Monthly Archives: March 2014

Council budgets and services hit hardest by this coalition


councilI kid you not when I say that councils funding is hardest hit since the formation of this coalition the way forward would be to lobby your local Councillors, Member of Parliament, and Member of European Parliament to change the legislation and here is the reasons why:

Coalition Government set out the enormous challenge councils across the UK and Wales facing in the years ahead. Sadly the prospects have become even worse in the course of the year and the Government seems determined to press ahead with it’s planned programme of cuts to councils funding right up to 2018. Coalition also demonstrated last year how the grant cuts have been unfairly distributed across the country with areas of greatest need and deprivation receiving the biggest cuts.  This unfairness has been repeated in the latest financial settlement for 2014-15 and 2015-16 announced in February. The average cut in Spending Power as defined by the Government for 2014/15 across England will be £72:00 per dwelling but the indicative figures for next year 2015/16 are even more unfair.

2294432851Whilst the national average will be around £46:00 there will be many authorities in South and East of England who will actually receive increase funding in that year for example Wokingham will receive £55:00 more per dwelling. Counties such as Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Hampshire, and Surrey, towns including Poole, and Windsor and Maidenhead and shire districts like Mid Sussex, Epsom and Ewell will also see an increase in funding in 2015/16. As a result of the grant cuts and other pressures the coalition now had to identify a further £86 Million of cuts in their budget for 2014/15 on top of £376 Million already made between 2010 and 2014. Next year the coalition will have to make even bigger cuts currently estimated at more than £200 Million over and above the £86 Million for this year.

7881Councils rely on central government for most of its income only about a tenth comes from Council Tax so these cuts have a huge impact. Councils flexibilities is reduced even further because much of the money councils received is embarked for specific services like schools they have very little say on how it is spent. At the same time there are increased pressures for spending on statutory services like social care which they cannot avoid paying for. It comes as no surprise that councils has to make racial changes to the way they have to work and achieve significant efficiency savings for several years under both  this political administration and the last. Some councils have to reduce their workforce by 34% since 2010 and a further 2000 jobs will go in the year ahead. However all of this becomes harder each year. Councils have found it extremely difficult to maintain the full range of services they provide. Notwithstanding this financial hardship they have taken the decision to invest allegedly round £9.3 million in 2014/15 into Children’s Safeguarding and corresponding amounts in subsequent years. This has not been easy and has increased the pressure on other services.

It is inevitable that next year councils will have to make hard decisions about which optional services to stop providing altogether and may find it difficult to maintain stationary services to the standard expected. The cuts from 2015 on-wards will create a further financial crisis in many councils across the country. Like it or lump it the scale of cuts means councils needs to completely rethink the role and structure of councils and how they achieve the outcomes they seek sadly this called the end of local government as we all know it. Councils cannot simply carry on doing things as they have always done it or delivering the services they have become used to for decades.

In 2013 councils have set up the most comprehensive review of services they have conducted. The reviews came up with some common approaches to change and they published these in series of “Green Papers” to support a wide dialogue about the way forward. This was forward by a “White Paper” published in December 2013 which set out the conclusions of that dialogue and their detailed proposal for 2014/15 for formal consultation. The white paper also outlined how councils has to change to think long term so that they can begin to make decisions within a broader framework that councils can deliver better services in future.

Coalition runing round like headless chickens


By popular demand I now present you with a wonderful Youtube clip a must see:

Millions of people unemployed or under-employed, homelessness numbers increasing, child poverty levels rocketing, pay cuts for most workers, childcare costs soaring, fuel and food prices outstripping inflation figure, housing costs becoming more unaffordable…..and what does this Govt do about it ? It gives us 1p off a £3+ pint of beer and cuts the tax on Bingo Hall owners !!!

And you want to vote for this bunch of….?

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Chancellor George Osborne’s budget on Wednesday confirmed that the ruthless Con-Dem assault on the poor, the low paid, the unemployed, the sick and the disabled not only continues but will escalate.

There will be no reversal of the austerity drive against public services, welfare benefits and the employment terms and conditions of public-sector workers.

Why so?

photo (2)Because, as last weekend’s Scottish labour conference recognised, austerity is indeed working – for the rich and big business. It was never intended primarily to reduce the state’s financial deficit. If it were, City of London bankers and other speculators would be punishing Osborne for his spectacular failure.

In his contrived “emergency” budget of June 2010, the Chancellor had boasted that annual government borrowing would be reduced to £60bn (or 3.5 per cent of GDP) by this year. In reality, it is now £108bn (6.6 per cent of Britain’s economic output).

The national debt would reach 70 per cent of GDP and begin to decline. It currently stands at 75 per cent and is rising not falling.

Osborne has little or no hope of eliminating the deficit in 2018 as planned (but orginally set for 2015), without even deeper cuts in public spending, probably combined with further rises in regressive taxation such as VAT and excise duties.

Imposing an annual spending cap on welfare – currently set at £119bn in real terms – throughout the next parliament will be central to this intensified austerity drive.

Astonishingly, the Labour “opposition” wants such a cap – albeit set at a higher level – to include the state retirement pension, so that it can be under the cosh as well.

How the cap will be used to clobber various unemployment, disability, maternity and other payments will doubtless be unveiled in another “emergency” Budget after the 2015 general election.

In the meantime, Osborne will pretend to be “upset” that the news headlines concentrate more on his tax relief for bingo, beer and cider than on his strategic genius.

No, the City is pleased with this latest budget. All those donations to the Conservative Party represent money well spent.

The austerity strategy is delivering lower taxes on the rich and big business, more loot for the banks in the shape of “quantitative easing,” weaker bargaining power on the part of organised labour and the privatisation of public services including Royal Mail, probation services and, in England at least, the NHS and secondary education.

photo (3)Despite rampant crookery, fraud and incompetence in the City of London, the banksters are being shielded from the retribution they so richly deserve.

The overall result has been a substantial depression in real wages (by an unprecedented 9 per cent since the coalition seized office) and – for most monopolies in most sectors of the economy – the maintenance or expansion of profits.

All the talk about banking reforms, tighter regulation and clampdowns on corporate tax avoidance and bonuses has been just so much hot air.

As usual, the main winners in this budget are big business and the super-rich.

A fresh series of tax relief measures will enable manufacturing and energy corporations and the property developers to boost their profits still further. Cuts in corporation tax and final abolition of the top rate of income tax will proceed as planned.

Just as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is about to publish its most alarming findings so far, the Chancellor proposes to scrap the “escalator” increase in tax on companies with high carbon emissions.

While some of the world’s most eminent scientists warn that higher temperatures, more floods and wilder weather will chop crop yields, spread water and air borne diseases and displace millions more people, Osborne does Prime Minister Cameron’s bidding to “get rid of all the green crap.”

Interestingly, the Chancellor subsequently blamed the EU emissions trading system for placing British firms at a disadvantage, thereby requiring his tax relief. That the ETS is a racket, giving EU monopolies a licence to speculate while buying pollution rights from the Third World, was evident from its introduction in 2005.

Predictably, with next year’s general election looming ever larger, Wednesday’s Budget contained some sweeteners for the electorate. These include a higher starting threshold for income tax – due to kick in on the eve of polling day on May 7 – and a package of state subsidies for childcare.

Reforms and tax concessions relating to personal savings will, by definition, benefit only those people who can afford to save up to £15,000 a year.

Crucially, many of these will be key electors in constituencies where the electoral struggle will be between the Tories, Lib Dems and Ukip.

The Help to Buy scheme which subsidises buyers of new houses and guarantees repayments to their mortgage lenders is being extended for four years beyond 2016, even though the consequences might well be a housing price bubble followed by a slump and negative equity.

The Treasury reckons the scheme will stimulate the construction of 120,000 new private-sector houses over the whole period.

Yet Britain needs 250,000 new homes to be completed every single year. Most of those have to be affordable for people on low and middle incomes.

So far, the government has pledged to ensure that just 150,000 of these are built throughout the whole current parliamentary term.

Public spending on new council and social housing has been cut since 2010 by at least half or almost £2bn a year even with the New Homes Bonus, while tenants face higher rents to make up some of the shortfall.

Incredibly, the government is placing its faith and public money in property developers and the private rented sector, for example through the £1bn Build to Rent fund.

In response to the Budget, some of Labour’s anti-toff rhetoric has been magnificent but it is not class war.

It needs to be translated into policies. At the moment, the Shadow Cabinet is committed to maintaining the public sector pay freeze, abiding by Tory-Lib Dem spending plans for one year after the general election and sticking to a welfare spending cap for the entire parliamentary term.

This will not set the voters on fire to ensure a Labour victory at the polls. But it underlines the need to build the Labour party into a powerful mass movement against austerity and privatisation. In alliance with the trade unions, it will be needed as much after May 2015 as it is today.

In the meantime, there is vital work to do, persuading people across Britain that austerity is not necessary and that there is an alternative, embodied in the policies of the Labour party and the will of the peoples power to come out to vote Labour.

