Tag: George Osborne

George Osborne ignored civil servants’ warnings of increased child poverty due to 1% public sector cap

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Back in July 2015, George Osborne, then chancellor, announced that the 1% public sector pay cap would be extended for four years – a policy that had not been included in the Conservative manifesto. The cap remained in force until the 2018/19 pay round.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that Osborne had received advice from civil servants warning him that the policy would “make it more difficult for low-income families with children to access essential goods, and will therefore make it harder for the government to hit the Child Poverty Act targets.”

Authoritarian Osborne ignored civil servants’ warnings that extending the public sector pay cap would force children into poverty, the newly released documents reveal. Civil servants also warned that extending the cap “could increase financial pressure on families of public sector workers which may have a negative impact on family relationships”.

The previously undisclosed warnings are contained in a ministerial decision record obtained by GMB union. The papers reveal that ministers had also considered freezing public sector pay for two years. 

The Treasury released the paper to GMB after a prolonged delay and following being instructed to respond to the GMB by the information commissioner. Rehana Azam, GMB’s national secretary, said the pay freeze had a devastating impact on the union’s members for many years.

Osborne’s policy has directly affected over a million families with children. There are an estimated 2.4 million dependent children in households in which there is at least one public sector worker in the UK.

Azam went on to say : “This document is a mark of shame on ministers who imposed years of real-terms pay cuts in the full knowledge that it would condemn families and children to poverty.

“If Theresa May is serious about ending ‘burning injustices’, she must use this budget to reverse the fall in living standards that this government has imposed on ordinary working people.”

It emerged earlier this month that the cap on benefits, also imposed by Osborne in 2015, will mean that low-income families will miss out on an extra £210 a year from April. Analysis by the Resolution Foundation highlighted that more than 10m households will face a real-terms loss of income from the government’s austerity measures, introduced when Osborne was chancellor. It was also reported this week that Philip Hammond, Osborne’s successor, is considering imposing regional public sector pay rates. However, similar proposals were defeated in the 2010 to 2015 parliament.

A Whitehall source confirmed that the Treasury is considering overhauling the system to allow greater regional variation in pay rises. The chief secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, reportedly told the cabinet that pay rises should be ‘determined by retention, performance and productivity.’

The reasoning means that those working in London and the south-east could receive greater increases because pay in other regions is already more “competitive” with private sector levels, the source confirmed.

Meanwhile, Hammond is under increasing pressure to loosen curbs on spending after May used her conference speech in Birmingham to tell voters that next year’s spending review would mark the end of almost a decade of austerity.

George Osborne was contacted for comment and has not responsed at the time of writing.

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Osborne criticises the government’s manifesto, while charities are silenced by ‘gagging act’

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George Osborne, the architect of many an omnishambolic budget, has called the Conservative manifesto “the most disastrous in recent history” in a suprisingly critical editorial

The London Evening Standard derided the Tories’ campaign attempt to launch a “personality cult” around the prime minister. Osborne attacked Theresa May’s handling of Brexit as marred by “high-handed British arrogance”.  He said the campaign had “meandered from an abortive attempt to launch a personality cult around May to the self-inflicted wound of the most disastrous manifesto in recent history”.

He has already mocked May’s net migration target as “economically illiterate” and branded Brexit a “historic mistake” since becoming the London paper’s editor.

The editorial then mockingly suggested the current conversation among Downing Street aides would likely be along the lines of: “Honey, I shrunk the poll lead.”

The Evening Standard has also criticised the government’s manifesto meltdown over the  highly unpopular “dementia tax”, saying: “Just four days after the Conservative manifesto proposals on social care were announced, Theresa May has performed an astonishing U-turn, and bowed in the face of a major Tory revolt over plans to increase the amount that elderly homeowners and savers will pay towards their care in old age. 

There will now be a cap on the total care costs that any one individual faces. The details are still sketchy but it is not encouraging that the original proposals were so badly thought through.” 

In another article titled U-turn on social care is neither strong nor stable”, it says: “Current Tory leaders should have been ready to defend their approach. Instead we had a weekend of wobbles that presumably prompted today’s U-turn. The Pensions Secretary Damian Green was unable to answer basic questions in a TV interview about who will lose their fuel payments, and how much extra money will go into social care.

“Either the Government is prepared to remove these payments from millions of pensioners who are not in poverty, and don’t receive pension credit, and spend their substantial savings on social care; or they chicken out, target the tiny percentage of pensioners who are on higher tax rates, save paltry sums and accept the whole manoeuvre is a gimmick. Certainly, if the savings are to pay for a new care cap, then many pensioners will lose their winter fuel payment. This isn’t for consultation after an election — it’s an issue of honesty before an election.”

With the Tories’ poll lead diminishing, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has warned that the proposed “dementia tax” would become May’s version of the poll tax which led to Margaret Thatcher’s downfall.

