Posts Tagged ‘government’
Ever since the Chancellor announced that he was to scrap Child Benefit for higher rate taxpayers from January 2013, the proposal has been like a rumbling appendix in the coalition Government’s digestive tract. In theory, the LibDems are all for redistributing some wealth from the well-off to the less well off, but many Conservatives are finding this very difficult to swallow. But could George be softening his hard stools stance, and could we see a more equitable solution some time soon?
Like many headline grabbing PR stunts of tax policies, George didn’t really think through his shiny new policy before he announced it at the 2010 Conservative Party Conference. The cull on Child Benefit, which had previously been praised for its universal application, will only apply where one parent is a higher rate taxpayer. On current figures (for 2011/12 and 2012/13) that would mean earning £42,475 a year or more. The problem is that this is a very arbitrary measure and actually punishes the stay-at home parent- where two parents work, they could each earn just over £42,400 a year, total family income £84,800, and still get to keep their child benefit. And no matter what your politics, this doesn’t seem very fair.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), who estimate the cap will save the Treasury around £2.4 billion in 2013-14, are also not fans of the policy as-is. They calculated that 1.5 milion families would lose their beneft, and that the “cliff-edge feature of the policy” — where all benefits are lost when crossing a threshold by £1— would “create a bizarre and economically damaging set of incentives for people within certain income bands”.
For example, a couple with two children currently receive about £1,750 per year in Child Benefit. If only one parent is working that parent would have to earn an additional £3,000+ a year to make up the difference, after taking account of income tax and NI contributions. Someone earning £42,400 would therefore be financially better off refusing a pay rise of £2,500 a year, which would take them over the Child Benefit cut threshold.
So far the Government have been stubborn steadfast in their commitment to follow through with their ill-conceived plans, regardless of the torrents of criticism, so why are there official murmurings of a rethink now gathering ground?
It’s all a case of damage limitation. Later today, a House of Commons debate is likely to see a number of Conservative backbenchers speak out against their own party. Many doubt the Government would be able to get enough support to pass any bill containing the provisions as they stand.
Mark Reckless MP, one of the leading Tory opponents of the move, told The Daily Telegraph: “None of this deals with the fundamental unfairness of taking benefits away from single earners while allowing double earners to keep it for up to twice that threshold. I am not convinced that enough Conservatives will support it to get it through if Labour maintains their opposition.”
Treasury officials have so far refused to make any comment on the details of any changes but confirmed that a number of ideas were being considered to “make it better”. Any official announcement is likely to be withheld until the Budget on March 21.
So far, three ideas are being mooted:
The first would be to simply increase the cap from £42,475 to £50,000 to allow more families to keep their benefit. However, this would just make the inequity worse, as then doubl earners could bring in up to £100k and still get their four-weekly handout.
Another possibility is to only apply the cut to benefit, but at the same income level, when children reach the age of five. Currently, parents can automatically claim the benefit until their children are 16, and up to the age of 20 if they are in qualifying (non-higher) education.
A third idea is to only take away half of the benefit from families in which only one earner pays higher rate tax on their income. This would still punish families with one higher rate earner and not those with two high-but-not-high-enough earners though, albeit not taking quite as much from them each year.
So, although the exact form of the change to Child Benefit is currently undergoing some remodelling, the final (?) version of which is likely to be revealed in a couple of weeks’ time, it seems clear that there will be a change to Child Benefit, it just might end up being slightly more acceptable than the current proposals.
No one seems to like the government much any more. Their own MPs are in-fighting about the NHS and now the shops are turning against them. It seems that Sainsbury’s and Waterstones have withdrawn from the government programme that forces the jobless to work for up to six months for nothing at the risk of losing their benefits. A classy concept if ever we heard one.
The ‘scheme’ has seen scores of jobless folk working for 30 hours a week for eight weeks without being paid for it. If they back out during the eight-week period, they run the risk of losing their benefits. Other schemes that have been brought in by the coalition government can see the unemployed working unpaid for as long as six months. Lovely stuff – we’re all in it together and all that.
Sainsbury’s and Waterstones may have decided that they want no part of it, but companies such as Boots, Tesco, Asda, Primark, Argos, TK Maxx, Poundland and the Arcadia group of stores, including Top Shop and Burton, are still involved in it.
