Monthly Archives: January 2016

Tories to remove opposition funding

What more evil way to block any opposition than to remove all funding for any opposition parties? That’s exactly what the Tories are planning with their 2 part scheme to kill Labour funding. The first part of the plan was to cut Short Money – which is funding provided to opposition parties to help them operate in opposition. That will remove £1m a year from Labour funding. The second part of the plan is to stop unions from funding the Labour party. They will instead force union members to individually fund the party, a move likely to cost the Labour party about £5m a year. And to get this through, the Tories are going to use secondary legislation again – a new favourite trick of theirs to pass laws without scrutiny. Mwhahaha.

Unfortunately, the Lib Dems are attempting to stop this undermining of democracy. They are doing that by the sneaky underhand method of proposing that all donations be subject to caps – not just Labour ones. That would mean that the Tories, who rely on massive donations from a small number of influential donors, would also be subject to similar funding cuts to Labour. Lets hope democracy doesn’t prevail this time, or we may not be able to turn in to a dictatorship as quickly as the Tories would like.

Nail in the coffin of social mobility

The government has announced that it will abolish maintenance grants for the poorest university students, and because it is such an unpopular move, it will be doing it without debate or vote in the Commons or the Lords.

At the moment if your parents are poorly paid, you can receive a small grant to help with cost of living at university. It starts at £3,387 a year for families with income of less than £25,000, tapering off to zero for families with income of £42,620. That might sound quite generous for the half a million students a year who receive it, but average student rent outside London is £4,834, so the full maintenance grant doesn’t even cover the additional cost of a student having a roof over their heads. Maintenance loans are also available, for £5,740 a year, but even a full grant and loan doesn’t cover the costs of accommodation, books, travel and food. That means that university is already unaffordable for anyone without parents on a reasonable income. and those kids who do go have to get part time jobs, which prevents them from studying as much, resulting in significant drop out rates.

Now the government is proposing to do away with the maintenance grant, making it completely impossible for anyone from a poor background to go to university. Mwhahaha. Not only are they ditching the grants though, they are doing it through a legislation committee – a device that passes small changes without requiring debate by MPs. This is not the first time that the government has sought to hurt people through secondary legislation that bypasses the democratic process. They did the same with cuts to benefits, attempting to prevent debate in the Lords. It looks like a superbly evil trend that will allow the government to get away with all manner of mischief.

Social Mobility

Whether the government really needs to stop the poor going to university is debatable. Social mobility is already worse in the UK than in any other developed country, and it has got worse since the 70s. The gap between the rich and the poor has widened, and the proportion of those in the bottom 5th of income compared to those in the top 5th of income whose children go to university has decreased from 1 in 4 to 1 in 5. And the latest moves from the Tories will ensure the poor are kept in their place. Mwhahaha.

Jeremy Hunt – looking after your NHS

It’s obvious what the worst thing about the NHS is – it’s the doctors. For a start, wherever there are doctors, there are ill people. And often people who die were ill prior to dying. And there are an awful lot of doctors (150,273 in 2014) too, and that costs money. So health secretary Jeremy Hunt has come to the rescue and is attacking doctors. In fact he has attacked them so much that they are going on their first ever all out strike today.

Why are the doctors striking?

Jeremy Hunt wants to impose a new contract on all doctors which will change the way they work and the way they are paid. He wants to dilute safeguards that prevent doctors from being overworked, which doctors are concerned will impact patient safety. He also wants to cut doctors pay. His way of doing that is to expand the number of hours in the week which are considered normal working hours by 50%. At the moment 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday is considered “plain time”. He wants to expand this to 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturday. That doesn’t mean working longer,  it just means that 10pm on a Saturday doesn’t qualify for any pay difference compared to working at 3pm on a Wednesday. That will result in up to 50% lower pay for some doctors, who are already amongst the lowest paid professionals. Mwhahaha.

What has Jeremy Hunt done to avoid this?

Nothing. The thing that has really annoyed the doctors is the way Jeremy Hunt has behaved. He has consistently waged a media campaign of half truths and deceptions to try and discredit the doctors instead of working with them to resolve their concerns. Some examples are;

  • He claimed to be prepared to negotiate with doctors. But he refused to negotiate on any of the key points that doctors were concerned about.
  • He claimed to be offering an 11% pay rise. But in fact he’s offering an 11% increase in basic pay, only until 2019, which is more than offset by the changes in the hours, resulting in a net pay cut.
  • He implied that if there was a terrorist attack, striking doctors would not help out.
  • He implies that doctors don’t work 7 days a week and patients are dying as a result. His evidence for this was a study which in it’s conclusion explicitly stated that that wasn’t the case. Also, as doctors point out, we already have a 7 day NHS.
  • He ordered the supposedly non-political director of the NHS, Sir Bruce Keogh, to “sex up” a letter telling the doctors not to strike.
  • He claimed that the dispute is just due to political elements in the British Medical Association who have it in for him. The 98% support amongst doctors would certainly imply that is not true.

