In an earlier post Political Concern reported that 2.6 million women born in the 1950s will ‘lose out’ because of changes to pension law: “while corporations and the richest individuals receive tax breaks.“
“Governments are balancing budgets on the backs of the poor”- (lawyer/novelist John Grisham)
One, the Chorley Supporters Group, is denouncing the government who arbitrarily told them to work for several extra years before they can claim their state pensions, causing them to lose income and peace of mind and obliging many to continue to work at a time of life when caring duties increase and energy levels start to fall. Read more in the Lancashire Evening Post.
Writing to the Financial Times they say: “It is about time the spotlight was turned on this government, which has effectively stolen the security net of millions of women by raising the state pension age far quicker than planned, with no personal notification”.
On the BBC’s World at One programme one of many testimonies was given:
Stella Taylor: “I was born in 1955, I had worked all of my life and, when I became unwell at just about the age of 58 I then discovered, quite accidentally, that my State Pension, which I was expecting to receive at 60, had been moved six whole years to sixty-six. And, like so many women in this movement, we were just aghast. We thought there must be a mistake. Had I received my pension at sixty, when I had expected to, I wouldn’t have been wealthy by anybody’s standards, but I wouldn’t have been in the depths of poverty that I now am. At the moment, because I am still unable to work due to ill health, I receive seventy three pounds and ten pence per week in Employment Support Allowance. Living, and paying all your household bills, out of that £73 a week is impossible. There are times when I have needed to use my local food bank because I haven’t been able to afford groceries.” More testimonies here.
On February 10ththe BBC reported the warning of Amber Rudd, the pensions secretary, which should be extended to her own department:
”If you chronically mismanage a pension scheme . . . we’re coming for you.”
After pointing out that a freedom of information request has revealed recent research findings that the government reneged on their contributions to the national insurance fund over many years and redirected that money towards paying off the national debt, the Chorley Supporters Group asks:
“How government can expect other public or private institutions in this country to play fair with pension funds when it is not doing so itself”.
On February 11th, the government published a research briefing on the legislation increasing the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s. up
This unexpected rise in the state pension age will now “save” the Treasury an estimated £8bn by impoverishing 1950s women.
MP Grahame Morris pointed out that the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the DUP and 50 Conservative MPs support the Waspi campaign.
He added that Landman Economics’ report gives the figure of £8bn savings to government and suggests that this sum should be seen in the wider context of current or planned government finance. Some examples follow: (Ed: links added):
- The refurbishing of the palace of Westminster, which will cost the taxpayer some £7bn.
- HS2 – total cost, including rolling stock, £55.7 billion in 2015 prices – 2018 parliamentary research briefing.
- Britain’s six-hour bombing airstrikes in Syria, which each cost £508,000 or a year’s average salary for 18 junior doctors.
- An estimated £8.7bn of the health service budget which went to non-NHS providers of care in 2017-18.
- Billions of pounds which were lost to government following its progressive cuts to the bank levy.
FT Adviser reports that SNP MP Mhairi Black earlier pointed out that the National Insurance Fund is projected to have a substantial surplus at the end of 2017 to 2018 and the HMRC’s report confirms that the National Insurance Fund balance at 31 March 2018 was £24.2 billion and is expected to increase in the following year.
Morris ends: “In this context, finding the money for Waspi women seems a sensible price to pay to give these women justice . . . We know and we can see that it isn’t equal, it isn’t fair and it isn’t justifiable – it’s driving down the incomes and the quality of life of countless women”.
Next June the government faces a judicial review in the High Court to determine whether these recent increases to women’s state pension age are lawful and the Chorley Supporters Group, Chrissie Fuller, Jane Morwood, Betty Ann Tucker, Riley Ann Rochester, Beverley Cordwell, Lea Butler and Lesley Kirkham end by warning that they will not rest until justice is done.
