Friday, 17 November 2017

Tories "Building the Future" but with not Enough Actual Building.....

The Tories have launched a new slogan, "Building a Britain Fit for the Future", except my understanding is there isn't going to be any actual building.

Yet another wishy-washy mish-mash of rehashed, already launched policies, packaged up into something to talk about during next week's budget. Financial incentives, planning changes, but nothing concrete (if you'll excuse the pun). You can have that one for free, shadow Chancellor.

Labour need to be prepared to counter-strike and knock down each of the Tory's proposal. That means credible and detailed homework from the left to be able to deflate every one of the pumped up policies from the Conservatives.

It would also be nice if Labour put a few shots across the bows of the Tories beforehand, signalling intent to really sink their teeth into the Tories unless there are radical, substantial, new proposals to sort out the housing crisis. Tinkering at the edges or rehashing old news will. not. do.

Hopefully with a few well-placed broadsides from Labour, the Tories can be persuaded against presenting a PR campaign as a budget and get them to produce an actual policy with real targets, a real budget and demonstrable progress against those targets.

What Labour cannot do is just trot out the same old anti-Tory plattitudes, the ones that turn voters off and do nothing to change Tory policy. They have to give detailed and credible opposition and strip the veneer from the Tory plans so the voters can see the lack of detail underneath.

But given the superficiality of politics at the moment, I doubt I'll see any of the above actually happen.

One of those times you really wish you were an MP and able to give such superficial people a slap. (before it gets banned) ;-)

Back here I outlined my thoughts on housing and how the crisis should be managed. Government managed housing stock, outside the remit of local authorities needs to be started. Local authorities we all know are corrupt, with contracts going to friends that had surprisingly well-informed tenders. keeping it central (for once) seems to be the preferred option. From the planning perspective national government involvement means it's easier to quote national interest and make the planning stage eaisier. There are plenty of laws the government can invoke to build new housing, or they can quite quickly release old MOD land for building if necessary.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Bashing the Poor: The Death of Altruism in Government

When did it become fashionable for Governments to bash the poor? It seems with every new policy that the poorest in society are most adversely affected.

Plastic bag tax, insurance premuim tax, all have a disproportionate affect on the poorest in society.

Mimimum wage created a race to the bottom, only surpassed by zero hours contracts (a construct created soley to bypass minimum wage legislation).

Those on minimum wage still have to pay tax. You'd think that those on the lowest pay would be free from tax, but they still have to pay.

In work benefits like tax credits means even the lowest paid workers without kids have to subsidise the wages of everyone else with kids through the taxation system.

The squeeze on the benefits system in general, from re-assessment of disabilities, the bedroom tax, to PIPs (which is supposed to "save" or take away billions in benefits)

Now the ostensibly socialist (although authoritarian might be a better word) SNP have successfully fought to bring in minimum pricing for alcohol, the "save" the poor from themselves. I wonder if the bars in the Scottish Parliament are exempt? Hopefully not, MSPs are not exactly the poorest in society are they? That would be rather hypocritical wouldn't it?

Policies initiated by successive governments that purported to be helping the poor. Well done there guys! Not exactly redistribution of "wealth" if the non-wealthy are the ones paying more, is it?

Every time a government tries to help the poor in whatever guise it comes, you can be rest assured that government is no friend of the poor and the policy will do exactly the opposite of what the government says is the object.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Parliamentary Vote on Brexit:Here we Go Again

Aparrently the Remain camp have earned a victory in Parliament and forced the government to u-turn over allowing MPs to vote on the Brexit deal.

The thing is, it's nothing of the sort. the remain camp may think it is, but it isn't.

It's not like Parliament can force the government back to the negotiating table to negotiate better terms. Those will be the best terms we could get.

It's take 'em or leave 'em folks.

The only option MPs will have will either accept whatever deal has been negotiated, or to refuse the deal on the table and exit the EU without one.

It's not as if MPs can force us back into the EU. There will be no "Refuse the deal, stay in the EU" option on the table.

The people have spoken, we want Brexit. However that comes about. If MPs force us into accepting a bad deal, then heads will roll.

If they force Parliament into accepting a bad deal with the idea of forcing the public to consider staying in, heads will roll.

The public have rejected the EU. The elite need to stop plotting against the public or there will be trouble. Big trouble.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

New Middle East Conflict a Certainty

The arrest and detention of certain high-level people in Sudi Arabia should set alarm bells ringing.

The players are aligning and it seems the target of their attention is Iran.

This could be the big one, a massive Middle East conflict, pitching Sunni against Shia.

Each side's proxies are already fighting in Yemen and I know that the Saudis do not tolerate trouble in their neighbourhood. The sactions against Qatar are a classic example of this. When Saudi "Policemen" crossed the causeway into neighbouring Bahrain to quell anti-government protests during the "Arab spring" , that's another example of the Saudi intollerance of any risk on their borders.

Yemen could well be the excuse for Saudi Arabia to move against the Shia side.

The downside is that if Saudi eventually wins, the extreme Wahhabbi version of Islam will become the predominant form.

You know, the sort that exports extremist imams to preach in the Mosques in the UK that they paid for.

If it does kick off and they win, it's not going to be pretty for the Middle East and the rest of the world as they crush Shias in their countries and promote extremist Islam in the rest of the world.

The intriguing part is Israel aligning with Saudi. Are they looking to the longer term where the world is pulled into a conflict against extremist Islam? Do they see that as a game plan to expand their territory in the Middle East by using the rest of the world to eventually crush the Arabs?