Well many of you may have read in all the right wing rags that Boris Johnson will or being encouraged stand as Member of Parliament. Some say it’s a gimmick to boost the Conservatives who knows what’s taking place only the man himself and he is keeping it close to his chest.

Could Boris Johnson be the next leader of the Conservatives and the LibDems are in panic mode as they know full well that their days are over. I’m sure many Conservatives both publicly and privately would enjoy the return of Boris as that would put a real dent to George Osborne, and Teresa May campaign for leadership challenge to David Cameron as he is not popular with his party.

David Cameron takes the view it’s better to keep your friends close and to keep your enemies closer to your chest. I’m sure many would have read and watched the budget most of the budget is geared up to sure up the Conservative votes which would have gone to UKIP which I have to say nice gimmick to try win back their voters.

hatedimagesFor this reason the LibDems are looking to Labour for a sweetheart deal. However there are many on my side of Labour Party will feel betrayed if and when a deal takes place with the LibDems and many have said both publicly and privately not in our name although it’s still early days yet.

Douglas Alexander is correct in saying He said he was “working and planning for a majority Labour government”.

Douglas%20Alexander_Glasgow%202014_145He called the Lib Dems “the enablers of the Conservatives” and said Labour would hold them to account for policies such as raising tuition fees.

Mr Alexander, who is directing the party’s election strategy, spoke at the Scottish Labour conference in Perth.

In an interview last month, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg talked openly about the possibility of a coalition between his party and Labour, saying the latter had “changed”.

nick-clegg_1573856cBut he insisted his first demand in any coalition negotiations would be: “Don’t break the bank.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband said he was not “interested” in discussing the possibility of a coalition. Mr Alexander told the conference on Saturday the 2015 election was “quintessentially winnable” for Labour.

He continued: “The Liberal Democrats want to pretend that they are the internal opposition to the Conservatives – they’re not the internal opposition, they are the enablers of the Conservatives.

“The reason David Cameron is sitting in Downing Street is because Nick Clegg is sitting next to him at the cabinet table.

“It was Nick Clegg, Malcolm Bruce, Robert Smith, Danny Alexander, all the rest of them, they voted for the bedroom tax, voted to triple tuition fees, and have got it wrong on the economy month after month after month. We need to hold them to account for that.

“In that sense anybody who suggests we should try and have a coalition with them, it’s nonsense.”

The shadow foreign secretary said Labour would “build momentum” for the election from this September’s referendum on Scottish independence, adding: “We will deliver a majority Labour government.”

He said the Tories were “in wholesale retreat across the United Kingdom”, with only one MP in Scotland and no elected councillors in Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield or Newcastle.

He added that “the cost of living crisis” would be the “beating heart of our campaign” and “the defining question of the general election.”

Which leads to another subject matter Lord Tebbit has called on the government to investigate if people using food banks are in fact spending their money on junk food.

Speaking in the House of Lords on Thursday night, the Conservative peer dismissed the growth of food banks, saying “there is always a near-infinite demand for valuable goods that are given away free”.

“One can notice it even in the catering departments of this building,” Tebbit continued. “If food is given away at prices grossly below market value, more is used. Would my noble friend initiate some research into the sales of junk food in the areas where people are relying for their basic foods on food banks?”

Earlier in the debate, Lord de Mauley, the Tory environment minister, told the chamber that he did not believe the government should get involved in the growth of food banks. “Britain has a great tradition of charitable giving, and it would be a bad day on which we started to interfere with that,” he said, drawing gasps from several peers.

He rejected Tebbit’s request for an investigation into junk food purchases in the areas where food banks are growing.

Tebbit’s comments echo those of Lord Freud, the millionaire Tory minister, who in July last year told the House of Lords that there is no evidence that the growth of food banks is linked to growing poverty and hunger – merely that people wish to get food for free.

“Food from a food bank—the supply—is a free good, and by definition there is an almost infinite demand for a free good,” he said.

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest network of food banks, has previously categorically denied free food, rather than desperation, is the motivation for people to visit their facilities. “Everyone who comes to a Trussell Trust foodbank is referred by a frontline organisation, people can’t just turn up asking for free food,” the Trust said.

“If someone does come to a foodbank without a voucher, the foodbank will talk to the client about why they need the foodbank and put them in touch with the most appropriate agency to help them.”

Over 50% of referral agents to the Trust’s food banks are statutory agencies and referrers include doctors, social workers, schools liaison officers and Citizens Advice Bureaux staff.

Tebbit has been outspoken this week on his opposition to the Bedroom Tax, allying himself with Labour leader Ed Miliband on the issue. “I worry about what Labour chooses to call the bedroom tax,” he said at a Bow Group meeting. “Because so often what is a spare room is in fact a vital part of the looking after an elderly person. It enables their relatives to come, it enables carers to be there.”

He added: “I think we introduced that rather without thinking it through very well, and I think that’s costing us.

Is Lord Tebbit right in thinking about the Bedroom Tax when he said:

“I worry about what Labour chooses to call the bedroom tax,” he said. “Because so often what is a spare room is in fact a vital part of the looking after an elderly person. It enables their relatives to come, it enables carers to be there.”

He added: “I think we introduced that rather without thinking it through very well, and I think that’s costing us.”

Tebbit made the comments on Wednesday evening at an event in parliament held by The Bow Group. Delivering the conservative think-tank’s first Annual State of the Conservative Party Address, he said the chances of the Conservatives winning the next election were “not looking too hopeful”.

Under the coalition’s policy, families receive less housing benefit if they are deemed to have more bedrooms in their home than they need. Ministers insist the change is necessary to reduce the housing benefit bill and also free up much needed living space.

Tebbit’s comments ally him, unusually, with Ed Miliband. The Labour Party has said the measure unfairly targets poorer people as well as the disabled and has pledged to abolish it should the party win power in 2015.

The veteran Tory peer, who is no cheerleader for David Cameron or the coalition, told Conservative activists that the leadership of his party needed to woo back Ukip voters if it had any chance of winning the next election.

“David Cameron could only manage 10.7 million [votes in 2010], that was simply not good enough, there was really no excuse for it,” he said.

“His efforts to gather Lib Dem support meant he reinforced the conviction of Lib Dem voters that the Lib Dems were right and we left many of our voters lost.”

Cameron alluded, perhaps unintentionally, to his failure to secure a majority at the 2010 election during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday when he conceded to an MP that he was “not the world’s biggest expert in campaigns”.

Tebbit is a fierce critic of Cameron’s attempts to modernise the Conservative Party and blames the strategy for the party’s current inability to overturn Labour’s poll lead.

He said that should Ukip come top in this May’s European elections, as is widely predicted, then the Conservatives would need to sign an electoral pact with Nigel Farage to prevent Labour winning in 2015.

He said local Tory parties should look at whether it was the Conservative or Ukip candidate that was most likely to beat the Labour or Lib Dem challenger – and then vote accordingly.

“Where we look at a constituency we should say who has the best chance of ensuring we do not get a Lib Dem or Labour member elected,” he said.

“If it’s a Tory, Ukip ought to withdraw, if it looks to be Ukip then we should withdraw and tell our voters they should go that way.”

Tebbit also said that the coalition had been a mistake and the sooner it was ditched the better – even if it meant forcing a general election. “The coalition has gone past its sell by date, it’s beginning to smell a bit,” he said.

However despite his hatred of the coalition, Tebbit said he did not object to all the Lib Dem ministers in government. “The chief secretary to the Treasury is one of the best of them,” he said. The compliment is unlikely to be received warmly by its target, Danny Alexander, who has in the past been accused of being too close to George Osborne.

Whilst Staffers from the Conservatives Cabinet ministers have given personal staff huge pay hikes while restricting public sector workers to below-inflation rises.

The meagre increases for workers mean they are taking a pay cut in real terms – while some special advisers are enjoying bumper rises of more than a third of their salaries.

The special adviser to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith received a massive 36 per cent salary boost last year.

David Cameron’s chief of staff Ed Llewellyn got a hefty 12 per cent increase from £125,000 to £140,000 – which means he now earns more than twice the £66,396 salary of an MP.

And Home Secretary Theresa May’s private office aides Fiona Cunningham and Nick Timothy enjoyed whopping 14 per cent rises, taking their pay from £65,000 to £74,000.

Special advisers, known as “spads”, are temporary civil servants who give political advice to ministers.

Mr Duncan Smith bumped up his spad Philippa Stroud’s pay last year from £69,250 to £94,000.

Mark Serwotka, general ­secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: “It’s an absolute disgrace.”

A Cabinet Office spokesman explained that pay rises for spads have to be approved by a special committee, which is chaired by Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

He said: “The pay of some individual advisers has been ­adjusted to reflect an ­increase in responsibilities.”

Although the Tory-led Coalition had promised to clamp down on spads, their numbers have soared since 2010.

Shadow Cabinet Office Min­is­ter Chi Onwurah said: “Ministers are happy to sign off on massive wage increases for their political ­advisers.

“Yet nurses and thousands of other health workers are ­singled out not to receive a one per cent pay rise.”

