Category Archives: uncategorized

Austerity 3: Universal Credit – another cut for many of the poorest?

In 2015, Welfare Weekly reported that research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that 2.6million working families on Universal Credit would lose £1,600 a year from the changes and 1.9 million would be £1,400 a year better off.

Analysis from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility suggested the changes to universal credit would save the chancellor close to £3bn by 2019-20 – a figure quoted by Public Finance:.

Graph from House of Commons Library blog, last November, ‘Jam Tomorrow’

In March this year a study by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the IPPR thinktank  that a series of cuts and changes have left the government’s flagship welfare overhaul failing to meet its original aims.

Families with children are the biggest losers under the cuts made to universal credit since it was first established, with some families left thousands of pounds worse off, according to a new analysis.

Lone parent families will be on average £2,380 a year worse off, while families with two children lose £1,100 on average and those with three youngsters lose £2,540. Lone parents and couples where one parent works part-time to care for young children are hit particularly hard and face having have to find up to two days’ extra work a week to meet the shortfall in income from the cuts.

Although universal credit was intended to boost household incomes by strengthening incentives for claimants to move into work or take on more hours, more families will be worse off than under the scheme’s original design, it says. Currently just 450,000 people are on universal credit, which is not expected to be fully operational across the country until 2022. At that point, according to estimates by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, 2.1 million families will be worse off under the new system, and 1.8 million better off.

 

 

 

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Northern Ireland farmers deliver messages on Brexit, free trade and legislation on farmgate prices to the Head of the EC Office

Farmers For Action and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NI Farm Groups) met the Head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland in Belfast, Mrs Colette FitzGerald.

They delivered three clear messages on:

  • Brexit,
  • Free trade deals
  • and legislation on farm gate prices.

Brexit

The two organisations put the case to the EU Commission representative that come what may there must be no North South border, such are the fears of all concerned of where that could lead.

Northern Ireland as a whole has gone forward in leaps and bounds since the Good Friday agreement with much more possible – a border would be a massive step back in time and progress that must never be allowed to happen!

Free Trade deals

The EU currently putting in a huge effort into Mercosur and other major world trade deals and the current UK Government is preparing free trade deals around the world in order to be sign ready the day after it leaves the EU!

NI Farm Groups forcefully pointed out to Colette FitzGerald that neither the EU nor the current Westminster Government should complete free trade deals where commonly produced staples – by current or potential new free trade deals – end up in food swaps – ie ships passing in the night between two trading countries carrying the same food cargo – as this makes a complete nonsense of the Paris climate change agreement and those who participated. (Note the detailed food swap report by then MEP Caroline Lucas: Stopping the Great Food Swap – relocalising Europe’s food supply).

Certainly the farmers at either end of these food swaps are suffering financially, while the food corporates, facilitated by Governments and the EU, continue to throw caring for the planet to the wind and fill their pockets!  The Groups made clear that such is the increasing control of the corporate foodgiants across the EU and the UK that when and if we eventually leave the EU that legislation is still needed for NI if it is to succeed and prosper in a manner befitting the 21st century!

William Taylor (FFA, NI) says that the message is clear, either the Paris climate change agreement is nonsense or the current and future planned free trade deals are nonsense.

On the case for legislation on farmgate prices NI Farm Groups made it clear, that whether we eventually leave the EU or not, currently the EU is not delivering on its treaty promises that rural dwellers should be properly rewarded for their work. In short, when the market is not working, there is a case for state intervention and NI Farm Groups have a legislation bill complete and ready for Stormont immediately it returns!

Colette FitzGerald, in her role as the bridge between the EU and NI EU citizens, sought to clarify the EU’s approach to the Brexit Article 50 negotiations and the timetable ahead:

  • Michel Barnier and his team will work through August to again meet David Davis and his team on the 28th August.
  • Mr Barnier will then prepare a report on the state of negotiations for the next meeting of the European Council (Heads of State) in October 2017.
  • At this point the Member States will judge whether enough progress has been made on the ‘divorce’ settlement to begin to plan discussions on the UK’s future relationship with the EU after Brexit.
  • The eventual Brexit deal must be completed by end March 2019 although in practice, it would need to be done months earlier to allow individual Member States to ratify it so that means time is pressing for the actual negotiations.
  • No one Member State can veto any final deal as it can be approved by a majority of Member States representing at least 65% of EU citizens.
  • The European Parliament will also have a vote.