If the economy ‘tanks’ post-Brexit, will shopping mall and carpark revenues be enough to compensate for government cuts?
“Years of chronic underfunding have left local government ‘on life support’ “
123 of England’s 353 councils sent information to the 2019 State of Local Government Finance survey, conducted by the Local Government Information Unit and Municipal Journal. Chris Tighe (possible paywall) reports that Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGIU, has warned of a future in which care for the elderly and for vulnerable children could be funded from shopping centre investments and car parks – “a significant risk if the economy ‘tanks’ “.
Survey findings include:
- More than half of English councils will eat into their reserves.
- Four out of five are investing in commercial developments to supplement their revenue this year to compensate for central government funding cuts.
- Nearly half of the local authorities are planning to cut services.
- Most will raise council tax this year and increase charges to stay afloat.
- A quarter said planned cuts to services in the coming year would be noticed by the public.
- 10 local authorities said they were concerned they would be unable to deliver the legal minimum service for residents.
- Last year, Northamptonshire county council was given special permission to sell its head office and rent it back after running out of money.
- Several other authorities have warned they are close to collapse.
- 8 in 10 senior council decision makers believed the current system for council funding was unsustainable.
- 82% were considering commercialising council services to raise extra money
- and 57% wanted to sell council assets.
- Children’s services and education were the top immediate financial pressures, for the second year running.
- Adult social care is still under severe strain
Four out of five English councils are investing in commercial developments to supplement their revenue this year to compensate for central government funding cuts.
The government’s annual funding settlement for local authorities, outlined in December, assumed that every council in England would implement the maximum 4.99% council tax increase, including 2% ringfenced for adult social care, in 2019-20. Analysts say that would add around £80 to the annual average bill for a Band D, mid-market, home — currently £1,671. An additional £24 can be added to the charge to fund the local police force.
But the Local Government Association said the tax rise would not be enough to prevent service and job cuts after eight years of austerity. It said councils would have lost almost 60% of their central government funding between 2010 and 2020 and face an overall funding gap of £3.2bn in 2019/20.
Jonathan Carr-West warned: “In the future, care for the elderly and vulnerable children could be funded from shopping centre investments and car parks, which carries significant risk if the economy tanks.” This year’s government spending review would, the survey warned, be “make or break” for vital local services.
Inrix has analysed traffic density in more than 200 cities in 38 countries. In London drivers spent 227 hours a year in traffic and the cost was £4.9 billion, or £1,680 per driver due to lost productivity. Across Britain, the cost was £7.9 billion. After London the worst UK city was Birmingham, then Glasgow, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Leicester, Leeds and Liverpool. London has more traffic jams than any other city in western Europe and is the seventh most congested in the world. Read more on Inrix’ ‘scorecard’.
Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent of the Times, reports on these research findings published today which show that drivers were stuck in traffic for 178 hours on average last year.
Trevor Reed, transport analyst at Inrix, said that if congestion is not addressed, it will continue to have serious consequences for national and local economies, businesses and citizens in the years to come.
‘Driven by necessity’ – poor public transport
RAC research has shown that drivers are becoming more reliant on their cars because of poor standards of public transport. Rod Dennis, spokesman for the RAC, said, “This is a serious concern when you consider the limited physical space in our cities and the growing pressures to move large numbers of people around to get to their places of work and leisure.
“Those cities that are best placed to grow will be those that are developing public transport systems that suit the needs of their citizens.”
To this end, a more reliable railway system, could attract drivers and large freight companies to use rail and more use should be made of the country’s waterway network. 22 British towns or cities already have water taxis, buses or ferries.
London leads the way, carrying passengers and freight by water
London’s river bus operator, MBNA Thames Clippers, alone carried more than 4 million passengers in 2018 and the city also leads the way in carrying bulky materials on its waterways instead of its roads.
Most readers will have noted the numbers of lorries amidst the traffic jams and experienced delays due to tailbacks of many miles due to slow-moving abnormal and sometimes hazardous loads.
