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Archive for December, 2012

For Britain’s disabled people, the Paralympics couldn’t make 2012 golden | Sue Marsh

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Iain Duncan Smith: £10bn lost in tax credit fraud and error

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/dec/31/iain-duncan-smith-tax-credits

Surely it is an elementary error to conflate fraud, and error. What stats I have seen show that DWP error rates are higher than fraud rates. Both are lower than then number of MPs from the pre 2010 cohort who had to pay back mis-claimed expenses. (Over 50% if his favourite paper the Daily Mail is to be believed). They are if I recall comparable to error rates within the private sector (eg late, over budget and rusty submarines), and other government departments. Whilst a mere pleb can be jailed for fraudulently claiming £40K in housing benefit, and MP can fraudulently claim £40K in housing for his partner and be returned to a ministerial salary 2 years later.

What IDS doesn’t seem to get is that social security claimants on the whole don’t like fraud or error either. Whether it is DWP or financial institutions deemed too big to fail, and too big to jail…. In addition every statement IDS (alongside Gray and Pickles) has made to date on social security reform has failed any elementary fact checks. His Universal Credit is reliant on IT which UK gov has an horrendous record of developing / purchasing (whether left or right). His workfare is reliant on a bunch of cowboys and bullys and has not shown results even by its own low standards. But is still costing us millions.

Nor does he mention recent under claims of several billion by various people who try to exist on savings rather than claim back a smidgeon of the amounts they have paid in tax and NI.

But if we can spin it all as fraud from the feckless layabouts all the better. Funny how we have had such undeserving poor for centuries, and every scheme seems to have failed to stop them emerging. So nothing we do stops people playing the system. So why rejig the system to blame anyone who is a victim of the current economy?

IDS harking on about votes is ironic. His own party voted against his leadership, and have failed to win a majority since 92…. So their “poor bating” strategies aren’t winning votes. Given non of his reforms were in the coalition manifestos any appeal to democratic accountability is also lost.

So IDS please:

:- provide the evidence.
:- provide a comparison against other sectors and departments.
:- provide a comparison against other economies.
:- provide parity of disincentive and punishment for fraudulent claims on social security and other state funded benefits such as MPs expenses, bank bailouts…

Categories: Benefits

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Mike Sivier's blog

David Dennis, the author of Disregarded: The True Story of the Failure of the UK’s Work Programme, seems to have a hit on his hands. The book has attracted considerable interest, following my article earlier this month. It is therefore with pleasure that I am publishing the following interview with him, conducted by writer Alex Laybourne.

After reading the new bestseller “Disregarded: The True Story of the Failure of the UK’s Work Programme”, I knew I had to interview expose genius David Dennis. Not only did the book hit a chord with me, it has also hit a chord with readers and is currently flying high in the Amazon.co.uk chart. David is a curious guy, he doesn’t like to show his face. I asked him for a photo to include with this interview. He declined to share one and said he is choosing to remain anonymous. I asked him…

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Categories: Uncategorized

Ekklesia: ‘Tough choices’, Cabinet paper revelations, and the assault on welfare

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17704

UK government Cabinet papers from 1982, now released under the 30-year disclosure rule, confirm that the dismantling of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS and the savage cutting of public services has been a long-held ambition of the Conservative party.

All that stopped them making their dream come true in the 1980s was the knowledge that it would be politically unacceptable. But the ambition has nonetheless been nurtured over the decades, and with the recent banking crisis the perfect opportunity arose to implement it.

As the public was bombarded by economic doom and gloom from every angle, Conservative Party ideologues knew that this was the best chance they would probably ever get. Policies that would have been unacceptable under normal circumstances could now be presented as “regrettable, but necessary”, in order to save our economy.

That is why George Osborne, rather bizarrely for a Chancellor, put so much effort into talking the UK economy down, to convince us all that we were in desperate straits, such that desperate measures were called for.

This, combined with a stream of propaganda that suggested a section of the population were idle parasites bleeding the country dry, paved the way for cuts to benefits and the punitive treatment of the unemployed.

Prime Minister David Cameron uses a cricketing metaphor to describe this process, he calls it ‘rolling the pitch’, or preparing the ground politically.

