Ex soldier left relying on foodbanks slams Cameron & Tories for abandoning war veterans #GE2015

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Infantryman Philip Wesley says the PM was happy to send soldiers into battle but has given them nothing back!

A former soldier has launched a stinging attack on David Cameron for failing to support war veterans.

Infantryman Philip Wesley says the PM was “happy” to send soldiers into battle but has given them “nothing back.”

The father-of-one says his life since leaving the Army has been one of food banks, low-paid work, soaring energy bills and expensive housing.

At every turn he has faced difficulties because of the policies of the Conservative-led government , he reveals.

Mr Wesley, 27, served five years in the Army including two tours of Afghanistan.

He had to leave in 2012 to look after his daughter Violet, now three-and-a-half.

On return to his home city of Birmingham, he found it impossible to get a council house for them to live in.

“I was laughed at. I waited two years for social housing.

“In the end the British Legion gave me the money for a deposit so I could rent privately,” he explains.

The problem was the bedroom tax. So many people hit by the bedroom tax had to move out of three-bedroom homes meaning there were not enough two-bed properties available for people such as Philip.

“To be honest with you I was expecting a lot more. I have had help from the British Legion but absolutely nothing from the MoD.

“The main issue for me was housing. I had nowhere to live and I was still at the very bottom of the list.

“There were no two bed homes that were suitable for me. It was crazy.”

His mother who has severe epilepsy has also been hit by the bedroom tax.

Because his house had no central heating he racked up a £700 electricity bill to heat the home for his daughter.

“I was alright, I put on coats but my daughter was cold,” he says matter of factly.

At one point he had to rely on foodbanks to feed his family.

“And that was when I was working,” he said.

“We are supposed to be one of the most developed countries in the world and we have people having to use foodbanks,” he adds in a video made for the Labour Party.

Mr Wesley is now studying for a computing degree at Birmingham Metropolitan University, even though this will cost him £9,000 a year in tuition fees.

While he is full of praise for the support he received from the British Legion, his verdict on Mr Cameron is damning.

“Whenever I hear David Cameron saying anything it makes my blood boil. The only thing David Cameron sees when he looks at the Armed Forces is money and how much it will cost him. It’s just all numbers to him,” he says.

And he says other veterans have experienced similar problems.

“He’s (Cameron) happy to throw us into these wars but we get nothing back. There are people who have done a hell of a lot for their country and I don’t think it’s been rewarded in the slightest,” he says.

In December, Mr Cameron praised the Armed Forces as Britain marked the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

“Everyone in this country is forever in your debt,” he said.

Labour’s Jack Dromey said: “A war hero who fought for his country has been let down by Cameron’s Britain.

“He thought he was returning to a country fit for heroes but at every turn they have made it more difficult for him and his family.

“Labour will abolish the bedroom tax that has hit Philip’s family hard.

“Labour will cut tuition fees by £3,000 so people like Philip can get on and Labour will never let our Armed Forces veteran down in this way.”

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Farage Talks Of #NMW Repeal, #ukip Say No One On It Works Over 40 Hours & Tories No One Over 30 #GE2015

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Put simply, both parties claim that they would take people on the highest weekly rate of the National Minimum Wage out of paying Income Tax, but not National Insurance and/or Value Added Tax.  Well they are lying with regards to Income Tax too.

The Tories say you will not have to pay Income Tax if you are working 30 hours or less a week.  ukip says you will not have to pay Income Tax if you are working 40 hours or less per week.  The average working week is one of 43.6 hours and over 4 million people work more than 48 hours per week.  I leave you to work out which end of the pay scale is most likely to be working those hours.

ukip has never been more than lukewarm about the NMW and Farage has now come out against it.  He has said he opposes an increase in the minimum wage because it could encourage immigrants to come to the UK.  Farage made his comments on Friday 17th April during a phone-in on BBC Radio 5 Live, when a caller asked whether he would raise the rate.

He replied, “There is a problem with doing that.  That is that if you increase the minimum wage, you may actually even attract more migrant labour.  Don’t forget, the minimum wage in Britain is now nine times what it is in Romania. If you increase it even more people would want to come.  I want to see the market adjust this.  The current proposal to increase the minimum wage, which is the Labour proposal, to put it up by 2019 to about £8 an hour, I don’t think an marginal increase is really going to make a difference.  I think the minimum wage was designed to be a floor and it has actually become a ceiling.  Unless we restrict the flow of migrant labour … I think if we do increase the minimum wage, we will effectively just set a new glass ceiling.”

Many people on the NMW at or below the highest rate already do not earn enough now to pay Income Tax, but they have no option but to pay VAT.  VAT bears down hardest on those on low incomes, whether they are in or out of work.  It bears down on those on fixed incomes like pensioners and those on Social Security.  It bears down on those with little or no opportunity to improve their earnings.  ukip made a bit of a joke, at the launch of their policies for women, about cutting VAT on sanitary towels, a product that only 49% of the electorate may regard as non essential.

Two right wing parties in this General Election are posing as the friend of the working class.  Working man, in ukip’s case, as women need not apply.  And ukip thinks women mistake its candour for misogyny.  When it comes to the NMW and Income Tax both parties are lying.

Does #MichaelWhite, #Guardian Know What Grown-up Migration Debate Would Look Like? #RochesterandStrood

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“Downing Street is seeking to respond to the threat from the right from Ukip.  But Cameron also wants to show Tory Eurosceptics he is serious about reform.  They have said in recent weeks that the plan to crack down on benefit tourism showed No 10 was not serious about introducing major reforms because there is relatively little evidence of benefit abuse by EU citizens.”

