Tuesday, 13 March 2012

What the Tories really think of their leaders...

One of the Tories rising stars, Nadine Dorries MP, was quoted the other day as saying about the Government that: "policy is being run by two public schoolboys who don't know what it's like to go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can't afford it...What's worse, they don't care either."

This blog isn't apolitical but it isn't party political either. Sure, I do say negative things about the Government, but I say negative things about all the parties and all policies that I disagree with.

For me it is about issues, things that happen in Government, decisions taken, that affect people who through no fault of their own, are generally at the bottom of the heap: the unemployed, the poor, the disabled, the disenfranchised.

So I slag off the Government but I try not to be personal. OK I might have called George Osborne a few names, but I'm not in the same league as Ms Dorries.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Maths and the budget

On Wednesday 21 March the Chancellor George Osborne will make his budget statement. Now I'm sure George Osborne doesn't welcome it but he's not short of people offering him advice.

Now one of the big talking points has been taking away child benefit from high earners. Up until now child benefit hasn't been means tested. The current plan is that for families where one parent earns more than £44k they will not be able to claim child benefit for any offspring they may have. However if you are a family where both parents work and are earning, say £35k each you will be allowed to hang on to any child benefit for any offspring you may have.

Now clearly I'm no economist but this neither adds up, nor does it make any sense, nor does it seem very fair. The Treasury estimates that this would save at least £1 billion, although at the time of the Comprehensive Spending Review (autumn 2010) they were saying it would save up to £2.5 billion.

The other issue being chewed over in the media this week is the so-called mansion tax. This emerged courtesy of the Liberal Democrat financial whizz - Vince Cable. What he is proposing is a tax on properties worth £2 million or more. Were this to be introduced it is thought it would raise up to £1.7 billion.

In the autumn of 2010 the Chancellor announced his Comprehensive Spending Review. This was essentially his outline of where his cuts were going to fall. One of the main thrusts of his CSR was benefit cuts.

Aside from the Child Benefit changes, George Osborne was expecting to make cuts to the welfare budget totalling £15.5 billion. These cuts will be to benefits that are paid to those who are out of work, those who are disabled, those who receive housing benefit etc.

What I really fail to understand is how savings of a lesser amount of money can generate so much debate when cuts to those who are sick, disabled, vulnerable, or out of work, those who are undoubtably the poorest in our society warrants so little comment.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Art for Crisis at Somerset House

Copyright: Yinka Shonibare. Image: Shaun Bloodworth.

Starting next week on Wednesday 14 March for five weeks or so there will be an exhibition at Somerset House on the Strand. Some famous names will be showimg their work and the aim is to draw attention to the issue of homelessness.

Some of the artists who will be exhibiting work are, in no particular order: Anthony Gormley, Tracey Emin, Nathan Coley, Nika Neelova, Anthony Caro, Bob and Roberta Smith, Yinka Shonibare, Gillian Wearing and Jonathan Yeo.

Alongside these big names, clients of Crisis will also have their work exhibited in the gallery and the chance to show to a much wider audience.

The works are to be auctioned off at Christie's May 2012 to raise money for Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people.

Friday, 2 March 2012

I live in an unemployment blackspot

It's official - I live in one of the very worst boroughs in London for unemployment. There are 32 boroughs in London if you don't count the city of London where the population is low.

The figures come from the Office for National Statistics. In December 2011 there were 11 209 residents who were claiming Jobseekers Alllowance. That figure equates to 7.3% of the working age population. In London generally, the unemployment rate is 4.3%.

This means there are 22 claimants for every unfilled vacancy in the Jobcentres of my home borough. This figure was 13.4 claimants for each vacancy this time last year. I must stress these figures relate to those who can claim JSA.

I also discovered this week that the borough where I live is the fourth worst local authority in the UK for child poverty. This depressing statistic emerged when the End Child Poverty campaign published a new child poverty map of the UK. Nationally there are four million children, that's one in three children currently living in poverty in the UK. I don't have kids but these figures are a national disgrace.

Perhaps the statistics I've cited give some indication of the kind of place I live. I've lived in this borough for the past 17 years and in fact it's a cracking place to live; busy, vibrant and creative, but perhaps I'm just biased.