Posts Tagged ‘government’

poundland Supreme Court says Governments Poundland scheme is legally flawedThe Government’s ‘back-to-work’ scheme – where jobseekers were packed off to work for Poundland – has been ruled as ‘legally flawed’ as a case taken to the Supreme Court today.

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 The lawyers representing the pair said all applicants who had their jobseeker’s allowance withdrawn for non-compliance with this ridiculous scheme could now reclaim their allowance as a result of this ruling.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.

cold old lady 300x180 E.on are trying to kill the elderly for Christmas (but its Camerons fault)

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.

Steptoe 2 £40bn of our money is stuck in rubbish pension schemes

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*

Sell your house. NOW.

September 10th, 2013 11 Comments By Lucy Sweet

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.

phil 300x168 Sell your house. NOW.

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).

If you’re middle class, chances are you’re constantly swilling Voigner from a glass as big as your head, and murmuring something about fruity top notes while stirring the cous cous. Unfortunately, wine is bad for you. So the government, (because they drink like fishes as well) want to do something about it.

FineWineCellar 300x300 Government wants to protect the middle classes from wine

But instead of telling them to stop boozing, ministers are suggesting that wine should be watered down. Lord Howe, the health minister, is arguing that the minimum strength of wine should be reduced from 8.5% to 4.5%, to protect middle class livers.

According to the NHS, professionals are twice as likely to drink more than poorer people, who are too busy queuing at the food bank to get their drink on at All Bar One.

Lord Howe argues that the market for reduced and low alcohol wines has been increasing in recent years. He said: ‘The Government has consistently made the case for a change to the EU wine rules to permit reduced and de-alcoholised products to be called wines.’

A government spokesman added: ‘We will continue our efforts to change EU wine rules, to allow all wine producers to make and market lower-alcohol products. This will help to help promote healthier choices and tackle the serious harm alcohol causes’.

But surely that’s not the point. Wine buffs don’t want to quietly sip watered down rubbish while they watch the telly. They want robust reds and cheeky whites. They want to gurgle and sniff and spit and drink so much they can’t SEE. That’s the POINT OF WINE.

Maybe they could just encourage the middle classes to drink one bottle less a week and give their wine money to the poor?

UK workers suffer biggest wage drop in Europe

August 12th, 2013 3 Comments By Lucy Sweet

No wonder we feel so skint. We are skint. Brits are officially moth-eaten, pond dwelling losers, earning some of the lowest wages in the EU. Even Spain, which has been hit by severe austerity measures, is doing better than us.

Skint 300x196 UK workers suffer biggest wage drop in Europe

House of Commons figures show that the UK’s average hourly wage has dropped by 5.5% since 2010 – which puts us in the bottom four countries along with Portugal, the Netherlands and Greece. Conversely, in Germany and France, everyone is living it up with steins of beer and cheeky absinthes, with wages rising by 2.7% and 0.4% respectively.

With the recent news that British workers will have lost £6660 from their wages by the next election, things are looking grim. Shadow Treasury minister Cathy Jamieson said: These figures show the full scale of David Cameron’s cost of living crisis. Working people are not only worse off under the Tories, we’re also doing much worse than almost all other EU countries.Despite out of touch claims by ministers, life is getting harder for ordinary families as prices continue rising faster than wages.’

Why aren’t we taking to the streets to protest? Well, we would, but we’ve got to don our tabards and put in another shift at Chicken Cottage.

‘Annoying’ calls to be quashed

July 30th, 2013 7 Comments By Lucy Sweet

Have you been missold PPI? 17 times a day? If you have, you’ll be pleased to know that ‘annoying’ calls are about to be taken more seriously. A group of MPs are lobbying to change the threshold of what is considered a nuisance call – and crack down on cold callers – from kitchen company call centres to those infernal recorded messages.

nev 300x180 Annoying calls to be quashed

As the current law stands, nothing can be done about any particular call centre until thousands of complaints have been received. But if the government change the law, if you complain about being annoyed by a cold caller, that information can be shared by a number of regulators, and your complaint can be dealt with more quickly.

A government source said: ‘At the moment, the calls have to be distressing, whereas if they are just annoying it doesn’t reach the bar which would allow action to be taken. If you lower the bar then annoying calls can have action taken against them.’