Earlier this month, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt flat-out refused an across-the-board ­salary rise, recommended by an official pay review board, to thousands of NHS staff.

Pay increases for junior public sector workers have been below inflation for four years.

That means they are taking real-terms wage cuts while the cost of living in Britain has soared over the past few years.

As a result, the average public-sector worker is £3,700 worse off over this period, ­according to research by experts VocaLink.

But top civil servants pocketed more than £140million on top of their pay last year – despite a Government promise to end Whitehall’s bonus culture.

Almost 900 members of the elite Senior Civil Service received bonuses averaging £9,700, with one Ministry of Defence ­mandarin getting £62,422.

photoLabour MP Keith Vaz said: “Senior civil servants should not receive special treatment.” So its no surprised that public sector workers are very angry with the coalition.

So do continue to run around like headless chickens coalition and many of will be voting for Labour come 22 May 2014 in European and Local Government elections.

Response to the Coalition Budget


photo (3)Some say that politicians are out of touch with the real world and love the Westminster Village although there may be some truth in it I say with a clear heart that I know for a fact that some members of parliament I know personally they do mix with their constituents and understand the issues that affect them.

Here is what comes to mind:

photo (2)I listened to the Budget yesterday. We are already seeing the pre-election spending spree to kid folk all is well. More telling is the BoE and FT economist on TV last night saying how weird this ‘recovery ‘ was.

How they did not understand how growth was happening without business investing and without growth in exports. A sugar hit giving the illusion there is life and energy destined to slump again. Another Tory government will kill us off completely.

During his Budget speech, George Osborne told Parliament that “things are getting better”.

photo (1)The Tories may cheer, but the facts show that hard-working people in our country are worse off under David Cameron. The Budget did nothing to deal with this cost-of-living crisis.

We know that wages are down £1,600 a year since David Cameron became Prime Minister, while he gave those earning more than £150,000 a huge tax cut.​​

So are you and your family better off because of this government?

photo (5)‘If the UK economy is doing so well, why do I still feel so hard up?’ is the question George Osborne needs to answer in today’s budget.

It’s one that the politics of 14 months before the general election won’t let him answer: he’s not delivered what he promised. Public borrowing will this year be almost twice the level he predicted in 2010, and the debt to GDP ratio is still rising and expected to peak at almost twice the pre-crisis level.

Meanwhile real household incomes are still six per cent below the pre-crisis level, and poorer households have been hit by an annual inflation rate calculated to be one per cent higher than for others.

And he probably won’t want to spell out that the cost of his inability to keep his 2010 promises is that we’re now only half way through the austerity package. What’s still to come would mean cuts of 17 per cent.

photo (4)Predictions are that he will announce some welcome, business-friendly measures to tackle long term problems of low productivity and boost exports.

However, we will also hear a smokescreen to cover up for his inability to answer the central question of the cost of living crisis which Ed Miliband has put so effectively at the political centre stage.

Unemployed? Poor? Only one alias? Why not try booze & bingo? For only a lifetime of penury, we’ll get you drunk and let you gamble.

photo (7)Thanks Chancellor Osbourne. When I go out I will save 5p a night as beer is going down by 1p a pint. Why not knock a pound off and help genuine people who deserve a night out. Why not reduce VAT to 10% and again help ordinary people as well as the economy. Why not regulate nurseries, before and after school clubs why government pays for child’s places to help working families. No these are too easy. You only care about those who have money. You cut the poor and reduce taxes on the rich. It’s Robin George robbing from the poor to help the rich.

f1414ce9-9e66-c794-85fa-053c526f3506Budget does not help working person on very low paid it’s geared up for fatcats Tory friends now they have to donate it to ‪#‎nastyparty coffers.

As to yesterday’s budget sickening. Buying votes with beer and bingo, no bread to take to the circus, and benefits to permit the wealthy to quaff champagne on on the benefits paid out for childcare. Welfare State or Nanny State? This is a budget for a Tory State for the Nannied Classes

George Osborne couldn’t bribe me to vote Tory with a giveaway budget let alone this damp squib-all Tories care about is killing foxes for fun.

photo (6)I’m with Ed Miliband on this one when he said:

The Chancellor spoke for nearly an hour.

But he did not mention one central fact:

The working people of Britain are worse off under the Tories.

Living standards down: month after month, year after year.

2011 – living standards down.

2012 – living standards down.

2013 – living standards down.

And since the election working people’s living standards £1,600 a year – down.

photoYou’re worse off under the Tories.

Their 2010 manifesto promised:

“An economy where…[people’s] standard of living…rises steadily and sustainably”

But they have delivered exactly the opposite.

Standards of living not rising steadily and sustainably, but falling sharply and steeply.

And today the Chancellor simply reminded people of the gap between the Chancellor’s rhetoric and the reality of peoples’ lives.

Living standards falling for 44 out of 45 months under this Prime Minister.

Unmatched since records began.

No amount of smoke and mirrors today can hide it.

We already know the answer to the question millions of people will be asking in 2015:

“Are they better off now than they were five years ago?”

The answer is no.

Worse off.

Much worse off.

Worse off under the Tories.

And the Chancellor trumpeted the tax allowance today.

But what he didn’t tell you is that it is the same old Tory trick.

He didn’t tell you the rest of the story.

He didn’t mention the 24 tax rises introduced since he became chancellor.

He forgot to mention that he put up VAT.

He taxed away Child Benefit.

He raised insurance tax.

And gave us the ‘Granny Tax’.

It’s a classic Tory con.

Give with one hand and take far more away with another.

Same old Tories.

Now the Chancellor painted a picture of the country today that millions of people simply will not recognise.

Because this is Cameron’s Britain 2014.

350,000 people going to food banks.

400,000 disabled people paying the Bedroom Tax.

1 million more people paying 40p tax.

4.6 million families facing cuts to tax credits.

But there is one group who are better off.

Much better off.

We all know who they are.

The Chancellor’s chums.

The Prime Minister’s friends.

The Prime Minister rolls his eyes, he doesn’t want to talk about the millionaire’s tax cut.

No mention of it in the Budget speech.

The beneficiaries of this year’s millionaire’s tax cut.

Because if you are a City banker earning £5m and you are feeling the squeeze, don’t worry because they feel your pain.

Because this year that city banker was given a tax cut.

Not just any tax cut.

£664 a day.

£20,000 a month.

A tax cut worth more than £200,000 a year.

So the Prime Minister chooses to afford a tax cut of £200,000 for a banker.

But he can’t afford a pay rise of £250 for a nurse.

And these are the people that had the nerve to tell us we’re all in this together.

It’s Tory values.

It’s Tory choices.

It’s the same old Tories.

And of course, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, with them every step of the way.

Day after day he claims he doesn’t support Tory policy.

But day after day he votes for Tory policy.

Now to listen to the Chancellor today, for a recovery that arrived three years later than he promised, he expects the country to be grateful.

Back in 2010, he told us that by the end of 2014, the economy would have grown by nearly 12 per cent.

Today the figures say it has been barely half that. And he wants the country to be grateful.

Back in 2010 he said the Government would clear the deficit in this parliament by 2014/15. Today he wants the country to be grateful because he says he can do it by 2018/19.

Three years ago the Chancellor told us in his 2011 Budget speech he would deliver an economy “carried aloft by the march of the makers”:

But what has actually happened since then to the rebalancing that he promised?

Manufacturing output has fallen by 1.3 per cent.

Construction output has fallen by 4.2 per cent.

Infrastructure investment down 11 per cent.

Every time he comes to this house he promises a rebalancing.

And every time he fails.

He talked about housing today, but what has he actually delivered?

They’ve overseen the lowest house building since the 1920s.

And rents have risen twice as fast as wages.

At the heart of the argument we will have over the next fourteen months is this question: whose recovery is it?

Under them it’s a recovery for the few not the many.

Bankers pay in London rising five times faster than the pay of the average worker.

This recovery’s not working for working people whose living standards are falling.

It’s not working for millions of women who see the gap between men and women’s pay rising.

It’s not working for low-paid people promised by the Chancellor a £7 minimum wage, but given just 19p more an hour.

Under this Government it’s an economy of the privileged, by the privileged, for the privileged.

And instead of today admitting the truth about what is happening in most people’s lives, they want to tell them the opposite.

They tell people their wages are rising when they’re falling.

Just like they tell people their energy bills are falling when they’re rising.

And they tell people they’re better off but everyone knows the truth.

You can change the shape of the pound.

But it doesn’t matter if the pound is square, round or oval.

If you’re £1,600 pounds worse off, you’re still £1,600 pounds worse off.

You’re worse off under the Tories.

And the reason they can’t deliver is because of what they believe.

His global race is a race to the bottom.

People forced to do 2 or even 3 jobs to make ends meet.

Not knowing how many hours they will get from one week to the next.

And no idea what the future holds for their kids.

Low wages.

Low skills.

Insecure work.

That’s how they think Britain succeeds.

That is why they’re not the solution to the cost of living crisis.

They are the problem.

We needed a Budget today that would make the long-term changes our economy needs in housing, banking and energy.

But they can’t do it.

