Not sorry enough, Danny. No amount of apologising and grovelling will ever erase the misery and desperation this hated tax has caused. We all see these Lib Dem apologies for what they are and we are not fooled. I'm guessing that you'll be much, much sorrier come election time, but only for yourself and your party.
Times haven't changed that much - we're still fighting against exploitation and poverty pay, but we can, at least, protest and organise without fear of being sent to Australia. If you want to pay tribute to the Tolpuddle Martyrs, join in at the weekend.
'We will, we will, we will be free'
One hundred and eighty years ago, George Loveless penned these words while languishing in prison. His crime? Organising his fellow workers against exploitation and poverty pay.
Join us this weekend to celebrate their legacy at the Tolpuddle Martyrs festival: www.tolpuddlemartyrs.org.uk
Nick Clegg agreed the creation of the Bedroom Tax but now says he no longer supports it in its present form. He had hoped to convince the Tories to overhaul the system, but according to the lunchtime news today, the Tories have rejected the idea.
The Lib Dems will now include their proposed changes to the system in their General Election Manifesto. These include exemption from the Bedroom Tax for the disabled, who account for 70% of those affected by it. Social housing tenants would only lose their 'spare room subsidy' if they turned down a 'suitably smaller home'.
The Lib Dem president, Tim Farron has acknowledged that the Bedroom Tax has caused huge social problems. Talk about stating the bleeding obvious!
The Lib Dems now say they are committed to providing 300,000 new homes per year. Why didn't it occur to them when they supported the Bedroom Tax that people could only move to smaller homes if those homes actually existed?
The Bedroom Tax was ill conceived and its probable effects either poorly researched. not researched at all, or, as is more likely given that it would only affect the poor and not the rich, not given a toss about.
So, do we believe that Nick Clegg has genuinely seen the error of (some of) his ways, or is it all just electioneering?
In his shift from Education Secretary to Chief Whip, Mr Gove's salary will go from £134,565 to £98,740, a drop of £35,825. How many millions of us would love to have that drop as a salary? I'd be singing and dancing and putting the water heater on to enjoy the luxury of a bath as opposed to a 3 minute shower. :-)
David Cameron is waxing lyrical about the latest unemployment figures, saying that they demonstrate the success of the Government's economic plan. Included in the number of people who didn't claim job seeker's allowance last month, however, are those who are on benefit sanctions, are on workfare programmes, or who moved into self-employment. So, they haven't all found jobs.
Moreover, increases to pay are at their lowest level since 2001, so those who already had jobs have seen their income fall in real terms, and of the jobs that were found, many of these will very obviously be low paid and many will be zero contract hours. Self employment can be extremely precarious and carries no guarantee of adequate income.
Until all paid work offers guaranteed and adequate hours, and pay levels are such that working people aren't living in poverty, there really is no cause for Mr Cameron to be celebrating.
Sadly, Iain Duncan Smith, Lord Freud and Esther McVey are still going to be around to torture us.
IDS thinks that people should work for nothing and said of the Workfare programme that 'Work actually makes people free'. In German, that's 'Arbeit macht frei', which was posted above the gates of Auschwitz.
Lord Freud, who lives in an 8 bedroom country mansion, has recently suggested that a disabled couple whose medical needs are such that they each need their own bedroom in their two bedroom house, should take in a lodger to meet the cost of the bedroom tax. And the lodger would sleep where?
Esther McVey, who claimed expenses of £170,928 in 2012- 2013, which included £20,000 for accommodation and £6,924 for travel, and who clearly doesn't go hungry, thinks that the 913,138 people who used food banks in 2013 - 2014 did so not because they have no money, food or choice and are in dire straits, but simply because the food is free.
At least we know what we're up against in a devil-you-know way, and we can still keep fighting.
Check out the terrific new website from False Economy, and have a shot at their DWP truth detector, it's tragically funny.
The news is that austerity measures have paid off and that by 2020 the UK will have the 2nd biggest economy in Europe and the 5th biggest in the world. As the amount of UK debt has doubled in the last five years and stands at around £1 TRILLION, how can anyone consider that to be an economic recovery?
Austerity measures have resulted in 11 million Britons living in poverty, including 2.6 million children and 1.6 million pensioners, and have bred a new generation that has no expectation that their lives will be better than their parents' lives.
Ordinary UK citizens have paid a terrible price for one of the biggest, fattest lies of all time.
British Gas is the latest of the Big Six to be fined by Ofgem for mis-selling. In Sainsbury stores around the country people were led to believe they were switching to 'Sainsbury's Energy', when in fact they were switching to British Gas. If that had been clear, given the hostility that much of the public has towards British Gas, it's highly likely that many would not have switched. In addition, staff did not compare tariffs on a 'like for like' basis, and thus misled customers on the amount they would save by switching. The customers who switched actually ended up paying more than they would have done had they stayed with their then supplier.
