Sunday 31 May 2015

Sunday, May 31, 2015 Posted by Jake 7 comments Labels: , , , , ,

In December 2013 the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) gave MPs a pay rise to £74,000 per year starting from immediately after the May 2015 General Election. (The payrise will come into force in the autumn, but will be backdated to the General Election). We say "gave" and not "recommended" because ministers say they don't have the power to overrule IPSA and reject the extra cash. They said it would make a nonsense of IPSA's independence. Though they didn't think the same when they overruled another independent pay review recommending a 1% rise for NHS staff.

All the main party leaders, Tory; Labour; SNP; LibDem, stated that the bumper payrise for MPs planned for 2015 was "totally unacceptable".

The Telegraph newspaper wrote to all 650 MPs to ask whether they would accept the payrise, and published their responses or that they remained silent. The Telegraph reported that:
"One in ten MPs has announced they plan to reject an 11 per cent pay rise but the vast majority have refused to say if they will accept it".

Then, less than 3 weeks after the May 2015 general election, the Daily Mail reported:
"Prime Minister will not block 10% rise for MPs: U-turn by Cameron after backbench protests...The decision means MPs will now almost certainly see their salaries rise by £7,000 to £74,000 a year following a final review by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. The pay rise, expected in the autumn, will be backdated to the General Election."

You can understand MPs postponing pocketing an extra few grand until after the election. Something they'd rather you don't remember as you go to the polling station. In case you might forget, here is a list of a few more things our politicians decided they'd rather leave until after we had finished voting. Did the Tories think a Labour government, should it have been elected, would do a better job? Probably not: 

MPs fury as HBOS bank report delayed until after the election
MPs have hit out after it emerged that the publication of a report into the collapse of Halifax Bank of Scotland has been delayed until after the General Election. Insiders expect the findings will not now be unveiled until at least the autumn. Almost seven years have passed since HBOS required a multi-billion pound taxpayer-funded bail out at the height of the financial crisis. HERALD SCOTLAND

Chilcot report on Iraq war delayed until after general election
The six-year-long British inquiry into the 2003 Iraq invasion and its aftermath will not be published before the general election, prompting an outcry from those demanding that the long overdue reckoning should be put before the voters. GUARDIAN

Andy Coulson perjury trial delayed until after general election
The trial of Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who is facing a perjury charge, has been pushed back until after the general election.

The case was due to start at the high court in Edinburgh on 21 April, but on Monday the Judiciary of Scotland announced a new start date of 11 May.

The charge relates to the trial of the former Scottish Socialist MSP, Tommy Sheridan, and his wife, Gail, in December 2010, during which Coulson, a former director of communications for David Cameron, gave evidence. GUARDIAN

Water cannon decision delayed until after election
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has delayed making a decision on whether to allow water cannon to be used for the first time on the British mainland.

The controversial equipment needs authorisation from the Home Office before it can be deployed but Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has already bought three second-hand cannon from Germany at a cost of £218,000. TELEGRAPH

Big Six energy companies force climbdown in energy profits storm: Ofgem ditches its controversial set of forecasts as industry hits back.
It is understood that the decision to suspend publication of the Supply Market Indicator (SMI) was delayed until after the General Election.

Regulator Ofgem has backed down and stopped publishing its controversial forecasts of the profit margins of energy companies in the face of criticism from the industry. DAILYMAIL

Officials delay shale gas decisions until after election
British officials have delayed decisions on whether to allow Cuadrilla to explore for shale gas at two sites in northwest England until after next month's general election. REUTERS

Honours list: David Cameron to delay announcement until after election
David Cameron is planning to postpone the announcement of the next honours list until after the election, because he is worried that Conservatives he nominates might be embroiled in a scandal before polling day. INDEPENDENT

Government delays decision to semi-privatise court bailiff services until after election
The semi-privatisation of chasing court fines has been delayed until after the general election. On Monday [16th Feb 2015], the Evening Standard reported that BT is in pole position for the long-delayed deal, which is estimated to be worth nearly £700 million to the telephony giant. But it was unclear whether Justice Secretary Chris Grayling would get the contract signed before the general election in May. EVENINGSTANDARD

Police Scotland slammed for delaying publication of serious crime figures until after general election
A RAFT of statistics on domestic abuse, race hate, drug and gun offences were meant to be made public over the next month - but have now been delayed until autumn. DAILYRECORD

Police's failure to investigate rapes report shelved until after general election
A scathing review of the police’s failure to investigate rapes has been delayed until after the ­election to avoid a public outcry.

