Posts Tagged ‘government’
Sick leave – it’s all the rage in the UK. As many as 960,000 employees went on sick leave for a month or more, each year on average between October 2010 and September 2013, according to new research by the government.
It is said that more than 130 million days were lost to sickness absence in the UK, which impacts on workers, employers and taxpayers, and employers face a yearly bill of £9 billion for sick pay and around £4 billion in lost earnings.
Obviously the government of ‘the hard working’ aren’t having any of it, so as part of the launch of the Health & Work Service, employees will be expected to have health assessments, and also draw up timetables of when they aim to be better.
The Health and Work Service will help employees who have been on sickness absence for 4 weeks to return to work and support employers to better manage sickness absence among their workforce. It’s expected to save employers £70 million a year and cut the time people spend off work by 20% to 40%”.
The new Health and Work Service will be funded through the abolition of the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS) – an outdated system which does nothing to promote or support active management of sickness absences by either the employer or employee.
The government has been accused of making a mighty balls up of their 5p plastic bag scheme. The Environmental Audit Committee say that the 5p charge on plastic bags, which is intended to reduce the amount of Morrisons carriers flapping sadly on tree branches, is confusing and ill conceived.
A government plan that’s confusing and ill conceived, you cry? It’s hard to believe, but the problem with it is that under the new scheme, biodegradable bags, paper bags and bags given out by small retailers are exempt – and the ECA quite rightly say that’s silly.
The ECA’s chairwoman, Joan Walley said: ‘Ministers have managed to make a complete mess of their planned carrier bags charge by making it unnecessarily complicated.
Carrier bags litter our streets and harm wildlife, and the Government is right to want to reduce their use. But Defra seems to have made decisions about the design of this scheme that were based more on wishful thinking than hard evidence.’
The charge is due to come into effect from next year in England, but the ECA want ministers to rethink the plan before it goes ahead.
After all, what’s the difference between a swan being strangled by a Sainsbury’s bag or a Jo Malone bag? (Apart from maybe its corpse might smell a bit nicer?)
Ofgem has been about as effective in regulating the Big Six as a squirrel trying operate a fork lift truck, and now ministers say it’ll be scrapped if it doesn’t end the monopoly on the energy market.
The ministers’ exact words were that it was in the ‘last chance saloon’ and if it doesn’t encourage more small suppliers to compete, it’ll be scrapped like broken combi boiler.
The government wants to shake up the energy market and create more competition, and have accused Ofgem of getting too cosy with the Big Six. As a result, the big buggers are profiteering, while insisting to Ofgem that their profit margins are small.
Unless Ofgem up their game and deliver an actual plan to end the reign of the Big Six, and stop customers from being overcharged (which is why they exist in the first place), then they will be dissolved, and energy regulation will be in the hands of the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Ofgem got a bit stroppy about rumours that they might be for the chop. ‘We don’t comment on speculation. We are working with the OFT and the Competition and Markets Authority on our assessment of competition in the energy market and we will be publishing by the end of March.’
Meanwhile, it seems that they’re REALLY not popular in Whitehall – so they’d better watch it.
‘Ofgem have been a nightmare for years.’ Said one government source. ‘They keep Government in the dark about what they’re doing and then spring things on us at the last minute – usually at 3.30 on a Friday afternoon.’
If you feel deluged by PPI pipsqueaks and recorded message junk calls, then here’s why. According to government figures, there are 2 million nuisance calls in Britain EVERY DAY.
Last year, 30 million of us were contacted about misold PPI, but in a separate survey of around 5000 people by the Citizens Advice Bureau, it revealed that personal injury companies made the highest volume of sales calls, followed by gas and electricity suppliers and double glazing idiots.
We’re also regularly harassed by text, too, and other culprits include debt consolidation services and pension unlocking. This is despite the fact that 9 out of 10 of us wouldn’t trust these cold calling shysters anyway. (It almost makes you pine for that advert with that bloke falling off a ladder at work.)
The issue of what can be done about nuisance calls is being debated in the Commons today,with Lib Dem MP Mike Crockart demanding to have them banned. Meanwhile, Gillian Guy from the Citizens Advice Bureau said:
‘It is time companies hang-up marketing plans that bombard people with unwanted phone calls, text messages and automated voicemails. I’d like to see financial service companies banned from cold calling. A ban on these firms would help people know a call out of the blue is one not to be trusted.’
And surely the success rate of these calls must be so low that companies will have to reconsider their marketing strategy anyway? How about something more wholesome and fun? Like blimps? Or sky writing?
