Saturday, 6 December 2014

And the poor get poorer

The most telling comment on Osborne's Autumn Statement this week came from Matthew Taylor in a discussion on a BBC programme.  The worst thing about it, he said, was that no one, not even Osborne, believed a word of it.  Those crunching the numbers afterwards came up with a terrifying vision of what the Tories are aiming at; a country which would be back in the desolate and dangerous world of the 1930s, with "the state", that part of the national income spent for the benefit of everyone, reduced to almost nothing.  Certainly there were plenty of hints about slashing "welfare" even further.  I was puzzled by one announcement, which was slipped through barely noticed by the commentators (because it doesn't affect them): the rates of Universal Credit are frozen for those in work (see the Independent's article on this).  Now, I can't make out whether he was just talking about UC, which won't affect most people for some time, or whether he was trying to pretend that everyone is on UC and it will actually mean working tax credits are frozen as well.  There's a good article in the Mirror on why Osborne's vision is so appalling.
In case you want to play the game of blaming someone other than the government and start muttering about pensioners, there was a nasty hidden surprise for many of them.  The so-called triple lock should have given them an extra £2.85 a week, but most of that will be lost as pension credits are lowered; so only those pensioners who don't qualify for extra benefits, i.e. those with private pensions and / or large amounts of savings, will get the full increase.
In the midst of all the gloom and doom there was some good news for A4e.  They have new 2-year contracts to deliver the New Enterprise Allowance mentoring scheme in a further three areas of Scotland.
The Scottish government is furious with the UK government over the Work Programme.  As part of the devolution agreement Scotland is to have control over welfare programmes there, but not UC.  The Smith Commission spelled out that this would include the WP when the contracts came to an end in March 2016.  Like many English councils, the Scottish government wants to devise suitable, flexible support for the unemployed.  But it was told on Tuesday that the current contracts are to be extended for a year.  The UK government says that this was agreed in August, long before the Smith Commission was set up.  So tough.
There are only 6 days left to get evidence to the Work & Pensions Select Committee for their enquiry into benefit sanctions.  The DWP will maintain its lie about sanctions only being used as a last resort, as they've done in an article today in a Scottish newspaper.  I would love the enquiry to conclude that the DWP is deliberately lying and make that known.


  1. The UC business relates (as far as I know) to the freezing of the work allowance (the amount of earnings disregarded before the taper kicks in) - unless anything has changed, this was announced over a year ago in the 2013 Autumn Statement. That announcement indicated a freeze to 2016-17, which would have saved £315m if UC had been on target, but will probably save about a fiver as things stand.

    It'll weaken work incentives for some household types, but the key point with this is that it'll predominantly adversely affect relatively low-income but working households.

    I suppose any pretence that the Conservatives are even slightly concerned about lower-income working people has gone out of the window, but they've probably gone about it in the right way (for them) - technical and cumulative changes like this probably don't get noticed the same way that proposals to trim large amounts off individual benefits do.

  2. "The fall in purchasing power in the country led to a deflationary spiral of lower production, falling wages and an increase in the value of debt."

    The above comes from the Mirror article Historian alluded to. As someone trying to start their own enterprise, Henry Ford's words ring true in the 1920's when he said:

    "If I don't pay my worker decent wages, how are they going to be able to buy the cars my factories produce?"

    Now Ford was no liberal. He was as hard nosed a tycoon as they came - and then some! However, his words are just as relevant today as they were nearly a century ago when he uttered them.

    When people feel less secure and have less money coming in in real terms, they'll make cut backs. Out will go luxuries such as vacations and non-essentials for a start. But it also means people will also spend less on even essential items such as heating and food.

    Whilst some retailers are doing well, (Black Friday stampedes notwithstanding), it is mainly at the expense of other more established names, not because of more money in the economy to be spent overall. It is no coincidence that Aldi and Lidl are growing at the expense of the more expensive Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury who've all seen their market share fall.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby has called for £150m in govt. cash to support more food banks in order to stave of more hunger this Winter and Christmas:

    Whilst he has a point and his heart is in the right place, It would be good to see someone arguing the case for less reliance on food banks due to people being able to afford to buy a decent amount of food in the first place!

    Nick Clegg (remember him?) was asked by Andrew Marr about Justin Welby's comments and the cuts to welfare in general. It was interesting what Clegg said in regards to benefit sanctions. He suggested a 'traffic light system' where 'offenders' would be given a sanction only when they hit a red after passing green and amber / yellow.

    What Clegg needs to realise is the sheer number of people hitting red from the word go. And often for the most ridiculous of reasons, even when jobseekers are doing their damnest to secure employment.