Officers have been told the damning report, which was due to be published last month, has been shelved because of “political interference”. MIRROR

Decision on when to sell taxpayers' stake in RBS will be delayed until after general election
The UK government will decide after the General Election in May when to start selling taxpayers' 81% stake in RBS. DAILYMAIL

IDS hides poverty statistics until after the election
Crucial statistics on the effects of the governments welfare reforms will be deliberately delayed until after the election, to prevent academics and campaigners discovering the effects of policies such as the bedroom tax, changes to disability living allowance and employment and support allowance and increased sanctions. BENEFITSAND WORK NEWS

Hospital review report delayed until after General Election
A LONG-awaited independent report into an extensive review of hospital services in Worcestershire will not be released until after May’s General Election, it has been revealed. WORCESTERNEWS

Benefits Street is now on hold in case it affects General Election
Channel 4 have put a hold on their controversial series Benefits Street – in case us fickle viewers are swayed heavily in which way we vote in the election. METRO

Thursday 28 May 2015

Thursday, May 28, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
David Cameron has dropped plans to block 10% (£7,000) rise in MPs' salaries
The Prime Minister described the plan as ‘totally unacceptable’ when it was first put forward in 2013 by Ipsa. But government sources said yesterday that he had now abandoned plans to block the increase. Prime Minister's u-turn comes in the wake of protests from backbenchers. The decision means MPs will now almost certainly see their salaries rise by £7,000 to £74,000 a year following a final review by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. The pay rise, expected in the autumn, will be backdated to the General Election. However, Mr Cameron imposed another five-year freeze on ministerial pay. The move means ministers will continue to receive £134,565 and the Prime Minister £142,500. Many Ministers and MPs have previously argued that it is almost impossible for them to support their families and keep separate homes in London and their constituency on the current money – but realise that it is politically toxic to say so publicly. One of the few prepared to speak out, senior Conservative MP Charles Walker, warned on Saturday night that continued pay freezes were driving talent away from the Commons. He said: 'We cannot have a monocultural Parliament that over time excludes professional middle-class people – it will only be political anoraks and the well-off... That will be a really bad day for democracy.' DAILY MAIL

Landlords enjoy £14bn tax breaks as figures reveal buy-to-let expansion
Landlords enjoyed a record £14bn in tax breaks in 2013, according to figures revealing the expansion of the UK’s buy-to-let market in the aftermath of the financial crisis. In the 2012-13 financial year, £6.3bn was declared against the cost of mortgage interest alone, according to information obtained by the Guardian from HMRC through a freedom of information request. The figures reveal that the number of landlords has increased by more than one-third over the past six years: 2.1 million taxpayers declared income from property in the 2012-13 financial year, up from 1.5 million in 2007-08. The anti-homelessness charity Shelter has called for the government to conduct an urgent review of the tax treatment of landlords, who can also deduct the cost of insurance, maintenance and repairs, utility bills, legal fees and other expenses from their income. Owner-occupiers are not entitled to the same privileges. Critics of the expanding buy-to-let market have long warned that such tax breaks give landlords a considerable financial advantage over ordinary homeowners when competing for the limited supply of houses. In response to the figures, Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “In the context of looming welfare cuts and a dramatic shortage of homes, all those struggling to keep up with sky-high housing costs will be shocked to hear that a massive £14bn has been given in tax breaks for landlords in just a year.” Data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders indicated that landlords were granted nearly as many mortgages as first-time buyers in January. In April, analysis by Wriglesworth Consultancy for the lender Landbay found landlords had enjoyed returns of 1,400% since 1996, far in excess of the rewards offered by shares, bonds or cash. GUARDIAN

Pressure forces Amazon to start to undo Luxembourg tax dodge
Transactions carried out in European markets were previously recorded in Luxembourg, with which Amazon had a low-tax agreement. Now sales made through subsidiaries in the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy will be registered in those countries, the retailer has said. Amazon had received heavy criticism for its tax avoidance policies. The company said in a statement: "As of 1 May, Amazon EU Sarl is recording retail sales made to customers through these branches in the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy.” In recent years, the European Union has intensified its investigations into the tax deals negotiated by global companies with countries such as Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It suspects that such deals amount to illegal state aid and distort competition. Last year, the European Commission - the EU's executive arm - launched a formal investigation into Amazon's tax arrangements with Luxembourg. And the EU is also looking into tech giant Apple's tax dealings in Ireland, coffee-shop chain Starbucks' dealings in the Netherlands, and Italian carmaker Fiat's agreement with Luxembourg. BBC NEWS

