London Social Care Leaders warn Osborne about dangers of further cuts to local councils

I have united with Labour social care leads across London to warn the Chancellor George Osborne about the consequences of further cuts to Council budgets. In a joint letter to the Treasury, we have highlighted the difficulty Councils face in delivering essential services and also the knock on impact on the NHS if the Government’s planned cuts to local authorities go ahead.

The Government recently announced that funding to councils will be cut by 30 per cent over the next four years. With adult social care making up a third of Council budgets, there will inevitably be an impact on care services.

Adult Social Care lead members from London local authorities have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, telling him:

“A 30 per cent to councils over the next four years means, in all likelihood, a very significant impact on adult social care services. This puts at severe risk our ability to fund elderly residents who are supported in the community instead of occupying a hospital bed, which typically costs the public purse three times the amount.”

Examples of the services likely to be impacted in the letter include: In-home care for elderly residents such as help with bathing, respite services for carers and support for young people with disabilities as they become adults.

We also point out that the cuts to local authorities in the capital since 2010 have been greater than the national average, deepening our concern.

We also highlight the fact that cuts to adult social care threaten the supposedly protected NHS:

“The NHS is already experiencing an enormous amount of strain and with winter approaching, the pressure on GPs and emergency departments is already beginning to increase.

“As social care risks being stripped back to the barest of necessities, this will further undermine and increase strain on our much loved national institution.

“The health service will face an increased workload that only the substantial level of increases in health spending currently unavailable would be able to meet.”

The full list of signatories is:

Cllr Angie Bean                                   London Borough of Waltham Forest

Cllr Chris Best                                     London Borough of Lewisham

Cllr Janet Burgess                              London Borough of Islington

Cllr Alev Cazimoglu                            London Borough of Enfield

Cllr Stephanie Cryan                          London Borough of Southwark

Cllr David Gardner                              Royal Borough of Greenwich

Cllr Sally Gimson                                London Borough of Camden

Cllr Krupesh Hirani                              London Borough of Brent

Cllr Kamaljit Kaur                                London Borough of Hounslow

Cllr Vivienne Lukey                             London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham

Cllr Caroline Cooper-Marbiah           London Borough of Merton

Cllr Jonathan McShane                      London Borough of Hackney

Cllr Mark Santos                                 London Borough of Redbridge

Cllr Hitesh Tailor                                 London Borough of Ealing ‎

Cllr Jackie Meldrum                           London Borough of Lambeth

Cllr Anne Whitehead                           London Borough of Harrow

Cllr Amy Whitelock-Gibbs ‎                 London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Cllr Louisa Woodley                            London Borough of Croydon

Cllr Maureen Worby                           London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

You can read the full letter here LINK

 

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Brent to be targeted again by Coalition Government

The BBC is reporting that Councils in England face a 10% cut in funding from central government as part of the coalition’s spending plans for 2015/16 – LINK

The article quotes a Local Government Association (LGA) estimate that a 10% cut in spending would mean an average council having to find another £30m of savings on top of existing cuts. As we know, Brent is usually disproportionately impacted from Coalition Government cuts – LINK

10% savings on top of the 30% cuts to Council Budgets will simply mean that in Brent, we will have to simply stop doing some things and make some unpalatable decisions.   Council Leaders including Cllr Muhammed Butt of Brent signed a statement agreeing that the cuts to local councils “simply cannot go on” – LINK

Furthermore, US President Barack Obama has rejected Osbornomics, saying that “we can’t simply cut our way to prosperity” LINK

Globally, the opposition against the Tory and Liberal Democrat approach is growing. But the approach from Nick Clegg and George Osborne and company is not changing.

I hope that the Brent’s three MPs Barry Gardiner, Sarah Teather and Glenda Jackson vote against this unfair budget on Wednesday.

Dear America – Go out and vote Obama!

Imagine having a Government that cut too far too fast. Imagine having a Government that overlooks the human cost of a radical deficit reduction programme.

America, learn the lessons from what we are experiencing in the UK and vote Obama. His deficit reduction plan, which is three times slower than the right wing plan being implemented in the UK by the Tories and Liberal Democrats has minimised the impact on ordinary people. They have brought a double dip recession to the UK where as in America, Obama has delivered 32 straight months of growth and a better Health Care system for ordinary people.