  3. I am not sure if this is relevant,I received a letter from the JCP that informed me that I must attend a meeting with my "Work Coach" to discuss Job's available and Training,Brilliant..I arrived and was asked to produce the last 3 Months Job Searches and if I did not have them,I must allow access to my UJM account in order to verify them? I informed the "WC" that I can produce proof of my Job Search in any format that I want,luckily I had a log that went back daily for over 6 Months,she noted that I volunteer 3-4 days a week..."If you have time to Volunteer that much time,you are obviously not trying hard enough to find employment" I replied,that when you paid A4E over £600 for MWA,it was not a problem,why now? When I was put on MWA,you replied that it would help me build my confidence and employability,what has changed? The fact that somebody(A4E) is not getting paid? ..I then pulled out the letter,this document refers to training and jobs,what is available? (Stunned look) I do not mind discussing other topics,but the bread and butter of this appointment was to discuss these two items,what is available?.....Enter G4S(Very polite) Sir,this interview is over...I then asked the WC if I was summoned under false pretences as we had not discussed what was in the letter that was the supposed reason for the meeting..I was gently escorted off the premise.......But my Dole was in the bank,what was the purpose of this Silly exercise?

  4. I wasn't aware that Pension Credit rates had been lowered. A strange policy given that Cameron said that pensioners deserved support because it was the 'morally right thing to do'.

    As for cuts to UC this makes a mockery of the Tory slogan 'making work pay'.

  5. Concerning the Select Committee, I suspect many people will submit evidence that a sanction first and ask questions later approach is absolutely normal and expected. DWP could try making a semantic case that if people have signed a JSAg or CC, have discussed what they will do and so on, then by definition, the sanction they ultimately get will be the last resort, but they'd be daft to even go there.

    I wouldn't get my hopes up too high though - the Committee is 5/11ths Tory, and a couple of those are of the headbanger variety. The evidence though is strong - not just of the harm suffered by people who've generally done their best to 'play the game' but also of the ridiculous demands made of people who often aren't able to remember, understand or undertake what they've been asked to do.

    There's not even any real evidence that harsh conditionality moves people into work - although it does drive people off benefits entirely, as it appears to be doing now, with non-takeup of JSA at a record high. But then evidence isn't something DWP is interested in at ministerial level.

    Speaking of nonsense, have a look at this, by the way:

  6. There was a BBC R5L phone in this morning hosted by Nicky Campbell. The subject was ''why is Britain going hungry''. Campbell wanted to hear people's experiences and what they thought of poverty and the use of food banks in Britain.

    Amongst the tales of food bank usage, benefit delays and sanctions, we had the usual nonsense from someone who thought poverty didn't exist in Britain today as it did not compare to the 1930's (and there's me thinking that society should actually progress). The same caller also suggested telephones should be a 'luxury' item. Someone should've told him that this is not 1964 or 74. Besides, with so much govt. services and info being pushed through the site, an active phone line and broadband connection is surely a necessary requirement. Not to mention the fact that benefits today have to be applied for online or over the phone. And that many job centres no longer have phones for jobseekers to use.

    Another caller, a private landlord complained about one of his tenants being out of work yet still having a ''ginormous'' TV (whatever ginormous means) and ''every one of her kids having an iPad''. Of course, I'd love to have asked him if every one of these alleged tablets actually did have an Apple logo on the back.

    It does rather seem that people will take more notice of royal non-news stories about William and Kate's latest vacation than what is happening less than a stones throw away from their very own lives.

  7. I completely agree with the arguments detailed on this thread. I do not fall for the Tories campaign against benefit claimants. As the vast majority of them are in work or elderely. However, it is a really hard case to get people on board with. Your average Joe really struggling to makes ends meet working full time will probably know someone on their estate who has 5 kids plus, a parter living with them (unofficially), large tv's, better games consoles than his own child etc. Although this is a minority, when Joe picks the paper up and reads all the stories he obviously feels peed off about media term 'scroungers' living the high life.

    The point is imagine trying to get him to take notice of the argument.

    Tories have divided the workers and job seekes beyond beleif.

    1. You are correct in what you say. The working-class has not been this divided for 200 years and it is not that the unemployed are well-off it is that the living standards of the working poor are falling. And will continue to fall while the Tories are in power.

  8. You lot are just jealolus and lazy. You should be grateful you're getting anything at all! You should all be working hard for your handouts in my opinion. No such thing as poverty in UK I'm afraid. You don't know how well off you all really are!!!!!!

    1. Thank you, "Eddie", for reminding us of the potential for humour in even the darkest situation. To the rest of you, don't bother responding.

  9. The "delay" in benefit payment to ESA/JSA claimants surely also owing to increase in waiting days from three to seven, ie no money for first seven days of claim. This is not a delay, it's policy.


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