Tuesday, 15 April 2014
Today see's the latest in a line of political figures coming under fire for their expenses. This time it is the medias darling of the moment the UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Nigel Farage has rejected "outrageous" claims that his taxpayer-funded EU office expenses of around £15,000 a year are too high. The Ukip leader is facing questions about his use of the EU parliamentary expenses system after it emerged he pays no rent on a small Bognor Regis property designated as his UK office. Between 2009 and 2013, Farage has claimed between £13,000 and £20,000 a year in office management and running costs for the site, averaging around £15,000 a year. However, a former office manager told the Times that upkeep of the converted grain store in terms of bills and other non-rental costs only amounts to around £3,000 a year, leaving around £12,000 a year unaccounted for. Farage hit back in an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, arguing he legitimately made use of flat-rate "allowances" from EU funds, which do not amount to expenses. He also said he would be prepared to have his expenses checked by an auditor "if that would settle the matter". MEPs can spend these allowances "how we see fit", he said. "I'm sorry, but this whole story and even the line of questioning here is simply wrong," he said. "Let's get this right from the start shall we? We do not claim expenses for running offices or any other activity that takes place within our member state the United Kingdom; we get an allowance, a fixed-rate allowance, and we can spend it how we see fit." "It is £3,580 a month, and that is given to every MEP; we can spend it how we want to, we don't have to provide receipts for it or anything like that. We are given recommendations as to what it can legitimately be spent on, which include the running of an office, paying for a mobile phone, buying equipment, hotel bills, restaurant bills, applying for subscriptions to websites, buying newspapers, there's a list as long as your arm on what this money can legitimately be spent on." Farage said he had always been open about using the EU cash to fight against Britain's membership while staying within the rules. He said he was taking legal advice about the Times story, accusing it of launching a politically motivated attack because it is an "establishment" newspaper". Hypocritical much? Nigel Farage likes to pose as being anti establishment but he is as much part of it as any MP out there. A former stockbroker in the city of London now turned career politician Farage has carved out a good career for himself and with UKIP looking set to do well in the upcoming European elections on 22nd may could this dent his image at all ? Earlier, the Times reported he had told them: "I don't pay rent on the office but I obviously pay for everything else," he said. "Whether it's the burglar alarm or electricity." He also disputed claims by the former grain store manager, saying: "About £1,000 a month is roughly what it is. Exceptionally I put more money in as and when it's needed." The newspaper reported he has been referred to the European expenses watchdog by a former Ukip official over how he has spent around £60,000 of office expenses since transparency declarations about expenses began in 2009. MEPs are not required to provide receipts proving how they spend their expenses, with the EU saying it is a "matter of honor" that they are spent correctly. The allegations emerge as Ukip is riding high in the polls while the Conservatives appeared to have taken a hit over former culture secretary Maria Miller's wrongly-claimed expenses. The Ukip leader said Miller has "taken the mickey out of the system" and called for David Cameron to introduce powers for the public to sack MPs over serious wrongdoing. Challenged about Ukip's own expenses scandals among MEPs, he said: "In the cases of the two individuals who behaved badly, I removed the whip and kicked them out of the party a long time before they were found guilty of anything." So Nigel, what are you waiting for? With extracts from today’s guardian http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/apr/15/nigel-farage-rejects-outrageous-eu-expenses-allegations?CMP=twt_fd
25 years ago today the 15th of April 1989 FA cup semi-final between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool Fc at hillsborough. One of if not the worst disasters in footballing stadium history took place just after 3:06 the game was a abandoned and only then did the world start to realize what had happened in the liverpool end behind one of the goals. 96 innocent football fans lost their lives on that day tragically and we will never forget them. The idea that this was anything to do with hooliganism or drunken fans is just nonsense and the disgraceful reports by Kelvin Mckenzie and his newspaper at the time the Sun were nothing short of disgusting. To this day, in spite of the massive weight of evidence pointing to a cover-up designed to shift the blame for the 96 deaths from the agencies of the state onto the victims themselves, not a single person culpable in the tragedy has been brought to book. The inquest has been told that police accounts of the Hillsborough disaster were changed by senior officers and lawyers to remove criticism of the police leadership. Margaret Thatcher's statement at the time that the police should emerge blameless revealed the intentions of the establishment. That this stage has been reached is due to the courage and fortitude of the families seeking justice for the 96 who, in spite of being fobbed off, crossing chasms of obstruction, showered with empty promises, refusal by ministers to re-open the case pursued their quest with