Look Left: ring-fencing the NHS and schools budget, CO2 emissions and intervention in Syria

James Bloodworth looks back at the week’s politics, including our progressive, regressive and evidence of the week.

Whitehall

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• George Osborne this week came to an agreement with seven Whitehall departments on savings he wants made in 2015.

The chancellor said he had found 20 per cent of the £11.5bn he plans to cut spending by in the year from April 2015.

So far, however, he has only secured around 20 per cent of the £11.5 billion in cuts that he needs if he is to stick to his spending targets set out in the March budget.

This week at Left Foot Forward Tony Dolphin of the IPPR argued that ringfencing the schools and NHS budget was no longer viable.
 The UK was one of just four EU states that saw an increase in carbon emissions between 2011 and 2012, according to the statistical office of the European Union.

Emissions fell in twenty-three out of 27 EU member states in 2012, with overall emissions for the EU 27 falling by 2.1 per cent. In the UK, however, emissions increased by 3.9 per cent.

The largest decreases in emissions were recorded in Belgium and Finland (both -11.8 per cent), Sweden (-10.1 per cent), Denmark (-9.4 per cent), Cyprus (-8.5 per cent), Bulgaria (-6.9 per cent), Slovakia (-6.5 per cent), the Czech Republic (-5.2 per cent), Italy and Poland (both -5.1 per cent).

• Under pressure from Britain and France, the European Union’s arms embargo against the Syrian rebels was this week lifted.

However several countries, including the Netherlands and Sweden, were sceptical of the assurances given by the British and French that weaponry could be given to moderate rebel groupings as opposed to more radical Islamist elements.

This week at Left Foot Forward Marko Attila Hoare argued that keeping the arms embargo in place allowed the continued military superiority of Bashar Al Assad’s forces over the poorly armed Free Syrian Army, and allowed the dictatorship to continue killing its own citizens.

Progressive of the Week:

Citizens Advice this week called the payday lending industry “out of control” after seeing cases which included “lending to people who were aged under 18, had mental health issues or were drunk when they took out the loan”.

The debt charity also found that “seven out of 10 said they had been put under pressure to extend the loan, while 84 per cent said they had not been offered a freeze on interest rates and charges when they said they were struggling to repay. In 95 per cent of cases the lender had not checked to see if the borrower could pay back the loan if it were extended”.

At Left Foot Forward Carl Packman looked at how the industry has been making its customers pay for its own faults: they don’t carry out the correct credit checks on customers then continue to charge borrowers excessive fees and interest on loans they couldn’t afford to begin with.

Regressive of the week:

The Sun newspaper this week attempted to play down its own poll in favour of one conducted by The Independent – because the results of its own poll were too favourable to Labour.

Support for Nigel Farage’s UKIP had hit 17 per cent – while Labour has dropped to 34 per cent, according to a poll for the Independent cited by the Sun.

Near the bottom of the Sun’s article, however, we find that according to the Sun’s own poll Labour is on 39 per cent.

Evidence of the Week:

Trade Union membership rose by 59,000 to 6.5 million last year, according to a report by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills report published today.

The rise in union membership last year followed four consecutive years in which the headline number fell by more than 100,000.

Another 63,000 private sector employees were members of unions last year than in 2011, bringing private sector membership up to 2.6 million.

This was the second year in a row in which the number of private sector union members increased, after a fall of 450,000 over the previous three years.

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