Tagged: Sunderland Echo

Sunderland City Council to lose £12million from Government

Sunderland City Council is to lose more than £12million in spending power for next year, it has been announced.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said in a statement that the authority’s funding grants settlement for 2015/16 will fall by 4.2 per cent, from £289.179million to £276.936million.

Councils across the country are facing an average cut of 1.8 per cent.

It means that spending per Sunderland household will be down from £2,297 to just £2,200.

Source – Sunderland Echo,  18 Dec 2014

McDonald’s claims it brings £10.2million to Sunderland’s economy



> From the company whose employment  policies gave us the term McJobs, we now appear to have a McEconomy…

McDonald’s and its suppliers serve up £10million a year for Wearside, says the fast food giant.

 The firm has commissioned an economic report to mark its 40th anniversary in the UK, which it says shows the business and its suppliers make a combined £10.2million annual contribution to the Sunderland economy.

The ‘Serving the UK: McDonald’s at 40 Report’ was researched by Development Economics to assess the overall contribution McDonald’s has made to the UK economy, local communities, its employees, customers and suppliers since it first started operating in the UK in November 1974.

The report found overall the business and its supply chain was worth an estimated £2.5billion a year to the UK economy.

> Or, as one one person commented on the Echo website – 

Yes, look at all the jobs created by McDonalds in: the Coronary Care Unit; the Diabetes Clinic.

Add up the cost to the health of Sunderland’s school children: McDonald’s claims about its input into the economy does not seem so positive.

Source –  Sunderland Echo,  19 June 2014

Hundreds of temporary jobs to go at Nissan’s Sunderland plant

> Its only a couple of months since we were being told that the automotive sector, based mainly around Nissan and its suppliers, were the way forward for employment locally.

I commented at the time that this “eggs-all-in-one-basket” approach was previously applied to the advent of call centres, and that didn’t work out too well.

This doesn’t herald the collapse of the automotive industry locally, but it does mean more people back on the dole, and probably some knock-on effects on Nissan’s suppliers.


Nissan is to cut hundreds of temporary jobs at its Sunderland factory.

The car giant announced today it is to cease 24-hour production on line two at the factory, which builds the Juke and Note.

The move will see the workforce reduced by 365, though the firm expects the number of workers affected to be less, due to staff turnover. The cuts will be limited to staff on temporary contracts.

Nissan has recruited 2,000 people to the Sunderland workforce in the past two years to support a £1billion investment programme.

After making more than 500,000 cars in each of the last two years, 24-hour working on both lines was introduced in January.

But the firm announced to staff this morning that demand no longer justifies running three shifts beyond the summer and Line 2 will return to two-shift operations from mid-June.

At the end of this period we expect headcount at Sunderland to be around 6,700, supporting two-shift operations on Line 2 with 24-hour operations continuing across the rest of the site,” said a spokesman.

Source – Sunderland Echo   02 May 2014

The Perils Of Zero-Hour Contracts

On the face of it, the headline in yesterday’s Sunderland Echo –

Sunderland benefit cheat claimed £5,000

– looks pretty much like a cut-and-dried case.  As the Echo put it – ” A man working on a zero-hour contract fell foul of the law when he continued to claim unemployment benefits – conning taxpayers out of more than £5,000.”

Steven Wardell claimed £5,266 in job seekers’ allowance, housing and council tax benefits he was not entitled to and  was caught after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) received a tip-off that he had been working for Velocity Driver Hire since October 2010.

Wardell pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances to the authorities spanning a period of almost two years.

However, the defence put by his soliciter  stands as a pretty good warning to anyone contemplating taking a zero-hour contract job…

“The original claim made by Mr Wardell was a legitimate claim for job seekers’ allowance,” defence solicitor Gavin Sword said.

“The problem here is that thereafter he works intermittently. It’s one of those zero-hour contracts. He only works when work is available.

“In 2008 he had been on benefits. He worked for 18 hours. He notified the DWP of that and was signed off benefits. It then took just over 11 weeks before benefits were reinstated.

During that period of time he finds himself in the county court for non-payment of debt. He finds himself in quite a bad situation.

“He cannot face another 11 weeks without benefits. He is thinking ‘how am I going to pay my rent and keep the wolf from the door?’ as it were.

“He now accepts the over-payment. However, there were during that period of time some weeks when he didn’t work at all and he was fully entitled to benefits.

“During that period of time he says he on average worked 14.5 hours per week. The maximum he received when working a full week was £240. He was certainly not living beyond his means. He was struggling to get by.”

Wardell was handed a 12-month community order with 100 hours of unpaid work. He was told to pay £85 costs and a £60 victim surcharge. The DWP will seek to recover the full amount of the overpayment from him.

