If English Labour’s incapable of riffing off Ukraine to make case ahead of next General Election for UK to join Single Market and Customs Union, what’s the point of those in business and those of working age voting Labour in England?

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If the English Labour Party is incapable of riffing off the crisis in Ukraine to make the case ahead of the next General Election for the UK to seek to join the Single Market and Customs Union, if Labour won office then what is the point of those in business and those of working age voting Labour in England?

It comes to something when a Labour leader feels incapable of making the case for joining a (trades) union in 2022 when he is betting the farm on pitching to pension age working class voters who remember and lived through the days of mass trades union membership when they were in work.

It is a tradition in my family to join a trades union on starting work as much, if not more for practical reasons than ideological ones.

We give up a smidgeon of personal sovereignty, if I get the usage right in this context, to join a collective body and benefit from the vastly greater leverage that the combination has when negotiating pay and conditions, on behalf of its members, than those members would have if they individually sought to do so just for themselves.

“Unity is Strength!” as the motto of the Transport and General Workers Union put it.

Ernest Bevin, the working class man who founded the TGWU in 1922 was Labour Foreign Secretary in Clement Attlee’s Government between 1945 and 1951.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation with Article 5, the principle of collective defence at its heart was very much Bevin’s brainchild:

“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.”

The North Atlantic Treaty, Washington D.C. – 4 April 1949

Bevin did not seek special recognition for his role in founding NATO, but the treaty’s signing was, without doubt, the climax of his career as Foreign Secretary and a greater personal achievement than even his founding of the TGWU.

It was, as Attlee put it, “the termination of many months of skilful and patient negotiations by the Foreign Secretary.”

The treaty personified the best of the Labour and trade-unionist tradition in many ways. It was born of a belief that people deserved to live in peace and prosperity in a free world and that only by acting collectively could this right be preserved against outside aggression. The strong would not look away when the weak were attacked but instead would come to their aid. It represented a desire for peace whilst recognizing that geopolitical realities might force Britain to fight to ensure peace in the event of a Russian attack on a member state.”

“I’ve ad enough of this, I ave”: Bevin, NATO and the Russian Threat

As we have seen from the world beating trade negotiations undertaken by the UK Government since Brexit, particularly with the EU the UK has been in the position of an individual worker negotiating their pay with an employer who holds all the cards.

Trades unions not only apply a force multiplier to the numbers of their members in negotiations on their behalf, but are also able to employ skilled, full time professional negotiators to represent their members.

We have had, to date, the likes of Lord Frost, Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss.

And the Labour alternative hardly inspires confidence

” “I taught diplomats from all around the world,” he said. “I taught for many years American politics, British politics, European politics, Soviet politics, and so our relationship with the rest of the world has always been something that is a deep passion and interest of mine.”

And he said his experience representing the former industrial seat of Torfaen in South Wales, an area that still produces steel, would also stand him in good stead for the role. “My father is retired now but he was a steel worker, which is why the issue of steel tariffs means so much to me,” he said, noting that exports are crucial for manufacturing.”

UK Labour would push for US trade deal

The largest single sector of UK manufacturing, food production, employs 100s of 1,000s.

There are at most 30,000 direct jobs in the British steel industry.

Labour would risk 100s of 1,000s of manufacturing jobs to may be sell a bit more steel to the USA.

Our economy would clearly be a lot safer as part of a union than in the hands of either party as matters now stand.

Crises like those over Ukraine are best addressed by organised combinations of nations, not by ad hoc arrangements.

Sir Keir Starmer QC’s fans believe their idol, who will not stand up a bunch of white, mostly elderly, many Leave voting, some racist folk, in a Leigh café would make a better Prime Minister than Boris Johnson.

Not exactly a high bar, at a time of crisis.

Possibly the QC would best Vladimir Putin if he could get him into court?

Sooner or later, Sir Keir Starmer QC has to summon up the courage to tell the dwindling band of diehard Brexit fanatics, some of whom are his own advisers, backbenchers and Shadow Cabinet members, that they have had their fun and that they do not get to have a veto over the future of our country.

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was “civis Romanus sum”. Today in the world of freedom the proudest boast is “I am from Kyiv”. (Now with added Schwarzenegger …)

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No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Meditation XVII, John Donne

Let them look to Kyiv

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was “civis Romanus sum”.

Today in the world of freedom the proudest boast is “I am from Kyiv”.

There are many people in the world who really don’t understand – or say they don’t – what is the great issue between the free world and Vladimir Putin.

Let them look to Kyiv.

There are some who say that Putin is a reality we must accommodate.

Let them look to Kyiv.

And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere “We must work with Vladimir Putin”.

Let them look to Kyiv.

And there are even a few who say that it’s true that Vladimir isn’t a nice man, but you know faults on both sides and is he really our problem.

Let them look to Kyiv.

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect.

Freedom is indivisible and when one person is enslaved who are free?

All free men and women, wherever they may live, are citizens of Kyiv.

With due apologies to John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.”

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, A Strategy of Peace, 1963

Putin’s war against Ukraine.

What can you do to support Ukraine and Ukrainians?

Putin’s war against Ukraine. What can you do to support Ukraine & Ukrainians?

Are the middle class chaps in management why the middle class chaps in think tanks, in politics and amongst the Commentariat cannot solve the UK’s productivity conundrum?

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“The Britain that is going to be forged in the white heat of this revolution will be no place for restrictive practices or for outdated methods on either side of industry … in the Cabinet room and the board room alike those charged with the control of our affairs must be ready to think and to speak in the language of our scientific age.

For the commanding heights of British industry to be controlled today by men whose only claim is their aristocratic connections or the power of inherited wealth or speculative finance is as irrelevant to the twentieth century as would be the continued purchase of commissions in the armed forces by lordly amateurs. At the very time that even the MCC has abolished the distinction between amateurs and professionals, in science and industry we are content to remain a nation of Gentlemen in a world of Players.”

“The white heat of technology” Harold Wilson, Scarborough, 1st October 1963

And in a similarly serious vein …

Sir Desmond Glazebrook: “City’s a funny place, you know, Prime Minister. If you spill the beans you open up a whole can of worms. I mean, how can you let sleeping dogs lie if you let the cat out of the bag? Bring in a new broom and if you’re not very careful you find you’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater. If you change horses in the middle of the stream, next thing you know you’re up the creek without a paddle.”

James Hacker: “And then the balloon goes up.”

Sir Desmond Glazebrook: “Obviously. They hit you for six. An own goal in fact.”

A Conflict of Interest, Yes, Prime Minister

Harold Wilson became leader of the Labour Party in 1963 after the death of Hugh Gaitskell. His challenge to the Tories, now led after the retirement of Harold Macmillan by the aristocratic Sir Alec Douglas-Home, was mounted with dramatic effect at the Labour Party conference, an annual platform for a major speech by the party leader.

In a speech that was rewritten during the small hours of the morning of 1st October 1963, Wilson summoned Labour to embrace the cult of the new and to harness the white heat of the technological revolution, and identified himself with the technicians and white-coat workers. There should be more scientists in government, he urged, more investment in scientific research and a new minister of technology. There was no room in the Labour movement for Luddites or antique working practices.

Moreover, in Labour’s National Economic Plan drawn up by Labour in Government in August 1965, the party spoke not just about training, but made specific reference to “provide better training for managers” as well as “to improve efficiency in other ways”.

How often in 2022, do we hear of the quality of management or its lack being a factor in poor productivity, if not the prime factor?

Enterprise is the economic factor that brings together the other three, land, labour and capital, to produce goods and services.

Surely the better the management, the better the combination of factors and thus the better quality and quantity of the goods and services produced?

The lead actor in the production to improve productivity in any workforce, whether it be in the private, the public or voluntary and community sector, is the employer of the aforementioned workforce, not the Government, except, of course, where the Government is itself the employer.

Productivity improvements take place and may be most accurately measured at the business or business unit level.

I was once asked for my view on the first response from Dorkins to The Economist: The Productivity Puzzle:

“I don’t get what the huge productivity mystery is supposed to be. The UK is a country in which productive work is not really rewarded due to the system of rents (high near employment centres) and taxes (mostly raised from labour). Many people quite sensibly respond to this by avoiding heavily taxed productive work as much as possible (e.g. doing the minimum number of hours required to qualify for tax credits) and instead focus their efforts on extracting rents from other people (e.g. arranging their living arrangements to maximise benefit and tax credit income, becoming BTL landlords).

Maybe if there was some kind of reward for productive work (higher net income, better standard of living, ability to buy secure housing) then people would do more of it?”

The neo-liberal fallacy in a nutshell?

The assumption people act like calculating machines, 24/7, and so make such fine (selfish?) calculations at each and every opportunity.

Incidentally, if this year I earn £20,000 gross and £18,000 net and you cut my taxes next year so I net £19,000 for working no harder, why should I work any harder than I do now?

I am £1,000 better off without working my fingers any further to the bone. 

Neo-liberal argument hoist by its own petard?

Poor productivity in the UK economy, as measured at the national level, is most likely to be down to ongoing poor investment in and management of research and development, land, labour and capital.

It is logical to remark that no matter how much money, say, you invest in research and development, if it is not managed well and its fruits properly exploited then you will not get the best return on your investment.

Deming, amongst others observed, that most workers only have control over about 10% of their workload and so their productivity is not within their capacity to improve, except very marginally. 90% of their workload is determined by those above them in the management chain.

British management, which notoriously cuts investment in capital and labour (and advertising), research and development, at the first sign of a downturn in the economy, has the major responsibility for the poor productivity of its staff.  And in 2008, and thereafter, it yet again cut significantly its investment in staff training.  You reap what you sow.

Real world economics has a tendency to trump neo-liberal theory every time, perhaps because it studies the real world and then theorises rather than trying to impose its (politically motivated) theories on the real world?

Mind you …

Sir Humphrey Appleby: “Didn’t you read the Financial Times this morning?”

Sir Desmond Glazebrook: “Never do.”

Sir Humphrey Appleby: “Well, you’re a banker. Surely you read the Financial Times?”

Sir Desmond Glazebrook: “Can’t understand it. Full of economic theory.”

Sir Humphrey Appleby: “Why do you buy it?”

Sir Desmond Glazebrook: “Oh, you know, it’s part of the uniform. Took me 30 years to understand Keynes’ economics. Then when I’d just cottoned on, everyone started getting hooked on these new monetarist ideas, you know, “I Want To Be Free” by Milton Shulman.”

Sir Humphrey Appleby: “Milton Friedman.”

Sir Desmond Glazebrook: “Why are they all called Milton? Anyway, I’ve only got as far as Milton Keynes.”

Sir Humphrey Appleby: “Maynard Keynes.”

Sir Desmond Glazebrook: I’m sure there’s a Milton Keynes.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: “Yes, there is, but it’s …”

Yes Minister, The Quality of Life

In this instance, it helps if one understands what economists mean by productivity:

“An economic measure of output per unit of input.  Inputs include labor and capital, while output is typically measured in revenues and other GDP components such as business inventories.  Productivity measures may be examined collectively (across the whole economy) or viewed industry by industry to examine trends in labor growth, wage levels and technological improvement.

Productivity gains are vital to the economy because they allow us to accomplish more with less.  Capital and labor are both scarce resources, so maximizing their impact is always a core concern of modern business.  Productivity enhancements come from technology advances, such as computers and the Internet, supply chain and logistics improvements, and increased skill levels within the workforce.”

Read more at: Productivity

You will notice that working harder and/or longer hours do not figure in the above!

Neither does increasing the number of entrepreneurs as that might actually reduce productivity averaged out across the economy.

Improving productivity is about working smarter not becoming a latter day Stakhanovite.

And as most workers are hemmed in by management, restrained from working smarter then we return to the lead actor in the production to improve productivity.

