A thought for Easter

Reposted from The Guardian

Food bank sign
Sign from the Mosaic Church food bank in Coventry, which had been providing emergency food supplies for individuals and families. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Religious leaders and faith groups have called on the government to take action to tackle a “national crisis” of rising hunger and food poverty, as latest figures suggest more than a million Britons have been helped by food banks in the past year.

More than 40 Anglican bishops and 600 church leaders have signed a letter, calling on David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to tackle the causes of food poverty, including low wages, rising food prices and an inadequate welfare benefit safety net.

The letter said the period running up to Easter had been a time of “sorrowful and deep reflection” for people of all faiths on what it calls the terrible rise in hunger in Britain, and urged society to “begin rising to the challenge of this national crisis”.

The document, signed by 45 of the UK’s Anglican 59 bishops, including those from Durham, Southwark, Bath and Wells, St Albans, Coventry and Edinburgh, although not by the Archbishops of Canterbury or York – calls on the main parties to engage with and support the findings of a newly created all-party parliamentary inquiry into the causes of food poverty and hunger.

The religious leaders continue: “Hope is not an idle force. Hope drives us to act. It drives us to tackle the growing hunger in our midst. It calls on each of us, and government too, to act to make sure that work pays, that food markets support sustainable and healthy diets, and that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger.”

The letter coincides with the release of data by the Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank network, which reveals that more than 900,000 people received food parcels in 2013-14, a 163% increase.

It is the second time in two months that church leaders have courted political controversy by publicly urging ministers to take action on food poverty, and reflects widespread feeling among faith groups involved in poverty projects that the government has failed to grasp the extent of the hardship faced by low-income families. In February, 27 bishops wrote to the Daily Mirror saying that Cameron had a moral duty to act on the growing number going hungry.

The archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, said the new initiative demonstrated frustration that ministers had not responded properly to that letter. “What we are saying to the government is … can you at least acknowledge that there is a real problem here?” He added: “It’s incredible that in a country as relatively wealthy as ours, where we talk of economic recovery, there are still people who have to depend on food handouts to feed their families.”

The Trussell Trust said its figures represented “just the tip of the iceberg” of food poverty and demonstrated that many British citizens on low incomes, especially those reliant on benefits, were finding it harder to make ends meet. Over half of its food parcels went to people facing welfare cuts or delays in benefit payments, it said, in a direct challenge to ministers who have steadfastly refused to accept that there is any link between cuts to social security and the explosion in food bank use.

Chris Mould, chairman of the trust, said: “It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said the Trussell figures were potentially misleading because it was unclear whether they had double-counted people who had made repeat visits to food banks. The spokesperson said: “We’re spending £94bn a year on working age benefits so that the welfare system provides a safety net to millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs.The truth is that the employment rate is the highest it’s been for five years and our reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities by promoting work and helping people to lift themselves out of poverty.”

The Trussell figures showed 913,138 people – including 330,205 children – were the beneficiaries of its food parcels in 2013-14, up from 346,992 in 2012-13. The main reason people came to the food banks for help was as a result of people being left impoverished by welfare changes, cuts and delays, it said.

Its figures understated the likely level of people going hungry, it added, because they did not include thousands of people helped by non-Trussell food banks and soup kitchens, those who had no access to a food bank, those too ashamed to turn to charity food, or those who were coping by going without food or buying less.

A separate survey of 130 Trussell food banks found that 83% reported that “sanctioning” – when job centres stop benefit payments to claimants for at least a month as a punishment for breaches of benefit conditions such a missing a job interview – was causing rising numbers to turn to charity food. Trussell, a Christian charity, currently oversees 404 food banks.

Other drivers of food bank demand were incomes failing to keep pace with rising living costs, low pay, and under-employment. Trussell said in addition to providing food parcels it was also providing essentials like washing powder, nappies and hygiene products to struggling families.

Other signatories to the bishops’ letter, organised by the End Hunger Fast campaign, include representatives of all the main Christian denominations, including Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, and Quakers, as well as groupings such as the Evangelical Alliance. There are no Muslim signatories to the letter but a number of mosque and community-based faith projects are now active providing food aid.

A separate letter signed by 33 Jewish religious leaders calling on the prime minister to take action to ensure that no UK families go hungry will be published on Thursday tomorrow. Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism, said synagogues and Jewish welfare organisations were seeing first-hand evidence of food poverty.

A government spokesperson said: “The truth is that the employment rate is the highest it’s been for five years and our reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities by promoting work and helping people to lift themselves out of poverty.”

Maria Eagle, the shadow environment secretary, said the Trussell figures told the “shocking truth” of Britain’s cost-of-living crisis. “Instead of hiding behind the Tory myth that says the increase in food banks is driving demand, it is time ministers got a grip and took this issue seriously.”