Victim surcharge ? Who to, the DWP ? There’s ironic…

It’s exactly because of the potential for  this kind of situation developing that I wouldn’t touch a zero-hour contract job with a bargepole. Forget the dignity of labour and all that crap –  for most people jobs like these are far worse than no job at all.

If people refused point-blank to do them, perhaps the employers involved would start offering more realistic terms.

Source – Sunderland Echo, 22 Jan 2014


Unemployment Falls – Sanctions Rise. Coincidence ?

The UK unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since 2009, official figures show.

At 7.4%, this is the lowest rate since the February-to-April period in 2009, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The number of people out of work fell by 99,000 to 2.39 million in the three months to October, the ONS said.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in November fell by 36,700 to 1.27 million.

In Northern Ireland the unemployment rate was slightly higher at 7.5%, while Scotland’s figure was 7.1.%. England and Wales matched the national figure of 7.4%.

The North East of England had the highest unemployment rate, at 10.1%, while the lowest rate was 5.6% in the East of England.

The North East also had the highest claimant count rate at 6.1%, compared with the South East, which had the lowest, at 2.3%.

Employment Minister Esther McVey wasn’t slow to grab the credit –  “It is really encouraging news that the number of people in jobs has increased by a quarter of a million in the last three months, bringing the total number of people in work to a record-breaking 30 million.

“Together with a big fall in unemployment, this shows that the Government’s long-term economic plan to get people off benefits and into work is proving successful.

“It’s also thanks to British businesses up and down the country who are feeling increasingly confident about taking on workers. This is a great sign that the economy is growing.”

Good of her to give a mention to the businesses employing people – “It’s also thanks to British businesses up and down the country” – you might have thought that it’s entirely thanks to them.

Or would you ? Perhaps, against all probability, there is actually some truth to be found in her statement – “this shows that the Government’s long-term economic plan to get people off benefits and into work is proving successful”.

Now if you were to amend that to – “this shows that the Government’s long-term economic plan to get people off benefits is proving successful” you might be getting closer to the truth.

 Sanctions !

“Latest figures show Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants who failed to do enough to find work had their benefits payments suspended 580,000 times.” – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/benefit-sanctions-ending-the-something-for-nothing-culture

The government’s propaganda site was quick to trumpet their “success” a few months ago.
Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, commenting on the above statement:

‘Figures published today show that half a million people face the threat of destitution as their benefits are taken away in a bid to mould behaviour and encourage people to take jobs.

International evidence is that while conditionality, has its uses, it is a blunt and uncertain instrument for driving behaviour. In the US the evidence is that people disappear below the radar altogether, which may recue the claimant count but creates huge risk.

’The threat of destitution is a poorly evidenced high risk way of trying to influence the behaviour of the poorest people in the country.’

Vanishing under the radar – that’s all part of the government’s long-term economic figure-manipulating plan. It’s not about tax payers money being saved – Jobseekers Allowance payments only amount to around 3% of the budget. Almost three times that – around 8% – is paid in benefits to those IN work.

Consider the words of a Job Centre whistleblower – from 2011, and its got worse since…

A whistleblower said staff at his jobcentre were given targets of three people a week to refer for sanctions, where benefits are removed for up to six months. He said it was part of a “culture change” since last summer that had led to competition between advisers, teams and regional offices.

“Suddenly you’re not helping somebody into sustainable employment, which is what you’re employed to do,” he said.

“You’re looking for ways to trick your customers into ‘not looking for work’. You come up with many ways. I’ve seen dyslexic customers given written job searches, and when they don’t produce them – what a surprise – they’re sanctioned. The only target that anyone seems to care about is stopping people’s money.

“‘Saving the public purse’ is the catchphrase that is used in our office … It is drummed home all the time – you’re saving the public purse. Feel good about stopping someone’s money, you’ve just saved your own pocket. Its a joke.”

Unfortunately a not very funny joke, with a punchline that causes real damage.

“We were told suddenly that [finding someone to sanction] once a week wasn’t good enough, we were far behind other offices, and we went to a meeting where they compared us with other offices, and said we now have to do three a week to catch up. Most staff go into work and they’re thinking about it from moment one – who am I going to stop this week?”

“The young often fall into it, because they haven’t been there long enough, they are generally a major target. The uneducated are another major target. I’ve seen people with … seriously low educational standards and it’s easy to exploit them.”

He said staff had different ways to ensure they could stop benefits for a set amount of people.

“So, for example, if you want someone to diversify – they’re an electrician or a plumber, they may not want to go into call centres or something. What you do is keep promoting such and such a job, and you pressure them into taking it off you, the piece of paper. Then in two weeks you look at the system, you ask them if they applied for it … they say no – you stop their money for six months.”