Why then is he, even in 2022 it is more likely to be he than she, not the subject of learned discussion, reports and seminars; questions and debate in the House and informed comment on all media?

Nothing to do surely, with the fact that the higher up the management chain one goes and remember the top tier sets the direction and management style of most organisations, the more the folk in business look, sound and behave like those working in think tanks, politics and the media?

Same educational, class and social backgrounds.

The Old Boys Network, in fact.

“Decent chaps don’t check up on decent chaps to see if they are behaving decently. If you go to the sort of chap that chaps trust, you can trust him to be the sort of chap to see that the chaps don’t get involved in any scandals.”

“If you’re incompetent you have to be honest, and if you’re crooked you have to be clever. See, if you’re honest, then when you make a pig’s breakfast of things the chaps rally round and help you out.”

“Well (if you’re crooked), if you’re making good profits for them, chaps don’t start asking questions; they’re not stupid. Well, not that stupid.”

“(Embezzlement?) Usually it’s just a chap who’s advanced himself a short-term, unauthorized, unsecured, temporary loan from the company’s account, and, uh, invested it unluckily. You, know, horse falls at the first fence, that sort of thing.”

Sir Desmond Glazebrook A Conflict of Interest, Yes, Prime Minister

One would not want to let the side down by washing a decent chap’s dirty laundry in public, drawing attention to his flaws where the other ranks might see them, would one?

I mean they might start talking about the need to improve the productivity of the officer class.

One might well describe this as poor quality outsourcing, especially as the contractor is known to have a preferred, we assume quality, supplier known as Nanny who usually does all of his intellectual heavy lifting for him.

Sir Keir Starmer QC likes to wax lyrical about his Dad having been a toolmaker back in the day, but he is not very concerned about toolmakers working for a living in 2022 …

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I have a confession to make, despite being from the same class background as Sir Keir Starmer QC and having subbed a fair few chaps to toolmaker jobs back in the day, I had to look up toolmaking as an occupation.

I was pleasantly surprised back in 2008 to learn that the United Kingdom was a big exporter of precision machine tools to Germany.

And, despite a fall off in trade for a while, has remained so until recently.

Hard Brexit, however, has made it hard for German companies to source machine tools from the UK and they are now looking elsewhere within the Single Market for manufacturers and suppliers.

Labour’s swivel eyed response to this state of affairs is the mantra of “Buy, Make and Sell More in Britain (to boost British exports)” which is about as credible as Goodness Gracious Me’s Aubergine Woman saying she may make it at home for free with a small aubergine.

Labour’s economic policy, its panacea, for now, is a curious cocktail of mercantilism mixed with autarky and a subjective analysis of the economy in 2022. It is almost as though Rachel Reeves has not read an economic text written after 1775.

And as for John Redwood …

And …

Then, again …

Jobs good, jobs in manufacturing better (unless you are from a middle class background) on Planet Reeves, Nandy and Starmer.

If mekkin’ things is all it is cracked up to be by the likes of Boris Johnson, Starmer and Rachel Reeves, how come they went into journalism, the law and the Government Economic Service, respectively, on graduation from that well known Further Education College, Oxford University?

Buy, make and sell more in Britain amounts to no more than Rachel Reeves bullying the public sector into trying to source more British goods and services, however defined.

The public sector is, of course, a well known purchaser of capital goods and semi-manufactured items.

Precision machine tools are, by and large, high value items that are not produced in high volumes. Companies need to be able to sell them easily into large markets to make a good return on their investment and, well, to just stay in business.

The idea that firms producing high value items for selling into the Single Market may refocus their efforts on selling ever more into the home market to make up for lost export sales revenue is nonsensical. It also seems to imply they do not sell as much into their home market as they might.

It is almost as though Team Starmer believes businesses have been hypnotised by EU membership into not profit maximising. That they have foregone easy profits at home for a lesser return abroad.

If British companies permanently locked out of the Single Market and Customs Union are seeing lower export sales then they have less need of goods and services produced by other businesses wherever they are geographically located.

Buy, make and sell more in Britain is predicated on the idea that greater home production of goods and services for the public sector, I stress the public sector only, will somehow be a more than adequate replacement for lost overseas trade.

What businesses losing sales revenue, directly and indirectly, due to harder export conditions, our non EU trade is also suffering alongside EU trade, would do whilst they await the economic miracle of Labour’s Four Year Public Sector Procurement Plan is a question seeking an answer.

Maybe Labour would subsidise British companies to stay afloat in the meantime?

For the uninitiated, BMSMB is the Preston Model writ large.

I half expect the SNP to unveil before the next Westminster General Election, Buy, Make and Sell More in Scotland. Only for Labour to try to claim that the policy will not work at the level of a nation, but would UK wide and is at the level of a city in Lancashire.

I suspect Rachel Reeves believes greater production of, for example, precision machine tools might make them cheaper and more competitive on the world market.

Yes.

However, there is no guarantee that cutting the cost of manufacturing a high value, low volume product will significantly increase the demand for it.

The same argument applies to the impact of the fall in the value of the pound.

Just because something is marginally cheaper in price, it does not automatically follow that will result in increased sales.

By how much would a machine tool have to fall in price for a manufacturing firm wanting one for an existing production line to then buy two and set up a new production line in which to use the second machine?

A fall in the value of the pound pushes up the cost of the goods and services we import to help produce goods and services for visible and invisible export.

Some Lexit and Brexit supporters thought the pound weakening (in their language) against other countries would be a Brexit benefit.

Just one more thing they got wrong.

When he was Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, presumably on the advice of one of his teenage scribblers, did once say to a group of business people that the fall in the value of the pound against the dollar and the euro was an unalloyed Brexit bonus, good for exporters.

So much for Labour under Starmer moving on from Corbyn’s relationship with and understanding of business.

Sir Keir Starmer QC whilst pledging a revival in British manufacturing, it is not actually the basket case he and his advisers seem to believe it to be, remains adamant the Labour Party will never contemplate seeking to join the Single Market and Customs Union whilst Rachel Reeves is, sorry, Lisa Nandy is, sorry, whilst he is Labour leader.

So much for caring about British toolmakers in work, today, in 2022, and business more widely.

Reeves rightly observes here …

… that there are growing labour and skills shortage across the UK economy and in all of its three sectors. 1.318 million unfilled vacancies in March 2022, a new monthly record.

February 2022 was a new monthly record.

Notwithstanding that, Reeves, like Priti Patel, has set her face against any replication of the conditions of Freedom of Movement for inward (im)migrant labour.

Skills and labour must, too, be made at home.

Incidentally, Sir Keir Starmer QC, still a practising barrister, by the way, has pledged a Labour Government he leads to seek to negotiate mutual recognition of qualifications with the EU.

In other words, Sir Keir Starmer QC wants to negotiate an improvement in the terms of trade for his middle class dominated profession, a return to the Single Market for their labour, whilst insisting he will not do the same for men and women at work and in business and in his father’s manufacturing trade about which he reminisces so fondly to the pleasure of his adoring middle class followers.

My lord, I pray in aid this as further evidence of the accused’s confusion about trade, commerce and industry.

I also offer it up as further evidence of a suggested lack of emotional intelligence.

Circumstances that may show good reason for a refusal or failure to apply for or accept if offered a job vacancy … in other words, grounds for an appeal.

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I have imposed in the dim and distant past benefit sanctions.

Most of them were administrative sanctions in that the Government said if you have been unemployed and signing on for X months and were unwilling to undertake one of a number of options after this interview then your adviser is required to mandate you to attend a short course.

Non attendance at such a course invites a sanction if you fail to attend.

I rarely applied any other type of sanction, although I did talk people through the possible consequences of following a particular line of action with regards to their entitlement to benefit.

I even mentioned daily signing on a few occasions.

I was and am of the opinion that sanctions are very much a last resort.

I did not and do not, in particular, approve of the draconian sanctions regime that came in when the Coalition took power in May 2010.

Jobcentre staff started to penalise people for turning up 5 minutes late to sign on.

One bloke was on the wrong side of a railway level crossing when the barriers came down and he was sanctioned for a few minutes tardiness.

A Member of Parliament here in Birmingham raised this case if memory serves me correctly in Parliament.

An individual signing on at Sparkhill Jobcentre was required to attend an hour long jobsearch session at the office at 14:00. As it happened it fell on his fortnightly signing day and his normal signing time was 14:30.

He arrived before 14:00 and asked the staff what he should do. Instead of signing him there and then, they told him it would be ok if he signed on after 15:00.

When he returned to do so, he was told he was over 30 minutes late and had incurred a sanction, but not to worry he had a right of appeal against it.

A tick in the box of the running total of sanctions.

Understandably, the gentleman in question approached his MP who was compiling a list of these cases.

Sparkhill Jobcentre was developing a reputation, both within and without of Jobcentre Plus, for such disproportionate and inequitable treatment of clients.

I must stress that I do come from a particular working class background, not dissimilar from that of Sir Keir Starmer QC, that takes the view that you do not get owt for nowt so I have no time for those who say sanctions should be scrapped in their entirety.

We believe in a hand up not a hand out.

Of people taking the opportunities available to them and not bemoaning their lives, if they choose not to do so.

But we also believe in no one being left behind.

Help for those who can, support for those who cannot.

Each giving according to their means and receiving according to their needs.

There are a tiny, tiny, tiny number of toerags who do play the system and who will, on occasion, sit in a Jobcentre loudly telling the world and partner what they are not doing to look for work.

The world and partner being the vast majority on benefit doing their utmost to find work.

What message does it send to those folk that someone may break the rules without the risk of any penalty?

Administrative and petty sanctions are easy to apply.

Refusal of (Suitable) Employment sanctions are not, because they involve employment opportunities and quite often a third party, namely an employer.

I have copied and pasted the following sections from Decision Maker’s Guide Volume 6 Chapter 34: Sanctions

I have italicised and highlighted certain sections that may be of particular use when appealing such sanctions. Take advice before doing so.

Unreasonable physical or mental stress

34309 Sometimes a particular employment would be likely to cause unreasonable stress without being likely to cause actual significant harm but the claimant perceives it will. For example, claimants may be likely to suffer unreasonable

1. physical stress if they

  • 1.1 are disabled and take employment which is physically hard or
  • 1.2 take employment which means they have to work at night, but they find it difficult to sleep during the day or

2. mental stress if they work somewhere they dread, for example an abattoir or an undertaker’s or

3. distress because a certain type of work exacerbates experiences of anxiety or mental distress, for example a person with social anxiety or a history of agoraphobia who is expected to deal with large numbers of people.

Note: Often this is a very individual and personal thing and may not have been identified as a restriction with their advisor. What one person can cope with will not be the same for another person and the DM should consider each case on its individual merits and circumstances and what is reasonable in the individual’s case.

34310 Where the claimant genuinely believes that a particular employment is likely to cause

1. significant harm to the claimant’s health or

2. the claimant unreasonable physical or mental stress the DM should take this into account when deciding whether or not the claimant has good reason (see also DMG 34236).

34311 – 34312

Sincere religious or conscientious objection

34321 If a claimant refuses to comply with a requirement because of any religious or conscientious objection, which the claimant sincerely holds, the DM should take this into account when deciding good reason. Claimants cannot show good reason just by saying, for example, that they conscientiously object to doing a certain employment. They must

1. show that one or more of the terms and conditions of the employment conflicts with the principles of their religion or belief and

2. give enough evidence to satisfy the DM that their religious or conscientious objection is sincerely held and

3. show that the conflict between the principles of their religion or belief are reasonably unavoidable.

Note 1: The degree to which the claimant’s beliefs are commonly held or considered reasonable byothers is immaterial. The belief held must be in respect of a weighty and substantial matter.

Note 2: It may well depend on the specific job involved and the capacity of the employer to organise how certain tasks are performed when considering good reason.