Barroso warns Cameron that arbitrary migration cap would breach EU law

(Guardian, Sunday 19th October, 2014)

Michael White of the Guardian thinks thatPaul Collier, a distinguished Oxford professor of public policy, a weighty, progressive intellectual of international repute, author of Exodus,” “has thought about” migration “harder than most of us.”

White refers to this article by Collier as an example of Collier’s weighty pondering.  Pondering that at one point refers to assimilation and at a later point, integration.  White may be unaware that these are two very different concepts, not in any way interchangeable and that assimilation is something for which the BNP calls and which, since Doncaster (see ‘Culture’), ukip is demanding too.  I would expect Collier to know the difference and know just how inflammatory calls for assimilation happen to be.

When it come to attitudes towards Social Security, Collier says, “As to diversity, it involves a trade-off: as it increases, variety is enhanced but cohesion reduced.  Variety is good but, unfortunately, as cohesion erodes voters become less willing to support generous welfare programmes.

There is a universal psychological tendency for inconvenient truths to be denigrated, and this is certainly inconvenient for the left. But it is not speculation: I describe some of the supporting research in my book Exodus, and rigorous new experimental research by the Oxford political scientists Sergi Pardos and Jordi Muñoz finds that immigration has just this effect, especially on benefits that are targeted at the poor.”

Firstly, when was there a time in the last forty years or so that the United Kingdom has had “generous welfare programmes”?  Moreover, this is not the United States of America, we do not have welfare programmes.  The word programme is used in the UK in connection with back to work support, for example the fatally flawed Work Programme.

Secondly, attitude surveys going back 30 yerars show that voters have, starting then, become less tolerant of recipients of what many, like the Daily Mail, parts of ukip and IDS, believe to be generous welfare hand outs.  Bizarrely, some of those holding those views are themselves long term beneficiaries of Social Security.  Was there a lot of (im)migration going on in the early 1980s or was Mrs Thatcher ramping up the rhetoric against people signing on?

Thirdly, where is this law of nature that says as diversity increases, variety is enhanced, but cohesion reduced?  Does that not suppose that there was cohesion at the outset?  For the record, for reasons more than simply their discriminatory attitudes, me and mine have precious little in common with ukip’s supporters, except where we were born.  We would, regardless of their views about migration and their attidudes towards the presence of locally born ‘foreigners’, still not be cohering with this group.  We are, for example, opposed to foxhunting.  Bearing the latter in mind, may I observe that I find ukip’s support, from top to bottom, to be unspeakable?  They are a pack of economic and social Luddites.  Let me be frank, I find it hard not to think about them, in the way that they think about migrants, as much as I try not so to do.

As an aside, are migrants from other European Union countries remaining in the United Kingdom indefinitely?  We are using the words, migration and immigration, as meaning the same thing, but an immigrant is someone who arrives with the intention of staying.  Surely we should be using migrant to describe people who behave like migratory birds do?  Surely that is surely a grown up way to debate this issue?  Collier, as shown above, uses the word immigration.  Migrant is, in the mouths of some, becoming anyone who is not white British, period.

White says that, “Unlike most of us, Collier even has a practical remedy for David Cameron as he makes a poor fist of trying to slow down inward migration from Eastern Europe without overtaking Angela Merkel’s patience or the limited imagination of rules-bound Brussels apparatchiks. As another Labour MP whispered to me during the Eastleigh by-election, one reason why would-be migrants of the poorer kind risk freezing at Calais is that Britain’s welfare payments are not all determined by past contributions: “We could change that without EU permission.” ” Collier actually says, “Perhaps it is that, unlike in the rest of Europe, access to our welfare system is not determined by past contributions.”  in other words, Collier has no evidence for his ‘solution’, but White turns it into one!

We may, of course, change how one becomes eligible for Social Security payments without EU permission.  The Coalition started a major round of doing just that on coming to power.  Those changes apply to all seeking to claim, regardless of country of origin.  One might think that Collier and White (sounds like a 1950s department store) had not heard of Personal Independence Payments and Universal Credit.

White should perhaps check Collier’s weighty article of 16th March, 2012, “My fiscal nightmares” wherein Collier says, “A prudent government protects the balance sheet while running a large fiscal deficit. It does so by drastically changing the composition of public spending. Public consumption is massively reduced, concentrating on components that commit spending far into the future. The top priority is therefore to reduce entitlement spending: benefits and pensions.”

Is the current debate providing Collier with cover for arguing again for his top priority?  Collier also buys into the idea that the UK faced, in 2012, the same position as Greece.  I beg to differ and I have got Robert Skidelsky, Professor of Political Economy at Warwick University and the author of the definitive biography of John Maynard Keynes, on my side:

“The national debt is a burden on future generations: This fallacy is repeated so often that it has entered the collective unconscious. The argument is that if the current generation spends more than it earns, the next generation will be forced to earn more than it spends to pay for it.

But this ignores the fact that holders of the very same debt will be among the supposedly burdened future generations. Suppose my children have to pay off the debt to you that I incurred. They will be worse off. But you will be better off. This may be bad for the distribution of wealth and income, because it will enrich the creditor at the expense of the debtor, but there will be no net burden on future generations.

The principle is exactly the same when the holders of the national debt are foreigners (as with Greece), though the political opposition to repayment will be much greater.”

Post-crash economics: some common fallacies about austerity

As we hold our own debt, we have a vested interest in not calling it in lest we bring down our economy, down around our ears.  I am assuming Collier is not necessarily a Keynesian when it comes to National Debt?

