “If only” at your screens. We all know it isn’t true but there’s an ideological agenda at work here – this Daley woman (a former Philosophy lecturer, if you can countenance such a background for such a person) needs to undermine Labour’s credibility. “After all the progress we appeared to be making towards a mature national discourse, we find ourselves back in the pubescent stage of political debate that brought the country to a standstill a generation ago,” she writes. Not unless her own politics drags us back there!
Unfortunately for her, she makes a proper pig’s ear of it. “Once again, we have a centrist government,” she claims. No, no we don’t. We have the most right-wing government any of us can remember. If that is her starting premise, this article can only go downhill – like an avalanche.
“Once again, those who govern are trying to find sensible solutions to the most important problems of the day – now it is welfare dependency and the delivery of public services, back then it was trades union law.” Those are not the most important problems of the day. The most important problems are income inequality and the rebalancing of the economy away from reliance on the financial sector that has let us down.
Welfare dependency only became an issue because the right-wing (Tory) government of Margaret Thatcher demanded it. As has by now been well-documented here and elsewhere, she was desperate to end the security afforded to the working class by full employment – it meant employees could demand higher wages from bosses who were greedily desperate to keep their profits for themselves. So she deliberately maimed British industry, creating a huge surge in unemployment (such that she had to hide the full extent of unemployment by putting many claimants on Incapacity Benefit instead). Her anti-union laws then made it increasingly difficult for workers’ representatives to negotiate meaningful wage settlements. Put together, these moves allowed executives to depress wages – but meant full employment could never happen again under a Conservative government.
(The current Tories are paying lip-service to it at the moment, but if you think zero-hours contracts, part-time and temporary work, and a surge in the self-employed sector that claims tax credits is full employment, you’re deluded.)
The Tory concern with delivering public services is easily addressed: They want to privatise everything and make the public pay through the nose, as individuals, for services they could previously receive for an equitable price by paying collectively.
You see, it’s all about greed with the Tories. They want more – you pay for it.
It seems Ms Daley has guessed that she might receive criticism for her suggestions, so she states, without a hint of humour: “Their efforts to talk sense – even to argue sensibly – are being bombarded by a cacophony of hysterical inanities from the ideological Left, some of it purely self-serving and the rest of it grotesquely naïve.”
How droll. We move on.
She tells us about “Tony Blair’s forcible remodelling of the Labour message to acknowledge the popular longing for aspiration and self-determination” as if she meant it. Tony Blair was a Third Way politician – he believed in left-wing social policies and right-wing, neoliberal economics. But right-wing economics failed spectacularly in 2007-8 when the banks – deregulated by Margaret Thatcher – proved they could not act responsibly on their own.
She suggests “the vindictive way it has been stamped out by the present-day Labour leadership” but can anybody see what she means by this?
Aspiration and self-determination have been brutally stamped out by the current Coalition government, with its homicidal policies to drive people away from its new social insecurity system and the previously-mentioned zero-hours, part-time, and temporary employment contracts that ensure employees have no chance of progression in their (short-term) jobs. There is more opportunity for aspiration and self-determination in remodelling businesses away from the corporate structure and into the form of worker-owned co-operatives, a long-cherished left-wing model of employment. But try getting that past a neoliberal executive!
Ms Daley’s article makes passing derogatory reference to the fall of Communism but in fact right-wing, neoliberal politics most closely resembles tribal Communism of the kind that was practised in the former Soviet Union, with the workers slaving for a pittance while the benefits are shared among the ruling class – who use state resources to support their corrupt regime. Does that seem familiar to you?
Ms Daley puts forward the belief that Bill Clinton was right to limit the amount of time anyone in the USA could claim state benefits, clearly indicating that this should be the next step for the Tories, here in the UK. “This precipitated an economic boom by pushing those forced off welfare into employment,” she gushes. Perhaps she hasn’t noticed the big question of the last week: A huge number of people have been forced off UK state benefits, and nobody knows where they are. They don’t have jobs because the jobs weren’t there for them. If there had been jobs for them, they would not have been forced off-benefit in the first place.
Then she gets her claws into Ed Miliband and Ed Balls: “Any rational discussion of the future of health care has become out of the question,” she says. Indeed – because the Conservative Party is hell-bent on selling it off, no matter how irrational this has been proved to be.