France to force big supermarkets to give unsold food to charities
In a rare cross-party consensus, the French national assembly voted unanimously to pass the legislation as France battles an epidemic of wasted food that has highlighted the divide between giant food firms and people who are struggling to eat. In recent years, French media have highlighted how poor families, students, unemployed or homeless people often stealthily forage in supermarket bins at night to feed themselves, able to survive on edible products which had been thrown out just as their best-before dates approached. But some supermarkets doused binned food in bleach to prevent potential food-poisoning by eating food from bins. Other supermarkets deliberately binned food in locked warehouses for collection by refuse trucks to stop scavengers. Pressure groups, recycling commandos and direct action foraging movements have been highlighting the issue of waste in France. One action group dons gardening gloves to remove food from supermarket bins at night and redistribute it on the streets the next morning to raise awareness about waste, poverty and food distribution. GUARDIAN

Sunday 24 May 2015

Sunday, May 24, 2015 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , , ,

High pay and privileges is about the powerful helping themselves. Bosses deciding that they deserve more (pay & perks) for working hard, while asserting the rest of us must get less (employment rights; cash; pension rights) so we work harder. 

Adrian Beecroft, a venture capitalist who advised the previous Tory led coalition, recommended allowing employers to sack workers on a "no fault" basis. Beecroft said this approach would

“produce an instant improvement in performance in a significant part of the national workforce”.

In plain English, he reckoned "a significant part of the national workforce" is slacking and could do with a bit more fear.

The Welfare State is perceived by too many to be the powerful helping the weak. It is not. Welfare provides health, education, security etc not just for the weak but for everyone. Even for those who can afford privately purchased services, but rely on the state to educate and keep healthy their staff. In reality the Welfare State is how the many can choose, by the democratic process, whether to be as powerful as the powerful few. Or whether to depend on their benevolence and charity.

Gross Wage Inequality in the EU

Wage Income inequality is a clear measure of the power of the few. In Britain wage income inequality is about the highest in the EU. 

Disposable Income Inequality in the EU
Transfers from those on higher incomes to those on lower incomes, in the form of taxes and welfare, bring us back to similar levels of Disposable Income inequality as France and Germany. 

Some may defend this greater wage inequality in the UK, asserting that the brightest are brighter than the dopiest in the UK to a greater degree than in the rest of Europe. Could it be true?

To test this, consider wage inequality between two groups within the UK who we know (by experience, common sense, as well as by law) to be equal. Let's consider the wages paid to men and women. 

EU data shows the average wage of women in the UK is 25% lower than that of men. [The EU data uses Full Time Equivalent wages that make allowance for part time workers]. This places the UK at the second highest gender pay inequality of the 24 EU countries for which data is available (Estonia is worse). The graph below shows these gender wage ratios for the larger EU nations.

Office for National Statistics data in the two graphs below show women doing far more low paid jobs in the private sector. This is in contrast to the public sector where the women's pay distribution is much more closely aligned with men. The graphs show women tend to be paid less but not why.

1) Private Sector Pay Distribution, Male & Female

2) Public Sector Pay Distribution, Male & Female

Perhaps women are taking more of the low-powered and thus low paid work? Is that because they are more low-powered? Or because women are paid less for doing the same-powered jobs? Or because opportunities in higher-powered jobs are harder for women to get?

A report done for the Department for Education suggests the female of the species is academically more successful than the male:

a) At GCSE level the girls have been beating the boys for decades:

b) At A-Level a higher proportion of girls get A-C grade than do the boys:
[An article in the Guardian newspaper provides more detailed data for 2014 A-Level results, including gender breakdown by subject, should you want to take a look.]

And a report done for Parliament shows since the 1990s significantly more women are taking degrees:

With women performing academically better than men for more than two decades, they are already overtaking men as the more qualified gender in the workforce. 