Whatever else Collier may be, he seems to know as much about Social Security systems both here and elsewhere in Europe as the Mayor of Calais.  You may still be able to claim some benefits if you travel or move abroad, or if you are already living abroad.  What you’re entitled to depends on where you are going and how long for.  This is where you, as a United Kingdom citizen, can claim benefits:

European Economic Area (EEA) countries

The following countries have benefits arrangements with the UK:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden

Switzerland is not a member of the EEA but is treated as an EEA country for certain benefits.

Other countries with UK benefits arrangements

The following countries have social security agreements with the UK:

  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Canada
  • Channel Islands
  • Macedonia
  • Israel
  • Jamaica
  • Kosovo
  • Mauritius
  • Montenegro
  • New Zealand
  • the Philippines
  • Serbia
  • Turkey
  • USA

Let us not forget moving or retiring abroad and, of course that you have the right to live and work in any European Economic Area (EEA) country, if you are a UK citizen.

For the record, Collier and White, no one is assessed for entitlement to tax credits on the basis of National Insurance Contributions, regardless of where they come from within the EEA, including the UK.

I have already written in some depth about the Social Security contributory principle here so please treat that post as an addendum to this one.  I would add that making changes to our own systems in order to seek to deny non contributory Social Security to migrants would be costly, particularly if the aim were to run, for example, three types of Jobseeker’s Allowance (Contribution Based, Income Based and Migrant Income/Contribution Based) alongside each other.  There would be even greater potential for under and over payments and, arguably more potential for fraud amongst people receiving MICB JSA.  Not forgetting, of course, that JSAPS and ESAPs are sinking as Universal Credit grinds to a halt on the slipway.

I have spoken to Michael White via Twitter about means testing the free bus passes for old people.  He was waxing lyrical about means testing entitlement to the pass saving money, apart from the fact he had no evidence from a Social and Economic Cost Benefit Allowance to prove his point, he was blithely unaware of the costs involved in means testing.  Costs that would have to be offset against any savings.  He nearly went all Mcvey over me, along the lines of when she said that, although the bedroom tax was not saving money, it was a matter of principle to carry on with it.

Collier says, “The economic consequences of a” migration “pause would be negligible as long as students were exempted.”  Unsurprisingly, someone nestling in the groves of academe does not want those groves denied of any income, whether home grown or from abroad.  Good to see though that Collier, like I, value students from abroad studying here, but I expect that we will reap significant benefits from their, hopefully, happy time here at some future date and not in the here and now.  Where is Collier’s evidence, given his concern with the here and now, that migrant students are a benefit to UK plc whilst studying here? More of a benefit, say, than migrants working and paying Income Tax and National Insurance whilst they work here?

Also, I have news for Collier and White, there is, once again, a skills shortage in the construction industry:

Bricklayers’ boom highlights ‘skills timebomb’ in UK construction industry

SMEs: is enough being done to tackle the UK’s skills shortage?

Skills shortage fears temper surge in UK construction

Construction sector skills shortage blamed for holding back housebuilding

Kipper Williams on the construction skills shortage

I would like to make a couple of points with regards to the first two articles.  “As builders take on new work, a shortage of skilled tradespeople has allowed subcontractors to ramp up their hourly rates” (first article).  The Polish plumber and his friend, the bricklayer will be stepping in to take up some of the slack, one presumes.  A colleague of mine in the mid 2000s had an uncle working in the building industry in the east of England.  His relative said that the British bricklayers were good, they could put up a brick wall, leaving a space for a gate, perfectly well.  The Poles were better, they could build a brick arch over the gap between the two walls.  The British had been trained by the UK taxpayer to NVQ2 and the poles to NVQ3 by the Polish taxpayer.

Did ukip have to import that out of work Irish actor to appear in a poster, posing as a bricklayer, because British bricklayers did not share ukip’s stance and/or were too busy?  If you are a bricklayer and out of work at this time may I suggest, tactfully, that it is because no one thinks you are employable?  Moreover, that if there were no migrants you would still be at the back of the queue? I would go so far as to say that there is an overlap between that tiny minority of UK residents defrauding the UK Social Security system and ukip’s unemployed supporters.  They have been presenting themselves at the door during party canvassing exercises in the same way they used to down at the Jobcentre.  We know who you are, chaps, because some of you are the real (not Daily Mail) scroungers we used to sanction back in the day.  There is a certain irony in that ukip, one group of whose supporters favour going further thah IDS, is being supported by another group that would be the main target of their version of the War on Welfare!

Colier says, “It would be salutary for business to find that it had to train the existing workforce rather than poach trained workers from poorer countries: what is good for business is not necessarily good for the rest of us.”  Good to know he remembers some basic labour market economics, except British companies have a century old tradition (pre dating our entry into the EU) of poaching from each other.  In addition, Enoch Powell, when Minister of Health in the late 1950s was actively recruiting medical staff from the Caribbean to work in the NHS.  And, London Transport recruited Afro-Caribbean people to work on the Underground and the buses.

Amusingly, Collier, desirous of reducing migration to save the public finances, forgets that too often employers expect the taxpayer to train their existing workforce.  Meanwhile, whilst we await the Second Coming of Learning and Development and many British companies renouncing their devotion to ‘tried and tested’ Anglo Saxon business methods, the cost of building projects, many funded by the taxpayer will rise and rise.  And that is without factoring in the labour market impact of major construction projects like HS2.  And, every time we go into a recession, the first thing businesses usually cut is their learning and development budgets.