Full use should be made of routes which can take such freight by water. Above: a transformer carried by Robert Wynn and Sons.
A forthcoming report (Gosling 2019) notes, in its Freight Carbon Review, “The Department for Transport explained in 2017 that waterways are ‘attractive for the environmental benefits they provide, and the reliable congestion-free freight access they offer over alternate modes’.”
Road users and all concerned about air-pollution will welcome action to transfer more freight from roads to inland waterways, a declared UK government objective.
As the media was focussing on Tuesday’s Brexit vote in the Commons, this morning only subscribers to the New Statesman read about the written statement by the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, James Brokenshire.
In what the writer, Anoosh Chakelian (right), said is becoming a bleak pattern, the government chose Theresa May’s second attempt to pass her Brexit deal on which to publish its statement on local government finance.
A reassuringly generous set of dispensations?
The statement by James Brokenshire (left) opens with eight substantial paragraphs detailing increased funding in a wide range of sectors, summarised in the New Statesman:
“As first announced in the Budget, the government is releasing extra chunks of funding for social care and potholes, as well as more money for high streets. The government calculates that its settlement adds up to a rise in core spending power for councils from £45.1bn in 2018-19 to £46.4bn in 2019-20: a 2.8% cash increase. (It has also reiterated the £56.5m across 2018-19 and 2019-20 to help councils prepare for Brexit, which we can’t really count as extra funding as it’s to fill a Brexit-shaped hole.)”
Councils are to be awarded £56.5 million across 2018-19 and 2019-20 to help prepare for EU Exit. It lists “a broad package of measures and confirms that Core Spending Power is forecast to increase from £45.1 billion in 2018-19 to £46.4 billion in 2019-20”.
This information is meaningless to the general public. Are they going only to the 117 largest councils listed here, or should district councils and London boroughs be included? And will they be distributed according to need, population, or other criteria?
Anoosh Chakelian’s verdict: Far from generous. She points out that after eight years of austerity, cash-strapped councils will still face a funding gap of more than £3bn this year, according to the Local Government Association.
She adds that the pressure to set legal budgets, with an average 49% drop in real terms spending power since 2010 and rising social care demands, means that councils need substantially more than a 2.8% rise.
Decisions on business rates retention and a fair funding formula for local government have been postponed, despite the planned consultations having taken place and their findings published.
Noting that the long promised green paper on adult social care has not appeared and the funding announced is ’a short-term one-off’, she quotes the head of the National Audit Office, Amyas Morse, who said last March: “Current funding for local authorities is characterised by one-off and short-term fixes, many of which come with centrally driven conditions.”
Though James Brokenshire asserts that this settlement answers calls for additional funding in 2019-20, and paves the way for a more self-sufficient and reinvigorated system of local government, Anoosh Chakelian concludes: “This means councils will continue to operate in a financial void, unable to fund public services properly, while waiting for something to change in the promised Spending Review later this year”.
MPs ask how ‘the other England’ can be strengthened so that fellow citizens are not “pushed into destitution”
A Bournville reader draws attention to an article about Heidi Allen, Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, and former Labour MP Frank Field, now a backbencher. They are touring the poorest areas of Leicester Newcastle, Glasgow, Morecambe and Cornwall. Frank Field said they want to know “how the soft underbelly of our society – ‘the other England’ – can be strengthened so that none of our fellow citizens are pushed into destitution”.
Robert Booth, Social Affairs correspondent for the Guardian, reports that their widely publicised inquiry began in London where testimonials from those with first-hand experience of food poverty exposed the barriers that people face in securing support from the government, when faced with extreme life hardships and personal difficulties.
“Unless we blow the lid off it, my lot are not going to listen”
He explains that Heidi Allen had asked Frank Field if he would join her on a tour of the UK to show the government the “other England” shaped by the austerity policies pioneered by Allen’s party. She added: “Unless we blow the lid off it, my lot are not going to listen.” This is not a new concern: in her 2015 maiden speech Heidi Allen gave a detailed criticism of proposed cuts to tax credits, saying, ‘today I can sit on my hands no longer’.
