Tagged: National Insurance

Zero-Hours Contracts Just The Tip Of The Iceberg For Low-Paid Jobs, Says TUC

Controversial zero-hours contracts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to low-paid and insecure jobs, according to a new report published today.

An analysis by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) shows that in addition to the 700,000 people on zero-hours contracts, a further 820,000 workers are underemployed – working between 0 and 19 hours a week.

The TUC says that whilst zero-hours contracts have featured heavily in the news, underemployment is blighting the lives of “hundreds of thousands of workers” struggling to make ends meet.

Workers on ‘short-hours contracts’ are typically paid a much lower hourly wage than other workers, the TUC says. The hourly rate for a short-hours worker is just £8.40, compared to an overall average for all employees of £13.20 an hour.

According to the TUC, short-hours contracts “give too much power to the employer” and allows them to escape having to pay National Insurance for their employees.

Like zero-hours contracts, workers on short-hours contracts can be offered as little as one hour paid work each week and have to compete with colleagues for extra hours.

Workers in the retail sector are the hardest hit by low-paid contracts. Nearly 250,000 people working in shops, supermarkets, warehouses and garages are trapped on short-hours – 29% of all underemployed workers. This compares to 16% in the education sector, 14% in food services and 12% of health and social care workers.

The TUC’s report shows that women account for nearly three-quarters (71.5%) of all workers trapped on short-hours contracts.

Zero-hours and short-hours contracts, along with low-paid and bogus self-employment, have reduced tax revenues and are harming the UK economy, according to the TUC.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Zero-hours contracts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to low-paid, insecure work.

“Hundreds of thousands of other workers find themselves trapped on short-hours contracts that simply do not guarantee enough hours for them to make ends meet.

“Like zero-hours contracts, short-hour contracts give too much power to the employer. Bosses have an incentive to offer low wages and fewer hours to get out of paying national insurance.

“Without more decent jobs, people will continue to have to survive off scraps of work and UK productivity will continue to tank.”

The report also draws attention to a sharp increase in self-employment, which accounts for 31% of the net rise in employment since 2010. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that average earning for self-employed people have fallen dramatically by 22% since 2008/09.

New figures published by Eurostat place the UK at 23rd out of 28 for its record on underemployment.

The figures show that UK underemployment is 31% higher than the EU average, which the TUC says is a sign of the Government’s failure to create high-quality jobs.

Frances O’Grady said:

“These figures show what a bad time British people are having at work compared with their European neighbours.

“We have a fragile recovery built on pumped-up house prices, instead of the strong foundation of good quality jobs with decent hours and wages.

“The current approach just isn’t delivering enough high quality jobs to meet demand and it’s leaving too many families struggling to get by on scraps of work.”

Source – Welfare Weekly,  27 Apr 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/zero-hours-contracts-just-the-tip-of-the-iceberg-for-low-paid-jobs-says-tuc/

Conservative Health Chair Criticises David Cameron’s Welfare Cuts Plans

David Cameron’s plans to target benefit cuts at the young and vulnerable have come under fire from within his own party.

Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the health committee, said she did not support scrapping housing benefit for 18-to-21-year-olds, after the prime minister toured the television studios detailing some of the Tories’ proposals to cut another £12bn from the welfare budget.

In a series of interviews, Cameron repeated his pledge to lower the welfare cap from £26,000 to £23,000 per family alongside proposals to stop housing benefit for school-leavers. The cap was about a “basic issue of fairness”, he said.

“I don’t think a family should be able to get more in benefits than someone going out to work, working every day, and trying to do the right thing for them and their family,” he said.

> If anyone ever does get more in benefits than someone working (which I doubt) , perhaps it’d be because the wages they are earning are so poor, or they’re only working 16 hours a week.

But in any case, you can only play the hand you’ve got, so if it did happen that you’d get more on benefits than by working…why not ? Cameron & Co  probably dodge paying more  tax in a year than you’d claim.

“One of the criticisms of the cap set at £26,000, which I have heard all over the country, is that the cap was set too high. We’re responding to that.

“We’re generating these jobs. People listening to this programme don’t pay their taxes to sustain people on welfare who could work.”

> Well actually, yes they do – National Insurance, at least. When working I’ve never grudged paying NI (much) because I paid it in the belief that I could claim some of it back should I become unemployed, and also – and this is an important point –  that it should go towards helping others unemployed even if I wasn’t.

He said the country was no longer willing to tolerate people living on welfare as “a lifestyle choice” and claimed Conservative plans would help “young people move into work more quickly”.

> A lifestyle choice ?  And I thought it was a survival choice….the choice being survive or die.

However, his proposals on scrapping housing benefit for young people came under fire from Wollaston and a number of charities.