Whilst Osborne is free to speak his mind, it’s an irony that many charities have complained they have been silenced from criticising the Conservative social care plans despite the fact they will be hugely damaging to elderly and disabled people across the country.

One chief executive of a major charity in the social care sector has told the Guardian that they felt “muzzled” by the Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill – a controversial legislation introduced in 2014  which heavily restricts organisations from intervening on policy during an election period.

The charity said May’s decision to means test winter fuel allowance would “inadvertently” result in some of the poorest pensioners in the country losing the support, adding that “will literally cost lives”.

The charity also claimed that the so-called “dementia tax” on social care in the home would stop people who need support from seeking it.

“We are ready to speak out at one minute past midnight on 9 June,” the charity leader added, but stressed they were too afraid to do so now.

Sir Stephen Bubb, who runs the Charity Futures thinktank but previously led Acevo, an umbrella organisation for voluntary organisations, said it was notable how quiet his sector had been about the policy.

He went on to say: “The social care proposals strike at the heart of what charities do but they should be up in arms about them but it hasn’t happened. It is two problems: there is the problem of the so-called “gagging act”, but also the general climate of hostility towards charities means there is a lot of self censorship.” 

“Charities that once would have spoken out are keeping quiet and doing a disservice to their beneficiaries. They need to get a bit of a grip.” 

He cited the example of the Prime Minister hitting out at the British Red Cross after its chief executive claimed his organisation was responding to a “humanitarian crisis” in hospitals and ambulance services.

May accused the organisation of making comments that were “irresponsible and overblown”.

It’s not the only time the Conservatives have tried to gag charities for highlighting the dire impacts of Tory policies. In 2014, MPs reported Oxfam to the Charity Watchdog for campaigning against poverty. I guess the Joseph Rowntree Foundation had better watch it, too. What next, will they be reporting the NSPCC for campaigning for children’s welfare?

'Lifting the lid on austerity Britain reveals a perfect storm - and it's forcing more and more people into poverty' tweeted Oxfam
Lifting the lid on austerity Britain reveals a perfect storm – and it’s forcing more and more people into poverty.

The Oxfam campaign that sent the Conservatives into an indignant rage and to the charity watchdog to complain was an appeal to ALL political parties to address growing poverty. Oxfam cited some of the causes of growing poverty in the UK, identified through research (above).

Tory MP Priti Patel must have felt that the Conservatives are exempt from this appeal, due to being the architects of the policies that have led to a growth in poverty and inequality, when she said: “With this Tweet they have shown their true colours and are now nothing more than a mouthpiece for left wing propaganda.”

I’m wondering when concern for poverty and the welfare of citizens become the sole concern of “the left wing”. That comment alone speaks volumes about the attitudes and prejudices of the Conservatives.

Bubb said: “That was a warning shot. So many charity leaders do feel that if they do speak out there will be some form of comeback on them. The Charity Commission has been notably absent in defending charity rights to campaign – the climate has been hostile to the charity voice.” 

There is some fear that charities face a permanent “chilling effect” after the Electoral Commission said they must declare any work that could be deemed political over the past 12 months to ensure they are not in breach of the Lobbying Act. 

Another senior figure also said charities were too afraid to speak out on the social care proposals. “We are all scared of the lobbying act and thus most of us are not saying much during the election. There was the same problem in the EU referendum – if you criticise the government then you are being “political”.

During the referendum a row broke out after the Charity Commission
issued guidelines that some charities interpreted as preventing them from making pro-EU arguments. 

Head of the organisation, William Shawcross, dismissed the charge by Margaret Hodge MP that his Euroscepticism was to blame for the issuing of the advice from the commission on when charities could intervene on the issue.

Steve Reed, shadow minister for civil society, said the Labour party would scrap the lobbying act because it had “effectively gagged” charities.

Millions of pounds originating from HSBC have been laundered directly to the Conservatives, say claims

Roger Mullin of the Scottish National Party.

New cash for Conservatives scandal

Roger Mullin, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, has called for an investigation after it was disclosed that “£5 million of HSBC loans were laundered directly to Conservative HQ.” He isn’t alone.

It appears that evidence has emerged of organised, very substantial and ongoing donations made by IPGL – a private holding company – and other subsidiaries, controlled by Michael Spencer, to the Conservative Party, totalling at least £5.3m, representing a “huge percentage of annual turnover”. 

Michael Spencer’s interdealer broker ICAP was fined for its role in the Libor scandal. The Conservative Party resisted calls from the opposition to return £4.6m donations ICAP and Michael Spencer made during the period of the Libor Scandal when Spencer was also Treasurer of the Party.

Campaigners and other opposition MPs such as Labour’s John Mann, who serves on the Treasury Select Committee, have raised these issues, and many allege that such donations wouldn’t have been possible without HSBC’s financial support of IPGL.