34322 A principled objection is not the same as a conscientious objection. The terms and conditions of the employment must require the claimant to act in a way which is contrary to their ethical or moral principles (1).

(1 R(JSA) 7/03)

34323 The following are examples of religious or conscientious objections which may provide good reason

1. an objection to employment that involves the handling or supply of alcohol, cigarettes , tobacco or certain food products (e.g. pork)

2. a religious objection to being in employment on a particular day each week

3. an objection to employment with something which may be used to destroy life, whether human or animal

4. a religious objection to being in employment with members of the opposite sex (but also see Note 3 and Example 6).

Note 1: This is not an exhaustive list or specific criteria that mean a claimant would have automatic good reason but examples of some of the more commonly raised religious or cultural beliefs. The DM should consider any issue raised by the claimant in consideration of good reason however the DM would have to be satisfied that all the criteria at DMG 34321 are met for it to be good reason due to a sincere religious or conscientious objection.

Note 2: Where a restriction or limitation on ASE or availability has been agreed on the JSAg, the claimant will not have to show good reason (also see DMG 34214). The claimant must show that they have reasonable prospects of obtaining employment with all restrictions (also see further guidance in DMG Chapter 21).

Note 3: Good reason would not be allowed where there is direct impermissible discrimination (i.e. unlawful discrimination based on characteristics protected by law, such as race, colour, national origin, religion, sex, age, gender identity etc)1. However. whilst a religious requirement might be indirectly discriminatory to another protected group, that is not the question at hand. The question at hand is whether an employer can accommodate the religious belief. For example, in some religions men are not allowed to work in close quarters with women or groups of women who are not members of their own family and vice versa. Whether good reason can be shown may well depend on the specific job and the capacity of the employer to organise how tasks are performed to accommodate the religious belief. The DM should consider all the facts and circumstances and what is reasonable in the individual case and whether all the criteria at DMG 34321 are met (see Example 6).

1 Equality Act 2010

Example 1

Aabish is a practising Muslim. Alcohol is forbidden in Islam and some Muslims also refuse to handle it. Aabish has good reason for not applying for an advertised vacancy in a local off-license. The job will involve handling and selling alcohol which cannot reasonably be avoided in this particular job.

However, one of the major supermarket chains is also recruiting for till operators. They have a written policy to respect the wishes of any employee not to handle specific products for religious or cultural reasons and where any employees who have religious beliefs about certain products or what foods or drink they could handle, would place them on a till where the product is not usually served, such as clothing, or on tasks away from a till.

Aabish would not be able to show a good reason for failing to apply for a job at the supermarket based on her religious beliefs regarding alcohol.

Example 2

Yuraj refuses to apply for a vacancy at a building site as he will be required to wear a hard hat at all times for his own health and safety. Yuraj is a Sikh and his beliefs require him to wear a turban which means he cannot meet the requirement to wear a hard hat. Yuraj would have good reason not to apply for the vacancy.

Example 3

Billy is offered a job as a waiter in a restaurant at a casino. He states he has an objection to gambling, it is against his moral principles. Billy’s opinion of gambling is irrelevant to the people gambling. His duties as a waiter in the restaurant will not require him to act in a way which is contrary to his beliefs with regard to gambling and therefore he would not be able to show good reason for refusing the job on that basis.

Example 4

Akinta is referred to a MWA scheme placement for 4 weeks. At the end of the third week he asks if he can be excused the morning off his placement on Friday to attend prayers to participate in Eid. Akinta is a practicing Muslim and Eid is one of the most important religious festivals for the Islamic faith. The DM considers it would be reasonable that Akinta be allowed ‘time off’ his placement to attend the religious festival Eid.

Example 5

Isaac is a practicing orthodox Jew. He refuses to accept a job offer as a care worker as the employer will not allow him to follow his religious observance of the Jewish Sabbath. Even though Isaac had offered to work longer hours Sunday through to Thursday, the employer states they have a duty to make sure the children in its care have proper supervision on Saturdays and they do not have the number of staff available on their payroll to allow him to have every Friday afternoon and Saturday off work. He would be required to take his turn to work Saturdays pro rata.

Isaac has an agreed limitation on his JSAg to restrict his job search to meet his religious observance and has demonstrated that even within the restraints of his religion he has reasonable prospects of securing employment.

Isaac does not have to show good reason for the failure to accept the job.

Example 6

Nazir is a machine operator and has worked in a small factory for 5 years on a bench by himself away from other operators.

Due to a reorganisation of the factory floor and how tasks are to be performed Nazir is told he will have to go work as part of a team comprised of women co-workers.

Nazir explains to his employer that his religion forbids him from working in close quarters with women who are not his own family and requests that he be allowed to continue to work by himself or in a male only group.

The employer says they cannot accommodate Nazir’s request as they do not have enough male operators to make up a team, the new processes are to cut costs and it is no longer possible to provide him with space separately on his own. The policy is to make all the operators multi skilled and flexible rather than to concentrate on being skilled in just one part of the process.

Nazir leaves the job.

When considering whether Nazir has good reason for leaving the employment the DM considers that in his circumstances it is a reasonably held and bone fide religious belief and as the employer cannot accommodate Nazir’s religious beliefs to ensure he has no direct interaction with women he has good reason.

Whilst the religious requirement may be discrimination to women that is not the question. The question is whether the employer can accommodate Nazir’s religious belief as the rule requiring him to work directly with women indirectly discriminates on the basis of Nazir’s religion.

34324 – 34325

————

Circumstances that may show good reason for a refusal or failure to apply for or accept if offered a job vacancy

34340 Other circumstances the DM may take into account when determining the doubt relating to a refusal or failure to apply for or a failure to accept if offered a job vacancy which an Emp O has notified is vacant or is about to become vacant includes

1. any restrictions the claimant has been allowed to place on their work search, having regard to any discrepancy between these and the requirements of the job, although minor differences may not count (see DMG 34341)

2. expenses unavoidably incurred (e.g. childcare and travelling expenses), or that the claimant had to or would have had to, incur if they had taken the job, if they amounted ,or would have amounted, to an unreasonably high proportion of the income they would have received. The proportion that is considered reasonable increases the more they are paid (see DMG 34346 et seq)

3. any other factor that appears relevant (see DMG 34416).

Note: For guidance on what constitutes a refusal or failure see DMG 34721 et seq. Also see guidance at DMG 34928 where the refusal or failure is to carry out a JSD which relates to an employment vacancy.

Restrictions on work search

34341 It is extremely important for advisers to ensure that any job vacancy is weighted to the specific claimant and their personal circumstances and any limitations or restrictions identified in the JSAg taken into consideration.

34342 The JSAg sets the context of the claimant’s jobsearch. Types of jobs recorded on the JSAg as the types of jobs the claimant is looking for are not necessarily restrictions. Jobs identified are the best prospects at the time the JSAg is signed and that may change with time, however, the advisor should update and amend the JSAg at the regular job search fortnightly review.

Example:

Samara has been claiming JSA for 3 months. She agreed on her JSAg that the type of work she was looking for was office work, receptionist or bank clerk. Samara is notified by her advisor of a vacancy for a retail job at a local supermarket and she fails to apply for the job stating it is not the type of job she is looking for. The DM considers Samara does not have good reason for failing to apply for the vacancy.

34343 – 34345

Employment expenses

34346 The DM should take into account when deciding good reason any expenses which

1. claimants have to meet only for the purpose of the employment and

2. would be an unreasonably high proportion of the expected pay from the employment.

34347 Expenses which can be taken into account include

1. travelling expenses to and from the place of employment by a route and means appropriate to the claimant’s circumstances

2. the cost of tools or equipment which the claimant has to provide

3. the cost of essential protective clothing, not provided by the employer4. the cost of a criminal record check (known as a disclosure).

34348 Deductions from wages of tax, NI and occupational pension contributions cannot be taken into account. This is because they are not expenses incurred for the purposes of the employment.

34349 – 34350

Child care expenses

34351 The DM should take into account when deciding good reason any child care expenses which

1. are or would be necessarily incurred as a result of the claimant being in the employment and

2. did or would represent an unreasonably high proportion of the remuneration which it is reasonable to expect that he would receive from the employment.

34352 There are no rules for deciding whether expenses would be an unreasonably high proportion of remuneration. Each case must be decided on its own facts. But the greater the level of remuneration is, the more reasonable it is for the expenses to be a higher proportion of it. The DM should also consider support available towards childcare from UC or other sources.

34353 The DM should consider employment expenses as in DMG 34346 and child care expenses as in DMG 34351 separately. They should not be aggregated when considering good reason.

34354 – 34359

Unreasonably high proportion of pay

34360 The expenses must be an unreasonably high proportion of the expected pay for good reason to apply. Other issues about the level of pay or the claimant’s income or outgoings cannot be taken into account. For example, the claimant cannot show good reason by arguing that the expenses are unreasonable because the claimant’s

1. wages would have been the only income the household has or

2. household expenses are particularly high.

34361 There are no rules for deciding whether expenses would be an unreasonably high proportion of pay. Each case must be decided on its own facts. But the greater the level of pay is, the more reasonable it is for the expenses to be a higher proportion of it.

34362 If the claimant would have an expense

1. for only a short time, for example where the claimant would have to pay for transport to work initially, but then works transport would be provided after a time or

2. as a “one-off”, for example cost of tools It would be reasonable for the claimant to spend more to meet such an expense than would be the case if the expense would last as long as the employment. The DM should also take into account that the claimant may be able to meet such expenses through the Flexible Support Fund.

Note: The Flexible Support Fund comprises of resources available to Jobcentre Plus Managers to cater for a variety of local needs for claimants.

34363 – 34365

Employment of less than 24 hours a week

34366 If a claimant refused to apply for or accept a job involving fewer than 24 hours work a week they may be able to show good reason (see DMG 34368).

Note 1: Claimants are not automatically allowed good reason and the DM should consider each case on its individual merits where the claimant raises the hours issue as the reason for not applying for a vacancy.

Note 2: This does not apply if the claimant refuses or fails to carry out a JSD although a claimant may be able to challenge the direction as unreasonable (see DMG 34908)

34367 This guidance also applies when considering whether employment is for less than 16 hours a week. If

1. it has been agreed that the claimant can restrict their hours of availability to less than 24 hours in a benefit week, for example because of caring responsibilities and

2. the employment on offer is for less than 16 hours a week the claimant may have good reason for refusing or failing to apply for or accept that employment.

34368 Claimants should not be mandated to vacancies of

1. less than 24 hours where that is not appropriate or

2. where a claimant has a pattern of availability of less than 24 hours, to vacancies where the hours are less than 16 hours a week.

If the number of hours are not shown on the advertised vacancy and the claimant has raised the hours as the reason for not applying for the vacancy then the JCP adviser or member of staff in the Jobcentre must seek to establish the hours before the referral to the DM is made.

34369 The DM must only then consider hours on the basis of good reason as a fact of the case rather than an automatic allowance, bearing in mind that the hours alone may not in itself count as good reason. The DM should consider all the available evidence and information the claimant presents covering the reasons for their actions and the circumstances in which they were in. The number of hours is just one factor the DM should consider in the overall picture of the claimant’s circumstances.

Note: This also applies to vacancies advertised in UJ – see further guidance at DMG 34911.

Example 1

Alexander is notified of a job vacancy. At his next fortnightly job-search review he confirms he did not apply for the vacancy because he couldn’t be bothered. He didn’t think he’d like the job. The DM considers Alexander did not have good reason for the failure to apply for the vacancy.

Example 2

Sergei fails to apply for a notified job vacancy and states that when he checked out the details of the vacancy with the employer it was for 10 hours a week and his JSAg shows he has a pattern of availability of over 24 hours a week. The advisor has confirmed with the employer that the vacancy was for 10 hours.

