Posts Tagged ‘Inland Revenue’

Vox Political: Teen Bullied by DWP Commits Suicide; DWP Staff enjoy £140 million Bonuses

December 7, 2016

Mike today also posted a couple of stories today, which together show how disgraceful and corrupt the DWP is. Apparently, over the last three years the DWP has awarded £140 million in bonuses to its civil servants, of which £124.37 million went to the Department’s senior managers.

Mike is understandably outraged by this, and asks if this includes money awarded through schemes like the ‘Space Invaders Game’ set up in one office for getting people of benefits, or the Sheriff’s Stars, which Johnny Void stated were set up to reward clerks, who sanctioned people in others.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/06/almost-140-million-in-bonuses-for-dwp-staff-for-sanctioning-people-off-benefits/

These bonuses have been awarded for the bullying of claimants either to get a job, or stop claiming benefit. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people, have died of desperation, neglect and starvation after being sanctioned by the DWP. They have included a diabetic ex-serviceman, an elderly couple, and a young woman, who killed herself and her infant child. Stilloaks has compiled a list of the people, who’ve been killed. Johnny Void has also in his blog published an extensive list of the DWP’s victims. And now it seems the DWP has claimed another one.

Mike today also reported that an 18 year-old man, David Brown, from Eston in North Yorkshire, committed suicide after being belittled by Job Centre Staff. He was looking to get an apprenticeship in welding, but the Job Centre put him on pressure to find a job. An inquest was told that before he killed himself, he told his mother

“The way the Jobcentre treat people, it is no surprise people commit suicide.”

Mike comments that it seems harsh, but the question has to be asked: who received the bonus for getting him off the DWPs books.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/07/teen-committed-suicide-after-being-belittled-by-job-centre-staff/

These are more vile policies that can be traced back to Maggie Thatcher and John Major. It was Maggie and Major who, in my experience, introduced ‘performance related pay’ into the civil service. And I got the distinct impression it was done as part of a policy to keep the staff working as hard as possible for little pay. Instead of a proper pay rise, there was just the promise that if you worked hard, you might get a bonus. Might. In fact, the bonuses were always going to go to the bosses, just as the captains of industry constantly award themselves massive pay rises as ‘bonus-related pay’ for closing down factories and shops and laying people off. And it was the same with the DSS and Benefits Agency. That came in when Anderson Consulting decided that the Benefits Agency and Inland Revenue should be rationalised, so that local offices would be closed down, and all the decisions concentrated in regional centres instead. Which is a good reason why ordinary civil servants should hate and despise Anderson Consulting, or whatever it now describes itself.

As for the deaths of humiliated and sanctioned benefit claimants, this all comes from the principle of ‘less eligibility’. This is the ‘Victorian value’ of the workhouse, which was taken over by Maggie Thatcher, then by Blair, and his successors Cameron, Clegg and May. The idea is that you make welfare so humiliating, that it acts as a deterrent – people are supposed to want to do anything to find a job and avoid the hardship. And people are suffering from it. Apart from those, who’ve died, I know many people personally, who’ve been very reluctant to sign on because of the way they’ve been picked on and abused by DWP staff.

There has been talk about prosecuting the DWP for such cases. I don’t know if you can do it, but this seems to me to be a clear case where the Department was guilty of culpable negligence, possibly even breach of a duty of care towards a clearly vulnerable young man. But I don’t know for sure. Except that this vile system needs to ends now, and those responsible punished to the fullest extent of the law.

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Why I Didn’t Buy ‘Private Eye’ Yesterday

September 3, 2016

I regularly buy Private Eye, but for the first time in a very long while, I didn’t buy it. I’ve put up a couple of pieces here talking about the very pronounced anti-Corbyn bias there is in the magazine. The ‘In The Back’ section, and its predecessor, ‘Footnotes’, before that exposed the privatisation of the NHS by the Tories and Blair, along with the sell-off of the buildings owned by the Tax Office, the transformation of the schools into increasingly expensive academies and the privatisation of the Royal Mail. The magazine has also attacked the Work Capability Tests, benefit sanctions and workfare. This has all been excellent, but I’ve found this outweighed in recent weeks by the space it gives the Blairites to smear the Labour leader, with no attack on them. There’s a regular strip, ‘Focus on Fact’, which is supposed to expose the dirty dealings of Corbyn and his supporters. This mostly seems to be a rehash of events 30 years or so ago in the 1980s. There have also been pieces attacking The Canary, and smearing the various YouTubers, who didn’t buy Angela Eagle’s lie about the Corbynists throwing a brick through her constituency office window. The Eye attacked them as ‘conspiracy theorists’.