Any extension to this March 2019 deadline is only possible if all the EU27 agree to do so.

Colette FitzGerald explained that an important part of her role is to make regular, indeed daily reports to Brussels and would include Northern Ireland Farm Groups three extremely important issues. Our Voice is being heard!

Contact: William Taylor

 

NI Farm Groups

56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU

Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

 

 

 

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Activists plan ‘rave’: Conservative answer to Glastonbury, designed to provide a cool gloss to Theresa May’s party

Henry Mance, FT’s Political Correspondent writes: “Camping. Slow food. Inspirational speakers. A Pyramid stage. It could be Glastonbury, except for one feature: Tory activists . . . The festival will be invitation-only with between 150 and 200 attendees, some of whom will camp”.

Mr Freeman said he hoped the event would become an annual fixture, adding that this year’s festival would be like a “first rave, you’ll remember who you brought” – unlikely!

Organisers of a new “Conservative Ideas Festival” are hoping to revive the spirit and popular appeal of Theresa May’s party after its battering in June’s general election. The party’s membership has fallen to somewhere below 150,000 — less than one-third that of Labour’s and not far ahead of the Scottish National party and the Liberal Democrats.

The party has fallen behind Labour in opinion polls, while Mrs May’s personal ratings are below those of Mr Corbyn, who was once seen as unelectable.

George Freeman, the Norfolk MP who chairs Mrs May’s policy board, came up with the idea after Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn took the Glastonbury Festival by storm this summer. “Why is it just the left who have all the fun in politics?” he said after Mr Corbyn’s appearance. saying his idea for a rightwing festival “seems to have struck a chord” and that he had “some wonderful offers of help of sponsorship and venues”. He told the Financial Times this week that he had raised £25,000 for a one-day event to be held in September.

The Conservatives will also hold their annual party conference in Manchester at the start of October, charging companies £32,500 for a 6m by 6m exhibition stand. Can’t wait!

 

 

 

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Is it wise to forget disloyalty, to reward failure?

Mischief-making media and party factions are suggesting that Labour MPs who were consistently disloyal to Jeremy Corbyn and even attempted to remove him, be promoted to the cabinet.

John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, was reported in several media outlets to be advising Jeremy Corbyn not to break up Labour’s “winning team” of frontbenchers who had given full support to him deptie the pressures from the media and the 170 Labour MPs who did not.

Fair weather friends

Chuka Umunna, the former shadow business secretary, appeared to consider the move when he spoke out about the results on Friday on TV and several other critics admitted that they had been mistaken in theor assessment of Corbyn’sd potential.

As McDonnell said: “Our shadow cabinet at the moment was a winning team. It just won effectively votes that no one predicted that we would so I don’t want to break up that winning team”.

And they proved their worth under stress when others like Umunna, Phillips, Cooper and Woodcock failed their leader – and might do so again.  

 

 

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Pen pals

The Plastic Hippo

d B.O.L.T.O.P.

In an age of brutally instant electronic communication, how pleasant and delightful it is to receive an actual letter through the post that is not a final demand, court summons or an invitation to the home owner or occupier to wave goodbye to varying amounts of money as part of a criminal scheme designed to separate the foolish from hard earned savings. It`s not every day that a real letter arrives and it is even rarer to find that the incoming missive has been signed by the actual Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

It is astonishing to think that a busy Prime Minister in the middle of an election campaign can find the time and make the effort to write to someone as unimportant and as insignificant as me. The Prime Minister has kissed the hand of the Queen, held hands with President Trump, shaken hands with…

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Secret State 18: Government’s GIB and BB up for sale – or not?

In a move mirroring the 2015 proposals for the sale of the British people’s (somewhat Green) Investment Bank (GIB) Patrick Hosking, Financial Editor, has reported in the Times that another ‘secret privatisation plan’, involving the people’s British Business Bank, has been delayed by a legal challenge.

In 2015, plans to part-privatise GIB were announced by Business Secretary Sajid Javid (more detail here). The House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee warned this could cause the bank to lose its “green identity”, But the government predictably said “the time is right” for the bank to be privatised. CityAM reported that in February MPs questioned government over the proposed sale, expressing fears that this would be an asset-stripping venture by MacQuarrie.