Public Interest Lawyers in Birmingham are challenging the scheme and are arguing that it contravenes the forced labour provisions in the Human Rights Act. Their man Phil Shiner said: “Some major companies are now waking up and turning their backs on compulsory unpaid labour schemes. Whilst our legal actions are against the Department of Work and Pensions, these household brands bear their own moral and social responsibility to ensure that they have nothing to do with these exploitative and ill-judged programmes.”
In July last year, our dear leader Dave told us all about his new ‘era of transparency’ and why we need it. “ It lets people hold the powerful to account, giving them the tools they need to take on politicians and bureaucrats. It gives people new choices and chances, allowing them to make informed judgments about their future. And it lets our professionals judge themselves against one another.”
All good stuff, and in keeping with his party’s aims, Tory MP Ben Gummer (Ipswich) is launching a new campaign to make the Government tell us exactly what our taxes have been spent on.
Under the proposals, every worker in Britain will receive an annual statement showing exactly how every pound they pay in tax is spent by the Government. The statements should be personalised according to each taxpayer’s salary, so everyone can know exactly how much of their tax bill is allocated to each public service.
Mr Gummer, who will present a ten-minute bill to the House of Commons told The Sun: “It’s time we knew where our taxes go. Taxpayers must pay tax — it is only right the Government tells us how it spends our money.”
Mock-up version of the tax breakdown suggests that a worker earning the annual average salary of £26,000 (this figure ring any bells for benefit claimants?) faces an income tax and national insurance bill of £6,134. Out of that sum:
> £1,109 goes on the NHS, the second largest single recipient of tax money
> £835 is spent on education
> £85 is spent on roads (in addition to your road fund licence) and £70 on railways
> £646 on Public Protection, including £159 for the Police, and £107 for Waste and Environment, including £66 for rubbish collection (all on top of your council tax bill)
Of course, the largest proportion of the average person’s tax bill, £2,135 or almost 35%, goes toward paying out benefits and pensions. To other people. Who you don’t even know. And probably don’t like. It is also remarkably convenient that this figure comes out just as the Government announce plans to cap the amount of benefits that one family can receive to the, now familiar, £26,000 a year.
Mr Gummer continued: “When we pay for shopping or phone calls, a bill reveals how much we’ve been charged and for what. But when we pay tax — for most people their biggest single monthly payment — we are told nothing.”
“This is wrong. We have no choice but to pay tax. The Government should have no choice but to tell us how it has spent our money,” he finished.
Stern stuff. It remains to be seen whether these statements do become a reality, and if they do, whether it will actually have any effect. After all, we all know exactly where our Council Tax is spent, but that doesn’t give us any leverage to change those amounts. Does it? And who knows what they do with all the cash from indirect taxes, like VAT, alcohol duties etc…
The government have delivered a bit of a Christmas present to the nation, with the news that ‘excessive’ fees for using a debit or credit card to buy items like travel, cinema or concert tickets will be banned by the end of 2012.
The charges won’t disappear altogether and companies will still be able to impose a ‘small charge’ that will cover payment processing, and the new rules follow an report published by the Office of Fair Trading which came on the back of a noisy complaint from our good friends at Which!
Regardless of the government’s plans, a European rule is scheduled to be introduced in mid-2014, stating that only the actual cost of processing card payments could be charged to consumers.
If we were a cynical bunch here at Bitterwallet, we’d suggest that with the removal of booking fees, the face value of travel, cinema and concert tickets will sneakily increase one the new rules have been implemented. But we’re not. Oh hang on, WE ARE.
We all want superfast broadband. We probably don’t need it, but we want it all the same. Other countries have it, so why not us? Well, that’s because we’ve got a thoroughly useless government.
And thanks to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, well over half of local authorities have not even started work on how they will fund the network, making it the deadline nigh-on impossible.
Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, pledged £530m to fund the upgrade and installation of new broadband lines last December. Sadly for us, this is half the money needed to complete the job and said local authorities will need to find the rest from their own budgets. Fantastic.
The BDUK, who will be the pepole doling out the funds, have not been contacted by roughly a quarter of local authorities. Not that BDUK know what they’re doing. See, they don’t really know what’s going on because our blessed government are confusing everyone by making up the process as they go along.
