Tag Archive: liberal


VOAG-Logo-(Ukraine)UK has ‘worst quality of life in Europe’

Survey of 10 developed European countries puts UK at bottom of the pile due to high costs of living, while France takes top spot


The UK has been named the worst place to live in Europe for quality of life, behind countries with damaged economies such as Ireland and Italy, according to the latest uSwitch quality of life index.
The UK emerged as having the second lowest hours of sunshine a year, the fourth highest retirement age, and the third lowest spend on health as a percentage of GDP. Despite above average household income – the fourth highest in Europe – Britons have 5.5 fewer days holiday a year than the European average and endure a below average government spend on education.

UK households also struggle with a high cost of living, with food and diesel prices the highest in Europe, and unleaded petrol, alcohol and cigarettes all costing more than the European average. As a result, more than one in 10 Britons (12%) said they are “seriously considering” emigrating, with “broken society” the biggest concern for 59% of those questioned, followed by the cost of living (49%), and crime and violence (47%). Just 5% of those questioned are happy in the UK.

The study examined 16 factors to determine where the UK sits in relation to nine other major European countries. Variables such as net income, VAT and the cost of essential goods were put under the microscope, as well as lifestyle factors such as hours of sunshine, holiday entitlement, working hours and life expectancy.

France bagged the top spot for the third year running, despite families earning an average £31,767 (compared to the UK’s £38,547) and working longer hours than people in the UK. But the French enjoy 2,124 hours of sunshine, have an average retirement age of 60, and receive 36 days of holiday a year. They also live a year longer than Brits, with an average life expectancy of 81.4 years compared to 80.4 in the UK. People in France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden call all expect to live longer than people in the UK.

Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany rounded out the top five best European countries for quality of life, with Denmark, Poland, Sweden and Ireland also above the UK in the table. Last year, Ireland was joint bottom with the UK.

France and Spain are also where people in the UK would most like to live, with 13% of the 2,036 adults surveyed by uSwitch choosing Spain and 7% opting for France. The Spanish can expect to live just over a year longer than people in the UK, and enjoy the highest number of days holiday in Europe with 39 days. Spain also has the lowest alcohol price of the 10 countries.

Uswitch said it had weighted each category to “nationally representative criteria” using sources such as the OECD, the Met Office, the World Health Organisation and Eurostat. It then calculated a standardised score for each category, defining quality of life as the sum of the standardised scores.

Ann Robinson of uSwitch.com said: “Last year, at least our neighbours in Ireland were worse off, now we can’t even console ourselves with that. We are now officially at the bottom of the pile. We may still be enjoying the fourth highest household income in Europe, but the high cost of living means we are living to work.

“When coupled with many of the issues facing households in the UK today it is not surprising that one in 10 of us have contemplated starting a new life abroad. But for those of us who decide to stick it out and ride the storm, there will be no choice but to batten down the hatches. Cutting back where possible to help combat our high living costs will go some way to improving our quality of life.”Revolution Banner

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big-societyDon’t Vote UKIP Don’t Vote Alexandra Swann: As UKIP Asks Should The Unemployed Be Allowed To Vote

The former chair of Conservative Future has suggested that the unemployed should not be allowed to vote. Tom Bursnall, who recently defected from the Tories to UKIP on Windsor and Maidenhead Council, specifically targeted the unemployed people on his “Pro Capitalist” blog, asking: “Should people on benefits be allowed to vote?”

And it gets worse — when Tom “Batshit” Bursnall goes on to suggest that rich people should receive more votes than the poor: “It would be terribly ‘unfair’ of you to give equal representation rights to the chap who contributes 50 times more than the next person. In the same way as if you own 60% of shares of a company, you’ll get 60% of the voting rights at the Annual General Meeting.”farage_swannWith Tom and his councillor wife trousering more than £14,000 from the taxpayer, The VOAG wonders how many more votes the Bursnall household would receive.

Now UKIP’s most high-profile new recruit, former Ukip candidate for Farnham North in the last Surrey County Council elections, Alexandra Swann, has joined in. She claims Cllr Tom Bursnall “has a point”, going on to say it is “dangerous” to let unemployed people vote. She continued: “allowing people to vote on how other people’s money is spent — if they dont contribute — is dangerous”

As with Tom Bursnall, Alexandra Swann defected from the Tories in 2012. 23 year-old Alexandra Swann was the star turn at UKIP’s recent conference in Skegness — with party leader Nigel Farage proudly declaring that “the Swann has migrated”. A statement on her website says she left the conservative Party for UKIP because Conservative-led” government submits to every liberal-left piety imaginable.’

She was narrowly defeated by the Tory incumbent, Denise Le Gal, by just 43 votes in the 2012 Surrey County Council elections. Don’t Vote UKIP, Don’t vote Alexander Swann.Join Us On Facebook

Diabled CampaignThe Black Triangle Campaign was founded to support the human rights of disabled people and to oppose the Government’s “Work Capability Assessments”, which re-classify sick and disabled people as “fit for work”.

 

The hidden welfare state that the U.K. government dares not speak of

The UK has two welfare states. There is one that is reported and endlessly discussed, and another, which is rarely mentioned. Whilst the first is suffering enormous cuts under the Tory/LD coalition, the other just keeps expanding.

Governments on the left and the right can always justify welfare cuts by pitting, for example, mobility scooters against needle exchanges, or the soft-play area in children’s playgrounds against an old people’s home. Who deserves it most, they say, students or cleaners? Old or young? But when we’re running not one, but two welfare states, that’s a totally fake scenario. The real choice is between playgrounds or gas rigs; between Meals on Wheels or The City of London Currency Speculators’ Maintenance Allowance.

There’s a connection – never mentioned – between, let’s say, Britain’s eight new deep-water gas rigs and its new food banks. The connection is that the $4.5 billion subsidy package being doled out to transnational gas corporations is a very big slice of the welfare pie. And to keep the gas transnationals on the benefits to which they are addicted, hungry humans have to queue for tinned food that is too close to its sell-by date to be kept on the shelves of supermarkets, many of which are themselves massive recipients of corporate welfare.