This fortnight’s issue had on its cover a piece about ‘Traingate’, with a headline about Corbyn lying. Now I might be wrong, and the magazine could have been making a critical comment instead about how Corbyn was maligned by the papers yet again, when they reported Virgin Trains’ claim that there were spaces available for him to sit. But I didn’t think so at the time. It looked to me like another in the magazine’s long list of smears. And so I didn’t buy it. I spent part of the money I’d saved instead on a big bar of chocolate. And very nice that tasted too.

Corbyn’s really our only hope in the Labour party of undoing the harm done by nearly forty years of Thatcherism, and particularly all the evils the magazine has done so much to investigate and expose over the years. But Hislop has decided instead to throw his lot in with the corporatists and profiteers, who oppose him. Some of this might be due to the magazine’s links to MI5 through Auberon Waugh, as described in a piece in Lobster many years ago, ‘Five at Eye’. Corbyn opposes the current military build-up on the borders of Russia and the Ukraine. He also talked to the Republicans in Northern Ireland in an attempt to find a peaceful solution, just as he went to Israel to talk to the Palestinians. All actions which currently undermine British foreign policy, which is pure neoliberal corporate imperialism, not so different from what Hobson described over a century ago in his Imperialism, and by Lenin in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. But this makes him a threat to the British state, and particularly its role in supporting Israel and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. And so no effort is being spared to destroy him, including hit pieces in the Eye.

My refusal to buy Hislop’s dangerously biased magazine yesterday on its own will have absolutely no effect whatsoever. Indeed, the magazine over the years has taken a kind of perverse pride in offending readers. Its letters page over the years has often been filled with angry readers deeply outraged about their treatment of some issue or another, and cancelling their subscriptions. The most notorious example of this was their cover criticising the mixture of hysteria and voyeurism amongst the crowd at Lady Di’s funeral. To balance the negative correspondence, the Eye also prints letters supporting the controversial piece. Again, there was no shortage of them when it came to Di’s funeral.

If enough people stop buying the magazine, it might have some effect even then. All the newspapers’ profit margins are under attack from the rise of the new media and telecommunications generally, and I doubt that Private Eye is an exception. Though even there, I doubt it will do much harm. As I said, the Eye has always taken a kind of pleasure in outraging and alienating its readers. Nevertheless, it might be vulnerable if enough left-wing readers do it. My guess is that despite the magazine and its founders being very middle class establishment, most of its readers are probably left-wing. It ran a piece a few years ago about a proposal in parliament to give a vote in support of the Eye. Very few Tories gave their support; more Lib Dems did, but most of the votes came from the Labour party. Perhaps if enough left-wingers recognise its pro-corporatist Blairite bias and stop buying it, that might nevertheless shake Hislop up a bit.

And then again, perhaps not. But speaking for myself, I decided yesterday I was sick of its lies and smears, and passed over it at the magazine racks. You make your own decisions about supporting the magazine or not.

Shirley Williams on the Growth of Bureaucracy under Thatcher

May 25, 2016

SWilliams Book Pic

The great boast of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives is that private enterprise, unfetter by state control, somehow magically reduces bureaucracy. Apart from ignoring the fact that firms also necessarily have their own bureaucracies, the economic and social importance of many of the industries taken into state control means that even after these industries were privatised, there still had to be a state bureaucracy to make sure these industries continued to act in a fair and responsible manner. So there are a plethora of regulatory bodies supervising telecommunications, electricity, water and the environment. And one effect of privatisation was to make these regulatory authorities and the state supervisory bureaucracy bigger than they were under state ownership. Private Eye in the 1990s during John Major’s administration ran story after story noting the massive increase in such bureaucracy in the electricity, water and environment agencies. The Eye also noted how Thatcher’s successors attempted to cut down this bureaucracy by increasingly depriving them of their statutory powers and limiting their remit. Bureaucracy was reduced not be being more efficient, but by being deliberately cut down to prevent it interfering. And thus was public protection against the predation and mismanagement by the newly privatised companies removed.

Shirley Williams, the former Labour MP, who became one of the founders of the SDP also noted the growth of bureaucracy under the Conservatives before Thatcher in her book, Politics Is For People. She wrote

Another paradox can be seen in Britain, and no doubt in many other countries as well: the growth of administration. In 1970, the then Conservative government brought in the American industrial consultant, McKinsey & Co., to advise them on the reorganisation of the National Health Service. the reorganisation, in which professional interests were extensively consulted, led to a substantial increase in the number of administrative and clerical posts, and a higher proportion of administrators and clerical employees to doctors and nurses, the front line of the service. Local government reorganisation, under the same Conservative government, had similar consequences: more highly paid administrative posts, no evidence of improvement in local government services. Big government has its own impetus which is hard to stop, whatever the philosophy of the executive in charge. But opposition to it rubs off most on political parties identified with a substantial role for it. (Pp. 29-30).

