The government needs to stop dragging its feet on energy policy – before the lights go out

This government has been dragging its feet on energy policy since 2010

National Grid ncrThe prospect of the televisions blacking out in the middle of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing on a bleak, cold winter evening sometime soon should focus the minds of politicians that the UK’s energy policy needs the long view when it comes to planning and strategy.

Too often politicians look at issues through a narrow short-term prism – it was Harold Wilson who said: “A week in politics is a long time.”

A collective shiver went down the nation’s spine when this week the National Grid warned that its capacity to supply electricity in the coming months will be at a seven-year low due to generator closures and breakdowns.
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Posted in Public Services for All | Tagged , , , | 21 Responses

Labour demand big improvements to Work Capability Assessments

The DWP must deliver a better service for disabled people and better value for taxpayers

DWPToday the government has announced the new provider for the ailing Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Maximus are replacing Atos, who quit the process after repeated concerns, raised by Labour and disabled people, about the operation of the test.

The government has spent months seeking an alternative provider.

While we’ve always said that simply changing the provider isn’t enough to deal with the underlying problems, Labour hope the new start under Maximus will lead to improved results.

Disabled people have every right to feel wary. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are agreeing a new contract that will last years. With a general election looming, and Labour already having outlined a series of reforms we’d make to the Work Capability Assessment, it is unclear how the new provider will be expected to deliver improvements – or what penalties they’ll face if they don’t. Read More »

Posted in Good Society | Tagged , , , , , | 33 Responses

The myth of migrants ‘flocking’ to Britain’s ‘soft touch’ benefits system

The desire to ‘get on’ isn’t confined to affluent Westerners

Asylum seekers ncrThe mayor of Calais has been sounding off like a Daily Mail editorial. On immigration, Britain is a ‘soft touch’ and its benefits system acts like a ‘magnet’ for migrants, Natacha Bouchart told the Home Affairs Committee yesterday.

Ms Bouchart, speaking via an interpreter, said:

“You have a much more favourable regime in Britain than other countries. The second thing is the entitlement to benefits of £36 which are given to asylum seekers or migrants, which is a huge amount for people who have nothing in their lives.”

This echos the narrative of much of the UK press as well as of UKIP, the Conservative Party and sometimes Labour. Read More »

Posted in A Britain We All Call Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 79 Responses

Trident: not as future-proof as our politicians like to pretend

The UK’s possession of nuclear weapons is often justified in terms of uncertainty about the future. However, developments at home and abroad may one day make the UK’s Trident weapons system politically (and legally) impossible

Trident ncrOver the years, governments have defended plans to replace the ageing Trident weapons system by reference to unspecified future threats.

In the foreword to a 2006 White Paper advocating the principle of Trident replacement, Tony Blair wrote:

“We believe that an independent British nuclear deterrent is an essential part of our insurance against the uncertainties and risks of the future.”

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Posted in Multilateral Foreign Policy | Tagged , , | 7 Responses

Child poverty up in rich world since start of recession

Child poverty has increased in the rich world since the onset of the global recession in 2008, according to a new report from Unicef.

PovertyjThe report says that the proportion of children living in poverty in the UK has increased from 24 per cent to 25.6 per cent. Meanwhile Greece and Iceland have seen the biggest percentage increases in child poverty, followed by Latvia, Croatia and Ireland.

Overall 18 of the 41 countries in the study have seen falls in child poverty, with Chile achieving the biggest reduction from 31.4 per cent to 22.8 per cent.

Norway has the lowest child poverty rate, at 5.3 per cent, whereas Greece has the highest, at 40.5 per cent. The rate in the US is 32 per cent. Read More »

Posted in Good Society | Tagged , , | 6 Responses

How to make our ambulance service the best in the world

The ambulance service in the UK is one of the best in the world, unfortunately it has been taken for granted

Ambulance ncrThe Labour Party is right to highlight the problem of the increased use of private companies in the Ambulance Service. They cost taxpayers millions each year.

The service they provide lacks the professionalism of the NHS service, their ambulances are poorly equipped and many of their staff are inadequately trained.

But the use of private ambulances is a symptom of deeper underlying problems that need to be addressed. Read More »

Posted in Public Services for All | Tagged , , , | 5 Responses

UK gender gap widens, according to new report

The pay gap between men and women in the workplace has widened and the UK has dropped out of the top 20 countries for gender equality, according to a new report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Money no copyrightjAccording to the research, the UK has fallen from 18th to 26th place in the rankings of the Global Gender Gap Report, recording its lowest overall score since 2008.

The countries which scored best in the research were Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden, in that order. Read More »

Posted in Good Society | Tagged , , | 5 Responses

Assad kills journalists too – the West must not work with his regime

Assad is not an ally, he is a man whose stubborn determination to preserve his dictatorship has killed hundreds of thousands

Bashar al Assad ncrjAbdul Raheem Kour Hassan was a journalist who worked for a radio station in Damascus. His family was informed in April 2013 that he had died while in regime custody, tortured to death in one of Assad’s prisons.

Bilal Ahmed Bilal worked for Palestine Today and covered the early protests in Syria. His family was informed in April 2014 that he had died while in regime custody, also tortured to death in one Assad’s prisons.

As Brooklyn Middleton wrote in August, the Islamic State’s ‘sensationalist’ type of brutality – beheading hostages on camera, crucifying people in public squares, forcing John Cantlie to tell the world ‘the truth’ about ISIS – has almost entirely eclipsed Assad’s. ISIS flaunts its brutality in a way that the Assad regime manifestly does not, and as a result the regime’s brutality, to be blunt, has grown banal. ‘Another day another barrel bomb’ almost. Read More »

Posted in Multilateral Foreign Policy | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Responses

Boris’s affordable housing failure exposes his true colours – dishonesty and indifference

Hundreds of thousands of Londoners are being priced out of London’s housing market, yet Boris doesn’t seem to care

Boris Johnson cycling-JPEGBoris Johnson’s usual tactic when it comes to deflecting criticism is waffle; he’s very good at it. Yet last week when I forced the Mayor to reveal that despite London’s growing housing crisis he is set to miss his target for affordable house building, he briefly showed his true colours, moving from waffle to dishonesty and indifference.

For a long time it has been clear to everyone but Boris that the pledge to build 55,000 new affordable homes by March 2015 is well off track. As of this September, with less than a year to go, the Mayor had only delivered 38,412 affordable homes, leaving more than 16,000 to be built in order to meet March’s target. Read More »

Posted in Good Society | Tagged , , , , | 19 Responses

Labour needs policies that end low paid and low skilled work

The UK has too many poorly performing workplaces, according to a new report

Money no copyrightjOn October 23, the Smith Institute launched a report entitled ‘Making work better: an agenda for government‘ – an independent inquiry into the world of work by Ed Sweeney.

Sweeney of course is the former chair of the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), former deputy general secretary of Unite and former general secretary of the finance union Unifi, now part of Unite.

The report, which runs to over 100 pages, is the product of a nine month inquiry involving research, interviews, discussion events around the UK as well as opinion polling. Read More »

Posted in Sustainable Economy | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Responses
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