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Don’t think Chief Constable Bettison should resign over Hillsborough? You will when you read this:

Originally posted on Pride's Purge:

(not satire – it’s Norman Bettison)

Police Chief in Hillsborough cover-up once called for an end to ‘health and safety Taliban’

Sir Norman Bettison – who has been accused by the families of the Hillsborough victims of being part of a black propaganda campaign by South Yorkshire Police to blame the fans for the tragedy – unbelievably years later called for health and safety legislation to be reduced saying he believed health and safety legislation was ‘hindering’ police officers’ instincts.

Bettison made the remarkable call for what he called an end to the ‘health and safety Taliban’ in an article for the Telegraph in 2007 – 18 years after the Hillsborough tragedy which happened as a direct result of a serious lack of health and safety at the stadium as well as poor policing.

This is not the first time Bettison has been proven to be an idiot. In…

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Tax Evasion/Avoidance has climbed £4bn under George Osborne while he continues to sack Tax Collectors

Reposted from Evidence UK

This report bears out what I have said time and time again; George Osbornes hatchet job on HMRC compliance staff is a gift to companies (usually large multi million pound turnover companies, who can afford roomfuls of lawyers and accountants who can exploit loopholes in the Taxes Act)and rich individuals who avoid and evade tax.


For every £1 George Osborne has cut the Tax Collecting Staffing Budget by, there has been a £10 increase in the amount of uncollected tax. The Tax Gap, that is to say the amount of uncollected tax in the UK, has climbed £4bn, or £4,000,000,000.00 if you prefer, under George Osborne. The data is part of the HMRC’s official calculations and is published annually. You can see the most recent publication here, for example (click here). Of course, it is reasonable to state that a key way of ensuring any tax collecting agency such as the HMRC performs at its optimum is to make sure the agency is well staffed. Sadly, however, George Osborne has been doing the opposite. The staffing budget for the HMRC has been cut sharply every single year since George Osborne has been Chancellor by a total of £410m+. You can verify this by glancing at page 52 of the HMRC’s own report here (click here).

Tax Collecters

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Miller has no honour, no vocation – and no skill

Reposted from the Daily Mirror

Expenses scandal: Maria Miller

Let me tell you about a woman who lives on state benefits.

She owned a house in an expensive bit of London, but after she got a public sector job in 2005 she got us to pay her mortgage interest AS WELL AS her salary.

She invited her parents and her brothers to live with her, her husband and children in this lovely, taxpayer-funded home.

They all visited her at the weekends in a second house in the countryside that she could afford to rent privately.

She twice increased her mortgage, first by £100,000 and then by £50,000, to fund refurbishment on this home where her entire family were living five days a week.

She claimed between £1,400 and £1,900 a month, every month, for four years.

She claimed despite the fact she was fairly wealthy – she had worked in advertising and marketing, her husband was a solicitor, and her new job  she had a basic starting salary of £59,095.

Her pay rose, over four years, to £64,766 – a increase of 9.5%, and comfortably placing her among the top 5% of earners in the UK.

In 2009 there was a big scandal about a man in the same sort of job as her, who had claimed for a home his parents lived in, and who resigned in disgrace.

At exactly the same time, the woman stopped claiming.

Shortly afterwards she was promoted to  a junior managerial role  and got a pay rise to £89,435. Two years after that, she was promoted again to a job earning £134,565.

All was quiet until a journalist pointed out the taxpayer wasn’t supposed to house extended families of people who work in the public sector.

The journalist, being responsible, knocked on the door of the house to inform them about the article and ask for any response or clarification.

The woman’s father opened the door, and chatted happily for ten minutes to the reporter telling her he really liked her newspaper.

A few hours later, an assistant who worked for the woman rang the journalist to complain, claimed the father was distressed, and suggested the woman had it within her power to make the journalist’s job much more difficult.

Despite the threat, the story ran and it led to a formal inquiry by the woman by the authorities, which are often reluctant to investigate until there’s a headline.

The woman’s claims were investigated by a taxpayers’ detective, but she failed to properly co-operate.

She did not answer all the questions, could not produce all the paperwork, and got her figures wrong.

She even employed a lawyer to write expensive letters saying the detective was not following the rules.

Her obstructions and delays meant the inquiry dragged on for 16 months.

She told the detective the rented cottage was the “centre of my family life”, even though her entire family lived in London. She said she could have claimed more than she did, but then admitted she had claimed for £5,800 more than she ought.

The detective’s initial report said the woman should  not  have claimed for the house; that she should  not  have increased her mortgage; and that she  owed  the state £45,000.

This evidence  was presented to the woman’s colleagues, who  agreed  she had broken the rules, that she  had  obstructed the inquiry, and the detective had acted perfectly reasonably throughout.

The colleagues agreed the woman had got her main homes the wrong way around, but decided it didn’t matter.

They said it was  “improper”  her mortgage had increased, but despite a lack of documentation to prove it, decided it didn’t matter.

They agreed with the woman’s own estimate that she had only to pay back £5,800, and said it was more important the woman had been rude to their inquiry.