“Taxation is not necessary simply to raise funds to cover essential government functions, but to punish the undeserving whose social crime is to be more successful (or to have lived too long in a house that has rocketed in value) than many others,” she crows. No, it isn’t. Under Labour, taxation would cover government functions – it’s simply that those with the ability to pay would have to do so, rather than relying on the poor to do it for them.
The Mansion Tax should be seen in the context of the times: If the neoliberal right had been less keen on corruptly lining their own pockets and more keen on actually improving prosperity for all, there would be no need to find such ways of restoring the balance.
She moves on to poverty, claiming: “Scarcely anyone believes now that absolute poverty – the hunger and squalor that a significant proportion of Britons suffered within living memory – is a national problem. Food banks may have sprung into existence, but they are used largely as stop-gaps when benefit payments are delayed. Poverty is understood (even by its activists) to be relative. There is a more sophisticated understanding of the multiple social problems that produce real disadvantage: drug and alcohol dependency, broken families and, of course, welfare dependency.” By whom?
A significant proportion of Brits are suffering hunger and squalor now. That is why a significant proportion of Brits are being forced to suicide now – and why the DWP is doing all it can to cover up that fact now. Otherwise, why hide the number of ESA claimant deaths? Why shroud in secrecy the findings of investigations into claimant suicides?
Her discussion of food banks is astonishing – but should be best left to food bank organisers like the Trussell Trust to combat.
Finally, she moves to her claim that people are trapped by the benefits system. This whole article, it seems, is about defending Iain Duncan Smith! “So long as government was paying people to be poor, and penalising them for working through the tax system, the problem of relative poverty would never be cured.”
But that is a practice created by the Thatcher government and continued now – in fact, Duncan Smith’s DWP pushes benefit claimants right into the dirt with its punitive (and, some are now claiming, fraudulent) demands. Benefit claimants are now more helpless than ever. Their only real escape from the torment forced on them by a greedy government under the command of grasping industrialists is to drop out of the system altogether.
This article – together with its author – is a travesty; it is the incoherent, defending the inexcusable.
Honest appraisal: The national opinion of Iain Duncan Smith is reflected in this comment, delivered direct to the Work and Pensions Secretary by ‘pigeon post’.
Iain Duncan Smith typifies the classical definition of an idiot – and his latest speech will prove it by ignoring Britain’s real problems in favour of self-centred, ideologically-motivated foolishness.
The Greeks used to believe idiots were ignorant people, incapable of ordinary reasoning, whose judgement in public and political matters was poor – but who refused to change their minds.
If you don’t think that’s Iain Duncan Smith, take a look at parts of his speech, as quoted in today’s (Monday) Daily Torygraph.
First off, take a look at the headline: “Cutting benefits is vital for economy, says Iain Duncan Smith”. Why? That money goes out to people on extremely low incomes who cannot save it and must use it immediately, to service their needs. They spend it straight away, boosting the economy as it then passes through the system. Taking it away from people will only stall the system so Duncan Smith is wrong from the start.
This is why we call him RTU, or Returned To Unit, on this blog. It’s a phrase referring to his Army career in which he did not achieve promotion to Captain despite training at Sandhurst. This kind of failure, in the Army, leads to a soldier being RTU’d as a failure.
Look at his main claim – that immigrants have taken British jobs, not ahead of British people, but because British people refused to take them, preferring a life on benefits. The man is delusional.
Does he not understand the hell into which he has turned the benefit system? Getting any money out of the Department for Work and Pensions at all is a minor miracle in the age of RTU! The disabled are forced to wait months at a time, without any means of support, while hired hands from private profiteer companies mull over whether the DWP should bother to help, while people who are actively seeking work are sanctioned by Job Centre Plus for attending job interviews rather than signing on.
Those who do get work are either encouraged into self-employment at extremely low pay and no holidays or pensions, zero-hours contracts at extremely low pay with no holidays or pensions, or part-time work with extremely low pay and no holidays or pensions. The figures make it seem that full-time work is increasing but these are reversed when self-employment is removed.
He is trying to say unemployment surged upwards after 2008 because people were refusing work, in line with the Conservative Party’s current attempt to re-write history. In fact it increased because of a recession engineered by greedy bankers that cost many thousands of jobs and had nothing to do with migrant workers or the preferences of the people affected.
In fact, the way to get British people back to work is the exact opposite of what RTU has been doing, and the exact opposite of what he is proposing.