Labour has suffered because, as the party most identified with big government and state expenditure, it has also been criticised by its Right-wing opponents as the party of waste. Yet the Tories have vastly inflated the bureaucracy involved in the remaining areas left under state control. Private Eye noted that the creation of the internal market in the NHS, and the PFI financing of hospitals, vastly increased bureaucracy in the Health Service. Successive governments have carried on the marketization of the NHS, with a further increase in bureaucracy. Within the BBC, the Eye also noted that John Birt’s administrative reorganisation of that once-great and respected institution resulted in the expansion of the upper management grades on vastly bloated salaries coupled with a damaging reduction in the production staff, who actually made the programmes people watch.

Britain’s public services and industries have been made increasingly inefficient through the creation of a corrupt and parasitic class of managers, who seem to serve only to perpetuate themselves at the expense of their own companies and their workers. Indeed, Ha-Joon Chang in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism in one of the very first chapters describes the cases of several companies that actually went to the wall because their managers cut investment and wages, and sold of the companies’ assets, in order to increase their share price and their own salaries.

The Conservatives are the party of parasitic, useless bureaucracy. And the management consultants they have called in to advise them on how to reform British state administration have done nothing but wreck it. Arthur Anderson, later Anderson Consulting, destroyed the Benefits Agency and the Inland Revenue in the 1980s and 1990s. Their successors in PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the rest of the accountancy firms sending their senior staff to help both Tories and Labour draft their policies on tax and so on are part of the same poisonous trend. The Tories should be thrown out of government, and the management consultants and accountancy firms firmly excluded from the business of government.

The Young Turks: Trump Refuses to Release Tax Returns as Being Persecuted by Tax Office for his ‘Strong Christian Faith’

February 29, 2016

More bullshit from the Goebbels of reality TV. Donald Trump was asked during in an interview by American television’s Chris Como why he hadn’t released his tax returns. Trump stated that he wasn’t able to release them, because they were still being audited. When Como asked him why that was, he said, ‘I dunno, perhaps because of my strong Christian faith’. The Turks point out how hypocritical that is, as Trump in his mind was thinking that he doesn’t have any Christian faith.

Indeed he doesn’t. There’s no record of him attending any evangelical church in New York. And when he did attend one in Iowa, he mistook the communion plate for the collection plate and slapped money on it. But his allegation that he’s being persecuted for his Christianity is likely to resonate with that section of the American Christian right which does feel that Christians are being persecuted in an increasingly aggressively secular America. It’s a very cynical lie by Trump. Even Como was visibly taken aback by it.

Now I’ve worked for the Inland Revenue, the British tax office. I was nothing important – just a lowly filing clerk. Most of my duties were just taking the files to the people, who actually made the decisions, and then filing the paperwork afterwards. It was a pretty boring job. The Inland Revenue is very careful about its image, and making sure that the public have confidence that their taxes are dealt with in a proper, professional and conscientious manner. And this is true. They are also completely uninterested in what religion a person is. All they’re interested in is sorting out how much tax the citizen should pay. My guess is that it’s exactly the same in America.

The IRS has also made a statement saying that while it cannot comment on a person’s private tax accounts, there’s nothing to stop them doing so. So Trump could still hold up his tax returns and talk about them. And one of the American newspapers pointed out that one reason tax audits can go on for longer than expected is if there’s something irregular and suspect about them.

Surprisingly, the Young Turks in this segment have some respect for Mitt Romney, one of the other Republicans in the presidential race. Trump had accused Romney in a previous election campaign of showing his tax returns late in the cycle. Now Romney is doing something very few of the other candidates have done, and actually challenged Trump on his own terms. He’s pointed out that Trump could still show and talk about his tax affairs, and has tweeted that he thinks that Trump ‘doth protest too much’ when he claims he’s innocent of any irregularity and being persecuted by the tax office. He’s also questioned why Trump hasn’t released any of his tax returns from further back, if his returns for the last four years are also being audited, as he claims. Indeed, he suspects there’s something Trump’s hiding.