However the proposals may well have been abandoned – for a time. The Murdoch Times’ suggests that ministers were ‘rattled’ by the legal challenge to the separate planned privatisation of the Green Investment Bank. Its sale to Macquarie, the Australian infrastructure investor, after talks described as ‘exclusive’ in a later post by CityAM, is going to judicial review after a challenge from Sustainable Development Capital, a rival bidder.

 

A spoke in the privatisation wheel? This challenge has affected:

  • the planned sale of a portfolio of government business loans, packaged into a ‘high-yielding listed investment vehicle’, currently owned by British Business Bank plca state-owned economic development bank established by the UK Government.
  • and the ‘planned move’ by the ubiquitous Baron Smith of Kelvin (above,centre), the Green Investment Bank chairman, to chair the British Business Bank, which has been without a permanent chairman since October.

What is going on behind the scenes? Why are the British people the last to know in our ‘vibrant democracy’? BIS declined to comment last night but a source close to the discussions is reported to have said: “It’s a bit baffling why stumps were pulled at the last moment. Everyone was all signed up for it.”

 

 

 

Some Times readers set the latest anti-Corbyn propaganda in context

 

Not for the first time, the Murdoch Times made a ‘throwaway remark’ into a headline ‘soundbite’. It centred on a passing reflection by David Miliband, a former foreign secretary in the Blair government, made in an interview in the Times.

miliband-clinton

Widely reported to be a great friend of the Clintons

Peter Burgess asks a pertinent question: “Why on earth do you think that the likes of Murdoch preferred him and Blair rather than the likes of Benn or Major? Of course the establishment and in particular people like Murdoch want Miliband Snr as Labour leader, just as they wanted Blair rather than Foot or a Tory like Major. They knew how to control him”.

Miliband said that the Labour party is now weaker than in the 1980s and must face up to the “historic nature” of the challenge ahead.

Hem Laljee refers to this as “the fallout from the New Labour. Its founder is still loitering in our midst and giving advice. New Labour was the different garb of the Conservative The working class have been left rudderless which reflected in their votes for the Brexit”. 

David Miliband’s main theme was his own well-rewarded work for the USA’s International Rescue Committee. Asked about his future leadership intentions, he added: “I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s hard to see, but what’s the point of saying never?”

Radlon comments: “Rather standing his ground to save the Labour Party . . . he scarpered off to a well-paid US job. How would Labour’s traditional voters, not to mention the Dave Spart wing of the party, view this rich kid parachuting into the leadership of the party from 3000 miles away?2

Mr Corbyn said: “I was elected to lead this party. We will continue our campaigning work on the NHS, on social care, on housing.”

Another comment was that the political-corporate-media establishment must secretly think that Corbyn has quite a good chance of electoral success, despite their rhetoric, because they are spending so much time and devoting such great efforts to discredit him and his supporters.

 

 

 

 

 

Media 72: British MSM slow to report adverse nuclear power news

Today a reference in Quartz led to a search which revealed that Toshiba said it is to stop building nuclear power plants. Though the search found an account written four days, buried in the Nikkei FT, only now is the American Press reporting it.

British Press has not yet covered this sensitive subject.

Last year Toshiba reported that it expected to win 50 contracts to build new nuclear plants abroad and its decision to exit its overseas nuclear construction business, reported by the Wall Street Journal, is said to have global implications (paywall) for the nuclear-power industry.

Leo Lewis in Tokyo reported in the FT that the move followed an emergency board meeting on Friday 27th January. The company is recovering from the repercussions of a 2015 accounting scandal in which it exaggerated reported profits by about $1.3bn over seven years.

But the company may now limit its ambitions to building turbines and other equipment and continuing to focus on servicing and decommissioning Japan’s existing fleet of nuclear reactors, many of which it built. They include two of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has tied Toshiba into many decades of decommissioning work. 

 

 

 

How many households were homeless at Christmas – and thereafter?

A House of Commons briefing paper records that almost 75,000 homeless households, including 60,000 families with 120,000 children, spent Christmas in temporary accommodation this year.

bed-and-breakfast

That’s up 9% in a year and 45% since the 2010 election due in part to:

  • more evictions by private landlords,
  • rising rents,
  • welfare cuts
  • and a shrinking stock of social housing.