Not only does the UK pay out unemployment benefits less generous than Romania, Albania and the US, but the wages of the employed have simply not kept pace with productivity over the last 30 yrs. Tory Ideology is all about Handouts to the Wealthy paid for by the Poor.unemploymentGeorge Osborne has cut £18bn from benefits plus a further £81bn from public services in the name of unavoidable austerity, whilst at the same time providing huge subsidies, tax cuts and removing regulation for the hidden ‘welfare’ system that benefits the private sector.

No goods or services are directly returned to the government in exchange for these expenditures, although of course, politicians will argue that they’re stimulating the economy, helping struggling industries, creating jobs or funding important research but actually this is just a corporate welfare system.

The Cato Institute, for example, estimated that in the US, $93 billion were devoted to corporate welfare in 2002. This was about 5% of the federal budget, and nearly twice the amount spent on social welfare ie. feeding people, housing the homeless, raising children out of poverty etc.

There is no reason to think the situation is different in the UK. However, overall statistics for the UK corporate welfare budget are hard to discover, and the variety of different subsidies are staggering. Needless to say, the Tories focus their attention on fraud and waste in the social welfare budget.

Welfare fraud and waste is never far from the top of the UK’s news agenda – but the real figures often bear almost no resemblance to popular belief. The British public, for example, think around 27% of the welfare budget is lost of fraud, according to TUC research.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ latest data on fraud and error in the benefit system shows a very different reality: fraud exists, but at a far lower level than the public believes – and is outweighed by errors from claimants and officials alike. The DWP estimates £3.5bn has been overpaid due to errors and fraud in the system; 2.1 per cent of the overall benefit expenditure.

The corporate welfare budget arises from four main sources: Paying little or no tax – Tax havens; tax breaks; enjoying huge subsidies and the removal of employment and environmental protection regulations.

Tax Havens
 The UK’s 100 biggest public companies are running more than 8,000 subsidiaries or joint ventures in onshore and offshore tax havens, according to research. The figures, published by the charity Action Aid, show that only two of the companies listed on the UK’s FTSE 100 have no subsidiaries in tax havens – while companies such as Barclays and Tesco own hundreds. http://www.guardian.co.uk. The UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories constitute half of the world’s most frequently used tax havens.

Tax Breaks
Almost one in four of Britain’s biggest listed companies paid no corporation tax in this country last year – and almost half fail to disclose their tax payments to the UK at all, according to research by The Mail on Sunday.  According to the annual reports and accounts of all the companies in the FTSE 100, 47 companies gave no obvious figures for tax paid in Britain.  Of the 53 who did, 12 showed they paid no tax at all and, six actually received a tax credit.Tax AvoidTax Avoidance

 Treasury minister, David Gauke, admitted in reply to a parliamentary written question that only four employees of HMRC are working to capture 124 tax fugitives. The amount of uncollected tax rose again last year. A Labour MP pointed out that the four officials dedicated to the tax fugitives compares with the 450 HMRC staff involved in administering the withdrawal of child benefit from higher-rate taxpayers.

Subsidies
Currently, it is estimated that the government has already provided £43.5bn in various subsidies including the National Infrastructure Plan, the Equity Loan and Help to Buy schemes, the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and the Regional Growth Fund, with nothing to show for it. Far greater sums are in the pipeline, up to £310bn.

Meanwhile supermarkets get an enormous subsidy to help with one of their major overheads, staffing costs. This is because many employees in these large and successful companies are paid only the minimum wage. And because the current minimum wage is not a living wage, nearly everyone on it has to claim tax credits to be able to make ends meet. Those tax credits are funded by the taxpayer. The supermarkets are effectively state subsidised industries.

In addition to the recent unprecedented public support for the financial sector The NEF (New Economics Foundation) identified at least three significant hidden subsidies:

* The ‘Too Big to Fail’ subsidy: The government now provides a public guarantee, effectively insurance against banks going bust. This gives banks a huge commercial advantage over other firms in a market system. It means banks are able to borrow money much more cheaply than if they were not ultimately underwritten by the public. Exchanges with leading auditors in front of the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs in January 2011 confirm this. A conservative analysis reveals that this hidden subsidy could be worth £30 billion annually. It means that bonuses to senior staff for ‘performance’ and dividends to institutional investors are at least in part a straight transfer from the taxpayer.
* The quantitative easing windfall subsidy: When it was decided that the economy needed more liquidity, the Bank of England pumped money in using the technique called ‘quantitative easing’. To meet various, and sometimes self-imposed, requirements, it did by purchasing government bonds through investment banks. Merely for being passive conduits for this ‘risk free’ arrangement the banks took a cut of every trade. Here nef analysts found that banks enjoyed a significant windfall, but that lack of transparency keeps the likely amount hidden.
* The ‘make the customer pay’ subsidy: Since the baking crisis of 2008, the banks have been increased the gap between what they have to pay to borrow money, and what they charge people to borrow from them. This is the so-called interest rate ‘spread’. This is because they can borow money from the Bank of England at virtually 0%. As it is, the taxpayer is subsidising the banks twice over: once through taxpayer funded public support to the banks, and secondly through paying much higher interest to borrow than the banks do. This hidden subsidy amounts to at least another £2.5 billion each year.Rebuild The Fourth International

stop-the-cutsFocus On Benefit Cuts and Sanctions

Benefit claimants Assessed as ‘fit for work’ are dying within six weeks of assessment
Thousands of sick benefit claimants are dying within six weeks of being wrongly assessed as “fit to work”, a North-East MP claimed yesterday, during a commons debate  in which he called for an independent assessment of the Coalition’s welfare policy.

Ian Mearns, Labour MP for Gateshead, blamed the Government for the misdiagnosis at least 10,600 sick and disabled people in just ten months, who then quickly died. He said: “Four people a day are dying within six weeks of being declared fit for work under the work capability assessments. It is scandalous.

Mr Mearns said the figure of 10,600 deaths, after unsuccessful claims for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), covered the period January to November 2011. And he added: “This Government has repeatedly refused to release updated 2013 figures for deaths within six weeks of an end of an ESA claim.”No-CutsStop the benefits cuts and sanctions says Citizens Advice Bureau Punishing Poverty is a report published last week by Citizens Advice and which is based on a national survey of those who have had benefits stopped or sanctioned for not meeting the endless ‘work related activity’ conditions imposed by Jobcentres.  Hundreds of thousands of claimants have faced sanctions varying in length between four weeks and up to three years.  These sanctions are often imposed for the most trivial of reasons and as this report exposes, quite often for circumstances that are entirely beyond the claimant’s control.  It is not just unemployed claimants who face sanctions, but increasingly sick and disabled people and single parents with children over the age of five.