They won’t stand up to the vested interests.

They won’t tackle developers sitting on land, even though they can’t solve the housing crisis without it.

They won’t force the banks to improve competition, even though small businesses say they need it.

They won’t stand up to the energy companies and freeze energy bills, even though the public support it.

Same old Tories.

We know what their long term plan is: more tax cuts for the richest, while everyone else gets squeezed.

What does the Chancellor say about the people dragged into paying 40p tax?

He says they should be happy.

It’s good news for them.

So this is the new Osborne tax theory:

If you’re in the middle paying 40p you should be pleased to pay more.

But if you’re at the top paying 50p, you should be helped to pay less.

Same old Tories.

It’s no wonder that even their own side think they’re totally out-of-touch.

And even now, even after all the embarrassment of the millionaire’s tax cut, they won’t rule out going further.

Maybe today we can get the straight answer we haven’t had so far?

Will he rule out a further tax cut for millionaires to 40p?

Just nod your head if you’re ruling it out!

There they go again.

They won’t rule it out.

Doesn’t it say everything about them?

They really do believe the way you make the rich work hard is to make them richer, and the way you make everyone else work harder is by making them poorer.

And just like they paint a picture of the country that working people will not recognise, so too themselves.

Now the Prime Minister is an expert in rebranding.

Remember the huskies, the bike, the tree?

That was before they said cut the green crap.

What is the latest rebrand from the Bullingdon club?

It is beyond parody.

Because what does this lot now call themselves?

They call themselves ‘The workers’ party’.

And who is writing the manifesto for this new workers’ party?

We already know the answer and I quote:

“There are six people writing the manifesto, five went to Eton…”

By my count more Etonians writing the manifesto than there are women in the Cabinet.

No girls allowed.

And this week we’ve heard it right from the top.

Here’s what his former best friend, his closest ally, the Education Secretary had to say about the Prime Minister’s inner circle.

He said it was, and I quote:

“Ridiculous.

Preposterous.

Unlike anywhere else in the world.”

You know you’re in trouble when even the Education Secretary calls you a bunch of out of touch elitists.

And where is the Education Secretary? I think he has been banished … He’s hiding! I think he has been consigned to the naughty step by the Prime Minister.

I think it’s time we listened to Baroness Warsi and took the whole Eton mess out of Downing Street.

And what a mess it is.

There are more sides in the Tory briefing war than there are on the new pound coin.

We don’t need a party for the privileged few.

We need a party for the many.

That is why a Labour government will:

Freeze energy bills.

Guarantee jobs for unemployed young people.

Cut business rates.

Reform the banks.

Get 200,000 homes built a year.

And abolish the Bedroom Tax.

This is the Budget that confirms people are worse off under the Tories.

A worse off budget, from an out-of-touch Chancellor.

Britain can do better than them.

Britain needs a Labour government.

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the poor man’s cost of living


UK_cost_of_livingOver the weekend a group of us were on the doorstep doing our rounds intriguingly a few residents  informed us that they was not happy with the Coalition and could their and his families help to do their part to get rid of this awful lot who are in power.

They then approached us to state their family had weighted up all the pros and cons they concluded UKIP, Conservatives, LibDems and Independents are all a waste of time as he and family members voted for them in the past they could not deliver the goods the only party for the working man is Labour.

Whilst this coalition has got everybody’s back up the wall over the Welfare Reform, both able and disabled are being affected with a double whammy with the bedroom and council taxes coupled by rent increases in both public and private sectors, increase in cost of living, childcare,  just to name a few.

Welcome to the world of capitalism of today as the fatcats don’t care as long as they get their dosh:

“Even Michael Gove can see that the number of Old Etonians in David Cameron’s inner circle is ‘ridiculous’ and ‘preposterous’ – but that’s not a reflection of the country, it’s a reflection of the Conservative Party. It’s up to David Cameron who he puts into top jobs, and the fact is that the Prime Minister has chosen to surround himself with people just like himself. He’s leading a Government that’s completely out of touch. That’s why his decisions have helped a privileged few rather than hardworking families, with tax cuts for people earning over £150,000 while wages are down an average £1,600 a year.”

tory (1)Tories are so very generous to millionaires with our money, whilst insisting that poor people have even more of fresh air to live on.

“Once again the Tories are desperately trying to tell people facing a cost-of-living crisis that they’ve never had it so good.

“In fact the latest figures show that under David Cameron real wages have fallen by over £1,600 a year. And IFS figures show families are on average £891 worse this year off due to tax and benefit changes since 2010.

“This analysis is totally out of touch with the real world. It ignores the one third of full-time workers who have not stayed in continuous employment and the 27 per cent who work part-time.

“David Cameron and George Osborne simply doesn’t understand the cost-of-living crisis. That’s why their priority has been giving a £3 billion tax cut to people earning over £150,000, while everyone else is worse off.”

“David Cameron has cut support for children and families by £15bn since he came to office. And today he confirms that no help will arrive until after the election. This is too little, too late.

“Of course any childcare support is welcome but this Government has done nothing in this Parliament to help parents experiencing a cost-of-living crisis. Childcare costs have spiralled by 30 percent since 2010 and the Tories have rejected Labour’s plan for 25 hours free childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds.”

Almost 400,000 people have lost their Jobseeker’s allowance since sanctions for claimants were toughened last year. But are the new rules hurting those they are supposed to be helping?

Peter Jones avoided a serious brain injury when he fell at work in November last year. But while he escaped with his health, his good fortune ended there – he was told not to come back and went to sign on.

It was a month after new rules for those out of work were introduced – rules he would soon find out all about.

“I’d worked all my life,” he says. “But they treated me as if I was cheating the system from day one. They didn’t even know me.”

Anyone claiming Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) can be sanctioned for things such as missing a meeting with an adviser, not turning up to training or not being available for work.

“If they do everything that’s expected of them, they won’t get sanctioned,” a spokesman at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says.

Peter, who says he was applying for “five to six jobs a day”, felt this was just what he was doing.

He had moved from Llandudno to be near his seriously ill mother in Stafford who was in and out of hospital with brain tumours.

But when he wanted to move back to Wales and look for work there, he says job centre officials 100 miles away in Stafford deemed this an “inappropriate search”.

photoHe was sanctioned and did not have any income for the whole of December. He got into debt and, aged 30, moved back in with his parents.

“I didn’t know what to do or how to get out of it,” he says.

When he did manage to move, and signed on in Wales, he was sanctioned again for not attending a meeting with an adviser back in Stafford.

The new regulations – which mean a minimum four-weeks without JSA for anyone deemed to have breached them – are designed to help those without a job, according to the DWP.

“This is absolutely not about saving money or punishing people,” the spokesman says. “Our role is to help people into work.”

Peter did find work as soon as he returned to Wales but, because of the sanctions, he had only received two JSA payments in the three months he was without a job.

“I’m scared of ever being in that situation again,” he says.

And, according to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), he is not alone.

t says advice centres have seen a 64% increase in the number of people coming to them after being sanctioned.

Invariably, the CAB says, they are desperate to get back into work.

So is the new system doing what it is supposed to – helping those who want to work to do so?

Not according to the CAB’s chief executive Gillian Guy.

“When you’re already struggling to make ends meet whilst looking for work, a sanction can end up making it harder to put food on the table and adds an extra obstacle to the huge challenge of getting a job.”

She adds: “The regime is not only self-defeating, it is also poorly administered.”

For Lee Offield, 29, a 10-week sanction meant he had to turn to food banks.

He had wanted to use his illustration degree to work in art therapy.

After a year out of work he started a basic social care course in Bristol but had to leave half way through after his JSA was withdrawn.

He was told he could not be spending enough time looking for work if he was doing a college course.

Having now moved back to his home town in Devon he says the experience left with him with temporary, insecure and seasonal work instead of the social care job he had hoped for.

He appealed against his sanction, won and was repaid most of the money he had been docked.

While he admits he is still in debt, the money is not his overriding concern.

“I could’ve had a career if I’d been able to continue the course,” he says. “But now I don’t.”

The union representing the frontline staff who make these sometimes life-changing decisions alleges that, since the toughening of the rules, there is an expectation they should come down hard on claimants.

“There’s no question that there is an overarching pressure to enforce the sanctions regime as strictly as possible,” says the PCS’s Charles Law.

It’s an accusation the DWP flatly denies.

But the union says ministers’ desire to get tough has led to job centre managers pushing advisers to issue sanctions.

The PCS claims there are “sanctions league tables” and that staff face the first step of a disciplinary procedure if they fail to withdraw JSA from enough claimants.

The DWP insists there are no such targets and that staff want people to do all they can to find work.

While at the latest count more than 40% of those who received a sanction were under 24, opposition to them among young people is not universal.

“I think they can be positive,” 20-year-old Joe told YMCA researchers looking into attitudes to welfare. “As long as they are still able to feed themselves.”

The YMCA, though, says it has “serious concerns” about how the system is being administered and its impact on the young.

Jamie Allen, 23, was made redundant over the summer, losing his job installing computer systems for an IT firm.

