You won’t get me I’m part of the union

Lin Homer (or Homer Simpson as I call her) head of HMRC;  used the intranet home page of HMRC to post inflammatory comments about the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union

PCS are not allowed to use the intranet or internal e mail

She posted these comments without giving PCS the right to reply.

Her intention (in my honest opinion) is to make PCS out to be the bad guys and crush opposition to the drastic cuts in staff she’s about to make.

You can read more about her “illustrious” **cough cough ** career here.

I couldn’t put it any better than PCS voice

How dare she use HMRC newsroom page, which contains details of updates for all  staff in HMRC to peddle her myths.

Posted in PCS | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Here we go again!

Reposted from PCS website

In its latest panic measure to desperately try and paper over the cracks DWP has announced today that it is to take on 80 temps from the Brook Street Bureau recruitment agency to cover AO vacancies until 31st March 2015.

DWP is currently advertising externally for new AO staff to join as Fixed Term Appointments. However this recruitment exercise has been undersubscribed and has not generated the expected level of applications. As a result the department has decided to throw all of its long-standing, tried and tested recruitment policies and procedures out of the window and is resorting to taking on agency temps to cover core front line AO vacancies.

Unprecedented insult

Agency temps have never been used to fill AO posts in DWP before. It is an insult to every AO in the department that DWP is now saying to them that their post can be filled with an agency temp at a moment’s notice, irrespective of their skills, experience or qualifications.

Start on Monday

The first temps are expected to be in post as early as 27th October. PCS was not even told of the possibility of this happening until Monday 20th October. DWP have agreed to review the use of agency temps to see how it works, after two or three weeks.

Not DWP staff

Temps remain employed by their agency, in this case the Brook Street Bureau, and so will not be DWP members of staff. They will be paid the AO Min but on top of that DWP will have to pay a fee to the Brook Street Bureau for their ‘service’ in providing these people.

Criminal Records Checks

Some of the temps will start in training with DWP before they have had a criminal records check. DWP were clear that they must not have access to DWP IT systems or talk to the public until the checks have been done. Brook Street Bureau claim they can do this check in one week whereas it takes DWP up to three weeks for the same check. The temps should receive the same new entrant training and induction as directly employed staff.

Casual Staff

PCS asked management why they would not use temporary, directly employed casual staff instead. No real explanation was given for why they could not do this.

Undermining the civil service

PCS sees the use of agency temps as a serious undermining of the civil service. What were once seen as jobs with above average terms and conditions, reasonable career prospects and good job security are now being reduced to the level of agency temps. Temps have far worse rights at work than directly employed staff. They would have the same pay, hours and annual leave as directly employed staff but would not be covered by DWP policies on other terms and conditions like sick pay, special leave, etc.

PCS has been assured that this is a one-off measure to deal with an emergency shortage of staff in CCS. However there is a real risk that this is the thin end of the wedge and part of a wider strategy by the employer to casualise employment in DWP.

Given that 80 temps equates to just 0.125% of the total DWP staffing, it is unclear why such a tiny shortage amounts to a crisis requiring these emergency measures.

The 80 temps are to be used at Grimsby and Makerfield contact centres. DWP will have had no say in the people who Brook Street Bureau supply and will have no idea whether they are in any way suitable for these posts, or whether there is any intention for the temps to stay for more than a few days.

PCS Opposition

PCS has made it clear to the employer that we are completely opposed to this decision. Agency temps have no role in the civil service and PCS will campaign for an end to their use as soon as possible. PCS has asked for a meeting at with senior management in the department to seek a reversal of this decision.

While it may take a little longer to run a proper recruitment exercise, this is still what DWP should do. If DWP is unable to attract people to apply for its vacancies then maybe DWP should start to look at what it is offering new recruits. A good start would be a substantial increase in the AO rates of pay to ensure DWP is competitive with other employers.

Posted in DWP | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Workfare bidders – Yet another monumental waste of taxpayers money

In June 2014, Frank Zola via the Information Commissioners Office, appealed to the General Regulatory Chamber Tribunal to force DWP to release details of the Workfare exploiters  successful bidders.

