Monthly Archives: September 2015

Junior doctors – better off working in Lidl

Junior doctors are up in arms about the latest government pay proposals. Their current starting salary is £22,636. That’s not particularly much for someone who has just spent £100,000 on their training. Fortunately they have the opportunity to earn more money by working evening and weekends – that can increase their pay by 50% in some cases.

However, we can’t have that – a £217 a week pay increase just for working weekends and evenings is not what these hard working doctors deserve. That money is needed by bankers. And MPs. So the government has decided to change doctors’ contracts so that normal working hours are 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturday. That effectively moves most people out of overtime, and has been calculated as having an average 30%-40% pay cut. Mwhahaha.

Contrast this to Lidl, who recently announced that all of their employees will get at least the living wage. That means that a Lidl employee in London would earn £19.5k for working 9-5, Monday to Friday. That’s barely less than a junior doctor, but without training or unsociable hours, or the stress of having ill people dying on you all the time.

Junior doctors are not too happy about this, and are proposing to go on strike. But fortunately the government will be all but banning that soon too.

Freedom of information might not be so “Free” any more

Freedom of Information requests are a big nuisance. They have allowed ordinary members of the public to find out what the government is up to, which makes it harder to do evil and hide it. Even worse, journalists use them to ask questions too, and those guys really know what to dig for. Some examples of the evil that FOI requests have uncovered are;

However, government (no matter the party in power) hates the FOI. Tony Blair said in his memoirs that it was his biggest mistake. It probably wasn’t, but shows how much politicians hate being held to account. In fact when they don’t want to own up to something, they generally just refuse to give the information, with excuses like “we don’t have the information” (this was the initial claim about the number of deaths after being declared fit for work), or “it might be embarrassing” (Prince Charles’s lobbying of ministers), or they just release slightly related but irrelevant information while e-mailing their discussion of how to get away with that to a journalist.

Anyway, instead of just complaining about it in his memoirs 10 years later, Cameron is going to actually put a stop to much of this freedom. Mwhahaha.

Part of the plan is to add a £600 fee for appealing any rejected requests (which will price most individuals out of the market, but not journalists). Government departments are already automatically deleting e-mails so that they cannot be released. They also want to lower the cost threshold at which they can refuse to provide information (at the moment if it costs more than £600 to compile the information it will be rejected). The end result will be that it’s trivial to reject a request, and difficult to appeal the decision. And then it will be so much easier to get on with evil.

God save our right to be individual

At a memorial service for the pilots of the Battle of Britain, Jerermy Corbyn did two things that got him vilified by the right wing press and politicians – he stood in respectful silence instead of miming along to the national anthem like everyone else. And he wasn’t particularly sharply dressed.

But of course it wouldn’t have mattered if he had done the opposite. If he had sung the national anthem and dressed like a city banker he would have been slated for betraying his atheist republican beliefs and for changing in to the very people he seeks to offer an alternative to. He couldn’t win, and no matter what he did, the right wing press would have laid in to him. Mwhahaha.

Was singing the national anthem necessary to demonstrate respect for the troop? It’s not a song that is about the troops. Nor is it about the UK – other than the 6th verse which talks about crushing the Rebellious Scots. Nor, despite invoking God a lot, is it a hymn. It’s a song that extols the virtues of just one person – the Queen. Its inclusion in a memorial service is therefore perhaps misplaced – more about creating an event than commemorating fallen heroes. But since it was there, a more media savvy politician would have sang along anyway, no matter how negative it felt to them – much like a child who has long since stopped believing in God, looking down and mumbling while their elderly parents say grace. But Corbyn’s honest reaction was to pay his respects in a way that felt honest and respectful to him. And for that, we laid in to him. Mwhahaha.

An interesting question that is whether Corbyn is an outlier in his beliefs. During the Queen’s diamond jubilee year, support for replacing the Queen with an elected head of state reached an all time low of 22%. It’s not unreasonable to assume that the number of republicans has since risen back to it’s normal levels of about 30%. And when you look at the number of atheists, yes only 13% of people go to church each week. But despite nearly 73% of people not believing that Jesus was the son of God, only about 36% of people have specifically atheist beliefs. So only about a third of population share his beliefs. That’s a ridiculously low number, and obviously not to be taken with any seriousness. Yes, it’s very similar to the percentage of voters in the UK who supported the Tories in 2015 (36.9%), but as we know, much lower standards apply to politicians.

Tax credit cuts to cost you £1000/yr. Like you have that spare

Yesterday the Conservatives voted through massive cuts to tax credits. Tax Credits are money paid to 4.5 million people in the UK to offset their low income. The amount you receive depends on your need – e.g. do you have children, do you have a disability, is your household income less than £33,000, and so on. The more children you have, the less income you have, the more you get. Except now it will be cut at a much lower income level (starting at £3,850 income), and at only 2 children. Despite widespread opposition, even from some Tories, the government managed to pass the changes today;

Many argue that it is a subsidy which allows businesses to pay employees badly, knowing that the government will top up the wages. Of course the same group are complaining about the introduction of the National Living Wage (advertised by Osborne as compensating for the loss of tax credits) because it might put up the cost of a Costa coffee. But does it offset the benefit cuts? No, of course not. Not by a long way. Mwhahaha. The Institute of Fiscal Studies have done an analysis of the impact of this and the other changes announced by George Osborne in the last budget, and found that unless you are a DINK (dual income, no kids) or a pensioner, you are going to be quite a bit worse off;

Impact of Tory cuts
Impact of Tory cuts

The minimum wage increase of 70p an hour (as long as you are over 25) just isn’t enough to compensate for the crippling reductions in tax credits. There are some shocking examples in there – a single parent with a job will be £2,000 worse off. Perhaps they should take on another job while their partner looks after the kids? Oh wait, they can’t can they – there’s nothing much they can do other than visit food banks. In total, 3 million households are expected to be £1000 a year worse off;

The real evil icing on the cake is that in the run up to the general election, David Cameron explicitly committed to not cut child tax credits. The Mirror have video of him stating twice on national television that he promised not to cut tax credit. But now they are in power, who’s to stop them? Mwhahaha.

Local councils stitched up over air pollution

Air pollution in the UK is nasty. Not China nasty, but still not brilliant. Well, actually perhaps it’s China nasty given that it took Oxford Street in London from the 1st January to 4th January to breach the EU annual emissions levels. At least the Chinese have the good sense not to publish true figures for us to compare though – something our government should learn from.

An estimated 50,000 people in the UK die prematurely due to air pollution, and in addition to the tragic loss of life, that costs the NHS tens of billions of pounds a year. Air pollution in the UK is so bad that the Supreme Court told the government that it had to do something about it. So what did they do? They avoided any action, and passed the buck. Worse actually – they made local councils responsible for cleaning up air pollution and they did so without giving them any new authority or money to do so. Mwhahaha.

Local council funding has been slashed. There has been a 40% reduction in their money from central government, and Council Tax has been largely frozen – resulting in a 19% cut overall. And there are more budget cuts to come for them. At the moment councils are trying to decide whether to stop housing children who have been taken in to care, or to leave disabled people lying in their own filth for days on end. Staff have been pared back to a minimum, and essential services have been cut. And despite all of that, the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said that the councils also need to take on legal responsibility for air pollution levels, with no new budget or power to do so.