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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 Posted by Jake 2 comments Labels: , , , ,
Figures from the DWP (Department of Works and Pensions) show that the number of people on Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA) is falling for all people upto the age of 60. 

However, people between 60 and 64 years of age are still not getting the jobs they need - they are still nearly 3 times more likely to be on unemployment benefit than they were in the year 2000.

Why do you think this is? (You can select upto 2 answers from the poll):

.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Sunday, April 27, 2014 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , ,
A graph from the 2013 British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey shows fewer than 1 in 10 Britons have wanted this in the 30 years since 1983. More than 90% have consistently wanted the level of tax & spend to remain the same or to increase.




Saturday, 26 April 2014

Saturday, April 26, 2014 Posted by Jake 1 comment Labels: , , , , , , ,

"the love of money is the root of all evil"
1 Timothy 6:10

This biblical quote means people aren't bad for nothing: to be really bad they need to be really well paid. Of course not all well paid people are evil, but that's the jist of it.

However, if someone tells you paying huge salaries is the only way to hold on to the best people who can make all of us more prosperous, tweet them this post. The statistics show they are wrong.

On the day between Good Friday and Easter Day in April 2014 the DailyMail reported:


“Barclays has been under fire for raising bonuses at its investment bank to £1.6billion, up 13 per cent, despite a 37 per cent fall in the division’s profits and regardless of vows to cut its pay bill.”


The bosses of Britain’s top companies pretend they are forced to pay humungous money to keep the best people. They claim that keeping these people, by paying them lots of money, makes all of us richer.
Is this actually true? Let's take a look at the statistics:


Compare the UK and German wages of the 99th percentile (the group earning 99th highest out of 100). Figures from the EU’s Eurostat, give the equivalised disposable (see below for definitions) household incomes. These show in 2012 (most recent figures available when writing this post) the German elite took home nearly 25% less than their UK equivalents. 

Friday, 25 April 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , ,
Fee, Chris and KJ look into the future...

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Thursday, April 24, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Vince Cable warns businesses on 'ridiculous' pay awards
As firms prepare for their annual general meetings, Business Secretary Vince Cable has written to all FTSE 100 members to remind them that pressure on pay awards must be kept up to assuage public anger. He said pay levels at banks in particular had been "ridiculous". He singled out Barclays, which has its shareholder meeting scheduled for Thursday. Last year, Mr Cable introduced rules forcing listed firms to give shareholders a binding vote on directors' pay to make a "clearer link between pay and performance". The move followed investor anger over rising boardroom salaries at a time of falling share prices and sluggish earnings. "A lot of trust has been lost, because of the extremes of what happened in 2010, when pay escalated massively unrelated to the performance of companies," Mr Cable said. His letter on pay follows a series of corporate reforms announced by Mr Cable in recent days, including a public register in which companies will have to list their true owners, and a crackdown on "rogue directors". BBC NEWS

Foodbanks see donations surge after they were criticised by Mail on Sunday
Britain's biggest food bank provider, the Trussell Trust, saw a surge in donations after a Mail on Sunday article criticised the charity for failing to run proper checks on people claiming food parcels. Before the article, there had been about 250 public donations since the Trussell Trust launched its JustGiving page in late January. That jumped to more than 3,300, worth more than £36,000. Several donors cited the article as the reason for contributing.  One donor, calling themselves Spitting Feathers, said: "I am incensed by the disgraceful article. Call this journalism? I don't. I'm not a Christian and admire the work being done by human beings for their fellow human beings. Thank you." The Mail on Sunday said it carried out an investigation which found that volunteers did not carry out adequate checks on those who claim vouchers and one of its reporters obtained three days' food simply by telling staff at a Citizens Advice bureau – without any proof – that he was unemployed. Many claiming food parcels were also asylum seekers, the paper reported. GUARDIAN

Councils sit on £67m in emergency help for poor
Figures released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests indicate that by the end of January councils in England were sitting on £67m of the £136m that had been allocated to local welfare schemes. Under the new local welfare assistance schemes, four in 10 applications for emergency funds are turned down, despite evidence that many applicants have been made penniless by benefits sanctions and delays in processing benefit claims. Under the previous system – the social fund – just two in 10 were. In some parts of the country, as many as nine in 10 applicants are refused crisis help. Under the new system, emergency funds are no longer ringfenced, meaning that councils can divert unspent cash to other budgets. Local authorities are anticipating further problems over local welfare in 2015 when the DWP scraps funding for the schemes. GUARDIAN