6,990 households – about half with children – are in bed and breakfast hotels, where each familv has one bedroom, with bathroom and kitchen shared by all the residents.

Though the law says families should live like this for a maximum of six weeks only before being moved, the Guardian reports that data released by the Department for Communities and Local Government reveals a rise of more than 300% since 2014 in the number of families in England who are being housed in B&Bs by local authorities, for more than the statutory maximum period because they cannot find any alternative places.

There are currently 1300 families with children who have been trapped in B&Bs for more than six weeks, an increase of 24% in the past year.

The comparable figure just before the 2010 general election was 100 families.

According to data obtained by the BBC in November, councils in Britain spent £3.5bn on temporary accommodation in the past five years.

Yet Inside Housing reports that the 2011-2015 affordable housing programme, which aims to provide permanent affordable homes in England, was allocated funding of only £1.8bn.

 

 

 

In the Bleakest of Mid-Winters

Try and stay positivebecause things are set to get a lot worse in 2017 suggests Steve Beauchampé

There was a moment back in late 2015 when UK politics might have moved leftwards, rebalancing decades of neo-liberal, monetarist economics with an anti-privatisation, pro-public services philosophy, one where the haves had a little less and the have nots had a little hope.

Well, so much for that glimpse of a more equitable, more caring society. Jeremy Corbyn, the man whose unexpected election as leader of the Labour Party raised such hopes, remains in situ, still surviving relentless attacks from both within his own party and from most sections of the media for daring to embrace Socialism, still closer than most of his political rivals to the right answers to many of society’s problems.

Yet in early 2017 political discourse, both in the UK, the USA and seemingly much of Europe, is in a very different place

Without doubt, the UK’s vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as next President of the United States of America, has resulted in a sudden, violent lurch to the political right, where ugly forms of nationalism, economic protectionism and cultural insularity are now the dominant themes shaping western politics.

In Britain we have a government dominated by politicians of the hard right, led by an unashamedly opportunistic Prime Minister who, putting her own future political prospects front and centre, took almost no publicly identifiable part in the EU referendum debate, but who now speaks only in childish riddles about its consequences, whilst trying to rule like a medieval monarch, denying parliament any meaningful input on the matter.

Despite the regular slew of confused and conflicting messages from May’s ministers regarding the UK’s EU exit strategy it has been clear since her speech to the Conservative Party conference last October that Theresa May is prepared to sacrifice access to both the single market and the Customs Union in order to substantially curtail immigration.

And woe betide her if she attempts any other approach. For May is a hostage to an emboldened political right and its media cheerleaders

These include the Daily Mail, the Sun and Daily Express, to those headbangin’ Brexiteers on the Conservative benches such as Liam Fox, Philip Davies, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Messrs. Gove, Redwood, IDS, Nigel Farage and whoever leads UKIP these days.

Increasingly we are living in Nigel Farage’s vision of the UK, one where a politician who has failed seven times to be elected to parliament, and who resembles the kind of man you’d have expected to meet in a golf club in the 1970s, is shaping our relationship with the world  . . .

Yet Trump’s offensively simplistic version of populism – and his impenetrably incoherent approach to debate and argument, punctuated as it is with vitriol, abuse and lies – is championed by Farage, who not only now serves as the Commander-in-Chief-elect’s principal apologist to UK audiences, but is increasingly exporting his own brand of ‘too good to be true’ market stall politics to the vulnerably gullible of other EU countries.

For in 2017 Britain’s EU departure is merely the starting point for those who engineered it to indulge in a nationalistic assault on outward, international, liberal social values . . .

Meanwhile, Farage and some of his fellow travellers, both inside and outside of UKIP, as well as amongst the most aggressively anti-EU British media, have offered succour to France’s far right Front National and the Dutch politician Geert Wilders. This disparate alliance is increasingly open in its desire to see the collapse of the EU and one imagines, the diverse, tolerant and multi-cultural societies that are its hallmark and proudest achievement . . .

Globalisation and neo-liberalism have raised legitimate questions and created understandable grievances to which Brexit and Trump are the wrong answers. Both responses will leave a trail of disappointment and disillusionment in their wake. But it could be about to get far worse than that!

With thanks to journalist and political commentator Stig Abell for the Nigel Farage golf club linejust too good a quote not to reprint!!

 

Read the whole article in The BirminghamPress.com