“The skills shortage problem is not unique to the UK.  Federation of Small Businesses national chairman, John Allan, says, “Many businesses across Europe are struggling to fill vacancies with appropriately trained staff.  The problem can’t be addressed until the education system does a better job of preparing young people for the world of work.” ” (second article).  Translation, there are increasing  job opportunities opening up for UK residents elsewhere in the EEA.  As an aside, I must find the Guardian article, wherein a careers adviser of 30 year’s standing remarked that employers at the start of his career had been saying, “The problem can’t be addressed until the education system does a better job of preparing young people for the world of work!”  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, Collier and White?

Michael, I am up for a grown-up debate on migration.  May be we may have one when you stop throwing out lines like, “Neither the right’s “crowding out” complaint about competition for low-skilled jobs (my Labour friend’s complaint too), nor the left’s “good for growth and tax receipts” scenario – shared by the City and big business – has much real evidence to support it.”  Comment is free, but facts are sacred, but not to the point where they must never be deployed, surely?  Where is your evidence to disprove either or both assertions?

Back in 2005, well before all this talk of swamping kicked in, there were 600 Cuban nurses working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.  Why?  Because of the demographic time bomb.  An aging population means an aging workforce.  ukip’s pensioner supporters are going to need to accept the fact that a migrant may be the only person available to clean up their sick in their care home? We are not talking about people elbowing others out of the way for jobs.  After all, migrants are rarely of pension age so they will in part compensate for the fall in the number of people in the working age population and, by paying tax, contribute towards the cost of the pensions of elderly people, including ukip supporting pensioners.

Collier of course says, “There is a good case for confronting their delusions and racism, and countering the misleading drizzle of anti-immigrant anecdotes, but this would not make them accepting of continued high immigration.”  How about, no migrant, no pension?  I think that might be the kind of sound bite that would hit home on the doorstep.

I was at a meeting with the QE Human Resources staff about six or so years ago.  A senior nurse recruiter said we have projected that very soon the NHS will need to recruit 50% of all school leavers to maintain its current staffing level.  Recessions come, recessions go and demographic changes remain relatively unaffected.  Of coursed, tightening public sector pension entitlement and raising the state pension age may go some way to responding to this issue.  however, actuaries have predicted that for every year working over 60, teachers reduce their life expectancy.  If they retire at 65 they run a significant risk of dying within a year.  I suspect neither Collier nor White expect to find themselves working to a point where it affects their life expectancy in such a dramatic way.

Michael, Collier is proposing that we engage in managing decline rather than take advantage of the benefits to UK plc of exploiting the opportunities presented by free movement of labour.  Opportunities for jobseekers happy to work abroad and vice versa.

By the way, Michael, that graduate you mentioned herein, “At one point in those 17 years a Labour MP, now dead, said to me: ”How can my young, unskilled constituents hope to compete for jobs with bilingual and highly-motivated foreign graduates?” It was a good point and I think of it every time I buy a beer or a coffee from one of those young graduates.”  Was he or she fluent in English?  Does it follow that he or she is at least bilingual?  That lots of tourists come to London (and Birmingham) and that having skilled, versatile staff who speak good English is good for the tourist industry (and UK plc)?  And if tourism spend increases then jobs growth results?  Have either you or Collier heard of the Multiplier Effect (see page 58)?  Incidentally, I am a Treasury standard Green Book Appraiser.

Might it not be a bad idea, if we helped “those (stereotypical) young, unskilled constituents to learn” a few other languages so they might look for work elsewhere in the EU?  Also, Michael, most employers do not look for vocational qualifications before recruiting so perhaps we should not be so quick to describe these stereotypes as lacking in soft skills?  And while we are on the subject of Europe, business and jobs why not read this post.

May be I am getting a bit cynical, but Paul Collier seems to be setting out to follow the trail blazed by Goodwin and Ford of Revolt on the Right Fame.  What they know about psephology and political campaigning, he seems to know about labour market economics and the UK Social Security system, but they are still making a mint out of ukip (and migration).  Migration is certainly improving the income of some people!

ukip Out To Worsen Conditions Of Temporary (Farm) Workers!

Migrants Price Local People Out Of Agricultural Jobs?

#ukip Out To Worsen Conditions Of UK Born Temporary (Farm) Workers! #GE2015 #RaceForNumber10

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In his often-quoted speech in 1909 on Second Reading of the Bill (that became the Trade Boards Act 1909), Winston Churchill, then President of the Board of Trade, explained that the Boards were necessary to ensure that workers received a living wage in industries where the bargaining strength of employers greatly outweighed that of employees:

“It is a serious national evil that any class of His Majesty’s subjects should receive less than a living wage in return for their utmost exertions. It was formerly supposed that the working of the laws of supply and demand would naturally regulate or eliminate that evil ……………. Where in the great staple trades in the country you have a powerful organisation on both sides, where you have responsible leaders able to bind their constituents to their decision, where that organisation is conjoint with an automatic scale of wages or arrangements for avoiding a deadlock by means of arbitration, there you have a healthy bargaining which increases the competitive power of the industry, enforces a progressive standard of life and the productive scale, and continually weaves capital and labour more closely together. But where you have what we call sweated trades, you have no organisation, no parity of bargaining, the good employer is undercut by the bad, and the bad employer is undercut by the worst; the worker, whose whole livelihood depends upon the industry, is undersold by the worker who only takes the trade up as a second string, his feebleness and ignorance generally renders the worker an easy prey to the tyranny of the masters and middle-men, only a step higher up the ladder than the worker, and held in the same relentless grip of forces – where those conditions prevail you have not a condition of progress, but a condition of progressive degeneration.”