The Conservatives have been pushing wages down, and squeezing benefits with below-inflation rate rises in order to make it possible for them to say they are “making work pay”. Anyone can see through this lie – just because work pays slightly more than benefits, that doesn’t mean it pays enough.
But he wants to make matters worse by lowering the Benefit Cap further – from the already-below-what’s-needed £26,000 per family to £18,000 – the average amount of take-home pay, according to new figures his party has plucked from its posterior.
It is an idiotic move; taking money out of the economy will stall it.
If he were to encourage firms to pay the Living Wage, ensuring that workers do not have to claim benefits at all, he would find that all the issues he mentions would disappear.
Sure, some people would want to remain on benefits – there is an acknowledged 0.7 per cent rate of fraud and error, after all (yes, just 0.7 per cent, and RTU spends billions trying to say it is worse) – but most are desperate to be self-sustaining and would take work that allowed them to achieve that aim.
These people would still be low-earners, meaning the money would still be spent into the economy straight away on necessities, and to pay off debts accrued under RTU’s disastrous regime – and this means it would provide much-needed lubrication for the economy.
They would also be paying Income Tax, rather than claiming benefits, meaning funds would pour into the Treasury rather than out of it.
All the talk of economic recovery indicates that employers are in a much better position to provide the Living Wage, now, than they were over the last few years, so why isn’t Iain Duncan Smith suggesting so in his speech today?
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.
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.
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.
Evil eyes: Esther McVey seems to get a perverse thrill from pretending her government’s policies are helping people; it is more likely they are driving the needy to despair and suicide.
Note to Iain Duncan Smith: It is not a good idea to try to inspire confidence in a £multi-billion “money pit” disaster by wheeling out Esther McVey to lie about it.
The woman dubbed “Fester McVile” by some commentators has accumulated a reputation so bad that the only way she can hide the metaphorical stink from the public is by associating with …Smith himself, in whose stench she seems almost fragrant. But not quite.
This is a woman who has lied to the public that it is impossible to carry out a cumulative assessment of the impact on the sick and disabled of the Coalition’s ‘final solution’ changes to the benefit system.
This is the woman who, in the face of public unrest about the prevalence of zero-hours contracts, announced that Job Centre advisors will now be able to force the unemployed into taking this exploitative work.
She has previously misled Parliament over the loophole in Bedroom Tax legislation that meant the government had removed Housing Benefit from thousands of people who were exempt from the measure – including Stephanie Bottrill, whose suicide has been attributed to the pressure of having to survive on less because of the tax. Asked how many people had been affected by the loophole, McVey played it down by claiming she did not know the answer, while other ministers suggested between 3,000 and 5,000. In fact, from Freedom of Information requests to which just one-third of councils responded, 16,000 cases were revealed.
Mark Hoban stood in for McVey to trot out the lie that independent reviews of the Work Capability Assessment had identified areas of improvement on which the government was acting. In fact, out of 25 recommendations in the Year One review alone, almost two-thirds were not fully and successfully implemented.
In a debate on food banks, McVey’s lies came thick and fast: She accused the previous Labour government of a “whirl of living beyond our means” that “had to come to a stop” without ever pausing to admit that it was Tory-voting bankers who had been living beyond their means, who caused the crash, and who are still living beyond their means today, because her corporatist (thank you, Zac Goldsmith) Conservative government has protected them.
She accused Labour of trying to keep food banks as “its little secret”, forcing Labour’s Jim Cunningham to remind us all that food banks were set up by churches to help refugees who were waiting for their asylum status to be confirmed – not as a support system for British citizens, as they have become under the Coalition’s failed regime.
She said the Coalition government was brought in to “solve the mess that Labour got us in”, which is not true – it was born from a backroom deal between two of the most unscrupulous party leaders of recent times, in order to ensure they and their friends could get their noses into the money trough (oh yes, there’s plenty of money around – but this government is keeping it away from you).
She said the Coalition had got more people into work than ever before – without commenting on the fact that the jobs are part-time, zero-hours, self-employed contracts that benefit the employers but exploit the workers and in fact propel them towards poverty.
She lied to Parliament, claiming that children are three times more likely to be in poverty if they are in a workless household. In fact, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in-work poverty has now outstripped that suffered by those in workless and retired households; children are more likely to be in poverty if their parents have jobs.