A similar process is happening now with the National Health Service. A constant stream of stories about poor care and neglectful staff have started to appear in sections of the media, presumably so that when the public wake up to the fact that the NHS has actually been privatised, and therefore abolished as we know it, it will not be mourned too much, and the outcry will be diminished.

So when Mr Cameron and other members of the government talk about “tough choice”’ they are really being rather disingenuous. They are actually implementing policies that the Conservative party have wanted to implement for decades. Their choices may be tough on us, but they actually are their choices. Others can, and should, be made.

———-

© Bernadette Meaden has written about religious, political and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor.

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Mike Sivier's blog

Dear ——- —-,

Thank you for your email of December 20, and for replying to my complaint about Rt Hon George Osborne MP so promptly.

Herewith please find copies of Land Registry documents relating to the properties in question. These may be obtained from the Land Registry on request. It is clear from them that both properties were owned by Mr Osborne and were sold together – as a single transaction – to the new owners. Under those circumstances it is unreasonable to expect that the valuation of £445,000, which appears on both documents for the period when Mr Osborne owned those properties, relates to those properties individually; it is the value of both properties, taken together. That is how Mr Osborne bought them, and it is how he sold them. It is unreasonable to expect anyone to believe there are separate valuations for the land and the building.

It…

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Categories: Uncategorized

The Guardian: We need a coalition of resistance against local council cuts

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

We need a coalition of resistance against local council cuts

As the new year dawns, councillors around the country will start drawing up budgets for 2013-14. Sharp and continuous reductions in government grants totalling 30% will result in severe cuts to balance the books. By law, they have to do this. Town halls can’t run deficit budgets, unlike the government.

 

 

This is the point at which Labour councils should be saying no, in a loud and clear voice, with support from their national leadership. We won’t make your cuts. We will not pass on the burden of the calamitous economic and financial crisis of capitalism that we did not create. We will defend our communities.

 

 

As matters stand, however, Birmingham, Manchester, Southampton and Labour councils in other towns and cities are preparing to announce thousands of redundancies and the elimination of key services. Virtually every section of the community will be affected.

 

 

As the Observer reported today, the leaders of Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield warned this weekend: “The unfairness of the government’s cuts is in danger of creating a deeply divided nation. We urge them to stop what they are doing now and listen to our warnings before the forces of social unrest start to smoulder.”

 

 

Yet, despite their dire forecast, the leaders of these and other Labour councils intend to make the budget cuts as demanded by the government. In my view, this is absolutely indefensible.

 

 

The hollow argument used to justify implementing the cuts is one that’s been around since I was leader of Lambeth council during its momentous struggle with the Thatcher government. Neil Kinnock, then Labour’s leader, told councillors that they should abandon defiance that might be considered illegal and instead maintain a “dented shield”.

 

 

Better to have a Labour council administering cuts in a “caring” way than the Tories, went the argument. In any case, resisting central government might encourage the Tories to do the same if Labour were in office. I heard the same tune again recently when Steve Reed said councillors were finding “practical ways to limit the pain”. For his loyalty, Reed was rewarded with the safe seat of Croydon North, and left his post as Lambeth council leader.

 

 

Back in the 1980s, David Blunkett (Sheffield), Margaret Hodge (Islington) and Graham Stringer (Manchester) initially took stands against rate-capping and budget cuts. One by one, they were persuaded by Kinnock to drop their opposition. All subsequently became MPs.

 

 

Ed Miliband’s pseudo-Tory “One Nation” politics does not allow for meaningful resistance to coalition austerity policies. It’s not difficult to fathom why. As many are aware, New Labour prepared the ground for many of the coalition policies through the expansion of PFI, contracting out, academies, tuition fees and other market-orientated measures.

 

 

Ed Balls and Gordon Brown between them set the bankers free to run riot with other people’s money. Now local government workers and service users are being made the scapegoats for a crisis that New Labour had a political hand in making. Pensions have already been reduced and wages frozen – with the backing of Labour’s front bench.

 

 

The biggest coalition in recent times is emerging against this government’s policies. Families with children at nurseries and schools, single parents, the disabled, carers, pensioners, students, redundant workers, part-time workers, people struggling to make ends meet, those whose homes have been repossessed, those on ever longer waiting lists and a million young people unemployed – all dependent at some point on local authority services which are now being snatched away.