His parents – one disabled and the other her full-time carer – took out a high-interest payday loan to support him after he was sanctioned for missing a session at the job centre.

He says he received a text telling him his adviser was ill and not to come in until his next scheduled session – which he did the following week.

A month later, a letter informed him he would not receive any JSA for four weeks because he had missed a session on the afternoon his adviser had been ill.

His mother Alyson says the text could have been misinterpreted, but that he was doing everything possible to find work – travelling for an hour to and from the nearest job centre, sometimes for two meetings a day, and applying for 128 jobs.

But their appeals were met with curt responses.

“We were treated as if we were nothing,” Alyson says. “I know getting the loan was silly but he had no money for bus fares so couldn’t get to the job centre.”

On average, the number of unemployed people per job vacancy has fallen from 5.6 to 4.7 in the last two years, according to the Office for National Statistics.

And with the economy showing signs of recovery, the government says people should do all they can to find work.

“The people who get sanctions are wilfully rejecting support for no good reason,” says Esther McVey the employment minister.

Nicola Clubb, who has been signing on for a year after losing her job as a college tutor, fell foul of the new rules when she failed to get an application in for a Jobcentre position before it closed.

She knows she was at fault: “I screwed up and didn’t apply quickly enough.”

A DWP spokesman said the department could not comment on individual cases but added in a statement: “The rules regarding someone’s entitlement to Jobseeker’s allowance – and what could happen to their benefits if they don’t stick to those rules – are made very clear at the start of their claim.

“We will provide jobseekers with the help and support they need to find a job, but it is only fair that in return they live up to their part of the contract.

“Sanctions are used as a last resort and anyone who disagrees with a decision can appeal.”

Who is the taking the P big time?

Who is the taking the P big time?

It does not take a genius to understand what we all knew all along for some time that The government has drawn up plans to scrap its official jobs website, Universal Jobmatch, after recognising it is too expensive and that its purpose is undermined by fake and repeat job entries, according to leaked internal communications from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

A cache of documents outline details how the government’s main website for job hunters – which tens of thousands of unemployed people have been required by the DWP to sign up to – is likely to be jettisoned when the contract for the service comes up for renewal in two years.

A year and a half after its launch, Universal Jobmatch has been ridiculed for hosting numerous fake jobs, including one for an MI6 “target elimination specialist” and “international couriers” for CosaNostra Holdings, as well as listings for pornographic websites.

More recently very serious problems have emerged. Separate investigations by Channel 4 News and the Labour MP Frank Field have uncovered hundreds of thousands of fake, repeat or, in a minority of cases, fraudulent job postings that enticed jobseekers to spend money needlessly – for example on fake criminal records checks – or were a means of harvesting personal information for identity fraud.

At the start of March, the DWP removed more than 120,000, or one-fifth, of all job adverts from over 180 employer accounts, because the ads did not abide by the site’s terms and conditions.

Field is now pressing the National Audit Office to investigate the site which he described as “bedevilled with fraud“.

The DWP said it regularly monitors Universal Jobmatch to remove jobs that do not meet its rules and that of 524,640 employer accounts only a tiny minority have proven to be in breach of them. The leaked information about Universal Jobmatch became public after the chair of the public accounts committee said last week that the DWP was on the verge of a “meltdown” over its relationship with private companies and welfare reform

The leaked documents say that some of the website’s problems have partly stemmed from the decision by ministers that the site – which is run by the international online recruitment company Monster – be as “open” as possible to all types of employers. Recruitment agencies have taken advantage of this openness by uploading repeat adverts on the site.

The effect, the documents go on to say, has been that civil servants have been unable to determine how many genuine employment vacancies are listed on the site. According to one email, the data simply is not “robust” and rectifying the issue will be expensive.

Other internal communications suggest that civil servants have asked for more than one hundred changes to the service. However senior managers have decided to pass on only a handful of them to Monster because they have given up on improving the current site and expect to start afresh after April 2016.

In light of the high possibility that Universal Jobmatch will be cancelled in its current form, a communique to project heads said that the relationship with Monster now had to be managed “very carefully”.

A paper detailing options for overhauling the site includes:

• Getting an outside company to create a new service that would “learn the lessons” from Universal Jobmatch.

• Designing a site that would only cater for small employers. Jobseekers would be expected to use other sites to find work that was with larger employers.

• Coming to some contractual agreement with other major jobs sites to cross-post adverts and merge them into one larger DWP-run database. It is understood that ministers have not been involved in discussions about the new options.

The project to digitise job-searching activity for millions of unemployed people has been beset with problems from its start. The DWP was forced to rerun the bidding process for the contract and previously leaked documents detail how the department had to pay compensation to one of the failed bidders.

The multimillion-pound contract was won by Monster but Iain Duncan Smith’s department has been struggling to justify its rapidly rising expenditure. Civil servants say that the US company, which pioneered online recruitment two decades ago, has demanded an extra £975,000 to clear Universal Jobmatch of fraudulent employment ads.

Stephen O’Donnell, who runs the National Online Recruitment Awards, said that Monster was “quite exercised”. He said that while the company had made “very good money” on the contract, the DWP was to blame for creating a “real mongrel of a website”. “Monster … have real expertise worldwide in building spectacular job boards. They more or less invented the industry. So you do think ‘how come it’s so bad’? The reason for that is the civil servants basically told Monster ‘forget everything you know about job boards, this is what we want’.”

O’Donnell said: job centres used to have good checks before the site was launched. It used to be, to put a job in a job centre, a recruitment agency had to call and identify themselves, go through various checks and identify the employer.” However without those checks he said many more anonymous postings were being hosted under the DWP’s logo. “Anonymous job adverts are terrible. [The job] may or may not exist. It might just be a fishing trip for other information.”

” I do not hold Monster at fault: they have been directed by the DWP to do what they are told.”

“I think it’s criminally unfair to sanction jobseekers for not using such a clumsily built website, rife with spammers … identity thieves and anonymous job ads.”

A spokesman for the DWP said that the search for work had become increasingly digital in the last decade and that over the next six months, wifi and 6,000 extra terminals would be installed into jobcentres across the country so jobseekers had access to the latest technology.

Responding to the leak the department said: “Universal Jobmatch revolutionises the way jobseekers find work and ithas already helped many jobseekers find the jobs they want since it was launched in 2012.

“How people find work has become increasingly digital so it’s right – and responsible – that DWP should continually look to ensure we are making the best offer to jobseekers.

“The current Universal Jobmatch contract comes to an end in 2016 so any speculation on what will happen after that is premature.”

The moral of this story is this year and next year we have to mobilize our Labour voters for European and Local Elections from all walks of the community to send a bloody nose to the coalition and to UKIP at the ballot box. No ifs and buts.

Stop flogging a dead horse UKIP


tony-benn-bob-crowBefore I start this article I would like to pay tribute to two heroes of mine they will be dearly missed they are Tony Benn and Bob Crow like them or loathe them they are the true fighters of the left. RIP Tony Benn and Bob Crow your struggle are our struggle of tomorrow. Now I will start the debate with a Youtube see below:

Has the time come for UKIP to look beyond European Union instead of flogging a dead horse of coming out of Europe?

The answer is a resounding yes  as the three main political parties has outline their position over European Union whilst UKIP may as well pull the strings of the Conservatives by putting the fear of god into them and laughing at them at the same time by encouraging them to cross over to them by undermining David Cameron position.

Like many of us have continued to argue that UKIP only agenda is to leave European Parliament. It’s about time that UKIP comes clean and say what have they achieved for their constituency by reporting back to their ward committees and districts.

Ed-MilibandI’m glad that Ed Miliband has confirmed what has long been assumed he will not pledge an EU referendum. In an op-ed for the FT published yesterday 11March 2014, Miliband states that Labour’s position on Europe is “clear”. That’s evidently a matter of opinion, as the pre-briefing around his speech has led the Mirror to claim Miliband is pledging a referendum, whilst the FT claims that he isn’t. The FT are largely right on this one. Miliband has no intention of going into the next election with an EU referendum (and the potential loss of Britain’s biggest market) hanging over his head as he tries to steer through parlous financial waters.

Nick Clegg I want a debate with Nigel Farage. David Cameron Er Nick over my dead body matey remember the sweeter I promise you?

Nick Clegg I want a debate with Nigel Farage.
David Cameron Er Nick over my dead body matey remember the sweeter I promise you?

That’s a sensible position to have, but it’s not an easy one to articulate. Whilst Cameron has a position that’s easy to articulate, but which is not in any way sensible.

Unlike David Cameron, Miliband doesn’t need to promise a referendum on poorly defined terms – after an unclear and ill-defined renegotiation – as an extreme form of party management.

And as those close to Miliband are keen to point out, Europe isn’t anywhere near the top issue for the electorate, ranking well below priorities like jobs, pay, pensions, the economy, welfare and immigration. An EU referendum, they would argue, is an answer to a question the Tory Right are asking, but the public aren’t.

photoOn that score, I can see the logic, but I can’t pretend I’m not slightly disappointed.