Which strikes me as very true. If Trump is unwilling to talk about his tax affairs, and show that everything’s above board and in order, it does rather suggest that there’s something suspicious going on, like some kind of tax dodge. That’s a far more likely explanation than stupid accusations about being persecuted because he’s a Christian.

Jimmy Carter on the Corporate Corruption of Regulatory Authorities

February 4, 2016

I found this very pertinent piece from former US president, Jimmy Carter, in the collection of pieces by Hunter S. Thompson, The Great Shark Hunt (London: Picador 1980). It’s in Carter’s 1974 Law Day address to the students at Georgia University.

We had an ethics bill in the state legislature this year. Half of it passed – to require an accounting for contributions during a campaign – but the part that applied to people after the campaign failed. We couldn’t get through a requirement for revelation of payments or gifts to office-holders after they are in office.

The largest force against that ethics bill was the lawyers.

Some of you here tried to help get a consumer protection package passed without success.

The regulatory agencies in Washington are made up, not of people to regulate industries, but of representatives of the industries that are regulated. Is that fair and right and equitable? I don’t think so.

I’m only going to serve four years as governor, as you know. I think that’s enough. I enjoy it, but I think I’ve done all I can in the Governor’s office. I see the lobbyists in the State Capitol filling the halls on occasions. Good people, competent people, the most pleasant, personable, extroverted citizens of Georgia. those are the characteristics that are required for a lobbyist. They represent good folks. But I tell you that when a lobbyist goes to represent the Peanut Warehouseman’s Association of the Southeast, which I belong to, which I helped organise, they go there to represent the peanut warehouseman. They don’t go there to represent the customers of the peanut warehouseman.

When the State Chamber of Commerce lobbyists go there, they go there to represent the businessmen of Georgia. They don’t go there to represent the customers of the businessmen of Georgia.

When your own organisation is interested in some legislation there in the Capitol, they’re interested in the welfare or prerogatives or authority of the lawyers. They are not there to represent in any sort of exclusive way the client of the lawyers.

The American Medical Association and its Georgia equivalent – they represent the doctors, who are fine people. But they certainly don’t represent the patients of a doctor.

Obviously, there are some differences between the situation Carter and Thompson describe. I think we do have legislation in this country, which requires gifts to ministers and civil servants to be declared. And some of the most determined opposition to the Tories’ campaign to privatise the NHS has come from the ranks of the British Medical Association.

But the substance of what Carter said is as true today as it was when Carter said it. If you read Private Eye in the 1990s, you saw fortnight after fortnight yet more news of someone from one of the industries getting a job in the body that was set up to regulate it. And it’s gone on. Private Eye are still running stories about banks and the leading accountancy firms, who were most notorious at dodging tax sending senior staff to act as interns or advisors to the Inland Revenue and the financial regulatory authorities. Or else a former managing director or chairman of the board from one these industries him- or herself gets a place there.

As for the lobbyists, Mike over at Vox Political the other year ran many pieces describing the Tory act that was supposed to limit their influence. Except it didn’t. What it did instead was try to cut out the influence of smaller, grass roots activist groups campaigning against some injustice or piece of misgovernment, and try to limit the ability of trade unions to campaign against particular issues. The lobbyists themselves were left largely untouched. As you can expect from a government, whose annual conferences are paid for by the big corporations, and which is headed by a PR spin merchant: David Cameron himself.

Carter was right to attack the corruption of the regulatory bodies by the very corporations they were meant to be overseeing, and his remarks on the pernicious influence of the lobbyists is still very timely. It’s time to clean up politics, and get rid of them and the Tories.

Californian Entrepreneur Wants Politicians to Wear Sponsorship Badges

December 31, 2015

This is a brilliant little piece from Kyle Kulinski, one of the presenters at the internet news show, Secular Talk. I don’t support the channel’s secularist, anti-religious views, but do agree with much about what they say politically. This is one of the pieces.

A Californian businessman has become so fed up with the corporate corruption of politics, that he has launched a campaign, ‘California Is Not For Sale’. In order to shame the politicians, who accept donations from corporations to represent their interests in Congress, he is pressing for those politicians to have to wear the logos of their sponsors. His acknowledged goal is that every politician, who enters Congress should have a clean suit. In other words, they should represent not their corporate donors, but the people, who elected them.

And the businessman pushing for this change is a Republican. Kulinski points out that this shows how bi-partisan the issue is. Everyone is fed up with the corruption in American politics. Here’s the video.