Energy giants pocket £75m of green tax cuts which were supposed to save millions of households £50 on their energy bills
Millions of households have missed out on a £50 saving on their energy bill because a cut in the green tax has been swiped by suppliers rather than handing the cut to their customers. All of the big six firms — British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, Npower, Scottish and Southern Energy and Scottish Power — will save money this year after the Government slashed network charges and the cost of implementing green schemes. And they will no longer have to pick up the tab for a Warm Home Discount — which gives vulnerable customers a £135 reduction on their electricity bill. The Government had said the green tax cut would save households around £50 on their annual gas and electricity bill. However, four months on and millions of customers have not received a penny in discount. An estimated five million households have missed out on the reduction because they are on a fixed-rate deal. The energy companies claim most people have benefited by up to £35. But this still means they have pocketed the remainder  — at £15 from each fixed-rate customer, that makes £75 million. DAILY MAIL

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , , , , , ,
In April 2014, just before Easter, newspapers including the Express and the Telegraph reported:

“March’s UK inflation figures suggest that the six-year squeeze on real earnings is finally over”

For the first time in 4 years prices were not rising faster than wages. Were they right about the squeeze being over?

Actually, in the 5 years upto March 2014 price rises have outstripped wages in 57 months out of 60.



This has left us on average 8% worse off than 5 years ago. 




Friday, 18 April 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014 Posted by Hari 1 comment Labels: , , , , ,
KJ and Chris get the answer from someone who obviously knows...

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Pay rises scrape ahead of inflation - but only if you work in the private sector AND get an annual bonus
Wages including bonuses were on average 1.9% higher in February compared to the same month in 2013, said the Office for National Statistics, while the consumer price inflation rate for that period was 1.7%. But pay including bonuses was only 1.7% higher when you look at the three months to February and compare it to the same three months of the previous year, suggesting on this measure that real incomes actually flatlined. Furthermore, public sector workers saw pay increases of only 0.9% and the average wage excluding bonuses was only 1.3% higher in February. GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: 'The recovery under way is welcome but we have a very long way to go to climb out of the hole caused by the recession.' Part of the growth is simply because the UK population has increased. Kenny added: 'Given the increase in population, GDP per head is still 5.8% below 2007 levels. This is the root cause of average earnings being down 13.8% in real terms since then. The pay of the bottom 50 per cent of the workforce is still being squeezed.' The news comes as millions of health and local government workers gear up for possible strikes in protest at pay increases of 1%. DAILY MAIL

Hospital bed shortage exposed: UK now has second lowest number per capita in Europe
A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that among 23 European countries, the UK now has the second lowest number of hospital beds per capita. As a result, countries such as France and Germany now have more than twice as many beds per head as Britain. Only Sweden — which has invested heavily in community care — has fewer beds for its population. Meanwhile levels of overcrowding in hospitals have repeatedly breached recommended safety limits, causing longer waiting times, cancelled operations and a raised the risk of the spread of superbugs. Official figures show that since 2001, more than 50,000 NHS hospital beds have been lost in England alone. TELEGRAPH

Landlords' 'substantial' interest-free mortgage advantage is denied to first-time buyers
More first-time buyers would be able to own property if interest-only mortgages were made available to them, a study by the Institute of Housing has concluded. Interest-only mortgages – where monthly payments cover just the interest part of the bill, and do not go toward reducing the debt – were widely popular before the banking crisis. But since then they have been all but banned under new, tougher rules. Landlords are exempt from the rules, as buy-to-let lending is not regulated as tightly. The difference creates a "substantial advantage" for landlords. The Institute of Housing figures showed that renting was more expensive, in all regions, than the cost of meeting interest-only mortgage payments. So if someone renting were able to borrow an interest-only loan, not only would they become property owners but they would see a cut in their monthly outgoings. TELEGRAPH