So once they are in their professions, do their rewards reflect their qualifications? A report by the University of Warwick on graduates transitioning into employment shows regardless of the profession on average women are paid less than men:

Income in the UK is distributed grossly unfairly. When doling out the cash, the one holding the ladle first serves himself (the ladler tends to be male) and then those like him. More so in the UK than in the rest of the European Union.

People who are doing well like to think they deserve what they have. They like to think inexplicable but ominscient forces fill the rich with good things, and send the hungry away empty. Monarchs get their position by the grace of god. FTSE100 CEOs and their bankers get their copious remuneration because of Market Forces. Prime Ministers get their power by the will of the people. 

Top executives and their remuneration committees say it is wrong to measure their worth to justify their pay, because their pay measures their worth. If you want to know how much I am worth, they would say, just look at how much I am paid! 

It is the Welfare State that provides some redress for the power of the few over the many, using taxes as a means of redistribution. If the Labour Party hopes to regain the support of the electorate they need to make this clear. They need to show they fight not only for those down on their luck and for the "workers", but for everyone.

The Welfare State is not only for the needy, it is for everybody.

Friday 22 May 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , ,
Chris tries to get answers from one of our "captains of industry"...

SOURCE BBC NEWS: Osborne says low productivity key economic challenge
In his first major speech since his return to the Treasury, Mr Osborne told the CBI annual dinner that boosting productivity was vital to sustaining rises in living standards. He identified increased productivity as one of the government's central economic challenges over the next five years. The UK, he suggested, could become the "most prosperous country in the world" but only if historic weaknesses in the UK's infrastructure and skills base were remedied. UK productivity was historically 30% lower than in Germany and America - a gap that previous governments had wrestled with but failed to do much about. Productivity is generally defined as the level of economic output per hour worked against the cost incurred.

Thursday 21 May 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Record $5.7bn (£3.6bn) fines for currency market fix: UBS, JPMorgan, Barclays, Citigroup and RBS
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that "almost every day" for five years from 2007, currency traders used a private electronic chat room to manipulate exchange rates. Their actions harmed "countless consumers, investors and institutions around the world", she said. "They engaged in a brazen 'heads I win, tails you lose' scheme to rip off their clients," said New York State superintendent of financial services Benjamin Lawsky. The fines break a number of records. The criminal fines of more than $2.5bn are the largest set of anti-trust fines obtained by the Department of Justice. The £284m fine imposed on Barclays by Britain's Financial Conduct Authority was a record by the regulator. Meanwhile, the $925m fine imposed on Citigroup by the Department of Justice was the biggest penalty for breaking the Sherman Act, which covers competition law. The guilty pleas from the banks are seen as highly significant as banks have settled previous investigations without an admission of guilt. But the fines are "much lower than expected," said Chirantan Barua, an analyst at Bernstein Research in London. "No retroactive massive Libor fine for Barclays is a big positive, as is no reopening of the NPA (non-prosecution agreement). "The fine came in £270m better than we expected for RBS, £850m better in the case of Barclays," he said. Both US and UK regulators will continue to investigate other market manipulations that may see further massive fines imposed. BBC NEWS

Schuh workers to share £25m bonus windfall
The company, with a UK head office in Livingston in Scotland, confirmed the payouts after announcing annual profits of more than £11.5m. The bonus was agreed as part of a 2011 deal when Tennessee-based Genesco Inc. bought the company for £125m. The amount each of the company's 3,500 UK workers receives will depend on their length of service and salary. Typically, a full-time sales advisor on an annual salary of £14,000 and with five years' service will get a bonus of £3,000. A full-time store manager with a £34,000 salary and 10 years' service will receive £14,000. Schuh has 111 shops around the UK. Colin Temple, chief executive of schuh, said: "The success of our business is based on the hard work and dedication of our people and there is no better way to thank them than to let them know today that we are sharing £25m throughout the business." BBC NEWS

Energy firm SSE powers to 40% rise in retail profits despite losing 500,000 customers
SSE has reported a 40% increase in annual retail profits despite a drop in power demand and losing half a million customers. SSE became the first of the big six firms to hike its gas and electricity prices at the end of 2013, by 8.2%. At the time, despite falling wholesale oil and gas process, all the big energy firms said they had to keep prices high to counter Labour’s threat to freeze their prices if they won the election. Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at, said: “With the threat of a Labour price freeze now off the table, the big six have officially run out of excuses for not making proper, double-digit reductions to customers’ bills, following significant reductions in the cost of wholesale energy.” SSE has cut its gas prices by 4.1% from last month and promised to hold them until July 2016, but government figures show the wholesale price of gas has fallen by almost 17% over the past 12 months. GUARDIAN