In a likely case of 'let's jump before we're pushed', British Gas contacted the affected customers and actually turned themselves in to Ofgem, voluntarily reporting the issue in April of last year. From the £1 million fine, British Gas will pay £566,00 in direct compensation to affected customers and £434,000 will go towards helping vulnerable customers via the British Gas Energy Trust.
Ofgem say they expect the energy companies to '... start acting in a way that will help consumers trust energy suppliers.' Hmmm. As the recent price falls in wholesale energy still haven't been passed on to consumers, and as the numbers in fuel poverty continue to rise, the idea that we will ever be able to trust the energy companies is pie in the sky. To quote Neil Duncan-Jordan, the National Officer for the National Pensioners Convention, "... consumers have taken a pasting from the private energy companies." Too right. Please keep passing on the link to the petition and let's get rid of them.
The Medway Foundation Trust Hospital was put into special measures last year after an investigation into high death rates revealed that staffing levels were dangerously low. It needs another 120 nurses if it is to provide a 'safe establishment'. But instead of having a big recruitment drive to get those nurses and get them fast, the Trust chose to appoint more than 30 managers - each of whom is receiving a six figure salary - and to use agency nurses at a cost of over £1 million a month.
One of the interim managers gets £200,000 for a TWO DAY WEEK (and £17,000 in expenses that he doesn't have to account for), another is being paid £360,000 for a FOUR DAY WEEK, and the acting treasurer will be laughing all the way to the bank with his £540,000.
Insanity! No wonder our treasured NHS is collapsing. We need nurses and doctors, not overpaid, underworked, bloody useless managers. You'd think that would be simple, wouldn't you? But none of the so called managers is going to suggest that, because then they won't get their grubby mitts on our cash. If you haven't already signed the petition to protect our NHS, please, please do so now and please pass on the link to anyone and everyone you know who might want to sign it.
An IT programme that was meant to help run a number of services for 90,000 civil servants, was overdue, over budget and duplicated a system operated by the Cabinet Office, so £56 million of public money - OUR money - has been written off. Yet none of the companies involved in the fiasco is being held to account, and they still got OUR money.
And despite ministerial promises to keep government contracts in Britain, the Ministry has decided to 'outsource' services to Shared Services Connected Limited, owned by French multinational, Steria, who were involved in the original MOJ IT scheme. They plan to cut the number of UK staff by 50%, while taking on 200 more staff in India. So, they don't deliver on a contract, still get paid, get another contract and sack UK staff! Where's the Justice in that?
The steadfast refusal of Iain Duncan Smith, Lord Freud and Esther McVey to acknowledge that food bank use is related to real poverty is appalling, but the comments made about food bank users by a Coventry tory councillor should merit a public apology and her resignation. Julia Lepoidevin believes that families 'make a conscious decision not to pay their rent, their utilities or to provide food for their children because they choose alcohol, drugs and their own selfish needs'. Ms Lepoidevin said that “There are families that have enough income and make a choice." I think that nearly a million food bank users would disagree with her.
I'm completely sickened and disgusted by her comments. Are you? Should she resign?
Glastonbury Festival founder, Michael Eavis, paid tribute to the wonderful Tony Benn - who was a regular and hugely popular speaker in the festival's poltical arena - by re-naming Worthy Farm's Left Field Tower 'The Benn Tower of Strength'. How fitting. Nice one, Michael.
Vince Cable will today announce plans to stop employers who offer zero hours contracts from making employees sign an exclusivity clause, which currently prevents them from working for anyone else, even when their exclusive employer doesn't offer them sufficient hours. What this means is that people will be able to work for more than one employer operating zero hours contracts, which is still no guarantee of being offered adequate hours, or any hours at all. And of course, zero hours employers also avoid paying holiday pay, sickness pay and pensions.
Mr Cable has refused to ban zero hours contracts altogether, saying that 'there is a place in today's labour market for the flexibility they offer to students, older people and others trying to top up their income'. In other words, to people looking for a part-time job. It doesn't seem to have occurred to Mr Cable that out of the estimated 1.4 million people on zero hours contracts, most will want, and need, a full-time job. With 5.2 million people earning less than the living wage, in-work poverty is at a shocking level, and zero hours contracts are certainly a factor. They should be banned completely and every worker, part-time and full-time, should have a contract and be paid the living wage.
At the start of June wholesale prices for gas were 38% lower than this time last year, and at their lowest level since September 2010. Electricity prices were 23% lower than in June of last year and at their lowest level since April 2010*, but there is still no indication that any of the Big Six intends to pass these reductions on to customers. We all know how quickly the Big Six impose price rises on us when wholesale prices rise, so we should all be very, very angry that price reductions aren't passed on to us when wholesale prices fall.
