EXCLUSIVE: Government figures value public sector contribution to economy at £130 billion a year!!!!

According to Government calculations, the strikes over public sector pensions on 30th Novermber will cost the UK £500million (LINK).

That is just for a single day’s strike.

So let me see….  if I multiply that figure by 5 (for five working weekdays in a week) I get £2.5 billion…

And if I multiply that by a further 52 (52 weeks in a year) I get a whopping… wait for it… £130 billion!!!!

Given the value of public sector workers to our economy, maybe the Government should work harder to negotiate and maintain a peaceful relationship with them, rather than the bullying and antagonistic approach that we see them adopting today. The Government should value the role of public sector workers and the contribution that they make to our economy and respect them, rather than vilify them.… after all they have done the maths themselves.

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Youth unemployment rates are painful

Over a million young people out of work under the Tory Liberals! I am shocked to read that since January there has been an 83 per cent rise in young people on the dole for six months or more (Source: Labour Party).

On the doorstep, young people in Dudden Hill are angry with the lack of opportunities that are available to them to gain an in into the labour market. They are ready willing and able but the Government’s austerity measures and lack of investment has cut off opportunities.

It hurts that we have a Government that believes unemployment is a price worth paying. There is an alternative to cut slower, which would recognise the human cost of the cuts.

I have blogged here about the Labour 5 point plan for jobs LINK.

The importance of the Future Jobs Fund which was introduced by Gordon Brown – later to be scrapped by Clegg, Teather, Cameron and co – should not be underestimated. What it meant that was while it may have been the case that there are not enough jobs, or enough growth in our economy to get young people into jobs, what the fund did was give opportunities to young people to be job ready and gain practical experience. This is far more valuable to our economy, the taxpayer and the individual and their family than for paying to keep them on the dole.

Tory Liberal millionaire ministers who enjoyed free University education at Oxbridge University, only later to come into power and impose tuition fees of a maximum £9k a year on young people today, have failed to understand the needs of the 16 to 24 age group.

Along with economic policy change, we also need fundamental political change. The Government should also lower the voting age to 16. If people were able to vote at 16, then maybe the voice of young people would be listened to more.

Left Foot Forward: Former Coalition economic adviser says that slower cuts are “common sense”

Interesting article on the evidence based blog Left Foot Forward, in which it is revealed that a former adviser to the Lib Dem Tory Coalition Government has denounced the speed of the cuts that the Government is choosing to implement. LINK TO THE ARTICLE

Raising children is expensive: The Lib Dem / Tory approach to child benefits fails to acknowledge this

Earlier this year, the Independent highlighted that it costs on average £201,000 to raise a child in Britain today. Parenting has changed, with many taking more responsibility for their children in many cases, up to and beyond 21 years of age. Helping them to progress through education, in some cases University, giving them a foot up onto the housing ladder; it’s all very costly and now an inevitable part of modern day parenting.

Universal child benefit acknowledges and recognises that it is expensive to raise children in Britain today. Scrapping the Building Schools for the Future programme, halting Playbuilder schemes and freezing child benefits are just a few of the ways in which families have been bearing the brunt of the coalition cuts.

We now see Sarah Teather and her Tory pals going further and removing child benefit from some parents. Yes, it may be the case that those on higher incomes may be able to afford raising a child without need for help from benefits. But is it fair that this move now makes some parents with children worse off than wealthy people who do not have children?

The devil is in the detail of this Tory and Lib Dem policy. The benefit removal as proposed would leave households where a only one parent works and earns over £44,000 worse off and would leave parent households with combined incomes of up to £88,000 unaffected, so long as one of them is not earning over £44,000.

That’s the problem with the Government’s proposals as they stand at the moment. It’s always those who are on the fine line, who could do with that extra bit of help, who end up losing out. That is why I am in favour of keeping the universal based approach.

But, although many may agree with the principle of the Con Dem approach, the detail is ill thought out and would be unfair on middle income families. What would be a fairer approach to take is to have higher taxation on all higher income level earners, and not just penalise those who have children. Government should recognise the important role of parenting and acknowledge that bringing up children is expensive. The Lib Dem and Tory approach fails to acknowledge this.

