“Scrap Pensioner ‘Perks’ And Spend More Cash On Young People, House Of Lords Committee Urges”

“Pensioner ‘perks’ such as free bus passes, TV licences and inflation-busting pensions should be scrapped and more money spent on young people instead, a new parliamentary report has urged.

The House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness called for stronger worker rights for those in the ‘gig’ economy and new policies to create more affordable homes for sale and for rent.

Age impacts of all government policies, including a regular assessment in the Budget, should also be introduced in a bid to end the growing gaps in income between the young and old, the peers said.

The committee – whose members have an average age of 66 – warned that “mutual support and affection” between the generations had been “undermined” by years of unfairness on basic tax and benefits and housing and other public services.

Among the key recommendations in its report are:

ending the ‘triple lock’ on pensions, phasing out free TV licences based on age and restricting winter fuel payments and free bus passes to only five years after retirement age.

wealthier pensioners who keep on working past 65 should pay national insurance, ending the tax-free perk they currently receive.
a massive increase in affordable housing, as well as a radical new system of rent regulation

a default assumption of employment status of ‘worker’ to protect young people from exploitation in the ‘gig’ economy

a substantial increase in vocational and further education spending, plus Intergenerational Impact Assessments for all draft legislation

Committee chairman Lord True said that young and older people have strong bonds because they recognise the contribution the other makes and the challenges they face.

“However, there is a risk that those connections could be undermined if the government does not get a grip on key issues such as access to housing, secure employment and fairness in tax and benefits.

“We are calling for some of the outdated benefits based purely on age to be removed. Policies such as the state pension triple lock and free TV licences for over-75s were justified when pensioner households were at the bottom of the income scale but that is no longer the case.

“Young people told us they feel short changed by the housing market, so we are recommending policies to deliver a significant increase in the supply of social and private housing and recommend protections to give renters long term security be backed a new regulatory framework.”

Frank Field, who chairs the Commons work and pensions committee, said: “The committee has hit the bull’s eye. The injustices in both the housing and labour markets have served to torpedo younger people’s living standards in recent years.

“Will the government now seize this report and use it to forge a new contract with younger people?”

The Association of Colleges said: “The cuts to the education system have had big implications over the last decade. Many young people are leaving education without the qualifications needed to get on in life. Some of the ones who are gaining degree qualifications are often finding themselves in low-skilled jobs.”

But Anna Dixon, of the Centre for Better Ageing, said: “Headline grabbing proposals like abolishing free TV licenses based on age risk distracting from the big structural changes needed across housing, work and communities.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/scrap-pensioner-perks-and-spend-more-cash-on-young-people-house-of-lords-committee-urges_uk_5cc0c597e4b0764d31dc3aa5

“Cashless Britain: over-55s and low earners at risk of being left behind”

“With Britons increasingly turning to digital payments, consumers aged over 55 and those on low incomes “risk being left behind” by banks, according to new research.

The findings come in the wake of a major report earlier this month that says more than 8 million UK adults would struggle to cope in a cashless society.

According to the survey of 3,000 consumers, three-quarters (74%) of those aged 55-plus never use mobile-banking apps, while the figure for low-income earners was 57%.

In addition, in both these categories, one in four (26%) of those surveyed said they never used online banking via a computer.

But at the same time, the research from management consulting company Accenture found that only 10% of UK consumers visited a bank branch at least once a week – falling to 7% of people aged over 55.

With banks increasingly focusing on their digital platforms, it is important for them to adapt their offerings to ensure certain groups of consumers “are not left behind in the digital revolution”, says Peter Kirk, managing director of financial services at Accenture. “Our research shows that low-income earners and those aged over 55 are using branches less, but they’re not using digital channels either,” he adds.

However, the survey indicated many of these people would like some help with using mobile or online banking. When it came to in-branch services that would appeal to them, 58% of over-55s and 55% of low-income earners would find in-branch education sessions appealing to help them improve their digital skills.

With bank branches and ATMs closing, a report published by the Access to Cash Review earlier this month said companies and organisations providing essential services should be required to ensure that consumers can continue to pay with notes and coins.

