Thursday, 24 February 2011

So I guess this is how it's going to be....

Well, we all knew it was going to be doom and gloom since the Comprehensive Spending Review last autumn. I've been harping on about how things are going to be crap in earlier postings. Well earlier this week a few stories have emerged that offer some pointers as to how things are starting to pan out.


There is a report out produced by a trade-union-funded website that goes by the name of False Economy. (False Economy are funded by, among others: Unison, the Fire Brigades Union, TUC, and the Public and Commercial Services Union.) The report is claiming that job losses within the NHS are going to be double what the Government has claimed. False Economy used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain data from NHS trusts nationwide. Their survey is incomplete because some of the NHS trusts didn't respond, and some are suggesting the final total may be higher than False Economy's estimation. False Economy predict that job losses within the NHS over the next four years, certainly including frontline staff. ie Doctors and nurses, will total 50, 000. The Government accused the report and the unions of scaremongering.

The Daily Mirror, Wednesday 23 February, helpfully provided us with the thoughts of David Cameron and the Conservatives from last year:

"It is there in black and white behind me. I'll cut the deficit not the NHS."

"We recognise its special place in society, so we will not cut the NHS."

Both of these quotes come from David Cameron in 2010, and from the Tory election manifesto:

"We're the party of the NHS. We back its funding and have vision for its future."

The General Secretary of TUC, Brendan Barber, said the research by the False Economy report, "gives the lie to government claims the NHS was safe in their hands".

Should the figures from the False Economy report turn out to be accurate the Government will no doubt be able to blame the health authority managers and trot out the familiar phrase, back office job cuts.

Child Poverty

Save the Children analysed data for local authorities from across the country and concluded that 1.6 million children are living in poverty and warned that the situation would only worsen as unemployment was set to rise. Ms Sally Copley, who is the Head of UK policy for the charity said: "It's a national scandal that 1.6 million children are growing up in severe poverty." Save the Children said their analysis showed that in 29 local authority areas, more than one in five children live in poverty. Nationwide the figure was one in seven.

We all know that benefits are frozen, food and fuel prices are increasing and VAT has returned to its full 20% rate since the end of January.

So things are getting worse and as time goes on this year they will deteriorate further for many people.

Sickness Benefit

Lastly, can I just mention what used to be known as sickness benefit. People will remember that the Government said at the time of the Comprehensive Spending Review it would review how it was evaluated. True to its word, the Government has been running pilot schemes under their new system.

One of the authors of the the review and someone who was crucial in devising the new medical assessment, Professor Paul Gregg, who is described by the Guardian (23 February) as an economist and a welfare expert, said: "the test is badly malfunctioning, the current assessment is a complete mess".

People with terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis and serious mental illness have been found fit to work. This was in one of the early roll out schemes, I must say I'm not surprised - these people couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery....

Thursday, 10 February 2011

We are all in this together....

Ten days ago there was an article in London's Evening Standard newspaper about a fraudster who managed to con his way into a job with a city investment bank that payed £165k a year.

After he hoodwinked a City headhunting firm, they put him forward to apply for a job as a deputy chief executive with this bank. He blagged his way through two interviews and Bob's your uncle. His scam only lasted a little over a month, by which time he fraudulently "earned" himself £14,500. His sentence was 100 hours of community service and 18 months probation.

In the Metro newspaper, Wednesday 9 February there was a story about another bloke, who was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison for scamming housing benefit to the tune of £28 grand over the course of three years.

Both these individuals pleaded guilty to the offences they were charged with, which in layman's terms is theft.

The first man's lies were discovered after a month and he fiddled half the money that the second man fiddled, who kept up his lying for more than three years.

The first man stole from a Middle Eastern bank, the second man committed the cardinal sin of stealing from the British taxpayer. I think they both should have been locked up. But fiddling benefits is one of this country's sacred cows. Please don't misunderstand me, as I've said before fiddling benefit is cheap, shabby and just plain wrong. It's also taking the taxpayers' money.

Which brings me to another thing that is also plainly wrong - not paying your tax. On Newsnight, Monday 31 January they estimated that there is £15 billion of unpaid tax in the UK. At the moment Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs is pursuing 22 companies through the courts for a total of £4.7 billion. Some are household names; Boots,Vodaphone, Barclays bank, and Topshop, to name but a few.

Later in the item they were talking about some of the protests against the cuts. Before I go further I must point out that I'm not, nor have I ever been a member of UK Uncut. This was the protest group that the report focussed on. They are one of the so-called new breed of protest movements who are now organising themselves utilising mobile phones, the internet, and social media.

UK Uncut's focus is unpaid tax and the effect the cuts are having on people's quality of life. The report looked at UK Uncut's protests on Oxford Street. They had protested outside flagship stores of the target shops and chains. And I think they have a point.

The basic point I'm trying to make here, is that things aren't equal, nor are they fair and some of us are suffering a lot more than others.