Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sauce for the Gander

Budget Day today. And we have been promised austerity measures amidst the rumblings of doom by our new ConDem Coalition Government.

Specifically last night (via Radio 4) I learnt that Council Tax was going to be frozen. And this morning peeple who earn less than £10,000 are going to be taken out of the tax system altogether. Sometime.

I mention this because before Labour budgets, the Tories and LibDems useed to get very aerated that announcements, especially Budget measures, were being leaked to the press, rather than being heard by the House of Commons first. Tory MP's in particular would pronounce sonorously at the drop of a hat about this outrage to the "Mother of Parliaments". And now that ConDem bums are on seats, they comport themselves in exactly the same way. I had to smile.

The furious leaking, which is of course all about the management of expectations, was doubly ironic becuase the ConDems had used exactly this excuse to scupper an EU plan whereby Governments would have shared budget plans in advance of their public announcement. That seemed an entirely sensible bit of 'peer review' to me, which might have benefitted good decision-making around the Union. The Tories, who cannot agree to anything that comes out of the EU without major therapy, however, soon put a stop to the scheme.

Elsewhere, I thought there were more straws in the wind with the announcement yesterday that key NHS targets were being abandoned by the ConDems. No longer will patients have the right to be seen by a GP in 2 days, or in A&E within 4 hours.

So what's that all about. An infusion of localism, as the Tory Minister responsible was trying to make out? Or dropping key targets that will soon become undeliverable as the NHS is squeezed? I'll let you decide. Frankly, I don't know how LibDem MP's in particular can look themnselves in the mirror at the moment. As Andy Burnham correctly observed, it takes power away from patients, and hands it back to the administrators who think they know best.

This still feels like a period of "phoney war" which will begin to come to an end this afternoon with the Budget, and then will be exploded with the announcement of the Comprehensive Spending Review in the Autumn. That's when Tory aspirations to slash the work of the public sector will be realised, under the pretext of defecit reduction. Believe me, it will a very miserable period indeed.


ianh said...

gotta say i am with you on much of this.
When the government refused to stand by a LOAN to Sheffield Foregemasters (which had been the subject of detailed nogotiation over many months/years) it showed that they have no interest in supporting manufacturing in this country.
This one, relatively small exmaple showed how the government could have helped a british company become a western leader in the delivery of nuclear power systems.

But they blew and with it no doubt the possibility of many hundreds of skilled jobs for the future.
The chineses/koreans must be laughing into their noodles.

Paul Cain said...

Councillor: The fluffy bunny rabbit and pink cloud politics of the last 13 years are gone. Get over it.

Budget leaks? Pot, meet kettle.

The work of the public sector? What - the public sector that works for more than nine years less than its private sector counterpart over the course of a career, and earns 30 per cent more?

And which swans off into the sunset at 60 clutching a gold-plated pension?

It's the turn of those of us who do real jobs, Councillor (yes, yes I know - all nurses are angels and all firefighters are square-jawed heroes etc etc)

It's the turn of those of us who add real value to the economy by our private sector taxes and who have been treated as milch-cows for more than a decade.

I look forward to the Comprehensive Spending Review in the Autumn - after all, remember, Labour was too cowardly to hold one before the election in case it let the cat out off the bag.

Just been watching Osbourne's budget - a public sector pay cut for two years - marvelous.

Labour's client state squealing like stuck pigs: happy, happy days.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes.....

The NHS will be protected throughout the life of Parliament. George Osbourne said that. Low paid state employees will still receive pay increases, but the higher ups will have their pay frozen and a cap will be imposed on the pay of chief officers and not before time.

VAT increase to 20%. I would rather that didn't happen, but can understand the need for it. I am pleased that food and children's clothes are going to be exempt.

Relieved about income tax and child benefit. Pleased that there is a recognition in Government that the burden of taxation has to be lifted off the shoulders of middle and low paid people and the retired and people must be allowed to keep more of their income to spend or save as they want.

Middle and low paid people and the retired have had a very hard time over the last 13 years especially the Council Tax increases - 131.77% or £781 extra for a Band D property in Darlington.

On a lighter note I hrumphed about having to wait an extra year for my state pension. Never mind.

I'm concerned about the Council Tax freeze its implications for school, the social welfare, police and fire brigade budgets especially.

Disappointed that there was nothing in the budget to reduce unemployment and improve the transport and social infastructure in the Tees Valley. Once again we are seeing all the attention being focused on Tyneside. The mindset needs to change somewhat to recognise the importance of and to regenerate the Tees Valley.