The government, in its usual hopeless and clunky way, have launched an initiative called the ‘Cyber Streetwise’ campaign, to encourage people to be on their guard on the internet.
Sadly, it doesn’t feature Zammo from Grange Hill, but the campaign urges people to be more ‘savvy’ with their personal security online, doing things like changing passwords, updating virus software and checking privacy settings in the battle against cyber crime.
No matter that these hooded cyber criminals are smarter than you are, and that their methods are constantly changing. Or that social networks like Snapchat and Google + have massive holes in their security that you can’t do anything about. It’s all down to YOU.
Government security minister James Brokenshire (who probably owns the whole of Brokenshire and a large part of Rutland) said, grandly: ‘As a government we are taking the fight to cyber criminals wherever they are in the world. However, by taking a few simple steps while online the public can keep cyber criminals out and their information safe.’
The campaign comes after a survey found that we really are a bit lackadaisical with our internet safety, with only 44% downloading security software on new devices. But it’s ok, the government is here! And as well as the ‘Cyber Street’ website, they’re also asking websites who have government connections to display a special safety ‘kitemark’.
Aw, how quaint!
Never mind that it would probably take the average cyber criminal about 20 minutes to hack into them.
Ministers are saying that all driving records are being moved online, which should mean that the cost of your car insurance should fall. The days of keeping the paper bit of your insurance with your licence is soon to be over (mid 2015, they predict).
Premiums should fall because insurers will now be able to check you for traffic offences, which means, if you’ve been a good driver, you’ll get a cheaper deal as the insurance companies won’t have to make guesses about the risk of motorists.
Now, all your speeding points and the like, will be available online. If you’ve been a lousy driver, this is not great news. This might not be great news for anyone if you consider the government’s record of IT cock-ups.
The Association of British Insurers says there should be ”significant cost savings” resulting from “reducing the need to obtain paper copies of licences from policyholders” and the DVLA will allow insurers to access information through the gov.uk website using an individual’s licence number, national insurance number and postcode.
This comes after the news that paper tax discs will be scrapped and that the paper counterpart to the driving licence photo card is to be killed off too.
The DVLA said that “although some services cannot be delivered digitally, such as assessing a customer’s fitness to drive, we can improve the processes supporting the delivery of these services through making greater use of digital tools”.
Are you happy for all your details to be on a government website in exchange for cheaper insurance, or is this an accident waiting to happen?
Workers at the Department for Transport have been REVVING THEIR ENGINES during a boring day of admin with some rather racy internet searches, like ‘Big Boobs in Tight Blouses.’
Yes, while your rail fares rise, something else is rising under the Department of Transport desks. According to Freedom of Information figures, Whitehall employees tried to get at porn 47 times last year, attempting to access Playboy and something called ‘Perfect Asians’.
Playboy was the most popular site, though. Maybe they just wanted to read the articles?
A spokesman, perhaps flustered from looking at big boobs in tight blouses, said: ‘The department has measures in place to prevent accidental or unintentional access to unauthorised sites, such as pornographic sites.’
‘Accidental or unintentional.’
It might be time for Whitehall to get their IT problems sorted out. After all, it’s not the first time that government employees have decided to entertain themselves on their work laptops. MPs and peers are by far the worst – they tried to access porn sites 300,000 times a year. That’s 300,000 visits to treatmelikeanadultbaby.com. No wonder this country is in a mess.
Good news! If your phone gets nicked and the perpetrators use it to call their gangster pals in Serbia, or decide to Shazam everything and upload snuff movies onto it, you won’t be hit with a large bill.
The government has reached an agreement with four mobile phone companies – EE, Three, Virgin Media and Vodaphone – to put a cap on bills from stolen mobile phones from next Spring.
If you’ve reported your phone lost or stolen, there will be a £50 limit on bills. Also, phone providers will have to behave themselves when it comes to mid contract price rises. Customers will be able to decide to cancel their contract without any charges if their provider announces a price hike – following a ruling from Ofcom.
It’s all part of what the Government likes to sensationally call ‘the great mobile phone rip off.’ As announced earlier in the year, mobile providers must also work with the EU to end data roaming charges by 2016.
These days, if a Tory minister doesn’t mention ‘hardworking families’ in a speech, they’ll be jolly well egged and chucked into the River Cam without a punt. And Culture Secetrary Maria Miller didn’t disappoint.
‘We are ensuring hardworking families are not hit with shock bills through no fault of their own. Families can be left struggling if carefully planned budgets are blown away by unexpected bills from a stolen mobile or a mid-contract price rise. This agreement with the telecoms companies will deliver real benefits to consumers and help ensure people are not hit with shock bills.’