The results of the survey portray a truly horrific account of the destitution and human misery that this regime has inflicted on people.  Stories of families ripped apart, pregnant women left without food, those with dietary needs due to health conditions becoming sick, mental health deteriorating, suicide attempts and people forced to beg or go through bins to find food.

These stories are not the inevitable consequence of economic crisis, the UK is still one of the richest countries in the world. Benefit sanctions barely save the tax payer a penny such is the cost of policing and administering the system. 

As the Citizens Advice report reveals there are countless tales of benefits being stopped due to a mistake by the Jobcentre, or because a claimant faced unavoidable circumstances such as travel delays, hospital appointments and even job interviews which caused them to be late to an appointment with their advisor.  It is the widespread, seemingly haphazard nature of the regime which forces all claimants into a state of perpetual fear.  The threat of the dreaded brown envelope through the door from the DWP is a feature of life on all benefits, a daily reminder that you are only ever a heartbeat away from complete destitution.

The welfare state is not a political weapon to stigmatise  or scapegoat people, force down wages and pursue a work makes you free ideology. It should exist as the opposite, to empower, provide dignity and even act as a force against poverty pay – saying to grasping employers that there is an alternative for people if all you’ve got to offer is shit wages. Benefit sanctions must be brought to an immediate end with no exceptions. The full report can be downloaded at: http://sdrv.ms/1c48ECqwelfare10 Facts About Benefits Britain
1) A TUC survey showed that people think around 41% of benefits go to the unemployed, the real figure is 2.6%. (1)

2) 42% of the Welfare Bill goes to pensioners, 21% goes to people in low paid work. (2)

3) Nearly 80% of JSA claimants stop claiming within 6 months. (3)

4) Of the 7.8 million families receiving child benefit, 1.2 million have more than two children. (4)

5) A TUC survey found that people think around 27% of welfare is lost to fraud – the real figure is only 0.7%, around £1.2 billion. (5)

6) Around £17 billion of benefits that people are entitled to goes unclaimed every year. (6)

7) Immigrants are 60% less likely to claim benefits than a British-born person. (7)

8) 64% of families receive benefits – that’s 20.3 million families. (8)

9) The UK spends 12% less on benefits per head than France does, and 19% less compared to Germany. (9)

10) 93% of new Housing Benefit claimants in 2010 and 2011 came from working people, as UK housing costs are the 3rd highest in Europe. (10)Socialism or Barbarism, it really is that simple!

What Labour’s energy price pledge says about Britain

The VOAG is everywhere - The VOAG is watchingBy Julie Hyland (for WSWS), September 2013.
The howls of outrage that greeted Labour leader Ed Miliband’s timorous suggestion of some mild reforms starkly illustrates social reality in Britain.

Speaking at the Labour Party conference, Miliband pledged that if elected in 2015, his government would freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017. The pledge is hardly the return to “old-Labour-style” policies of “tax and spend”, much less the full-blooded “socialism” claimed by Miliband’s media critics and supporters alike.

Amounting to an average household saving of just £120, it is a drop in the ocean when compared to the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition’s austerity measures, which have produced, as Miliband acknowledged, the longest fall in living standards since the 1870s.

For his conference speech, however, Miliband had to come up with some headline grabber. He is, after all, a man with his back against the wall. Miliband leads a party that is all but destroyed by its long period of association in government with rampant free market speculation and colonial-style wars of aggression. Labour’s vote collapsed to just 29 percent in the last election, and there is little sign of a revival.

Membership has fallen to just 180,000, and the most recent opinion polls give the Conservatives a slight lead on Labour despite the widespread hostility to Prime Minister David Cameron and his government. Almost half of voters think Labour would be better without Miliband, and nearly two thirds think he can’t win an election.

With such odds, Miliband had to make some pitch for support, even if only to save his own leadership. Surrounded by images of the union flag, he again advanced Labour as the “One Nation” party, where “rich and poor alike” have “responsibilities to each other”.

Pointing out what everyone knows—that the so-called economic recovery has only been for the super-rich—he complained that this was the result of Conservative support for a “global race to the bottom” at the expense of wages, conditions and rights.

Miliband barely referenced the role of the Liberal Democrats in government. With little likelihood that Labour could win election outright, the Labour leader is banking on a coalition with the Tories’ current partners—whose own poll ratings have fallen through the floor and whose membership numbers are below 50,000.

Miliband claimed that Labour stood for a “race to the top”. What this consists of was not spelt out, but it was accompanied by promises of minimal reforms such as energy decarbonisation, overturning the coalition’s tax break to big corporations in order to cut business taxes on small companies, breakfast clubs for primary schools, and a “look at whether there are some sectors where we can afford” a rise in the minimum wage. Such a rise would only take place in agreement with business, Miliband stated.

His pledge to freeze energy prices for a period was also directed primarily at providing savings for small businesses, in keeping with his One Nation mantra. It was not possible to have a “dynamic market economy when one section of society does so well at the expense of others,” he said, urging the energy giants to cooperate with his plan.

Miliband made clear that these limited measures were entirely within the framework of Labour’s commitment to austerity. Being in government would be “tough,” he said. Labour would have to “stick to strict spending limits…we are not going to be able to spend money we don’t have.”

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls stressed the same message, making clear there would be no reversal in the coalition’s cuts and that Labour would have to make more of its own. To underscore the point, he had written to the Office of Budget Responsibility requesting that it audit the party’s manifesto commitments to prove its fiscal discipline.

Their statements underscore that the energy price freeze pledge is a mere reshuffling of a hand that will see working people lose every which way. Nonetheless, the response from the major corporations and much of the media was hysterical. The Financial Times decried what it called the “whiff of Poujadiste populism” in the proposal—a reference to the 1950s French right-wing populist demagogue, Pierre Poujade.