Starbucks HQ relocation to UK 'will generate negligible tax revenue
Starbucks claimed that the head office move would "mean we pay more tax in the UK", but the amount is expected to be negligible based on an analysis of head office operations in Amsterdam. Accounts filed in the Netherlands show the existing head office has been loss-making since 2010, and paid just €342,000 (£281,500) in tax last year. Starbucks was heavily criticised by MPs and tax campaigners in 2012 after it emerged that the business had paid just £8.3m in tax since coming to the UK in 1998, despite sales of more than £3bn. Accountant and campaigner Richard Murphy said the coffee chain's small head office operation, currently in Amsterdam, was little more than a "conduit or moneybox" used by Starbucks to collect "royalty payments" and move them on to other parts of the group. Starbucks' European head office was at the centre of criticisms 18 months ago that it had been artificially depressing the group's tax bills around Europe by charging sister companies heavy royalty fees. Moving these headquarter operations to London is the latest example of a wave of multinationals arriving in Britain after a series of controversial tax reforms pushed through by George Osborne to woo international firms. GUARDIAN

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , , ,
The cartoons included in this guest post from Barnet UNISON were drawn by cartoonist Tim Sanders with lyrics from a UNISON supporter 

 

The “Tale of Bob in Barnet” provides an insight into the challenges facing Barnet UNISON and our members.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Sunday, 13 April 2014


[Updated Aug 2016]


Whatever you think of Jeremy Corbyn, one thing he's done that all the others in the Labour or Tory parties haven't, is get hundreds of thousands to join the party.

Corbyn's strongest card is his promise to go much further than this. To get a significant portion of the millions who never vote, to vote Labour. Can he do it? Who knows. But getting non-voters to vote is no longer crazy talk. Think UKIP. Think Brexit. 

It matters because, for decades, UK elections have been decided as much by who doesn't vote as by who does. 


In politics how high you reach depends less on how tall you stand and more on who you stand on. For decades political parties have gained power standing on people who don't vote.

In the twilight weeks of the electoral cycle, like little children at bedtime, politicians see terrors lurking on every sofa across the land. Millions of zombie voters who might be roused if they get annoyed enough. Not to vote for what they are for, but to vote against what they are against.

Consider the sudden ejection of Maria Miller from her role as the Secretary of State for Culture. Miller was given the boot in the month before the May 2014 local and European elections. When Jeremy Hunt, the previous Secretary of State for culture (what is it about that ministry?), was caught up in far more serious allegations David Cameron rescued Hunt by promoting him to Secretary of State for Health. Luckily for Hunt there were no key elections in sight then. What ultimately did for Miller wasn’t her sin but her timing - getting caught during the witching hours that run for the few weeks before the Local and the European elections.


This is a lesson you must remember dear voter. It is a lesson you must not let our politicians forget you remember. You must keep them afraid of you.


Once the dark electoral hours have passed, politicians of all parties forget about us electors. For example the key strategy of successive Tory governments is to appear to cut taxes and spending. A graph from the 2013 British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey shows fewer than 1 in 10 Britons have wanted this in the 30 years since 1983. More than 90% have consistently wanted the level of tax & spend to remain the same or to increase.




Friday, 11 April 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014 Posted by Hari 2 comments Labels: , , , ,
Fee and Chris can't quite agree...

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014 Posted by Jake 10 comments Labels: , , , , , ,
Did they or didn't they? Did the Tories abolish the 50% tax rate, or didn't they. 

Actually, they did and they didn't: 

a) They Did: People earning more than £150,000 have been spared the 50% rate (52% including 2% National Insurance). 

b) They Didn't: People with student loans earning more than about £43,000 are heading for a 51% rate (including 2% National Insurance).

This is illustrated by a graph in the IFS report "Payback time? Student debt and loan repayments: what will the 2012 reforms mean for graduates?" showing the marginal tax rate for people repaying student loans.

Graduates will start paying an additional 9% of their earnings once their pay exceeds £21,000. The 40% income tax rate kicks in at about £43k (assuming 1% annual increases in the upper earning limit). Marginal rate = 40% (income tax) + 2% (NIC) + 9% (Student Loan) = 51%.