It turns out that the Government hasn’t actually asked the Big Six energy companies to freeze prices, despite rumours that ministers had been pressuring them to fix prices until the 2015 election.
‘This story is utterly misleading.’ snapped a snippy Tory source, ‘The Government has not asked for a price freeze. People should wait for us to announce our plans.’
(Yes, we will wait. Wrapped in blankets, coughing. Whatever you say, guv.)
Meanwhile Energy minister Ed Davey has promised make changes to the green levies for businesses, which the government have vaguely said they wanted to ‘roll back.’ This refers to the ECO scheme (which one Tory referred to as ‘green crap’). But nobody knows what the rollback entails, and no energy companies have agreed anything just yet.
But some of the Big Six have said they would cut prices if the government actually got its act together. Npower issued a statement saying: “If the green levies are rolled back then Npower will cut prices to its customers as soon as possible. We need to understand the detail of the roll back before we can comment further.’
There will be an announcement of their plans in the Autumn Statement on December 5th. But there doesn’t look like there’ll be a price freeze. After all, that would be too CARING. Looks like the only things that will be frozen are the icicles on our dead noses.
Lovely alcohol is all very well, until the morning after. So former government advisor and general mad professor David Nutt has invented a pill that gives you all the falling down, slurring, idiotic pleasure of drinking, without the bad head in the morning.
So instead of guzzling 25 Jagermeisters in a bar full of hotties, you can just pop one pill and lurch around the town centre like a dying baboon. The pill works on the pleasure centres of the brain just like alcohol, but it’s OK – Professor David has also perfected an ANTIDOTE PILL, so you can just reset your drunk head to sober and drive home, feeling like a king.
The controversial Prof Nutt, who looks like the manager of a struggling football club at the bottom of the Calor Gas League, has called on the government to fund his research and says the drug could be made into cocktails – and it’s ok –he’s tesshted it on himsshelf! (hic!)
‘I’ve done the prototype experiments myself,’ he said, laughing maniacally and blowing some smoke off the top of bubbling green test tube. ‘I’ve been inebriated and then it’s been reversed by the antagonist. That’s what really gave us the idea. There’s no question that you can produce a whole range of effects like alcohol by manipulating the brain.’
But alcohol support groups say that it would be swapping one addictive substance which makes us behave appallingly, for another.
Also, even if Prof Nutter gets funding, is a boring pill really going to compete with the fun of drinking tasty drinks all night, going to the toilet 52 times and throwing up in your shoe?
The stupid gits in government are planning to mess with our jams and marmalade and it isn’t on. In a bid to ‘boost the economy’, they plan to relax the rules on the minimum amount of sugar needed to classify a product calling itself jam.
Obviously, huge companies not paying tax is fine, but the economy would be saved if we got our breakfasts spoiled instead.
Lib Dem MP, Tessa Munt, is getting all Citizen Smith and fighting for the rights of ours spreads, saying that this move will be ”the end of the British breakfast as we know it” and that we’ll all end up with cheaper, runnier spreads with a shorter life span.
Talking to Auntie Beeb, she said: “I’m actually quite worried because I think this is going to be the end of the British breakfast as we know it. Our jams and marmalades are so important – and we know what to expect when we go into the supermarket or into our local shop or farm shops locally, we know exactly what we’re going to buy when something says jam on it – or marmalade or jelly – we know exactly what to expect.”
“At the minute, we’ve got a jam that we know exactly what it’s like. It’s a fantastic colour, a really good shelf life – it’s going to last a year – it’s beautiful consistency, it’s got a gloss to it. If these regulations change, we’ll end up with something much more like the French and German product – and worse still the Americans – where they have things a bit like a fruit butter or a fruit spread.”
Of course, manufacturers are behind the idea of lowering the sugar levels. That’s because they’ll be able to spend less money. Worse still is that these regulations will only apply to England, meaning that our cousins across the border in Wales and Scotland will be able to mock us loudly with delicious jam on toast while we watch our breakfast run through our fingers.
This. Is. An. Outrage.
Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, didn’t manage to overturn an earlier ruling that said regulations that backed up the schemes were invalid. Presumably, no-one could get away from the notion that, should Poundland have enough work for jobseekers to do, then surely, they are able to pay for it.
As the appeal was whisked to the Supreme Court, the Government forced through retrospective legislation – the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act – through Parliament. However, five whole Supreme Court justices upheld a Court of Appeal decision which went against the Government.
This all focused on Cait Reilly who was made to work for Poundland for free, as well as Jamieson Wilson who objected to doing unpaid work cleaning furniture, and saw his dole getting taken off him for 6 months. The lawyers representing the pair said all applicants who had their jobseeker’s allowance withdrawn for non-compliance with this ridiculous scheme could now reclaim their allowance as a result of this ruling.
Reilly said she was “really pleased” with today’s judgment. She hopes the whole thing “will serve to improve the current system and assist jobseekers who have been unfairly stripped of their benefits,” adding: “I brought these proceedings because I knew that there was something wrong when I was stopped from doing voluntary work in a local museum and instead forced to work for Poundland for free.”
However, the Supreme Court ruled that all this doesn’t actually constitute forced labour, which of course, saw IDS gleefully stroking his balls, saying: “We are very pleased that the Supreme Court today unanimously upheld our right to require those claiming jobseeker’s allowance to take part in programmes which will help get them into work. We have always said that it was ridiculous to say that our schemes amounted to forced labour, and yet again we have won this argument.”
“Ultimately this judgment confirms that it is right that we expect people to take getting into work seriously if they want to claim benefits.”
IDS then presumably tootled off home to his wife, Betsy Fremantle – daughter of the 5th Baron Cottesloe – to his country house who belongs to his father-in-law’s estate in Swanbourne, chuckling at his personal wealth of millions, wondering what all this fuss is about.
Christmas is good if you’re young. If you’re old, the cold weather will probably kill you. At least we’ve got heating for our houses, right? Wrong. See, tens of thousands of elderly customers are staring at a rise in their energy bills just in time for the coldest bit of the year after E.on withdrew their tariff for pensioners.
The scheme that has been scrapped is the StayWarm scheme, which offered fixed-price bills. However, E.on are pointing the finger at the Government, saying that the new rules which limit the number of tariffs an energy company can offer are responsible for them ending your nan.
These changes, backed by Cameron, are being implemented by Ofgem, and are limiting the total number of tariffs to four per fuel. ”Due to new Ofgem rules, which includes limiting the number of tariffs we can offer, the StayWarm tariff will close as current contracts come to an end from October 7th,” an E.on spokescrooge said.
Customers will be contacted about the news, but, if they aren’t contactable, they’ll automatically be shunted onto a more expensive standard tariff. Of course, Ofgem aren’t having it, saying that E.on could have continued with StayWarm.
“We have never told suppliers which tariffs they have to close to comply with this rule, as that is a decision for them,” said an Ofgem spokesperson. ”In fact we have been clear with all suppliers that they would have been allowed to keep social tariffs (which for example offer discounts to customers who have difficulty paying bills) under our rules.”
Is your pension hopeless? Are you destined to spend your dotage eating tinned stew out of an old hobnail boot? Well the Office of Fair Trading has ordered a crackdown on bad value pensions– after discovering that £40bn of savers money is stuck in schemes that will pay out piddling amounts.
Out of that 40 billion, £30 bn is in antiquated schemes with high charges, while £10bn resides in smaller schemes that are just as poor value for money.
5 million workers are paying into defined contribution plans, which are cheaper to run than traditional salary based schemes and are becoming increasingly popular amongst cash-strapped employers. The OFT also found that many employers don’t have the incentive to offer better value for money schemes to their workers.
The Department of Work and Pensions has agreed to look into whether new laws are needed to tackle the issue – with increased transparency top of the agenda.
Steve Webb, minister for pensions, said: “In particular, we need to ensure those already in pension schemes are getting good value for money, and will be actively involved in the audit of pension schemes sold prior to 2001.’
So knows, when you hit retirement age, you might be able to afford some stale bread to go with your tinned stew. It’s the little things that count. *cough, splutter, die penniless*
Sellers are returning to the housing market in their droves, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. They’ve been 26% busier in August compared to 16% in July. There’s also been 66% more inquiries from potential buyers last month, thanks to the government Help to Buy scheme.
All this activity is an encouraging sign, says Peter Bolton King of RICS, who said: ‘It’s not surprising that more and more people are looking to sell their homes. The buyers are out there and prices are on the up, so if you’re looking to move, it’s a good time to do so.’
The big question is – is the housing market recovery REAL or is it just a government sponsored, self inflating bouncy castle of lies? Well, surveyors are keeping a sceptical eye on this flurry of activity, wondering whether house prices will go up so much that they will simply become unaffordable.
House prices are 5.4% higher than last year, and surveyors expect house prices to keep on rising.
So polish your dado rail now and get your hovel on the market before people realise that it’s all just a bubble with Phil Spencer’s face on it, ready to pop and drown us all in a soapy river of debt. (By the way, you might want to brick up your sex dungeon before you put it on Rightmove).