Why are wages stagnating? BofE boss Carney enters the immigration debate
In an interview on the Radio 4 Today programme, Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, appeared keen to play down the idea that migrants to the UK have depressed productivity – and wages. After the longest decline in living standards in a generation, the Bank’s latest quarterly inflation report conceded that higher than expected migration may have been one factor constraining productivity – and wages – over the past five years. But Carney stressed there were other factors at work, too. One is the growing prevalence of low-skilled jobs in the workforce. Another is the growing number of older workers, and employees’ willing to take on more hours, which seems to have increased the amount of slack (number of people seeking work) in the labour market – and therefore made it easier for firms to keep do business without having to offer higher wages. Carney played down immigration effects, pointing out that net migration has been only 50,000 a year higher than predictions. The Bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC) is also expecting the impact of migration to fade over time. But the MPC is deeply divided about how much slack there is in the labour market – and there’s a strand of thought that says relatively high inward migration may have structurally weakened British workers’ bargaining power. GUARDIAN

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , ,

The Tory majority hides what happened when you count individual votes. The Tory rise of 0.8% was less (apart from the LibDems, of course!) than any of the other major parties. UKIP were up by 9.5%, followed by the SNP at 3.1% and the Greens at 2.8%. Even the Labour vote rose by 1.5%. The Big Question is how many of UKIP's votes were for its rightist policies and how many for its leftist, given a lot of their support came from the "left behind", on low incomes, who had previously voted Labour.

Election 2015 results: BBC NEWS

Saturday 16 May 2015

Saturday, May 16, 2015 Posted by Jake 2 comments Labels: , , , , , ,

"Lions led by donkeys" was an assessment of the qualities of senior officers and the rest of the troops in the British Army of World War One (WWI). Ordinary soldiers were said to be the lions in the trenches while their top leaders were the donkeys in the officers' messes. 

The donkeys recklessly sent the lions to their deaths on the battlefield. The donkeys did this not through incompetence, but because their interests were not aligned with the lions. The donkeys' interest was to keep their privileges, which in practice were mainly privileges over the lions. The lions fought in WWI mainly to be left alone to live their lives in peace.

Though the lions' and donkeys' interests were not aligned both knew the threat to them came from the same direction: Germany. So the lions allowed themselves to be led by the donkeys.

Thursday 14 May 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
New record: 126 families evicted every day amid rising rents and benefit cuts
County court bailiffs in England and Wales evicted more than 11,000 families in the first three months of 2015, an increase of 8% on the same period last year and 51% higher than five years ago. The increase in the number of tenants losing their homes means 2015 is on course to break last year’s record levels. Nearly 42,000 families were evicted from rental accommodation in 2014, the highest number since records began in 2000. Separate figures also published on Thursday showed almost 59,000 households have had their benefits capped in the past two years. Nearly half of those families were in London, where the the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom home is £2,216. Rental prices have soared in many UK cities, but wages failing to keep pace with rising costs and caps to benefits have left many poorer tenants unable to make payments. Furthermore, many housing associations, particularly in London and the south-east, have turned out tenants as they have sought to redevelop generations-old estates to take advantage of the big rise in property values. This has in turn led to an increase in the number of grassroots campaigns to oppose evictions, such as the Focus E15 mothers. In one case of eviction resistance last week, activists from Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth in London answered a call from a 14-year-old girl to successfully resist her family’s eviction from a flat in an estate that Southwark council had marked for demolition. GUARDIAN

Were Bank of England officials complicit in £3.5tn-a-day forex rigging, asks US Department of Justice
The US Department of Justice has secretly requested an interview with a senior Royal Bank of Scotland forex trader. James Pearson, head of RBS’s European forex trading, had been previously questioned as part of the BoE’s own investigation into whether any of its officials knew of or connived in manipulation of forex, one of the world’s biggest financial markets. The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is separately looking at the extent of any BoE officials’ involvement in the alleged manipulation of money-market auctions at the onset of the financial crisis. The BoE’s earlier forex inquiry, led by Lord Grabiner QC, a veteran City litigator, cleared bank officials of any wrongdoing. Questions have already been raised about the thoroughness of the forex report, with the parliamentary Treasury select committee this year raising concerns over whether the terms of the inquiry had been drawn too narrowly. The US investigation is due to be settled imminently with five banks, including RBS, paying a total of $6bn in fines. FINANCIAL TIMES