For their part, the major energy companies threatened darkly of power blackouts and of pulling out of the UK altogether. Centrica’s chairman, Sir Roger Carr, described a price freeze as a “recipe for economic ruin,” claiming that it would no longer be “economically viable to continue” in Britain.

Amid threats of an investment strike, Neil Woodford from the fund manager Invesco Perpetual denounced the plan as “economic vandalism.” If the energy corporations “cannot make any money supplying electricity to the retail market then they won’t supply it. The lights will go off, the economy will shut down,” he said.

In reality, energy bills have almost doubled since 2000, with households spending an average of £1,339 on gas and electricity. According to the consumer group Which?, households have been paying £3.9 billion a year over the odds for their energy. Meanwhile, the annual profit made by the UK’s big energy firms rose by 73 percent in the three years to 2012.

The Guardian ’s environmental blogger, Damian Carrington, also pointed out: “Coalition policies to deliver new generation capacity will remain unchanged, which means the government will guarantee the price energy companies will be paid for 30-40 years. That’s an extraordinarily good investment in an uncertain world.”

In other words, while complaining about frozen prices for customers, corporations are more than happy with decades of frozen prices for themselves. This is a ruling elite that will not accept a few crumbs being tossed to working people, even if such a move is intended to help them keep plundering the economy for their personal enrichment. Max Hastings summed up their attitude in the Daily Mail, when answering Miliband’s rhetorical question as to whether it was satisfactory for “a country to be working harder and longer for less?”  The “fact is”, Hastings stated, “all Western societies must do exactly that.” Any politician who pretends that this can be avoided by “loading more tax on banks and millionaires, is either a fool or a liar,” he wrote.

The angry response to Miliband’s feeble attempt to gain some popularity testifies to the total grip of the major corporations and the super-rich over the entire political system. Absolutely nothing must be allowed to infringe on their interests and wealth. Even while billions of state funds are given over to maintaining their obscene lifestyles, the financial oligarchy openly declares that the maintenance of their system depends upon destroying the living standards of the mass of the population.

The continued existence of this parasitic layer is incompatible with the needs of society. But as events of the last days have underscored, its economic stranglehold will not be broken by appeals to its non-existent conscience, much less by its political lackeys in the moribund Labour Party.

It can only be achieved through the mobilisation of the working class in a revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of the capitalist profit system, and the fight for a workers’ government based on socialist policies.The VOAG is watching, the VOAG is everywhere!

Even fellow Tories distance themselves from this “crazy fascist”

Yesterday, The VOAG re-published a story about John Butcher, a Conservative Surrey County Councillor for Cobham ward. He has worked out a brilliant scheme for pushing up property values in the county – by driving out everyone who is fat, takes recreational drugs, gorges on junk food or has ‘self-inflicted’ health problems of any kind. As a member of the council’s health committee, he has sent an email to staff suggesting a two-speed NHS in which “patients with self-inflicted morbidity, (mainly smoking, alcohol, narcotics or obesity) or an injury through ‘dangerous activities’ are placed in a much slower-moving queue”. https://suacs.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/john-butcher-surrey-heath-tory-councillor-health-committee-nhs
In a response to the Elmbridge Guardian, which first broke the story, John Butcher added: “If sports can ban performance-enhancing drug use, then entertainment etc. should ban narcotics and alcohol abuse”.

“Everyone in, or aspiring to, a position of public responsibility and everyone in a position to influence the public, including entertainers etc, should be asked to sign a voluntary pledge not to take illegal narcotics or consume excessive alcohol, or drive when so affected”.

“Anyone who fails to sign that pledge, or who signs it and breaches it, should be excluded from positions of public responsibility and influence. All public organisations, including regulated broadcasters etc, should agree to impose this exclusion”.

Fellow Councillor, Karen Randolph was also quoted in the paper. She  said: “The views expressed by Councillor Butcher challenge the very credibility of Surrey County Council’s Health Overview Scrutiny Committee, of which he is a member. It is highly disturbing that the Conservative administration at SCC has deemed it appropriate to appoint to this committee a councillor who clearly does not support the NHS and who holds such extraordinary views about the responsibilities of the state to its citizens.”

Cllr John Butcher also sits on Elbridge Borough Council, where he lists his chief concerns as “Challenging wishy-washiness” and “nebulous do-goodery”.

Simon Cook, a Conservative councillor in Cullingworth, Yorkshire called John Butcher “a real deal health fascist” and blogged yesterday: “So if you smoke, drink, drive fast cars round a track or climb rocks (not sure whether Cllr Butcher’s ‘dangerous activities’ includes horse riding and playing rugby) you’ll be made to wait longer in the hope that you’ll move away from Surrey. Indeed, it seems that Cllr Butcher thinks that, by doing this, all these people with “self-inflicted” illnesses will move to places where the authorities believe in equal treatment”.

The real question is: How would John butcher’s proposals push up house prices in Surrey, and to whose benefit would it be? John Butcher’s argument is that people with illnesses will be repulsed from Surrey, whilst “healthy people will be attracted to the better healthcare that Surrey could afford, having been freed from the burden of treating sick people”.

What the councillor is really saying is drive out the poor and less affluent from Surrey (the sick, disabled, smokers obese et al, who are by-and large the less well off) to make lebensraum for his wealthy friends. Bring on the concentration camps.

But let’s give the councillor a chance. Let’s take his comments on face value. There are 1.08 million residents in Surrey. According to Surrey County Council, one in four adults in Surrey are smokers. Surrey NHS estimates there are 455,000 “hazardous”, “harmful” or “binge drinkers” in Surrey. http://www.surreydaat.org.uk/pdf/Alcohol%20Needs%20Assessment.pdf

The Obesity rate in Surrey, lower than the national average, is estimated by Surrey PCT to be at 20% of the population. http://www.guildford.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=569&p=0 As for drugs use, there are no statistics for Surrey, but in the South East, according to the ONS, 8.6% of the adult population took illegal drugs last year, with 3.3% of the population described as frequent drug users. http://data.gov.uk

The councillor extended his attack on the unfit and unwell to people engaged in “risky past-times and sports”. It’s plainly obvious that this is just a smoke screen to hide his real agenda, which is to chase the less affluent, who have a propensity to be less fit, out of Surrey. I can’t believe the Councillor is thinking of his horse riding, rugby playing chums when he talks of “dangerous sports”. However, taking Cllr Butcher at his word again, we have to take account of horse riding, rugby, perhaps even motor cycling, and a host of other recreational pass-times that might be considered potentially hazardous.      