The allegations were first raised by Fionn Travers-Smith of Move Your Money at the Annual General Meeting of HSBC Holdings PLC on 28 April. He said:

Not only does this raise questions about HSBCs role in public life, the level of influence that you hold over government, and your own refusal to discuss the possibility of corruption and undue influence at last year’s AGM – but it also raises questions over whether you have contravened your own policies on being politically neutral.

 HSBC’s Douglas Flint responded to the allegations by evading the issues raised, and said “We are politically neutral” and “we’re not going to talk about individual companies at all.” 

Joel Benjamin from Debt Resistance UK questioned these claims of neutrality given deputy chairman of HSBC, Simon Robertson’s £700k donations to George Osborne and the Conservative Party.

In their AGM notice, released in March, HSBC said to its shareholders: “HSBC has a long standing policy not to make any political donations or to incur political expenditure including in the UK or the rest of the EU within the ordinary meaning of those words.

“We have no intention of altering this policy. However, the definitions of political donations and political expenditure used in the UK Companies Act are very wide. As a result, they may cover activities that are an accepted part of engaging with our stakeholders to ensure that issues and concerns affecting our operations are considered and addressed, but which would not ordinarily be considered as political donations or political expenditure.

“As a result, the Directors have concluded that it would be prudent to seek authority from our shareholders to allow them to make political donations and incur political expenditure of up to £200,000 in aggregate in the period up until next year’s AGM. In common with many other UK companies, this is purely a precautionary measure. The authorities sought are not designed to influence public support for any political party, or political outcome; they are simply to ensure that the Group does not inadvertently breach the UK Companies Act.”

As the law stands, a UK-incorporated company must not make a political donation to a political organisation or incur any political expenditure without shareholder approval or, if the company is a subsidiary, the approval of its UK holding company. Directors could incur personal liability if authorisation is not obtained. Nor must it influence public opinion regarding candidates or political outcomes in elections and referendums.

Presumably, the three senior HSBC bank figures who have donated £875,000 to the Conservative party in recent years have done so without shareholder approval. 

Below is Roger Mullin’s last letter as current MP,  parliament is now Dissolved until after the General Election. Mullin posted a copy of the letter on Twitter earlier today.

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Some more context

In 2012, the US government was persuaded by our government not to pursue criminal charges against HSBC for allowing rogue states, terrorists and drug dealers to launder millions of dollars after George Osborne and the UK banking regulator intervened to warn that prosecuting Britain’s biggest bank could lead to a “national and global financial disaster”. Instead of facing a prosecution, the bank were given the option to pay a record $1.92bn (£1.4bn) fine

The House financial services committee report said the UK interventions “played a significant role in ultimately persuading the DoJ [Department of Justice] not to prosecute HSBC”. 

The report revealed that Osborne wrote to Ben Bernanke, who was then the Federal Reserve chairman, and Timothy Geithner, the then treasury secretary, to warn that prosecuting a “systemically important financial institution” like HSBC “could lead to [financial] contagion” and pose “very serious implications for financial and economic stability, particularly in Europe and Asia”.

In 2015, it came to light that there are long-standing links between the scandal-hit HSBC and the Conservative Party, after Electoral Commission records showed three senior bank figures have donated £875,000 to the party in recent years. It was revealed that HSBC’s deputy chairman, Sir Simon Robertson, has made 24 separate donations totalling £717,500 in the last nine years.

As a point of interest, the links go much further back, as David Cameron’s great great grandfather, Sir Ewen Cameron, became principal agent to the Calcutta branch of HSBC, following which he acted as manager of its Shanghai branch, where he served until 1890.

Further revelations emerged that the bank allegedly helped wealthy individuals evade tax through Swiss accounts. It was also revealed that HSBC’s deputy chairman, Sir Simon Robertson, has made 24 separate donations totalling £717,500 in the last nine years.

He gave 17 donations to the Conservative Central Office between 2002 and 2014, and four totalling £100,000 to George Osborne between 2006 and 2009. The other three went to the party in East Hampshire. Robertson, who was knighted in 2010, is reported to have a personal wealth of £10m.

Conservative donors, peers and a high-profile MP are listed among the wealthy who legally held accounts in Switzerland with HSBC’s private bank, for a wide variety of reasons. Their ranks include Zac Goldsmith, former MP for Richmond Park, plus his brother, the financier Ben Goldsmith, and a Swiss resident, German-born automotive heir Georg von Opel, who has donated six-figure sums to the government in the past two years.

Peers named in the HSBC files include Lord Sterling of Plaistow, the P&O shipping and ports entrepreneur who was ennobled by Margaret Thatcher, and Lord Fink, who was also a party treasurer under David Cameron and has given £3m to the Conservatives.

Zac Goldsmith has, with his brother Ben and their mother Lady Annabel, donated over £500,000 in cash and in kind to the Conservatives.