Evidence from Leicester which they will be presenting includes accounts of:
- an illiterate man sanctioned so often under universal credit that he lives on £5 a week;
- a man who had sold all but the clothes he was wearing;
- someone told to walk 44 miles to attend a job interview, despite having had a stroke, to save the state the cost of a £15 bus ticket;
- a surge in referrals to food banks from 5% since the introduction of universal credit in June, to 29%;
- an elderly person – after her son, who had suffered a stroke, had been sanctioned 15 times – said, “The system needs more caring people. They are like little Hitlers”;
- another was expecting the bailiffs to take back her two-bed council house because she was in arrears, including on bedroom tax. Her second bedroom is used by her granddaughter five nights a week, so her son can work, but that doesn’t count – only children qualify’
The bureaucratic struggle to claim benefits is a big problem, carefully and accurately portrayed in Ken Loach’s internationally acclaimed award-winning film, I Daniel Blake (snapshot and link to brief video below). 65% of the most vulnerable people who come to Leicester council for help have never used a computer and don’t have a smart phone or an email address, needed to fill out forms.
A brief extract from the film – those who have seen it will remember that the computer session becomes far more stressful and eventually – as often happens – aborts for no fault of the ‘client’.
According to Feeding Britain, a charity set up by Field which now includes Allen among its trustees, after housing costs, 41% of children in Leicester – more than 34,000 – are living in poverty. The Leicester South parliamentary constituency was in the poorest 2% of constituencies in the UK in 2018. Over the last two summer holidays, in the most deprived parts of the city, over 15,000 meals were served to almost 1,650 children, using government funds.
In the Leicester Mercury, Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth said after reading the latest research findings: “These shocking statistics show high levels of child poverty in Leicester South. It is clear that the Government is failing working families, and cuts to Universal Credit will make child poverty even worse. It is appalling that since 2010 the number of children living in poverty has reached four million under this Government, and the Government is still maintaining the benefit freeze.”
Lucy Frazer, the justice minister, faces warnings that the criminal justice system is reaching crisis point. Thousands of cases have been disrupted, with trials adjourned and delayed, after the main computer system in England and Wales went down at hundreds of courts. The Times reports that one senior figure said the system was “on its knees”.
- Prison visits and meetings cancelled.
- Lawyers and clerks unable to access documents such as witness statements.
- Defendants being asked to check their own driver records for potential disqualifications on the DVLA website.
- Problems in the probation service surfaced eight weeks ago; probation workers are being told to take annual leave as they could not carry out their work.
- 75,000 judges and lawyers who use the criminal justice secure email system were locked out last week.
- The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) said it estimated that about 30 trials had already been adjourned.
Chris Grayling, during his term as lord chancellor, introduced the present IT system as “a several hundred million-pound investment in the Courts and Tribunal Service . . . fully supported by the judiciary and a really important initiative of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats working together in coalition to modernise the working of our courts”.
Comment by Jonathan Black, a partner at BSB Solicitors and former president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association:
“Since 2013, when Grayling was brought in to manage transformation of our justice system, we saw a plethora of projects prefixed with the word transforming, which was window-dressing for selling off.”
Comment by Chris Henley, QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, which represents about 4,000 lawyers:
“The unrealistic planning has all the hallmarks of a Grayling project. He has repeated the trick everywhere he has been. We’ve seen it with the probation contract, private prisons and more recently the railways. We are living with his destructive, nihilistic legacy in all areas of legal aid and the courts . . .
“The closure of so many buildings, the ‘rationalisation’ of staff etc are all premised on the basis that the modernisation programme will create a cheaper digitised replacement system. Lawyers and many judges have no confidence in this planned overhaul of the courts and have serious reservations from a public policy point of view.”
He warned that trials could collapse. “Trials are being adjourned, the IT infrastructure is inaccessible in many places, electronic recording systems aren’t working and barristers can’t access vital documents because court wifi and secure emails aren’t working,” he said. “The system is on its knees.”
Lucy Frazer, the justice minister said that all judges would receive a personal letter from Sir Richard Heaton, the permanent secretary at the MoJ, who would also meet the chief executive of Atos, one of the network suppliers. She added that the department was exploring whether the suppliers’ contracts included “penalty clauses” to try to retrieve some of the costs incurred by the IT failures.
A spokesman said that the secure email system, supplied by Egress, had been restored. The desktops using wired connections to the main MoJ network, provided by Microsoft and Atos, were still down. Microsoft and Egress referred inquiries to the Ministry of Justice. Atos declined to comment.
Farmers For Action’s NI Steering Committee claims that the time has come for a referendum on our future relationship with the EU.
William Taylor FFA NI co-ordinator states that “UK political failure is now causing hardship and stress for many businesses and people across the UK, Ireland and across the channel.
FFA understands that the EU will possibly only extend the Article 50 deadline of 29th March if it is combined with a UK referendum.
This time FFA claims there should be two questions only –
1) Do you wish to remain in the EU with present and future UK Governments tied to pushing for reform of it? and
2) Do you wish to leave the EU and remain only in the single market, customs union and EU security zone with no seat at the EU table?
The much-hyped third option of completely severing ties with the EU cannot be an option. Two years plus of debate has failed to validate this route
- It would clearly devastate not only the farming and food industry alike as well as thousands of other businesses.
- It would make life difficult for many UK citizens who have European family and friends.
- It would increase costs for those who wish to remain and those who wish to leave with no ties.
The leavers need to consider what make of tractor, what make of car they drive and what make of household appliances they use as those goods would rise in price substantially and particularly the spare parts – to give but one example.
Lastly, we must never forget why close ties with mainland Europe were forged after the Second World War and respect the wishes of those who fought for freedom – a hard won freedom. A complete severance from the EU, automatically re-erecting borders and strife yet again, would make no sense.
Any borders that could be created as a result of Brexit would denote complete political failure, and the politicians responsible should never again receive votes for achieving such a disaster.
Time to vote for commonsense and progress!
Farmers For Action
56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, N Ireland, BT51 4NU
Tel. 07909744624 Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
PRESS RELEASE: 21st January 2019
Many readers will have been shocked at the standard media responses following the death of George Bush Snr. Media Lens has spelt out the reasons for such reactions. After a summary of the gushing eulogies from Barack Obama and the Clintons, they move to review the British media’s coverage:
“ . . . [The] Guardian‘s ‘glowing’ obituary omitted many brutal facts, describing Bush Senior’s devastation of Iraq as ‘triumphant’; ‘the president did not put a foot wrong’; ‘his most impressive achievement’; ‘Bush’s masterly management of the first Iraq war’; and so on, in an elite-friendly script that was essentially a press release from the very centre of US power”.
“The cruel reality of Bush’s ‘most impressive achievement’, as we noted in a 2002 media alert, was that Iraq’s entire civilian infrastructure was targeted and largely destroyed under the rain of bombs. All of Iraq’s eleven major electrical power plants, as well as 119 substations, were destroyed. 90 per cent of electricity generation was out of service within hours; within days, all power generation in the country had ceased. Eight multi-purpose dams were repeatedly hit and destroyed, wrecking flood control, municipal and industrial water storage, irrigation and hydroelectric power. Four of Iraq’s seven major water pumping stations were destroyed. According to Eric Hoskins, a Canadian doctor and coordinator of a Harvard study team on Iraq, the allied bombardment: ‘effectively terminated everything vital to human survival in Iraq – electricity, water, sewage systems, agriculture, industry and health care’. (Quoted Mark Curtis, ‘The Ambiguities of Power’, Zed Books, 1995)”.