Wollaston, the Conservative MP for Totnes, told the BBC’s Daily Politics:

“That is a policy that I don’t actually support. The point is that there is a debate going forward, I would not support personally taking housing benefit from the most vulnerable. I would not personally support taking away housing benefit from the very young. I think because there is an issue here we need to discuss about intergenerational fairness … There are many policies within parties that we have a debate about.”

Tory peer Baroness Wheatcroft later added that the Conservatives need to “get the tone right” to make sure they sound sympathetic towards those who cannot work.

“I firmly believe there is only one nasty party and it’s a very nasty party called Ukip. What the Conservative party needs to do is to be careful that it does not appear to be in the least nasty, but kind and caring and wants people to work because it is the best possible solution to them as well as the country,” she told the World at One.

> HA HA HA HA HA ! Maybe you’d appear kind and caring if you were kind and caring. No-one who has been fucked over by the Tories is going to forget it.

The warnings came the day after academics from the LSE, Manchester and York published a new study showing the coalition’s cuts are disproportionately hitting families with young children.

Among the charities to issue warnings about the proposed benefit cap were the Child Poverty Action Group. Its chief executive, Alison Garnham, said:

“Let’s be absolutely clear – the benefit cap is at least nine times more likely to affect children than adults, and the majority of adults it hits are lone parents, many of whom have children so young even the government recognises they should not be required to work.

> The parent or the children ?  I only ask because the government making small children work just seems so likely…

“On the day that a major programme of research by academics from leading universities shows families with young children have been more impoverished than anyone else in recent years, we have another policy-push that would undercut the most vulnerable.”

Paul Noblet, head of public affairs at youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, weighed in on the issue of housing benefit, saying it would cause further misery for vulnerable young people.

“The 80,000 young people who find themselves homeless will think David Cameron is more focused on May’s elections than the reality that, for the most vulnerable young people in our society, housing benefit is a lifeline, not a lifestyle choice,” he said.

Source –  The Guardian,  27 Jan 2015

Thousands robbed of right to vote in Sunderland, warns MP

Millions of people could be robbed of the right to vote because of new rules introduced to try to prevent fraud, an MP has warned.

Younger people are particularly like to be hit by the changes, said Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott.

And in Sunderland, the new system had led to more than 6,000 voters falling off the electoral register, the MP said.

Leading a Commons debate, she urged the Government to rethink the introduction of a new system called individual voter registration.

This was introduced in an attempt to tackle growing concern about voting fraud, following a scandal in Birmingham in 2004 where a five Labour councillors used bogus postal votes to try to counter the adverse impact of the Iraq war on the party’s support.

Judge Richard Mawrey QC found there had been “massive, systematic and organised” postal voting fraud “that would disgrace a banana republic”.

The old system in which one person fills in a registration form for the entire household has now been scrapped.

Instead, each voter now has to register individually and provide identifying information such as a date of birth and national insurance number.

But Mrs Elliott warned that some people did not have National Insurance numbers matched to their home address, and could find themselves unable to register.

She told MPs:

I agreed in principle with individual voter registration, but that it had to be implemented in a way that works. The new system, however, is simply being rushed through.

“My fear is that because the changes are being done at speed, and because of the lack of funding available to implement them, they will disfranchise millions of people. That does not improve our democracy at all.”

She added:

The groups being disfranchised that I am most concerned about are: students and young people; people who live in the private rented sector; and adults with no dependent children who are not yet claiming pensions or not on benefits.”

Mrs Elliott told MPs that Sunderland was a university city and became home to thousands of young people in term time.

She added:

Their national insurance number is often registered to the address of their parents’ home, so if they tried to go on the electoral register where they are students the data would not match.”

People who moved home frequently, or had never had any contact with the benefits system, might also have National Insurance numbers registered to the wrong address she said.

Some voters could also be disenfranchised because of mistakes in the National Insurance system, she said.

And she highlighted warnings from officials in Sunderland City Council, which oversees elections in the city, that the number of registered voters had fallen by 6,128 people since the new system came in.

Cabinet Office Minister Sam Gyimah said the changes were designed to ensure details on the electoral reister were correct.

He said

We must be mindful of the pitfalls of introducing a new method of registering to vote, and we should focus on the completeness and accuracy of the register. Much has been said about the need for the register to be complete, and the Government and I agree with everyone on the need for that, but we cannot ignore the importance of accuracy. Without an accurate register, we risk undermining the very elections on which the system is based, so we must not simply sweep away the importance of accuracy.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  23 Oct 2014

Labour Policy Report Calls For Radical Reform Of Welfare State

This article was written by Toby Helm, political editor, for The Observer on Saturday 14th June 2014

 Plans for a radical overhaul of the welfare state, including a return to the principle that benefits should be linked more closely to contributions, will be part of a major policy report for the Labour party this week.