Big Banks Aided Firm At Center Of International Bribery Scandal

Cash for Conservatives Exposes the HSBC Dirty Money running the Tory Party – DEBT RESISTANCE UK

 HSBC files: Swiss bank hid money for suspected criminals

The British HSBC bribery and corruption cover-up – Nicholas Wilson

Business dealings of Tory donors could be wiped from official records

Update
One promising result:

vine

And a rather hasty response from the Electoral Commission, which you can view here: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk

 


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George Osborne has always been something of an editor: he’s very conservative with the truth

Chancellor George OsborneGeorge Osborne, the financial adviser, after-dinner speaker, author, Kissinger Fellow, chairman of the Northern Powerhouse project, newspaper editor and MP.

Here in the UK, a sitting MP, and a member of the party in office, is the editor of London’s only newspaper. It becomes an almost farcical situation when one considers that London, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, is the most Labour supporting region in the UK. It’s about to have its only local newspaper read like pages from ConservativeHome. The plot sickens.

I seriously doubt that the Standard’s political editor will be pitching a story about the Crown Prosecution Service currently reviewing the Conservatives’ electoral spending, amid the growing evidence of serious electoral fraud, any time soon.

Oh hang on, wasn’t Baronet Osborne one of the key strategic masterminds behind the general election? The same Osborne who regarded the UK social security budget – in particular, the financial safety net that supports disabled people – as disposable income for his equally privileged millionaire peers? He was only forced to climb down over his proposed 4.4 billion of spending cuts to disability benefits after the surprising resignation of the hard faced Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who also likes to abandon sinking ships.

Osborne is so hated in London and elsewhere that he was booed by crowds at the Paralympics when handing out medals

Any suggestion that Britain is still a great bastion of first world liberalism and democracy makes me laugh until I cry these days.

Osborne was widely criticised for his decision not to quit his Tatton seat in north-west England since it was announced that he would take up the position as editor of the Evening Standard. He has already rattled the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) – which is an ethics committee that aims to decide whether job roles for former ministers present a conflict of interest – by announcing the appointment before they were given any time at all to review any potential conflict with his duties as MP and his former role as chancellor. Ex-ministers are supposed to submit their requests and then wait for the committee’s guidance before accepting something and announcing it to the public.

The committee assessing Osborne’s post-ministerial roles is usually given at least a month to carry out research into what contacts a former minister had in his or her department that could constitute a conflict of interest in any new role, but it is understood that some members of the committee were informed less than an hour before Osborne’s appointment was made public. They are now expected to give advice within two weeks.

It’s understood that the committee will be actively considering a call for the former chancellor to delay or decline the role.

Osborne defended his new job on Monday, telling the House of Commons that parliament benefited from members bringing in experience of different sectors alongside their constituency work. He was responding to an urgent question from Labour’s election co-ordinator, Andrew Gwynne, over a potential conflict of interest.

Osborne facetiously remarked “I thought it was important to be here, though unfortunately we have missed the deadline of the Evening Standard

In my view, Mr Speaker, this parliament is enhanced when we have people from all walks of life and different experience in the debate and when people who have held senior ministerial office continue to contribute to the debate.

He’s not exactly a man that cares much for integrity. He seems to think we have forgotten that it was under his chancellorship that the UK lost the Moody’s Investors Service triple A grade, despite Osborne’s key pledge to keep it secure. Moody’s credit ratings represent a rank-ordering of creditworthiness, or expected loss.

The Fitch credit rating was also downgraded due to increased borrowing by the Tories. In fact they borrowed more in 4 years than Labour did in 13. Now they have borrowed more than every single Labour government ever, combined. 

Osborne was rebuked by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) for telling outrageous lies that Labour left the country “close to bankruptcy” following the global recession. However, the economy was officially recovered and growing following the crash, by the last quarter of 2009. Baronet Osborne, the high priest of austerity, put the UK back into recession within months of the Coalition taking office.

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Baronet Osborne is not deemed a member of the nobility, but rather, entitled gentry. The rank of a Baronet is a hereditary title awarded by the British Crown. One’s position in an order of precedence is not necessarily an indication of functional importance.

It’s remarkable that despite Osborne’s solid five-year track record of failure, the Tories still mechanically repeat the “always cleaning up Labour’s mess” lie, as if Labour increasing the national debt by 11% of GDP in 13 years, mitigated by a global recession, (caused by bankers and the finance class), is somehow significantly worse than Osborne’s unmitigated record of increasing the national debt by at least £555 billion.

Osborne has ironically demonstrated that it is possible to dramatically cut spending and massively increase debt. At least Labour invested money in decent public service provision, the Conservatives have simply ransacked every public service, handed out our money to their private sector buddies and steadily dismantled the gains we made as a society from the post-war settlement.

Who could forget in September 2007, ahead of the publication of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, Osborne pledged that the Conservative Party would match Labour’s public spending plans for the next three years. He promised increases in public spending of 2% a year,calling Labour charges that the Conservatives would cut public spending “a pack of lies”. He also ruled out any “upfront, unfunded tax cuts.” 

Then there were the expenses scandals, he even had the cheek to claim £47 for two copies of a DVD of his own speech on “value for taxpayers’ money.