I think an EU referendum, at some point in the future, is inevitable. I think that Europe as it’s currently managed has a profound democratic deficit that will gnaw away at its credibility with the British public. I generally think that giving the public a say – and trusting them to make big decisions – is the hallmark of sound government (I don’t buy the idea that referenda are a “device for despots” unless someone has a gun to your head). So with all that on the table, I’d like to think that one day (when the global financial situation isn’t so parlous and our economy isn’t so under strain) Labour will pledge to have a debate and a referendum on Britain’s position in Europe, and not just as Miliband is proposing if more powers are transferred to Europe (too much unaccountable power resides there already, actually).

But do I want Labour’s first two years of government post-2015 to be snarled up by rows over Europe?

No.

I sure that many will concur with me when I say I  want them to be spent fixing the NHS, getting young people into work, building homes and kicking the likes of ATOS out of government contracts.

And whilst there was a window of opportunity for Miliband to call Cameron’s bluff and push for a 2015 EU referendum vote, that chance was not taken, and calling for an EU referendum now would look like Miliband was playing catch-up with Cameron.

So for those reasons, it’s just my opinion I think Miliband is doing the right thing. And yesterday’s speech is evidently a big one – it’s leading on the BBC website, was the top story on the Today Programme this morning and hit the front pages of the papers.

But let’s get real for a moment “We’re ruling out an EU referendum except in the case of a shift in the balance of powers resulting from a treaty change” is not going to be on Labour’s pledge card in 2015. Ruling things out is all well and good, but Miliband needs to start ruling more things in.

Monday’s announcement that the compulsory jobs guarantee (an under-rated and potentially transformative step not he road to full employment) is funded for all five years of the next Parliament was a good start. But Labour can, and must, be bolder in terms of devolving power and money to local communities (of which we’ve seen little in the way of tangible examples). Labour can, and must, be bolder in solving Britain’s housing crisis (one million homes built in the next parliament as a bare minimum). And Labour can, and must, have a more radical offer on a better health service, and a better deal for those in care.

Enough ruling things out Ed. Next time you make a big speech, lets rule some things in. The election is only 14 months away after all.

I enclose Ed miliband’s full speech on EU Referendum see below:

It is great to be here at the London Business School. For fifty years, in the teaching you provide you have made a major contribution to helping businesses succeed across the world.

And today I want to talk about an issue that I know is close to your heart: Britain’s place in the European Union. I want to set out why I believe our country’s future lies in the EU. Why the EU needs to change. What that means for the next Labour government’s position on Britain’s membership of the European Union. And our policy for our general election manifesto for the next Parliament.

I want to start with events in Ukraine. In recent weeks, we have been reminded of what the European ideal means. One of the most striking sights of this year has been those pictures we have watched of young Ukrainians waving the EU flag. For them Europe is an ideal: a symbol of a better future, of peace and prosperity.

And that was the original case for the European Union: Securing peace among the countries of Western Europe as they emerged from the horrors of the Second World War. Then taking in countries that had been locked behind the Iron Curtain.

What events in the Ukraine reveal is that this ideal remains strong. At its best, the European Union is a set of countries committed to working together for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. What has been happening in the Ukraine is a reminder of how some countries outside the EU look upon the European Union.

Of course, Ukraine is also a test for the European Union. And we see some of the challenges of uniting 28 countries around a common approach. But it is in our national interest to work in this way. Britain continues to punch above its weight in the world. But with power moving to China and India, Britain exercises more influence because it is also part of a group of countries of 500 million people.

Our country can tackle the major problems of the world far more effectively inside the European Union than it can on the outside. And that is true not just when it comes to Ukraine.

From climate change to crime and terrorism to promoting democracy around the world, Britain is stronger as part of the EU. Because the only way to respond to problems that cross borders is with countries working together. Not standing apart. So the case for Britain’s place in the EU is about our strategic influence in the world.

But it is not just strategic. It is also economic. The economic case for membership is overwhelming. Our membership of the EU gives Britain access to a market with hundreds of millions of people. With 21 million companies. Generating 11 trillion pounds in economic activity. Almost half of all overseas investment in the UK comes from within the EU. Directly providing 3.5 million jobs. And much of the rest of the investment into our country comes because we are part of the single market.

In addition, our membership makes Britain’s businesses better too. Competing in that single market with the best companies in the world drives competitiveness and innovation for firms in all parts of our economy: from cars to computers, phones to pharmaceuticals.

Exit from the EU would put all these gains at risk. Either we would end up outside the single market or even if we could stay within it, it would be under terms and rules dictated by others. That would be bad for Britain.

So the benefits of being in the EU are strategic and economic. And they are also about the character of our country. I believe in an outward looking Britain. A confident Britain. A Britain that wants to learn from how things are done elsewhere. Because we know that we can hold our own with the best in the world. Not a Britain that shrinks away. Turns inward. Or a Britain that feels threatened by working with other countries.

Sometimes it is worth seeing yourself as others see you. People that I meet internationally, don’t want Britain to leave the European Union. They feel deeply that it would make Europe, indeed the world, a poorer, less successful, less secure place. They want us to play our part. Because they know that is the lesson of history.

It was an outward-looking Britain that gave refuge to my parents and helped defeat the Nazis. It was an outward-looking Britain that didn’t shrink away from its international obligations during the Cold War. And it is an outward-looking Britain, with our global cities, that remains the envy of the world, as the 2012 Olympic Games showed.

So we need to be in the EU, not out of it. Outward-looking, not inward-looking. But my case for Britain in the EU is not a case for the status quo. It is a case for change.

Some people say to me that the reason there is scepticism about the European Union is because we have not shouted loudly enough about its benefits. I do not agree. The reasons for scepticism are real. And to understand why change is important, we need to understand the sources of that discontent.

There are three separate issues that we need to confront.

First of all, there are a set of economic issues that have driven what people feel. We cannot separate the growth in doubts about the European Union from Britain’s wider economic situation and the problems in the Eurozone. There are still over 20 million people without jobs across Europe today. And 5 million young people looking for work. British businesses, especially small businesses, often feel that EU regulation doesn’t help our competitiveness, but gets in the way. There is an obvious connection between the prosperity we have here at home and our sense of whether the European Union is working for us.

Second, large scale migration from countries new to the EU has undoubtedly been a major factor in people’s doubts. People greatly value the ability to move around Europe. With more than two million of our own citizens estimated to live in other EU countries. And immigration brings benefits to our country, making it richer, economically, socially, culturally. But there is a genuine concern about the impact that the pace of change has had here. Especially about a race to the bottom in wages and conditions.

This is not prejudice. And these concerns are and must be Labour’s concerns. Indeed, the foundation of Labour’s whole economic argument is that we must avoid a race to the bottom for low wages and low skills. And that must be true also when it comes to the European Union.

Progressive politics is and must also be capable of responding to the concerns people have around the benefits system. Solidarity between those receiving benefits and taxpayers must be built, through a system in which people can have faith. That is true in general and it is true when it comes to migration from abroad.

That is why we have to address particular examples around benefits, which may be small in cost, but exacerbate a sense of unfairness at a time when people feel hard-pressed.

The third source of scepticism is about the way the European Union works. This is part of a wider concern that people increasingly have about major institutions and the way they exercise power. In May, we will be conducting the European elections. And I pay tribute to Labour MEPs and the work they do, seeking to reach out to the people they represent.

But there is a fundamental challenge of accountability in the European Union: We live in a world where so many issues require cooperation across national boundaries, but where people’s fundamental political identity remains the nation state. I believe people do recognise the need for cross-border action when it comes to the single market or countering crime, terrorism and climate change.

But people want to know that power is only being exercised at the EU level when it is absolutely necessary. Because they see accountability to them as operating through our Parliament. In this context, people ask: if there are 18 countries in the Eurozone which might wish to integrate further, could this lead to further powers being transferred away from our country? So the three sources of scepticism that I see are about economic challenges, the impact of EU immigration and about the exercise of power. And they all need to be addressed.

Fourteen months ago, David Cameron gave a speech about these issues and set out his attempt to address them. He set a date of 2017 for a referendum on whether we should leave the European Union. We should be clear about what has happened since then.

Companies all around the world have come to the view that this is placing great uncertainty over their decisions to invest in Britain. The CBI has said the government’s plan is a “diversion” and “distraction” from “the economy, jobs and the cost of living”. While global companies from Nissan to DHL have openly warned of the dangers of exit. And the inherent uncertainty caused by a referendum on this arbitrary timetable has been made far worse since. Because David Cameron has: No clarity about what he is negotiating for. No support for his treaty change from the rest of the European Union. No strategy for achieving it. And no definitive answer even as to whether he would recommend staying in or leaving the European Union.

His promises on Europe are undefined, undeliverable and are now unravelling. None of this is an accident. On the substance of what he is negotiating for, the only way David Cameron can get through the time between now and the general election, is on the basis of obscurity.

