You are classed as “employed” if you work ONE HOUR A WEEK!

No wonder employment figures look good!

“BBC Reality Check asked the Office for National Statistics (ONS) whether working just one hour a week was all that was needed to be officially classified as employed?

The ONS confirmed that was the case.

Every three months, a large survey (known as the Labour Force Survey) is sent to approximately 90,000 people, selected at random. The ONS extrapolates the findings to produce employment bulletins.

Those selected to take part in the LFS are interviewed every three months for fifteen months before they drop out of the sample. Interviews are initially done face-to-face and follow-up ones are done by phone. The one exception is the north of Scotland where all interviews are done over the phone because of the distance involved.

A person will need to have worked at least one hour in the week before the interview with the ONS takes place to be classified as employed. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46264291

Outgoing audit chief tells government some home truths

“I still get angry – and that is the word for it, angry – 10 years into the role, when I see badly-thought-through programmes and wasted public money,” says outgoing watchdog chief Sir Amyas Morse. “And the reason I’m angry is because the citizen ends up picking up the tab. They are the ones who end up suffering.”

For almost a decade, as comptroller and auditor general – the head of the National Audit Office – it’s been Morse’s statutory duty to keep an eagle eye on the spending of central government departments, holding ministers and civil servants to account for cost overruns, project mismanagement and profligacy with taxpayers’ money.

He doesn’t have far to look. As he prepares to leave his post in May, Morse’s final public speech at the Institute for Government last week included a damning list of failures: Crossrail costing £2.8bn more than forecast; changes to probation costing £467m to put right; the smart meters fiasco that will cost at least £500m more than originally estimated; and the Ministry of Defence’s latest unaffordable and unsustainable 10-year equipment plan going over budget by at least £7bn. And that’s just a selection from the past few months.

Morse looks back in anger at the billions that could have been spent on vital services, wasted instead through what he calls “inappropriate bravado” on the part of government ministers, lording it over cowed civil servants, behind an increasing amount of secrecy and spin. “We don’t need people jumping out of an aeroplane in the dark with a parachute of taxpayers’ money,” he says.

A proud Scot – his only meeting with Theresa May was a “brief conversation” at a No 10 Burns Night last year – Morse cares passionately about public services. While his upbringing has contributed to his concern for fairness, it’s his decade at the watchdog, to which he came from a senior position in consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers via the MoD, that has fuelled his rage over the wasteful ways of too many government ministers. “I really realised that society belongs to us. We’re all paying for it.”

Public money is finite, he points out. There is no magic money tree. When money is lost in one place, it’s taken away from another programme, usually one that’s easier to cut. Every wasted £1bn, he says, is enough to run NHS England for three days, fund 625m A&E attendances, 135m day cases in hospital, or 4m ambulance attendances.

Morse has warned the government that it needs to invest more in the NHS and social care, to meet the needs of an ageing population. In 2016-17, the UK spent just over £170bn on health and social care – more than 10% of GDP, but less than the 11.2% of GDP Germany spent in 2015 on health alone. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/mar/20/amyas-morse-head-national-audit-office-ministers-waste-taxpayers-billions

Could it (should it) be time to have a congestion charge for commuters to Exeter?

And what about “funnel roads” such as that running through Sidbury and Sidford – should they have exclusions from plans for more and more polluting vehicles passing inches away from residential properties – where children and vulnerable older people live?

“Dozens of councils could face legal action over delays in tackling toxic gas from diesel vehicles.

Only London and Birmingham have imposed or promised charges on the most polluting cars while other cities allow drivers to emit harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2) without any fee.

Many local authorities, including those covering Manchester, Bristol, Southampton, Newcastle, Bath and Derby, have missed legal deadlines set by the government to submit plans to clean up their air.

ClientEarth, the campaign group that won three legal cases against the government over illegal levels of air pollution, has written to 38 councils in England and Wales warning them of the legal risk of failing to act.