DWP had originally turned down the request, on the grounds that the information was commercially sensitive.

The judge however had other ideas and refused their request, advising them that they could appeal (if they wished) directly to the Court of Appeal. (see judges comments below)


Full decision here…

ICO and the DWP met for 5 hours at an Upper Tribunal Information Rights case, about naming Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) and Work Programme placement hosts, summary of arguments put forward:

DWP: Andrew Sharland…

the original first tier tribunal decision and particularly the conclusions contained many errors in law and the first tier tribunal decision should be set-side and a new one convened.

reference was made to the Salvation Army “holding the line” and the YMCA “sticking with” MWA and the ‘small’ charities PDSA and Sue Ryder not having Tesco like PR resources to ‘wage war’ against, the media and “aggressive targetting” by protesters.

that Boycott Workfare’s “strident” criticism, online petitions and direction action against hosts was not ‘standard criticism’.

there was continual reference to a complaint that workfare hosts had been presented “thieving fucking criminals” and “people are dying because of you”.

DWP conceded that Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) is not” a commercial-interest

ICO: Robin Hopkins…

The DWP arguments are a “classic case” of focusing on certain words and seeking to get a ‘drop of blood out of a stone’, using sophistry and being incapable of ‘seeing the woods for the trees” and are using the hearing to “snipe” at the tribunal’s decision.

the first tier tribunal are entitled to reach the conclusion they did and it would not be fair to remit the case back to a fresh first tier tribunal due to possible ‘isolated errors in law’

the DWP present workfare as being for “community benefit” it therefore follows that it is in the public interest for communities to know that names of workfare placement hosts in their community.

there is no actual evidence to show a causal link that disclosure of “free labour” hosts names did or could lead to any loss of commercial interests

Boycott Workfare’s activities are part of a democratic right of protest

there was no evidence of a “media frenzy” against workfare hosts and complaints against The Guardian reporting are “hopeless”

the media, blog and website evidence only submitted by the DWP contradicts it’s own case, noting the Daily Mail IDS article cited was self-serving defense of DWP’s workfare.

these workfare schemes are “controversial” and the DWP should expect criticism

the first tier tribunal was right to give little weight to the survey and letters ‘evidence’ provided by workfare hosts and “middle men” (DWP contractors and subcontractors) at the DWP’s behest as this enabled the DWP to frame the gathering of such evidence to prove it’s own case and as such should be treated with ‘suspicion’ due to it’s “partiality”

the exposure of Sue Ryder, PDSA and Salvation Army as workfare hosts took place in 2011 prior to the FOI requests

Oxfam considers workfare to be unethical


The DWP also sought to “smuggle in” (ICO comment) new reasons it considered against the original decision, ICO argued they did not have permission for new grounds, particularly those concerning aggregation of multiple requests within a single FOI request.

Judge comments

During the hearing the Judge made the following observations:

Social Media allows members of the public on unpaid workfare to disclose the names of workfare placement hosts and they are under no duty of confidentiality. That much of the media attention had been caused by Tesco ‘shooting itself in the foot’ over recruitment adverts for unpaid workfare in it’s supermarkets. There was also some confusion over the pagination/numbering of DWP’s bundle concerning media, blog and website evidence submitted by the DWP

DWP has now submitted it’s appeal notice to the Court of Appeal (24/10/14), the DWP grounds of appeal are that the First Tier Tribunal erred in law by concluding the DWP disclosure of the requested information would not prejudice it’s commercial interests [43(2) FOIA] or otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs [36(2)(c) FOIA].

Freedom of Information Act 2000 [FOIA]…

So, at great cost to the taxpayer (and remember we are ALL taxpayers, because aside from anything else, we all pay VAT), DWP continue to flog a dead horse.

Posted in Freedom of Information | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Today’s Britain: where the poor are forced to steal or beg from food banks

Reposted from The Guardian – Comment is free

Matt Kenyon on food poverty
Illustration by Matt Kenyon

What would you do to keep your baby from starving? Perhaps the same as Lucy Hill. At the start of October, the 35-year-old mother from Kidderminster was broke. After missing an interview at the jobcentre, her disability benefits had been stopped – which left her, her partner and her toddler of 18 months without anything to live on. So she went to the local Spar and stole a chicken and some soap powder.