The claimant has good reason for not applying for the vacancy.

Example 3

Remi has an agreed limitation of looking for work for up to 20 hours per week on his JSAg. He fails to apply for a notified job vacancy which is for 20 hours a week. He can show no good reason for the failure.

He states his reason was he forgot about the vacancy and when he remembered the deadline date to apply had passed. The DM considers Remi does not have a good reason for failing to apply for the vacancy.

Example 4

Francis fails to apply for a vacancy. He says the reason he didn’t apply for the vacancy was the travelling distance which is 80 minutes each way from his home and he cannot afford the costs of the travel. He does not mention the hours. In consideration of good reason the DM considers the travelling time in itself does not provide good reason as it is less than 90 minutes (see DMG 34261). In consideration of good reason the DM thinks the hours may be a relevant factor and asks the jobcentre to contact the employer for the number of hours involved. On checking, it is confirmed the vacancy is only for 20 hours per week – 4 hours per day over 5 days. The DM decides that we would not reasonably expect a claimant to travel 80 minutes to work for 4 hours a day followed by a return journey of 80 minutes and taking into account the travel costs in comparison to possible earnings. Francis is looking for full time work and it is not practicable or reasonable in the circumstances. The DM considers in this case Francis has good reason for not applying for the vacancy.

Example 5

Horace’s JSAg shows that he has no restrictions and is available for work for 40 hours per week, Monday to Saturday. A suitable vacancy is put into the Saved Inbox of his UJ account and the advisor informs Horace he must apply for the vacancy before the closing date. No hours are provided.

Horace applies for the job and is called for an interview.

The employer advises JCP that Horace has been offered the job but he has refused it on the grounds that there are not enough hours for him. The maximum number of hours they can offer him at the present time is 18 hours per week.

As the vacancy was outside his agreed availability on his JSAg and Horace says this is the reason he refused the job, Horace has a good reason for the refusal and cannot be sanctioned for refusing to accept the job.

Shifts or rota systems

34370 If the employment on offer requires work on a shift or rota system where the claimant would have to work for 24 or more hours in some weeks, and less than 24 hours in others, the hours should be averaged. A claimant who refused or failed to apply for or accept employment averaging less than 24 hours a week may have good reason, and the DM should not impose a sanction.

34371 – 34375

Other circumstances that may amount to good reason

34376 The DM should

1. consider all matters put forward by the claimant and

2. decide whether or not to take them into account when deciding good reason.

34377 Account should also be taken of any other factor that appears relevant. In particular when the terms of a job on offer break the laws on

1. minimum working conditions or

2. they knowingly connive with an employer or agency in a

  • 2.1 tax avoidance scheme or
  • 2.2 PAYE is not being properly accounted for.

Attitude of claimant’s trade union

34378 The fact that

1. the prospective employer is on the “black list” of the claimant’s trade union (1) or

2. the claimant refused the employment on union instructions or advice (2) does not, of itself, provide good reason.

(1 R(U) 1/52); (2 R(U) 9/64)

Possible return to previous employment

34379 The fact that a claimant

1. has a previous employment that has not ended and

2. may at some time return to it does not of itself provide good reason for refusing other employment (1).

(1 R(U) 1/52)

Laid off and short time workers

34380 If claimants

1. are laid off and

2. are being allowed to and do in fact restrict the employment they are willing to take to

  • 2.1 the job they are laid off from or
  • 2.2 casual employment within daily travelling distance of home and

3. refuse or fail to apply for or accept employment because it does not meet any of the restrictions claimants imposed within 2.1 to 2.2.

they will be considered to have good reason. The DM should not impose a sanction.

34381 If the claimants are

1. on short time and

2. are being allowed to and do in fact restrict the employment they are willing to take to

  • 2.1 the job they are on short time in or
  • 2.2 casual employment within daily travelling distance of home for the hours they are not working in their short time employment and

3. refuse or fail to apply for or accept employment because it does not meet any restrictions claimants impose within 2.1 to 2.2 they will have good reason. The DM should not sanction them.

Decision of Employment Tribunal pending

34382 The fact that a claimant is waiting for the result of an Employment Tribunal hearing on unfair dismissal does not of itself provide good reason for refusing other employment.

Claimant already working

34383 A claimant who is working and is still entitled to UC does not have good reason for refusing other employment just because the claimant would have had to give up their existing job. But see DMG 34384 if the claimant’s reason for refusing other employment was that notice had to be given to end the current job.

34384 If the other employment offered would only have lasted for a short period, and the claimant would then have been unable to return to the previous work, the claimant may have good reason. It is for the DM to consider all the facts and circumstances of the individual case on its merits.

Example

Jack, who is working 10 hours a week at NMW rate is offered four weeks employment of 39 hours a week in the same type of employment, with a different employer. He is not sure that his current employer will take him back on when the new employment ends. Jack has good reason for failing to apply for the vacancy

1 R(U) 34/56

Temporary employment

34385 Subject to DMG 34384 the fact that the employment offered is only temporary does not of itself provide good reason1. It is for the DM to consider all the facts of the individual case on its merits and apply a common sense approach in the individual’s circumstances and apply the reasonableness test in consideration of good reason. Temporary employment can assist the claimant by

1. updating existing skills

2. learning new skills

3. becoming more confident

4. improving their CV

5. showing employers they can keep regular hours and stay committed to a task

6. meeting people who can help them find work

7. giving them something to talk about in a job interview and

8. gaining references to improve their prospects of further employment.

Note: For the purposes of a failure to apply for or accept if offered, any employment opportunity, regardless of the duration of the employment, the sanction duration is for a fixed period. The failure is not a failure prescribed for in relevant legislation2 which allows for the sanction to be reduced (see DMG 34097 et seq).

1 R(U) 35/52; 2 JSA Regs, reg 69(3)

Definite chance of other employment

34386 If the claimant has a definite chance of other employment that

1. will start in the very near future and

2. is likely to last at least as long as the employment offered and

3. will be lost if the claimant accepts the employment offered

this will be good reason. Whether a chance is definite must be decided on the individual facts of the case.

Personal preference

34387 Claimants do not have good reason for refusing employment because they

1. would prefer another type of work (1) or

2. wish to find employment for themselves without the help of Jobcentre Plus (2).

(1 CU 3/48(KL)); (2 R(U) 29/53)

Other more suitable people unemployed

34388 A claimant does not have good reason for refusing employment just because there are other unemployed people who are more suited to the vacancy. The question is whether the claimant has good reason for refusing it taking into account all the individual circumstances of the case.

Job vacant because of a trade dispute stoppage

34389 Claimants cannot be sanctioned just because they refuse or fail to apply for or accept a job that is vacant because of a stoppage of work due to a TD. This applies even if the fact is not known at the date of refusal, but comes to light later. If a sanction has already been imposed, the adviser should let the DM know of the change so that he can consider revising or superseding the decision.

34390 For the job to be vacant because of the TD stoppage

1. the stoppage must exist at the time the vacancy is notified or offered. It is not enough that there is a TD, or that a stoppage seems imminent and

2. the vacancy must have been caused by the stoppage. This will not be the case if the vacancy

  • 2.1 was caused by the illness of an employee, even if there is a stoppage of work at the employer’s premises or
  • 2.2 arose normally after the stoppage had ended and the places of the employees affected by the TD had been filled or
  • 2.3 arose because an employee left a job where there was no stoppage in order to take a job where there was a stoppage.

34391 – 34394

Employment which the claimant has previously left

34395 If the claimant has in the past left, or been dismissed from

1. the same employment and

2. employment with the same employer that fact is not in itself good reason but the circumstances in which the previous employment ended may give the claimant good reason for refusing re-employment (for example consideration should be given to any mental or physical health issues or any of the circumstances in DMG 34236).

34396 Where the claimant refuses re-employment the DM should consider

1. all the circumstances surrounding the termination and

2. the effect of the termination on the relations between the claimant and the employer.

Objection to employer or fellow employees

34397 A claimant may refuse employment because

1. the claimant objects to the employer or other employees or

2. it would mean working with a person whose conduct is known to be offensive.

34398 In extreme cases the claimant may be able to show that such employment would be likely to cause

1. unreasonable mental stress (see DMG 34309) or

2. be grounds for a sincere religious objection (see DMG 34321).

Otherwise, such an objection will only be good reason if it is so great that it would be unreasonable to expect the claimant to work in those conditions.

Example

Terry has previously left employment because of a personal disagreement with a colleague. She is offered a job by a different employer, but finds out that the colleague she had the disagreement with is now working there, and will be her supervisor. She is still on bad terms with the ex-colleague. She turns the job down. The DM considers that Terry has good reason.

34399 Unless there are exceptional circumstances, an objection to an employer because that employer has previously sacked the claimant does not provide good reason if there are no other reasons to consider.

Claimant does not have necessary equipment

34400 Claimants sometimes say that they are available for a particular type of employment where it is customary for employees to have their own tools, special clothes etc. If claimants do not have such tools, clothes etc, this will not generally be good reason. But in some cases there may be special reasons which will be good reason. For example, a claimant’s tools are accidentally destroyed or stolen, and the claimant cannot replace them at once. But the DM should also take into account that the claimant may be able to buy such tools and equipment with help from the Flexible Support Fund.

34401 It is important to remember that health and safety is the responsibility of employers (class 1 employment) and that the provision of suitable protective equipment lies with the employer (1). Any available information concerning provision of equipment or tools should be used to decide whether a jobseeker has good reason for refusing vacancies offered.

(1 Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992)

34402 – 34405

Seafarers

34406 Seafarers may refuse an opportunity to go back to sea because they want to

1. change their occupation or

2. take shore leave which they are due, and by the time the leave is finished the chance of employment is lost, for example because the ship has sailed.

34407 It is difficult for seafarers who want to change their occupation, particularly if they are abroad or at sea, to find alternative employment to start as soon as their contract ends. If they

1. have taken whatever steps they could and

2. seem to have reasonable prospects of finding other employment fairly quickly the DM should accept that they have good reason.

34408 The DM should take into account that seafarers are entitled to some leave after voyages. But this does not mean that they have good reason for refusing chances of employment during any period of leave, regardless of the circumstances. They must show that they have not acted unreasonably in relying on UC.

Working time regulations

34409 The Working Time Regulations 1998 provide that a worker’s working time, including overtime, shall not exceed an average of 48 hours for each seven days (the average being calculated over a 17 week period) except where a worker has agreed with his employer in writing that this limit should not apply in his case.

34410 A jobseeker has good reason for refusing employment of over an average of 48 hours per week if he gives the number of hours as his reason for refusal, irrespective of whether he selected the vacancy himself, applied for the job or attended an interview being fully aware of the hours required.

Anti-social behaviour order, community order or community disposal

34411 Claimants may refuse employment because it would mean that they would break their anti social behaviour order, community order or community disposal taking into account any necessary travelling time. If claimants have tried unsuccessfully to get their order or disposal varied they would have good reason for refusing employment.

Claimant given incorrect details of employment

34412 Claimants may refuse or fail to apply for or accept a vacancy, and it may later be found that they have been given incorrect details about the vacancy.

34413 The DM should impose a sanction if

1. the claimant cannot show good reason for refusing a job on the terms wrongly notified and

2. the actual terms of the job would have been more favourable (1).

(1 R(U) 20/55)

34414 The DM should not impose a sanction if the claimant can show good reason for refusing a job on the terms they were wrongly notified. The DM does not need to consider whether the claimant could have shown good reason for refusing the job had the actual terms been known.

Example

An adviser informs Dan about a vacancy as a packer in a local meat factory. He mistakenly tells Dan the rate of pay is £10 per hour. The actual rate is £12 per hour. Dan refuses to apply for the vacancy because in his last job, which ended two weeks ago, as he was paid more than £10 per hour as a packer. When considering good reason the DM treats the vacancy as if it was paying £10 per hour.