I think it would be an excellent idea if the same idea was tried over here. British politics is in a very similar situation. Politicians and political parties, including New Labour under Tony Blair, have shown themselves extremely keen to accept donations and sponsorship from corporations. Under John Major this ‘sleaze’ got so bad that Private Eye started publishing the various Tory politicos, who belonged to the drinks corporations when they started voting against the laws proposed to solve some of Britain’s emerging drink problem. And the situation has not got better. The Eye has run many articles over the years documenting the corporate sponsorship of events at the various party conferences, Conservative and Labour. One means by which corporations have entered party politics is by creating various think-tanks to press for certain policies. These are then taken up by the political parties. At the same time, corporations send senior employees to work in the various political parties, supposedly advising and helping them draft legislation. The most notorious example of this is the banks and large accountancy firms, which have sent their employees to work in the Inland Revenue and the treasury, to assist the government in producing ‘tax efficient’ and ‘business-friendly’ financial legislation. Thus the big banks are let off the hook for their role in wrecking the economy, corporations escape paying their rightful share of the tax burden, leaving poor to be hit by welfare cuts and tax increases. All in the name of fiscal responsibility.

I do differ strongly with Kulinski when he says that he wants to get union funding out of politics. The situation is different in America, where there is no real working class party as such. Here in Britain it’s different. The Labour Party was founded by various socialist parties and the trade unions to represent the working class. Hence the name. Thus the trade unions are part of the Labour party, and should continue to be so, whatever Blair or his minions think about severing ties with them.

But otherwise I think this is a great idea. We do need to shame the corporate whores at Westminster, by making them wear the logos of the companies, who bought them. After all, if they’re proud – or shamelessness enough – to display and boast of the firms sponsoring the events at the party conference, then they should have the guts to wear their badges in parliament.

Radical Balladry: Folk Protest Songs against the Credit Trap

May 31, 2014

On Thursday I published a post about the way the Bulgarian peasants’ party, BANU, attempted to provide reasonable credit from banks lent to peasant credit cooperatives as a way of destroying the moneylenders that had plagued Bulgarian rural society, as a result of whom hundreds of villages had found themselves in serious debt. I suggested that we needed something similar to act against usurers, such as Wonga and the other payday loan companies. Thousands of people in Britain have now also found themselves heavily in debt because of the way they have been forced to rely on such companies, as well as criminal loan sharks, because of low wages and the repeated slashing of benefits by successive governments. People have also been caught in the credit trap through the absurdly easy terms on which it was available during the boom years. Advertisers must share their responsibility for this, has the television adverts for the services of Wonga and the various credit cards suggest that this is all free money, which the borrower doesn’t need to worry about paying back. It’s a seductive message, and all too many people have been taken in and deceived by it.

Jess has also commented on this post with her encyclopaedic knowledge of the long tradition of radical British folk music. She notes that there was an outcry at the way many people were finding themselves in debt through hire purchase when this was introduced in the 1950s. Then as now, Right-wing think tanks attempted to justify the creation of easily available credit, which could lead the poor and vulnerable into a never-ending cycle of debt. This indeed occurred, and was bitterly criticised in song by Graham Gouldman and Jeff Beck. Jess writes

“Britain too in the 21st century has seen the return of the loan shark and moneylender as thousands, perhaps millions, have got into serious debt. Some of this has been through the absurdly easy credit that was offered in the boom years, ”

The availability of ‘absurdly easy credit’ was one of the cornerstones of the neo-liberal agenda.

Way back in 1958 the IEA published their apologia for the money-lending industry ‘Hire Purchase in a Free Society’ [Harris, Naylor & Seldon]

A typical IEA publication of the period, it contains a few gems;

“Social Impact;
Criticism of hire purchase has not come only from moralists who condemn the practice on the grounds that it ensnares people into debts they cannot afford to repay’ morphs into, with an aside from Walter Greenwood’s condemnation of ‘tick’ in ‘Love on The Dole’ to the assertion that;

“Harry [the character condemned by supposedly old-fashioned notions of debt as a weekly ‘mill-stone around the debtors’ neck’ got his new suit…”

Just how deeply the tally-man was disliked, generally, is suggested in this song from Graham Gouldman, (recorded with great reluctance by Jeff Beck)

“To our house on a Friday
A man calls every week
We give him a pound
When he calls on his round

To our house on a Friday
A man calls every week
We give and we get
And we’re always in debt

With his plan he carries all we’re needing
With his plan most anything is ours
He’s the Tallyman, oh yeah
He’s the Tallyman

Shoes and socks, hard wearing for the children
Village frocks all in the latest style
From the Tallyman, oh yeah
From the Tallyman

To our house on a Friday
A man calls every week
We’ve made him a friend
So he’s here to the end

From cradle to grave
We expect him to say
Here’s tick to the end
So we’ve made him a friend
Here’s tick to the end
So we’ve made him a friend”

[Beck objected to Mickie Most’s insistence on a ‘catchy’ follow-up to ‘Silver Lining’ and hated the production, rather than Graham Gouldman’s lyrics]

The debt problem is likely to become even more severe with the government’s cuts to the buffer amount of money allowed to families before they are considered to have been overpaid tax credit, and the use of private debt collectors to pursue the poor, who have been mistakenly overpaid. So this is another song that could reasonably be revived and adapted to suit the new conditions created by Wonga and the like, and now the Inland Revenue.

As for the latter, one of the experts on Japanese monster movies on TV – I think it may have been the great Phil Jupitus – once said that the only time you ever heard cheering during a Godzilla movie was when the epic fire-breathing radio-active dragon from the depths trashed the headquarters of their Inland Revenue in Tokyo. If only something similar would happen to the house of whichever vicious Tory apparatchik dreamed up this bill.

Godzilla

Godzilla: First the Japanese Inland Revenue offices in Tokyo, but will he trash Osbo? We live in hope!

Tax Credits and Debt Collection Agencies: Peachy’s Comment

May 31, 2014

In my last post, I put up Leoni al-Ajeel’s personal account of her problems with the authorities claiming that she had been overpaid tax credits on Mike’s piece on this problem over at Vox Political. The Coalition has passed legislation providing for the use of debt collection agencies against those the bureaucrats at Whitehall have deemed to have been overpaid them. The original legislation regarding overpaid tax credits provided for a buffer to give claimants the benefit of the doubt and so allow for the possibility that calculations they had been overpaid may in fact be mistaken. This leeway has been scaled back, according to Mike, to £5,000, making many more people vulnerable to claims and mistakes by the Inland Revenue.

It has seemed to very many of the commenters on Mike’s blog that this was another attempt by the government to exploit the poor, and also to deter them from claiming benefit by creating the fear of the official persecution that would ensue if they did so, and were then pursued by the authorities for debt. As well as Leoni al-Ajeel’s personal account of persecution by the authorities, another commenter, Peachy, has also posted a comment I feel is worth repeating here. Not only do they give their personal experience, but they also cite history and literature – Frank McCourt’s critically praised Angela’s Ashes– to show how the fear of debt has been used to keep the poor from claiming benefits that would raise them out of poverty. She writes

Creating the fear of claiming a benefit: I remember discussing that problem at college, and how it led to atrocious suffering during the American Depression of the first part of the 20th century, and how resolving that was one of the top things FDR had to address. I also remember reading about it in Angela’s Ashes, and how it encouraged families into extreme deprivation that was harmful to their very life chances.

Increasingly I am suspicious: the people most at risk of falling into this trap are the self employed, whose wages are paid not by annual agreement, but by how many calls they get offering work. I have some experience of this with my husband, and how those already established in a field view the newcomers (even those completely out of their area), as infringing on their basic right to own an entire market and speciality. Given that both Tories and UKIP are the parties of this attitude, it seems logical that there are links in this policy.

Pull up the ladder boys: make the rich secure and the poor poorer.

(It’s also irrefutable proof that there is no intention to promote work in reality, as I well remember having to refuse overtime I would have liked in the fear it would cause a tax credit overpayment).

It’s another example of the Tory and Tory Democrat’s attempts to keep the working and lower middle classes in their place. The time is long overdue that this was stopped, and the Tories and their Lib Dem collaborators kicked out.

Corporate Influence and Staffing of Government in Britain and Pre-Revolutionary Russia

April 28, 2014

One of the features of post-Thatcherite British government is the strong influence of big business on government policy and even the staffing of government departments. Government officials are frequently drawn from corporations, where they have directorships or occupy other positions in senior management. The conferences of all three main parties are sponsored by businesses hoping to influence government policy and win contracts or other business concessions from their political clients, once they are in government. The parties increasingly formulate their policies according to think-tanks, formed by and representing the views of particular industrial or corporate interests. Private Eye for years, since as far back as the ‘sleaze’ of John Major’s administration, has documented the way corporations and their employees have permeated government institutions. This has most often been done with the specific intentions of reducing or blunting government regulation of industry. Thus you can find the presence of various senior employees and directors of the big accountancy firms in the Inland Revenue, presenting the government with schemes on how the rich can become even richer by avoiding a tax. Officials drawn from the City have entered the various government bodies regulating the financial sector, to argue that the City should be less regulated. The result of this policy was the massive corruption and trading in toxic debt that created the present international financial crisis. And an extremely large number of the present government have links to private healthcare companies hoping to benefit from the privatisation of the NHS. One of these is Jeremy Hunt, the current Health Secretary, and IDS. I’ve blogged before about how the Nazis had a similar policy of co-opting leaders from business to staff the Reich industrial combines and organisations.