In addition to this, Rory Stewart, Conservative MP for Cumbria, has warned that rural areas “will be hollowed out” economically if Ofcom doesn’t get a wriggle on with the 4G spectrum auction.
It’s a farce.
The bob-sporting retail ‘guru’ has come up with a 28-point plan to help restore town centres to their former glories. Among her suggestions are the cutting of regulations for high street traders and plans for a national market day, where we all sell pigs to each other, or something.
Portas parped: “The model of the high street is so outdated. It is working in the same way that it did in the 1960s, but the 1960s are no longer here. Many [high streets] are sickly, others are on the critical list and some are now dead.”
Her report, which is due to be published today, was commissioned by the government. It is unclear where we’re all supposed to get the money from in order to resurrect the ‘sickly’ high streets. Perhaps that will be point 28 on the list.
Some of Britain’s biggest high street names are winning the battle against the economic downturn by bolstering their staff levels with young, unpaid jobseekers. Tesco, Poundland, Argos and Sainsbury’s are among those that are taking advantage of the scheme, which is part of the government’s work experience programme.
A report in The Guardian has revealed that young job-hunters are being given placements of as long as two months in length at the stores with no pay, as they are exempt from minimum wage laws for up to eight weeks. Following a one-week ‘cooling off’ period, they are expected to work, unpaid, for the remainder of the placement, or risk losing their benefits.
But there seems to be some confusion, with some retailers saying that they believed the scheme was entirely voluntary and that slaves, sorry, placement workers were free to leave at any time. Similarly, some of the ‘volunteers’ have said that they weren’t informed about the cooling-off period and have found themselves working as shelf-stackers and shop-tidiers for 30 hours a week for nothing more than their £53 Jobseeker’s Allowance.
21-year-old James Rayburn has just spent seven weeks slogging his guts out for nothing in his local Tesco. He told The Guardian: “I was basically doing what a normal member of staff does for Tesco. I had the uniform and I was in the staff canteen. I obviously got access to the food and drinks in the staff canteen … that’s what they let you do … but I got nothing else apart from that. I was there doing it as if I walked into the store and said, ‘Look I’ll help.’”
Employment minister Chris Grayling has defended the scheme, saying: “Our work experience scheme is proving to be a big success with over half of young people leaving benefits after they have completed their placement. It is not mandatory but once someone agrees to take part we expect them to turn up or they will have their benefits stopped.”
So then Bitterwalleteers, is this just a case of large, profit-making stores taking advantage of people and using them as unpaid help or is it a good thing that job-hunters are being handed an opportunity to get out of bed in the mornings, even if they’re getting no remuneration for their efforts? Should we bring back hanging?
Turn your thoughts into words and put them in the box below. DO IT NOW.
Everyone is short of cash in January, so what better way to please the populace than to sting them with tax increases. They did it last year, with the increase in VAT to 20%, and this January 1st the Government are still on schedule to increase fuel duty by 3p (plus VAT) that will mean an extra £1.50 cost to fill up an average car. The Chancellor is also planning a further inflation-driven 5p rise in August 2012.
However, not all of the ruling party are happy with the current plan, and a motion was signed yesterday by more than 100 MPs, including 83 Conservatives (out of 116) and five Lib Dems.
The renegade MPs, led by Conservative Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow, not only want the increases in fuel duty to be scrapped but also want more help for people in the rural communities. Mr Halfon described fuel tax as an “issue of social justice… in rural communities which are being destroyed by fuel taxes.” The point being, of course, that city dwellers can probably walk to a shop and buy bread, milk and toilet paper, but that country folk have to drive miles to the nearest bog roll emporium or else they end up stuck on the toilet forever.
The debate has also turned into a rich versus poor debacle, although some might say you could argue that more rich people live in the country than in inner cities. “My argument is that we should cut taxes for millions of people across the country rather than for millionaires,” Mr Halfon said last night. This view point was backed up in various reports showing unequivocal evidence that the poor pay out more of their income in fuel duty than the rich. It’s like the rich just have more money to start with.
Quentin Willson, the TV presenter and spokesman for FairFuelUK, said: “Only someone on mind-altering medication would suggest piling yet more financial pressure on an economy that’s already crumbling to the touch.
“Fuel duty in the UK has become a trojan horse that’s corroding the economy from within. We need a cut, not another rise.”