The article points out that the author, Simon Tisdall, made no reference to the tons of bombs – ‘the equivalent of seven Hiroshimas’ – that followed the launch of the air campaign on January 17, 1991, and the killing of 150,000 Iraqi troops and 50,000 civilians were killed and continued:
“In his Bush obituary, Nick Bryant, the New York-based BBC News correspondent, brushed all this away and stuck to the standard deception of ‘mistakes were made’ in Iraq”.
Readers with strong stomachs will continue to read about Bush’s work within the CIA and his ‘shared responsibility’ for earlier ‘bloodbaths’ in South America.
And the reason for the media’s whitewashed responses?
According to Media Lens, there are a few rules that journalists must follow if they are to be regarded as a safe pair of hands by editors and corporate media owners:
“One of these rules is that ‘we’ in the West are assumed to be ‘the good guys’. This seriously damaging narrative, flying in the face of historical evidence and endlessly crushing state policies, ensures that the public is kept ignorant and pacified. The consequences have been deadly for millions of the West’s victims around the world, and now mean climate catastrophe that could end human civilisation”.
Today, Times columnist Clare Foges, a former member of Boris Johnson’s mayoral team and then David Cameron’s speech writer, challenges the narrative that Brexit is down, in large part, to a high-handed and callous establishment’s neglect of the “left behind”, deploring the belief that:
”Those in poor northern constituencies and bleak coastal towns were left trailing in the gold-flecked dust thrown up by the golden chariots that bore the wealthy, the Londoners, the elite onwards — throwing back their heads to laugh heartily and pour some more Bolly down their gullets while failing to give a monkey’s about those in their wake”.
Truly, those in poor northern constituencies and bleak coastal towns were and are left trailing – but the elite do not spend time laughing at them – those people are neglected because they are simply of no interest.
She asserts that the deindustrialised towns have suffered because of globalisation or automation, not because those in government sat on their hands.
But the elite constructed, fostered and continue to be enriched by globalisation and automation – the system which impoverishes many is necessary to their lifestyle. Clare admits that “When you know that you are on the lower rungs of a socio-economic ladder that reaches, at its heights, into the realm of millionaires and sports cars and Maldivian holidays, you may well feel resentful. It must be profoundly demoralising to see swathes of your countrymen and women enjoying seemingly easy success while you struggle”.
She also concedes, “Of course there is serious poverty and inequality in our country, but over the past 20 years in particular governments have tried a thousand different policies to reduce them” but fails to mention the ways – under recent Conservative governments – in which people on low incomes and those in poor health have been harassed, ‘sanctioned’ and deprived of their due allowances, in order to make derisory savings. She adds:
“I don’t deny that the Brexit vote may have been driven in part by resentment. Yet here is the crucial point: just because people have felt cruelly neglected by the powers that be, it doesn’t mean that they actually were . . . Let us not mistake a failure to revive left-behind areas with wilful neglect. For the most part the much-traduced “establishment” has been well-meaning and hardworking in pursuit of a fairer country.”
Yes, wilful neglect does imply a degree of awareness – the correct term is indifference; ‘left-behind’ people are simply not on the radar of the affluent, preoccupied by “sports cars and Maldivian holidays”. She ends with more burlesque:
“With a more benign and interventionist establishment at the helm, the taxes of rich people could be spread thickly all over the country with no fear that wealth will flee; billions could be borrowed for major infrastructure projects with no damage to our economy; the streets of Grimsby and Oldham would be paved with gold. By giving this impression, we are inviting people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn and his fantasy economics”.
But would those in government circles – who benefit from corporate sinecures, stock exchange speculation and commodity trading – be willing to change the globalised system for one in which government invests in strengthening the economy through regional production and supply chains? Or will they oppose such changes with all their might, to maintain their current privileges?