The Condition of Britain study by the IPPR thinktank, to be launched by Ed Miliband on Thursday, will also contain proposals to devolve large amounts of power and funding out of Whitehall, including the control of housing benefit to councils, in order to stimulate innovative housing policies and more housebuilding.

The project was set up in February 2013 as part of Labour’s policy review to consider how institutions and policies need to respond to today’s needs – including more childcare and better care for the elderly – within the confines of tight budgets and inevitable further cuts.

A key theme is expected to be that early intervention at every stage of life can prevent society having to continue “paying for the costs of failure”.

>  “early intervention at every stage of life” – now isn’t that an ominous phrase ?

The report will argue that a stronger society can be built on the three “pillars” of shared power, contribution (through changes to the national insurance system) and strong institutions. While some proposals, such as a plan to freeze child benefit to fund a network of children’s centres, are likely to be rejected by Miliband, many of its central ideas will be considered by the party’s national policy forum in July.

The report is expected to look at whether benefit payments can be linked more closely to levels of contributions through changes to the national insurance system.

Senior figures believe that Labour must counter the impression that it supports a “something for nothing” benefits system by looking at radical change.

> Oh great – so it’s all about image and trying to appeal to those sectors of the electorate who wouldn’t vote Labour anyway. And once again those at the bottom of the pile will get a kicking… just so Labour look tough, just like the Tories.

Not a single original thought among them, is there ?

Writing on theguardian.com, the chair of the policy review, Jon Cruddas, suggests that such ideas could form a major part of Labour’s manifesto at the 2015 general election.

Looking ahead to the report’s publication, Cruddas says: “It sets out three broad strategies for social renewal: spread power and responsibility to build democracy and strengthen society; foster contribution and reciprocity to re-establish a sense of fairness and justice; and strengthen our shared institutions to help tackle social problems for good. These establish the foundations on which we can build a competitive wealth-creating economy.”

The report will contain proposals for a one-off levy of £450m on Britain’s £180bn consumer credit industry which the IPPR says could create enough affordable lenders to take on Britain’s legal loan sharks.

It says that, as well as a new legal cap on the total cost of credit, Britain needs a new generation of not-for-profit lenders with enough capital to compete with firms like Wonga, Quick Quid and Payday Express.

The IPPR launch will be followed later in the summer by Andrew Adonis’s growth review, which will focus on developing the economic potential of cities. Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester city council, will then publish work by his local government innovation taskforce setting out plans to redistribute power across England and reform public services so that they can be tailored better to meet local needs.

Source –  Welfare News Service,  15 June 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/labour-policy-report-calls-radical-reform-welfare-state/

Britons Travelling Or Studying Abroad Forced To Sit Jobcentre Residency Test

This article  was written by Leah Green, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 21st May 2014

 British citizens travelling or studying abroad for more than three months are being refused benefits on their return under new rules designed to crackdown on benefit tourism from eastern Europe.

Changes to the habitual residence test, designed to make it harder for European Union migrants to claim benefits, mean UK citizens who have been abroad for an extended period cannot claim jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) for the first three months after their return.

It means that people who travel for more than three months – including gap-year students, graduates and people taking career breaks – are being denied JSA to help them while they find a new job.

The new rule came in on 1 January, the same day it became legal for migrants from Romania and Bulgaria to enter the UK on work visas. In a government-issued statement on the new rules, the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “The British public are rightly concerned that migrants should contribute to this country, and not be drawn here by the attractiveness of our benefits system.”

However, in attempting to combat predicted “benefit tourism” from eastern Europe, the government has made it impossible for UK citizens returning from abroad to claim as well.

Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, said:, “British-born citizens who have been travelling, doing internships or living abroad temporarily shouldn’t be treated in the same way as those coming into our country for the first time.

“Habitual residency rules should be about making sure people who are new arrivals to the UK, and have not yet made any contribution or commitment to this country, do not claim benefits they are not entitled to. British citizens are in a completely different situation, and the government should recognise that.”

Rosie Smith, 24, and her boyfriend Alexi Dimond, 29, are both from Sheffield and returned to the country in March after almost six months living and doing voluntary work in Thailand. Smith had been in the same city since she was born. She wanted “a bit of a change”, she said: “I had been in Sheffield my whole life. I just wanted six months not in Sheffield.”

Smith saved money from her job as a nursery nurse, while Dimond worked in administration at an NHS dental hospital. When they got back, they wanted to look for work immediately and registered with the Jobcentre the next day. Dimond claims the person asking him questions for the habitual residence test was “very apologetic” for even making him undergo it.