For example, according to Surrey County Council’s 2007 Rights Of Way report, there are 20,000 horses in Surrey. A 1998 Gallop poll found 6% of Surrey residents had gone horse riding in that year. http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/176058/ROWIP-main-text.pdf

Where’s all this going, what’s the point of all these statistics? Well, by my reckoning, if the Councillor had his way, they’d be no-one left in Surrey. His policy certainly wouldn’t produce the rise in property prices that he and his chums so desire.     

As an aside to these arguments; according to the ONS, Excise duty & VAT raised by the UK Drinks industry amounts to £22bn annually, whilst alcohol consumption costs the nation, through the health service, crime, lost production etc £20bn.

Estimates of the costs to the NHS from smoking varies greatly, one study estimated an annual cost of £610m. Another study (Allender, S- The burden of smoking-related ill health in the UK) estimates the cost to be £2.7bn – whilst the Centre for Health Economics estimates the cost to be between £1.4bn and £1.7bn.  According to the HMRC (Revenue & Customs) Tobacco tax revenue last year amounted to £12.1bn.

Another argument, developed by the University of Public Health, Rotterdam indicates that smoking may even save the NHS money. Their study shows that since smokers on average die younger, they do not incur the costs of a lengthy old age or the costly diseases that are associated with it. Their study concluded that the average health cost of a non-smoker was $83,400 whilst the average health cost of a smoker was $72,600.

These fiscal arguments, which clearly show the tax payer incurs no cost from smoking and alcohol consumption, can be equally applied to the sporting activities Cllr Butcher appears so against. In each and every case revenue exceeds the costs.

It’s not the first time John Butcher has hit the local headlines. A council employee lodged an official complaint against him in February 2010.

Council proceedings start with a prayer, during which no one is allowed to enter or leave the council chambers. Cllr Butcher arrived late to the 2010 February council meeting- and finding that prayers had already begun, and the door to the chambers closed and guarded by an attendant- he lost his temper. He aggressively forced his way in to the chambers, thrusting the door in to the face of the attendant, injuring him and bruising his face.

An eye-witness told the Surrey Advertiser: “During prayers I became aware of someone attempting to gain entry to the council chamber, through the door being ‘guarded’ [by the officer], using his body to keep the door shut. It quickly became apparent that this someone had not been deterred by the efforts and they again tried to enter the chamber in a more forceful manner. I then recall [the officer] turning his head towards the door as if to indicate through the frosted glass to the person on the other side that prayers were still ongoing. A very short time afterwards I recall hearing something of a thud as the door hit [the officer] on the side of the head and I witnessed John Butcher stumbling/forcing his way into the chamber through the partially opened door.”

After the incident John Butcher refused to apologise to the attendant and denied injuring him, even though there was a council chamber full of witnesses.

Not only are John Butcher’s views abhorrent, but as I hope I’ve shown, they don’t even make sense or stand up to any kind of reasoning. Rather than exile the less-well-off, the sick and the disabled from Surrey, it’s time to kick John Butcher out of Surrey. Do not re-elect John Butcher to Surrey County Council or Elmbridge Borough Council.
John Butcher
18 Bramble Rise
Cobham Surrey
KT11 2HP
Tel: 07899 891685
jbutcher@elmbridge.gov.uk

Surrey County Council Health Committee Tory Councillor, John Butcher: “Force seriously ill people out of Surrey to push up house prices”

From Political Scrapbook blog -June 1st, 2012.
A Tory councillor on Surrey’s health committee has called for seriously ill people to be forced out of the county. John Butcher has suggested those with “self-inflicted morbidity” should be “encouraged” to “move away from Surrey” – in the name of pushing up house prices.

Butcher wants groups such as smokers —  referred to as the “self-inflicted” — to be offered slower NHS treatment so that they will be forced to move: “This factor would attract more ‘other’ patients to come to live in Surrey – and that would push up house prices here.”

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more sick, he ventures that this would benefit the Tories in elections: “any political party that seeks to pander to the needs of the self-inflicted unhealthy, and to win their votes, will suffer twofold … mortality will ensure that its voters will be much fewer in number than the ‘others’”

 Councillor Butcher’s email, which went round Surrey Council like wildfire before being leaked, is reproduced in full below:

1 Please pass on my apology for absence from the Surrey HOSC meeting on 24 May 2012, but I have a hospital appointment that day, and it has already been postponed once.

2 Because of the economic catastrophe facing the capitalist world, the NHS, that is a Marxist organisation, is bound to fail – like Greece.

The government’s efforts to ‘improve’ it are merely a postponement of that failure, which will arise from ever-increasing demand for, and the unit costs of, healthcare and the ever-decreasing national wealth available to afford those demands and costs, through taxation or otherwise.

Politicians who support the diversion of increasingly scarce fiscal resources into propping up the NHS, without taking measures to curb demand, not only accelerate its eventual demise but allow more important demands on the public purse to go unmet, with serious adverse consequences to the people. It will be the people who suffer from the collapse of the NHS – but they will have only themselves to blame – for voting in politicians who promise to improve the NHS regardless of other factors.

3 One way of saving the NHS is to encourage patients to take very much more care of themselves, with penalties on those who won’t do that. If the NHS in Surrey were to be run on the basis that patients with self-inflicted morbidity (mainly – smoking, alcohol, narcotics, obesity) and injury (dangerous activities) are, following due warning, placed in a much slower-moving queue for healthcare than ‘other’ patients, this would encourage the self-inflicted to move away from Surrey, to areas where there is no differentiation between patients on the grounds of their contribution towards their condition.

And it would deter the self-inflicted from coming to live in Surrey. Over time, that would result in the healthcare for the ‘other’ patients in Surrey being significantly better than the average national level for all patients, as the resources deployed to the self-inflicted would be very much reduced.

This factor would attract more ‘other’ patients to come to live in Surrey – and that would push up house prices here – assuming that planning controls remain similar to now.