Zero hours contracts

34415 A claimant should never be mandated to apply for or accept a zero-hours contract but if the details of the zero-hours contract comes to light after the claimant starts work or during the application process then they will always have good reason for leaving voluntarily or due to misconduct, or for failing or refusing to accept the contract and a sanction should never apply.

34416 A zero-hour contract is a contract of employment used in the UK which is not defined in legislation and whilst meeting the terms of the relevant legislation (1) by providing a written statement of the terms and conditions of employment, contains provisions which create an “on call” arrangement between employer and employee. It does not oblige the employer to provide work for the employee. The employee agrees to be available for work as and when required, so that no particular number of hours or times of work are specified. The employee is expected to be on call and receives compensation only for hours worked.

(1 ER Act 96)

34417 Zero-hour contracts may be ideal for some people such as retirees and students who want occasional earnings and are able to be entirely flexible about when they work, but people in the general working population, including those with mortgages and responsibility for supporting a family, run the risk of unpredictable hours and earnings. The possibility of the use of such contracts by management as a tool to reward or reprimand employees for any reason or no reason raises issues about how workers can adequately assert their employment rights or maintain decent employment relations. Therefore there can be no mandation to any zero hours contract (exclusive or not) and there can be no sanction imposed for Refusing Employment, Leaving Voluntary or losing work because of misconduct.

Employee Shareholder Contracts

34418 Employee Shareholder Contracts are entirely voluntary and JSA claimants must not be mandated to apply for such vacancies. For further guidance on Employee Shareholder Contracts see DMG 34335.

Other reasons

34419 The reasons mentioned in this chapter are not exhaustive. The DM must consider any other reason the claimant puts forward for refusing or failing to apply for or accept employment applying the test of reasonableness in consideration of all the facts and evidence in the individual case. The DM should not just consider one factor but should consider the overall picture of the claimant’s individual circumstances.

Note: Where the claimant changes their mind or the vacancy is withdrawn there will be no refusal or failure and no need to consider good reason (see DMG 34723 and DMG 34724).

34420

Circumstances that do not show good reason

34421 A claimant cannot refuse to apply for a job because of the rate of pay offered, except where this is below the NMW, (see DMG 34423) or because

1. of their income or outgoings or those of any member of their household (either as they were or would be if they took the job or carried out the work-related requirement. ‘Outgoings’ excludes expenses (such as for childcare) taken into account that would be an unreasonably high proportion of the claimant’s income

2. they argue they need a high wage because they have a large mortgage or an expensive lifestyle.

34422 The DM must disregard anything relating to the level of pay in the employment in question when deciding whether the claimant has good reason. The fact that the pay offered was

1. lower than the pay the claimant had previously received or

2. not enough to cover the claimant’s financial commitments or

3. lower than the pay received by most other employees in that occupation or

4. less than the claimant is getting in benefits are all related to the level of pay, and must be disregarded.

National minimum wage

34423 Claimants have good reason for refusing employment if they do so because

1. the national minimum wage applies to them and

2. the employment does not pay at least the national minimum wage that applies to them.

34424 – 34425

End.

Reducing the possible length of a Permitted Period from 13 Weeks to 4 Weeks

Determining Entitlement to a Permitted Period

Determining Entitlement to a Permitted Period

Standard

I thought it would be a useful illustration to copy and paste here the guidance for determining a permitted period set out within the Decision Maker’s Guide Volume 4 Chapter 21: Jobseeker’s Allowance Labour market questions, special conditions for JSA(Cont) and jobseeking periods

I think the complexity of the process speaks for itself.

Permitted period

General

21386 Claimants may be treated as available for a permitted period if they are only available for employment:

1. in their usual occupation or
2. at a level of pay that they are used to receiving or
3. both 1. and 2. (1).

(1 JSA Regs, reg 16(1))

Laid-off and short time workers

21387 Claimants who are laid-off or on short time cannot be treated as available for a permitted period unless (1) they cease to be laid-off or kept on short time within 13 weeks of the day that they were laid-off or first kept on short time. If they do cease to be laid-off or kept on short time they may be treated as available for a permitted period. But that permitted period must end a maximum of 13 weeks after the date of claim.

(1 JSA Regs, reg 17(4))

Maximum length of a permitted period

21388 The permitted period (1)

1. starts on the date of claim and

2. is a minimum of one week and

3. is no more than 13 weeks.

(1 JSA Regs, reg 16(3))

Deciding if a claimant should have a permitted period

21389 When deciding whether the claimant should be treated as available for a permitted
period and the length of that period the DM should take into account (1)

1. the claimant’s usual occupation and

2. any relevant skills or qualifications that the claimant has and

3. the length of any period of training that the claimant has done that is relevant to the claimant’s usual occupation and

4. the length of the period that the claimant was employed in that occupation and

5. the period since the claimant was last employed in that occupation and

6. the availability and location of employment in that occupation.


1 JSA Regs, reg 16(2)

21390 DMG 21389 1. and 3. to 6. only apply where the claimant has a usual occupation. DMG 21389 2. applies where the claimant has a usual occupation or when considering the level of pay claimants are used to receiving.

21391 Guidance on how to take these factors into account is at DMG 21392 – 21393. The DM should note the following

1. It is not possible to say that if particular factors exist the period should be of a particular length.

2. Some factors may suggest that the period should be long.

3. Others may suggest that it should be short.

The DM must consider all the available evidence and all the factors listed in DMG 21389 and determine what period would be reasonable.

21392 Some of the factors that may suggest that a longer permitted period should apply to a claimant are

1. claimants may find it difficult to obtain future employment in their usual occupation if they have a spell of work in a different occupation

2. the usual occupation requires a high level of skill, or a skill obtained over a long period

3. the claimant has undergone a long period of

  • 3.1 training or
  • 3.2 apprenticeship for the usual occupation

4. the usual occupation requires a specialist qualification that the claimant has

5. the claimant has done that occupation

  • 5.1 regularly or
  • 5.2 continuously over a period of years

6. the claimant’s last spell of employment in the usual occupation was for a long period

7. the claimant’s last spell of employment in the usual occupation ended recently

8. the claimant is particularly skilled in or efficient at the usual occupation

9. there

  • 9.1 are or
  • 9.2 are soon likely to be a considerable number of vacancies in the claimant’s usual occupation in the location(s) that the claimant is prepared to work

10. the claimant has good prospects of obtaining further employment in the usual occupation.

21393 Factors that may suggest that a shorter permitted period should apply to a claimant are

1. a spell of working in a different type of employment would not reduce the claimant’s chances of obtaining future employment in the usual occupation

2. the skills, if any, that are needed for the usual occupation can be quickly and easily obtained

3. the training period, if any, in the usual occupation is short

4. no specialist qualifications are needed to do the usual occupation

5. the claimant has not followed the usual occupation regularly, particularly if regular spells of unemployment are

  • 5.1 expected or
  • 5.2 can be foreseen

6. a long time has passed since the claimant was last employed in the usual occupation

7. the claimant’s last spell of employment in the usual occupation was short

8. the claimant is not particularly suited to the usual occupation

9. vacancies in the usual occupation in the location(s) that the claimant is prepared to work in are or are likely to be rare

10. the claimant’s chances of returning to the usual occupation are not very good. But if the claimant has little or no chance of returning to it, it may no longer be the claimant’s usual occupation.

Claimant’s prospects of returning to the usual occupation

21394 When deciding the claimant’s chances of returning to the usual occupation as in DMG 21392 10. and DMG 21393 10. the DM should remember that there is no burden of proof on the claimant. The DM should try to judge the extent of the claimant’s prospects in an objective way.

21395 The DM needs to determine whether or not the permitted period ended before the first day that is referred for a decision. The DM need not decide exactly how long it lasts in each case. But if the DM

1. accepts that the claimant is available only

  • 1.1 in their usual occupation or
  • 1.2 at a level of pay that they are used to receiving or
  • 1.3 both 1.1 and 1.2 and

2. determines that the claimant is not available before the end of the 13 weeks beginning with the date of claim because the DM considers that the period which can be allowed (1) has ended and

3. receives an appeal from the claimant against the JSA decision the DM should make a submission as to what, in the DM’s opinion, was a reasonable period to allow in the circumstances of the case, and the reasons for that opinion.

(1 JSA Regs, reg 16(3))

21396 Factors that should be taken into account in deciding the extent of the claimant’s prospects of returning to the usual occupation include

1. the claimant’s age

2. the claimant’s experience

3. the claimant’s efficiency at the usual occupation

4. the number of vacancies in the usual occupation in the location(s) that the claimant is prepared to work in

5. the number of other persons seeking vacancies in the same occupation and location

6. whether the claimant’s previous employment in the usual occupation has been terminated or only suspended

7. whether there is any evidence that the claimant would be unlikely to obtain the usual occupation, for example where the claimant has been previously dismissed by a major employer.

Usual occupation

21397 To determine the claimant’s usual occupation the DM should consider the claimant’s
previous types of employment and not just the last employment.

21398 Whether claimants have a usual occupation and if so what that occupation is, are
questions of fact that should be decided by examining

1. their record of employment and

2. the occupation that they are seeking.

21399 If claimants have followed a particular occupation for a long time and are seeking
further employment in that occupation, it is normally their usual occupation. But this
may not be so clear if, for example, there

1. is a record of short-term employment in different occupations or

2. has been a recent change of occupation.

21400 Claimants do not have a usual occupation if they have never established themselves in an occupation. This may be the case if, for example, they have

1. never worked or

2. had only intermittent periods of employment or

3. followed a variety of occupations for short periods.

21401 An occupation that has previously been a person’s usual occupation ceases to be the usual occupation if they abandon it, for example

1. on health grounds or

2. as a matter of preference or

3. because industrial changes mean that it no longer exists.

21402 Where claimants have trained for an occupation but never worked in it that occupation cannot be their usual occupation.

21403 Claimants who start a new occupation may be regarded as having a usual occupation after a reasonable period of employment in that new occupation if

1. they have never had a usual occupation or

2. they have abandoned a usual occupation.

21404 What is a reasonable period depends on all of the circumstances.

1. If the claimant intends to follow that occupation in the future, two or three weeks employment is normally enough.

2. But a longer period is required if there is a doubt about the claimant’s suitability for the occupation, for example where they have previously left that occupation because of alleged unsuitability.

21405 For claimants who leave their usual occupation temporarily, for example on health grounds or because of a temporary industrial recession

1. it remains their usual occupation if they have prospects of resuming it but

2. it ceases to be their usual occupation if DMG 21401 3. applies.

Note: If they have followed another occupation meanwhile, that may become their usual occupation.

21406 Where claimants regularly followed more than one occupation for a substantial part of each week, each of those occupations is their usual occupation.

21407 Claimants lose their usual occupation if

1. they have

1.1 retired from it (either voluntarily or compulsorily) or

1.2 left for a reason that would suggest that the claimant cannot go back to it and

2. it was so specialized that they would be unable to obtain it elsewhere, for example, a senior

  • 2.1 bank official or
  • 2.2 civil servant or
  • 2.3 local government officer.

21408 But if claimants retire from a situation in employment of a more general nature, for example clerical work, typing, machine operating, it remains their usual occupation if they

1. are continuing to seek and

2. may be able to obtain that employment from a different employer.

Level of pay

21409 Level of pay means the gross wage or salary – that is before any deductions for tax, NI contributions etc. It means the amount of wages the claimant earns.

Example 1

Betty is used to receiving £250 for working 35 hours a week. A vacancy is available offering £250 for working 37 hours a week. This is at the same level of pay.

Example 2

Robert is used to receiving £250 for working 40 hours a week. A vacancy is available offering £9,500 a year for working 35 hours a week. This is at a lower level of pay.