unremitting courage and determination. A key factor highlighted by coroner Lord Justice Goldring was Chief Superintendent Duckenfield's decision to open the football ground's gates at Leppings Lane which triggered off the catastrophe. Duckenfield's lie that the fans had forced open the gate was repeated by FA chief executive Graham Kelly, and media outlets ran with it before the lie was retracted. Kelly visited the police control room where he was told by Duckenfield that there had been an inrush of fans after they had forced open Gate C. He later admits this to be untrue but by 3.40pm, BBC Radio Two broadcast: "Unconfirmed reports are that a door was broken at the end that was holding Liverpool supporters". Thatcher's chief press secretary Bernard Ingham is later quoted as saying: "I know what I learned on the spot; there would have been no Hillsborough if a mob, clearly tanked up, had not tried to force their way into the ground." These remarks, along with the Sun editor Kelvin Mackenzie's vile onslaught, unleashed a Niagara of slander onto the victims and their families. (A 50,000-signature petition protesting the Sun's coverage was delivered to Downing Street by the late Militant [forerunner of the Socialist Party] supporting MP Terry Fields and others from Liverpool). The coroner has now posed questions which if investigated forensically should uncover the facts which have been shrouded in murk for 27 years. For instance what was done to manage the approach of fans to the turnstiles at Leppings Lane? Did a crush outside the entrance develop? If so, could anything, or anything more, have been done to avoid or minimise that risk? If so, by whom? The answer to that last question is the key to shining the light on and proving who bears the responsibility. Such an outcome will be a testimony to the courage of those who suffered and the mass movement of ordinary working people in Liverpool who have never wavered in their determination to achieve justice for the 96. The families are to be applauded for their courage and tenacity in the pursuit of justice. A debt of honour is owed to them for showing that working class people, fired with courage and determination, can render the forces of the state accountable. I am no fan of Liverpool football club being a supporter of Everton but on days like today both clubs in the city of Liverpool will come together and put rivalries to one side and stand shoulder to shoulder with the families of the 96 who will never be forgotten. Justice is still being fought for with a new inquest under way at the moment forcing the families to recount all the old wounds once again. Allot of the blame will have to go on to the police on the day who covered up a disaster for years only recently we have discovered the truth that many police statements on the day were doctored and changed to put the police in a better light. As the old saying goes no justice no peace, those responsible need bringing to account. Until that day which is hopefully sooner rather than later we stand in solidarity with the people of Liverpool in fighting for justice. Justice for The 96
Monday, 14 April 2014
HUNDREDS of thousands of families with children in the East of England could not pay their rent or mortgage for more than a month if they lost their job, new figures from Shelter reveal today (Monday, April 14). The YouGov survey of working adults who pay rent or a mortgage found that with little or no savings to fall back on, 45% of all working families in the East could be just one pay cheque away from losing their home. The research also found that in the east of the country, a quarter of all families face the nightmare scenario of immediately being unable to afford their home if they lost their income. More than 200,000 families (26%) said that if they lost their job this month and could not get another one straight away, they would not be able to make their next rent or mortgage payment from their savings. Kate Murray lives with her five year old daughter and disabled mother. She lost her job as a business manager with only three days’ notice when the company she worked for went bankrupt in October 2013. Kate said: “Before my employer went bankrupt they hadn’t been paying me properly for a while, so I’d started to fall behind on my mortgage. Then I got the letter through the door saying they wanted to take my house back. I was petrified. It’s not the best house but at least it’s our house. I thought, what am I going to do? How am I going to tell my daughter and my mum that we have to move out?” The latest government figures on savings mirror Shelter’s research, revealing that there are 15m working age adults in the UK with no savings at all. The charity’s findings showed that 3.8m working families from across the UK could not pay their rent or mortgage from their savings for more than a month if they lost their job, and 2.4m of these families have no savings to fall back on at all. Liz Clare, who is a helpline advisor at Shelter, said: “This research highlights the financial knife-edge that millions of us now find ourselves on – living month to month, pay cheque to pay cheque. Every day we see the proof that just one piece of bad luck, like a sudden job loss or illness, could tip any of us into a spiral that puts the family home at risk. “Sky-high housing costs and stagnating wages mean that saving is becoming a thing of the past for many people. Most of us simply don’t have enough money in the bank that we can rely on for long enough to get back on our feet. We need better government support to give families the short-term help they need to keep their homes if they fall on hard times. Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Finding another job is hard enough, but without a stable place to live it’s almost impossible. No matter how hard ordinary families work, in today’s ‘knife-edge nation’ any drop in income can all too quickly put their home at serious risk. The government must make sure the safety net is strong enough to stop families falling through the gaps, and going through the tragedy of losing their homes.” Anyone who is worried about losing their home can contact Shelter for free, independent advice. Visit www.shelter.org.uk/advice or call the helpline on 0808 800 4444. Written bySINEAD HOLLAND http://www.hertsandessexobserver.co.uk/News/Bishops-Stortford/Families-in-the-East-of-England-one-pay-cheque-away-from-losing-homes-20140414055855.htm?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed
Monday, 7 April 2014
Over the weekend the expenses scandal has re emerged thanks to conservative MP for Basingstoke that big Tory area? Five days after that 32-second apology in the House of Commons, Maria Miller continues to generate awkward headlines. Speculation about the culture secretary's future won't go down well either in Downing Street or in the Wales Office. With David Cameron standing by his minister, the more mischievous speculation among MPs and journalists at Westminster suggests that rather than sacking Mrs. Miller, the prime minister could move her to a lower-profile role - such as secretary of state for Wales - in the reshuffle expected at the end of next month. Mrs. Miller may be MP for Basingstoke but she grew up in Bridgend, where her parents lived until they moved to London to share what became one of the best-known MPs' second homes. So why not give her the chance to return to her roots? The beleaguered minister would be taken out of the firing line and David Cameron would avoid losing a woman from around his cabinet table. Problem solved! Or perhaps not. Replacing David Jones with Mrs. Miller would not go down well with either Mr. Jones or with Welsh Tories despite public disagreements with the party's group in the National Assembly for Wales. One MP told me it would be a "disaster". The idea that someone seen as unsuitable for a cabinet role because she miss-used the expenses system could be reshuffled to Wales would not be universally applauded west of Offa's Dyke. It would be a gift to the Tories' opponents, with shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith tweeting: "Rumours that Maria Miller is set to become Welsh secretary in a forthcoming reshuffle. What have we done to deserve that?" Did she owe £5,800 or £45,000? The Standards Commissioner thought it should be the higher amount. Why? Because Kathryn Hudson concluded that Maria Miller could only claim the interest on the purchase price of her "second home" in 1996. The MPs on the Committee on Standards (which reviews the ruling above) disagree. They say Mrs Miller was entitled to claim interest on the value of the mortgage as it was in 2005 - when Mrs Miller was elected to Parliament as an MP. The Chair of that Committee, Kevin Barron (a Labour MP) firmly stands by that conclusion. Did she 'flip' her second home to avoid paying Capital Gains Tax? More complex. From 1996-2005 the house in question (in Wimbledon, in south-west London) was owned by Mrs Miller in her private capacity (as a non-MP). From her election in 2005 and until 2009, it was designated her second home - and thus she was entitled to claim for the mortgage interest on it - as the rules were then on MPs expenses. In April 2009, she stopped claiming for the London house. But neither did she claim for her constituency home in Basingstoke. So she made no second home claims from that date. Her office says she stopped making those claims before she received a letter informing all MPs that they would now be liable for Capital Gains Tax (currently 28%) should they sell a house on which they have claimed as a second home. The letter arrived at the end of May 2009, her office claims. This means from 2009 to 2014 - Maria Miller made no claims for either her London home or her Basingstoke home. She currently rents a property in London (as the new expenses regime recommends). In February 2014 - the London home is sold - at a profit. Any Capital Gains Tax due (and it's not clear if there is) would fall in the tax year 2013/14 and so would not need to be paid until January 2015. Was her apology too short? Watch: Maria Miller's apology to MPs on expenses It was short - of that there can be no doubt. The 32-second long statement was described by Labour MP Sheila Gilmore today as "inadequate to the point of being contemptuous". It reinforces the perception that she didn't care and further damages her after the Committee and Commissioner claimed Mrs Miller has breached the code of conduct by her "attitude" to the investigation. That may in the end do the most damage. The public like to see their public servants acting in a contrite way when they have made a mistake. It would be safe to say Mrs Miller's apology did not satisfy the public demands on a level of length, contrition or detail. Her office says MPs apologies have historically been short. Although I am not sure comparing her apology to the one made by Nadine Dorries (23 seconds) is a particularly wise move Clearly she has to go fiddling your expenses to cover your second or third home is a disgrace and by her hanging around just makes the Tories look out of tough, which of course they are which is why she hasn’t offered her resignation. One last point remember back after the riots of 2011 a guy who stole a bottle of water was given 2 years in jail well Maria may wish to consider her stealing from the public purse and getting away with it and its inconsistencies. Is it any wonder people think all politicians are in it for themselves??
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
Today see's a year pass since the hated and much talked about bedroom tax came into force. It is 12 months since the government removed its spare room subsidy, dubbed the "bedroom tax" by critics. It is designed to save money and free up under-occupied homes, so what effect has it had? The fact it still exists is a disgrace to be honest lot of hot air as per usual has come from the left from the labour party and even more to the left than them yet the tax still exists this must not continue. "Scrapping the spare room subsidy, which applies to working-age tenants in social housing who are claiming housing benefit, is supposed to ensure that people are not living in bigger homes than they need at the taxpayer's expense - at a time the government is looking for savings from the welfare budget. People deemed to be doing so have a choice: they can move to a smaller home or pay more rent. Polls show the government's welfare policies are popular with the public. The problem is that finding a smaller home in the social housing sector is not easy - there is a lack of availability - so most people affected have had to find more money. Benefit cuts In May 2013, a month after the "bedroom tax" was introduced, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) estimated that 660,000 people would face a reduction in their housing benefit because they had at least one spare room. By November, the deparrtment produced new figures showing that 498,000 were affected by the changes. This is a fall of 50,000 from the initial estimate, which the DWP attributes to people taking action, such as moving to a smaller home, finding work, increasing their earnings, and/or discontinuing their claim for housing benefit. Channel 4 News asked the DWP what had happened to all social housing tenants living in homes with excess bedrooms. Were they paying more rent? How many had moved? The DWP said it did not have any published data which could answer these questions. 'Little research' An impact assessment drawn up by the DWP in 2012, before the policy was implemented, said "there is little research that provides an indication about the possible behavioural impacts on claimants in the social rented sector following the introduction of the size criteria". But it added: "DWP estimates that the impact of claimants moving to smaller accommodation, (as opposed to remaining in their current accommodation), is likely to be broadly neutral in terms of the impact on benefit savings." This suggests that although the government could not be sure how people would react when the spare room subsidy was removed, it expected to make most of its savings from people staying put and paying more rent rather than moving to smaller, cheaper accommodation. The government's rationale is that before the reforms, a million spare bedrooms were being paid for by the taxpayer, despite the fact that there are a quarter of a million households in England living in overcrowded social housing and another 1.7 million on waiting lists. Then there is the small matter of austerity, with ministers expecting to save £1bn over the next two years. People caught out who decide to stay put, or cannot find a smaller home, face a 14 per cent reduction in their housing benefit if they have a spare room, or 25 per cent if they have two or more spare rooms. So what has happened since April 2013? The National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents two thirds of housing association homes in England, published a survey in February which showed that two thirds of households hit by the changes were in rent arrears, with one in seven at risk of eviction. The Ipsos MORI survey of 183 housing associations found that more than a third of those in arrears were in this position because they could not afford to pay the "bedroom tax". 'Misery and hardship' According to David Orr, chief executive of the NHF, removal of the spare room subsidy is "heaping misery and hardship on already struggling families". Although the government argues that people affected can move, "we know there aren't enough smaller homes in England for these families to move into". The DWP is aware of these shortages. Its 2012 impact assessment said there was a surplus of three-bedroom homes and a lack of one-bedroom properties, which "could mean that there are insufficient properties to enable tenants to move to accommodation of an appropriate size even if tenants wished to move and landlords were able to facilitate this movement". The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, says the "limited opportunities" for tenants to downsize is driving up local authorities' costs. The government is helping people affected by its welfare reforms with its discretionary housing payments fund, which allocates money to councils, and the LGA says the end of the spare room subsidy is "the biggest cause of financial hardship among those applying for help". It also argues that demand for help "is significantly outstripping the money the government has made available to councils to mitigate the changes in some areas". In August, a study commissioned by the LGA estimated that benefit cuts, combined with a shortage of jobs and affordable homes, would mean that "four out of every five of those households are likely to need some form of assistance from their council to help them cope with the reduction in welfare". with extracts from Channel 4.com http://www.channel4.com/news/bedroom-tax-year-spare-room-subsidy-social-housing