World governments should tread very carefully: the way things are aligned at the moment makes things very dangerous.

If the end result is Saudi moving in force into Yemen and crushing the Houthi rebels and it goes no further, the world should breathe a sigh of relief.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Paradise Papers: Storm in a teacup yet another distraction from what?

The so-called "Paradise papers" were relesed this week, detailing the financial dealings of the rich elite. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the haters, saying it's immoral not to pay tax, or to reduce reduce their tax bill by taking advantage of the various loopholes in the tax law.

Well sorry, it's not illegal to do any of what has been described so far. It may be immoral, but immorrality seems to be everywhere doesn't it, even in Parliament. Just look at the various sexual allegations in the past week.

The thing that galls me is those pious people throwing stones, like the Guardian and certain Labour MPs, themselves forget they or their agents are using the self-same offshore mechanisms to reduce their tax bill and increase profits. Rank Hypocrisy, everyone in the elite is doing it.

Of course you have to be earning a certain amount to be able to take advantage of these tax dodges; the likes of you and me, the ordinary person on the street had our own loopholes closed decades ago.

The heinous IR35 rules introduced by the previous Labour government, declaring independent contractors as employees and subject to tax, continues to cause controversy and stifle self-employment for the masses.

Now self-employed NHS workers are being targeted in a crack down, at a time when the NHS can ill-afford to lose good people. But lose them they will, just as the I.T. sector I used to work in before IR35 came into being crushed the independent I.T. contractor sector. Back then it was about crushing the more flexible and adept independent contractors in favour of the big I.T. companies. The ones that fucked up a huge amount of government I.T. contracts and cost the taxpayer billions.

As it is, a large number of independent contractors either left the country for fairer climes (tax and weather-wise), or left the industry altogether. I'm one of the latter.

A huge loss of resource to the UK I.T. market and a boon to America in particular and other countries like the Middle East.

The same will happen when the governemnt eventually bows to this latest media shitstorm and starts to crack down on offshore business accounts. The tax take will take a nose dive just like it did back in the seventies with 95% tax rates. We've been here before: the politics of envy do not work and making anyone a cash cow just pushes them away, or they collapse. People will just become tax exiles and probably not come back when they find out how shit the UK is to live in compared to other countries.

I don't normally do this country down, but really: forcing people to Monaco, the Middle East or the USA. Do you really think that people would come back? Well, okay from the Middle East maybe, but the rest? Nah. My nephew has a great life working in I.T. in America. He wouldn't have half the quality of life if he moved back here.

But hey, force the innovators gifted and the intelligent away from the UK. Whats the worst that can happen?


Sunday, 5 November 2017

Westminster Abuse Allegations: Why Now?

I'm confused. Why has the Westminster abuse scandal erupted now? Given that most of the allegations and the culture in Parliament were common knowledge and historical in nature, what is significant about the timing? Why Now?

Sure, Guido Fawkes has pushed the agenda against certain MPs, but the size of the issue tells me that there is something else going on. Like a Magician's audience, we're being distracted, but what from?

Thursday, 2 November 2017

The Ticking Time Bomb Within the Care Industry

Ticking Time Bomb, Sword of Damocles, call it what you will, but there is a looming crisis that threatens to obliterate swathes of the care sector.

What is this crisis you may ask? It's the enforcement of six years back pay to sleep workers. Forcing employers to pay the difference between what they were paid (an overnight retainer) and what the government say they should be paid (a full shift at minimum wage) for all their sleep shift employees for the past six years. For a care company who could have several sleep shift employees, that's a big bill that's suddenly been thrust on them.

This is no idle threat, the financial burden will cripple a large part of the care sector and homes will close because of this.

A lot of care companies are paid only minimal sums and they are struggling to cope with the burden of regulation, training and the minumum wage. Profits have been squeezed and investment is none-existent. Those companies that do things properly are the ones worst hit because they struggle to make a profit.

I did say when the minimum wage came out that it would hit the care sector hard. My wife was working alternate awake and sleep night shifts. The arrangement was she was paid the standard hourly rate while she worked, so from 8-10pm and from 6-8am she was paid hourly rate. Between those hours she was paid a fixed retainer, not the hourly rate because she was sleeping and not working. IF she was woken to deal with a client, then she would be paid hourly rate for the time she was awake and working.

But in comes the minimum wage, with no differentiation in the legislation as to whether the employee is working or not working while on the premises. No differentiation, a sledgehammer that says the employee is on the premises so even though they are tucked up in bed they are to be classed the same as the person on the awake shift doing the cleaning, washing, ironing etc.

As you can imagine, the ruling that minimum wage be paid regardless of whether the employee is working or sleeping went down like a lead balloon in most care establishments. So now most have moved to having two awake staff on shift. No longer can students earn easy money while they sleep in care homes.

Most care homes have a minumum staffing level. It may mean they have to have a minimum of two staff available. The sleep shift was a cheaper way to ensure two staff at the home while the residents slept and there wasn't the workload for two staff. Now two awake staff have to be on shift, for a shift that doesn't really need two staff on it.

I could say that the more unscrupulous care homes will just downsize to one awake staff overnight, raising the risk level and breaking the rules. It'll take a tragedy like a fire at a care home with a single member of staff struggling to evacuate residents to highlight the issue.

Of course care costs will increase because of this and local authorities, supposedly cash strapped as they are will not pay. There will be care homes and businesses that become insolvent because of this.

In the end who wins and who loses?

Certainly the residents of the homes that rely on the care lose out because they lose their homes.

But I'm struggling to find out who wins in this scenario.....