As doctors have pointed out, if Jeremy Hunt wants more operations at the weekend, he either needs to shift work to do less operations during the week, get more doctors, or get the doctors to work more hours for no more money. Guess which one he is aiming for. Mwhahaha.

What next?

Not only is Jeremy Hunt a stirrer of trouble, he’s also completely unaware of how modern medicine works. His strong stance pushing for discredited alternative medicines such as homoeopathy to be provided under the NHS has earned him the label Minister for Magic by New Sceientist;

As long as David Cameron leaves Jeremy Hunt in charge of health, we look to be heading towards a period of strife in the NHS. But is this what David Cameron wants? It’s no secret that the Tories want to privatise as much of our health as possible, and striking doctors could be just the ticket for pushing that agenda.

DWP assessments cost more than the benefits

For disabled people, there is no bigger evil than the work capability assessments that the DWP inflicts on them. In March 2011, the Department for Work and Pensions started to remove disability benefits from people that independent assessors deemed fit for work. It sounds sensible in theory, but in practice it was executed in a most evil manner, with independent contractor Atos subjecting disabled people to the most humiliating experiences, and having people with no medical experience decide on whose benefits to remove.

The National Audit Office have now released figures that show that this degrading debacle in fact cost the country far more than it saved;

Unbelievably, the cost of paying private contractors to do the assessments is £1.6bn over 3 years, with savings failing to reach even £1bn by 2020. So the government is on balance paying private contractors millions of pounds simply to inflict misery on disabled people. Mwhaha.

And the misery should not be underestimated. Over 60% of people assessed say that their examinations by the unqualified examiners exacerbates their illnesses, and several university studies have shown that the assessments have led to a statistically significant increase in suicides. And not only are we paying private contractors a fortune, they are not reaching the correct assessments, with the DWP overturning hundreds of thousands of cases of Atos claiming people were fit for work. When you measure evil done for pounds spent, this has to be a winner.

£1600 cut from in work benefits? Never mind, save £10 on petrol.

Tory MP Shailesh Vara yesterday made the comments that cutting the lowest paid people’s income by £1600 doesn’t matter, because they will save £10 every time they fill up their cars. Not only is that factually completely incorrect, it’s irrelevant to people too poor to own a car anyway. Mwhahaha.

In fact that was just the highlight of his ignorance. He was attempting to contrast the cuts in in-work benefits with the positive changes that the Tories have brought in. But how does this stack up for someone on minimum wage today?

People will save because of the raising of person allowances

In the Autumn Budget, George Osborne raised the personal allowance from £10600 to £10800, so another £200 will be tax free. This saves people £40 a year as long as they are in full time employment (40 hours a week). If you work 30 hours a week, it has no impact as you don’t pay tax anyway. Of course it could be argued that the change was just in line with inflation, but that would be churlish.

The new national living wage will increase incomes

From April (after the benefits cuts), the minimum wage will go up from £6.70 to £7.20. For someone working full time, that is an extra £1040 before tax. After tax, it’s £707 a year

Doubling free childcare

David Cameron committed to increase free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds from 15 hours to 30 hours as long as all adults in the household are in work. This hasn’t materialized yet, and nurseries have claimed that they won’t be able to support it at the rates the government would pay them, so whether this is any help in reality to the small amount of households it covers remains to be seen.

Tax free childcare from 2017

From 2017, if both parents are working, the government will top up every 80p that you spend on childcare by another 20p. This replaces a scheme where you can pay for childcare out of your pay packet before deductions. Unfortunately the new scheme is actually worse for most people – including basic rate taxpayers, so this one is a net negative.

£10 saved when filling the cars

When Labour were in power, they put in place a tax escalator on fuel of 2p a year. This was to help the environment, which thankfully we have stopped doing. Mwhahaha. In the last budget, George Osborne suspended the tax escalator, meaning that this year motorists save 2p per litre COMPARED TO A TAX THAT NEVER HAPPENED. So this isn’t a saving in your pocket – just the government saying they might have taken more money from you but decided not to. Also, most people who are impacted by the universal credits cuts can’t afford a car, so the savings are zero. And for those who do somehow have a car, the increase avoided is £1 per tank at best – perhaps £50 a year.

So, the “savings” that Mr. Vara touts as offsetting the £1600 cut in benefits are very much less than the amount lost. In fact, depending on personal circumstances, the money saving measures that he is so proud of could actually be costing people even more money. Mwhahaha.