Something many of us knew before hand anyway the but it is confirmed the Royal Mail was sold off on the cheap by the Tories. The privatisation of Royal Mail did not achieve the best value for taxpayers because of the government's "deep caution", the spending watchdog says. The National Audit Office said too much emphasis was put on completing the sale within this Parliament, at the expense of achieving better value for money. Royal Mail shares are now more than 70% higher than the original sale price of 330p in October 2013. The privatisation of Royal Mail took place amid huge public interest and the shares rose by 38% to 455p on their first day of trading, representing an increase in value of £750m for the new shareholders. The NAO report concluded that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills was too cautious when setting the sale price of 330p per share. "The department was very keen to achieve its objective of selling Royal Mail, and was successful in getting the company listed on the FTSE 100," said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO. L Achieving the highest price possible at any cost and whatever the risk was never the aim of the sale” End Quote Vince Cable Business Secretary "Its approach, however, was marked by deep caution, the price of which was borne by the taxpayer." A planned postal workers' strike, which was eventually cancelled after the privatisation, also affected the government's sale price. Demand for Royal Mail shares was 24 times the maximum number available to investors, the NAO said, but the banks overseeing the sale advised there was not sufficient demand to justify a significantly higher figure. George Godber, a fund manager at Milton Group, told Radio 4 that he was "astounded" by the low price. "I thought it was significantly underpriced. In stock market terms, this was the London 2012 Olympic ticket moment, lots of people applied but very few got to go to the opening ceremony." Managers from two of these advising banks - Goldman Sachs and UBS - said market uncertainty and the complexity of the deal led them to a conservative price when they were questioned by MPs in November last year. As we seen last week the Royal Mail is already cost cutting looking to slash its workforce by 1600 predictably the CWU union makes a lot of noise but will anything be done about this? I doubt it much like the proposed strike back over privatisation which was more hot air from the likes of Billy Hayes and Dave Ward who would rather wait for a labour government. Labour have predictably come out saying the tax payer has been sold a short one and that Royal Mail was under sold but this miss's the glaring point that it shouldn’t have been sold off in the first place. Instead of ranting about how cheaply it was sold off how about making the case for renationalization and returning the organisation to public hands and running it for people’s needs not a few peoples profits.
Monday, 31 March 2014
On Sunday the first "gay marriages" were held in the UK. I prefer to use the term equal marriage as really that is what they are and should be known as. Marriage is a right or at least should be to have legal and equal rights as everyone else seems something so obvious to me that I can’t believe we have waited till now for this. But as we know Britain is a fairly conservative nation with its governments bowing to pressure from religious and faith groups into holding back moves to bring in equal marriage into law. So at last LGBT people can marry who they like and I do hope this is just the start of greater things for this community. It’s a well over due matter and the fact a Tory lead government has been the one to bring it in shows how far to the right the labour party has moved as it couldn’t bring this about in its 13 years of government. Ok we had civil partnerships but this was a half way house to what many in the LGBT community really wanted full legal and equal rights for all. I know a lot of people in the conservative party voted against this putting out such wooly reasons why this shouldn’t be law. The reasoning was hugely offensive and discriminatory and showed the Tories for the out of touch backward looking party at least on its back bench's anyhow. Whether David Cameron truly believes in equality for LGBT people I am not sure but certainly he has to be credited with bravery for taking on many in his own party to get this important law through in the commons and beyond. So well done to all who have been fighting hard for this for a very long time let’s hope this can be just the start of the LGBT revolution. Solidarity