Times are hard across the globe in this global economic crisis, but Obama’s plan is working – stick with it, stick with him, FOUR MORE YEARS!

A tale of two Chancellors

Here’s Tory Liberal Government’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne getting booed at the Paralympics.

In complete contrast, here is the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown who served for 11 years as the Chancellor of the Exchequer greeted with cheers at the Aquatics Centre at the Paralympic Games.

Guest Blogpost: Richard Lynch – No medal-winning performance from the coalition

During the past month, Britain’s sporting heroes in Team GB have taken on the world at the Olympic Games and, with performances which exceeded expectations, have delivered our biggest haul of medals for over 100 years. What a contrast with the other Team GB, the Conservative/LibDem coalition, which also promised success but has delivered a shrinking economy, increased unemployment and debt, poorer social provision and the biggest squeeze on the living standards of ordinary people in living memory!

When the coalition took office two years ago, it inherited an economy which had been hit hard by the worst global recession since the 1930s but was recovering and had been growing for five quarters. Instead of consolidating and encouraging that growth, however, it embarked on an unnecessary and unnecessarily savage austerity programme which choked off recovery, led to growth contracting over five of the following seven quarters and resulted in a return to recession.

Yet, when announcing his first budget after taking office, George Osborne said that if he didn’t introduce a harsh programme of tax increases and spending cuts, Britain would face:

‘Higher interest rates, more business failures, sharper rises in unemployment, and potentially even a catastrophic loss of confidence and the end of the recovery. We cannot let that happen. This budget is needed to deal with our country’s debts. This budget is needed to give confidence to the economy. This is an unavoidable budget.’

George Osborne at Conservative Spring Forum 20...
George Osborne at Conservative Spring Forum 2006 in Manchester. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bold words but what has been the outcome? Interest rates have remained low but, as Nobel prizewinning economist Paul Krugman has pointed out, they have remained low in the USA and Japan as well, countries with higher debt levels which didn’t rush into austerity.

On the downside, however, business failures have continued, with almost 4,000 companies going under in the last quarter and retail insolvencies rising by 10.3%. Unemployment remains well above the level Osborne inherited in May 2010, over a million young people are out of work and underemployment has become a major problem with a record 1.42 million people working part time because they can’t find full-time employment. Business and consumer confidence has collapsed to levels not seen since the worst point of the original recession, we have the highest trade deficit in 15 years, national debt is rising and the economy has contracted in the last three quarters, driving us into a double dip recession for only the second time since the Second World War.

And there’s no good news on the horizon either: The Bank of England is predicting a 0.2% contraction in growth this year and probably five further years of economic pain. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research is prediction a 0.5% contraction and the IMF has stated that Britain’s economic outlook is now deteriorating faster than that of any other major economy.

When Britain was facing big economic problems in the 1970s, Dennis Healy said that the first thing to do when you found yourself in a hole was to stop digging. Another smart bloke (either Albert Einstein or Roy Keane, I can’t remember which) said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But Osborne remains adamant that he will not change course and that there is no Plan B for the economy. Such arrogance from a chancellor and cabinet which have clearly lost the plot is now coming under increasing attack, not only from unions and political opponents but from coalition politicians (one of whom called Osborne a ‘work experience chancellor’), from business organisations and leaders and from the general public. The majority of economists who backed the austerity programme during the 2010 general election are now calling on Osborne to change course. And the IMF, which also previously backed austerity, is now urging the chancellor to think again about cutting back and to focus on growth and on ‘boosting the bargaining power of labour’ to get more demand into the economy.

It’s not as if there is a shortage of good ideas about rebuilding confidence and demand and getting the economy back on its feet again.  For example, stopping or slowing down the public sector and benefit cutbacks (even if only temporarily) would help lower the rate of unemployment, keep people paying taxes and maintain demand in the economy. Borrowing, at our famously low interest rates, to rebuild our creaking infrastructure and to build houses for people to live in, would boost employment in construction and related industries and get people spending again. Putting money back in the hands of ordinary people by cutting VAT (even if only temporarily), ending the freeze on public sector pay and even introducing quantitative easing for people, by creating money to put in the hands of the most needy rather than in the coffers of the banks, would all boost demand and encourage spending.