She attacked Labour for allowing five million people to be on out-of-work benefits, with two million children in workless households – but under her government the number of households suffering in-work poverty has risen to eight million (by 2008 standards), while workless or retired households in poverty have risen to total 6.3 million.
She claimed that 60,000 people were likely to use a food bank this year – but Labour’s Paul Murphy pointed out that 60,000 people will use food banks this year in Wales alone. The actual figure for the whole of the UK is 500,000.
She said the Coalition’s tax cuts had given people an extra £700 per year, without recognising that the real-terms drop in wages and rise in the cost of living means people will be £1,600 a year worse-off when the next general election takes place, tax cuts included. She said stopping fuel price increases meant families were £300 better-off, which is nonsense. Families cannot become better off because something has not happened; it’s like saying I’m better off because the roof of my house hasn’t fallen in and squashed me.
Her talents won exactly the recognition they deserved when her Wikipedia entry was altered to describe her as “the Assistant Grim Reaper for Disabled People since 2012, second only to Iain Duncan Smith. She was previously a television presenter and businesswoman before deciding to branch out into professional lying and helping disabled people into the grave.”
In her food bank speech, she also said the government had brought in Universal Credit to ensure that three million people become better-off. There’s just one problem with that system – it doesn’t work.
You see, not only has this been going on ever since the Coalition government established welfare-to-work in its current form –
Not only have government ministers and backbenchers been lying to you about the payouts given to the profit-driven privately-owned provider companies –
Not only have these companies been sucking down on your hard-earned taxpayer cash as though they had done something to earn it –
But the people they were supposed to be helping – people who have been forced into ever-greater poverty by the benefit uprating cap, arbitrary and unfair benefit sanctions, the bedroom tax, the £26,000 cap on benefits for families, the imposition of council tax on even the poorest households (in England at least), the stress of continual reassessment (if they are ESA claimants in the work-related activity group), the humiliation of having to visit food banks and who knows what else…
The people who are desperate to get any kind of paying job, despite the fact that zero-hours contracts could make them worse-off than unemployment, due to the effect on in-work benefits, despite the fact that those in-work benefits are also being squeezed hard, and despite the fact that there are at least five jobseekers for every job that becomes available…
These are the people that government ministers, backbenchers and the right-wing press keep victimising with their endless attacks on “skivers”, “scroungers”, the “feckless”, the “idle” and the “lazy”!
If I was unemployed and my MP had been caught slagging me off while praising these good-for-nothing so-called work programme ‘providers’, I would make it my business to bring them before the public, lock them into some medieval stocks and pelt them with rotten vegetables. Public humiliation is the least they should get for this continual insult to common decency.
But wait! There’s more.
It turns out that, not only are these work programme providers a bunch of lazy good-for-nothing parasites, but many of them are also a bunch of foreigners who’ve come to the UK to take our jobs!
Ingeus is Australian. G4S is part-Danish. Maximus is American.
It seems that all the politically-fuelled and media-driven anger against immigration into the UK from the rest of the European Union and beyond may be designed to distract us all from the fact that foreign firms are immigrating here to take government jobs that should be yours, and to steal your tax money.
Nobody can say they’ve earned it, after all.
But let us not be unfair. It would be wrong to concentrate on welfare-to-work providers when all of government is riddled with foreign interlopers.
Look at the Treasury, where the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms have been re-writing tax law to suit their tax-avoiding corporate clients for the last few years. They are Deloitte (American), PriceWaterhouseCoopers (part-American), Ernst & Young (part-American) and KPMG (Dutch).
And then there is the huge, criminal, foreign firm that has been advising the Department for Work and Pensions on ways to privatise the welfare state since the mid-1990s – a firm so controversial that there is currently a moratorium on the mention of its name in the national mainstream media. It is an American insurance giant called Unum.
The best that can be said of these five corporations is that – at least to the best of our knowledge – they do work for a living.
“This particular Secretary of State, along with his Department, is pushing people through [the] cracks and hoping that the rest of the country will not notice that they have disappeared.” – Glenda Jackson MP, June 30, 2014.
If the man this blog likes to call RTU (Returned To Unit) thought he would be able to show that his behaviour had improved, he was sorely mistaken – as the comment above illustrates.
It is vital that this information reaches the general public despite the apparent news blackout, in the mainstream media, of any disparaging information about Duncan Smith or his DWP.