And it was exactly the same in Russia in the decade immediately preceding the Revolution. Big business deliberately set out to influence government policy. Business leaders entered the government, while ministers, senior civil servants and officers of the armed forces moved into posts in private industry. The regime was compromised and ultimately discredited by massive corruption. Kochan describes the situation in Russia in Revolution (London: Paladin 1970).

Industrialists more and more put themselves at the service of the government in the economic development of the empire. An Association of Industry and Commerce, founded in 1906, and its journal Industry and Commerce, devoted themselves specifically to the purpose. The association was a federation of industrial organisations formed along geographic and functional principles, e.g. The mine owners of south Russia or the Baku oil producers. By the beginning of 1914 it embraced thirty-four banks and insurance companies, 251 industrial undertakings, eleven transport companies and nineteen trading concerns.

The association consistently advocated the further economic development of the empire through a policy of high entrepreneurial profits combined with austerity in consumption. It argued against free competition – ‘the anarchy of the market and a chaotic fluctuation of prices’ – and in favour of a five-, a ten- or even a fifteen-year plan, that would overcome Russian backwardness and free it from dependence on agriculture. It proposed cooperation between industry and the government in, for example, the irrigation of Turkestan for the cultivation of cotton, the construction of the Volga-Don canal, and the intensive exploitation of the Magnitogorsk iron deposits in conjunction with Siberian coal. … Planning from above, with the sympathetic stabilizing and regulatory intervention of the vast resources at the disposal of the Treasury would enable trade and industry to take their full share in industrial development, it was hoped. In the last resort, the association envisaged a type of corporate state in which industrial and commercial interests would play a co-determining role vis-à-vis the government in relation to economic policy.

For this reason the association scheduled its own congresses to take place during the Duma sessions – the membership overlapped in many cases – and ‘sometimes its debates were the more interesting and important of the two,’ noted one observer. The association functioned as a vast pressure group: ‘… Russian industry and commerce must, in the interests of self-preservation, ‘ declared an early initiator of the association, ‘express not only its broadly based views but also know how to present these views to those institutions and groups on whom will depend the putting into practice of this or that law or policy … Here lies the whole root and the whole meaning of the All-Empire congresses of the representatives of industry and commerce. (pp. 166-7)

What socio-economic influence was possessed by these conglomerates of power? This is not easy to analyse. It seems likely however, that they had a disintegrating influence in further corrupting and demoralising the Tsarist bureaucracy. An insider, V.I. Gurko, at one time assistant minister of the interior and member of the state council, avers that the integrity of the overwhelming majority of high officials was ‘beyond question’. But he must also admit that private concerns engaged prominent officials at ‘fabulous sums’ with a view to the man’s ‘official connexions and his knowledge of the methods necessary to obtain governmental backing … particularly to secure some state concession. ‘ The line between public and private interest became more and more difficult to draw. This applied particularly to the armament industry. Take Avdakov, for example, for some years the chairman of Produgol, then the Association of Industry and Trade and at the same time councillor in the ministry of industry and trade; or Lieutenant-General Brink, a former head of the department of naval construction and chief inspector of naval artillery, who became a director of the Putilov works; or Vice Admiral Bostrem, a former commander of the Black Sea fleet, who became president of the board of the Nikolaevsk naval construction company; or General Ivanov who joined the board of the same company; or General Miller, former head of the state-owned Obukhovo works, who became director of the Tsarizyn artillery plant.

Civilian official similarly moved between government posts and private industry, especially in they were engaged in the ministries of finance and trade and industry. There was Timryazev, for example, and Bark, Arandarenko, M.M. Fedorov, V.I. Kovalovsky, N.N. Pokrovsky, Langovoi, Litvinov-Falinsky – all these men moved at one time or another between their ministerial arm-chairs and an equally well-padded position in industry or industrial association. (p. 168).

This describes pretty much every government since Maggie Thatcher, including that of Cameron and Clegg today. And the Association’s policy of demanding high profits as well as austerity exactly describes the current government’s policies.

That all ended with the upheaval of the 1917 Revolution and the Bolshevik seizure of power. We don’t need a revolution with all its horror and bloodshed in Britain. But we do need proper government, where the public interest rules and where corporations are not allowed to corrupt, influence and direct government policy.