Gosh, what, with Osborne being so conservative with the truth, I can really see the Evening Standard taking a credible objective turn.

Sorry, that was a sarcasm typo, I meant authoritarian turn.

However, it has to be said that it’s not as if  Osborne will be editor of a left leaning paper. Who could forget the Evening Standard‘s headlines during the London Mayoral campaigns: Exposed: Sadiq Khan’s family links to extremist organisation – the front page story about Khan’s former brother-in-law once coincidently attending the same rally as a hate preacher – and Why Sadiq Khan cannot escape questions about extremists, a hit and sneer piece that only just stopped just short of accusing Khan of being a terrorist. But I seriously doubt Osborne will have a liberalising impact on the screaming headlined nonsense of this tabloid.

Among the Tory MPs defending Osborne in the Commons was his former cabinet colleague and Times columnist Michael Gove, a former journalist who himself has been tipped as a potential future newspaper editor. He said: “Is it not the case that we believe in a free press and that proprietors should have the right to appoint who they like to be editor, without the executive or anyone else interfering with that decision?

And isn’t it also the case that who represents a constituency should be up to its voters, not the opposition or anyone else?”

Osborne’s appointment will be subjected to wider scrutiny. On Tuesday, the economy committee of the London Assembly will be considering whether the appointment could “affect the neutrality and objectivity of news coverage in London”.

In addition, Osborne will face questioning by his constituents in Tatton, Cheshire, on Friday, when he is expected to attend his local Conservative Association’s annual general meeting. A petition signed by more than 175,000 people was delivered to his constituency office on Monday, calling on the MP to “pick one job and stick to it”.

Andrew Gwynne amongst others in the Labour party, have called for an inquiry. Gwynne wrote to John Manzoni, the permanent secretary to the Cabinet Office, urging him to examine whether there was a breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct (which was amended yet again last year by Theresa May, following the previous editing in 2015.)

In his letter, he said former ministers must refer any new jobs to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) to “counter suspicion” and ensure ministers are not “influenced” by private firms while in government. 

Gwynne, Labour’s national elections and campaign coordinator, added: “Disregarding these rules deeply undermines public trust in the democratic processes and does a disservice to those Members that ensure they follow the rules laid out on these matters.”

 shooting-party

 

Related

It’s time to stop the revolving door reflecting political/corporate interests that spins the news.

Politics and Insights is proud to join other independent media journalists, writers, collectives and organisations across the UK to condemn the appointment of George Osborne as the new editor of the Evening Standard.

Independent media includes any form of autonomous media project that is free from institutional dependencies, and in particular, from the influence of government and corporate interests.

We are not constrained by the interests of society’s major power-brokers.

“For an effective democratic system, we need a vibrant public sphere fuelled by varied independent broadcast and print media. We do not need the ex-Chancellor benefitting from the editorial control of a free London daily which benefits from city-wide circulation to publicise the divisive rhetoric of a right-wing government. When a crisis of representation, fed by a culture of nepotism already plagues so many establishments, Osborne’s appointment is a step in completely the wrong direction.

We write this as independent journalists, committed to holding the powerful to account. We will continue to fight for better representation and healthier political analysis in our media channels, and we will continue to produce the journalism that is missing from the corporate-owned outlets which dominate our newspapers and televisions today.”

Politics and Insights condemns George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard in joint independent media statement


I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. Successive Conservative chancellors have left me in increasing poverty. But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you. 

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Politics and Insights condemns George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard in joint independent media statement

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Politics and Insights is proud to join other independent media journalists, writers, collectives and organisations across the UK to condemn the appointment of George Osborne as the new editor of the Evening Standard.

Independent media includes any form of autonomous media project that is free from institutional dependencies, and in particular, from the influence of government and corporate interests.

We are not constrained by the interests of society’s major power-brokers.

jan22ossie

Here is our joint statement:

The appointment of George Osborne as Editor of the Evening Standard signals the continued demise of trusted mainstream media sources at a time of great political strife in Britain. We have come together to denounce the brazen conflict of interest advocated by this announcement, and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media channels.

Trust in the mainstream media has never been lower. At present, the number of people who trust the media polls at about 24%. That’s 12% lower than it was before Brexit at the start of 2016, and 2% lower than trust in politicians.

Revolving doors between business, media and politics have severely affected impartial reporting, while political analysis has proven to be a futile exercise when journalists become politicians and politicians become journalists. The Evening Standard’s former editor, Sarah Sands, known for her conservative-leaning views, leaves a Conservative MP in her wake, at the helm of a paper which will offer no challenge to its new editor and his politics.

George Osborne, who comes into this role without any formal journalism experience, will not be bringing an editorial revolution to the Evening Standard to give London the representative newspaper it needs. The appointment of the Tory MP does, however, plainly illustrate a situation which sees personal interests and closed cliques continue to dominate the information disseminated to the masses. To put it very simply, how can a member of parliament hold parliament to account? When the issues of the day relate to policies supported, or indeed created, by Osborne, what can we expect from his editorial stewardship?

Before Osborne’s recent hire as Editor of the Standard, former journalists Michael Gove and Boris Johnson ran a deeply damaging pro-Brexit campaign, facilitated by the nation’s biggest newspapers. Columnists have been paid to spew hate and fear, whether of Muslims, migrants, transgender people, disabled people or other marginalised groups within our society for some time now.

For an effective democratic system, we need a vibrant public sphere fuelled by varied independent broadcast and print media. We do not need the ex-Chancellor benefitting from the editorial control of a free London daily which benefits from city-wide circulation to publicise the divisive rhetoric of a right-wing government. When a crisis of representation, fed by a culture of nepotism already plagues so many establishments, Osborne’s appointment is a step in completely the wrong direction.

We write this as independent journalists, committed to holding the powerful to account. We will continue to fight for better representation and healthier political analysis in our media channels, and we will continue to produce the journalism that is missing from the corporate-owned outlets which dominate our newspapers and televisions today.

Signed:

The Platform
OpenDemocracy

Media Diversified
Skin Deep Magazine
Red Pepper
gal-dem
Consented
Novara Media
Real Media
Media Reform Coalition
Now Then
Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom
Centre for Investigative Journalism
Politics and Insights

 

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Collaborative solidarity

Generous welfare benefits increase the work ethic. The government is wrong about ‘perverse incentives’

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The UK establishment have intentionally created a scapegoating project. A dominant political and cultural narrative has targeted people needing social security support, constructing welfare folk devils and generating moral panic. This is to justify the dismantling of the welfare state, and to de-empathise the public to the plight of the poorest citizens. The government have misled the public, claiming social security provision leads to a “culture of dependency”. International research shows this is untrue.

Comparative research at an international level has undermined the government claim that the UK welfare state encourages “widespread cultures of dependency” and presents unemployed people with “perverse incentives”. 

study, which links welfare generosity and active labour market policies with increased employment commitment, was published in 2015. It has demonstrated that people are more likely to look for work if they live in a country where welfare provision is generous and relatively unconditional. Empirically, the research includes more recent data, from a larger number of European countries than previous studies.

The research also compared employment motivation in specific sub-sections of communities across countries: ethnic minorities, people in poor health, non-employed people and women, and adds depth to previous studies. It has been concluded that comprehensive welfare provision is increasingly seen as a productive force in society (Bonoli, 2012), that stimulates employment commitment (Esser, 2005) and supports individual inclusion and participation in society and the labour market, particularly among disadvantaged groups

Sociologists Dr Kjetil van der Wel and Dr Knut Halvorsen, from Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway, examined responses to the statement “I would enjoy having a paid job even if I did not need the money” presented to the interviewees for the European Social Survey in 2010.

In a paper published in the journal Work, employment and society, (published by the British Sociological Association and SAGE) titled The bigger the worse? A comparative study of the welfare state and employment commitment, sociologists compare the responses with the amount the country spent on welfare benefits and employment schemes, whilst taking into account the population differences between states.

The researchers found that the more a country paid to unemployed and disabled people, and invested in employment schemes, the more its population were likely to agree with the statement, whether employed or not.

They found that almost 80% of people in Norway, which pays the highest benefits of the 18 countries, agreed with the statement. By contrast in Estonia, one of least generous, only around 40% did. It’s also the case that the countries with the highest levels of financial support for those in need also have the highest employment rates, which challenges neoliberal antiwelfare narratives regarding so-called “perverse incentives” and their highly controversial and stigmatising “scrounger” rhetoric.

The UK was then considered average in terms of our generosity of benefit levels, and the percentage of subjects agreeing with the statement was almost 60%.  However, this research was carried out in 2010, prior to the radical changes to the UK social security system that happened with the Coalition Welfare Reform Act in 2012 and subsequent Conservative policies.

The researchers also found that government programmes which intervene in the labour market to support unemployed people in finding work made it more likely that those people agree that they wanted to work even if they didn’t need the money. In the countries with the most interventionist states, around 80% agreed with the statement and in the least around 45%. The UK’s response, though one of the least interventionist then (and is even less positively interventionist now), was around 60%.

In the article, the researchers say: “Many scholars and commentators fear that generous social benefits threaten the sustainability of the welfare state due to work norm erosion, disincentives to work and dependency cultures. 

A basic assumption is that if individuals can obtain sufficient levels of well-being – economic, social and psychological – from living off public benefits, compared to being employed, they would prefer the former. When a ‘critical mass’ of individuals receive public benefits rather than engaging in paid work, the norms regulating work and benefit behaviour will weaken, setting off a self-reinforcing process towards the ‘self-destruction’ of the welfare state. The more people are recipients of benefits, the less stigmatizing and costly in terms of social sanctions it is to apply for benefits.

However, other commentators suggested that because employment rates are higher in countries with generous welfare states, more people will have positive experience of work. People who receive generous benefits when out of work may feel more inclined to give something back to the state by striving hard to find work.

This article concludes that there are few signs that groups with traditionally weaker bonds to the labour market are less motivated to work if they live in generous and activating welfare states.

The notion that big welfare states are associated with widespread cultures of dependency, or other adverse consequences of poor short term incentives to work, receives little support.”

On the contrary, employment commitment was much higher in all the studied groups in bigger welfare states. Hence, this study’s findings support the welfare resources perspective over the welfare scepticism perspective.”

The UK government launched an unprecedented range of cuts on public services which happened between 2010 to 2015. However, the UK’s millionaires were awarded substantial tax cuts over that time period. George Osborne handed out a cut in tax that rewarded millionaires with £107, 000 each per year at the same time the welfare “reform” bill became policy.

The biggest percentage of cuts affected social security benefits and local government, which has adversely impacted on housing, local authority services and ultimately, on ordinary people in local communities. The cuts in social care and welfare fall disproportionately on two groups that overlap: people in poverty and disabled people. They fall hardest of all on people with the most severe disabilities, who need both benefits and social care.

Using an extremely divisive justification narrative peppered with words such as “workshy” and “scrounger”, and redefining what is “fair”, the government made out that UK tax payers were a discrete group from people needing welfare support, and that the latter group were a kind of economic free rider, sharing a “something for nothing culture”.  The government intentionally fostered resentment in employed people “paying taxes to carry the burden of those who won’t work”.

The Conservatives have persistently claimed that there are moral hazards and adverse behavioural consequences attached to providing poverty relief. This is a view shared by other neoliberal nation states, such as the US.

Policies represent perceptions and establish state instructions regarding how various social groups ought to be perceived and treated. They reflect how a government thinks society should be organised. They encode messages about how people ought to behave and how our individual degree of freedoms are defined, extended or restricted. Policies are always intentional acts that shape socioeconomic organisation.

The government have colonised left wing rhetoric, and conflated social justice and inclusion with work, making citizenship and human rights conditional, and contingent on a person’s economic productivity. They claimed to be “the party of workers”, yet the Conservatives have legislated more than once to undermine collective bargaining and trade unionism more generally. There has been a marked downward shift in wage levels and working conditions over the past six years, as well as drastic reductions in welfare support.

The word “reforms” is now a euphemism for cuts. Words like “support” and “help” are used as techniques of neutralisation, to divert people from the coercive, punitive and targeted elements of the “reforms”. These are semantic shifts of Orwellian proportions. 

The majority of unemployed people move in and out of work, indicating that policy, the economy and labour market conditions, rather than personal failings and dubious “cultures”, are the reason why people become unemployed. The tax payer/benefit claimant dichotomy is a false one. Everyone contributes to welfare, that is why national insurance was introduced: to pay for support provision that you may need in the future.

Furthermore, unemployed people pay taxes, and stealth taxes such as VAT contribute a significant amount to the Treasury. When social security benefits were originally calculated, they covered only the costs of food and fuel. It was assumed that people claiming support were exempt from council tax and paying rent. That is no longer the case, but benefit levels have not risen to adjust for this. 

The highest welfare spending has actually been on pensions, followed by in-work benefits. The latter subsidises employers paying low wages that don’t support families in meeting the costs of living. However, under the new Universal Credit, in-work support will be conditional and significantly reduced, especially for those families on low pay with children. 

The Conservative’s austerity cuts have disproportionally targeted the very people that a fair and civilised society should protect. This was justified partly by the global economic recession, though not everyone was expected to “live within their means” and contribute to reducing the national deficit. Remarkably, those that caused the recession appear to have got off free from obligation to contribute to the reduction of the debt, in a “low tax, low welfare society.”

The Conservative cuts were also justified by the perpetuation of a dominant neoliberal discourse based on small state ideology, antiwelfare myths and the purposeful creation of welfare folk devils and moral panic.

One consequence of the Conservative’s “reforms” has been the return of absolute poverty in the UK – some people cannot meet their basic needs and are going without adequate food and fuel. Many people have suffered distress, harm and some have died as a result of the government’s welfare regime. 

The Samaritan’s recent study – Dying from Inequality – links suicidal behaviours with socioeconomic deprivation. Their report says: “Suicide risk increases during periods of economic recession, particularly when recessions are associated with a steep rise in unemployment, and this risk remains high when crises end, especially for individuals whose economic circumstances do not improve. Countries with higher levels of per capita spending on active labour market programmes, and which have more generous unemployment benefits, experience lower recession-related rises in suicides.”

There is also a further extensive cost to human potential. As Abraham Maslow indicated, if people cannot meet their basic physical needs, they are not likely to fulfil psychosocial ones.

 christianity-and-social-justice-exploring-the-meaning-of-welfare-reform-29-638

Graphic courtesy of Dr Simon Duffy,  The Centre for Welfare Reform.