Two weeks later, Hill was up before the magistrate. Her police interview noted that she said “sorry to the shop … but had no money … and was in a desperate situation”. She was ordered to pay compensation, a fine, costs and a surcharge: a total of over £200 to be taken off someone who’d only committed a crime because she had no money. Her solicitor John Rogers remembers that the mother’s chief worry was that the social services might  find out and take away her baby.

After running me through the details, Rogers sighs. Cases like this keep coming his way, he says: “They miss an appointment so their benefits are sanctioned [docked or stopped altogether], so they have no money, so they steal.” His local office now handles “at least half a dozen” such cases each month – up from almost nothing a year ago.

He’s just one lawyer in one post-industrial town, describing a national policy: of starving the poor into committing crime. Nothing is accidental about this regime.

Iain Duncan Smith has denied setting staff targets for sanctioning benefits claimants; but this paper has found evidence, not only of targets but even league tables for job centres to compete against each other in keeping claimants away from their money. Do that on a big enough scale and some are bound to choose to steal rather than starve.

Because, rest assured, Hill’s not the only one. Last week, Ian Mulholland of Darlington was in court. After having his benefits “sanctioned” and spending nine weeks with nothing to live on, the 43-year-old had stolen some meat from the local Sainsbury’s. That crime got him six weeks in prison. A theft worth £12.60 means the taxpayer will spend over two grand to keep Mulholland behind bars.

When you read of such sentences, remember that this is the same country in which – just a few years ago – over 300 parliamentarians were found to have claimed expenses to which they weren’t entitled; hundreds of thousands handed over to some of the richest people in the country for duck houses, moat repairs and heating their stables.

A mere handful were sent to prison. For others, the punishment was just a career break.

David Laws, an architect of the cuts we are living through, resigned after it was discovered that he had funnelled over £40,000 of public money as rent to his landlord, who was also his lover. He was back as a minister within two years and is in charge of drafting the Lib Dem election manifesto. When Laws began his cabinet sabbatical, the broadsheets wept as bitterly as if it were a scene from Les Mis.

This newspaper ran a column raging against the exile of “a man of quite exceptional nobility”. No ink so purple will be spilled for the likes of Hill and Mulholland, of course. But then, these people aren’t powerful and their crimes are merely prosaic. They’re the pensioner caught by police in Glasgow with three stolen cans. The  asylum seeker nicking a sarnie from Sainsbury’s.

And all the other instances that police from Lancashire to south London cite as one of their growing crime areas: of people stealing to eat because they can’t afford basics.

If this sounds humdrum, that’s what austerity Britain is: humdrum, run-of-the-mill immiseration. Greece gets austerity imposed upon it by Brussels and Berlin, and Athens goes up in flames. But the British choose a government that imposes cuts – and then the poorest are forced either to steal, or to beg from this decade’s other great phenomenon: food banks.

And sometimes, they try other tactics to keep fed and warm. Ask Mark Frankland, who runs a food bank in Dumfries. He used to dispense 100 food parcels a month; now it’s more like 500.

He’s noticed another trend: people who’ve had their benefits sanctioned stealing televisions or other items sufficiently expensive to guarantee they’re sent down. That way, they get up to four months in a heated cell, with three meals a day. He says: “For them, it’s ten times better than spending a hungry winter in a cold flat.”

Put that way, it sounds quite rational. And certainly the driving forces could have been spotted way off. Food and energy prices have been rising since the crash; real wages and benefits have been sliding. The upshot was always going to be: families in work having to go without, and much worse for those not in work.

But if they couldn’t do the arithmetic, ministers could have listened to the dozens of Anglican bishops and hundreds of church leaders warning that hunger was becoming “a national crisis”. They could have read the letters from researchers in the British Medical Journal warning that the rise in food poverty has “all the signs of a public health emergency”. They could have looked over the hospital admissions statistics showing a rise in malnutrition.