Lib Lap Dog said...

Alan, you have no place to gripe on here as a member of the Fibsters Party, it is you and your cronies who have done this to us by selling out the Libdem voter for a FibDem/Condemned Government.

To answer Nick's question about how you and your kind look in the mirror, it's simply first apply a newspaper cut out of Davey Boy and don the rose coloured glasses ..et, voila, a misguided but happy Lib.

Was I the only one who watched as Cleggy sat there head in hands with shame it was beyond belief, he of all people should have swung a "sicky" and saved himself and the Party the obvious embarasment.

I fear for the old infirm and disabled in all this, they seem to have been singled out with means testing and medicals to prove they are old, poor or ill. No doubt very few will reach the level needed to qualify for the means testing but thats how it is intended and those called for a medical will no doubt be found fit to work with terminal or uncurable ailments.

All this will do is massage the figures by justifying a lower rate of benefit, care component or allowance to the poorest and illest in society.

Labour had it's floors, I think we can all agree on that but that is always easy to say with hindsight, but to be sold out by the Lib's is unforgivable they were the 3rd horse in a 3 horse race the possible new champions of the people but from now on they will just be the sell outs!

Clegg promised more than once no rise on VAT yet sat there through the budget, just how long will it now be before the chinks in the Condemned armour start to show through and the whole rotten lot of them start to tumble like a wet and soggy house of cards.

All this by a Gov that was not event technically elected, shameful Cleggy :(

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes.....

Well Liblapdog my conscience is quite clear and I have no difficulty looking in the mirror. The old, infirm and disabled will still receive protection. Read the budget statement.

By the way who are you?

james said...

As Ian pointed out, the Forgemasters decision undermines the claim of the coalition to want to expand tradable sectors of the economy.

I find it curious that they hope to rebalance the economy in favour of export industries yet will reduce support for UK manufacturing which exists in the tax system. Incentives for manufacturing firms to invest in new plant and machinery are to be reduced so that the government can cut tax for all corporations, regardless of whether they export or trade in domestic markets.

VAT Bombshell :( said...

@ Alan and any other Fib reading!

You say "The old, infirm and disabled will still receive protection. Read the budget statement."

Not true, people are now to be means tested and forced to have medicals, I know there are some people out there milking it like the £106K housing benefit people but is that their or the Councils fault for paying that much benefit?

All means testing does is either put people off applying or raise the bar so high that those who need it loose out, result money saved. Nice one Cleggy!

Sending people for medicals (conducted by nurses and other untrained professionals who lets be honest have a totally different remit) despite being already diagnoseed by Doctors and Consultants, which is checked, this is also just another way of rebranding the ill as work ready thus changing their work status and ...yes you guessed it...lowering their entitlement and once again that is the aim to lower entitlement thus to save money.

NONE of this is about the individual it is about taking from them by reclasifying them! Anyone who thinks differently is living in cloud clegg land!

Many ill or long term sick are genuine and by forcing them to go for medicals it is just humiliating why not just lets euthanise them and save a fortune, the people who assess them in many cases are not qualified health professionals they are number crunchers some even on incentives to do so...deny that if you can! and what of all the unpaid carers and helpers won't many just opt to put relatives into homes and this will actually increase public spending?

Anyone on DLA already has to jump through hoops to get it, it is not dishe dout like Fib Focus leaflets, my mother is on it and let me tell you it is not as easy as people think. I know I have had to help her fill in rain forests of paper work, and she has had medical assessments by DWP doctors and on ocassion had to appeal and go to tribunals etc etc so lets not pretend they hand DLA out to any Tom, Dick or Cleggy it is already VERY HARD TO GET!

Lets face it the Liberal Democrats have sealed their fate and sold out not only their voters but the poorest and worst off in the Country. FACT!

Why is the great Cleggy not fighting to support the BSF funding for Darlington schools if he is so great, weild all this ConDemned power and walks on water as many of his deluded Fib followers think..

Answer... he is a puppet and not just any puppet but an old Muffin the Mule puppet complete with totally visible strings and the operators hands always in camera shot :(

Lets face it the Lib's yesterday blew any chance of future Parliamentry seats of power, we have seen your true blue colours.

Read this Alan. said...

From a disability perspective, the big announcement in today’s Budget was the introduction of medical assessments for all DLA claimants from 2013-14.

The relevant paragraph is the following from the Budget document:

1.103 The Government will reform the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to ensure support is targeted on those with the highest medical need. The Government will introduce the use of objective medical assessments for all DLA claimants from 2013-14 to ensure payments are only made for as long as a claimant needs them.
As I highlighted in my post on “Poverty, worklessness… and DLA?”, the government has established a narrative where it sees reforms to disability benefits as reducing welfare dependency and promoting work. This is reflected again on page 8 (pdf version) of the Budget document.

The same document also talks about a “fair and responsible benefit system” that supports those most in need without creating dependency for those would be better off in work (page 38, pdf version).

And the key motivation for all of this is revealed on page 24 (pdf version) of the Budget document:

The Government will also introduce measures to control spending on tax credits, housing benefit and disability benefits. [emphasis added]
To this end, the introduction of medical assessments for DLA is proposed to save £360m in 2013/14 and £1.075bn in 2014/15. Put another way, this is 2.9% and 8.5% respectively of the disability benefits bill for 2008/09 (which was £12.6bn).

There are several issues arising from this (these are judgments I hope to expand on as and when time allows):

1. The VAT increase affects everyone equally. However, the change from the Retail Prices Index to the Consumer Prices Index is only applied to benefits, thereby affecting disabled people. By dropping 2.1% per annum (RPI is currently 5.5% and CPI is 3.4%) the government is estimated to save £6bn per year by the end of the Parliament. The combined effect of the VAT increase and fiddling with the different prices indices represents a double whammy for disabled people.

(1a. I’m unclear at the moment if benefits are also going to be frozen, rather than rise at the rate of inflation. If so, this could be a triple whammy for disabled people. Anyone who knows more about this than me, please let me know.)

2. Introducing medical assessment suggests the Tories think people are faking disability to claim benefits. Once again, they’re confusing the care and support needs of disabled and older people with being in work. DLA simply recognises that there are extra costs associated with day-to-day living if you are a disabled person.

Read on Alan! said...

3. Part of the increase in DLA uptake relates to the fact more people are living independently rather than in a residential setting. Effectively cutting DLA risks reversing this rise in independent living.

4. I suspect the costs of administering medical assessments will be big. I’ve found some figures relating to the introduction of the Employment Support Allowance to support this argument, which I’ll blog later.

5. The potential savings from introducing the medical assessment aren’t particularly big, in absolute or relative terms. This suggests to me that this move by the coalition government is ideological: they are out to get the "scroungers" rather than provide real support to people who need it.

6. By implying a financial cap on the support available through DLA, this is the start of a slippery slope: just look at what the restrictions on the ILF budget have meant in practice: no new applications to that fund until at least April 2011 (more details here)

7. There is no mention in the Budget of a similar approach to Attendance Allowance, which is essentially the same benefit as DLA but for a different age group (i.e. over 65s), and which actually costs more than DLA.

8. I suspect a reduced number of DLA benefit holders will place much more pressure on adult social care, where social care funding is already in a mess. This will compound the pressures on local government introduced by the difficulties the ILF is facing.

My overall conclusion is that disabled people will be much worse off as a result of the introduction of medical assessments for DLA, and that these are being introduced for ideological and not financial reasons.

The Truth Hurts said...

The link for Alan and any other deluded FibDems who think the ill or disabled have just got a fair deal out of this budget....


How's this bitter pill Alan? said...

The worst bit of the budget: "To help make work pay from April 2013, people who have been on Jobseeker's Allowance for 12 months or more, will have a 10% reduction in their Housing Benefit." So the unemployed are to be made destitute or homeless?

More light reading for Fib's said...

The resulting effect of this housing benefit rule will be the poorest being forced out of their communities and into slums and ghettos, where disease and crime locks the poor further and further into poverty.

Always the Greedy Rich. said...

Now here's what needs stopping not VAT or DLA

A high-earning NHS consultant living a luxury lifestyle has been jailed for fraudulently claiming thousands of pounds in benefits.
Despite making more than £300 per hour, owning properties in Dubai and flash cars and living in a £1 million house in Surrey, Zahid Ali claimed a total of about £15,000 in housing benefit, council tax benefit and Jobseeker's Allowance.
The 47-year-old father-of-three failed to declare earnings of £212,000 between 2004 and 2008, which he made through his management consultancy company Coulsdon Limited.
While keeping secret what he was paid for advising GPs how to make more money from their surgeries - and his lavish lifestyle - he drew benefits from Sutton Council, Reigate & Banstead Borough Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).