 

 

This coalition is the basis for a co-ordinated campaign of resistance to council cuts and would provide the platform for exploding the myth, repeated as gospel truth by all the major parties since 1979 that there is no alternative. Public sector trade unions should take the initiative and call local assemblies of community groups, anti-cuts campaigns and other activists. These assemblies could draw up, or even commission, work on policy alternatives to an unsustainable, divisive capitalism that promotes inequality.

 

 

Let’s draw on the experiences of Occupy internationally, UK Uncut and the assemblies’ movement that has swept Spain. Why not mobilise communities to keep open services earmarked for closure, even if on a temporary volunteer basis like at Friern Barnet library?

 

 

In the 1980s, Labour councils like my own did organise a fightback. A price was paid, councillors were surcharged and forced from office. But resistance, far from being futile, mobilised communities. We won additional funds so that budgets could be set without cuts. Labour councillors today have the same choice – they can either lead a struggle against a vicious government or stand aside for those who will.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Firm paid £73m to find work for unemployed has exactly one apprenticeship vacancy for the whole UK | Pride’s Purge

December 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Cheer up. All this doom and gloom plays into the Tories’ hands | Zoe Williams

December 26, 2012 Leave a comment
Categories: Uncategorized

Sign It! 100,000 signatures to stop the War On Welfare! #WOWpetition

December 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Mehdi Hasan, Huffington Post: Strivers vs Shirkers? Ten Things They Don’t Tell You About the Welfare Budget

December 22, 2012 Leave a comment

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/mehdi-hasan/welfare-budget-10-things-they-dont-tell-you_b_2314578.html

Strivers vs Shirkers? Ten Things They Don’t Tell You About the Welfare Budget

With the Conservative Party unveiling a new ad campaign in marginal seats, which basically divides voters into hard-working ‘strivers’ and stay-at-home ‘shirkers’, and with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg launching an attack on universal benefits, it seems the perfect time to debunk 10 key myths about the UK’s welfare budget and, specifically, ‘out of work benefits’.

(Yesterday, you may have seen me tackling some of these falsehoods on BBC1’s Sunday Politics – if not, you can watch my debate with Tory MP Chris Skidmore on the iPlayer; scroll forward to 29mins40secs in…)

Here are the 10 things about welfare that they – Tories, Lib Dems, some New Labour figures, the centre-right press and the CBI – don’t tell you:

1) Myth: ‘THE 1% RISE IN BENEFITS IS FAIR BECAUSE IT HITS SHIRKERS, NOT STRIVERS’

Fact: According to the Resolution Foundation, “far from hitting only the out of work, 60% of the value of the £3.7 billion cut would fall on in-work households”. Why? Because the 1% rise – which equates to a real-terms cut – affects universal benefits like child benefit and tax credits like child tax credit.

Also, the benefit loss for a low to middle-income household is about twice the size of the personal allowance gain (the same allowance gain, incidentally, that the Tories have tried to use to deflect attention from the 1% squeeze).

2) Myth: ‘SPENDING ON OUT OF WORK BENEFITS IS OUT OF CONTROL’

Fact: First, according to the DWP’s own figures, the majority of all welfare spending is on pensioners – 53% – with out of work benefits accounting for less than a quarter of the welfare budget.

Second, on average, between 2000 and 2010, welfare spending grew annually, in real terms, by 1.75% – compared to 5.5% in the 1950s and 1960s, and 3% in the 1980s (under Margaret Thatcher).

Third, benefit spending in 2011-12 accounted for 10.4% of GDP, lower than under Margaret Thatcher in the mid-80s (11%) and under John Major in the mid-1990s (12%). (There are also a million fewer people on out of work benefits now than there were in the mid-1990s, off the back of the previous recession.)

Fourth, it may surprise you to discover that benefit spending as a share of GDP fell during the first 11 years of the last Labour government; it only began to rise in 2008, after the financial crash, as hundreds of thousands of Britons found themselves out of work through no fault of their own.

(They key point here is to distinguish between benefit spending figures presented in scary, cash terms and those presented – much more accurately – as a proportion of a nation’s GDP.)