News of the Week: Six weblinks from the week just gone, recommended by me

  1. Norman Tebbit of all people warns that people should write off new Labour leader Ed Miliband at their peril, describing him as ‘the man most likely to get Labour’s lost voters back to the polls’
  2. Brent Citizen’s Advice Bureau on how Housing Benefit caps will affect Brent
  3. Lib Dems ConDemned on diversity by Operation Black Vote, as Members vote down motion to improve BME representation
  4. Left Foot Forward on the graph that shames the Lib Dems, using the independent IFS figures that shows that their cuts are regressive in comparison to Labour’s proposals
  5. The work of the new generation begins”: Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour leadership conference
  6. Ken Livingstone wins race to be Labour’s candidate for next London Mayor

National Union of Teachers ConDemn Sarah Teather’s stance on ‘Free Schools’

Following the Lib Dems’ rebuttal of Sarah Teather’s Education policy yesterday (LINK), the National Union of Teachers has issued a comment on the ePolitix website saying:

“This debate has shown up the conflict between Liberal Democrat and Tory values. The fault line in the coalition government will clearly be on education policies and the importance of a fair education for all.

Academies and Free Schools are Tory policies and stand in direct opposition to previous Liberal Democrat thinking. Before the election we had Sarah Teather, triumphantly saying that the Liberal Democrats provided the only opposition to the academies project; and of the Free Schools programs that it was a shambles;, but where is her opposition now?”

National Union of Teachers

Sarah Teather’s Education proposals Con-Demned by her own Lib Dem Party members

The Liberal Democrats today gave their overwhelming backing to a campaign against the expansion of Sarah Teather’s Education policy on school academies and have called for a boycott of free schools in the strongest public show of concern by rank and file activists over the party’s role in Coalition Government. They called on all Lib Dems to actively “urge people not to take up the option” of creating the “free” schools championed by Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove and Brent Central MP and Education Minister Sarah Teather.

Teather branded it an “illiberal boycott” and according to the BBC, Teather pleaded to delegates “Don’t vote for a boycott, don’t tie councils’ hands.” However, Former Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris argued that it was not illiberal for Lib Dems to be allowed to campaign on issues they felt strongly about.”We must be free to fight the Tories at a local level up and down the country,” he said.

While Sarah Teather pleaded with members of her party to vote against the motion, her Department’s policy was ConDemned for treating pupils like tins of beans.

According to the Guardian, Lib Dem Councillor Peter Downes, who moved the motion said, “Just as the supermarket drives the corner shop out of business, so it will be with schools. When Sainsbury’s provides some new products to lure people away from their competitors, the unsold items in the failing shops can be returned to the wholesaler or sold off in a sale. But not so in schools. Pupils are human beings, not tins of beans.”

What the motion said:

F23. Free Schools and Academies

In relation to ‘free schools’, conference calls on all Liberal Democrats to urge people not to take up this option because it risks:

1.       Creating surplus places which is prejudicial to the efficient use of resources in an age of austerity.

2.       Increasing social divisiveness and inequity into a system which is already unfair because of the multiple tiers and types of schools created by successive Conservative and Labour governments and thus abandoning our key goal of a high quality education system for all learners.

3.       Depressing educational outcomes for pupils in general.

4.       Increasing the existing complexity of school admissions and exclusions.

5.       Putting at risk advances made in making appropriate provision for children with special needs.

6.       Putting in jeopardy the programme of improving school buildings.

7.       Wasting precious resources, both human and material, at a time when all efforts should be focused on improving educational outcomes by enabling effective teaching and learning to take place in good local schools accessible to all.

Point 6 is particularly interesting as it indicates that Lib Dem members want to ditch the ‘Free Schools’ policy and revert back to a scheme similar to Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

However, Sarah Teather responded “I will take into account what they say but it is not going to change government policy, because Government policy is formed by Government ministers,” Potentially rendering the whole episode entirely useless in terms of delivering change.

Meanwhile, out on the doorstep, resentment was strife among residents who had voted for Sarah Teather in May 2010. A former Labour supporter who voted for Teather said “I’m quite distraught because what I voted for was totally the opposite to what I got. I didn’t vote for a Tory Government basically and I will definitely be voting Labour next time.”

I imagine many who voted for a Lib Dem MP across the country will be doing the same.

News of the Week: Ten weblinks from the week just gone, recommended by me.