Poverty in the UK has more than doubled in the last 30 years, and research suggests that 1 in 3 people can't afford to heat their homes, affecting 1.5 million children, and that 4 million adults and children can't afford to eat properly.** If the energy companies acted humanely and passed on what are fairly substantial price reductions, these could make a big difference to everyone who is struggling on the breadline. That they haven't, clearly demonstrates the utter disregard they have for us and how profit will always come before all else.
Nothing will change unless we make it happen. Let your anger motivate you. We need a nationalised energy sector if fuel poverty is ever to end. Please keep telling people about the petition and passing on the link.
Thank you all for your contribution and for supporting the campaign.
There's a terrific article by oncologist Clive Peedell in today's Mirror, which adds weight to the statements made by Dr Mark Porter on the sneaky privatisation of the NHS by the Government. Please read it, and if you haven't already done so, please sign the 38 Degrees petition to Save the NHS.
In sharp contrast to Andy McGovern laying blame for lack of money in the NHS on patients making 'needless' appointments with GPs, the British Medical Association has laid blame exactly where it belongs - with the Government. Dr Mark Porter, chair of the BMA, said that Government changes to the NHS had 'cut investment, fragmented care and prioritised the tendering of services to private companies.'
Dr Porter also said that money is wasted on untested policies and that the Government's obsession with having private companies tendering for services sees multinationals, their lawyers and accountants enjoy a bumper harvest, while making things worse for patients. He cites as example the review of services in Milton Keynes and Bedfordshire by management consultancy firm, McKinsey, at a cost of £3 million, calling it 'market lunacy'.
The face of the NHS as presented by the BMA's pledge to fight Government every day in the run up to the election if it does not backtrack on harmful changes, is one that should give us hope for the kind of NHS that we deserve.
I was alarmed to read in Wednesday's Telegraph that the Royal College of Nursing's annual conference would hear a proposal by Andy McGovern, a nurse in East London, for the introduction of charges for visiting a GP. Mr McGovern said the charges could see people visiting a GP less with minor symptoms and would prevent 'needless appointments.' He also said that there isn't the money there to treat people. As a nurse, Mr McGovern should know that minor symptoms can develop into major symptoms, and for people to be prevented from visiting a GP because they can't afford to is against everything that the NHS stands for. And if the money isn't there to treat people, we need to put massive pressure on Government to get it, rather than put lives at risk by denying medical treatment.
I was very happy to learn that Mr McGovern's motion was defeated by a vote of 91.77% against. And he should be hanging his head in shame that he proposed it in the first place. I, for one, wouldn't want a nurse with his ideas to be involved in my health care. Instead of having a go at patients now, he could have spoken out against the £3bn NHS shake-up fiasco during Andrew Lansley's time as Health Minister, and when the £11.4 billion ‘National Programme for IT in the NHS’ was abandoned, wasting another £2.7 billion of taxpayers’ cash, that could otherwise have been invested in care strategies.
Despite a turn out of around 50,000 at the demonstration yesterday, I was unable to find a news channel last night that even mentioned it. The Guardian posted a decent article at 8.45pm, but there was a distinct lack of reporting in this morning's papers, other than an article in The Express, which focused more on Russell Brand taking his t-shirt off than on the reasons for the demonstration, or on what any of the other speakers said. A sad indictment of the press and particularly the BBC, that the event, highlighting the plight of millions of Britons who are paying for a crisis not of their making, was not considered newsworthy.
Here is the link to The Guardian article: http://bit.ly/1iwVTId
A study by The Equality Trust has revealed that the poorest 10% of households pay 42.92% of their gross household income in taxes, while the top 10 richest households pay 35.43%. Indirect taxation takes around 23% of a poor household's gross income and they have to spend more than 4 times as much of their income on council tax as the top ten richest.
The Trust is urging the next Government to reform the tax system, especially Council Tax, which is relatively higher on lower-value homes than on high-value homes.
Will anyone listen though? More importantly, will anyone act? If Mr Osborne is still in charge (oh my word, let's hope not), we can probably expect more of the same, or worse.
George Osborne still hasn't tackled the big tax avoiders here, but the European Commission is investigating Apple, Starbucks and Fiat over tax cutting deals they made with Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands that may be in breach of EU rules. If the multinationals are found to have avoided tax, they'll face huge bills. Fingers crossed!
UK Uncut has already held protests against Caffe Nero and Starbucks for tax avoidance trickery, and is again taking direct action, this time against Vodafone. A national protest against Vodafone's tax avoidance is taking place tomorrow (Saturday 14th June). People are being invited to take over local Vodafone shops and turn them into 'homes'.You can get more information here: