Tag Archive: coalition

The Condem Demolition  Tory-Tory general wankers government’s spending cap apparently has widespread support amongst the population according to BBC sources today.  The figure of £26,000 effectively represents 2 adults working 40 hours a week at the minimum wage of £6.08 an hour.  Apparently there are many people surprised that we were not already capping payments at this level, as if surprised that the people on benefits should earn minimum wage at all. [This is already below the living wage campaign figure of £7.20 an hour outside London which would work out at £30,000 for 2 adults earning.  The Living Wage Campaign quotes David Cameron as having said “An idea whose time has come” in 2010, of course in 2010 David Cameron was looking for election so is likely to have said whatever it was he felt people wanted to hear.] According to the Office of National Statistics (a government department) the average weekly expenditure for a family is £552.30 in London, £387.20 in the North East and £467.50 as a national average.  Extrapolating the figures out for annual expenditure in London this makes £28,719.60 already above the government’s proposed cap of £26,000 unless they’re planning to have some London Weighting scheme.

Given that there are nearly 3 million unemployed in the UK, although the TUC estimates that the true figure is over 6 million taking into account those off the radar such as in short-term and part-time contracts.  The Office of National Statistics (We’ll call it ONS because we’re going to refer to it a fair bit!) estimates 8.4% of the population.  The population of Metropolitan London is 14 million, which taking the ONS figure of 8.4% makes 1,176,000 people unemployed.  Let us assume that there are a lower percentage of unemployed in London than some deprived areas of the North so we’ll lessen the figure to 1 million.  Taking the UK population as 60 million, which is the usually accepted estimate, this means that around 2% of the entire population will not have enough to live on in London alone and with the average income of the South East as a whole being over £27,000 annual expenditure the 2% is a conservative estimate.  According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation with the recent years rises in utility bills, transport costs the average family actually needs an annual income of £29,000, their report says that official inflation over the last decade has amounted to 23% while food has gone up by 37%, bus fares by 59% and council tax by 67%.

I’ve tried to do some basic calculations which are in no way exhaustive but I wanted to get an idea as to how problematic the government’s plans would be rather than merely being annoyed that they should cap them at all.  I have looked on Right Move for the monthly cost of a 3 bedroom house or flat within 5 miles of Lewisham as many of the areas there are cheaper than more central parts of London or others that are not frequently on fire.  The cheapest I found was a flat for £895 a week in Lee SE12, this would be an annual expense of £10,740.  Let us assume that Housing Benefit pays all of this money.  Unemployment benefit currently pays £67.50 a week which makes £3510 x 2 for 2 adults in the average family – £7020.  A Guardian article in May 2011 used a Halifax report itself using ONS data on family spending which said that the cost of maintaining a home was a little over £9000 a year however this was including £3500 a year as mortgage payments (I envy those paying only £291 a month for their rent/mortgage!) so removing the mortgage expense that leaves £5500 cost of running a home leaving £1500 left over from the £7000 we calculated earlier.  Are you still with me?  £1500 /52 then divided by 5 for the working days in a week makes just over £5 a day which makes £2.50 per adult per day (nothing at weekends better stay at home).  Ah shit but the Guardian/Halifax/ONS statistics don’t include food, or transport, or clothing or anything at all to do with children, that’s a bit of a shitter isn’t it?  You’d better not work in Central London either because a weekly Travelcard for Zones 1-2 (assuming that if you live in our flat in Lee you walk to Lewisham to save that £5 a week extra you’d be paying for Zone 3.)  So £29.20 for the travelcard is unfortunately more than the £28 odd that you have for the week between you, so you need to work locally, and walk everywhere.

Now I know the whole country’s figures seem skewed towards London and the majority of the population do not live in London and besides we’ve already demonstrated that the total benefits don’t cover London expenditure so let’s look at somewhere else.  How about Burnley?  Leaving aside the fact that I wouldn’t live in Burnley if you paid me £6750 a week there are some who do so let’s examine their costs.  The council tax is much the same as it is in London with the cheapest in Burnley borough being £1225 annually.  Rent is a great deal cheaper with the lowest 3 bedroom place I could find at £365 a month but of course we’ve already sectioned off housing costs to housing benefit so that doesn’t really matter as a change in our calculations.  Assuming that the household bills for a 3 bedroom house anywhere are roughly the same we’re still left with the same sort of expenditure as we were in London.  Jobs might be easier to find within walking distance but food is unlikely to be cheaper nor clothing hence you’re still down to £2.50 a day for each adult without food, clothing, transport costs or something like a TV licence.

Let’s go a step further and say that the household does earn the maximum £26,000 and removing the £5500 for household maintenance, moneysupermarket estimates that a family of four would spend around £100 a week on an average shopping trolley.  This of course would mean £5200 a year, whilst you might be able to make some economies on that let’s take the figure for convenience and round down to £5000 a year if you’re being a little thriftier each week.  So with your £5500 household expenses and £5000 food costs we’ve spent £10,500 this sounds more like it, we’ve over £15000 left and paid the main stuff.  Of course we’ve not yet paid transport so let’s say we live in Burnley where the cost of living is cheaper than London.  A 1 day pass for the busses in Burnley is £4 a day, now obviously you need to travel a little to look for jobs, do the shopping and collect benefits and the like.  So that makes £1040 per person so we’re down to £13000.  The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that the average amount of money spent on children is £57 a week, which may seem a lot for people who do not have children but factoring in uniforms, books, general clothing, school trips and other extra curricular activities the figure becomes fairly likely, unless of course we want ou children to suffer for the “sins” of their parents.  We’re going to presume that the children are not of nursery age or needing nappies or more than average childcare due to disability and special needs so let’s take this £3000 a year figure off our total and we’re down to £10000 a year which is just under £100 per adult per week.

Now before we go on we need to tackle the ‘But’, there always is one.  You have to bear in mind that the £26,000 figure is including ALL benefits available, many of which you would only receive if you meet all the criteria for them so let’s see what we can build to make up this figure.  If you take the Income Support/Job Seekers Allowance or whatever the feck it’s called now. £67.50 per week x 2 adults makes only £7,020 per year and we’ve already established that this alone would not be at all sufficient to survive anywhere in the country, even in Burnley!  The standard Child Benefit figure of £20.30 for the first child and £13.40 for any subsequent one would give you a total of £1752.40 a year [remember though the Joseph Rowntree figure of £57 a week – the same report states that Income Support allowances provide between 57 per cent (children under 11 years) and 82 per cent (children aged 16 years) of what is actually being spent on children in families who are on Income Support.]  To build our total benefits we also have to factor in Housing Benefit.  So it’s back to our terraced house in Burnley where this eats up another £4750 of our money, coupled with our Income Support and Child Benefit we’ve found £13,500 odd for both adults and their 2 children so far only half of the amount being capped.  Somehow we need to find some reason for the other £12,000+, knowing the benefits system in the past this will be no mean feat especially given the culling of benefits for the disabled.

If we go back to our calculations of the maximum £26,000 to start with which we’ve whittled down £5500 for household maintenance, £4750 for rent, £5000 food costs, £1000 transport,  £2600 conservative estimate for our children, we’re nearly at £19000 in total so far so already well above the £13,500 we’ve found on standard benefits.  We’ve not looked at clothing yet which obviously is difficult to get a real figure on but the ONS family spending study gives the figure of £23.40 making £1200 odd so we’re now over the £20,000 mark.  The same study includes £5 per week for health and £10 a week for education, we’ll consider this as £7.50 since we have already added money in for children, this makes just under £400.  What we’ve looked at so far I would certainly classify as the bear essentials and that makes a whisker under £20,500.  As it stands then with £5500 remaining this works out to £7.50 per adult per day with only the basic essentials paid in a home that has to be at the very bottom end of the rental market.  Taking into account the Halifax/ONS figures do not include replacement of any appliances or those unforeseen things that come with a big hit we’ve some elements of random expenditure that might occur but in my figures here I’ve tried to stick to thinks that would be unavoidable expenses at this point.  If you were to include other “normal” costs then the picture starts to become much more complex.

Were you to factor a car into the equation the AA estimate that the standing costs (Tax, MOT, Insurance, Breakdown cover) of a car worth under £12,000 when new to be around £2500 and 22p per mile for fuel, tyres, replacement parts etc.  If you were to live 10 miles from work this would mean £982 per year for the commute alone.  The ONS study seems to back this up with an estimate of £64.90 a week on transport (personal and public) which adds up to just over £3300 per year.  It would be as well if you didn’t smoke, were you to have 2 packs a week this would set you back £780 a year if a pack of 20 costs £7.50, if at that price you smoked 20 a day that would be £2737.50 so you’d probably have to cut out some food or sell a child since chimneys and mines are no longer an option.  Don’t forget these figures are effectively only for one person.  If these two things were brought in we’re over our threshold of £26,000 again so let’s leave them out for now.

We are yet to consider entertainment (let’s presume the amount we’ve calculated for children includes their entertainment) the ONS 2011 study on family spending gives weekly figures of recreation and culture at £58.10 and restaurants and hotels at £39 and alcohol, tobacco and narcotics at £11.80 per week.  This seems high on the restaurant side, as this would represent one trip to a restaurant a week and there are many of us not on the minimum wage who can’t afford that, it seems reasonably generous on the entertainment side too (by which I mean the way it will be viewed by those who think the £26000 figure is acceptable).   You can’t have your cake and eat it in this scenario though because that figure on entertainment comes out at over £3000 a year whilst the restaurants total is over £2000.  Drugs of any legality come to over £600 which bearing in mind some smoke and/or drink whilst others do not seems about right to take as a lowish estimate which I’m trying to do to avoid any accusation of artificial inflating of the numbers.  It doesn’t take a professor of Mathematics to work out we’re already over the threshold again if we factor in the non-essentials in combination with each other.  And this is using the example of the lowest costs of essentials such as rent.  Doubtless the supporters of the cap will claim the economic austerity means that entertainment is a luxury the tax payer can’t afford since benefit payments cost the country £150 billion a year, more than is made in total tax revenue.  Somehow the money has to be found and if it is at a deficit then savings must be made somewhere.

So how might we prevent this deficit?  How about the tax evasion for starters?  Figures range from £15 billion at the conservative end of total benefit expenditure (tax evasion being around 3% of total tax liabilities – while benefit fraud accounts for 0.8%) to nearly £70 billion at the top end according to the Tax Justice Network.  Even if you take a billion to be 1000 million (rather than 1 million million) the 15 billion divided by 3 million unemployed would enable a payment of £500 a year to each person.  However you’ll not be shocked I’m sure to know that the same columnists who call for capping benefits also make quotes like “Tax avoidance isn’t morally wrong. It’s perfectly sensible behaviour.” [Toby Young – The Telegraph February 2011].  Nice work if your accountant can get it.  On the same BBC program the 2011 figures for the Royal Bank of Scotland, one of the banks bailed out by the taxpayers which made pre-tax losses of £766 million and at the same time paid out £785 million in bonuses.  Again do we need the professor of Mathematics?  I suppose this is really chicken feed when you look at the total bailout of the banks which at it’s peak comes to £1.162 trillion, enough to pay for the benefits at their current level for a good many years without any tax revenue at all.

This would appear to suggest that whilst the current government is in charge simple arithmetic just isn’t going to cut it.

Song Of The Day ~ The Joy Formation – Whirring

Well the Tories have done it, they’ve found some money to spend on public services, let “Call me Dave” be praised, and what worthy cause have they chosen to invest this unexpected windfall in.  Rubbish.  No that is not an indictment of their policy… let me rephrase that, no that is not merely an indictment of their policy, they have chosen to sink this money, the sum of around £250 million to give to councils in order to roll back the decision by many to go to rubbish collections every 2 weeks rather than every one.  This scheme implemented to try to maximise the goods recycled by consumers has attracted much criticism, usually from well-to-do house owners who claim that they have more than enough rubbish to warrant a weekly collection.

Eric Pickles, [the man who a year or so ago on BBC’s Question Time attempted to defend the MPs expenses and then got in a strop when the audience expressed its moral outrage by saying that he wasn’t prepared to debate it because in the eyes of the audience MPs couldn’t do anything right anyway] said that the reason the Conservatives had taken this step was because they had evidence that the move would be better for the environment and better for hygiene.  He didn’t however give the source of this evidence, which does not necessarily mean in every circumstance mean that the person speaking made the evidence up, but does on this occasion mean that the person speaking made the evidence up.  This was graphically illustrated by a very calm rational spokesman for Friends of the Earth who pointed out that their evidence showed that people were more likely to recycle if they did not have a rubbish collection every week and furthermore that there had been no evidence to suggest that the change in policy in rubbish collection had anything to do with rat proliferation and that in fact the population of said rodent was in steady decline.  Which, given the nature of modern large tall plastic bins seems of little surprise except in London where everything is just dirty anyway!

Pickles does not stop with the mere making up of facts, he is considerably more pompous than that, he goes further to assert that it is “a right” for people to have their rubbish taken away every week.  “Weekly rubbish collections are the most visible of all frontline services, and I believe every household in England has a basic right to have their rubbish collected every week.”  Of course the Conservatives have form in a rather subjective interpretation of what constitutes a ‘right’ since they resisted the imposition of the Social Charter from Europe on the grounds that such rights would be too costly, it appears they also have a rather interesting interpretation of what constitutes the visibility of a front-line service, I’d like to offer a school or a hospital as slightly more visible and thereby important examples than a bin.  However state schools and state hospitals are of far less use to your average upper-middle class voter since they would normally be availing of private services already.

According to Pickles to mitigate the recycling issue the government will continue to look at incentive schemes, the one he cites could not be more classic Tory, that of Maidenhead’s points based system that gives vouchers for M&S!  I’m sure this will delight the people on the breadline when they can turn up to avail of a bottle of Chablis to have with their egg and chips.  A situation where people are coerced into compliance is hardly ideal but it has proven at times to be the only way to get people to change their habits, the hope is that once this gathers some impetus people will recognise the value of doing it themselves.  This latest move, I suspect, is designed to give people a grain of sugar to help the nasty tasting medicine go down, and is another example deflection tactics that have been used to obscure attention from the House Of Lords’ reading of Andrew Lansley’s NHS ‘privatisation by stealth’ bill.

Where I live we have not only a good recycling system where glass, tins, cardboard, plastics, paper and garden waste are collected every other week but the county council also fund an extensive composting system where the cost of the hardware is reduced and the installation is free.  This removes the need for quite so much food waste in our bins, one of the things apparently responsible for the problems of not collecting rubbish every week.  I have not filled up my rubbish bin to the top since I moved in over a year ago, and whilst I may live alone most of the week I do have two children and a cat who make more than enough rubbish to compensate for that.

Naturally there are some people who may claim with good reason that they would prefer a weekly collection, those with very young children still in nappies will find their rubbish stacking up quicker than most of us.  However to adjust the whole system for that is like expanding the roads to try to keep in line with the number of cars on it, it is neither economically nor environmentally sensible and likely to create a cyclical necessity.  The move to weekly collections removes precisely the principal incentive for people to recycle assiduously namely that if they do not their bin will overflow.  Yes it would be nice to think that people would recycle out of a feeling of duty to the Earth and our children’s lives in it but I’m afraid if you look around Western Anglophone society these days it is hard to conclude that this is the case.

Pickles has little time for the detractors, it doesn’t help that in one of the interviews he continually referred to “refuge” – perhaps this was a Freudian slip and signified his discomfort having to put another hare-brained scheme before the public.  When asked where the money had come from Pickles with a clear lack of comprehension of irony said that it had been hard but that his department had cut down on waste!  One must applaud the Tories for recycling failed Thatcher policies at least for the lack of new paperwork it creates, the civil service must be delighted, or not since many of them will be made redundant and the rest stripped of their pensions.

Labour’s Caroline Flint criticised the plans and said the money was effectively a bribe to councils to “save Eric Pickles’ face”.  If you take a close look at Eric Pickles’ face Flint’s argument is persuasive, though you might be forgiven for thinking that it is in fact we, the taxpayer, who needed the saving from it and the nonsense that streams from it.

Song Of The Day ~ Juke Box Fury – Something’s Missing

To the casual observer General Pervez Musharraf has played a deft diplomatic game since seizing power via a military coup in 1999. Whilst condemned at the time by the USA, albeit not with the same fervour that they have condemned many others, the Bush presidency has been more than happy to allow Musharraf to remain in power whilst he plays their tune and Musharraf has duly obliged, as a result no criticism has been levied as to Musharraf’s failure to step down as the country’s President in January 2005 as he had promised months earlier. For the US it really has been a better the devil you know, Musharraf is not from the usual Punjabi stock and whilst a muslim he is considerably more inclined to secular rule than any potential sucessor.

Musharraf has played a risky but personally effective strategy in preventing the US army from much operations within his territory whilst at the same time retaining the semblance of being a ‘vital ally’ in the US’s ‘war on terrorism.’ This is a neat trick and there are many who have sought to play this double agent strategy against the US and failed, just ask the Taliban, once great friends of the US. Indeed yes, the US is not so bothered about imposed Sharia law in countries through which the lucrative Caspian gas pipeline is being built, not bothered that is until the Taliban started having a problem with US T’s & C’s and then miraculously the Americans feign amazement at their being Al Queda training grounds in Afghanistan – you’d think they’d remember them since they helped build and fund them of course! When you are the US though you don’t let a messy little thing like the truth stop you. Quite the contrary, you go blazing into the country and replace the government with a ‘safe pair of hands’ in the case of Afghanistan it was former Unocal advisor* Hamid Karzai (*Le Monde 9/12/01) who was entrusted with the ball.

To ensure diversity in the fossil fuels department the US decided to pick on another former ally in the form of Saddam Hussein, the reasons for the Iraq attack were numerous: first, foremost and most obvious was the safeguarding of some cheap oil in the wake of potential difficulties in the attempted removal of Hugo Chavez from Venezuela, second was the continuation of a job, the ‘sins of the father’ if you like. Sources have shown that Bush Jnr was looking for whatever excuse to change the regime in Baghdad and having failed to pin any Al Queda link on the Iraqi leader and obviously being unable to accuse him of Islamic fundamentalism they decided a bit of Jackanory ought to sort the issue. So armed no doubt with the receipts of the chemical weapons agents from transactions at the time when Saddam was welcome to bomb and gas the shite out of the Iranians, the US decided that the evidence was unclear that he had used up his chemical arsenal on the Kurds and therefore took a gamble. The British, always happy to oblige in an obedient dog sort of way, made the mistake many dogs do of being a little too exuberant and completely fabricated a claim that the weapons, which didn’t exist, could be fired on British troops who weren’t there in 45 minutes. Even the US government decided not to use this one, which shows just how ludicrous a claim it was because the US themselves in their time have invented some fair old shit to suit their ends. Another reason it was important to go into Iraq was that the failure to find Osama Bin Laden was all well and good, after all one didn’t want to capture him because then the world would be bereft of a bad guy for the Keystone cops to track down, but it made the US look bad, so they wanted to have their cake and eat it. Perfect plan, they thought, let’s hunt down a geezer who isn’t even on the run, we can’t lose, and into the bargain there’s a country to destroy and then rebuild again, so the US defence industry is quids in, the military is occupied for a while, the country rallies round for a good war shortly before an election and then the contracting companies come in and rebuild everything and they’re quids in too. Oh, and there’s the oil reserves, that’ll enable us to keep the Gas station prices down as well as keep our supply going if that left-wing spic Chavez can’t be bumped off.

And it all pans out perfectly, exit strategy, what exit strategy? Ever feel you’ve been had?

Now the US has a problem, it hasn’t bombed anyone for a while and erstwhile target Iran may possibly have the capability to bite back a little harder than hitherto anticipated. North Korea is out of the question because they’d think nothing of nuking the shit out of the Eastern seaboard. So Bush decides if in doubt and the Generals are getting restless bomb a ~stan, after all it worked last time and if a country is a ~stan it must be full of darkies and ay-rabs not forgetting some of the black stuff. Ally, hell what does that matter, after all the US invaded British sovereign protectorate Grenada back in 1982 and they got away with that.

So Pakistan gets bombed because apparently there might have been a baddie there. Staggeringly there is no outcry in the West, The Independent has only just reported it today (Sunday) here, the Mirror devoted a mere 2 paragraphs to it, dwarfed by a large advertisement for gambling in the same column here whilst The Guardian remains entirely silent as unsurprisingly does The Sun. The BBC does run an article about it here but curiously it is listed in the South Asia section rather than the Middle East section.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the man on the hit-list is profiled, but the actual dead all 18 of them are just more anonymous collateral damage. What is known of them or the families they leave behind, who is accountable for this? In spite of this the newspapers prefer to continue to talk about whether the Education Secretary has lost the plot or stirring up fervour in Bethnal Green amongst George Galloway’s constituents desperately attempting to interview someone who’ll say he isn’t doing his job on account of Celebrity Big Brother. One cannot blame George Galloway for his having relegated the Pakistan story to the inside pages though many will seek to try, were it not George it would unquestionably have been something and someone else. After all what constitutes news in this day and age is nothing more than the informational equivalent of a rusk designed to taste sweet and give your teeth something to do so as not to bite into anything dangerous!

What interests me is if US Intelligence is anything more than an oxymoron what good do they feel they have actually done. The CIA have failed to kill the person they were allegedly after, however they have undoubtedly added further fuel to the detractors of Musharraf’s decision to support US action of which there are many. Is it therefore US policy to galvanise popular opinion against any support for US military action? I thought that was our job on the left, I feel strangely redundant now as if the rug has been pulled from under me!

Song Of The Day ~ Garbage – The Trick Is To Keep Breathing

Original Comments:

Pimme made this comment,
Well, our government’s own stupidity brought on that cause-and-effect. The Liberals don’t have to try too hard anymore to convince the population that Bush screwed up bigtime!
comment added :: 15th January 2006, 03:12 GMT+01 :: http://pimme.blog-city.com
jamal made this comment,
A good interpretation of events. I think Musharraf could have avoided this if he had not bowed to USA initially.
comment added :: 15th January 2006, 21:36 GMT+01 :: http://opinionated.blogsome.com/
John made this comment,
I was amazed at the lack of press coverage on this story. Apparently a CIA ‘drone’ dropped the bomb. An unmanned aircraft ? One bomb ? Seems a bit restrained for the Americans. Unfortunately they got their usual result…dead civilians.
comment added :: 16th January 2006, 13:27 GMT+01 :: http://bigjohn.blog-city.com/