Added on 5th December 2014, after the Autumn Statement:
The government announced a new £10,000 postgraduate student loan, starting in the 2016/17 academic year, to be repaid concurrently with the undergraduate loan. The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) calculated the effective marginal 'tax' rate for a postgraduate who took loans for both undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Paul Johnson, boss of the IFS, stated this highly qualified individual once over the £21,000 earnings threshold would be paying 50% as a basic rate taxpayer, and 60% as a higher rate taxpayer:

"it is worth saying that those who take out the loan would face rather high effective marginal withdrawal rates on earnings of 50% for basic rate taxpayers (20% income tax, plus 12% NI, plus 9% repayment of undergraduate loan, plus 9% repayment of postgraduate loan) and 60% for higher rate taxpayers."
Thursday, April 10, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Bupa 'harming NHS' by offering patients “bribes” of £2k to use public services instead of private hospitals
Bupa is accused of offering the cash handouts to customers who agree to undergo cancer, heart, gynaecological and other operations on the NHS. A letter from the private health giant to a male cardiac patient explains: “The cash payment takes the place of private treatment funding... If you are admitted to hospital under the NHS as an in-patient for any of the above procedures, we will pay you a fixed sum amount.” Operations can cost fives times more than the cash payments offered by Bupa. For example, private hospitals charge a minimum of £10,000 for having a pacemaker fitted. So Bupa is offering its customers £2,000 to have it done on the NHS. This effectively passes Bupa’s costs onto the NHS. The cash payments have been condemned as “outrageous” and “disgusting” by doctors. Bupa raked in a staggering £2.57billion in revenue last year, and pocketed £139million in profit - up 26% on 2012. Bupa denied that the cash offers were bribes, and insisted it was simply “offering customers choice”. MIRROR

Benefit cheats face higher fines and losing their homes
Welfare cheats will be forced to sell their homes and pay higher fines to reimburse taxpayers for the money they have wrongly claimed, under plans to tackle benefit fraud. The plans form part of a major campaign from ministers this week to publicise reforms to the welfare system, which the Conservatives regard as among their most popular, vote-winning policies. A publicity campaign, including posters urging claimants to report those whom they suspect to be cheating the system, and letters warning individuals to check they are not receiving too much. TELEGRAPH

MP expense pong: Ex-Culture Secretary Maria Miller bought a £1.2m mansion with proceeds of '2nd home'
Maria Miller’s stunning new home, a sprawling barn conversion complete with oak beams, wood-burning stove and library cost her £1.2million - almost exactly the profit she made selling a property funded by taxpayers. Mrs Miller made taxpayers fund some of the mortgage payments on her London property, then sold it and used the whopping profit to buy this ‘charming’ Tudor house in Hampshire. It boasts five bedrooms, a spectacular vaulted gallery and its own woodland set in more than an acre of land. DAILY MAIL

Are high frequency traders rigging stock markets? Split-second sharks accused of profiting at expense of ordinary investors
US financial firms are being accused of using speed - an advantage of just a few thousandths of a second - to fleece big money rivals and by extension ordinary savers and investors. The allegations have prompted the US Justice Department to say it is probing high-speed trading for possible insider trading violations. The FBI and US financial watchdogs are also investigating the industry. The book focuses on Wall Street share trading, but one City insider has commented: 'The same players are in the UK and Europe – if it’s happening in America, it’s happening here too.' DAILY MAIL

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sunday, April 06, 2014 Posted by Jake 1 comment Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Compare and Contrast



  • IPSA: Recommends that Maria Miller repay £45,000 for mis-claimed expenses

  • MPs: Over-rule IPSA, reducing the amount to be repayed by £39,200 down to £5,800



  • IPSA: Recommends MPs get an 11% payrise, taking their basic salaries up from £66,396 in 2013 to £74,000 in 2015

  • MPs: State they are forced to accept this salary hike as they have no power to over-rule IPSA. With great reluctance they will courageously loosen their belts and swallow it.
 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Saturday, April 05, 2014 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,
It's the oldest trick in the book. Convince your competitor to lower his guard, and then biff him.  