While not binding on the Government, this strong backbench revolt could cause Ministers, and specifically the Chancellor George Osborne, to stop and think whether the increase is the best way to welcome in 2012. Given that the Treasury are claiming that to scrap it would cost £1.5billion, and there is no Budget due between now and January, a climb down may be unlikely, but we can only cross our petrol tanks, wait and see.
Would you believe that our lovely coalition government are shafting the poorest 20% of UK households? It’s shocking isn’t it? When you’ve finished leaking all the surprise out of your body, we’ll hit you with the The Poor Spend A Higher Proportion Of Their Disposable Income On VAT Than The Richest 20% whammy.
This is according to the Office for National Statistics said.
So basically, when Chancellor George Osborne announced the increase in his 2010 Emergency Budget was “a progressive tax”, he was full of shit.
The ONS say that the poorest fifth spent 9.8% of their disposable income on goods while the richest fifth spent 5.3%. Basically, VAT is being hiked up on the thing being bought by the poorest households.
“This latest piece of research reinforces what is widely perceived to be the fundamental inequality at the heart of VAT: the poorer pay more of it relative to their incomes than the wealthy,” said David Breger of HW Fisher & Company chartered accountants.
“It’s clear that the Government needs to reconsider the full effect of VAT, which is inherently regressive.”
It really doesn’t matter what you think of file-sharers because the single most important fact about them is that they’re not going to go away.
While people can get stuff for free, they will.
The government, of course, are being pressured by the entertainment industry and sadly for everyone concerned, they have no idea how to combat it.
And so, instead of trying to understand that situation, they’ve simple asked someone else to do it. This time, they’re asking Google to fix it for them.
Basically, the coalition want Google to block filesharing websites from its search results, as culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, believes that this will “make life more difficult” for websites that infringe copyright.
“We intend to take measures to make it more and more difficult to access sites that deliberately facilitate infringement, misleading consumers and depriving creators of a fair reward for their creativity,” Hunt will tell the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge on Wednesday evening.
Basically, what the suits are hoping is that Google will downgrade unlawful sites in search listings as well as speeding up the legal process which means that sites can be ruled unlawful within weeks of being identified, rather than months or years.
A spokesman for Google said: “Google has industry-leading measures to fight online piracy. We work hand in hand with copyright owners to remove infringing material from search results. Without a court order, any copyright owner can already use our removals process to inform us of copyright infringing content and have it removed from Google search.
“We recently announced a series of measures that make this process even easier, bringing our removal time down to an average of four hours.”
The Government were all set to start auctioning off the spectrum for 4G services, but because they’re hugely incompetent boobs, the whole thing has been delayed, which means we’ll all have to wait if we want some super duper phone action.
This will see us poor gits in the UK falling even further behind those lucky blighters in the US as we’ll have to hang around, staring at our useless phones ’til the second quarter of 2012… at the earliest.
It was expected that Ofcom would be selling off the spectrum this month. Sadly, mobile operators including O2, threatened legal action, which means that the roll out of 4G licenses will be delayed.
The knock-on of this means that the bigger operators can take advantage as they already have excess spectrum which they can use for 4G.
Realistically, we won’t be seeing 4G until 2013.
The government have obviously been watching episodes of Captain Planet over the years as they’ve got all jumpy about the environment. That, or they’re keen to show that they aren’t granite-hearted monsters who don’t care about anyone but themselves.
Being ‘green’ is invariably supposed to give the coalition something of a cuddly image, showing us all that, despite the crippling financial crisis, they really care, maaaaaaan.
And so, they’re going about reforming environmental policies and saving us all from ozone cancer or something. However, what they’re less keen to state is that this touchy-feely approach is going to whack £300 onto energy bills, per year.
We should burn tractor tyres to stay warm in protest.
And this comes from a senior Downing Street adviser who has told David Cameron that government plans to get people to reduce their bills through efficiency measures are likely to fail. This makes something of a mockery of the claims of Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, who reckons that rises in gas and oil prices will be offset by people using less power.
Basically, as the Government move to increase the use of nuclear power, wind and other stuff, it will add 30 per cent to the average family’s annual energy bill. Wages, meanwhile, don’t seem to be going up at all.