The 1909 Act was the first national minimum wage legislation in Britain.  Churchill’s Boards were superseded by Wages Councils established under the Wages Council Act 1945.  Legislation introduced by a Liberal Government, built upon by a Labour Government leading to, amongst other things, the Agricultural Wages Act 1948.  The Wages Councils consisted of representatives from both sides of industry, together with independent members. They had the power to set detailed minimum rates of pay, including shift premia, for different age groups and types of worker as well as complex holiday entitlements relating to length of service.

At their peak, in 1953, (under a Conservative Government headed by Winston Churchill) there were 66 Wages Councils, covering about 3.5 million workers.

In March 1985, the Conservative Government, as part of its policy of deregulating the labour market, published a Consultation Paper which proposed that the Wages Councils should either be abolished altogether or radically reformed. There was considerable opposition to outright abolition, from employers as well as employees, and the Government opted for radical reform.

The Wages Act 1986 preserved the 26 Councils (down from 27 in 1981) then in existence but prevented any new ones from being established. It removed young workers under the age of 21 from the scope of the Wages Councils altogether and ended the Councils’ power to set minimum holiday entitlements, separate pay rates for different occupations, and premium rates for unsocial hours or shift work. As a result, Wages Councils were only able to set a minimum hourly basic rate; a minimum overtime rate; the number of hours after which overtime must be paid; and a daily limit on the amount an employer could charge for any living accommodation he provided. Employers who failed to pay these rates were liable to a fine and for arrears of wages underpaid. The law was enforced by Wages Inspectors employed by the Department of Employment, but their numbers were cut during the 1980s and early 1990s and they adopted a policy of ensuring that minimum rates were paid by persuasion rather than coercion. Prosecution was rare, despite many instances of underpayment.

In December 1988, the Government once again issued a Consultation Paper which suggested that the Councils should be abolished. The response did not reveal enormous support for abolition even from employers’ organisations; and, in March 1990, Michael Howard, then Secretary of State for Employment, announced that he had decided not to proceed with abolition “for the present”.

It remained Conservative policy that Wages Councils should have “no permanent place in the labour market.”  Although the Conservative Manifesto for the 1992 Election did not mention abolition, the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Bill, published on 5 November 1992, contained legislation repealing the Wages Councils altogether. Section 35 of the Act, which abolished the Councils, came into effect on 30 August 1993.

The only remaining area in which a minimum wage was enshrined in law after 30 August 1993 was agriculture. The Agricultural Wages Board, as indicated above, was established under separate legislation, the Agricultural Wages Act 1948. The government had considered abolishing this too, but, in the face of opposition from both sides of the agricultural industry, it backed down.

William Waldegrave, Secretary of State for Agriculture, announcing this decision, said, “It is clear from the responses to consultation that there is wide acceptance, from both sides of the agricultural industry of the present arrangements. We do not therefore currently intend to change the existing statutory framework. However, since the Government believe that statutory wage fixing arrangements can introduce flexibilities which prevent rather than encourage job creation, we shall continue to keep the future existence of the AWB under close review.”

After the Wages Councils were abolished, there was growing evidence of jobs being offered below the old minimum rates and little evidence of increased employment in the deregulated industries. For example, a Low Pay Network study, “After the Safety Net”, analysed almost 6,000 jobs offered at Jobcentres in the catering, retailing, clothing manufacturing and hairdressing sectors in April and May 1994. Over a third of the jobs on offer paid less than the old Wages Council rate uprated by inflation. In retailing, the figure was over 50%. The network also found a net loss of 18,000 jobs recorded in the retail and catering sectors between September 1993 and March 1994, despite the removal of minimum wages.

See Research Note 92/75 on “Wages Councils”, Research Note 92/95 on the “Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Bill 1992/3” and Research Paper 95/7 “A Minimum Wage”.

Between 1993 and the introduction of the NMW, only the AWB set pay rates for any group of workers in the UK work force.  The NMW when enacted covered many more workers than the Wages Councils, but did not replace the AWB which continued to set rates above those set by the NMW.

Of course, ukip, unlike all the other major political parties has yet to commit to increases in the National Minimum Wage and/or call for employers to pay the Living Wage.  In fact, ukip has yet to say whether or not it stands by its previous view that the NMW should be repealed.

ukip has said it will repeal the Agency Workers Directive (see Employment and Small Businesses) that, enacted in UK law as the Agency Workers Regulations 2010, seeks to level the playing field between temporary/agency workers and permanent employees.

I guess ukip thinks all the working people for whom they claim to speak, including agricultural workers, are in permanent employment?  In addition, on taking power, ukip would review all legislation and regulations from the EU and remove those which hamper British prosperity and competitiveness (see Protecting Jobs and Increasing Prosperity).

Given ukip’s commitment to repeal the Agency Workers Directive, is it not reasonable to assume that other employment legislation, including Health and Safety laws will be repealed so as not to hamper British prosperity and competitiveness?

Check out my next blog post to learn why I have made particular reference above to the Agricultural Wages Board!

PS Municipal regulation of wage levels began in some towns in 1524 and I do not think, were he alive today, that Churchill would be a member of ukip.

#WOW #ukip Supports #BenefitCap? Why? #GE2015 #ESA #WCA #JSA #PIP #DLA #IS #BedroomTax #ThanetSouth

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“UKIP supports a simplified, streamlined welfare system and a benefit cap.”

Welfare and Childcare

ukip says, “More detailed announcements will be made in the run up to the 2015 General Election.”

Will those detailed announcements clarify if these policy ideas are no longer under serious consideration?