He was told he was not, under the new benefits rules, considered habitually resident in the UK and would have to wait three months before claiming JSA. “I thought it was outrageous really,” he says, “I’ve contributed tax for the last six years working for the NHS. I think it’s ridiculous I’m not entitled to anything.” He now had no money at all, he said, and was relying on friends for food. Smith has moved back in with her parents.

Alongside his job, Dimond had done voluntary work with asylum seekers for five years before leaving the UK. When enquiring at the Jobcentre how he was supposed to survive, he was handed a leaflet entitled Emergency Help in Sheffield. It is the same leaflet he was issuing to asylum seekers before he went away. “It’s basically the help you get when there is literally nothing else,” he explained.

British citizens have always had to take a habitual residence test before being granted benefits, but only since the rules changed on 1 January have people been told they automatically fail for spending time out of the country.

Sam, 25, is back living with his parents in Manchester for the first time in seven years after being refused JSA on his return from a year in the Netherlands where he was doing a master’s in psychological research.

Sam had hoped he would get a job as soon as he got back “but that’s not the case,” he said, “so I applied for jobseeker’s soon after I got back.

He was taken aback to have his application for benefits turned down. “I think if you’re looking for work you should get jobseeker’s allowance. That’s what makes sense,” he said.

Sam’s parents are providing his food and shelter, and he is dipping into savings to travel to job interviews in London. He realises he is lucky to be cared for, claiming it is unfair on others “who don’t have that support. You would think then that support should come from the government.”

However, he is sympathetic to a tougherstance on immigration, agreeing that migrants “shouldn’t be able to claim [straight away] if they come from abroad.”

Emma Birks, 36, was a volunteer co-ordinator at a worker’s co-operative in Birmingham before deciding to go travelling in south-east Asia. “I’d been putting it off and putting it off,” she explained, “and then sometimes you think ‘life’s too short’.”

Since she got back in March, Birks has had no home and has been living between the houses of “three or four” charitable friends. She has been surviving by taking handouts and using credit cards. Because of her work, she knew about the habitual residence test and never dreamed she would fail it. She describes her situation now as “a bit demoralising and humiliating.

“The whole point of jobseeker’s allowance is to help you in that interim period where you’re looking for work, trying to find a new start or whatever. To me, that’s the whole point of jobseeker’s and it’s just failed me basically,” she said.

Dimond agrees. When we speak, he and Smith are at the beginning of five days of agency work, stopping people in a Doncaster shopping centre and collecting surveys about the facilities. He has had to borrow the money to get to work, and estimates he already needs “about six months” to catch up on his debt, assuming he gets a job soon. “It’s seriously affected my job search,” he said. “I don’t have money to get to interviews.

Smith thinks they are victims of statistics. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “are just trying to get as many people off their system so they can make their numbers look better … so they can say hardly anyone’s signing on anymore. But they’re just disqualifying everyone,” she said.

A DWP spokesman said: “It has always been the case that any UK national who chooses to live or work in another country for an extended period must, if they return to the UK and want to claim benefits, satisfy the habitual residence test by proving they have strong ties to the country and want to remain here.

“People who have paid enough national insurance in the UK do not have to wait for three months before claiming jobseeker’s allowance.”

The spokesman did not respond when asked how much national insurance was enough, but none of the people interviewed were exempt from waiting three months.

The announcement of the changes in December confirmed the the introduction of the new three-month period in which people cannot claim benefits.

Source – Welfare News Service,  21 May 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/britons-travelling-studying-abroad-forced-sit-jobcentre-residency-test/

UK jobs figures and why they’re useless…

It is very hard to work out what is going on in the UK labour market because the quality of the statistics is basically junk – garbage in, garbage out describes the lack of quality of the data well. I really am not exaggerating.

Bad Labour Market Data Part 1 is that every other major country, including the euro area as a whole, is able to produce timely estimates, but not the UK.

Currently unemployment rates for February 2014 are available for Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. Data for April 2014 were released by the United States on Friday.

The UK stands out as the only country out of 31 that has no data available for February, March or April 2014.

Pathetic. The national statistic that pretends to be for January is actually an average of December of 2013 and January and February of 2014. The reason for this is simply because the sample sizes are too small to generate accurate monthly estimates.

The Office for National Statistics does in fact publish a single-month estimate of the unemployment rate but that jumps around all over the place.

Let me illustrate the problem. The ONS makes the supporting micro data on individuals available for researchers like me to examine. They take out identifiers so we can’t work out who anyone is. The latest micro data we have is for the three-month period October to December 2013.

In total over these three months 77,657 people between ages 16-98 were interviewed. Of these, 39,761 were employed 6,995 were self-employed and 3,347 were unemployed. The overall unemployment rate, once the data have been weighted and seasonally adjusted is 7.2 per cent, but the relatively small sample size means this estimate is measured with lots of error.