The report says: Over time it is clear that the impact of our policies on consumer bills will become significantly greater.”
Of course, the government have tried to combat increasing bills by giving regulator Ofgem more power, but this year, our bills have continued to climb, with five of the “big six” providers announced hikes as large as 24 per cent.
Not so long ago, the Government announced it would free up a bundle of cash to get the UK up to speed on broadband speeds. Everyone is expected to have access to a 2Mbps service at least by 2015, but reaching rural areas to deliver that service will require money – hence £530 million was earmarked for investment.
Now the Scots have just learnt how much they’ll be receiving to achieve the Government’s self-imposed targets, and they’re not happy. The Scottish Government will receive just £68.8 million to roll out broadband in rural Scotland – or just 13% of the available funds for a country that accounts for a third of the UK’s land and some of the most remote communities.
“This announcement from the UK Government has fallen short of the expectations of the Scottish economy to the overall costs of broadband roll-out in the remote and rural parts of Scotland,” said Scottish Infrastructure Secretary Alex Neil, adding that he was “disappointed with the allocation”.
The Government’s response? “Cheer up for goodness’ sake and get on with delivering the improvements to our rural communities,” said Scottish Secretary Michael Moore. “Instead of looking for the negative, they should step up and meet the challenge of matching UK Government investment in broadband for our rural communities.”
So there you have it, Scots. Stop being miserable and cheer up, like the English who have all the money. Fanks!
It will come as no surprise to you that the police and government are guilt-tripping/forcing the hand of mobile operators to start handing over personal details to them so they can try and catch some of those dastardly looters and rioters that you may have seen on the news recently.
Everything Everywhere, the umbrella company who own Orange and T-Mobile, have confirmed that they’ll be working with police to help catch the ne’er-do-wells through the data of their mobiles.
T3 report that the police are invoking the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which means they can ask Everything Everywhere to hand over information on phone calls made by rioters, including where the calls were made, who the calls were made to and who the phone is registered to.
Of course, they’ll have to go wade through a whole host of people who had nothing to do with the riots, but not to worry.
Everything Everywhere are not the first mobile service provider to offer assistance to the police, with BlackBerry being the first of the big guns to announce that they would also be turning over data to the police concerning users who had been using the encrypted BlackBerry Messaging (BBM) service to organise the rioting.
What will the government do with data that doesn’t having any bearing on the riots? Only time will tell, but it doesn’t feel like this is the last we’ll hear of this story.
We’ve already heard about how the changes to Tax Credits and Child Benefit have adversely impacted on the long-suffering British population, but in their never-ending quest to save money the Government have come up with a new way to screw over those with the least money inspire people back into work. By limiting Council Tax benefit.
Currently, if you have to pay Council Tax, you can claim Council Tax Benefit as long as your capital and income are low enough. If you live with your partner, only one of you can claim Council Tax Benefit and your income and capital will be assessed together- whether you are living together as a couple, are married or are in a civil partnership.
If you get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related ESA or the guarantee credit of Pension Credit, Council Tax Benefit will cover the whole bill, but provided you have capital (savings or property) worth less than £16,000 and a low income, you should be able to get some help. The amount of Council Tax Benefit you get or whether your income is too high depends on your circumstances, for example, whether you have a partner or children, or whether you are disabled or care for a disabled person.
At the moment, the benefit is administered by your local council, but every month they send a bill to the Government for the amount of benefit they are due to pay out. The coalition have now decided they do not like this “endless pot of money” arrangement and are looking to save 10% of the £4.8 billion bill.
The plan, which is outlined in a new consultation document, is to devolve the payment of Council Tax Benefit to individual councils, with Government funding limited by a (smaller) cap. This means that councils will have to find other ways of saving money if they are to meet the current demand of the 5.8 million Council Tax Benefit claimants.
But more scary is the suggestion that councils will then also be free to change the eligibility criteria, effectively instigating a postcode lottery where someone in the next town could have a higher income, but get higher benefit too.
The 11-week consultation is now under way, and will be followed by the Local Government Finance bill, which is expected to be published in the autumn.
Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said: “The new system will be a fairer one, where hard working families and pensioners are not left to pick up a spiralling benefits bill and where hard work always pays.” Uh-huh.
Still, with all the money George will save, perhaps he can cut the 50% rate for all those poor high-earners…