But we were discussing the debate as a trial. Let us first look at the evidence in favour of the government.
There. That was illuminating, wasn’t it?
Seriously, the government benches were unable to put up a single supportable point against the mountain of evidence put forward by Labour.
Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary-in-a-State, resorted yet again to his favourite tactic – and one for which he should have been sacked as an MP long ago – lying to Parliament. He accused Labour of leaving behind a “shambles” – in fact the economy had begun to improve under intelligent guidance from Alistair Darling. “The economy was at breaking point,” he said – in fact the British economy cannot break; it simply doesn’t work that way. His claim that “We were burdened with the largest deficit in peacetime history” is only supportable in money terms, and then only because inflation means the pound is worth so much less than it was in, say, the 1940s – or for the entire century between 1750 and 1850. He called yesterday’s debate “a cynical nugget of short-term policy to put to the unions,” but the evidence below renders that completely irrelevant.
He said complaints about long delivery times for benefits were “out of date” – a common excuse. He’ll do the same in a few months, when the same complaint is raised again.
“Universal Credit is rolling out to the timescale I set last year,” he insisted – but we all know that it has been ‘reset’ (whatever that means) by the government’s Major Projects Authority.
He said there had been four independent reviews of the work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, with more than 50 recommendations by Sir Malcolm Harrington accepted by the government. This was a lie. We know that almost two-thirds of the 25 recommendations he made in his first review were not fully or successfully implemented.
He said appeals against ESA decisions “are down by just under 90 per cent” – but we know that this is because of the government’s unfair and prejudicial mandatory reconsideration scheme – and that the DWP was bringing in a new provider to carry out work capability assessments. Then he had to admit that this provider has not yet been chosen! And the backlog of claims mounts up.
He tried to justify his hugely expensive botched IT schemes by pointing at a Labour scheme for the Child Support Agency that wasted hundreds of millions less than his Universal Credit, without acknowledging the obvious flaw in his argument: If he knew about this mistake, why is he repeating it?
Conservative Mark Harper said Labour opposed the Tories’ most popular scheme – the benefit cap. That was a lie. Labour supported the cap, but would have set it at a higher level. We know that the Coalition government could not do this because it would not, then, have made the huge savings they predicted.
Now, the evidence against.
First up is Rachel Reeves, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions: “After £612 million being spent, including £131 million written off or ‘written down’, the introduction of Universal Credit is now years behind schedule with no clear plan for how, when, or whether full implementation will be achievable or represent value for money.
“Over 700,000 people are still waiting for a Work Capability Assessment, and… projected spending on Employment and Support Allowance has risen by £800 million since December… The Government [is] still not able to tell us which provider will replace Atos.
“Personal Independence Payment delays have created uncertainty, stress and financial costs for disabled people and additional budgetary pressures for Government… Desperate people, many of whom have been working and paying into the system for years or decades and are now struck by disability or illness, waiting six months or more for help from the Department for Work and Pensions.
“The Work Programme has failed to meet its targets, the unfair bedroom tax risks costing more than it saves, and other DWP programmes are performing poorly or in disarray.
“Spending on housing benefit for people who are in work has gone up by more than 60 per cent, reflecting the fact that more people are in low-paid or insecure work and are unable to make ends meet, even though they may be working all the hours God sends.
“More than five million people — 20 per cent of the workforce — are paid less than the living wage. Furthermore, 1.5 million people are on zero-hours contracts and 1.4 million people are working part time who want to work full time.
“This… is about the young woman diagnosed with a life-limiting illness who has waited six months for any help with her living costs. It is about the disabled man whose payments have been stopped because he did not attend an interview to which he was never invited.
“The Government are wasting more and more taxpayers’ money on poorly planned and disastrously managed projects, and are allowing in-work benefits to spiral because of their failure to tackle the low pay and insecurity that are adding billions of pounds to the benefits bill.
“The Government are careless with the contributions that people make to the system, callous about the consequences of their incompetence for the most vulnerable, and too arrogant to admit mistakes and engage seriously with the task of sorting out their own mess.
“What this Government have now totally failed to do is to remember the human impact, often on people in vulnerable circumstances, of this catalogue of chaos. Behind the bureaucratic language and spreadsheets showing backlogs and overspends are people in need who are being let down and mistreated, and taxpayers who can ill afford the mismanagement and waste of their money.