In no particular order:
  1. A Vodafone tax bill worth £6 billion is waived by the Government, while George Osborn hints that an additional £4 billion can be saved from the welfare bill (This is Money LINK)
  2. Royal College of General Practitioners want to delay Con Dem NHS plans on GP Commissioning, hinting that they’re simply not ready
  3. Climate campaigners leave giant viagra pill outside Nick Clegg’s house, urging him to “get hard on climate change”
  4. Clegg sold out to get power, say voters
  5. Iain Duncan Smith “simply doesn’t recognise” Osborne’s welfare savings claim
  6. A lawsuit alleging a police cover-up of phone hacking has been launched by one of Scotland Yard’s own former senior officers, former Lib Dem London Mayoral candidate Brian Paddick
  7. Public reject and are turned off by Lib Dem and Tory rhetoric that the current economic plight is Labour’s doing, and agree that it was the bankers at fault
  8. Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has voiced concerns about the possible effects of public spending cuts by the coalition government
  9. Police speak out against cuts to their service
  10. Lib Dem Councillor defects to Labour

Lib Dem Tory Coalition’s Emergency Budget targets poorest in society… No IFS or buts about it

It’s in virtually all the papers this morning and being reported all over the news. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a well reputed organisation that provides independent scrutiny of Government policies has vanished all claims from Sarah Teather’s Coalition Government that the Emergency Budget was ‘progressive’ announced by Chancellor George Osborne was progressive.

What the IFS say:

“The tax and benefit changes announced in the emergency Budget are clearly regressive as, on average, they hit the poorest households more than those in the upper-middle of the income distribution in cash, let alone percentage, terms. The distributional effect of all tax and benefit reforms due to be implemented by 2014–15 is clearly regressive within the bottom nine decile groups of the income distribution when losses are expressed as a percentage of net income.

The report also considers the impact of tax and benefit reforms on different sorts of households. Low-income households of working age lose the most as a proportion of income from the tax and benefit reforms announced in the emergency Budget. Those who lose the least are households of working age without children in the upper half of the income distribution. They do not lose out from cuts in welfare spending, and they are the biggest beneficiaries from the increase in the income tax personal allowance.”

Source: Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)

George Osborne MP, pictured speaking on the la...
Image via Wikipedia

The findings present a pretty damning view of the Coalition Government. The in-depth IFS analysis of the Government’s measures confirms that the poorest in society, and particularly those with children are the targets of the Coalition Government’s cuts. The Government’s rhetoric that they would protect those on low income and the reality of their proposals couldn’t be any further apart.

Cllr Mary Arnold – Lib Dem / Tory Coalition Deprives Brent’s Schools of £380 million

The Coalition Government’s recent announcements cancelling Building Schools for the Future capital programmes has deprived Brent schools of  £80m funding allocated last January to rebuild, remodel and expand four secondary schools initially and a further £300m for the remaining secondaries.

This is an enormous setback for the children, teachers and indeed communities who have invested in the plans, been inspired and had their expectations raised by the promise of a 21st century learning environment. And judging by the stories emerging at the recent rally of parents, schoolchildren and unions to lobby MPs at Westminster, this is the tip of the iceberg across the country. It means that children will be taught in buildings not fit for purpose and in larger classes as there will not be enough school places for Brent’s children, as a result.

Over the last 13 years, Labour invested in Brent’s schools, year-on-year, producing higher standards with results above the national average and narrowing the achievement gap. Fewer schools have been in special measures and more children have stayed in education or training including apprenticeships. But instead of building on success, the Lib Dem/Tory government has put all this is at stake with no alternatives for capital investment as it rushes through the Academies Bill inviting schools to opt out of local authority control.

This coalition government option is initially for ‘outstanding’ schools in contrast to the original model, meaning that schools already doing well could opt to attract additional funds from local authority central services leaving less to support Brent’s family of schools. These new ‘academies’ would not be accountable to the local authority (and taxpayer) and there is concern whether their admissions criteria would be subject to its approval. As the school year ends in a policy vacuum, it is important to thank teachers in recognition of their enormous contribution and to collaborate in the interests of all Brent’s children in the future.

Cllr Mary Arnold

Labour Councillor for Kilburn Ward and

Lead Member for Children and Families