For the technically minded, the 95 per cent confidence interval for the monthly national change is ± 0.3 per cent, which means that any monthly difference smaller than that is not statistically significantly different from zero.

The unemployment rates that were calculated, for example, for East Anglia (5.7 per cent), East Midlands (6.4 per cent), Scotland (7.1 per cent), Wales (7.1 per cent), Northern Ireland (7.4 per cent) as reported by the ONS for October-December were based on ridiculously small samples of 114, 246, 281, 153 and 142 unemployed people respectively. Given the very small sizes the result is that the regional unemployment rates are measured with even more error than the national rate and bounce around like a rubber ball from month to month.

The reason why the ONS struggles to report unemployment rates by month becomes obvious rather quickly.

So the single-month estimate for December of 7.2 per cent that it reports is only based on a sample of 1,198 unemployed people, of whom 632 were male and 452 were under the age of 25.

The number of unemployed people in each of the five regions identified above in December is East Anglia (34), East Midlands (91), Scotland (105), Wales (51), Northern Ireland (55), hence why no single-month disaggregated estimates can be produced.

Bad Labour Market Data Part 2. The government has claimed recently that based on earnings growth of the national statistic called Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) for the whole economy of 1.9 per cent in February 2014 and the fact that the Consumer Price Index has been steadily falling, this means that real wages are set to rise.

If only that was true. But sadly it seems most unlikely given the fact that the Monthly Wages and Salaries Survey (MWSS) on which the estimate is derived has two major sample exclusions whose wages are likely to be growing much more slowly than that, if at all.

First, the ONS has no earnings data, as in none, on the 4.5 million self-employed workers, including large numbers who have set up in business recently. The only earnings data we have available from HMRC are over two years old.

What we do know is that the typical self-employed person earns less than the typical employee and some have zero earnings or even losses; there is every prospect earnings growth of the self-employed will be low.

Second, it also turns out that the MWSS doesn’t sample workers employed in firms with fewer than 20 employees that are the least likely to have strong earnings growth given the difficulty small firms have had in raising capital. The ONS simply makes an adjustment based on the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), which was last available in April 2013 and which itself excludes the lowest earners below the National Insurance threshold.

The ONS computes an average over the previous three years that it imposes on the AWE monthly data. So the ONS just guesses that what happened in the past applies now. But maybe it doesn’t.

The ONS admitted to me that “ideally, we would sample businesses with fewer than 20 employees in the MWSS. However, we do have to pay close attention to minimising the burden on respondents, and we believe that using the adjustment factor from the ASHE strikes an appropriate balance between this and accuracy of the estimates.”

Really? So making it up as you go along is OK? It turns out that this amounts to approximately 20 per cent of all employees, or another 5.2 million workers whose wages we know zippo about.

So the national wage measure excludes 10 million out of the UK’s 30 million workers and my working assumption, for the sake of argument, is that their average pay rise over the past year is zero (it’s a maybe not-so-wild guess that the ONS can’t disprove)!

There is supporting contradictory evidence of strong earnings growth from the latest UK Job Market Report from Adzuna.co.uk, showing that average advertised salaries have slipped £1,800 in the past year down to £31,818 in March 2014, 0.6 per cent lower than in February, and 5.3 per cent lower than in March 2013.

A survey carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses at the end of 2013 reported that “after several years of wage restraint, it is encouraging that the vast majority of small firms are beginning to raise wages again”. They found that 29 per cent of firm owners said that over the next year they would raise wages for all staff, 35 per cent for some staff, 8 per cent for those on the minimum wage. 22 per cent said they would freeze wages, 2 per cent said they would lower them and the rest didn’t answer.

So the AWE is an upward-biased estimate of wage growth. Garbage in, garbage out. The UK’s labour market data are not fit for purpose.

Source – Independent,  08 May 2014

George Osbourne – “The Plan Is Working, Scum”

> As noted elsewhere, ConDem posh boy George Osbourne gave a speech today, at Tilbury. It might have been nice if a few dockers had decided to heckle him, but as that doesn’t seem to have happened (perhaps no nasty rough types were allowed in), here’s a section of his speech, wherein he refers to his plans for those of us on benefits, with a few heckles added…

 

The culmination of this week that sees the biggest reduction of business and personal tax in two decades.

It’s only possible because your hard work is helping us fix the economy – and it is only part of our plan to create jobs.

> Oi, posh boy ! Was cutting all those public sector jobs in the North East also part of your plan to create jobs ? How did that work, then ?

For it’s no good creating jobs – if we’re also paying people to stay on welfare.

We inherited a welfare system that didn’t work

There was not enough help for those looking for a job – people were just parked on benefits.

> There was not enough jobs for those looking for a job. That was, and is, the real problem.