“To fail to deliver on one policy might be considered unfortunate; to miss one’s targets on two has to be judged careless; but to make such a complete mess of every single initiative the Secretary of State has attempted requires a special gift. It is something like a Midas touch: everything he touches turns into a total shambles.
“Meanwhile, the Secretary of State will spew out dodgy statistics, rant and rave about Labour’s record, say “on time and on budget” until he is blue in the face and, in typical Tory style, blame the staff for everything that goes wrong.”
Julie Hilling (Labour) provides this: “The Government do not know what they are talking about… They talk about the number of jobs being created, but they do not know how many of them are on zero-hours contracts or how many are on Government schemes or how many have been transferred from the public sector.”
Stephen Doughty (Labour/Co-op): “another stark indictment of their policies is the massive increase in food banks across this country.”
Helen Jones (Labour): “When I asked how many people in my constituency had been waiting more than six months or three months for medical assessments for personal independence payment, the Government told me that the figures were not available. In other words, they are not only incompetent; they do not know how incompetent they are!”
Sheila Gilmore (Labour): “Although the problems with Atos were known about—and it is now being suggested that they had been known about for some time—a contract was given to that organisation for PIP. Was due diligence carried out before the new contract was issued?”
Gordon Marsden (Labour): “Many of my constituents have been caught by the double whammy of delays involving, first, the disability living allowance and now PIP. They have waited long periods for a resolution, but because a decision is being reconsidered, their Motability — the lifeline that has enabled them to get out of their homes — has been taken away before that decision has been made. Is that not a horrendous indictment of the Government?”
Emily Thornberry (Labour): “I have been making freedom of information requests.. in relation to mandatory reconsiderations. When people get their work capability assessment, and it has failed, before they can appeal there has to be a mandatory reconsideration. The Department does not know how many cases have been overturned, how many claimants have been left without any money and how long the longest period is for reconsideration. It cannot answer a single one of those questions under a freedom of information request.”
Natascha Engel (Labour): “The welfare state is designed as a safety net to catch people who absolutely cannot help themselves… That safety net is being withdrawn under this government, which is certainly pushing some of my constituents into destitution.”
There was much more, including the devastating speech by Glenda Jackson, partly in response to Natascha Engels’ comments, that is reproduced in the video clip above.
The vote – for the House of Commons to recognise that the DWP was in chaos and disarray – was lost (of course). A government with a majority will never lose such a vote.
But once again, the debate was won by the opposition. They had all the facts; all the government had were lies and fantasies.
By now, one suspects we all know somebody who has died as a result of Coalition government polices on welfare (or, preferably, social security). Two such deaths have been reported in the Comment columns of Vox Political since the weekend, and it is only Tuesday.
That is why it is vital that this information reaches the general public despite the apparent news blackout, in the mainstream media, of any disparaging information about Duncan Smith or his DWP.
Share it with your friends, use parts of it in letters to your local papers or radio stations, even mentioning it in conversation will help if the other person isn’t aware of the facts.
Don’t let it be suppressed.
You don’t want to do Iain Duncan Smith’s work for him, do you?
The day job: Rebecca Evans AM in the more familiar environment of the Assembly debating chamber [Image: ITV].
I wanted to share this with you because, as a constituent and a member of the Labour Party, I’m quite proud of Mid and West Wales Labour AM Rebecca Evans, who spent a week living on an amount equivalent to Jobseekers’ Allowance and discussing ‘welfare reform’ with people who deal with its effects on a day-to-day basis, to find out what it is like.
She wrote an article about her experience for Wales Onlinewhich I am taking the liberty of excerpting here. Over to you, Rebecca:
With the average household in Wales expected to lose 4.1 per cent of their income due to policy changes, support is vital for those living on the poverty line.
Although people are understandably cynical when politicians attempt to live life on the breadline, I wanted to raise awareness of the challenges facing welfare claimants and gain a better understanding of how well understood the changes are.
Living off £72.40 for one week, I did not expect to truly experience the day-to-day life of people who rely on welfare support. I was aware that when Monday came around I would step back into my normal routine. But I wanted to experience at least some of the challenges and difficult decisions facing many thousands of people every day.
The Your Benefits are Changing money advice team calculated that the average weekly expenditure for someone living off Jobseeker’s Allowance in my home area of Carmarthenshire leaves just £13.58 for food and essentials once transport costs, utilities, the TV licence, phone bills and the bedroom tax have been paid – which equates to less than £2 a day.
On this income, any trip to the supermarket becomes a stressful task as every single penny matters.
When speaking with job seekers, food bank volunteers, YBAC money advisors and housing association staff and tenants during the week, the message was the same: people are struggling and many have had their lives irrevocably damaged by welfare policies.
The Bedroom Tax has had a serious impact on thousands of people across Wales, and the shortage of suitable housing has only enhanced poverty levels. Brought in as part of the Welfare Reform Act… the policy is estimated to have affected 36,000 tenants in the social housing sector, including 3,500 disabled households. As a direct result… housing association tenants accrued £1.1 million in arrears during the first six months.
Housing associations are rightly concerned that a move to monthly payments will prove incredibly challenging for those on low incomes, leading to an increase in the number of people that turn to emergency food supplies.
A YBAC money advisor told me food poverty levels can be worse for people who live on housing estates because they may only have one shop within walking distance, and that shop may have limited discounts. Food prices have risen by 12 per cent since 2007, so it is no surprise 900,000 people across the UK have turned to food banks in the past year… but the fact that we need food banks in 21st never ceases to be shocking.
The families I met during my week on benefits rely on second hand clothes and goods, and rarely buy anything new – let alone any kind of treats. They try to put aside £20 a week, but unexpected emergencies leave them unable to save.
A YBAC money advisor told me that around a quarter of people seeking advice are actually in work, and that the majority of children in poverty live in a household where one adult works. One mum with a young baby told me that her husband is on a zero-hour contract, meaning that the family can’t plan financially with any certainty.
This smashes the myth that welfare reform is all about supporting the unemployed back to work.
This is the first pic I could find of Marcus Brigstocke, as he might have looked while delivering the piece quoted below. He’s a known beardie so he probably had face-fuzz as well.
What a rare and pleasant thing we’ve enjoyed for the last few days – a Bank Holiday weekend with good weather! And isn’t it a shame that this means most of you will have been out, and therefore missed Marcus Brigstocke’s turn on The Now Show.
Here’s a guy who knows how to take the government apart; it seemed as though he’d been reading Vox Political for the last few months because he touched on some of our favourite subjects:
1. The economy
He led with the 0.8 per cent increase in economic growth, mocking the government’s celebratory tone with impressions of how ordinary people took the news, up and down the country (some of the accents were beyond belief).
“Well done, George Osborne,” said Marcus, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “You have proved your theory right, using the Grand Theft Auto model. You have successfully shown that the poor really are like video game prostitutes – if you kick them hard enough, eventually money will come flying out of them.”
Doesn’t this fit nicely with what this blog has been saying about the economy being dependent entirely on the movement of poor people’s money? Those with less spend all – or almost all – of their income and it is this money, being pushed around the system, that boosts profits and keeps Britain going.
He continued: “I know that the state of the economy matters but for the vast majority of people it is as mysterious and cryptic as the shipping forecast… What makes a difference to people is not zero-point-eight-per-cent growth; it’s actual wages and the cost of living.
“The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) showed this week that the average worker is £2,000 worse-off since the financial crisis hit,” another common theme here on VP, except in fact it’s £2K per year worse-off. Let’s do a quick shout-out to Jonathan Portes, NIESR’s director, whose Tweets are well worth a read: @jdportes
“I say, ‘hit’. That makes it sound like the crisis swerved towards us. The reality is, the average worker is £2,000 worse-off since the financial sector arrogantly, and with galactic, hubristic stupidity, drove the economy off a cliff, yelling, ‘Does this mean I still get my bonus?’ Of course you’ll still get your bonus. Otherwise you’d leave the country and [chuckling] nobody wants that.” [Laughter from the audience – we’re all in on that joke.]
“More people are in work now; good. But why do employers talk like they deserve a sainthood when they have people working for them? Your company does a thing; you need workers to facilitate the doing of that thing. The workers work, and the thing is done – am I missing something here? Do you feel you need a medal?”
2a. Zero-hours contracts
“One-point-four million British workers are having to scrape a living together from cynical, ruthless, exploitative employers using zero-hours contracts. Value your employees – they are not battery workers; they are people… One in five UK workers earns less than the Living Wage.”