4 Eventually the self-inflicted patients would end up living in ‘equality’ areas that are dominated by politicians who pander to their needs, thus driving more ‘other’ patients out of those areas, as healthcare there will be badly affected by the over-dominance of the self-inflicted.

These ‘other’ patients would move into areas, such as, hopefully, Surrey, where ‘other’ patients are not nearly so adversely affected. Eventually the country will be sharply divided into two types of area:

4.1 the ‘equality’ ones, where the self-inflicted unhealthy are treated the same as all patients, and 4.2 the ‘others’, such as, hopefully, Surrey.

Average life expectancy will be substantially lower (by, say, 20 years) in the ‘equality’ areas than in the ‘others’. This may mean that ‘other’ patients moving out of ‘equality’ areas may have to live in a less desirable dwelling, because of house price differentials, but that is a trade-off, that they can choose, with healthcare differentials between the two types of area.

Such house price differentials already apply for schooling, with houses on one side of a catchment boundary being worth a lot more than houses on the other side of it.

Indeed, the perception that the gap in those prices between those two types of healthcare area will grow substantially will encourage the ‘other’ patients in those ‘equality’ areas to move out of them sooner, lest they see their dwelling there becoming worthless.

5 Thus, any political party that seeks to pander to the needs of the self-inflicted unhealthy, and to win their votes, will suffer twofold:

5.1 mortality will ensure that its voters will be much fewer in number than the ‘others’, and

5.2 by concentrating its voters into particular areas, that party will never be able to win enough seats to dominate Parliament.
Regards John Butcher.
18 Bramble Rise
Cobham
Surrey
KT11 2HP
jvcbutcher@btinternet.com
Tel: 07899 891685

End the Workfare Programmes now!

Picket stores in the West End on May 1st after the May Day Parade.
Meet Up At Clerkenwell Green 12 Noon May 1st.

From the Solidarity Federation
As part of the ongoing campaign against the five government-endorsed work placement schemes (commonly known as Workfare), the Solidarity Federation has called for a series of lightning pickets throughout the West End of London to mark the end of the traditional Mayday Parade from Clerkenwell Green to Trafalgar Square. join the parade, join the pickets!

 The organisation claims that its actions will focus on three of the largest businesses that have signed up for the Workfare scheme – Holland and Barrett, Greggs the Bakers, and McDonalds – and one of the Workfare service providers, A4e. There are currently five workfare programmes being run by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in conjunction with a number of private and voluntary sector companies. The five programmes are: The Work Programme, The Community Action Programme, Mandatory Work Activity, Work Experience and the Sector-based Work Academies.

The Con-Dem government, and the previous Labour government, have borrowed these “payment by results” re-employment schemes from models previously in place in Australia; schemes which failed in their intent to reduce government subsidy and led to tighter control of the schemes. (1) Here in the UK we have now witnessed six arrests on suspected fraud at the workfare provider A4e and calls in Parliament for the DWP to release all the incidents of suspected fraud within these programmes. (2) Perhaps they have just realised that Ingeus UK is 50% owned by the long-term Australian workfare provider Ingeus… (the other 50% is owned by the accountancy firm Deloitte who have frequently been fined for failing compliance issues).

The A4e scandal, the embarrassing questions raised by companies such as Argos and Tesco about the mandatory elements of these schemes at the highly publicised meeting between the government and business using workfare staff on February 29th, and the continuing campaign by Boycott Workfare, have raised the issue to such an extent that a recent Freedom of Information request has shown that three of the five workfare programmes have had the mandatory sanctions – the delay or removal of benefit payments – “temporarily” suspended. (3) What that doesn’t reveal is that claimants are now being shunted onto one of the schemes where it is still in place, with Mandatory Work Activity placements. (4)At a conference on 18th April 2012 the Con-Dem think-tank, Policy Exchange, who boast the reforms in the NHS amongst their successes, revealed the true intent behind the move towards encouraging the private sector into workfare: the reform of the Jobcentre Plus to be wholly run by private and third sector organisations (under a new scheme called “Community Link”), where the employees are also paid by performance targets – “National pay bargaining should also be ended” – increased individual claimant data-collection and profiling, the introduction of smartcards to claimants to prevent them from purchasing unnecessary items with their benefits and the increase in job-search requirements to become equivalent to the regular 35 hour working week. Claimants will continue to be means-tested, but will not be able to make a claim until they can prove they have already sought work for two weeks from the start of their unemployment. (5)

The Workfare programmes are unsuccessful re-employment schemes that continue to blame the young, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed and the recently imprisoned for the incompetence and failures of successive governments to face up to the economic basis of laissez-faire capitalism. It has become acceptable to blame the vulnerable individual for their lack of employment opportunities, rather than recognise the imbalance between the need for so-called “austerity measures” and the requirement to prop-up business profits.

In continuing to believe the mythical “Big Society” will allow private enterprise to furnish the unemployed with new jobs, the government continues to fund a series of privately-owned companies with taxpayer monies despite the failure of these companies to meet their contracted targets. It is a way of making profits from the unfortunate and the impoverished. The limited numbers of “third sector” groups involved in Workfare – charities and other voluntary organisations – are usually specialist groups who are already being squeezed out of the market in favour of global providers like ATOS and Ingeus.

“The only way to halt these policies is to make them more expensive to enforce than to drop,” Song continued. “This means discouraging businesses from adopting these schemes and exposing the providers who benefit from Workfare.”

Potential sites for protest can be viewed at the following Google Map at: http://g.co/maps/wx93f


END NOTES

1.)   http://www.redpepper.org.uk/a4e-a-scandal-so-big-it-could-be-seen-from-2008/

5.)   “Personalised Welfare: Rethinking employment support and Job Centres”; Ed Holmes, Policy Exchange, 2011 pp71-3. (ISBN 978-1-907689-10-9); “No Rights Without Responsibility: Rebalancing the welfare state”; Matthew Oakley and Peter Saunders, Policy Exchange, 2011 (Hand out, headed “Summary May 2011”).

For a background to the government’s Workfare programme See:
https://suacs.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/anti-workfare-demonstration-march-3rd-2012

The VOAG joined the Kingston Anti-Cuts Group for a demonstration outside Kingston Council’s Budget meeting at the Guildhall, Wednesday, 29th February.

