Sunday, 7 September 2014

News round-up

With so much going on in the world the media, particularly the BBC, can happily ignore the issues which concern the poorest in Britain.  They managed - just - to report the fact that the government lost a vote on the bedroom tax.  It was a private member's bill, introduced by a Lib Dem (!) to water down the current rules by exempting disabled people who need the extra room or have adapted homes, as well as those who can't be found a smaller home to move to.  Labour backed it and the government lost by 306 votes to 231.  It will now go to committee stage and is unlikely to get through its third reading and into law.  But it's a start.  Unfortunately the BBC managed to spread misinformation.  The website piece says that the original changes "were designed to ensure social tenants get the same treatment as private tenants, who do not get any rent support".  I don't know what he means by "rent support", but this suggests that private tenants don't get housing benefit, which is untrue.  The piece also quotes Iain Duncan Smith as claiming that the changes would cost the Treasury £1 billion, a figure which is as accurate as all IDS's numbers.  

Then we read about the "attitude to work" assessments which the gormless Esther McVey is now going to impose on the unemployed.  It's an idea borrowed from Ingeus, apparently.  You can read the Daily Mail version if you really want to, or the less hysterical version in the Independent.  Although she's presenting it as voluntary, and as a way of not putting people on courses they don't need, there are obviously fears that it will be another way of catching people out and sanctioning them.

On the outsourcing front, there was an interesting article in the Independent about the race to, in effect, privatise the probation service.  It suggests that there are 5 companies involved - Capita, Sodexo, Amey, Interserve and Carillion - and that they would be well advised to have nothing to do with it.  They are very unlikely to make a profit.

Finally, please read the Guardian piece by John Lanchester about poverty and inequality.


  1. "Esther McVey said benefit claimants will be profiled to see if they feel “determined”, “bewildered” or “despondent” at the prospect of employment."
    (Via the Independent)

    What a pile of horse doo-doo! And that's an insult to the poor horse!! Does McVey think this will help a jobseeker gain employment? Esp. when they need training, business grants / loans and indeed a job!

    Will there be right and wrong answers to these profile questions? What if you should pick the "wrong" answer? Will this mean yet more 'courses' where jobseekers are stuck in a room for 30 hrs. a week doing sweet FA? Will it mean a sanction? As per usual more questions than answers arise from such back of the envelope schemes.

    And should the scheme be rolled out nationally, it'll no doubt mean another contract and more cash for some dodgy W2W provider.

    1. Since it was first used by Ingeus, maybe there's something in it for them. But JCP staff have already said that they don't have time for this, having already had the time for seeing each client cut.

  2. I may have my figures wrong,but the rising cost of published and supposed costs of trying to get the unemployed "back to work" are almost similar (JSA) to the total cost of the actual benefits bill.

    I volunteer at a Charity,I enjoy it(and get first pick at interview clothes,at a discount) recently I have been approached by another quango "sigh up with us and you will no longer have to sign on for 6 Months,we will pay your Bus fare" I am reluctant for two reasons (1) they obviously are paid a fee (2) I volunteer on my own terms...This was upsetting to the JCP adviser,although I was not forced to sign up to this,the attitude was obvious.

  3. The Lib Dem who put forward the private member's bill re: bedroom tax is my local Cornish MP. He is trying to have a go at things like this (Cornwall having such low wages and dire local housing needs... all them second homes)... as well as threats to NHS etc.
    Consequently the amount of Tory Ministers that are suddenly showing up at the PR trough in his constituency must be a record. Clearly they want him gone in the next election.

    1. @Little Grey Doll

      Nah, m’dear. Tory ministers and their backbench MPs also turned up in force before my local constituency’s by-election in Feb 2013. I live in the Borough of Eastleigh, near Southampton, which the Tories believed that they could win against the incumbent Lib-Dems. In the end, the L-Ds held the seat fairly comfortably with UKIP coming a fairly close second and the Tories in none-too-close third place.

      Tory HQ misjudged the whole situation in Eastleigh. They sent their Toffs, who local people ignored but the locals turned out in force every time Nigel Farage appeared instead! My local newspaper was hilarious. Apparently, Grant Schapps tried to chat up a Labrador dog and Boris Johnson tried to chat up an eight year old girl. According to the local rag, neither the dog or the child revealed their “voting intentions.” Most of us locals fell about laughing at such utter nonsense from the Tories.

      At one point, George Osborne turned up, ostensibly to visit a local factory which makes fibre-optic cables, apparently, The local rag wondered whether the L-Ds might send a real Cable next, whilst the rest of us wondered whether Rent-A-Crowd were receiving appearance fees from the Tories?

      FWIW, I think that deep cynicism and disbelief are the only way to play it with the Tory mutts who come canvassing.


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