IDS threatens harassment of working poor tenants under Universal credit

March 1, 2014

Listening to Ian Duncan Smith you would imagine that Universal Credit (UC) would soon become the eighth wonder of the world. Reality is somewhat at variance with his steadfast refusal to accept that it is in fact a disaster in the making. The latest news is that working tenants will be targeted under UC. Currently the ‘sanctions’ regime, which has seen a massive increase in the withdrawal of benefits payments to claimants, only applies to out of work benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance. However, the Department of Work and Pensions has confirmed that under UC, where a tenant is working less than 35 hours a week at minimum wage, sanctioning could involve losing their HB on the grounds that they might not be ‘doing enough’ to find more hours of work. This would impact both on tenants and their landlords. It would create rent arrears, which as they mounted, could lead to eviction of the tenant and their family. Read the rest of this entry »


“Car worker wage drop casts doubt on recovery”

February 17, 2014

An article in today’s Financial Times reports that despite production of motor vehicles in the UK having increased by 45% in the past 4 years lower paid workers have seen an erosion of the value of their earnings.

“A sharp rise in agency staff and temporary contracts at the UK’s booming car factories has meant that the average wage for almost a third of the industry’s workforce has fallen in real terms during the last four years, finds an FT investigation. The falling salaries and increased use of flexible hour workers calls into question the true benefits of one of the country’s most lauded post-recession industrial recoveries.”

Average salaries have risen just 2.3% in real terms and the wages of the lowest paid 30% have fallen 7.5% according to ONS data. Meanwhile the average director at the 6 largest UK car makers have seen their wages increase by 19%.

“The news comes as government data suggest real wages in the UK have fallen consistently since 2008, as earnings growth fails to keep up with inflation.”

UK car production topped 1.5 million in 2013, the highest since 2007

Yet only 87,000 people were employed building motor vehicles last year, according to government data, compared with 92,000 in 2007 and 124,000 in 2004.

“Those workers earned a collective £3.6 billion last year, 19% more than in 2009, but a quarter less than 2004′s total pay packet in real terms.”

The FT cites Ellesmere Port where workers have received only one wage rise in 5 years, and are working reduced hours. “Their situation belies the popular image of a resurgent car industry.” These conditions were part of the agreement for the introduction of a new model of the Astra in 2015. There will be hundreds of recruits for this though they will receive only 70% of the standard salary for their first 4 years, while pensions will be less generous.

The FT reports that average salaries at 5 of the UK’s largest carmakers have remained flat in the 3 years to 2013

“The findings question the benefits of a recovery that has been trumpeted by the government as a shining example of its attempts to rebalance the economy towards manufacturing and away from financial services.”

Total annual pay at UK automotive manufacturers was £3.6 billion, more than £1 billion less than its historic high in 2004, in spite of production reaching up to levels in that year, as fewer people operate factory lines.

In 1978 493,000 people worked on vehicles and parts in the UK. Today’s total is roughly a quarter of that, following plant closures and the arrival of robot labour.

In the 3 years to 2013 the average gross salary at JLR, Vauxhall, Nissan, Honda and Toyota, rose by only 0.3% when adjusted for inflation

Excluding JLR where workers enjoyed an average gross salary increase of 14%, staff at the other 4 saw the value of their average annual wage packets fall 3.7% over those three years according to financial statements and company data.

The average employee at Nissan, the UK’s largest carmaker by production, saw their pay fall 7.5% in real terms over 3 years to March 31st 2013 according to company data. Toyota staff experienced similar erosion.


Unemployment – misrepresenting the facts.

January 31, 2014

This is a letter to the Swindon Advertiser in response to MP Justin Tomlinson’s claim that unemployment in Swindon has fallen 34% since the General Election.

Unemployment – misrepresenting the facts.

Today’s Adver quotes Justin Tomlinson as saying that since the General Election “unemployment has fallen by 34%” in Swindon. If Mr Tomlinson want’s people to take him seriously rather than viewing him as just a mouthpiece of the government’s propaganda machine then he really shouldn’t so blatantly misrepresent the truth.