With 6 out of 10 people saying they don’t want to answer their own phones because of the problem, this might be a breakthrough – but it still relies on people actually complaining. At the moment only 17% of people actually make official complaints about annoying calls. Instead they absorb their rage and lash out in other ways, at friends, family, and in the comments section of websites.

Still, it might put the frighteners up Nev from the Call Centre, and that can only be a good thing.

Pickles picks plan to pep up the high street

July 29th, 2013 4 Comments By Lucy Sweet

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is championing a move to allow shoppers to park on double yellow lines, in a bid to perk up the high street and encourage more business.

eric pickles thumb 300x164 Pickles picks plan to pep up the high street

Say for example, shoppers want to nip into a shop to buy very large pork pie (not that Eric would do anything like that). They’ll get a 15 minute grace period and they wouldn’t be subject to any fines.

Pickles has called British high streets ‘ghost towns’ and partly blames lack of parking and high parking fees for the exodus of shoppers to larger shopping malls. (Nothing to do with the fact that the high street is made up of two branches of Card Factory and a William Hill.)

Between 2000 and 2007, average parking charges jumped 40 per cent from 86p for two hours to £1.21, and research has shown that shoppers are put off by extortionate charges. However, critics say parking fees are necessary to curb illegal parking and encourage shoppers to use public transport.

AA president Edmund King was less sure about the proposal and recommended a full review of the double yellow system.

‘Rather than just allow drivers to park on double yellow lines, a thorough review of the lines would be more effective. Many double lines are there for historical reasons and could be lifted.There is plenty of opportunity to ease back on the signs and lines in many places, giving drivers short-term waiting bays instead, so they can stop briefly to buy a paper or loaf of bread.’

Where do these people go shopping? TRUMPTON? You need more than 15 minutes to browse the rails at TK Maxx, try on lipstick at Boots, get a fish pedicure and go for a Nandos, mate.

porn David Cameron is going after porn online, while trying to kick a stream uphill

Mary Whitehouse David Cameron is going after porn, because porn is, according to our glorious leader, a “corroding” influence. And there’s us thinking it was just something to whack-off to when you were bored.

Now, every household in Britain with an internet connection will be obliged to declare whether they want to access grot or not. By the end of next year, you’ll have to actively disable smut-filters.

And why is he doing this? He’s doing it under the pretense of child sexual abuse.

He says that “extreme pornography” will be outlawed, even that which only features consenting adults. He also says that the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) are going to draw up a blacklist of “abhorrent” internet search terms to identify and prevent paedophiles searching for illegal material.

Of course, he’s not actually going to go after the people who MAKE child abuse videos or indeed, try and go after paedophiles. He’s just going to shout at Google & Co in the hope that, if it disappears offline, everything will suddenly be better. Sending people who want to rape children into the undergrowth, where they’ll be even more difficult to find, doesn’t seem like a good idea.

It has been reported that  the prime minister will say: “By the end of this year, when someone sets up a new broadband account the settings to install family-friendly filters will be automatically selected. If you just click ‘next’ or ‘enter’, then the filters are automatically on.

“And, in a really big step forward, all the ISPs have rewired their technology so that once your filters are installed, they will cover any device connected to your home internet account. No more hassle of downloading filters for every device, just one-click protection. One click to protect your whole home and keep your children safe.

“Once those filters are installed, it should not be the case that technically literate children can just flick the filters off at the click of a mouse without anyone knowing. So we have agreed with industry that those filters can only be changed by the account holder, who has to be an adult. So an adult has to be engaged in the decisions.”

“There are certain types of pornography that can only be described as ‘extreme’ … that is violent, and that depicts simulated rape. These images normalise sexual violence against women – and they are quite simply poisonous to the young people who see them.”

“I have a very clear message for Google, Bing, Yahoo and the rest. You have a duty to act on this – and it is a moral duty. If there are technical obstacles to acting on [search engines], don’t just stand by and say nothing can be done; use your great brains to help overcome them.”

“You’re the people who have worked out how to map almost every inch of the Earth from space; who have developed algorithms that make sense of vast quantities of information. Set your greatest brains to work on this. You are not separate from our society, you are part of our society, and you must play a responsible role in it.”