3) Myth: ‘OUT OF WORK BENEFITS HAVE RISEN MORE THAN AVERAGE EARNINGS’

Fact: While the chancellor George Osborne was correct to point out, in his Autumn Statement, that “average earnings have risen by around 10% since 2007” but “out of work benefits have gone up by around 20%” he chose a narrow, self-serving time period, i.e. the past five years. Over the past 30 years, wages have outstripped benefits.

As economist Jonathan Portes, head of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR), pointed out: “In 1979, unemployment benefit (the predecessor to Jobseekers’ Allowance) was about 22% of average weekly earnings; today it’s about 15%, a relative decline of about a third. What’s going on? Simple: JSA has been indexed to inflation. In normal times, earnings rise faster than prices…”

But as Osborne knows, we are not living in ‘normal times’, partly thanks to his growth-killing austerity measures…

On a side note, Jobseekers’ Allowance is currently £71 a week, or £10 a day. Could Osborne, or any other Tory minister, live on £10 a day? Could you?

4) Myth: ‘WORK IS THE BEST ROUTE OUT OF POVERTY’

Fact: The majority of children and working-age adults in poverty in the UK live in working, not workless, households. That’s 6.1million people – 2million children and 4.1million adults – a million more people than are living in poverty in workless households. Low pay is the biggest cause of poverty in this country – a fifth of British workers are paid less than the ‘living wage’. The national minimum wage is now worth less in real terms than it did in 2004.

5) Myth: ‘THERE ARE LOTS OF OUT OF WORK HOUSEHOLDS WITH BIG FAMILIES’

Fact: Families with more than five children account for 1% of out of work benefit claims; families with more than three children account for less than 10% of claims.

6) Myth: ‘THE WELFARE STATE IS BEING UNDERMINED BY AN INTERGENERATIONAL CULTURE OF WORKLESSNESS’

Fact: Despite repeated Tory references to “three generations of worklessness” (Iain Duncan Smith) and “four generations of families where no one has ever had a job” (Chris Grayling), this whole “culture of worklessness” and inter-generational fecklessness is a complete exaggeration based on little or no empirical evidence.

Consider the conclusion of a recent, in-depth report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF): “Despite strenuous efforts, the researchers were unable to locate any such families. Even two generations of complete worklessness in the same family was a very rare phenomenon.”

In fact, a Bristol University study of Labour Force Survey figures found that only 0.3% of UK households have two generations – let alone three or even four (!) generations – that have never worked.

7) Myth: ‘THE BENEFITS BILL IS RISING BECAUSE OF CHEATS AND FRAUDSTERS’

Fact: The government’s own figures show that just 0.7%, or £1bn, of benefit expenditure is overpaid due to fraud – compared to, say,£70bn lost to HM Treasury through illegal tax evasion.

8) Myth: ‘HOUSING BENEFIT IS BEING WASTED ON LAZY, OUT OF WORK HOUSEHOLDS’

Fact: According to the homeless charity Shelter, only one out of every eight people who receive housing benefit is unemployed – the vast majority of HB claimants are pensioners, carers, people with disability and, of course, people on low incomes (see myth 4).

As even the Daily Mail conceded back in October, there has been an 86% rise in housing benefit claims by working families over the past three years.

9) MYTH: ‘PEOPLE GET PARKED ON BENEFITS FOR YEARS AND FORGOTTEN’

Fact: As public policy analyst Declan Gaffney has pointed out: “Benefit claims are much less likely to be ‘long-term’ as people seem to believe. The majority of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance claim the benefit for less than three months; less than 10% claim it for more than a year.”

10) Myth: ‘MEANS TESTING BENEFITS IS FAIRER AND CHEAPER THAN HAVING UNIVERSAL BENEFITS’

Fact: According to the National Audit Office (NAO), means testing “makes the administration of benefits more complex and is associated with higher costs as well as increased rates of fraud and error”. The NAO also notes that “there can be disincentives for recipients of means-tested benefits to return to work”.

(With thanks to the Resolution Foundation, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Declan Gaffney, Jonathan Portes, Chris Dillow and David Wearing.)

Follow Mehdi Hasan on Twitter:www.twitter.com/mehdirhasan

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