At this point the narrative switches to a spoof advert: “At GreatBigFacelessBastardCorp we care so little about what we do, we pay our workers the minimum wage allowed under the law! That way we can pass on their listlessness and overwhelming sense of defeated apathy to you, the customer! GreatBigFacelessBastardCorp – crushing dreams so you don’t have to!”
This relates to an argument that Vox Political has been having with Tory-supporting businesspeople for years, going back to the earliest days of the blog. Back in January 2012, I wrote False economies that leave the business books unbalanced in which I stated:
It seems to me that many employees are finding life extremely difficult now, because the amount they are paid does not cover all their outgoings and they are having to work out what they can do without. The cost of living has risen more sharply than their pay, so they are out of pocket.
This creates stress, which can create illness, which could take them out of work and turn them into a liability to the economy – as they would then be claiming benefits.
That’s bad – not only for the country but also for their company, because demoralised employees produce poor work and the company’s turnover will decrease; having to bring in and train up new workers to replace those who are leaving through ill health is time-consuming and unproductive.
Therefore, in taking the money for themselves, rather than sharing it with employees, bosses are clearly harming their own companies and the economy.
In fact, it seems to me that this is a microcosm of the larger, national economy. In order to keep more money, bosses (and the government) pay less (in the government’s case, to pay off the national deficit). This means less work gets done, and is of poorer quality (in both cases). So orders fall off and firms have to make more cutbacks (or, revenue decreases so the government makes more cutbacks in order to keep up its debt payments).
[This seems to have been borne out by subsequent events. More people are employed than ever before, according to the government, yet GDP has improved by only a fraction of one per cent in the last quarter. By rights, it should be about 20 percentage points higher than the pre-crisis peak by now, according to some analysts.]
The message to bosses – and the government – is clear: Cutting back investment in people to keep money for yourselves will cripple your earning ability. Cutting even more to make up for what you lose will put you into a death spiral. You are trying to dig your way out of your own graves.
But there is an alternative.
A reasonable pay increase to employees would ensure they can pay their bills, and would also keep them happy.
Happy workers produce better results.
Better results keep businesses afloat and earn extra work for them.
That in turn creates more revenue, making it possible for bosses not only to increase their own pay but employ more people as well.
Wouldn’t that be better for everybody?
Well, wouldn’t it?
3. Welfare lies
“Young workers are amongst the hardest-hit by the downturn, with pay falling by 14 per cent between 2008 and 2013. Well done, everybody! We pay far more from the welfare budget supporting incomes for people in work than we do for those out of a job.
“The government keep on crowing about the number of people they have in work … most of them are not so much in work as near some work, if only they were allowed to do any.
“If you’re on the minimum wage, kept on a zero-hours contract between 7am and 7pm so you can’t work for anyone else but rack up a grand total of – ooh! – just enough hours so your employer doesn’t have to pay your National Insurance [another VP theme], you get no training, no employee benefits, no hope of any promotion and you hear ‘IDS’ banging on about how he’s ‘the saviour of benefits street’, well, if you can still afford a shoe then please throw it at the radio or through the telly or at his actual face.” This is a reference to sabotage, in which workers threw their crude shoes – or ‘sabots’ into machinery to stop it working, in protest against their working conditions and developments that were endangering their jobs.
“Low pay means higher staff turnover, high absenteeism, poor morale and lower productivity.” That’s exactly as I stated in the VP article from 2012.
4. In conclusion
“I don’t know when money started making money faster than people but… It’s not helping,” said Marcus, truthfully. “So instead of running about with your shirt over your head doing ‘airplane arms’, shouting ‘Nought-point-eight-per-cent’… do something to get the people who actually work to be rewarded, recognised and remunerated for what they do.
“It’s not rocket science and, frankly, if it is, I sincerely hope they’re not on minimum wage.”
When I heard that piece, I very nearly stood up to applaud. If you want to hear it yourself (and I’ve left out enough of it to make it worthwhile, I promise you), it’s available for download here, and starts around eight and a half minutes in.
Actually, it would be better if Marcus hasn’t been reading this blog, because then he would have drawn the same conclusions, from the same evidence, thereby reinforcing my own reasoning.
Now, let’s have your opinions, please. I’ll be very interested to hear from supporters of the current “pay-’em-the-bare-minimum” policy as they almost invariably say things like “We can’t pay them any more” – it’s never “They have good reasons that mean they can’t pay us more”.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.