Indeed PPI refunds by the banks, which totalled £4.8 billion up to May, have already done more to boost the economy than the coalition, because people who have had money refunded have gone out and spent it!

The Olympics showed us that we don’t have to accept mediocrity or assume that we cannot reach new heights. We may have the fight of our lives on our hands but, as the TUC’s Frances O’Grady said, if we keep people together, build confidence and give a sense of hope and vision that things don’t have to be like this, we can build a better world. We can help win that better world by defending our rights in our workplaces and communities. But we can also help win it by mobilising now for the TUC’s national demonstration for a future that works on 20 October. It’s time to stop agonising and start organising!

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: “A windfall for the rich and we’re paying for it!”

The March budget was delivered at a time when the economy is stagnating, output is still below 2008 levels, public and private investment is falling and unemployment and poverty levels are rising. Yet the coalition picked this time to give a windfall to the richest people in the country by announcing a tax cut of from 50p to 45p in the pound for earnings over £150,000 a year. And the people who will have to pay for it include pensioners and some of the poorest families in the country.

The windfall is worth an estimated £3 billion to the 300,000 highest earners in the UK – an average tax cut of around £10,000 a year or over £40,000 a year to the 14,000 members of the group who earn over a million pounds a year. Amongst the people who will benefit from it are Barclays’ Bob Diamond (whose 2011 package was worth £25 million), Reckitt Benckiser’s Bart Brecht (£12.1 million), Shell’s Peter Voser (£10 million plus), Barclays Rich Ricci (£10 million), FT-owner Pearsons’ Marjorie Scardino (£9.6 million), HSBC’s Stuart Gulliver (£7.1 million) and GlaxoSmithKline’s Andrew Witty (£6.7 million). The Chief Executives of FTSE 100 companies (average £4.2 million) will also benefit handsomely, as will many members of the coalition cabinet, including David Cameron who is expected to be in line for a £3,000 saving.

Companies will also benefit from the budget as a result of the decision to cut corporation tax from 26% to 24% but this is unlikely to interest companies like Amazon, which had UK sales of over £7 billion in the last three years and apparently paid no UK corporation tax at all!

But it is working people and those who can least afford it who will be expected to pay for this windfall to the super rich. They will include 4.4 million over 65s who will be £83 a year worse off on average because of Osborne’s ‘granny tax’ and people who become pensioners from next April, many of whom will be £285 a year worse off because more of their pension will be taxed. People getting tax credits will be penalised as well, due to the main element of working tax credit being frozen and eligibility criteria being changed for working and child tax credit. One result of this could be that as many as 850,000 families on modest and middle incomes could lose all of their child tax credit, worth around £545 a year. And around 212,000 working couples earning less than £17,000 a year could lose all of their working tax credit if they are unable to increase their working hours. This could mean a loss of over £3,000 a year and would be a disaster for some of the poorest working families in the country.

Labour was right to describe the changes to tax and benefits as one of the most ruthless assaults on the finances of low and middle income earners ever seen. And Ed Milliband was right to launch a savage attack on the Chancellor’s proposals on budget day. But Labour needs to show more leadership and organise a far more aggressive campaign against the coalition’s inept handling of the economy, bias towards the super rich and attacks on working peoples’ interests. The Unions also need to show more leadership and all of us need to stop agonising and start organising in our own workplaces and communities as well. Austerity for the poor is not the answer to Britain’s problems! We need to reject it and fight back!

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: Employment rights’ roundup

Unfair dismissal – Employees currently have to be with an employer for one year before they can make a claim for unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal, but this qualifying period is increasing to two years with effect from 6 April 2012. However it is important to note that there are transitional arrangements which mean that anybody whose period of continuous employment began before the above date will still be able to make a claim after one year’s service. Employees who begin work on or after 6 April 2012 will have to work for two years before they can submit a claim.

