Peace activists have called for the closure of a spy base on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales after leaked top secret files appeared to show its staff were involved in a US drone strike in a non-war zone.
The documents, leaked by US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, suggest British staff at RAF Menwith Hill, near Harrogate, worked closely the NSA in a project codenamed Widowmaker.
A memo to Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) staff reveals how US officials ordered a drone strike in Yemen in 2012, to kill a doctor they believed was working with the terror network to surgically implant explosives in suicide bombers.
GCHQ documents handed to The Guardian newspaper reveal workers at the spy base near Harrogate, helped to “discover communications intelligence gaps in support of the global war on terror”.
The papers suggest British GCHQ personnel, who work at all levels within both the operational and administrative areas of the North Yorkshire base, were involved in the locating of surveillance targets in Yemen.
Plans to make the medical test for employment and support allowance (ESA) harder to pass and increase the amount of bedroom tax some claimants have to pay have been leaked to the Guardian.
The cuts documents drawn up by civil servants and seen by the Guardian, relate to ways that the benefits bill could be reduced if the government goes over the national spending cap for welfare benefits.
However, sources in the DWP told the Guardian that these are the same options that will be presented to Conservative ministers wanting to cut £12 billion from the benefit bill if they win the election.
The cuts include:
- Stricter fit for work tests or ‘tighter limits on eligibility’
- Increasing the bedroom tax on certain categories of renters
- Stopping under-25s from claiming ESA or housing benefit
- Freezing all benefits payments
The DWP documents also reveal that IDS has failed to meet his targets for cutting the cost of IB/ESA, DLA/PIP and housing benefit and that ‘welfare reform’ is not saving money. The only way to cut costs now, according to the papers is to make cuts, some of which have been rejected in the past by ministers, which are “very/highly/extremely controversial”.
Little wonder then, that the Conservatives don’t want to reveal them before an election.
You can read more in the Guardian
Source – Benefits & Work, 05 May 2015
The government were informed time and time again that its ‘austerity’ policies were detrimental to the economy and detrimental to promoting growth. They didn’t listen, and now Office of National Statistics show that productivity has plummeted to levels not seen since the Second World War as a result.
As we have discovered after five years of economic mismanagement, the only reason for ‘austerity’ measures is to increase bank profits. In fact, ‘austerity’ is very good news for major financial institutions, at the expense of business, manufacturing, and citizens as a whole.
From The Guardian
David Cameron has presided over an economy with the weakest productivity record of any government since the second world war, the Office for National Statistics said as it revealed output per worker fell again in the final three months of 2014.
In a separate blow to the government, two-thirds of leading UK economists said they believed…
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Benefits Street now looks unlikely to air before the General Election in May.
The second series of the controversial series has been filmed on Kingston Road in Stockton’s Tilery Estate.
It was previously understood that the series was set to air in March, after sources close to the show suggested it would be around that time.
However, due to tight broadcasting rules of what airs in the run-up to a General Election, it could now be after voting has taken place in May.
Anything deemed as politically contentious needs to stick to strict broadcasting guidelines.
It’s not clear if Benefits Street would fall into this category or whether this would prevent Channel 4 from screening it as adaptations can be made to ensure it adheres by any rules.
But it was reported in The Guardian’s Media Monkey column that it will be a six-episode series, going out after the election.
“Channel 4’s Immigration Street may have been derailed by protesters (it’s down to a single film) but the second run of Benefits Street is still very much on track – six episodes will be aired about an estate in Stockton-on-Tees after the General Election,” it stated.
“It seems the new series will also cover the media kerfuffle the show has created: Love Productions’ Benefits Street crew has filmed the crews sent by other broadcasters including the BBC, who in turn were sent to film them filming the residents.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 16 Feb 2015
The Guardian is reporting that payday loan comparison sites are hiding £75 charges for their services in their small print and are specifically targeting benefits claimants.
Visitors, who often do not even get a loan, are having the money taken from their account and their bank details passed on to up to 200 other payday loan brokers, who may also try to take money from the same accounts.
In August alone, Nat West says that there were a million attempts by payday loan brokers to take money from customers’ accounts.
Astonishingly, the scammers are usually authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, who have given over 5,000 licences to payday loan brokers before actually beginning to check up on them.