So there you have it. Stop weird stuff from appearing online and that’ll fix everything. Not that everyone will easily find a way around this anyway and that, prior to the internet, rape and child abuse existed anyway. Funny how people who want to do illegal things tend to ignore warnings, laws and restrictions and crack on with it anyway…

Young people in England can only dream of home ownership these days, as 1 in 3 houses are now owned by beige warriors over the age of 65. And while they smugly sit on their decking in their amazing mortgage free homes, occasionally yelling ‘it’s all mine!’, the younger generation is forced to put up with landlords who consider a toilet a luxury.

old people hot tub 300x180 Young people lose out to pensioners in housing market

The Government English Housing Survey revealed that 35% of people are forced to rent, the highest figure since 1987, while the amount of pensioners who own their own homes is at a record 30% high.

In 2003, at the height of the property boom, 71% of people were owner occupiers, but that figure has slid to 65.3%. Meanwhile, the number of renters has risen by 2 million.

The Housing Minister Mark Prisk said the government was ‘determined to offer help to anyone looking to get on in life and take that first step onto the property ladder.’ But now house prices are rising again, it seems that even if you want to ‘get on in life’, you’re buggered.

You could argue that older people have worked hard to pay off their mortgages, and therefore should be entitled to enjoy their dotage, using their spare rooms as storage for their spare cash and cigar humidors.

OR, we could demand that they quit hogging all the UK’s prime real estate and move their baggy arses into a nursing home (where they’ll end up anyway). Meanwhile they could donate the houses to young families who actually need the space. Just a thought.

UK needs more cheap houses for rent

July 8th, 2013 13 Comments By Lucy Sweet

Britain needs a million more affordable houses to rent to avoid a homelessness crisis by 2021, a Cambridge University study has revealed. At the moment, the UK is already suffering a shortfall of 300,000 rented homes at below market prices. In London alone – where it costs a million pounds to live in an old Amazon box under the Westway with the crack fox – the shortage amounts to 190,000.

Cardboard Box House 300x225 UK needs more cheap houses for rent

While the UK bristles with overpriced properties that are ‘stunning’ (ordinary), ‘bijou’ (suitable only for a Lego Minifigure) and boast ‘open aspects’ (view of abbatoir), a lack of cheap social housing will soon be epidemic.

Jack Dromey MP, the shadow housing minister said: ‘This is yet more evidence of the biggest housing crisis in a generation. The Government’s failure is having dramatic consequences for people all over the country.”

Meanwhile the government say they’re building 170,000 new affordable homes to rent by 2015, and are planning to accelerate the building rate.

It’s doubtful that the Tories are really going to put a rocket under a huge social housing project, though, what with their intense hatred of council houses, poor people, devil dogs, curtains drawn in the middle of the day etc. You can bet they’ll want everyone to buy, buy, buy.

So if you are unemployed, an asylum seeker, or on benefits, you should probably get your box sorted out now.

New food labelling system to be launched

June 19th, 2013 8 Comments By Lucy Sweet

How many grams of fat are in that massive pie you’re eating? Chances are you neither know, nor care – and you probably didn’t read the label (unless you’re on some kind of special high-fat pie diet.)

For a long time, food labelling in the UK has been a mysterious and inconsistent art, with industry leaders unable to agree on universal front-of-pack nutritional information. But finally, a new colour coded system has been designed that everyone can kind of agree on. AND HERE IT IS.

new food labelling 300x105 New food labelling system to be launched

It’s not exactly earth shattering stuff, and quite similar to the ‘traffic light’ system already in use by some supermarkets. But campaigners are praising its simplicity, in that you can see how crap your food is by just glancing at the packet.

The new system will be rolled out across all the major supermarkets over the next 18 months, and food companies like PepsiCo and Nestle will also take it on.

Health Minister Anna Soubry said: ‘By having all the major retailers and manufacturers signed up to the consistent label, we will all be able to see at a glance what is in our food – this is why I want to see more manufacturers signing up and using the label.’