Frankly, there was not enough pressure to get a job – some people could just sign on and get almost as much money staying at home as going out to wo

That’s not fair to them – because they get trapped in poverty and their aspirations are squashed.

> Hang on, George… if people could get almost as much on benefits as they would working, how do they get trapped in poverty ? Is this a tacit admission that some jobs pay as little as benefits ?

It’s certainly not fair to taxpayers like you, who get up, go out to work, pay your taxes and pay for those benefits.

> How about tax payers like me (we’re all taxpayers – VAT, council tax, bedroom tax) who left school in 1977 and over the years has paid a lot of tax and national insurance on the understanding that, should I fall on hard times, I could claim benefits or, should I be lucky enough not to need to, my national insurance payments would go to help those who did need help ?

National Insurance is payed for a reason. Stop perverting that reason.

So if Tuesday is when we help businesses creating jobs; and Sunday is when we help hardworking people with jobs; next Monday is when we do more to encourage people without jobs to find them.

Benefits will only go up by 1% – so they don’t go up faster than most people’s pay rises, as used to be the case.

> Missue of figures alert ! Its not the percentage of the rise that matters, but the benefit or wage it’s an increase of.

A 10% rise for someone on basic Jobseeker’s Agreement would only amount to little over £7 a week – or £1 per day.

Meanwhile, our MPs are happily accepting an 11% rise – that’s 11% of some very good existing rates of pay. Got anything to say about that George ? No ? Thought not.

When I took this job, some people were getting huge payouts – receiving £50,000, £60,000 even up to £100,000 in benefits. More than most people could get by working. That was outrageous.

> £50,000, £60,000 even up to £100,000 in benefits – what ? Yearly, monthly, weekly ? How were these benefits made up ? How many cases were there ? Were there any or did you just make it up ?

If  ‘some people’ ever really did get that much, then it must have been a very minute percentage of the total. So why are your policies designed to hit those much further down the chain, those on basic benefits ? Hardly fair, is it ?

So we’ve capped benefits, so that a family out of work can’t get more in benefits than the average working family.

> Define the “average working family”.

We’re now capping the overall welfare bill, so we control that. That came into force last week.

And we are bringing in a new Universal Credit to make sure work always pays.

From this month we’re also making big changes to how people go about claiming benefits.

We all understand that some people need more help than others to find work.

So starting this month we’ll make half of all people on unemployment benefits sign on every week – and people who stay on benefits for a long time will have to go to the job centre every day so they can get constant help and encouragement.

> so they can get constant help and encouragement – there speaks a man who’s never had to claim even the most basic benefits. Constant harrassment and discouragement would be nearer the mark.

To claim benefits people will also have to show they can speak English, or go on a course to learn how. It is ridiculous that people who didn’t speak English, and weren’t trying to learn it, could sit on out of work benefits in this country.

If people can’t speak English it is hard to get a job. Starting this week it will be even harder to get benefits if they’re not even attempting to learn it.

> How about posh boys who can speak English but talk bollocks, George ? How about people with regional accents ? Cut their benefits until they learn to talk proper ?

 We’re going to require people to look for work for a week first before they get their unemployment benefit.

When people turn up at the job centre they’ll be expected to have a CV ready and to have started looking on our new jobs website.

> By which I suppose he means their old, discredited, scam-riddled and generally ridiculed Universal Jobmatch.

From now on the deal is this: look for work first; then claim the dole. Not the other way around.

> Then slowly starve as your claim for basic benefit help takes weeks to be processed…or get evicted for not being able to pay your rent, bills, council tax, bedroom tax, etc.

We will ask many of the long term unemployed to do community work in return for their benefits -whether it is making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, or working for a local charity.

> I do  like the use of ther word “ask” – as if you’d have a choice. But George, if there is all this work, why not pay people a proper wage – you know, the National Minimum Wage – to do it ? Working for benefits means they are no longer benefits – they are an illeagal, sub-NMW, slave labour rate job.

They will be gaining useful work experience and there’s an important principle here: if you want something out, you’ve got to put something in.

All of this is bringing back the principles that our welfare state was originally based on – something for something, not something for nothing.

That’s fair to the people claiming benefits – and fair to taxpayers who are paying for them.

> As pointed out, I am a taxpayer, we all are, and I have paid in plenty over the years towards the same benefits I now have to jump through hoops for.

And if some of the taxes I’ve paid also go to help others who need it, good – that’s the whole idea of society, at least as I understand it.

The old way has failed. More public spending leading to more welfare bills and more government jobs the country couldn’t afford.

Instead, this week, we follow the new way, our way: backing businesses by cutting their taxes so they can create jobs; cutting the tax on hard working people so their job pays; and holding back welfare rises and imposing more conditions on those claiming the dole, so that getting a job pays more.

> so that getting a job pays more – pays more what ? More costs in poverty, disease, stress, mental illness ? Bigger prison bills, when people are forced into desperate measures ? More homelessness ? Who exactly does this pay more to ?

The biggest business and personal tax cuts for a generation.

Welfare changes that get people back to work.

That’s our jobs plan and it’s the only plan in town.

And it’s working.

> Look, if you really just want to save money – stop subsidising the royal family (the true benefit scroungers), scrap Trident, stop getting embroilled in foreign wars that are nothing to do with us, 1% pay rises for MPs (and cut down on the expenses as well), stop pouring money into abortions like Universal Jobmatch… and so much more.

Of course, if your plan is actually a gradual reintroduction of the feudal system, then yes, it obviously is working.

Increase minimum wage to win in North, Tory candidate tells Osborne

> Sure sign that there’s an election just over the horizon – out they come, offering bribes like the sleazy fixers they are…

A former Tory candidate in the North East is leading calls for the party to increase the minimum wage – to give it a chance of winning seats in Labour heartlands.

The campaign urging Chancellor George Osborne to increase the minimum wage has been launched by Renewal, a campaign group dedicated to broadening the appeal of the Conservative Party and giving it a chance of winning seats in regions such as the North East where the party has very few MPs.

Mr Osborne yesterday hinted that a rise from the current £6.31 an hour to £7 was indeed in the offing.

Renewal director David Skelton finished a distant second when he stood for the Labourstronghold of North Durham in the 2010 general election.

Renewal has launched a review called “Renewing Capitalism”, which will look at new ways to create a competitive economic environment in which the consumer and the low-paid are protected, competition is cherished and anti-competitive, monopolistic behaviour is cracked down on.

It will also explore ideas to create wealth in parts of the country that have been struggling to share in prosperity since the 1980s – notably deindustrialised towns in northern England.

> Yeah… might have been better if the Tories hadn’t wrecked the north in the first place perhaps ? Might be good if they weren’t cutting funding left, right & centre.

Renewal is also considering ways of changing the face of the Conservative Party by bringing in more working class MPs, including by introducing bursaries to help people on lower incomes stand for election.

> This is a wind-up, isn’t it ? Its certainly not the Conservative party.

Mr Skelton, who was born and grew up in Consett, County Durham, said:

“The Conservative Party needs to come to terms with the fact that many people, particularly the low paid, don’t think that capitalism is working for them.

“We need to do more to show that capitalism can work for everybody in every part of the country. Being pro-market isn’t the same as being pro-big business.

“Where there are instances of abuse – in either the public or the private sector – Conservatives should come down hard to protect the consumer.”

> I think we know perfectly well what capitalism is likely to do for – and do to – us.

The review could be seen as a response to Labour leader Ed Miliband’s focus on the cost of living and attack on “predatory” capitalism. Labour is arguing that the benefits of economic recovery are not being shared by most people – and is highlighting the fact workers in the North East on average are paid £1,300 a year less than they were in 2010, once inflation is taken into account.

Some Conservatives argue that putting up the minimum wage, currently £6.31 an hour for over-21s, would help ensure that working people enjoy an increase in their standard of living as the economy improves.

> Yes, but it doesn’t create new jobs, so those in work earn a few more pennies, but the high unemployment continues, and those on benefits will continue to be the scapegoats for a situation they had no hand in.

Speaking recently, Hexham MP Guy Opperman said: “I am a well known exponent of the voluntary living wage and am very keen for an enhancement of the minimum wage now that the economic conditions are beginning to ease.

“There is an ongoing campaign to see if the Chancellor is able to make such a change when we get to the Budget in March.”

Recommendations about minimum wage rate are made by the Low Pay Commission, an independent body set up by the Government.

Mr Osborne has said he will not increase the minimum wage if it will lead to job losses but there is speculation he could announce a simultaneous cut in taxes paid by employers such as National Insurance, allowing them to pay staff more while staying in profit.

> The cut in NI contributions makes sense in the light of current policy, which seems intent on making it impossible for anyone to actually claim benefits anyway.

Source – Newcastle Journal, 17 Jan 2014

Denied work, Britain’s poor have become ‘untermensch’

A piece from RT.com by Tony Gosling, which pretty accurately sums up the current situation for many in “Great” Britain today.

Not satisfied with their seventh home, brace of sports cars and servants, the rich are paying Tory politicians, press and the City to grind the faces of Britain’s poor into the dirt.

 

Millions of hardworking families can no longer afford a social life, shoes for their children, to go swimming or to the cinema.

A depraved Sheriff of Nottingham is ruling Britain. While the superrich loan shark 0.001 percent are given the red carpet treatment to loot the family silver, Sheriff Cameron and his Bullingdon Club bullies are putting all the blame at the door of whom? The destitute and disabled.