Used to receiving

21410 If the claimant’s last job lasted for a long period the DM can accept that the level of pay received in it is the level the claimant is used to receiving.

21411 The latest, or any other, level of pay is not relevant if it was only received for a few months and was clearly higher or lower than the level the claimant usually receives. But any pay rise or promotion would be relevant if it was in a job that had lasted for a long time.

Example

Frank has worked for a local supermarket for two years and two months. For the first two years he is paid an annual salary of £12,000. At the beginning of his third year he is given a pay rise and gets an annual salary of £12,200. After two months, he loses his job and claims JSA. He tells a claimant adviser that he wants a wage of £12,200. Frank is used to receiving a level of pay of £12,200 per year.

21412 The DM should disregard any wage increase that has been awarded to employees in the claimant’s last employment since the claimant became unemployed. The level of pay the claimant is used to receiving is the level in fact received in the past, not the level the claimant would probably be getting if still employed.

21413 Deliberately left blank.

End.

Reducing the possible length of a Permitted Period from 13 Weeks to 4 Weeks

Good reason for a refusal or failure to apply for or accept if offered a job vacancy

Is formally reducing the possible length of a Permitted Period from Thirteen Weeks to Four Weeks just another element of Operation Red Meat?

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Very little of the discussion that I recently saw about the plan to reduce the permitted period during which a claimant may restrict their jobsearch after making a new claim for unemployment benefit, a claim incidentally not linking back to the previous claim period for such a benefit, was, to my mind, grounded in reality.

First and foremost, no claimant has ever had a right to a 13 week permitted period.

Secondly, and I confess of being unaware of this before a few weeks ago, there is a minimum definite entitlement to a one week permitted period. However, that period does not start during the first face to face interview at a Jobcentre.

It starts at the date of claim after any waiting days and so may have been exhausted by the time someone is physically seen at a Jobcentre which incidentally is why I think I was unaware of the set minimum. The client would only be told of its existence after it had expired if they were ever told about it at all.

Waiting days?

Now thereby hangs a tale.

About a decade or so ago, someone raised the issue of their rationale on the Department for Work and Pensions’ intranet site.

Some interesting debate followed as no one could remember a time when they had not existed, but no one had ever been told, even on formal training courses as to the point of them.

Some chap surmised that as they clearly dated back within the legislation to the Labour Exchanges Act 1909, they might have been designed to save staff time in an era when someone might have gone to the Labour Exchange to make a claim after losing their job then walked out of the office almost straight away with the details of an employer and a job on offer, never to be heard from again. His claim or more likely appointment for one might then be abandoned after the three waiting days were up.

We are talking of an era for most jobseekers when one did not have the hassle of filling in application forms; compiling and sending off of CVs (I strongly recommend against generic ones); first, if not second interviews; psychometric tests and the like.

As the old Jobclub slogan said, “Getting a job is a job in itself!”

One might have back in 1911 walked out of a job on a Friday and got another of a Monday, although possibly in a wholly different line of work from one’s previous employment.

Thankfully, no one has ever thought to increase the number of waiting days, currently now seven, which have nothing to do with the date set for a first payment on a claim, to reflect today’s labour market.

How would 13 weeks sound in that context?

The length of an individual permitted period should be set by factors that vary from an individual client to an individual client even within the same occupational area and labour market locale. The UK labour market is not, moreover, geographically and occupationally unitary.

Let me explain, two Members of Parliament sign on after losing their seats at a General Election. There was a spike in such claims after the 1997 General Election.

Should these two professionals, no laughing at the back, both get 13 weeks apiece or should we consider factors like their previous work experience and qualifications before entering Parliament, the value of which may be argued to have diminished over time so the longer the time they held their seat, the less their significance in today’s labour market?

Does not sound so easy, does it?

The one MP held a seat out in the sticks, the other near London. Should we take that into account?

What if one of our losers was a Labour Party MP before 1st May 1997? His party is now in the ascendant. Should that impact on his Jobseeker’s Agreement, as it was known back then?

An MP would not be able to argue that they should restrict their jobsearch to their usual occupation during any agreed permitted period:

21407 Claimants lose their usual occupation if

1. they have

1.1 retired from it (either voluntarily or compulsorily) or

1.2 left for a reason that would suggest that the claimant cannot go back to it and

2. it was so specialized that they would be unable to obtain it elsewhere, for example, a senior

  • 2.1 bank official or
  • 2.2 civil servant or
  • 2.3 local government officer.

Decision Maker’s Guide Volume 4 Chapter 21

The JSAg set out the details of the jobsearch to be pursued during a permitted period. Yes, one did not and does not have carte blanche even during the permitted period to do what one likes and may be sanctioned for not complying with it.

Those with tidy minds and/or who are instinctively wary of folk exercising discretion rise to the fore in all organisations. As a consequence, there were times when local instructions, sorry, guidance, went out to simplify the process, for example, if V was looking for W and had X experience (with Y qualifications and/or certificates) then they should get a permitted period of exactly Z weeks, not a week more not a week less.

In other words, the length of a permitted period was being set with little reference to the detail of a client’s circumstances.

And every so often some folk would pop around to check the ‘quality’ of the JSAgs against the official instructions and the local interpretation.

I assume staff are not steered in such ways today.

I only ever took one benefit claim, a complex one involving an under 18, got it right first time, reasoned the only was down after that and then successfully dodged the required training for claim taking for the rest of my time as a Restart Adviser. I only ever cursorily reviewed JSAgs in that role and the by the numbers versions barely got a glance. They were useless in most cases as they bore little relation to the circumstances of the person in front of me and probably had not been much better when drawn up with the client months before our meeting.

I not long later moved from that particular high point in my career to be an Inner City Officer.

And in that role, I came across some curious coves, one of my clients, on probation told me upfront, that he had committed personal cheque fraud whilst holding a senior position in a local authority finance department wherein he had oversight over budgets running into millions of pounds.

He was convinced that his personal indiscretion should not be a barrier to him seeking and securing a job in his former occupation.

I took the less charitable view, in his mind I suspect, that any future prospective employer might think that the local authority for which he had worked had struck lucky that his personal fraud had been uncovered before any concerns were raised about his handling of public money.

I did say that if he wished to salvage some of his past experience that he would need to focus on employment wherein he would not have sole responsibility for matters of finance and whatever the legal position regarding declaration of past offences he should give consideration as to the appropriateness of his not declaring his own if he decided to focus on jobs in finance.

There used to be back then relatively cheap fidelity bonds that savvy employers might take out to cover them against loss when employing someone with this gentleman’s background.

Some of the comments about the shortening of the possible length of a permitted period did bring up issues about professional competencies, the maintenance thereof and so on. I have no intention of going into that because that way madness lies.

I would observe a point lost in some of the discussion that due to how some people lose their job, their personal circumstances and/or help they receive from their employer after being formally notified of redundancy such as time off for job interviews and jobsearch support paid for by their company that they, quite often professionals, get a goodly long pre-claim permitted period than many others experience.

And how one loses one job should have a bearing on the length of one’s permitted period. We do not want folk guilty of professional misconduct being permitted to focus on work for which they have made themselves unsuitable.

Screaming I am a professional or I have just graduated from university with no work experience relevant to my degree, I demand the longest available permitted period is really not acceptable.

One did get the sense some journalists were thinking of what might happen if they had to sign on as unemployed.

Let me reassure you, folks, if you are middle class and, in particular, have family, friends and professional acquaintances who stand by you, then you will, odds on, not be signing on for as long as the men and women losing their jobs here in Birmingham at GKN this summer, even though many might feel them to be more highly skilled than you and in proper jobs.

I strongly suspect, because of a combination of factors, including Hard Brexit that those men and women may not, most of them, get jobs as good as the ones they will lose this year, ever again.

I hesitate to comment on the employability of some members of the Commentariat outside of their chosen profession.

What did strike me, as it often does on these occasions, is how well intentioned folk as well as those with a political axe to grind, do the (registered) unemployed a major disservice.

Clearly this announcement was part of Operation Red Meat (Save Bozo) and another crackdown on scroungers, a crackdown now over 400 years old in English Social Security legislation and still going strong.

The overwhelming majority on unemployment benefit are doing their damndest to find and secure employment. Do, please, stop providing ammunition to those who would claim otherwise.

In my experience, as an Adviser and I know I am not alone in this, folk do not, by and large, stick rigidly within the permissions of permitted periods and JSAgs. As you will see by the foregoing they are hardly likely to be much of value, but they do form part of the initial claim process and for most people at that point they just want to get their money sorted out, everything else, like “a poxy little form” to the contents of which they must agree, is just an unwanted distraction (as it quite often is for hard pressed staff).

I have, on occasion, counselled people to reduce the quantity and range of their job applications so they might put more time into making fewer, more targeted, better quality approaches, that show them in their best light to prospective employers.

I have observed to some clients that they would be a few quid worse off in a job they had been offered, even with in work benefits. I received responses like better than being on the dole; there is a pay review a few months after I start; there may be over time (and there is a nice loophole about Family Credit that I may exploit, remarked one client. Tell me more, I said. He did and I shared the knowledge around); it is a foot in the door; it is easier to get a job when you are in work than not …

And that is true, employers, odd people quite often, are flattered if you want to give up a job you already have, best you have already had it for a few months though and kept your nose clean, to come and work for them.

The longer you are unemployed, rightly or wrongly, the more you present like damaged goods to a prospective employer.

The unemployed, like the left behind, whoever they are this week, have agency, minds of their own and, yes, some of their decisions about jobs and training may seem bizarre to other folk.

I do wish people would empathise with that a lot more than some do, especially those who claim to be speaking for them.

I mention the left behind, because of some of the recent responses to aspects of the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper.

I was disappointed, but not particularly surprised to see folk (and businesses) in disadvantaged areas being prayed in aid of the White Paper by its supporters and some of its critics, but without any real sense of them as being anything more than just numbers and, in some cases, revenue streams.

Effective engagement with local folk and businesses is important in the context of socio-economic regeneration and by that, I do not need mean drive by visits to employers in Burnley and cosy chats with old folk in cafes in Leigh.

I find it, frankly, patronising and deeply worrying if any political party thinks such activity is a basis on which to build good, inclusive policy.

Anyway, I digress.

The next blog post in this series of four is a copy and paste of the guidance relating to setting a permitted period.

The second will be on the subject of Refusal of (Suitable) Employment sanctions, their relative rarity and the grounds on which they may be challenged.

The fourth and final post will consider the wider labour market issues of the policy.

Why do I refer to claimants as clients?

I think claimant sounds rather demeaning.

And I have always believed customers to be inappropriate as one may not shop around for one’s benefits.

Some Useful Legal Insight and Comment on Lisa Nandy and the Strange Case of the Virile Viscount’s Potholed Drive … and a Dash of Jolyon Maugham …

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The following content has been taken from a Twitter thread on the Charleston Trust by Barbara Rich.

The comments in italics are mine.

The true facts of this story appear to be that the Charleston Trust, a museum, has a legal right for its staff and visitors to use the driveway, but the owner of the driveway has no obligation to improve its condition.

The museum trustees were, primarily, awarded the public funds on the grounds, showing that the state of the driveway was discouraging repeat visits and limiting potential events and festivals at the museum.

Honestly, I wish the government had found some way to get at least a partial contribution from the estate itself. But in reality, the vast amount of traffic using that road would be associated with the museum. Far over and above ordinary use for a rural road leading to a farm and a retreat.

Rights and obligations between landowners and those who have a right to use a road across their land are a fertile source of private law disputes. The precise terms are more likely than not to have been agreed between previous owners as they are interests in land which go with it

There is, however, public interest in how public funds are spent, and a discussion worth having as to whether grants from these funds should ever be allowed to confer an incidental benefit on a private individual or their land, but that should be informed by a better understanding of the facts of an individual case.