Adam Smith, the capitalist icon, believed everyone scuffling selfishly for their own benefit would result in an ‘invisible hand’ distributing a nation’s wealth pretty fairly. 

Smith’s advice was based on the reality that you can’t trust anybody else to pull for your benefit. You can only really trust people who are pulling in the same direction as you. And any student of tug-of-war will know it is all much less strenuous if the other side simply drops the rope and stops pulling.



Graphs from the “Budget 2014: Background Briefing”, produced by Parliament's impartial House of Commons Library, show how ordinary Britons have been tricked into dropping the rope in the great economic tug-of-war. It also shows how those who want Britain to be a more prosperous place, whether of the left or of the right, should stiffen up and grab the rope again.


From Budget 2014: Background Briefing
The Budget Briefing report shows between 2007 and 2014 average earnings have dropped more than 12% in real terms. The same graph shows that household consumption (i.e. spending) has almost returned to its peak level. Consumption that has been helped by household debt rising to record levels according to a report in November 2013 by Iain Duncan Smith's "Centre for Social Justice".

A separate graph using ONS data shows that the fall in wages is not a short term effect of the recession triggered by the banking crash. In the decades since the 1960's the share of GDP paid to employees has dropped from around 60% down to around 54%.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Friday, April 04, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , ,
Fee, Chris and KJ agree. Kind of...

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Thursday, April 03, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Lib Dems must oppose bedroom tax, says party president Tim Farron
In a damning assessment of the policy, Mr Farron said it impacted on the most vulnerable and was “wrong and unnecessary”. The Liberal Democrat president, who is currently developing the party’s housing policy, also said it reduced the amount of money available to invest in new homes. The policy means that tenants have their housing benefit reduced by 14 per cent if they have one spare bedroom, and 25 per cent if they have two or more spare bedrooms. The idea is for them to move to a smaller home. But thanks to a critical shortage of housing stock, many are stuck with a benefits cut because there are no smaller homes for them to move to. INDEPENDENT

Bring back Dad's Army banks, says George Osborne
Chancellor George Osborne has hailed Captain Mainwaring as a role model for today's bank managers. He said the bumbling Dad's Army character was at the centre of his community and knew all of his small business customers.  Asked about Lloyds Bank's recent decision to axe half of its small business advisers, with the loss of 1,000 jobs, Mr Osborne said banks should be focusing on building closer relationships with their customers. He singled out two relatively new banks to the UK - Handelsbanken and Metro Bank - as leading the way. Handelsbanken is Sweden's biggest bank and now has 170 branches in the UK. It specialises in "traditional" banking, with customers having a more active relationship with their bank manager. Osborne said of Captain Mainwaring: "the bank manager was at the very centre of local life, knew all the businesses, knew the people who ran the businesses and was empowered to make judgements about who had a good idea, who maybe had had a couple of failures in the past - but that wasn't their fault - and had a good idea going forward.” BBC NEWS

Atos quits £500m work capability assessment contract early
The £500m agreement to carry out work capability assessments had been due to end in August next year but following widespread public and political anger over the tests, which have been criticised by MPs and campaigners as crude and inhumane, the agreement will now end early next year. There has been mounting evidence that hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people have been wrongly judged to be fit for work and ineligible for government support. Last year the work and pensions select committee said the government's handling of the assessment was damaging public confidence and causing claimants "considerable distress". The committee said the problems with the computer-led, points-based assessment "lay firmly with the DWP", but added that the department was failing to apply "sufficient rigour or challenge to Atos". More than 600,000 appeals have been lodged against Atos judgments since the work capability assessments began, costing the taxpayer £60m a year. In four out of 10 cases the original decisions are overturned. GUARDIAN

At last! Rip-off pension charges capped at 0.75%
Rip-off charges which can wipe out more than a third of the value of a worker’s pension pot will be banned next year. Pensions Minister Steve Webb described the crackdown in which charges will be capped at 0.75 per cent as ‘a full frontal assault on poor value for money’. Over the next ten years, workers who diligently save into a pension will be around £200million better off as a result of yesterday’s announcement. This is because the money will go into their pension pots, rather than being siphoned off in high charges by well-paid fund managers. DAILY MAIL

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Tuesday, April 01, 2014 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , ,

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