Because he is caught between the demands of his backbenchers, many of whom want to leave the European Union, and the reality about what he knows could be negotiable with our European partners. He cannot tell us what he is negotiating for because if he does it will be clear that either he will fail to satisfy his party or set demands in Europe that he will inevitably fail to achieve. And what have we learnt about the mood among our European partners with whom he would have to negotiate any change on the basis of unanimity?

The answer was clear from the visit of Chancellor Merkel two weeks ago.
She offered no support for the government’s timetable or its plan for treaty change. He needs unanimous support. But he has none. This is important because the deep antipathy there is towards his proposals and his timetable will inevitably limit what he can achieve. Even the Prime Minister knows this is a negotiation. And no amount of bluster can hide that fact.

And because he cannot spell out his negotiating demands, and because the prospects of treaty change on his timetable are so slim, he still cannot tell us the answer to the most basic question of all: Whether he would definitively recommend a yes or a no vote in a referendum. That is why what he has done has sent such a chill down the spine of businesses round the world.

David Cameron was elected as leader of the Tory party on the basis that they should stop “banging on about Europe”. He may well have been genuine. But now he offers only that. And worse. A Conservative government after 2015 dominated not by how we tackle the cos-of-living crisis, protect the National Health Service, get jobs for our young people. But by an all-consuming and damaging obsession with whether we should leave the European Union.

You don’t need to look into the crystal ball to see what it would mean. We’ve seen it all before between 1992 and 1997 when John Major was Prime Minister. A weak Prime Minister buffeted by events. And we know where the centre of gravity in the Conservative Party now lies. Britain outside the European Union. Robbed of influence and power. That is why their position on Europe makes the Conservative Party so dangerous to the prosperity of our country. And why a Prime Minister who should know better is acting from a position of weakness not strength, party interest not national interest.

Our priority would be different. Instead of this approach, we need one driven by the national interest. Which keeps the country’s focus on the biggest issue facing us: the future of our economy and the cost-of-living crisis. Which understands that Britain’s future lies in the EU. But reforms the EU to make it work for Britain.

My vision is of a European Union with a proper focus on building a high skill, high wage economy. Working together on issues like climate change, crime and terrorism. And flexible in the different ways that countries collaborate together, protecting the interests of those outside and inside the Eurozone. So let me tell you how a Labour government would make the European Union work better for Britain.

First, economic reform.

This is where our focus needs to be in the years ahead. Making the European Union better support our prosperity. Changing an EU budget where 40% is still spent on the Common Agricultural Policy. We need more of the money to be spent on public goods that help our economy grow, like infrastructure, energy and innovation. And tackling crucial issues like youth unemployment. Britain accounts for one in six unemployed young people across the EU. This should be a major part of our agenda within the European Union but it is not under this government.

And the European Union needs to be far more focused on how we strengthen growth across Europe. We need to drive forward the completion of the single market in digital, energy and services. I am pleased to say the CBI has agreed to help develop proposals about how to complete the single market. And make it easier for British firms to take advantage of the opportunities the single market provides.

We should also use Europe’s strength to negotiate trade agreements with other parts of the world. As well as moving as fast as possible towards securing the Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the US. We can’t do these things being led by a party that is halfway to the exit door. And there are areas where power over economic issues needs to come back to national parliaments. Like over the flexibility of rules on state aid to help companies.

And as we drive the single market forward, we also need to clarify that our vision for Britain means that some key public services must have special protection.

Like the NHS. This government has deliberately tried to expose the NHS to the full force of EU competition law. The next Labour government and our MEPs will work to make sure the NHS is protected from that law, so that patients are always put first.

Second, we need to show we can act on people’s concerns about immigration. There need to be fair rules on what happens when people come here and rules which prevent a race to the bottom in wages and conditions. Our agenda for reform is different from the Conservative Party. After 1997, it seemed that all major parties in Britain had decided to accept the social chapter which gives people guarantees over certain rights.

Now some Tories want to weaken rights to paid holiday, maternity leave and other social rights. These protections are not only good for employees. They are also good for British business because they prevent firms elsewhere in Europe seeking a competitive advantage by undercutting working conditions.

Rather than weakening these protections, we should be defending them. And we should be doing more to stop the race to the bottom, including as a result of immigration. There are many more things we could already do in Britain today.

We should ensure that the law on the minimum wage is properly enforced. We should stop companies using tied housing as a way to sidestep the minimum wage. We should take action here at home on loopholes in rules for agency workers which allow wages to be unfairly undercut. And we should be looking at EU directives, like the posted workers directive, to make sure they are effective. We must also look at the issues raised by new countries coming into the European Union. To be clear, there is no likely prospect of new entrants in the short term. But this gives us a chance to take stock of existing transitional arrangements to avoid the race to the bottom.

Transitional controls allow countries currently in the EU to restrict free movement of workers from new accession states for a so-called “adjustment period” of seven years. This is designed to allow countries to converge to similar levels of prosperity.

As Douglas Alexander said a year ago, we should look again at these arrangements. I believe we should look at giving countries far greater flexibility, including significantly lengthening the maximum permitted period of transition.

And we should look at other options too. We must also take action to protect the integrity of the benefits system. British people recognise that Britain gains when people come here and contribute. But they don’t believe that people newly arrived should have exactly the same rights as people who have contributed throughout their lives. The benefits system in fact already recognises this.

But we need to act on areas of particular concern. So we should look at changing the period for which people have to be present in the UK before they can claim JSA from three months to six months. We believe this could be done under existing arrangements.

And as Yvette Cooper has said, family benefits such as Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit should not be sent abroad to children not living here in the UK. This simply undermines support for the system. There is also an issue of people who commit crimes here having recently arrived from other European countries.

If people abuse their right to be in another member country, we need to seek greater flexibility for member states to deport them. So we need to learn the lessons of the past on enlargement and immigration. And ensure fair rules in which people can have trust. Third, we also have to tackle the concerns people have about power in the European Union and where it is exercised. We need to strengthen the power of national parliaments, including with a “red card” system.

If enough national parliaments express concern with a piece of EU legislation then the EU should abandon it or respond to a demand for change. In the longer term, we need to continue to seek to deal with what people see as the excesses of the European Union, like a separate parliament building in Strasbourg.

And we need to respond also to the anxieties people have about the changing shape of the EU. I am clear that under Labour, Britain will not be part of an inexorable drive to an ever closer union.

But I understand the worry about such a drive. And the worry that there might be a further transfer of powers away from Britain and to the EU. Now, there are no current proposals from other countries for such a transfer of powers.

And I do not believe this is the direction in which Europe should head. Indeed, I think some powers should come back the other way. But we cannot be certain about the emerging shape of Europe. So today I am announcing that the next Labour government will legislate for a new lock. Not simply a referendum on any treaty change proposing a transfer of power. Because there have been too many referenda like that in other countries which have been ignored. But a lock that guarantees that there will be no transfer of powers without an in/out referendum.

Without a clear choice about whether Britain stays in the EU. Now, from what I have said about proposals coming from the EU for such a transfer of powers, I believe it is unlikely this lock will be used in the next Parliament. But the British people know, given the history of the EU, as well as uncertainty about precisely what an integrating Eurozone might involve, that it remains possible and they need a guarantee.

This is the set of conditions under which the next Labour government would have an in/out referendum. So this is where Labour stands. As we go into the general election, I am clear the priority for the next Labour government is the cost-of-living crisis.

Not a costly and damaging debate about exiting the EU. We will do the right thing for our national interest. And I want the message to go out to businesses around the world, that under a Labour government, Britain is open for business and is clear we want to remain an engaged and committed member of the EU.

With a clear lock that guarantees that there will be no transfer of powers from Britain to the European Union without an in/out referendum. The alternative is David Cameron’s approach.

A year on from his speech, an agenda he can’t even set out because he is caught between his backbenchers who really want to leave and his knowledge that it is in our interests to stay in. And the prospect after the next election of an ungovernable Conservative Party with a Prime Minister pulled this way and that and the British people paying the price.

Because of the damage to our national economic interest. With Labour we know Britain’s future remains in the EU. And we will reform it. Protecting millions of jobs. Our priority should always be the national interest. Only a Labour government can now protect it.

And that’s what the next Labour government will do.

Armageddon Time is here to bite Council Tax


jpeg1Welcome to Armageddon Time which has begun to bite Councils in England are planning an average council tax increase this year of 9.9%. That will take the average bill for a band D property to £1,464 in 2014/15. I kid you not folks.

The annual survey was carried out by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the government had “worked with councils to freeze council tax”, and had cut it in real terms.

"Hey folks I will make it harder for Labour Councils that is a promise I will keep"

“Hey folks I will make it harder for Labour Councils that is a promise I will keep”

The biggest increase will occur in the South East outside London, where average council tax is set to go up by 0.8%, or £11.35.

In London, the average bill will fall by £5.39.

CIPFA suggests the average fall in London is linked to local elections in the capital’s boroughs this May, with councillors reluctant to stand on a record of tax increases.

Council taxpayers in Scotland will see no increase again this year, as bills have been frozen since 2007.

taxNo figures are available yet for Welsh councils, but observers say the increases in Wales are likely to be bigger than those in England.