Also, it seems relevant that the application went through the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, the job of which is to work out what sort of infrastructure/investments will provide the most financial benefit to the local area

LEPs also do things like paying towards shops to get new fronts/signage etc. On paper, an undeserved benefit to individual business owners. But at a town level, can reduce the appearance of blight and invite in more footfall.

I am amused by the irony, but insufficiently knowledgeable about road building to say whether this is a literal example of levelling up, or of levelling down the surface of the road, but it is unquestionably levelling of some description.

The title documents which evidence the rights over the road enjoyed by the Charleston Trust, and the limited obligation of the landowner and other users to contribute to its maintenance in accordance with their proportionate use.

Where would we be without Jolyon Maugham?

These tweets do not mention that the Charleston Trust is a charity, established for public benefit.

Its land comes with the right to use the access road and the obligation to contribute proportionately to its maintenance.

There is no connection with the 2009 Parliamentary expenses scandal.

“The driveway is basically fine”

The funding also provides for the construction of a new cycle path, and improvements to the road will allow access by bus, potentially reducing private car travel.

“The shrine to the upper middle classes that is the Bloomsbury House at Charleston”

The proles clearly do not appreciate EM Forster, author of A Room with a View, Howards End and A Passage to India and are unaware of John Maynard Keynes?

Maybe they are not afraid of Virgina Woolf.

The charity’s objects include encouraging and promoting appreciation of the arts for all. And it employs people in jobs not usually regarded as upper middle class, such as catering and cleaning.

“The driveway is owned by Lord Gage”

It is, but Charleston’s right of way is a registered interest in land which will burden the owner’s land forever. It is no accident that the technical term for Charleston’s right here is “dominant” and Lord Gage and his successors’ “servient”.

And for context, this is where the funding of improved access to Charleston fits within the allocation of £85 million to South East Local Enterprise Partnership.

£300,000 is about 0.35% of the total for the region.

I have been reminded that easements are “incorporeal hereditaments” or in modern non-legal English, lasting legal rights connected with land, but which are not tangible in the way of a house or farm or field.

I’ve had a lot of engagement with this thread, and tried to reply to as many responses as possible. One thing that no one has come back to me on is my invitation to consider the same land, and same legal arrangements, but with counterfactual attributes of the landowners involved.

Ask yourself if you would think it an objectionable use of levelling up funds if Charleston was former Firle Estate servants’ quarters turned into a museum of Sussex rural working class life, and Firle Place and the estate had become an armed forces injuries rehabilitation centre.

I end on a classic bit of whataboutery

Although it is curious the apparently disproportionate number of payments and grants made from public funds, which just happen to personally benefit Conservative Party members. One of the first Lottery payments was £12.5m to Winston Churchill MP, to buy his grandfather’s effects.

Lisa Nandy and the Strange Case of the Virile Viscount’s Potholed Drive …

Lisa Nandy and the Strange Case of the Virile Viscount’s Potholed Drive …

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Is this, I wonder, a case of keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer?

Lisa Nandy is a once and future candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party.

Who am I?

I am a well trained, thank you SQW, and experienced Treasury Green Book standard project appraiser.

I was not impressed by Nandy’s or, I suspect, her SpaAd’s foray into socio-economic regeneration project appraisal between Christmas and New Year 2021.

One should be wary of riffing off an article in the Daily Mail and a consequent Twitter pile on …

… by the upper middle class with nothing much to do.

Socio-economic regeneration, incidentally, is what the grown ups call levelling up. The socio bit is an attempt to remind folk it is about people, if not individuals, rather than mere business units.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities did not support etc, but approved a bid for funding made through the Getting Building Fund to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership that had gone through the LEP’s rigorous appraisals process.

The bid was the latest of three submitted to the LEP.

All three were successful.

The LEP clearly does not have the delegated authority to approve a bid exceeding £299,999.99.

The second paragraph of Nandy’s letter amounts to little more than padding and was cleared designed to play to the gallery. One assumes the letter was never meant to be private correspondence.

The second paragraph is not, therefore, worthy of comment.

The third paragraph is where Nandy or her SpAd dives head first into the shallow end.

That the estate is a beneficiary of the project is beyond dispute.

There was no need to write to Michael Gove about the details of the project as had Nandy’s SpAd bothered to look on the SELEP website they would have found all the detail on the website. And spent three hours or so reading through it as I did. Admittedly, I am trained to tease out the details of such projects and looked up other information elsewhere on the Internet to put the project into some wider local context.

Apart from anything else, the funding for this project will come out of the SELEP’s allocated funds and is in line with SELEP’s own plans.

The meeting of a sub group of the SELEP Board, the Accountability Board, that approved the project for submission to DLUHC was chaired by SELEP’s deputy chair and there were Conservative Councillors in attendance as SELEP Board members. Hardly unsurprising given all of the highest tier of the local authorities in the SELEP area are Conservative controlled.

The chair, Christian Brodie and Sarah Dance, deputy chair of SELEP are not Conservative Councillors. A cursory online search revealed no record of any party affiliation, but a lot of information about two successful, experienced and clearly well regarded business people. The sort of folk with whom Rachel Reeves and Sir Keir Starmer QC claim they want to build partnerships.

How in God’s name does Nandy think a system may be devised to stop people from being lobbied? I, a junior civil servant was more than once subject to some discreet and not so discreet lobbying. Surely anyone in public life, including a Member of Parliament is subject to approaches from folk, especially constituents to put in a good word; help a person catch the eye of someone or nudge something to the top of a pile?

Ultimately, one has to rely on people meeting the ethical standards of their organisation and having some sense of personal morals of their own that may set a higher standard for their behaviour, both personal, private and official.

Boris Johnson, as we know, is not such.

A Duty to Process

This may sound a bit pompous, but Nandy needs to get her head around the fact that appraisers, first and foremost, owe a duty to process, to see it is applied fairly, rigorously and thoroughly, without fear and favour in all cases.

Secondly, they owe a duty to the applicants, many of whom may be small organisations, quite often in the voluntary and community sector, who have put their heart into their applications. They deserve the appraiser’s best endeavours.

Thirdly, appraisers have a duty to their employers and political masters.

A cross cutting theme is a duty of appraisers to themselves, their sense of self respect and, let me be frank, a sense of their own self preservation and that includes not giving in to unwarranted pressure and lobbying.

Applicants do have a right of appeal against decisions with which they disagree, a right to know why they were turned down and by whom as well as an entitlement, legal if not moral, to feedback and advice for future bid writing.

I, when a civil servant and member of the Labour Party sat in meetings with Councillors of other parties, some of whom knew of my party allegiance. It would have been wrong of me to have suspected them of being venal, because of their party memberships and vice versa.

We did, I think, good business for our respective constituents. My role was partly to speak up for groups disadvantaged in the labour market. I well recall working with a Liberal Democrat Councillor on issues relating to the differently able and those with physical disabilities.

Real politics is built on consensuses, even if they be only temporary and/or one particular issue. It is how we get things done at a practical level in government.

The comment about taxpayer money being protected at all times is frankly beneath contempt with regard to this project.

Egregious means outstandingly bad, even shocking which again is inappropriate in the context of this funding application. An alternative now archaic meaning of egregious is remarkably good.

One does wonder if this project would be acceptable to Nandy if it were in Grim Oop North Land?

One would be very surprised if a future Labour Government committed to net zero, greater use of public transport and wider access to the countryside and culture for all would oppose the funding of such a project wherever it was located.

The Museum of Wigan Life

The Museum of Wigan Life in Wigan with its Labour run council and Labour Member of Parliament was the beneficiary of £1.6million of capital funding for its refurbishment in 2010, £500,000 of Heritage Lottery Fund money was matched by (Labour run) Wigan Council and Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust.

I make no comment about the appropriateness of such funding or its cultural significance outside of Wigan. I suspect the Museum of Wigan Life is not of international significance, but I would not necessarily begrudge it funding to improve, say, accessibility to the building.

I would point out to Nandy the dangers of joining the media in an ignorant attack on a project funded even if only partly by public or Lottery money.

There is nothing more than The Sun or the Daily Mail like to do than run an article demanding to know why a legally constituted lesbian collective of lone parents who have been subject to domestic abuse has received, say, Lottery funding when Fred and his mates, who meet up once every Wednesday in the back room of a pub to reminisce about their time on National Service have been refused monies by the Lottery to attend the D Day celebrations in Normandy.

The collective will have jumped through numerous hoops to get their money when, odds on, Fred would want the Lottery monies for his day trip paid into his personal bank account. Fred’s application would have been sifted out at the preliminary stage of assessing a round of bids.

You may, dear reader, wish to skip to the end as I now propose to turn in detail to the Charleston Trust.

Charlton Trust Applications in Detail

Charleston is an artists’ house and studio museum of international significance in the heart of the South Downs National Park in East Sussex and home to the renowned Charleston Festival.

The Charleston Trust has preserved what was for a few summers the rural retreat of the Bloomsbury Set.

The initial tranche of funding, although there is no suggestion in the documentation that this was a three phase project in funding terms from the outset, was for a loan of £120,000 from the SELEP South East Growing Places Fund to create a café-restaurant in the Threshing Barn on the farmhouse’s estate. This work was part of a wider £7.6m multi-year scheme, the Centenary Project, which aimed to transform the operations of the Charleston farmhouse museum.

When the application was submitted to SELEP, £4.5m had been raised from private contributions, with a further £2.7m from public sector bodies, including the Heritage Lottery Fund. The details of the project application may be found here and here.

The GPF was made available to SELEP for investment as a recyclable loan scheme. Loan repayment schedules for each project are agreed within the credit agreement which is put in place at the start of the project. Repayments against these projects are returned to the central pot for reallocation to new projects.

The loan was approved with a completion date of Autumn 2018.

I have a penchant for schemes recycling funding that may not be snatched back at the end of the financial year.

The second and third applications that were made to the Getting Building Fund are fully linked, in retrospect, although a cursory examination suggests that the awarding of the first sum of money did not guarantee that the second amount of monies would be forthcoming as a result. I would not, however, rule out it being a major factor in the decision making around the second application for funds.

Some details of the second of the three applications:

“Charleston is currently accessed via a farm track off the A27 east of Firle in East Sussex. Whilst improvements have been made to the access off the A27 in recent years with the introduction of a ghost island right hand turn lane, the access track is collapsing and riddled with potholes and large cracks.

Visitors frequently face punctures or drive into the ditch trying to navigate access. There is significant visitor feedback to indicate that visitors are discouraged from repeat visits due to the poor quality of access.

As a result of the poor single carriageway track, we are limited in our ability to grow the events and festivals programme which our new buildings were developed to encourage. The project comprises the resurfacing, widening and provision of additional drainage to the farm track and will improve and increase access to the site to allow for the increased visitor numbers and to encourage repeat visits. This investment will secure the long-term maintenance and viability of the asset. The lack of access is currently an obstacle to growth.

We are also seeking additional project funding (outside the scope of this business case) to
enable the creation of a new cycle route into the South Downs National Park. The landowner, Firle Estate, would reclassify the route accordingly. A new public cycle route into the South Downs National Park would connect to the proposed Highways England A27 East of Lewes shared use path connecting Lewes with Eastbourne. This off-road route alongside the A27 will be completed by 2022 and will enable cyclists and pedestrians to safely access to Charleston and the South Downs National Park from Lewes, Polegate, Eastbourne and the East Coastway railway stations in between.

Cyclists will be able to make use of the free visitor facilities and bicycle repair facilities at Charleston which have been funded by the South Downs National Park, as well as Charleston’s garden which is now free for all to visit as a place of wellbeing and creativity.”