According to the Guardian:
“NatWest said it is seeing as many as 640 complaints a day from customers who say that sums, usually in the range of £50 to £75, have been taken from their accounts by companies they do not recognise but are in fact payday loan brokers.”
The banks also claim that scammers:
“. . .push their charges through bank payment processing systems between midnight and 3am, knowing that state benefit payments are added to accounts just after midnight. When the person living on unemployment or disability benefit wakes in the morning, they find their money has already vanished.”
Source – Benefits & Work, 29 Oct 2014
Action is needed to tackle “outrageous” levels of child poverty in parts of the region, campaigners have urged.
It comes as figures suggest nine of the 12 North East councils have wards where more than 20% of children live in pockets of severe poverty.
The worst areas were in Middlesbrough (33%), Hartlepool (29%), Newcastle (28%) and South Tyneside (26.5%).
The North East Child Poverty Commission warned inflation, unemployment and cuts could see levels of deprivation spiral.
> Oh wow – they’re on the ball, aren’t they ? What do they think has been happening these last few years ?
The group has produced a map of child poverty for every ward, council and constituency in the region.
The map classes children as living in poverty if they are in families on out of work benefits or work tax credits where income is less than 60% of median – before housing costs.
Alan Milburn, who chairs the Social Mobility and Child Poverty (SMCP) commission said current levels of child poverty in the North are a “moral outrage” and have to change.
> MP for Darlington from 1992 until 2010. He served for five years in the Cabinet, first as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 1998 to 1999, and subsequently as Secretary of State for Health until 2003.
A strong supporter of Tony Blair‘s policies, especially his continued policy of increased private involvement in public service provision
Following his resignation as Secretary of State for Health (to spend more time with his family), Milburn took a post for £30,000 a year as an advisor to Bridgepoint Capital, a venture capital firm heavily involved in financing private health-care firms moving into the NHS, including Alliance Medical, Match Group, Medica and the Robinia Care Group. He has been Member of Advisory Board of PepsiCo since April 2007.
Another New Labour “socialist” you could trust with your life… if you’re tired of living.
The former Labour cabinet minister said: “Poor kids in the region are four times as likely to be poor adults.
“The poorest kids in the region’s schools face a double whammy. They arrive at primary school less ready to learn than their more privileged peers and only a third leave primary school with the required levels of reading and writing.
“Two in three of those kids then leave secondary school without five good GCSEs. The challenge we have in this country is at large in the North.
“Children post 16 are more likely to drop out of education than anywhere else in the country. The region also has the lowest rate of children going to university.
“It is more clear than ever that effective collaboration at all levels of government is required to help ensure the right conditions for children living in these deprived communities.”
The figures come three days before a group of young people from the region march on Parliament to give MPs their views on how to tackle child poverty.
As reported last week, more than half of the 38-strong cohort of youngsters that have been working on a children’s manifesto hail from the region.
They will present their national findings to an All Party Parliamentary Group on Wednesday.
Source – Sunday Sun, 12 Oct 2014
People queuing outside Jobcentre Plus. Pic courtesy: The Guardian
For the last year an extraordinary war has been going on between the Department of Work and Pensions and some of Britain’s tweeters and bloggers.
The battle has been over the centuries old right to free speech, to send up self-seeking bureaucrats and insult and satirize government ministers and the heads of private companies profiting from public services. This example is very modern, the battleground is Twitter rather than over some pamphlet.
The row began over a year ago when the Department of Work and Pensions used Twitter’s complaint procedure to lodge a trademark complaint against @UKJCP, a satirical account attacking Jobcentre Plus.
The application came from one Jon Woodcock, calling himself brand and information manager – his actual title is senior public information publishing manager – objecting to the site using the Jobcentre Plus trademark.
What was extraordinary was his…
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The highly confrontational former managing editor of both The Sunday Times and The Sun has been named as the new director of communications at the Department for Work and Pensions.
Richard Caseby takes over after former comms boss John Shield was hired by the BBC last September.
Gosh, what an incestuous world we live in! The BBC, now confirmed as little more than a mouthpiece for the Conservative Party in its political news content, hires the former press officer for the Tory-run DWP. The DWP then hires an executive from Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, previous home of – oh, yes – former Number 10 press supremo Andy Coulson, currently on trial for criminal offences allegedly committed while he was employed by the same firm!
Murdoch, the government, the BBC – these people like to stick together, and they like to put their people in positions of influence.
There is no evidence…
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