 The council approved cuts of over £8.6million with another £4.4million planned for next year and a further £12 million the year after. They follow cuts of over £15million last year.

Kingston Council has already made a 100 redundancies, cuts to  children’s services and £1.4million cuts to mental health facilities. At the same time the council has spent £20,000 on car park “rebranding”. A further 600 jobs are to be lost at Kingston hospital, together with £6million cuts to adult social care and services for children with Special Educational Needs. Another £500,000 is to be cut from “One Kingston” projects.

Kingston TUC, the CWU and GMB unions, the Communist Party, Kingston Anti Cuts Group, Kingston SWP, the Socialist Party, Surrey Unison, the IWW and Kingston Labour Party were represented in the 60 strong demonstration.

The demonstration was joined by the Christian Peoples Alliance, who held a candle-lit vigil and said prayers for “those less fortunate than themselves” (us), before taking off in their brand new cars.

As the Tory and Lib-Dem councillors arrived for the meeting, they were met with chants directed at the Tory council leader: “Derek Osbourne get out, we know what you’re all about- cuts, job losses, money for the bosses”. Campaigners also shouted “Save our services- stop the cuts!” and gave out leaflets to passers-by.

Kit Leary from Surrey County Unison gave a spontaneous speech to the demonstration assembled on the steps of the Guildhall, he said: “With all these job losses, it’s a time when we need our public services more than ever.” When the meeting was due to start the campaigners joined the councillors in the warmth of the Guildhall.One fat balding Tory, councillor Priyen Patel, spoke of the council becoming a “commissioning council”. This is Tory speak for privatising services, where-by public services, presently provided direct by the council, are bought, or commissioned from private companies who profiteer from the tax-payer. He spoke of boosting charities rather than providing services.

Campaigners and residents in the public gallery were outraged. They shouted “They’re not ‘savings’ they’re CUTS, call them what they are” and chanted “Shame on you!”. The mayor Councillor Patrick Codd was forced to adjourn the meeting whilst half the public gallery were escorted out of the meeting under a threat of arrest. They chanted “shame on you” and “why don’t you stand up for the people you represent?” Some of the protesters broke away from their escort to run back into the meeting via another door to continue their berating.

The demonstration attracted a very positive reaction in the local press and won some great publicity for the Kingston Anti Cuts campaign. Once again the Super-Swappies (SWP) of Kingston, who organised the event, show the rest of us how it’s done. Some of those present asked after the South London Anti Capitalists and wondered why they hadn’t come out to support the demonstration. Well, the VOAG thinks the clue is in the acronym.

Workfare – The Facts & The Figures: Another Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford Investigation.

See bottom of the post for a list of events and demonstrations in London. 
It must be the ultimate dream of capitalists. You get free workers. After all, as Tesco is fond of saying ‘every little helps’. But people have finally begun to rebel over the stigmatisation and demonisation of people on the dole. The new Tory Work Program has a core underlying philosophy. The unemployed are to blame for their own predicament.

Was it the unemployed who dealt in derivatives and financial instruments based on fraudulent risk assessments? Did the unemployed gamble with billions of pounds of other peoples’ money? Have unemployed people caused the recession?

Working for your £67.00 a week dole in a climate of no jobs simply means exploitation. And if someone gets a job at the end, then it means someone else doesn’t. All it teaches people to do is to compete more effectively against each other.

The government claims that “Work Experience”, “Community Action Programmes”, and other slave labour schemes are helping people “back to work”. But the truth is, companies availing themselves of these slave labour schemes are replacing paid staff with unemployed forced labour, creating more unemployment. Why would companies pay for staff when they are being provided free at the taxpayers’ expense?

Furthermore, there is a large body of research that indicates that shelf-stacking work only leads to more low paid shelf stacking work. Even highly qualified graduates, once they embark on low paid, low skilled jobs, find it much harder to gain skilled employment.

We need to get the message across that unemployment is endemic to capitalism. That demonisation and finding scapegoats is essential to a system that is desperate to blame any and everyone, except those who are most responsible.

Tesco, Burger King, Poundland and many other businesses are pulling out of the “Workfare” programme, as well as the other slave labour schemes. These schemes are in crisis. Now is the time to pile on the pressure.

March 3rd will see the next day of action against Workfare, and it promises to be the biggest yet. Workfare and the other slave labour schemes affect us all. They increase unemployment and reduce wages for the rest of us. Companies such as Poundland are paying their workers less and less whilst making huge profits because they know there is an ever-increasing pool of unemployed labour threatened with doing the same work for nothing.

Before pulling out of the scheme, Tesco reported that over the past four months some 1,400 people have worked for them without pay. Meanwhile, its profits for the first half of 2011 were £1.9 billion. And Tesco CEO Philip Clarke is on target for £6.9 million this year.

Steve Short, from the Boycott Workfare Campaign http://www.boycottworkfare.org told The VOAG; “It is staggering that while unemployment continues to rise, the government is replacing paid work by pushing out workfare on a massive scale. The organisations profiting from free labour can afford to pay a wage but are choosing not to. Actions this weekend will show that they risk their reputation if they do not withdraw from workfare.”

It is our duty – as trades unionists, activists, workers and youth to join in the day of action on March 3rd. These schemes are teetering on the edge. One more push and we can close them down for good. Below is a list of demonstrations in London on Saturday March 3rd. Please consider joining one near you or come to the main demonstration in Oxford Street. Details below. 

There are several government forced labour schemes – and no matter what the government says there is an element of compulsion to all of them.The Work Experience Scheme –
This scheme is designed for 16 to 24 year olds. The government admits that young people who refuse to go on the eight-week placements will loose benefits. It intends to create 250,000 Work Experience placements. Once the placement is completed, benefit claimants can be forced to go strait on to another scheme. The placements can be never ending.

The Mandatory Work Activity Scheme –
This scheme is for claimants aged 18 or over. The scheme mandates four weeks’ work unpaid for 30 hours a week. Although the government claims it is “community work”, its definition of this includes private companies. 24,010 people were mandated to take part in MWA between May and November last year.

Community Action Programme
Jobseekers are referred for up to 30 hours unpaid work per week for six months. They can be stacking shelves or tossing your burgers. The government says the Community Action Programme is designed for the benefit of the community. It is a clear sign that the government intends to use forced labour to replace the gaps left in public service delivery in the wake of service cuts. Provider guidelines suggest that a community placement would be appropriate at Local Authorities and Councils, Government Departments and Agencies, Charities and third sector organisations, Social Enterprises, and Environmental Agencies.

The Work Programme
370,000 people were referred to the Work Programme between June and November 2011. 850,000 people are expected to be forced on to the programme by the end of the year. Ingeus, which administers Mandatory Work Assignments in the East Midlands and the North-East (owned by city financiers Deloitte) force people to do six month workfare placements. The Work Programme, is expected to cost the taxpayer £5 billion pounds. Claimants loose all benefits if they refuse to go on the scheme or drop out before its completion. Once the six month programme is concluded, job seekers can be required to immediately start another work placement. For more information on these schemes and for tips on how to avoid them visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org

Workfare Doesn’t Work
On the 1st of April 2011, the Social Security Advisory Committee advised the government not to introduce Mandatory Work Activity. Its report said there was “no evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work”. It continued: “there is evidence to suggest that by limiting the time available for job search activities, Mandatory Work Activity can in fact reduce the participants’ chances of finding employment.

The Committee stated “it appears to us to signal that being mandated to mandatory work activity is regarded as a punishment rather than an opportunity to learn and develop new behaviors and skills”. The report continued: “there is a risk that the presence of Mandatory Work Activity on a jobseeker’s CV could stigmatise a jobseeker when applying for a job in the future.
The report went on to say that the Committee is “very concerned that this is an exploitation of people who have no choice” and there is no provision to “monitor employers or to end their involvement should they be found exploiting participants or requiring them to undertake inappropriate work.

There is no requirement for “employers” to provide equipment, for example clothing. There is no provision for job seekers to take time off for illness or to attend medical appointments, or to look after a child if it falls sick. There is no requirement for the employer or placement administrator to reimburse expenses for travel or childcare. The lack of childcare costs will make it impossible for one-parent families to participate in the programmes, leaving them vulnerable to benefit sanctions.

This 18 page report by the governments own Social Security Advisory Committee ends in big bold letters in a text box, copied and pasted from the report below:A4E and Emma Harrison
These schemes don’t come cheap. They are administered by private companies. A4E is one such company. Emma Harrison, the chair of A4E has had to step down from the company she founded, together with her government post as “Back to Work Czar”, after being caught with her hands in the till. Ruling-class scum like Harrison preach about benefit scroungers, whilst they take home millions. Whilst her company is mired in fraud and corruption scandals, Harrison paid herself £8.6m last year.

The only revenue A4E earns comes from our taxes. It is paid by the government according to the numbers of job seekers it manages to force on to government schemes. The Guardian reported on 22nd February that A4E was under police investigation. It had been forcing job seekers to work unpaid in its own offices in order to get the “placement” commissions. Jobseekers were forced to work in their offices in Woolwich, Camden and Holloway or have their benefits stopped. The investigation, reported the Guardian, also revealed that from the 12 months to late June 2011 the company sent people to work unpaid in Asda, Sainsbury’s, Oxfam and a host of other businesses.

A “company official, who did not want to be named” was quoted in the Guardian, as saying; “that in addition to the revenue from the commissions and the free labour, sending jobseekers to work in its offices helped A4e cut down on its overheads as it didn’t have to spend time on organising placements”.

So far four A4E employees have been arrested, and the head of the Commons Public Spending Watchdog has demanded the government stops working with A4E until the police investigation is completed. The Public Spending watchdog has highlighted that A4E has been named preferred bidder for a £15 million contract with the Skills Funding Agency to provide education to prisoners in London.

A4E admitted that the present police investigation was only one out of a total of ten cases of corruption that had been referred to the Dpt of Work and Pensions. As a result, the company has been forced to repay public funds on five separate occasions due to “irregularities”.

The  Dept of Work and Pensions has also criticised A4e for paying £11 million in dividends last year, 87% to Ms Harrison, despite all its £180 million UK turnover resulting from Government welfare to work contracts. In addition to these incredible sums of public money, Emma Harrison also received nearly £2 million from leasing properties she owned or controlled back to her business.

The allegations against A4e are unending. Jobseekers report being made to sign blank time sheets, and of government vouchers—intended to help the jobless buy adequate clothing for interviews—being stolen by advisers. Its also been accused of claiming that jobseekers have found full-time work placements, when their jobs lasted less than 24 hours.

According to the Mail On Sunday, A4E receives a fee of £400 for every jobseeker referred to it. When that person finds work for 26 weeks—whether it is continuous or in breaks—it receives £1,200, followed by a monthly “sustainment fee”. It is estimated that A4E earns approximately £13,000 for every successful placement.

A dossier compiled on A4E includes the complaint that the firm was “nothing short of a gravy train”, in which fraud was “systemic” and “common practice”. In response, an unamed Labour MP contacted the Guardian to say Labour MPs were concerned that the MWA programme had not been scrutinised by the Commons and had passed into law with the “tick of a minister’s pen” last year.

Other Workfare providers include REED, SERCO and Atos – and they are being subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of billions. It is they who depend on state handouts not the unemployed. Seetec made £53 million last year from its involvement in the Work Programme, while Ingenus was awarded contracts worth £727 million.
Social Security Advisory Committee Report, April 2011: Condemming the Workfare programmes. Read Here.

Where to go on the March 3rd Day Of Action Against Workfare
Islington            10am         Outside Angel Islington Tube

Brixton              12pm         Outside Tesco, 13 Acre Lane, Brixton

Brixton              12pm         Outside Brixton Job Centre

Kingston              1pm         Outside Starbucks, Kingston

Oxford Street    11.30am      Outside BHS

Ealing                 1pm          The Arcadia Center, 50/52 Broadway

Lewisham            1pm         Outside McDonalds, Lewisham High Street

Walthamstow     12pm         Outside Nat West bank, Walthamstow Town Square

Hackney             12pm         By St Augustines Tower, Mare Street

Stratford             12pm         Westfield Center
For a comprehensive list of Workfare demos and actions around the country visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org