The review found that cash is still king across large parts of the UK economy, with more than 80% of people in Britain saying they pay taxi drivers, newspaper sellers, window cleaners and gardeners with notes and coins.

The report warned the country’s “cash infrastructure” – which costs £5bn a year to run – was on the verge of collapse because of its declining profitability, and said the government, regulators and banks all needed to take action. The review was funded by the cash-machine network Link, but was independent from it.

The report’s authors said the UK was not ready to go cashless and that despite the runaway growth of contactless and mobile payments, a “significant number” of people – about 2.2 million – were using cash for all their day-to-day transactions.

Last year, debit cards overtook notes and coins as the most popular form of payment in the UK for the first time, and the report predicts cash could fall to just 10% of all payments in the next 15 years.”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/mar/23/cashless-britain-over-55s-and-low-earners-at-risk-of-being-left-behind

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

People now shopping for “needs” not “wants”

… “Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘While real incomes have been rising over the last year, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit appears to be driving a needs-not-wants approach to shopping…. “

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/news/article-6789495/Number-people-visiting-shops-falls-five-year-low-amid-Brexit-jitters.html

“Sticking plaster won’t save our services now”

“Britain’s fabric is fraying. It’s not just the occasional crisis: schools that can’t afford a five-day week, prisons getting emergency funding because officer cuts have left jails unsafe, a privatised probation service that isn’t supervising ex-criminals. The services we take for granted have been pared so deeply that many are unravelling. The danger signals are flashing everywhere.

Local authorities have lost three quarters of their central government funding since 2010. They are cutting and selling off wherever possible: parks, libraries, youth services. The mainly Tory-run councils in the County Councils Network warned last year that their members were facing a “black hole” and were heading for “truly unpalatable” cuts to key services, including children’s centres, road repairs, elderly care, and rubbish collection.

The chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, a think tank, says councils are already on life support. Yet they face their biggest fall in funding next year. Volunteers are already running some libraries and parks. Councils will have to cut further; Theresa May’s new stronger towns fund is far too small to make a difference.

The criminal justice system has been stretched beyond reliability. The number of recorded crimes being prosecuted is falling and runs at just 8.2 per cent, as funding cuts bite, evidence isn’t scrutinised, courts close and neither defence nor prosecution teams have adequate resources or time. The chairman of the Law Society’s criminal law committee says “we are facing a crisis within our justice system, we are starting to see it crumble around us”.

In health, waiting times at A&E have hit their worst level in 15 years; in some surgeries the wait for a GP appointment can be weeks; and this week public satisfaction with the NHS fell to its lowest for more than a decade, at 53 per cent, down from 70 per cent in 2010. Britain’s spending watchdog, Sir Amyas Morse, departed from his usual role as a tenacious critic of government waste to warn us, bluntly, that May’s recent boost for the NHS is nothing like enough. An ageing population will need higher spending. The falling budgets for social care are “unsustainable”.

The news in education this week was that 15 Birmingham primary schools will close at lunchtime on Fridays because they can’t afford to stay open. It’s the most vivid recent example of the slashing of budgets per pupil by almost 10 per cent, in real terms, since 2010. Sixth forms have lost a quarter of their funding. Schools have reduced teaching hours, cut A-level courses in maths, science, languages, sacked librarians, school nurses, mental health and support staff, and cut back on music, art, drama and sport.

When this process began in 2010 I backed it. Like many people, I had come across enough unhelpful, incompetent jobsworths to know the state was wasting money. As a Labour supporter I’d written at the end of the Brown years warning that Labour was destroying its case for high public spending by squandering much of it.

Privately, many in the system agreed. One chief executive of a Labour council told me he’d been relieved to get rid of half his staff in the first couple of years; it had cleared out the pointless and lazy, and forced everyone to focus on what mattered and what worked. Other chief executives agreed cheerfully that they too had been “p***ing money up against the wall”.

But we are years past that point. We have moved beyond cutting fat, or transformation through efficiencies. Instead we are shrivelling the web of hopes, expectations and responsibilities that connect us all, making lives meaner and more limited, leaving streets dirtier, public spaces outside the prosperous southeast visibly neglected.