Employment law consultations are taking place on a number of proposed legislative changes at present, including on further changes to unfair dismissal legislation, redundancy consultation periods and TUPE. George Osborne, Minister for Misery, has been urging employers to support proposals which will allow small businesses to get rid of staff under a compensated no-fault dismissal law, without the risk of being taken to an employment tribunal. If enacted, this will allow unscrupulous employers to fire staff almost at will and will significantly reduce the rights of the 13.8 million people who work in Britain’s 4.5 million small businesses. There are also consultations under way on reducing the 90-day consultation period which applies when it is proposed to make 100 or more employees redundant. And there are proposals to reduce transfer of engagement rights by making it easier for employers to cut pay and conditions after a TUPE transfer has taken place. The TUC fears that this proposal, if enacted, will lead to even more outsourcing and will erode the terms and conditions of already low-paid service sector staff, including in cleaning and catering.

Accident reporting is to be made easier for employers from 6 April 2012 when changes are made to RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations). Incidents currently have to be reported to the Health & Safety Executive when a worker is unfit for normal work for over three days following an accident. That period is now being increased to over seven days, which safety’ campaigners fear is sending the wrong message to employers about the importance of the incidents/injuries in question.

Criminal records – Changes are being proposed to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act which will mean that fewer ex-offenders will have to report spent convictions to employers when applying for work. The new proposals mean that community service orders will be considered spent after one year (rather than four at present). Custody sentences of up to six months will be considered spent two and a half years after leaving prison (rather than seven), custody sentences of six months to two and a half years will be spent six and a half years after leaving (rather than 10) and sentences of between two and a half and four years will be spent after 11 years (rather than never, as applies now).  Custody sentences of over four years will still always have to be declared, as will convictions for people who want to work with children.

Bullies beware – A scientist has won an employment tribunal award of almost £30,000, for constructive and unfair dismissal, after he faced a ‘barrage of shouting’ and unpleasant and derogatory treatment from a professor in Manchester University. This is yet another reminder to those in authority that they must treat people at work with dignity and respect.

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

The Osborne Effect

The LabourList website has an illustration of how [in]effective the Tory Liberal Government have been since inheriting a growing economy from Labour – LINK

Their policy of cutting too far too fast has had a negative impact on economic growth. As a result, this Tory Liberal Coalition Government has increased public debt in this country.

Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: Things are still tough on the pay front

The latest research on settlements shows that things continue to be tough on the pay front, with increases still running at around half the rate of inflation and only tentative signs that 2012 may be better than last year.

The most recent figures for the main pay research organisations are for the three months to end December 2011 and these (together with figures to end November) show the following:

Income Data Services (IDS)                 –        2.5% (2.3%)

Labour Research Department (LRD)      –        2.5% (2.5%)

XpertHR (previously IRS)                      –        2.5% (2.0%)

These median figures hide differences between economic sectors with IDS, for example, showing a 3.1% increase in manufacturing and production but only a 0.9% increase in the not-for-profit sector and widespread pay freezes in the public sector.

However, both IDS and LRD say that initial figures for January show that most settlements are around 3% and that if this trend continues, it could help arrest the fall in real wages which we have been experiencing in recent years.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are for the three months to end November 2011 and these (together with the figures for end October in brackets below) are less encouraging:

Average total pay (including bonuses)            –        1.9% (2.1%)

Average regular pay (excluding bonuses)       –        1.9% (1.8%)

Average total pay, according to the ONS, is now £464 a week and average regular pay is £438 a week. LRD figures say that average full-time pay is now £618 a week.

Of course, the tentative signs that things may be getting better this year do not apply to the public sector, where pay freezes are still commonplace and a 1% cap on increases and regional pay rates are being threatened for the future. However, George Osborne’s regional pay proposals are coming in for heavy flak from businesses and MPs, as well as unions, on the grounds that lower wages for public sector workers will reduce demand and damage local economies.

By the way, Osborne’s justification for regional pay is that the state paying higher wages than many private firms in the poorer parts of the country is “suppressing the availability of labour for companies” and thereby damaging the economy. With an average of almost six people chasing every job vacancy, I hadn’t realised that there was a shortage of labour in the economy!

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.