But the scheme is voluntary, and some major brands – including Coca-Cola and Cadbury – are refusing to sign up, preferring to use the Guideline Daily Amounts system (and maybe because all the little tabs would be red?). In fact, only around 60% of foods will have the new labels, leaving a fairly substantial amount of shadowy, unmarked cheese puffs and sausage rolls lurking around in the food chain.

Well, sometimes, it’s better not to know.

New and improved consumer rights? Yes, please

June 12th, 2013 1 Comment By Lucy Sweet

Consumer watchdogs are welcoming new government proposals to strengthen consumer rights. At the moment consumer laws – especially those relating to online purchases – are murkier than Nigel Farage’s lunchtime pint.

Jo Swinson MP 300x271 New and improved consumer rights? Yes, please

But the ALL NEW draft Bill of Rights, which seeks to simplify rights for businesses and customers, would reform the law on unfair terms and conditions.The bill would also give consumers more power over faulty downloads and digital purchases.

Lib Dem Consumer Minister Jo Swinson said: ‘We want to make sure consumers are confident about their rights in everyday situations, be it their washing machine breaking down or an online game they purchased always crashing. This will also benefit businesses as they are going to spend less time working out their legal obligations when they get complaints from customers.’

The bill would be designed to ease the suffering of hacked off consumers, who currently spend a mind boggling 59 million hours a year complaining, crying down the phone and threatening to firebomb guilty companies.

If the legislation goes through, we could all be looking at more power over the dodgy dealers who sell us terrible services and defective guff and expect to get away with it.

Of course, no story about consumer rights would be complete without a quote from Richard Lloyd from Which! What do YOU think, Richard?

‘The new Bill of Rights will bring consumer law into the 21st century at last, making it easier for everyone to know their rights and giving people more power to challenge bad practices… This will be good for consumers and good for businesses that try to do the right thing by their customers.”

Ricardo, he say yes. That means everything is going to be OK.

delboy1 300x255 Want to buy some cheap Lloyds shares that already belong to you?George Osborne is planning to sell the taxpayers stake in Lloyds sooner than expected – which means the public can buy cheap as chips shares in their favourite bank. Isn’t he NICE?

He’s planning to announce his bargain bucket shares in a speech in 10 days time, then he’s going to flog them out of the back of a yellow Robin Reliant below the market price. There’ll be incentives built in so that people will hold onto them for several years. (He can also do you 10 lighters for a pound).

Self-serving little get Osborne says this is the ‘right time’ to sell off Lloyds, namely because shares have skyrocketed in the last year from 28.5p to 62.3p. They’re still nowhere near the price they were in 2008, leaving long standing shareholders out of pocket. But crucially, the current share price means the Government has broken even on the price they paid for shares to bail out Lloyds at the height of the banking crisis. So he’s selling them back to us– and he might even throw in a set of cutlery and some plastic crystal wine glasses from Esso.

For his next dodgy, underhand trick, George will come into your house with a bag marked ‘SWAG’ and steal all your possessions, then he’ll sell back your TV, sofa and precious family heirlooms for a slightly lower price than you paid for them. Whatta guy.

Energy tariffs are deeply boring by their very nature. Say the words ‘unit prices’ and the average punter will fall asleep into their cornflakes like a narcoleptic on Nytol. What’s more, despite the Government’s proposal to simplify tariffs, consumers are still finding them too complicated.

blackboard 300x225 We still don’t understand ‘simplified’ energy tariffs

When asked by Which! to identify the best deal in a range of tariffs using the proposed Ofgem Tariff Comparison Rate, most people’s mouths flapped open and shut like dying fish and they slumped to the ground clutching their heads saying ‘Unnnnggh’.

Only three in ten people were able to identify the cheapest deal using the Tariff Comparison rate. Which! is calling for a single unit price for electricity and gas, rather than the proposed system, which requires several hours of painstaking comparison and figures scrawled on bits of paper. When they arranged the same tariffs in using a single unit system, eight out of ten people were quickly able to make the cheapest choice.

‘You shouldn’t need a maths degree to work out the best energy deal,’ huffed Richard Lloyd of Which! ‘The complexity of energy pricing makes it virtually impossible for most people to make sense of the market.’

Isn’t that what energy companies are secretly hoping for?