Facebook orders its suppliers to increase low pay rate to $15 minimum
Facebook plans to require its large US contractors and vendors to pay their workers hourly wages well above the legal minimum and provide them with parental and vacation benefits. The social networking company’s announcement comes after Microsoft told its big US suppliers to give their employees paid holiday or leave. Both moves are part of broader efforts by leading tech companies to show they are taking on the greater social responsibility that comes with their surging wealth and corporate power. The move puts Facebook at the forefront of a national movement to raise minimum wage levels in the US, which has become the focus of White House attempts to tackle rising inequality. San Francisco and Seattle have passed laws that will impose local $15 minimum wage requirements in three years’ time, the highest in the country. Facebook also said its contractors would be told to make a $4,000 payment to new parents who do not already have paid parental leave so that they can afford to take time off. FINANCIAL TIMES

Next fashion: low paid staff to give up Sunday bonus or lose jobs
The fashion and homewares retailer, which employs more than 52,000 people, wants about 800 shop workers to give up the Sunday bonus they are currently entitled to, worth up to £20 a week or £1,000 a year. The workers all joined the company before 2008, when Next stopped offering a Sunday premium to new staff. The company said that all employees are now being moved on to contracts under which they do not receive extra pay for Sundays. Staff members that do not accept are to be made redundant. A spokesman for Next said: “Working on a Sunday, since it was introduced back in the 90s, has become a new normal – so Next feels it is no longer justifiable to pay some of its staff up to 50% more than colleagues doing the same work on the same day.” The GMB union said: “Next claims that it considers Sunday to be a normal working day and uses this opinion to justify cutting pay on Sunday. There can hardly be a better example of a company that has a total disregard for family life.” Next’s chief executive, Lord Wolfson, last month pledged to raise shopfloor wages by at least 5%. The Tory peer, who was paid £4.66m in cash and shares last year, including a £1.1m bonus, said the wage rate would rise from £6.70 an hour to £7.04 in October, or £7.58 including bonuses. GUARDIAN

Sunday 10 May 2015

Just before the 2015 General Election polling day, the Liberal-Democrats suggested the Tories lacked a heart and Labour lacked a brain. The Conservative victory in that election showed when it comes to voting for a national government brain tends to trump heart.

Perhaps unfairly: Conservatives are perceived to be heartlessly selfish; Labour are presented as brainlessly altruistic. It is suggested that Conservatives want to take less in taxes and put less into public services and welfare: everyone to be more self-reliant. While Labour seems to want to do the opposite: everyone chipping in for the needy. Labour would provide welfare carrots to help the waylaid while they get back on their feet, while the Tories would get them up by prodding them with a stick.

In the 2015 general election the voters, given the choice of handing over some of their own carrots in taxes or leaving the government to wield a stick, decided they'd rather keep their carrots. Unconcerned that one day in the future it may be them, or perhaps one day in the past it was them, waylaid by sickness or unemployment or legal difficulty or some other consequence of fate.

Which is understandable, because for most people such misfortunes are very rare, and the memories of them quickly fade.

Friday 8 May 2015

Friday, May 08, 2015 Posted by Hari 1 comment Labels: , , , , , ,
Fee, Chris and KJ do the maths...


SOURCE GUARDIAN: Election result is ‘nail in the coffin’ of first-past-the-post voting system
Britain’s’s first-past-the-post voting system has been declared broken and unfit for an era of multiparty politics as analysis of general election figures showed that it had delivered the least proportional result in the country’s history. Analysis by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) showed that, of almost 31 million people who voted, 19 million (63% of the total) did so for losing candidates. Out of 650 winning candidates, 322 (49%) won less than 50% of the vote. Katie Ghose, chief executive of the ERS, said: “This election is the nail in the coffin for our voting system. First past the post was designed for a time when nearly everyone voted for one of the two biggest parties. But people have changed and our system cannot cope.” She added: “One of the features of our broken voting system is that it accentuates divides. For instance, those who vote Conservative in Scotland have gone almost unrepresented, as have Labour voters in rural southern constituencies or Conservative voters in northern urban seats. The UK is at a constitutional crossroads, so the last thing we need is a voting system that pits nations and regions against each other. Ukip received 3.86m votes for the one MP it had elected to the Commons. The Greens got 1.2m votes and only one seat. This compared with an average of 26,000 votes for every SNP MP, 34,000 for every Conservative, 40,000 for every Labour MP and 299,000 for every Liberal Democrat.