“Roll the mass of existing benefits into simpler categories, while ensuring every UK citizen receives a simple, non-means tested ‘Basic Cash Benefit’ (BCB)

Roll key benefits – such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and Student Maintenance Grant – into a single, flat-rate BCB set at the same weekly rate as Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income Support.  For students, the BCB will be termed ‘Student Vouchers’ or ‘Training Vouchers’

Allow part-time and temporary workers to continue claiming BCB until their wages reach UKIP’s proposed £11,500 personal allowance so they can take jobs without being heavily penalised by the system

Merge Child Benefit, the Child Trust Fund, Child Tax Credits and the Education Maintenance Allowance into an enhanced Child Benefit, payable for each of the first three children in a family (as of October 2014 now only the first two children in a family)

Merge Early Years’ Funding, Sure Start, the childcare element of Working Tax Credit and the tax relief on Employer Nursery Vouchers into a flat-rate, non-means tested ‘Nursery Voucher’ to cover approximately half the cost of a full-time nursery place.”

From Welfare to Workfare
A Welfare Policy for an Independent Britain
A Policy Statement
January 2010

Up until now ukip has kept under tight wraps any suggestion that these policy ideas are, at least, not still under serious consideration.  A policy to oppose (not repeal) the Bedroom Tax and some vague assertions do not a comprehensive Social Security policy make.  In addition, the simplistic Income Tax cut for people on the National Minimum Wage (earning more than their current Income Tax Allowance), that ukip thinks will benefit all those in that position, is a clear sign that ukip has next to no understanding about how our tax and Social Security systems interact, often to the disadvantage of those in work on low incomes.  Often, people in work have to claim Social Security to even receive the same level of income as they would if they were not in work.

ukip’s enthusiasm for non means tested payments would mean more higher income taxpayers having a much bigger share of the Social Security budget than now and some of those on lower incomes receiving a great deal less than they currently do, both directly and indirectly.  Even David Cameron would be eligible to receive a BCB.

I take it no one in ukip has heard of ESA?  That its recipients are split into two groups and that, under these proposals, those entering the Support Group in the future would be receiving less money than those in the group now.  I am assuming that they would not apply their proposed changes retrospectively.

ukip needs to learn that a policy to oppose (not repeal) the Bedroom Tax will be perceived as no more than a cynical ploy to garner votes unless ukip comes up with more detailed Social Security policy than in is contained in its Doncaster statements.  In addition, am I right to think that this statement is a bit ambiguous:

“UKIP opposes the bedroom tax because it operates unfairly, penalising those who are unable to find alternative accommodation and taking insufficient account of the needs of families and the disabled.”

and that, if the tax were operated fairly (in ukip’s opinion) then ukip’s opposition to the tax would turn into support?

I mean why not just say ukip would repeal the Bedroom Tax (full stop)?

Oh (and before I forget) I hope ukip now understands the widespread opposition to Workfare, that 50% of people in receipt of Housing Benefit are in work, that most of the other claimants are pensioners and people on ESA and that the money for Council Tax Benefit is only ring-fenced for pensioners.

“Require those on benefits – starting with Housing and Council Tax Benefit recipients in private rented homes – to take part in council-run local community projects called ‘Workfare’ schemes. The schemes will be in addition to council jobs”

One might almost think that ukip’s Social Security ‘experts’ are not as expert as they think and have possibly never had recourse to claim Social Security.  If they want to design a new system to help people to move from Social Security into paid work, may I suggest they Google Benefit Trap?  It is obvious they and their supporters have not heard of the trap, given their touching faith in the idea that cutting the Income Tax paid by those on the National Minimum Wage will make all of those currently paying Income Tax no worse off than they are now, if not better.

I have news for ukip, not even Iain Duncan Smith would touch your Social Security ideas with a barge pole and that really is saying something!

#ukip Would Scrap #ChildrensCentres & #SureStart! #ThanetSouth

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Well, well, well …  Who knew it?  ukip’s latest policy on welfare was out there all the time!  Basically, they aim to be tough on those in poverty and well to the right of IDS when it comes to social policy.

How do I know this?  I was chatting with someone the other day about ukip’s all things to all men (women know your place!) Bedroom Tax policy and I mused about where they stood on other Social Security issues.  My friend sent me this link to their last set of policies.  One of which alone kills dead the idea that ukip would really stand up for the left behind, the axing of Sure Start.

Yes, I know, we must await the much anticipated Manifesto, whose unveiling has become like a particularly arthritic Dance of the Seven Veils.  First, it was to appear early this year; next Friday 23rd May, conveniently a day after the European Elections; then later in the summer; then later this month, but the last I read was that only a few key policies would be unveiled in Doncaster.  Would they be those of which Farage has already spoken?  For example, the National Minimum Wage and tax ‘cuts’ policy and the ones listed in this article?  Until they repudiate their previous anti-poverty proposals then we may assume that they are still current or, at the very least still being considered for their Manifesto.

Sure Start, established under Labour; a major issue at the last General Election and broadly supported by the mainstream parties is practically the quintessential policy for helping the left behind within a few years of their leaving their cradles.  It is a lot less controversial and judgmental than the current government’s Troubled Families Programme.  Troubled Families expects almost overnight easily measurable outputs and outcomes.  We will not know the full impact, good and/or bad of Sure Start until the first cohort of beneficiaries reaches the age of 18.  Anyone who thinks Sure Start to be a waste of money is either ignorant, stupid and/or cares nothing for those who start their lives at the rear of the convoy and who steadily fall behind as the voyage progresses.  No wonder Nigel Farage studiously avoids discussing ukip’s social policies in any open forum.