Past recessions and the desire of businessmen to drive down wages and conditions have swelled the numbers of the unemployed in Britain to around 3 million. Since the post-World War II Labour Party ‘National Insurance’ and ‘Social Security’ laws, these jobless have always been given enough by the government to live on. But those days are over under this sheriff, the poor are being lashed.

Including government help with inflated housing costs, Britain has around 25 percent of the population dependent on various welfare payments. Cameron’s wheeze is an online ‘Universal Credit’ scheme to lump all these payments into one. After several hiccoughs and cost overruns the latest 140 million pounds (US$225 million) written off from this pilotless project just this week beggars belief. It could have provided a year of low paid public sector jobs for around 10,000 people languishing on the dole and saved the taxpayer a cool 300 million pounds altogether.

It has been left to the poorest in society, struggling after being stripped of their statutory legal aid, to challenge these attacks in the courts. Last month forced laborer Cait Reilly won a Supreme Court challenge and her slavery scheme was ruled unlawful. Now this week government abolition of ‘Independent Living Allowance’ for disabled people has also proved Sheriff Cameron and his poor-bashing henchman Iain Duncan-Smith have been breaking the law.

This week figures emerged too that a staggering 700,000 of Britain’s poorest unwaged, while denied work, have had their subsistence payments removed for not complying with a privatized scheme called the ‘Work Programme’, designed to bully them into low paid work.

Undercover recording back in 2012 revealed privatized employment staff being trained to regard the jobless as not deserving anything to live on at all. Job advisers were told by training staff to regard clients as ‘benefit scrounging scum’.

My own experience on this scheme verifies consistent bullying tactics are being used daily on the thousands of the weakest in society. The complaint system which I tried to use turned out to be a crooked sham, but the private company running my scheme, Seetec, still stands to be rewarded with approximately 15,000 pounds of taxpayers money for doing nothing to help me find work at all.

While on the program I witnessed one unwashed, educationally subnormal young man of about 25 arrive for his interview in clothes that looked as if they hadn’t been changed in weeks. Just before he sat down, his ‘job adviser’ yelled at him in front of the whole open plan office, “Back again are you? You said you would. Why haven’t you got a job yet?!”

The young man visibly shrank back from the chair as if he was preparing himself to receive a physical punch, his eyes were darting around as if for a safe place to run to, or perhaps someone he could trust.

The young woman who had stopped talking to me, my adviser, visibly cringed. Not saying anything she made it clear to me she didn’t approve of her colleague’s behavior – the cruelty was naked and inexcusable. She left the job shortly afterwards.

Before I left that day another client told me the police had been called to deal with a fight earlier, but as he was telling me the story I had to get up and move away. Another client started swinging his right arm back and forth, remonstrating about how he had been practicing throwing hand axes, grinding his teeth as he described what a mess they made of someone you didn’t like when lodged in their back.

On the way out that final day I got chatting in the lift to a 50-year-oldish woman who told me she had a degenerative nervous disease. Government contractors ‘Work Capability Assessment’ company, ATOS had certified her ‘fit for work’ so she had to struggle into Bristol City center three times a week to apply for jobs she knew – in competition with able bodied young people and migrants – she could never get.

Since Britain has enjoyed such high living standards and maintains its position as one of the wealthiest handful of countries in the world, we are feeling the ‘pinch’. The sense of injustice and moral outrage has become palpable on the BBC TV’s weekly ‘Question Time’ which nowadays breaks out into angry exchanges despite the producers largely keeping the socialist left off the panels.

It’s a policy designed to start a second civil war, threatening ordinary people with starvation, prison or eviction seems to be all Britain’s coalition government can think of to ‘motivate’ the populace.

Just as Switzerland’s wicked Gessler had his William Tell and France’s Villefort family had their Count of Monte Cristo, quietly Britons are beginning to see Robin Hood’s Merry Men coming together.

The market’s nightmare vision is for a Big Brother technocrat and authoritarian regime. But what Britain and the rest of the NATO zone really needs is a reasserting of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, a united front for an updated set of universal social standards with no sinister strings attached.

Switzerland and Cyprus are now proposing one excellent solution, the basic income, but go one stage further and we can guarantee citizens for free what that basic income is supposed to provide.

As its first priority the state should abolish the threat of eviction, instead making the dignity and subsistence the order of the day. Water, food, healthcare, energy and a rent-free roof over every head. Above and beyond that people will have plenty of time to work and better themselves, with taxes kicking in as families pursue more luxurious lifestyles.

A nationalized banking system that goes hand in hand with good government would force the moneychangers out of the temple, to serve the people once more. We’d have no more of their weasel words: ‘There’s not enough money for that!”

Original article – http://rt.com/op-edge/britain-poor-denied-work-425/