Katie Nield, a ClientEarth lawyer, said: “We are extremely concerned given the urgency of the situation at the glacial progress of action from local authorities. It is now almost a decade since legal limits came into place and they are still being broken in large parts of the country. Every week that goes by without action is another week where people are breathing in harmful air pollution which damages their health. This is particularly true of vulnerable groups like children.”

Tackling air pollution was ultimately the government’s responsibility but local authorities “should not be using government inaction as an excuse not to do all they can to protect people from breathing dirty air”, Ms Nield added.

Air pollution contributes to far more deaths than previously thought, according to a study last week which said it had shortened the lives of 64,000 people in the UK in 2015.

Clean air zones, in which polluting vehicles are charged a daily entry fee, are the fastest way of reducing NO2 to within legal limits, according to a Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) report in 2017.

Cars are the biggest source of NO2 in cities but London and Birmingham are the only cities committed to charging pre-2016 diesel and pre-2006 petrol models. Manchester, Bristol and Bath had been considering car charges but dropped the idea after being accused of penalising drivers on low incomes.

The High Court ordered the government in 2016 and again last year to take stronger action on air pollution, prompting ministers to order councils to produce plans to comply with the legal limit in the “shortest possible time”.

The councils have spent the past year discussing how to tackle pollution but most have repeatedly delayed taking action and missed deadlines for delivering final plans for Defra approval.

Jenny Bates, of Friends of the Earth, accused councils of “running scared of the motoring lobby” by refusing to start charging polluting cars.

Bath and North East Somerset council is planning a clean air zone in Bath, charging buses, lorries, vans and taxis “by the end of 2020” but cars will be exempt. It said many residents had objected to a £9 daily charge.

A spokesman for ten local authorities in Manchester, which has more than 150 roads with illegal levels of NO2, said it also planned to exempt cars from charges phased in by 2023. He said computer modelling had shown its plans would reduce NO2 to within the legal limit by 2024. Derby city council said it would submit plans for tackling air pollution to Defra next Tuesday.

Bristol city council said its mayor, Marvin Rees, recently had a “conversation with the minister” about tackling air pollution. Thérèse Coffey, an environment minister, wrote to Mr Rees in January saying she was “absolutely astonished at your delay in improving air quality for the people of Bristol as quickly as possible”.

Newcastle city council expected its air quality plan would be implemented “in late 2019 and into 2020”. Other councils sent the legal warnings by ClientEarth include Cardiff, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Leicester and Liverpool.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

Persimmon: at least 1,000 south-west homes built without required fire barriers

New homes built by Persimmon missing fire safety barriers.

Homes built by one of the UK’s largest developers were constructed without essential barriers to slow the spread of fire.

Regulations dictate the flame-resistant material must be installed in roof spaces and wall cavities.

Housebuilder Persimmon Homes found it was missing from some properties on estates in south-west England.

It has written to more than 1,000 people to say their homes need to be checked.

One resident in Truro, Cornwall, said his house “is potentially a massive fire risk”.

The homeowner, who did not want to be named, said recent inspections of his five-year-old house revealed “a vast amount” of fire were barriers missing.
“I’m extremely concerned because I have a family, including two children, living in this house,” he said.

Some of the homes affected are on a Persimmon-built estate in Exeter where a fire last year “rapidly escalated” as it spread between properties.

Speaking about the blaze, Cornwall councillor Dulcie Tudor said it had spread “through to the roofs of the adjoining houses”.

Homes without cavity barriers “act like a chimney” in the event of a fire, she said, and called for work on all Persimmon Homes developments to be halted until the faults have been rectified.

Fire safety consultant Alan Cox said blazes “could easily travel from one compartment or property to another” if there were missing barriers “at roof level”.

A spokesperson said the firm had “identified this as an issue in its south west region” and had “carried out a full check of more than 1,100 timber frame properties and checks are ongoing”.

“However, while investigations are live we are not in a position to advise of the results”.

Persimmon includes Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Bristol, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Dorset within the south-west region.

The company did not confirm whether there were any issues in other parts of the country.
Cornwall Council said its enforcement powers were limited because it had not inspected the homes when they were built.

Repeated breaches of building regulations can result in the developer being taken to court by a local authority.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-47613496