Freezing council tax has been an important policy objective for ministers at Westminster. This year Whitehall is providing a share of £550 million in extra grants to English local authorities that keep bills the same as last year.

But CIPFA says 43% of councils are this year planning to reject the government’s offer and increase council tax – a slightly bigger percentage than the proportion rejecting a freeze last year.

Ministers cannot order local authorities to hold council tax down. But they can provide financial incentives. Any authority wanting to increase bills by more than 2% will also have to put their plans to a local referendum.

hatedimagesMany local authorities have argued that freezing council tax is becoming more difficult at a time when other funding sources are increasingly stretched.

But there is also very little appetite to put a tax increase to a local vote, which most authorities think they would lose.

So many councils in England that have decided to increase bills are planning a rise of just under the government’s referendum threshold – such as 1.99%.

Rob Whiteman, CIPFA chief executive, said “As the pressure from this period of unprecedented austerity has intensified, all councils are having to make increasingly difficult decisions to balance protecting hard-pressed taxpayers and maintaining local services.”

bombshell-2-1GLResponding to the survey, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “Under Labour, council tax more than doubled, pushing the typical bill to £120 a month on a band D home, making it increasingly difficult for hard working people to balance family budgets.

“By contrast, this government has worked with councils to freeze council tax. We have cut council tax in real terms, giving families greater financial security.”

So much for the so-called promise from David Cameronand his bedroom partner(Nick Clegg)  has suggested that further public spending savings could be used to fund tax cuts.

“Every efficiency” found could help to provide a “bit of extra cash” for households, he said in a speech.

He also argued that spending cuts were part of an attempt to change the UK’s “values” by making the country less reliant on debt.

Meanwhile, Deputy PM Nick Clegg suggested that the Conservatives had agreed to raise the threshold at which people start paying income tax further to £10,500.

“I’m delighted everybody is now scrambling to share authorship of a Lib Dem idea,” he said, criticising his coalition partners for being “spectacularly inconsistent” on the proposal and showing their “brass neck” by backing it now.

The prime minister’s speech comes two weeks before Chancellor George Osborne unveils his Budget, with the level of public spending shaping up to be a main battleground at the next general election.

The coalition parties the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats – say cuts are vital to reinvigorate the economy, but Labour says they have been imposed too fast and have delayed the economic recovery.

Addressing an audience in the Midlands, Mr Cameron said government efficiency was “important at the best of times but it’s more important than ever when families are feeling the squeeze.

“Because every bit of government waste we can cut, every efficiency we can achieve is money we can give back to you. A bit of extra cash that can help a dad afford those trainers for his son or help a mum celebrate her daughter’s birthday with a meal out.”

He added: “There’s something even more fundamental here about our values. If we don’t get to grips with the deficit now we are passing a greater and greater burden of debt to our children.

“It’s not just what we are doing that matters; it’s why. It’s all about values. And the most important value right now – after a difficult time for our country – is giving people a sense of economic security and peace of mind.”

Mr Cameron, who has made clear that he wants to reduce taxes if the Conservatives win a parliamentary majority at the 2015 election, said true security came from “having more money in our pockets”.

Some senior Conservatives are calling for the 40% income tax rate threshold to be raised to £44,000 in the Budget to ease the burden on middle-class voters.

The prime minister’s speech comes after official figures confirmed last week that the UK’s GDP had risen by 0.7% in the final three months of last year.

Unemployment fell by 125,000 to 2.34 million from October to December.

“I’ve been saying the same thing for well over half a decade now, which is that we need to target all our tax cuts at those on low and middle incomes by raising the [income tax] allowance,” Mr Clegg told journalists.

“I want the allowance to go even further up: I want a further workers’ bonus in the next Budget, so that the allowance is set at £10,500.

“My coalition partners, by contrast, have been spectacularly inconsistent.

“At the beginning of the Parliament they were first going on about inheritance tax cuts for millionaires, then they wanted to fiddle around with the upper rate of income tax, then they wanted to fiddle around with taxes for married couples, then they wanted to fiddle around with the taxes to give incentives for people to give up their employment rights to take up shares.

“So they’ve got a fair amount of brass neck to claim that somehow now all they ever wanted all along was to see the allowance go up. Because that’s not what they said in public, and crucially it’s not actually what they said in private either.

“I’ve had to drag the Conservative Party kicking and screaming in every single Budget negotiation, by the way not least recently, when I talked about wanting to see this extra workers’ bonus.”

Oh dear me this does not take into account that people on very low income will be hit the hardest  as I understand it coming from shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie said: “David Cameron has revealed his true values by the choices he has made.

“He’s chosen to give the top 1% of earners a £3bn tax cut while everyone else is worse off.

“Working people have seen their wages fall in real terms by over £1,600 a year on average under David Cameron’s government.”

So folks we need no lectures from the this coalition.

Coalition get your own house in order


DavidhansonI have to say that I concur with Labour’s shadow immigration minister David Hanson MP said the coalition split over immigration was “a staged row between government ministers who each want to blame the other for things that are going wrong”.

“Both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats know their immigration policies are failing to convince anyone, so they are staging a row to blame each other and differentiate before the election.”

I say get your own house in order Coalition before you give us lessons on immigration.

ukipI wonder who has played into UKIP’s hands I’m sure many would know of course its non-other than the coalition. What a joke it has become now a days in regards to a controversial report on the impact of migrants on British jobs has been published adding to a coalition row over immigration policy.

Lib Dem Vince Cable has angered Tories by saying he is “intensely relaxed” about mass immigration. And Nick Clegg accused the Tories of being “preoccupied” with a migration target they had no “no control” over.

But Tory immigration minister James Brokenshire hit back saying the number of new EU arrivals was “just too high”.

In a speech on Thursday, he claimed only the “metropolitan elite” had really benefited from “uncontrolled” mass immigration, in what is being seen as an attempt to woo working class Tory voters who have defected to UKIP.

He said: “For too long, the benefits of immigration went to employers who wanted an easy supply of cheap labour; or to the wealthy metropolitan elite who wanted cheap tradesmen and services – but not to the ordinary, hard-working people of this country.”

Mr Brokenshire’s predecessor as immigration minister, Mark Harper, was forced to stand down after he discovered his cleaner did not have permission to work in the UK.

The new immigration minister said the number of new arrivals from the EU was “just too high”.

And, in a dig at Mr Cable, he added: “Some have tried to claim that this rapid increase is somehow ‘good’ for the country. Well, just like the home secretary, I disagree.”

He warned: “Uncontrolled mass immigration can force wages down and house prices up and put pressure on social cohesion and public services. And let me be clear – it can also cause displacement in the labour market.”

Vince Cable and Nick Clegg campaign bus picturesThe minister was responding to claims that a Home Office report on “displacement” – new arrivals from outside the EU taking jobs that could have been done by “native” British workers – had been suppressed because it did not back up Conservative claims.

The report, which is a review of existing academic papers on the subject rather than original research, was published on Thursday.

It includes a figure for displacement that is well below that previously cited by ministers but it also suggests migration has had an impact on the job prospects of some British citizens.

It says: “There is relatively little evidence that migration has caused statistically significant displacement of UK natives from the labour market in periods when the economy is strong.

“However, in line with some recent studies, there is evidence of some labour market displacement, particularly by non-EU migrants in recent years when the economy was in recession.”

It said low-skilled “native” British workers were the most likely to be pushed out of the jobs market by new arrivals.

Coalition tensions on immigration bubbled to the surface last week when new figures dealt a blow to Tory hopes of cutting net migration – the difference between the number of people leaving and entering the country – to below 100,000 by next year.

Conservative ministers insisted the target had not been ditched, despite net migration going up by 58,000 to 212,000 in the year to September 2013.

Vince Cable sparked Conservative anger by saying this was good news for the economy and returned to the theme in a speech to business leaders in London, arguing that Britain needed the dynamism and creativity migrants can bring.

“I know from experience that these arguments are difficult on the doorstep, where – after years of pressure on living standards and worries about jobs and housing – immigration is deeply unpopular.

“But the answer I give is that I am intensely relaxed about people coming to work and study here and bringing necessary skills to Britain – provided that they pay their taxes and pay their way.”

He urged a lowering of the temperature of the immigration debate and a focus instead on boosting skills, adding: “That is where our long-term interests really lie,” saying “scare stories” had to be killed off.

Lib Dem leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg, speaking on his weekly LBC radio phone-in, accused the Conservatives of basing their arguments on immigration on myths rather than facts.

He said the NHS would “collapse overnight” without migrant workers – and rejected Mr Brokenshire’s claim that immigration is depriving British workers of jobs, saying nine out of 10 new jobs went to UK workers.

So we don’t need no lessons from the coalition about immigration and yes Labour had the opportunity to do something about immigration and to be honest I have said I blame both previous and present government for the mess that has been created but do I trust UKIP to run our economy the answer has to be NO they are like the right-wing of the conservatives yet they still have to produce their manifesto which I’m sure we all will be waiting with a bated breath.

The only thing that UKIP wants is out of EU nothing more or less