The whistleblower says his office has been told there is no more money for back to work training from April. “From April, we offer no provision … nothing, no training course, nothing. The funding ends at the end of March.

“[Now] your office can shine through one of two targets. You can either shine through getting people into work, but that’s really difficult. Or you can stop their money, and that’s really easy.”


Well, that was 2011. Things have got worse as it becomes ingrained in the DWP culture. One perceptive reader of the above Guardian article wrote at the time :

” At some point Osborne or Cameron will triumphantly brandish figures about how many ‘scroungers’ they cut off from benefits. Remember, this is how they did it.”

Anyone hearing Cameron in the media yesterday might like to consider that.

And its going to get worse yet –  consider an article published a few days ago on the Boycott Workfare site –


100,000 people given historic sanctions

In August 2012 it was ruled in the high court that the letters given to claimants mandating them onto workfare schemes of up to 780 unpaid hours did not communicate to people what was required of them on these schemes. This meant all the sanctions that had been awarded through a range of different workfare schemes were unlawful and had to be repaid. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) went about appealing this ruling, but in February 2013 the decision was upheld.

After this the DWP rushed through the retrospective Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act, making the unlawful withdrawal of benefits from an estimated 179,000 people now apparently legal – although obviously this Act did not change the fact that people were not fully aware of what was required of them at the time.

This Act was supported by the Labour Party and deprived people who would have suffered significant hardship of a total of £130 million that was unlawfully stolen by the government.

It now turns out that the cruelty of this Act did not stop there. Since the first court case decision in August 2012 they had stopped sanctioning for cases that would be affected by the courts decision, and had started to stockpile these decisions. The introduction of the Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act allowed them to start sanctioning all these stockpiled sanctions. At the time they rushed through the act 63,000 sanctions had been stockpiled, and by the time they started to sanction people in July 2013 this could have reached over 100,000 sanctions.

Over the last 3-6 months people have been notified of these sanctions with letters such as the one shown. As can be seen there can be a year long gap between the alleged event and you being notified of the sanction making it almost impossible to appeal as it is unlikely you have knowledge of what you did on that day (and neither do the work programme providers!).

Not only were all 3 main political parties involved in depriving the poorest people of £130 million that was rightfully theirs, but are now chasing another 100,000 claimants for money through these historic sanctions with little hope of claimants forming a strong case of appeal. All benefit sanctions are wrong, but this retrospective law shows how happy the government are to even sanction illegally – as they’ll just change the law later and sanction people a year down the line.

You wonder that the unemployment rates seem to be falling ? Even though there are apparently no more vacancies than before, still masses of empty shops and factories and the local media continues to report job losses on an almost daily basis ?

Do you wonder why, in Parliament, Labour MPs failed to ask questions about the role of sanctions in the supposed improved figures ?

Or why, on the day the figures were released, the Sunderland Echo – hardly a radical publication – headlined with Bleakest Times For The City’s Homeless ?

Come April 2014 and the introduction of compulsory workfare – allied to all those retrospective sanctions they’re currently harvesting – you can just bet those figures will be tumbling yet again.

Please remember why… someone, somewhere, perhaps even you, will have been sacrificed on the altar of political ambition.

Does that dull the feelgood factor perhaps just a little ?

Students Fuel Housing Feeding Frenzy

“University bosses are becoming increasingly concerned about the number of private landlords applying to turn city buildings into student accommodation.” (Sunderland Echo, 04  October 2013).

They’re not the only ones !  You’d have had to be blind not to notice the number of ‘For Let – To Students’ signs appearing on houses around the city.  Sunderland University (nee Polytechnic)  is big business nowadays, and a whole host of specialist leech industries have grown up around it, and student-only letting agencies seem to be a boom area.

Indeed, it has been noted that one well-known city landlord seems to be moving wholeheartedly into this new area – whether they will be evicting existing tenants to make way for the new cash cows remains to be seen, but given their past record….

It makes sense, I suppose, if your only interest in society is extracting the maximum amount of money. Why rent a house for a single amount  when you can squeeze many more students in and charge each of them ? Add to that short-term contracts, so you’re not stuck with them for long if they’re trouble. Who loses ?

Well, apart from the unfortunate non-students seeking accommodation, or those existing residents finding themselves increasingly in student ghettos. But who cares about them ?

Of course, the university’s main concern seems to be the fact that they’ll not have control of these planned student buildings.  They dont appear to be in the least concerned about the effect on  rentable  houses for the rest of the population… you know, the people who actually live there full time ?  Not suprisingly,  most of the new student lets are also in the most affordable (ie: poorer) areas.

Perhaps the university should be investing in  new halls of residence to go with the few places it already has (I understand it has around 17,000 students, but only has accommodation for 1,547 ).  Even allowing for students who live locally anyway  or within commuting distance anyway…