Thursday 7 May 2015

Thursday, May 07, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
One in four MPs now a landlord
The data has been seized upon by housing campaigners who claim it shows that Britain’s political class has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo instead of strengthening the rights of tenants. The private rental sector has grown rapidly to 4.8m renters, driven by a fall in social housing and increasing house prices. The landlord MPs include nine Conservative ministers who attend cabinet. David Cameron, George Osborne and housing minister Brandon Lewis are among 153 members who declared an income from property in 2015 – an increase of 36 since 2010. Alex Hilton, director of the campaign group Generation Rent, said MPs are failing to address exploitation by private landlords. “There has been a quiet cross-party consensus in parliament in favour of landlords for decades. It’s time for full transparency, a full disclosure of all legislators’ land and property assets and a commitment to bar MPs from voting on issues where they have significant, financial and personal advantages from doing so. Some are renting out homes that were part subsidised by parliamentary expenses. Two shadow cabinet ministers declare rental income. Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, lets out a property in London. The shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, also rents out a flat in London. In the runup to the general election, housing has been a key theme for politicians, and Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green party have all vowed to limit rent rises if they get into power. GUARDIAN

Legal aid cuts: 100 judges, peers, lawyers and doctors call on next government to prevent ‘widespread miscarriages of justice’
The Ministry of Justice is one of the departments expected to suffer further cuts whichever party or coalition comes to power after 7 May, with its spending unlikely to be ringfenced. Annual expenditure on civil and criminal justice, which stood at £2bn a year in 2010 – equivalent to “the cost of running the NHS for a fortnight” – has now dropped to £1.5bn. The number of debt cases supported by legal aid fell from 81,792 to 2,423 over a one-year period. “Funding in family law cases dropped by 60% causing a predicted rise in unrepresented defendants,” it states, “a trend now also starting to be seen in the criminal courts. Robin Murray, of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, said: “YouGov polling shows that 89% of the public believe access to justice, underpinned by legal aid, is a fundamental right. The legal experts and opinion formers who have added their signatures to the letter recognise this and know that if the current reforms are kept in place equality before the law will become a distant memory.” GUARDIAN

Consumer borrowing in biggest surge since 2008
Consumer borrowing surged by £1.2bn between February and March, the largest rise since the financial crisis, according to figures from the Bank of England. The biggest increase was in unsecured borrowing, such as bank loans and overdrafts. That accounted for £1.1bn of the overall rise, which was the highest figure since February 2008. By contrast, mortgage and credit card lending was broadly flat. "March's sharp rise will likely fuel concern that consumers will pile up debt again to fund spending," said Howard Archer, the chief European and UK economist with IHS Global Insight. One reason for the rise in bank loans is likely to be record low borrowing rates. A year ago, anyone borrowing £5,000 would have had to pay 9.1%, according to the website Moneyfacts. Now the same amount can be borrowed for 8.1%. BBC NEWS

EU to investigate claims McDonald's avoided $1bn in tax
The European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said on Tuesday that she was examining claims, made by trade unions, that McDonald’s paid just €16m of tax on royalties worth €3.7bn between 2009 and 2013. McDonald’s is accused of channelling money through a Luxembourg-based subsidiary with a Swiss branch to exploit a generous tax break on intellectual property rights. It is a similar structure to that used by a host of multinationals exposed by the Guardian’s LuxLeaks investigation last year. The trade unions claim that McDonald’s Luxembourg subsidiary employs just 13 people, yet booked €834m of revenue in 2013 – which would work out at more than €64m per worker. The commission has already opened investigations into the tax affairs of Amazon in Luxembourg, Apple in Ireland and Starbucks in the Netherlands. GUARDIAN

Saturday 2 May 2015

Saturday, May 02, 2015 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , , ,
Is Britain's economy in safe hands with the Conservatives?

Back in July 2014, the Conservatives celebrated that Britain’s GDP had exceeded the pre-recession peak. Later adjustments by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed it had actually reached this level 9 months earlier, in Q3 2013! How good was that! Actually, much less good than you might think.