Sure Start, based on Head Start in the United States of America, aims to prevent poor children, often from very deprived areas, from experiencing an opportunity gap opening up between them and the children of those in higher income groups.  Put simply, if the poorest children do not get a hand up before the age of 5 then in most cases they will never improve on the position at which they started.  Truly, these children are the left behind.

I am in no way criticising the parents of these disadvantaged children.  Many were themselves disadvantaged and could not break out of the poverty trap.  Unlike so many of the Commentariat and the likes of Matthew Goodwin, I have grown up alongside them, met them and those working with them (and supported both during my career).  I have not, Gradgrind like, sat at my computer and written reports, recommendations and so forth after just reading the latest statistics, opinion polls and the comment pieces of others.  I suspect many of you reading this now have done the same as me and share my respect and awe for the efforts to which these parents (and families) go to try and give their children a better start in life than they had.  Sometimes it is heartbreaking to think what the future may hold for these children.  Sure Start is all about giving the poorest children a more than even chance of breaking out of the cycle of poverty.  Crucially, it also helps their parents to help themselves to improve their lot and thus the lot of their children.

Poverty is about more than just money, as important as that is to getting out of it, it also denies people the chance to experience new things and different cultures.  It denies them the opportunity to go to art galleries, the theatre, the cinema, in fact to enjoy the rich and varied culture of our society and other societies that many, not in poverty, take for granted.  I must confess I am a Bevanite snob, if it is good enough for them then it is good enough for us!  You might even call me a Champagne Socialist.  I have tried it, do not like it, but like a glass or two of port after a good dinner.  And yet I sprang from the working class in what still is one of the poorest parts of Birmingham.  And although Children’s Centres, a key component of Sure Start, do not I assume promote the drinking of port, they do in part aim to broaden the horizons of children.

There is something else about Children’s Centres.  They are non means tested.  Consequently, there was at least a hope that children across social groups and income levels would mingle and learn a bit about each other, thereby, promoting community cohesion and understanding.  Who knows, they might just develop the friendships, networks and connections for which some parents send their children to private schools, public schools and Oxbridge.  More than a touch of social engineering there?  I am not sure if that has come to pass.

Locally, Labour rolled out the centres in three tranches, starting with the hardest to help areas.  The Tories, on coming to power in Birmingham scaled back the third phase, but then the deprived children of Falcon Lodge might have met and played with the well off children of the rest of Andrew Mitchell’s Constituency of Sutton Coldfield, one of the most affluent areas outside of London and South East.  We cannot have the kids off the estate learning that only money separates them from their ‘betters’, can we?

Story Wood Children’s Centre (previously Brambles/Sure Start Kingstanding) is one of the Children’s Centres I had the pleasure to visit in my time as a Civil Servant.  Story Wood is at the heart of the community it serves and is on the site of Story Wood School.  Some of the detail of what the Children’s Centre does is here.  For me, Children’s Centres are my kind of Socialism and something of which to be unashamedly proud.  I visited one a couple of times at a Junior and Infant School that I used to attend.  And that was a very deprived area (in terms of money) when Mom, Dad, my brother and me lived there.  Thankfully, things have improved somewhat and I helped a little with some of that improvement in recent years.

Whilst talking about ukip policies more generally, I would observe that Children’s Centres operate under the auspices of local authorities, but not all are run by them.  Lakeside was set up by Enta, a widely respected Voluntary and Community Sector organisation and like a lot of Children’s Centres engages in a variety of ways with the parents who use the Centre’s services.  Jargon like empowerment springs to mind, but not ukip’s ‘Power to the People’ ideas.  Helping to run a Children’s Centre your children attend is power to the people.  Closing it is not.

Were ukip to have its way then closing Children’s Centres would leave the left behind, both children and parents further behind; put trained professionals in a variety of child related disciplines out of work; remove community centres from communities with few or no other community facilities; waste a lot of money in a variety of ways and I suspect leave more than a few children heartbroken.  Thankfully those who use and have used the centres are not easily fooled (which is a sign they are working).  They made the survival of their centres an issue in the last General Election.  David Cameron said none would be closed on his watch.  Somewhere in the region of 250 have gone, but a network remains, even where authorities are Tory run.  The equivalent of the NHS of the First Age has developed deep roots, thankfully.

Replacing Early Years’ Funding, Sure Start, the childcare element of Working Tax Credit and the tax relief on Employer Nursery Vouchers into a flat-rate, non-means tested Nursery Voucher to cover approximately half the cost of a full-time nursery place is no answer to the challenges facing the children of the left behind.  The bulk of the funding being replaced by the voucher currently goes on the left behind.  Under ukip, the likes of David (I claimed Disability Living Allowance) Cameron would get some of the money if he used a voucher.  ukip proposes a simplistic answer to a complex set of problems and moves money away from where it is most needed.  Could they be seeking the votes of Tories with a non means tested voucher?

And for any ukiper who has read this far, rather than posting a comment accusing me of a smear and/or being a paedophile, Children’s Centres provide childcare, support for lone parents and employ a lot of women.  Is your blood boiling now?  If you closed Children’s Centres you would reduce the amount of childcare, possibly pushing up the price of that remaining.  We know you do not like lone parents, women in the workplace and seemingly women in general.  However, let me cause you some more grief, men are lone parents too and men work in childcare.  One of the latter I met had worked on the track at Rover before being made redundant.  Oh, and around 8% of HGV drivers are women!