Related

A bad job is worse for your mental health than unemployment, say UK’s top psychologists

Dying from inequality: socioeconomic disadvantage and suicidal behaviour – report from Samaritans

The Minnesota Starvation Experiment provided empirical evidence that demonstrates clearly why welfare sanctions can’t possibly work as an “incentive” to “make work pay”


 

I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you. 

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Government welfare policies are ‘historically obsolete’ say researchers

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Historical research shows that the National Health Service (NHS) and welfare state are fundamental to a healthy, productive economy.

The government has been accused of following a “historically obsolete” welfare strategy by a team of Cambridge University researchers.  

Research by Simon Szreter, Ann Louise Kinmonth, Natasha M Kriznik, and Michael P Kelly also supports the work of campaigners, charities and other academics raising their concerns about the harmful social and economic impacts of the Conservatives’ austerity measures. These include the draconian welfare “reforms” and the consequences of the increasing privatisation of and political under-investment in the NHS from 2012 onwards. 

In an article published on Friday in The Lancet, titled  Health and welfare as a burden on the state? The dangers of forgetting history, the group of academics criticised Conservative austerity policies, which were instituted by David Cameron and George Osborne’s and continued by Theresa May and her chancellor Philip Hammond. The researchers point out that investment in welfare has always been crucial for Britain’s economic success.

The Conservatives have frequently claimed that welfare provision isn’t “sustainable”. Welfare support has been reduced so much that many people have been unable to meet even their most basic needs. Food and fuel poverty have significantly increased over the past four years, for example. We have witnessed the return of absolute poverty in the UK, something we haven’t seen since before the inception of the welfare state, until now. Social security is also harshly conditional, with punishment regimes and psycho-compulsion embedded in the diminishing “support” being offered. The emphasis has shifted from “support” to managing and enforcing poor citizen’s compliance and conformity.

Crucially, the researchers, who are based at St John’s College are opposing the idea that welfare and health spending is a “burden” on the country’s economy, arguing instead that economic prosperity is intrinsically tied to an adequate level of welfare provision.

Simon Szreter is a Professor of History and Public Policy at Cambridge’s Faculty of History. He writes: “The interests of the poor and the wealthy are not mutually opposed in a zero-sum game. Investment in policies that develop human and social capital will underpin economic opportunities and security for the whole population.”

The report also states: “The narrow view that spending on the National Health Service and social care is largely a burden on the economy is blind to the large national return to prosperity that comes from all citizens benefiting from a true sense of social security.”

The authors continue: “There are signs that Theresa May subscribes to the same historically obsolete view.

Despite her inaugural statement as Prime Minister, her Chancellor’s autumn statement signals continuing austerity with further cuts inflicted on the poor and their children, the vulnerable, and infirm older people.””

To support their position, the researchers point to the period of economic growth the UK experienced following the post-war settlement – including the development of the welfare state and the NHS, something which they argue also brought about greater equality, with the rich-poor divide falling to an all-time low during the 1970s.

Drawing on recent historical research, they also trace the origins of the British welfare state to reforms to the Poor Laws introduced under Elizabeth I in 1598 and 1601, and claim that investment in supporting the poorest citizens has always gone hand in hand with economic growth.

The report establishes an interesting and useful historical context, following the effect of welfare provision on the nation’s economic prosperity prior to the creation of the modern health and welfare apparatus and institutions that we are familiar with today, arguing that the concept of a British welfare state can be traced back to the reign of Elizabeth I. There are also parallels drawn in the report between the perceived problem of the “idle poor” during the Victorian era and the contemporary political narratives that intentionally label benefit claimants as “scroungers” who allegedly benefit unduly at the expense of “hard-working families”.

Many of us have drawn the same parallels over the past four years. In my  some of my own work, three years ago, I also compared the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act – particularly the principle of less eligibility with the Conservative’s recent punitive and regressive approach to “making work pay”, which is about reducing social security provision, rather than raising national wages. Basically the idea behind both ideas is that any support given to people out of work needs to be punitive, and much less than the poorest wages of those in the lowest paid employment. That tends to drive wages down, as people who are desperate to survive have little bargaining power, and are more likely to be forced to work for much less, because employers can exploit a desperate reserve army of labour.

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 is largely remembered through its connection to the punitive workhouses that were infamously instituted across Victorian Britain.

The researchers argue that, though the 1834 Act was passed out of “concerns” that the welfare system was being abused and was an unduly heavy burden on taxpayers, there isn’t any evidence that it had much an economic benefit. They also point out that Britain’s growth actually fell behind that of rival nations after 1870, only recovering in the 1950s, following the post-war settlement

Simon Szreter said: “We are arguing from history that there needs to be an end to this idea of setting economic growth in opposition to the goal of welfare provision. A healthy society needs both, and the suggestion of history is that they seem to feed each other.”

 

proper Blond

 


 

I don’t make any money from my work. But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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