It’s not just the remarkable slowness of the post-2008 recovery. This graph by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) shows the downturn starting in 2008 lasted far longer than any in the previous 100 years.

It’s not even that ONS figures for Q4 2014 show GDP per head is still 1.2% below the pre-downturn level. The GDP recovery, such as it is, hides a far more dismal figure: the Net National Disposable Income (NNDI) per head.

NNDI provides a measure of the actual income going into the pockets of UK residents, once the Rest Of The World has taken its share. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) report titled “Economic Well-being, Quarter 4 (October to December) 2014” showed that at the end of 2014, in terms of NNDI we were still over 5% worse off than pre-crisis. In real terms, we Britons are hardly any better off after 5 years of Austerity. 

The ONS report states:

“NNDI [Net National Disposable Income] has behaved somewhat differently to GDP, particularly since late 2011. NNDI, which represents the income generated by production that is payable to UK residents, has remained broadly flat since Q1 2012. In Q4 2014 NNDI remained 5.1% below its pre-economic downturn level, this is compared to GDP per head which was 1.2% below its pre-economic downturn level in the same quarter.” 

How can this be? The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measures how much Britain is producing. It does not tell you to whom the fruits of all the products go. An awful lot actually belongs not to any of us in the UK including our own indigenous fat-cats, but to "Rest Of The World" overseas investors.

The same ONS Economic Well Being report states:
“The lower income received by UK residents on their overseas FDI [Foreign Direct Investments] can be attributed to falls in both the stock of assets UK residents’ hold, and the rates of return on those assets. In contrast, foreign residents have continued to expand their holdings of UK assets”.

This expansion of foreign holdings is illustrated in another ONS report, “Ownership of UK Quoted Shares, 2012”. This shows by 2012, 53.2% of shares on the UK stock market were owned by the “rest of the world”. The graph below shows considerable increases in foreign holdings of UK stocks since 1994, with a large leap in the years following the 2008 Banking Crash.

The impact of this is evident from the graph below, using ONS “UK Economic Accounts” data for Net Income From Abroad. This shows the difference between income received from UK investments overseas, minus the income sent overseas for overseas investors in the UK. Illustrating the nose-dive into nearly £40billion deficit in 2014.

According to Gavyn Davies, hedge fund manager, former Goldman Sachs partner, and former chairman of the BBC, two thirds of corporate profits have come from holding wages down:

"[If the] decline in the wage share had not occurred, and everything else had (implausibly) stayed the same, then gross profits in the developed economies would have been about one-third lower than they are today and net profits (after depreciation) would have been about two-thirds lower."

Based on foreign holdings of UK stocks a hefty chunk of the “profits” from low wages end up overseas. The "low wage recovery" may help UK GDP growth, but it hasn’t helped most people in the UK. Robert Joyce of the IFS said, in relation to the recovery in living standards:

“The key reason living standards have recovered so slowly has been weak earnings growth. In the long run, policies that boost productivity, and so increase real earnings, are likely to have a bigger impact on living standards than changes in tax and benefit rates."

One of the ways of measuring GDP is the "Income Estimate". The Office for National Statistics explains this as:
"The income estimate measures the incomes earned by individuals (for example, wages) and corporations (for example, profits) directly from the production of outputs (goods and services). "

The low wage 'recovery' seen in the last five years has indeed boosted GDP to pre-recession levels. But the boost went largely to the corporations. And the corporations belong largely to our friends overseas.
Saturday, May 02, 2015 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , , , ,
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published in March 2015 show:

1) Gross Domestic Product (GDP) exceeded the pre-recession peak in the summer of 2013. By the end of 2014 GDP was 4% above the pre-crash peak in 2007. Yay :)

2) However, much of this growth came from growth in population.GDP per person was actually 1% lower than the pre-crash peak. Oops!

3) Net National Disposable Income, which is the GDP left once the "Rest of the World" has taken its share, is 4% below the pre-crash peak! Oh dear :(

The Rest of the World owns a large chunk of the assets in Britain, including over half the shares on the UK stock exchange. Once they have taken their share, the ONS figures shows UK resident's share of GDP has hardly changed in the last 5 years.
A consequence of the "low wage recovery": not much to show for 5 years of austerity for hard working ripped-off Britons.

We go into greater detail in another post, >>click here<<

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