If Labour (and to a great extent) the other mainstream parties have left people behind through Sure Start then we are guilty as charged.  Perhaps this policy is further proof that ukip is seeking to attract and retain the support and votes of the poorly educated, uncultured and those seemingly lacking in empathy?  Why does one need to have a reading age of more than seven, because with it you can comprehend The Sun?  Why do you need to know the difference between a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh?  They are all ‘foreigners’, are they not?  And, if you start developing emotional intelligence then you might just realise that the Muslim family down the road or the lone parent around the corner has a harder life than you.  Why is this starting to sound familiar?  These are the tunes played by the Hard Right since time immemorial.  Divide and conquer, divide and rule.

#ukip, @MarkReckless, #NigelFarage, #NMW & Tax ‘Cuts’ #RochesterandStrood #RochesterStrood

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Nigel Farage recently announced that he would take all those on the National Minimum Wage out of Income Tax. On the surface that sounds like a bold move. On the surface.

From 1st October this year, the hourly rate for someone on the NMW will be £6.50 per hour.  If that someone works 40 hours per week, 52 weeks of the year then that works out at £13,520 per year.  Their personal tax allowance will be £10,000 so they only pay Income Tax at 20% on £3,520.  The amount paid works out at £704 or £13.54 per week.  Certainly not to be sniffed at, but hardly the largesse that one might first think.

However, Value Added Tax is levied at 20% and, if those benefiting from Farage’s tax cut spend all or most of that £13.54 per week then they are receiving with one hand and paying most, if not all back to the Treasury with the other.  VAT, being a regressive tax, bears down most on those with the lowest incomes, because, more likely than not, they will spend every extra pound that they receive, unlike those higher up the income scale.

It would also seem that some ukippers (on Twitter at least) think that VAT is levied purely to pay our annual EU subscription and so it too may be scrapped.  True, it is a requirement of membership, but the money raised by it in the United Kingdom is well in excess of that needed to pay our sub.  As a consequence, we will not be scrapping VAT any time soon, if ever, given Farage’s proposed (costed?) spending plans to date. Moreover, Farage recognises that we get £7 back from every £10 we pay into the EU and plans to continue (at the moment) with maintaining that 70% of EU spend, but not via Brussels.

The hourly rate for the NMW that I have quoted above is for those aged 21 and over.  The rate for those aged between 18 and 20, inclusive, is £5.13 per hour or £10,670.40 per year.  The amount of Income Tax paid being is £134.08.  If Farage makes good on his promise the cut amounts to a pay increase of £2.58 per week for 18 to 20 year olds.

The NMW hourly rate for those aged under 18 is £3.79 (or £7,883.20 per year) and for apprentices is £2.73 per hour (or £5,678.40 per year).  Neither group would, of course, benefit from Farage’s tax change.  The rate for apprentices is for those aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year of their apprenticeship.  All other apprentices are entitled to the National Minimum Wage for their age.

I am not holding my breath as to whether Farage would raise the NMW for those not benefiting from his taking those on the hourly higher rates out of the range of Income Tax.  Elsewhere in the ukip forest, influential members of ukip want to see the NMW scrapped.  One assumes this is not so employers may pay more per hour.  There are some benighted individuals who think the NMW keeps wages low.  Perhaps it does, but do they seriously want to go back to the days before its introduction?

Also, you will have noticed that if you work 29 and a half hours per week, at £6.50 per hour for 52 weeks, then you already pay no Income Tax and, if you work 37 and a half hours per week, at £5.13 per hour for 52 weeks, then you too already pay no Income Tax. Who is more likely than not to work less than 40 hours per week for 52 weeks per year? Women, often in part time jobs; Black and Ethnic Minorities; People With Disabilities; anyone in part time work; people with casual contracts and those on zero hours contracts. Oh, and those white working class (left behind) males flocking to ukip to be shorn like sheep whose fleeces are more than ready for the clippers.

It has been estimated that taking all those out of the NMW out of tax will cost £13 billion per year.  We have no idea where that money will come from, although as mentioned above, it may well be partly, if not almost completely recouped through VAT. And I have not added in the revenue accruing from purchases on which other imposts are levied, for example alcohol and tobacco.

Look at in another way, though.  Farage would lose £13 billion of tax revenue per year were his proposal implemented and yet the resulting benefits per person on NMW would be modest, to say the least.  There are, therefore, a lot of low paid people in the United Kingdom.  If Farage really wanted to make a real difference to their lives, he would be lecturing his mates in the City, ukip’s big business backers and its members who are business people, like many of its MEPs, on the need for business to raise the pay of their workers.  Instead, he is once more revealed as all style and no substance.

May be not, though. Join up the dots.  You have taken everyone on the NMW out of paying Income Tax so why do you need the NMW and big government?  You may scrap the NMW and promise to increase the 20% starting rate and the 40% starting rate every year by the Cost Price Index.  I assume you will not wish to be overly generous by increasing it by the Retail Price Index?

We now have a policy that will be music to the ears of libertarians, like Douglas Carswell; business people with no sense of corporate social responsibility and the Hard Right of the Tory Party.  Without the NMW there will be nothing to stop paying new recruits less than now as well as freezing pay for current staff and possibly even reducing it.  And, increasing the 20% and 40% starting rates benefits those paying Income Tax at the highest rate the most.  And there you were thinking a tax cut for the low paid was born out of pure altruism.  Think again?

ukip, the party of the left behind? ukip, the party of the low paid working man (and sometimes working woman)? ukip, the party that cares for the plight of the young?

No! Not when Farage wants to cut the top rate of tax from 45% to 40%.

Now you know who will benefit from Farage’s tax cuts.  People nothing like you, me and most of the electorate. Certainly not those whose pay is currently guaranteed by the NMW.