Lies and Double-Talk by Atos and the DWP

February 21, 2014

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The nation-wide protests against Atos on Wednesday were covered ITV Meridian. They reported on demonstrations at Brighton and Canterbury, interviewing Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Paviliion, and Wayne Humphries, a leukaemia sufferer, whose assessment has been repeatedly delayed by the company. They also went to Atos and the DWP for their comments on the protests. Inevitably they got the usual lies and double talk.

The news report by ITV Meridian can be found at http://www.itv.com/news/meridian/update/2014-02-19/anger-at-atos/.

Atos’ statement is at 1 minute 44 seconds. They claimed

It’s not, nor has it ever been, the role of Atos to make decisions on who can or cannot receive benefits. We carry out assessment following strict guidelines and criteria written by the government.

And so Atos attempted to wash their hands of their involvement in the persecution of the disabled. We wuz only following orders!

This is unacceptable. Atos perform their assessments in the full knowledge that those they fail will be thrown off benefits and forced either to find work or starve. And all too many have been victims of the latter. Furthermore, they have in very many cases deliberately falsified the results of the assessments to have the claimant thrown off their benefit. They complicit in the government’s cruel treatment of the disabled and cannot disavow their responsibility.

Atos was right, however, in that they don’t set government policy, so there was some small truth in what they said. The DWP’s response, however, was even more mendacious. It’s on the report at 2 minutes 2 seconds. They said

It’s right to see what work people can do with the right support, rather than write people off on out-of-work sickness benefits as sometimes happened in the past.

Well yes, absolutely. It’s a statement with which no-one can reasonably disagree. Unfortunately, it has absolutely nothing to do with DWP policy.

The statement implies that the Department of Work and Pensions supplies needed support for those disabled people able to find work. This is, frankly, a lie. There are some benefits available to allow the disabled to live independently. This was, after all, the whole purpose of the Disability Living Allowance. There were grants available for disabled people and their families to adapt their homes so that the disabled could continue to live in them. These grants and benefits were, however, set up by previous governments. The current administration is re-organising them and introducing cuts so that fewer people qualify. All in the interest of making savings, as commanded by Osborne. This has been accompanied by a lot of bluster about concentrating resources on where it’s most needed, but the reality is that it’s done with the deliberate intention of throwing as many people off benefit as possible, regardless of whether they can actually work.

The simple fact is that the government gives absolutely no support for those workers they and Atos declare fit for work. The assessment is based simply on physical ability, and is designed to ensure that all but the extremely disabled – the virtually bed-bound – are ineligible. The DWP’s statement about helping people into work with the right support implies that the support is there. Frankly, it isn’t. I haven’t heard of the DWP providing any service advising people on what jobs might be suitable for people with particular disabilities, or providing any support for those keen to enter employment. I used to work twenty years ago in the Inland Revenue. One of the other members of staff had a severe back complaint. They were therefore given an orthopaedic chair in which to work. At one time the government also supported businesses that employed a certain proportion of disabled people. I have seen no evidence of similar policies under the Coalition, and in fact, if I recall correctly, the legislation encouraging the employment of disabled people has been under attack. I’ve got a feeling it’s been criticised for not being cost-effective or some such rubbish.

I have also not heard of any kind of comprehensive government policy provide advice for individual disabled people on what work might be suitable for them, nor of them being awarded grants to support themselves learning new skills or acquiring the specialist equipment they might need in order to function in the workplace. There are programmes to teach the disabled and the unemployed in general IT skills. I was on one about a decade or so ago. The course also included a scheme in which the blind were also taught to use a computer using special speaking machines. Unfortunately, the reality is also frequently the opposite of the what the government has claimed. The Coalition has closed down the Remploy workshops that employed disabled workers. The teaching of IT skills seems to be the catch-all solution to getting the unemployed and the disabled back into work, rather than providing any comprehensive and coherent programme to provide the disabled with the proper, individual skills and support they need. There is some help and support provided by various charities, but you do need considerable help simply finding it.

The DWP’s statements about ‘help’ and ‘support’ are simply more of the double-talk and perversion of language Orwell described in 1984, where ‘war’ equals ‘peace’ and so forth. Some of this came in with Thatcher. When she announced she was cutting services, she described it as ‘more self-help’. Well, Samuel Smiles, the working-class radical, who wrote the original book of that title later stated he regretted having done so. Unfortunately, right-wing governments have been banging on about self-help ever since. And as this government’s policies have shown, self-help in the majority of cases means no help at all.