So many cuts are to the fabric that knitted people together or gave them purpose. The disappearance of day centres for the disabled, lunch clubs for the elderly or sport and social clubs for the young is easy to shrug off for the unaffected. But the consequences are often brutal for those who lose them, isolating people and leaving them with the cold message that unless you can pay, nobody cares. The hope that volunteers and charities could fill all the state’s gaps has evaporated. They haven’t and they don’t. Is this how we want Britain to be, and if not, where does this end?

Austerity was never meant to be lengthy, just a few tough years to drive reform. It was intended to be over by 2017, when a thriving economy would float us off the rocks, but events did not go to George Osborne’s plan. The economy is not about to rescue us now, either. All forms of Brexit are going to slow our growth.

Which leaves us with three choices. We could accept the decay of services, and decide to live in a crueller, more divided, more fearful country. If we didn’t want that, we could back a party that planned higher taxes to fund them — Britain’s tax burden is currently 34 per cent, three quarters of the French, Belgian and Danish rates.

Alternatively, Philip Hammond could seize the chance to start reversing this policy in his spring statement next week. In America many Republicans and Democrats, for different reasons, have begun to treat deficits with insouciance, after years of obsessing over them. What matters is whether governments can afford the interest on the debt. Rates are low. Britain desperately needs investment in its people and their futures. The cautious Hammond should open the financial taps.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

Work for HS2 and enjoy parties and gym membership!

“HS2 Ltd has been accused of wasting “eye-watering” sums of taxpayers’ money as it emerged that the government-owned company spent almost £54,000 on gym memberships and £6,360 hiring party photo booths.

The spending by the company building the high-speed rail line was revealed in official financial returns. Analysis showed that £640,000 was spent on aerial promotional films and £96,712 went on an HS2 “pop-up shop” at Euston station.

The Times previously revealed that HS2’s total spending reached £5.5 billion even before full construction of the line has started. The equivalent of one-tenth of the project’s entire £55.7 billion budget has been spent in the last nine years as part of preparations for Europe’s biggest infrastructure project.

The latest figures prompted fresh accusations that spending on the scheme was out of control.

HS2 will eventually link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, with the Y-shaped network due to open fully by 2033. The first phase of the line between London and Birmingham is expected be completed in 2026, with extensive work already under way.

An HS2 Ltd spokeswoman said: “HS2 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform Britain’s economy and we are committed to delivering value for money for the taxpayer. We have a duty to inform and consult people and communities affected by a project of this size.”

Penny Gaines, chairwoman of the Stop HS2 group, said: “These figures show the eye -watering scale of expenditure. This spending is funded entirely from the taxpayer. If it hadn’t gone on HS2 it could have been used for other priorities, such as schools or the NHS.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

“MPs are set to review the government’s plans for Britain’s energy sector after a string of major projects were abandoned by international companies”

Owl says: Such a shame that our Local Enterprise Partnership – dominated by people with a vested interest in the nuclear industry – has put all our growth and regional investment eggs in the Hinkley C basket!

MPs are set to review the government’s plans for Britain’s energy sector after a string of major projects were abandoned by international companies.

The Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Committee said it would look into the government’s plans to see if they are fit for purpose.

It will examine if the country needs a new approach to speed up investment into low-carbon, low-cost energy and secure supplies in the long term.

The decision comes after Japanese firms Hitachi and Toshiba pulled out of the Wylfa and Moorside nuclear projects, dealing a serious blow to the government’s plans.

The committee also said it will investigate concerns over foreign investors in British nuclear. This comes amid worries about Chinese involvement in major projects.

Committee chair Rachel Reeves said: “In the wake of investment decisions over nuclear plants at sites such as Moorside and Wylfa, a giant hole has developed in UK energy policy. With coal due to go off-line, and the prospects for nuclear looking unclear, the government needs to set out how it will create the right framework to encourage the investment needed to plug the gap.

“In this inquiry, we want to examine the government’s approach to creating the right conditions for investment to deliver the secure energy capacity to meet the nation’s needs. A bigger shift in our energy infrastructure to a low cost, low carbon energy system is necessary.

“As a committee, we will want to consider what more the government needs to do to attract greater investment into financing future energy capacity, including renewables.”

http://www.cityam.com/273977/mps-launch-inquiry-into-government-energy-policy-after