Instead Lord Freud, a welfare minister, pretended that the spread of hundreds of food banks was because people like a free meal. When the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs received a report on food banks that showed Freud’s argument was “not based on robust evidence”, it sat on it for as long as possible.

Whatever intentions you ascribe to Freud and IDS and Cameron, there can be no doubt they have engineered Britain’s crisis of hunger, simply by blocking their ears to all the evidence and pressing ahead. Whether food banks or shoplifting or the devaluation of wages for British workers, the effect has been the same. And it’s best summed up by Joseph Townsend, an 18th-century vicar – and a precursor to IDS in his plans to scrap poor relief.

“Hunger will tame the fiercest animals,” wrote Townsend in support of his welfare reforms. “It will teach decency and civility, obedience and subjection … it is only hunger which can spur and goad the poor on to labour.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tick Tock Tory Boys

Reposted from the Sunday Telegraph

When even the Telegraph, which is the de facto house paper of the Conservatives, starts baying for your blood then you know you’re in trouble. The tock is ticking for Cameron and Osborne.

David Cameron in Brussels for the European Council. Photo: REX

The European Union warned Britain months ago that it was facing a massive increase in its EU membership fee, according to documents seen by The Telegraph.

A furious David Cameron vowed on Friday that he would not pay an “appalling” and unexpected demand for an extra £1.7 billion in British contributions to the EU budget by the December 1 deadline.

However, The Telegraph can disclose that EU officials warned member states in January that new bills were coming, and produced figures showing that Britain was likely to have to pay higher fees this autumn.

The disclosure cast doubt on Mr Cameron’s claims that he had been ambushed out of the blue by the demand for more money on the eve of the Brussels summit on Thursday.

The development will intensify pressure on the Prime Minister and George Osborne, the Chancellor, over why Britain was apparently so unprepared for the extra surcharge.

In other developments as the row grew:

  •  Treasury ministers are to be hauled before MPs this week to explain why Mr Cameron was not informed of the impending£1.7 billion charge from the European Union
  •  Labour’s Treasury spokesman, Chris Leslie, wrote to Mr Osborne demanding that the Chancellor set out what he knew, when about the demand for more money. Mr Leslie told Mr Osborne he had “serious questions to answer”about how long the government had known about the potential for Britain to be hit with such a massive surcharge;
  •  Mr Osborne is preparing to launch talks with other European finance ministers, ahead of a meeting on November 7 at which the dispute is expected to be discussed. The Chancellor will raise Britain’s concerns with the German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, and others, when they meet in Berlin this week at a global forum on tax transparency
  •  Senior Treasury officials are meeting this weekend, and will be speaking to their counterparts in the Netherlands, Italy, and Greece to build an alliance of countries to fight the extra demands for money
  •  A senior Member of the European Parliament warned that Mr Cameron would have to pay the £1.7 billion, saying the confusion was “an entirely British affair” and that the rest of Europe “expects” the UK to pay up;
  •  It emerged that Britain would face EU fines worth more than £1.3 million a day for every day the country refuses to pay the extra bill.

The call for the extra cash, which followed a review of member states’ economic performance since 1995, was described by Mr Cameron as “completely unacceptable”.

The detailed demand for £1.7 billion was first sent to EU member state governments on October 17, several days before the information reached the Chancellor.

The Chancellor has said he learnt about the bill “earlier this week”, but it appeared to catch the Prime Minister off guard.

On Saturday, Sir Bill Cash, chair of the Commons European scrutiny select committee, announced that ministers from the Treasury would be summoned to explain the apparent lack of action over the bill which left Mr Cameron exposed at the summit.

Sir Bill said: “I’m calling in Treasury ministers next week to my committee so that we can go through how this happened in addition to what they have to say about the way in which they intend to handle it from now on.”

“So we’ll have a proper examination which will obviously include looking at the system itself which I’ve already described as crazy.”

The extra £1.7billion bill is a result of changes in the way national accounts are calculated across the world, which have had the effect of increasing Britain’s GDP by more than the European average. This meant Britain’s required contribution to the overall EU budget would also increase by more than the EU average.

Different EU member states make different contributions to the EU budget, depending on their national incomes.

On January 16, European statisticians said the EU-wide average increase resulting from the change in the way national accounts are calculated was a rise of 2.4 per cent in GDP. For Britain, the projected figure was higher, between 3 per cent and 4 per cent.

A prominent MEP warned Mr Cameron yesterday that Europe “expects” Britain to pay the surcharge by the December 1 deadline.

“It appears the Prime Minister was surprised by this in Brussels,” said Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, vice-president of the European Parliament.

“And that I can understand, because a bill of €2bn, £1.7bn, is significant enough to be informed about before you go to a summit and then are confronted with it in a surprising way. But that is an entirely British affair. The rest of Europe expects you to pay and that’s that.”

On Saturday, The Telegraph reported that Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, had told Mr Cameron he should have anticipated the European Union’s demand.

According to a diplomatic record of talks between European leaders seen by the paper, the German Chancellor told the Prime Minister the call “did not come out of the blue”.

“I understand that it is difficult to come up with €2 billion [£1.7billion] David, but this should have been expected,” Ms Merkel said.

The European Commission president, Jean Claude Juncker, also told Mr Cameron to “show some political courage” over the call.

Posted in Economy | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

The PM who cried wolf.

Prime Minister David Cameron arrives for a European Union summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels

David Cameron can thump the table, stamp his feet and shout all he likes …. he’s been caught out in a lie and now the pigeons have come home to roost!

When you have an (unelected) prime minister and a chancellor of the exchequer (who doesn’t even know his seven times table), who have manipulated and lied about the economy, they shouldn’t be surprised when they are forced to live up to their fiction.

The EU have asked the UK to pay £1.7 billion pounds because… the UK economy has improved.

If the economy HAD improved to the extent that CaMORON says it has, then this payment would not be too much of a problem.

There has indeed been an improvement in the economy, but only because of factors such as the money from activities such as drug use and prostitution being used to bolster the figures.

Prostitution and illegal drugs are contributing around £10 billion a year to the British economy, according to official data released last May (source ONS)

More than half of that – £5.3 billion – is attributable to prostitution, according to estimated figures from the Office for National Statistics. Illegal drugs are worth £4.4bn.

Britain has to pay. No ifs, no buts. The adjustment is “automatic”.

A bill for £1.7billion will sting at any time but the political price paid by Mr Cameron could be really eye watering for the Tories.

We all know CaMORON and Gidiot have lied about the real picture of the UK economy.

That is why Mark Carney (Governer of the Bank of England … I know he’s Canadian, mad isn’t it) has delayed any increase in the interest rates.

Originally, interest rates were set to rise when unemployment fell below 7.2%. Well, it’s below that now, so why no increase? Because, Mr Carney is not stupid, he knows that the unemployment figures are false, because he knows that people claiming JSA/ESA who are on workfare programmes are counted as employed when quite clearly they are not.

He knows that the slight improvement in the economy is not being felt by the likes of you and me, but is only felt by large multi million pound turnover companies who benefit from UK tax relief and contrived tax measures such as transfer pricing. These companies pay no or very little corporation tax to the treasury.

So, Mr CaMORON, you’ve been hoisted by your own petard and caught out in a lie; so do the decent thing and resign!

Posted in Economy, EU | Tagged , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

How to fix Britain’s broken workplaces

Reposted from the New Statesman

It’s time to introduce workplace citizenship to Britain’s employers. Photo: Getty

There’s something seriously wrong with the world of work, and not just in the places you would expect. We know that the UK is near the bottom of the EU low pay league and that those on low pay make up a fifth of the labour force (the same as in 1994, despite the introduction of the minimum wage). And, we know we are world leaders in zero-hours contracting and outsourcing.  But, the problems at work today are no longer confined to precarious employment. As the Smith Institute’s inquiry into Making Work Better shows, the majority of Britain’s workplaces are now broken and under-performing.

The inquiry’s 100-page report by Ed Sweeney, the former chair of Acas, documents a litany of employee concerns: falling real wages, insecurity, mistrust, skills under-utilisation and low levels of engagement. Workers in all types of jobs say they feel undervalued and over worked. They are also angry about excessive top pay and the way they are managed. Many employers are communicating, caring and investing in their staff. But, the gap between the rest and the best is widening.