When journalists pointed out the subsequent apology was very short, wasn’t very remorseful, and by the way she’d now sold the house for £1.2million profit and wasn’t some of that due to be repaid to the taxpayers who’d funded the whole enterprise, the woman’s friends said this was unfair .

Righto, let’s talk about “unfair”.

Unfair  is working Monday lunchtime to Thursday lunchtime in the capital, and insisting you need an extra house because you spend Fridays somewhere else.

Unfair  is using the taxpayer’s money to fund refurbishments and speculate on the housing market, then trousering the profit.

Unfair  is looking at the  MPs’ code of conduct  that says they must comport themselves in the public interest, and then deciding the best way of doing that is to get an extra house out of it.

Unfair  is claiming a second house when your constituency is only an hour away by train.  Unfair  is pretending this is about sexism, witchcraft or homophobia when it’s simply about right and wrong.

Unfair  is pretending to be clean by setting up an independent standards commissioner, then ignoring them.

Unfair  is taxing the bedrooms of the disabled, sick, dying, and widowed while feathering your own nest with as much of the taxpayer’s cash as you think you can get away with.

But then, as an old chief reporter used to tell me, life isn’t fair: get over it.

The job of MP or cabinet minister is surely, regardless of your political beliefs, to make life more fair, not less. Whether left or right, they need to be people of honour, vocation, and skill.

Maria Miller has no honour, or her apology would have been heartfelt. She has no vocation, or she’d be driven to do better for others.

And she has no skill, because the only culture she’s cultivating is a plague experiment in whether she’ll be sacked before she infects the whole nation with a desire to burn Parliament to the ground.

It’s telling, perhaps, that she has been supported by colleagues whose own expenses aren’t exactly benign – Jeremy Hunt, who repaid £9,500, Sir George Young  who got his daughter on the public payroll,  and Iain Duncan Smith  who likes £39 breakfasts.

And David Cameron, the Prime Minister himself, who  has for years been getting us to pay the interest on a £350,000 mortgage when he has a mortgage-free home in Kensington rented out at massive profit, and two free houses while he’s Prime Minister.

It’s not that MPs have to live in two different places, or employ staff, or eat breakfast, which bothers people.

It’s not even the fact they could manage with one house and a B&B, and don’t realise these are state benefits same as the pension, disability allowances or child tax credits.

It’s the fact that they seriously expect to make laws for other people which they have no intention of following themselves; that they genuinely cannot see a fiddle on their second homes puts them in the same category as a housing benefits cheat.

The rule of law applies to everyone equally, or it doesn’t apply at all. And that is the exact opposite of unfair.

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Work Capability Assessment faces replacement if Labour wins election

Originally posted on Vox Political:

'To see ourselves as others see us': It is hard to stand on a platform when you can't even stand - but the social media are giving disabled people a stronger voice and a chance to take the spotlight, rather than the sidelines.

‘To see ourselves as others see us’: It is hard to stand on a platform when you can’t even stand – but the social media are giving disabled people a stronger voice and a chance to take the spotlight, rather than the sidelines.

The Labour Party is likely to scrap the hated Work Capability Assessment for people claiming sickness and disability benefits, replacing it with “something that looks very different” – but you haven’t heard anything about it on the news, have you?

Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Kate Green, said she would be treating with “great seriousness” the Beyond the Barriers report by the Spartacus online campaigning network, which concluded that the WCA is “inaccurate, unreliable and invalid” – but you won’t have heard anything about that on the TV or radio, or read it in the papers either.

Vox Political found it on the Centre for Independent…

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Over a third of Hillsborough victims were kids or teens. And Tories still blaming them.

Originally posted on Pride's Purge:

(not satire – I’m sorry to say)

Over a third of the Hillsborough disaster victims were kids or teens:

hillsborough victims

But they were still blamed by top Tories for their own deaths:

Top Tory Bernard Ingham calls relatives of Hillsborough victims ‘contemptible’

And it’s not all in the past either. I got this tweet today from a young Tory on Twitter:

tories still blaming fans

Who said the Tory party had changed?


Please feel free to comment.


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They Are All Skivers Down at the Jobcentre, Including the Staff!

Originally posted on John D Turner:

In all the debate about welfare ‘reform’ the small matter of the Jobcentre network’s original primary function has got a bit lost. That function being to create a local labour market for jobseekers, both the employed and the workless and, crucially employers. Jobcentres used to provide a fairly efficient public employment service, free at the point of delivery.

In fact, before the privatisation of Professional and Executive Recruitment the Jobcentre network even addressed the needs of the whole labour market. PER charged for its services and competed with the private sector for business. Naturally, it had to go under the Tories and was sold off to Captain Bob Maxwell, who ran it down after asset stripping its client records.

Today, the Jobcentre’s labour market operation is known for its farcical, almost fully automated vacancy handling system and Universal Jobsmatch. The former seems to be designed to make the case for…

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