As one will note, we are talking about not just improving the access to the Charleston Trust property and enhancing its opportunities to raise additional revenue, but also helping to maximise the return on investments made by another public body in the immediate area. The funding was, therefore, a partnership bid to the SELEP by The Charleston Trust, The Firle Estate, South Downs National Park and East Sussex County Council with the Trust as the lead partner. The estimated value of project management support provided, in kind, by the Firle Estate was £10,000.

The £89,000 sought and subsequently awarded was to repair the surface of the access road and allow improvement works to drainage. The repairs were as far as the entrance off the access road to the Trust property. No money was sought for work on the road beyond that point to a farm on the Firle Estate and just past that, Tilton House.

If anyone seems on the surface to be getting a cost free benefit from the road improvement then it would seem to be Tilton House, but any division of the cost for improving the roadway after the entrance to the Chartleton Trust is a private matter between the Firle Estate and the owners of Tilton House.

The project summary of the third and final application:

“To widen and resurface and improve drainage to the access track to Charleston from its junction with the A27 east of Firle. Charleston is an artists’ house and studio museum of international significance in the heart of the South Downs National Park in East Sussex and home to the renowned Charleston Festival.

Poor drainage has led to erosion of the subsurface of the existing road which has led to a broken surface with cracks and large potholes. The road is now in a very poor state. Our Access Consultant, Jayne Earnscliffe, made the following comment in a recent audit of the site:

‘The road is in a dire state of repair and is no longer fit for purpose for safe or comfortable use by drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. Areas of the road have subsided and the going is treacherous in places’.

Our business plan focuses on growing audience numbers and encouraging return visits to our programme of events and exhibitions; however, the poor condition of the access track is actively discouraging repeat visits and is a barrier to growth.”

The sum sought and subsequently awarded was £240,542 and built upon the previous £89,293 and, given the nature of both applications, they added value to the first £120,000 granted in the form of a soft loan.

There is a logical progression in terms of loan and grant funding.

I would not be an appraiser, if I did not have some minor quibbles.

The third application sought £240,542, citing the previous £89,293 GBF grant as matched funding. I would be inclined not to count the figure as match, preferring to see a valuation of the road as at 4th June 2021 providing the match figure. The second project enhanced the value of an existing capital asset and the road arguably counts as part of the Firle Estate’s contributions in kind to the project.

The Firle Estate’s contribution in kind for this application seems to be the same £10,000 of estimated management support as submitted previously. I would have expected a separate figure, given the additional money was not guaranteed as a result of the agreement of the £89,293.

Appraisers do not necessarily have to be negative about a project, especially if there is a sense it is being undersold.

Now to the wider perspective for a moment.

Claimant count unemployment in the Lewes area currently stands at:

Youth unemployment is relatively high. The road improvement should safeguard, if not create new permanent jobs as well as see more seasonal work available during the summer months.

Improved public transport access is proposed and this may well make getting to the location easier for those without access to private means of transport:

“Improvements to the road will also allow a regular bus service to Charleston to encourage green travel and we are in discussions with Cuckmere Travel about introducing a regular service to Charleston later this summer when the works are complete.”

In summary, the pothole project over which many got so het up was the third tranche of three phases of funding to develop the potential of the summer retreat of the Bloomsbury Set to encourage high value tourism, extend length of stay and increase spend, creating jobs in the process.

SELEP is looking to address with projects like the Charleston Trust an issue with which we are familiar here in the West Midlands, namely making the best use of a cultural asset, in their case, the Bloomsbury Set’s summer home, and here Stratford upon Avon.

How do you maximise the spending and/or stay of affluent cultured vultures in your locale?

Due Diligence and a Lack of Consistency

To forestall any comments here, on Twitter or Facebook, I would observe that any Minister or would be Minister who does not approach a report in the media about such a project as this one with some degree of scepticism is politically immature and clearly has time on their hands.

Any Minister or civil servant who signs a letter to be put in the public domain without undertaking some degree of due diligence is no better than Boris Johnson.

And on any other day of the week, Nandy and Labour are forever talking about the need for responsibility, power and funds to be devolved from central to local government organisations.

But clearly, there is some devolution we like and some we do not.

Sir Keir Starmer QC has made it clear he does not trust the local and regional officers of the Labour Party to organise the selections of Parliamentary candidates. In future, constituencies will only get to pick the candidates for their seats from shortlists drawn up by Labour Party headquarters in London.

Devolving functions and power over funds and the responsibility for them requires an acceptance of diminution of power and responsibility at the centre.

I wonder if Gove passed Nandy’s letter on to the SELEP Secretariat for a substantive reply.

I know I would have done in his place.

Twice recently in a list of places Nandy says are ripe for levelling up, she has included nowhere below a line between Wigan and Grimsby, but has included Aberdeen which the last time I looked was still in Scotland.

Gove too hankers to extend his brief beyond England and is using the United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund as a means to sideline the devolved administrations.

Do we see an area of common ground developing between Nandy and Gove?

Nandy has a novel take on localism, seemingly chatting with some old fogies in a café in Leigh, Lancashire, and then drawing up socio-regeneration plans for places like Yorkshire.

Gove with his eye on Number Ten, in contrast, communes with the thoughts of prominent Italians of 15th Century Italy.

Were I coaching Nandy in this line of work and using her letter as part of a performance review, I would have been desperately seeking two positives for every negative in preparation for it.

I once told off a Grade 6 civil servant for using contractions in official correspondence as the chatty style might be taken as disrespectful.

Nandy might like to consider that the community of socio-economic practioners is broadly based and many of those working within it, like Christian Brodie and Sarah Dance are doing so alongside their day jobs, they are committed to their communities and not just vote grubbing politicians passing through on the way to better things, like the leaderships of their respective parties.

Empathy is something a little absent amongst many on the Front Benches of both the Government and the Official Opposition.

A legal take and comments on the access road

Is Sir Keir Starmer QC’s Labour saying the Red Wall wants to eat rat hair and faeces, insects, maggots and mould? Is let them eat crap part of Labour’s vision of a Global Britain? Or are they lying about wanting to secure a US/UK FTA?

Standard

“A UK Labour government would aim to strike a trade deal with the United States.

In an interview with POLITICO, new Shadow International Trade Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the promise of a free-trade agreement with Washington, a key pledge of Brexiteers, must be delivered.

“The US trade deal is something that has been promised to the British people, and the government should deliver it,” the opposition frontbencher said.”

  • A post-Brexit trade deal with the US could mean UK consumers being forced to accept rodent hairs, maggots and animal faeces in their food under US regulations likely to be imposed as part of any post-Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump.
  • US regulations set out how many rat hairs or maggots are allowed to be included in common food products.
  • No such limits are allowed under UK and EU law.
  • Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Trade Minister told Business Insider that UK consumers were set for some “unpleasant surprises.”
  • Polls show that British people would prioritise protecting UK food safety standards over a free trade deal with the US.
  • UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox described this as “baseless” and “untrue.”

The reality of a Brexit trade deal with the USA

“Insect-filled chocolates, rat hair-infested noodles, and orange juice containing maggots are just some of the “horrors” UK consumers could be forced to accept if post-Brexit Britain signs a wide-ranging trade deal with the USA.

In the US, producers adhere to a “Defect Levels Handbook” which sets out the maximum number of foreign bodies like maggots, insect fragments and mould that can be in food products before they are put on the market.  

For example, US producers are allowed to include up to 30 insect fragments in a 100-gram jar of peanut butter; as well as 11 rodent hairs in a 25-gram container of paprika; or 3 milligrams of mammalian excreta (typically rat or mouse excrement) per each pound of ginger.

In the EU there are no allowable limits for foreign bodies in food products. MPs have told Business Insider they are worried that a UK-US trade deal designed by Brexiteers could open the floodgates to contaminated food.”

“Sam Lowe, a trade specialist at the Centre For European Reform, predicted that the US would want the UK to move away from EU food standards and much closer to its own in any future free trade deal negotiation.”

“The US actively dislikes many existing EU measures and will certainly pressurise the UK to jettison many of them in any FTA (Free Trade Agreement) negotiations with the UK,” Lowe told BI this week.

He was echoed by a former US Treasury official, who told BI: “Agriculture punches well above its commercial weight in trade negotiations. The prospect of agricultural exports to the UK would be a major US objective in FTA talks.”

US officials have been clear that the UK would need to change many of its rules and standards in order to sign an expansive free trade agreement with Washington, particularly in areas of sanitary and phytosanitary.

President Trump has previously criticised EU “barriers” to US farmers and manufacturers and Wilbur Ross, Trump’s Secretary of Commerce, said last October that scrapping strict EU standards in areas like food hygiene and agriculture would be a “critical component” to any post-Brexit UK-UK free trade deal.”

US agriculture is the largest single sector in the US economy, measured by the number of people working within it.

In Washington DC, on the Hill and in the White House they call those folk down on the farm, voters, whichever party controls Congress and/or holds the Presidency.

You would think Rachel Reeves, who once worked at the British Embassy in Washington, would know that, would you not?

The US President negotiates Trade Deals which must then be approved by Congress. The House Ways and Means Committee is the arbitrator, it is Irish/American dominated by descendants of the Irish Catholic diaspora.

There will, incidentally, be no US Trade Deal until the Northern Ireland Protocol is sorted.

That consummate diplomat, Sir Keir Starmer QC in July 2021 pledged that Labour would be “on the side of unionists” arguing for Northern Ireland to remain in the UK.”

“Earlier this year (2019), the US administration’s trade representative (USTR) produced a 500-page wishlist of what it would like to see included in a new free trade agreement with Britain after it has left the EU.

The report said the US was “concerned” about EU measures for “food safety and protecting human, animal, or plant life or health,” and called for the UK to ditch these strict European rules after Brexit to liberate UK-US trade.”

If Labour is serious about getting a deal to maybe sell a bit more British steel into the US market then they will have no option, but to compromise on UK food, health and hygiene standards with all the risks that entail for the UK consumer, UK agriculture and food production and their export trade.

“Enter the star spangled chlorinated chicken. If you export ready meals with chicken in them to Europe and, at some point in future, US fowl is suspected of having entered your supply chain then you may well kiss goodbye to any future business with EU27 countries.”

Divergence! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing …

“For the uninitiated, the EU Single Market is the largest single market in the world, measured by per capita disposable income. I gather even Australia is eager to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with the EU27.

By the way, they chlorinate chicken in Australia.”

They chlorinate chicken in Australia, don’t they?

UK food production is the largest single sector within UK manufacturing and has taken a battering since Hard Brexit kicked in, locking as it does businesses out of the Single Market and Customs Union.

The Hard Brexit Labour now says it will keep in place, indefinitely.

I am ever more convinced that outside of the narrow confines of his legal specialism, Sir Keir Starmer QC is just not that bright.

Starmer this week has been wandering the country saying manufacturing in England is a basket case, especially in the North West …

Trip to Barnard Castle required?

Has Labour, the self styled party of business, which wants a partnership with business, asked business whether a US/UK FTA would be of any use to them?

Maybe Labour is lying when Thomas-Symonds says his party in Government would be serious about negotiating a US/UK FTA?

Is this another element of Labour’s grand strategy of deceit to woo over voters living in the past, reminiscing about their glory days of mekkin’ things up on the Red Wall?

Labour’s Global Britain, in fact?

Are Labour stupid or dishonest?

On balance, I prefer to think the latter, because that means they understand the price of a UK/USA FTA to the 100s of 1,000s employed in UK agriculture and food production.

There are only at most 30,000 direct jobs in British steel.

Ominously, Labour has yet to unveil its plans to tackle rising inflation as the cost of living shoots up.

As food prices, in particular, rise on the high street.

The price of a UK/USA FTA would include imported US agricultural produce and food products, cheap in both quality and price on the shelves of UK shops.

Still, they do look cute, do they not?