Visit the government’s NOMIS website, the home of “official labour market statistics”, and you will see that to September last year there were 4,900 men and 3,500 women unemployed. That’s the latest available figure. For reasons which are not entirely clear the combined figure is shown as 8,200. Never mind, they are still above 8,000. The NOMIS stats for June 2010, the earliest figures after the General Election showed 8,700 unemployed. So the decline has been just 500. You don’t have to be a mathematician to work out that this is a long way from 34%. In fact my calculator has just told me it is a 5.75% drop in unemployment.

So what is Justin on about? I presume that he is quoting the Job Seeker Allowance figures. They tell us that JSA numbers have fallen from 4,827 in May of 2010 to 3,343 in December 2013. If Justin had said the JSA figures had declined by a third since the General Election he would have been stating a fact. However, by saying that unemployment had fallen by 34% he was misrepresenting the facts. He knows full well that not all the unemployed receive JSA.

Such cheap tricks will no more hide the truth from people than the government’s recent attempt to tell us that we are all better off this year. Of course, his is not the only Party to practice such ‘spin’. So long as the art continues then the punters will continue to hold politicians in contemp because such methods are an attempt to mislead the electorate.

Martin Wicks


“From right to buy to buy to let”

January 15, 2014

Greater London Assembly Member Tom Copley has produced a useful report on  a neglected aspect of the impact of Thatcher’s “right to buy” policy (“From Right to Buy to Buy to Let”)[1]. There has been some academic research which has pointed to the trend whereby ex-Council homes when sold on by the tenants who bought them, have been snapped up by Buy to Let landlords. Where the tenants who live in these properties are recipients of Housing Benefit (HB), then the HB paid is higher than would have been the case if the property had remained under the ownership of a local Council. This is one reason for the increase in the national HB bill, although we do not know the exact scale of the problem. Of course, even if a private tenant in one of these ex-Council homes is not on HB the rents in such properties will, in any case, be much higher than they would be if the property had not been sold under RTB. Read the rest of this entry »


The autumn statement coalition con – the £400 billion extra debt ‘success’ story

December 16, 2013

Download a PDF of this document here autumnstatement2013

As with every budgetary statement by George Osborne, the use of statistics in his Autumn Statement was very selective. Every time he comes to the dispatch box he uses the ‘authority’ of the Office of Budget Regulation as an ‘independent’ body to ‘prove’ that the “fiscal consolidation” (aka austerity) is working. Leave aside the inaccuracy of the OBR forecasts since it was set up, you have only to read its latest document (Economic and Fiscal Outlook, December 2013) to see that Osborne’s presentation of the data is blatant spin which contradicts much of what the OBR says. It’s as if he was the manager of a football team that was losing 7-nil, when suddenly it’s seven-one, conclusive proof that ‘performance’ is moving ‘in the right direction’.  Read the rest of this entry »


The ‘Self-employment’ conundrum

December 6, 2013

Doing some research on earnings in Swindon I discovered on the HMRC website that for 2010/11 earnings for self-employed people are very low. The average for Swindon was £13,200. However, the median, or mid-point, however, was only £9,790. So half of self-employed workers in Swindon earn less than this.

As it happens Richard Murphy of the Tax Justice Network has been looking at self-employment, as one possible explanation as to why unemployment has not risen to the level that might have been expected given the economic conditions. (See Richard Murphy’s report at: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/2013/12/03/the-fast-disappearing-income-of-the-uks-self-employed/) Read the rest of this entry »


A strange form of progress – the reality behind the coalition government housing propaganda

November 24, 2013

You can download a PDF of this here coalitionpropaganda

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of propaganda is “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view”. All governments do it, putting a ‘spin’ on information or statistics in order to pretend that a particular policy is a roaring success when it isn’t, or is at least marking progress. If there is a germ of truth in such propaganda then it is likely to be more plausible. The coalition government, however, has produced some of the most dishonest propaganda such that there is a chasm between the picture it paints and the reality. Here’s an example of the new Housing Minister, Kris Hopkins presenting (some of) the latest housing statistics as proof that “government action is getting Britain  building again”.  Read the rest of this entry »


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