Problems at work may be a blind spot for the government, but it’s undermining our productivity (which already lags well behind our competitors) and costing the taxpayer billions in terms of in-work benefits. The fact we have so many low paid, low skilled jobs in low value business is also holding back the recovery.

With so many people feeling short-changed at work there are potentially huge dividends for a party that champions not just more work, but ‘good work’. Promising a fairer and more prosperous society with greater opportunity for the many can’t be achieved with a government that ignores the benefits of social partnership and employee voice and fails to tackle worsening wage inequality and widespread mistreatment at work. International research quoted in the Sweeney report, for example, busts the myth that deregulated labour markets with fewer employment rights and a power imbalance tilted firmly in the employers favour leads to higher productivity and happier workers.

Moreover, there’s a compelling business case for making work better. Highly motived, empowered and engaged workers make for more successful organisations. Fear and anxiety at work are hardly the hallmarks of modern businesses. What is self-evident to the vast majority of people in work is that a top down “bosses know best”, “us and them” view of the world belongs to yesteryear.  It not only stifles both productivity and innovation, but creates mistrust between employee and employer.

A serious problem in many of our workplaces is not so much the lack of skills, but the poor way managers use the latent talent in their workforce. Innovation is not just about spreadsheets or tests in the science lab. Surprising as it may sound to some, employees often know the best way to undertake a task and may have insights into what is not functioning properly. Instead of using the skills and knowledge, workers in the long tail of poor performing companies are left feeling disengaged and disillusioned.

In many instances workers also feel insecure. Indeed, the race to the bottom on rights and voice is not just about the acute problems in troubled workplaces. According to a recent Smith Institute and TUC poll, half the workforce is fearful of loss of job status while a similar proportion feel anxious or worried about work. This is hardly a basis for building trust or encouraging employees to go the extra mile, let alone the foundations for a healthy one.  Studies by Professor Michael Marmot and others repeatedly show the harmful effects insecurity (and low pay) has on the health of the nation. Making those social costs more transparent and identifying and benchmarking the good employers can help, as can support for better management and HR training.

For some, the societal costs associated with insecurity and wages are just downsides to the unstoppable forces of globalisation and technological change. However, such ‘natural forces’ are not experienced in the same way in other countries. And, most low paid jobs are not subject to the pressures of international competition. Indeed, a telling conclusion from the Making Work Better report is that these inter-related problems at work (poor productivity, insecurity and inequality) are a consequence of a financial business model designed to pursue the low road on wages, skills, and employee involvement.  The fact that the government’s employment policies encourage this ‘race to the bottom’ is no coincidence, as its failed ‘shares for rights’ scheme illustrates.

There is an alternative which challenges some of the prevailing assumptions and sets out an alternative narrative on the labour market. It’s based on the concept that work gives us meaning; that productive work is achieved by colleagues working together; that success requires workers at all levels having a say over their work; and fair rewards and security require balanced power relationships at work.

Such a vision of workplace citizenship isn’t a fantasy, and there is much that government can do to ensure that employees do not surrender their rights as citizens at the point they cross their employer’s threshold. Government, for example, can do more to spread good practice and help create a level playing field so the best employers are not undercut on the basis on lower pay and poorer conditions. As the report suggest, government can become a Living Wage employer and use its power of procurement to lift people out of poverty pay. It can  also insist that companies disclose their pay ratios and support collective bargaining; clamp down on the abuse of zero hours contracts and bad agency work; reform the employment tribunal system to make it affordable and fit for purpose; improve the enforcement regimes for the minimum wage and equal opportunities; ensure that a two tier workforce doesn’t emerge when services are contracted out; extend childcare and improve eldercare; and simplify and amend the existing Information and Consultation Regulations to give employees a stronger collective voice.

Improving the world of work will of course rely on decisions and circumstances of individual employers and employees (and trade unions). But government can take a lead and advocate a culture of cooperation and consultation. The prize is not just a better deal for employees and more productive organisations, but a better deal for government.

Paul Hunter is head of research at the Smith Institute

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments