Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Are You Registered to Vote?

A new report from the Electoral Commission, the independent elections watchdog has suggested that at least six million people in Great Britain were not registered to vote in December 2010.

The number of people who have not registered has grown from the 2000 canvass by an estimated 2.1 million. Results from April 2011 canvas indicate the number not registerd to vote could be as high as 8.5 million. 

The report found:
  • 44% of those not registered to vote mistakenly believe that they are.
  • 56% of people living in private rented homes are registered, compared with 88% for homeowners
  • 56% of 19-24 year olds are registered, compared with 94% of those aged 65+
  • 77% of people from BME communities are registered (compared with 86% of white people)
  • Only 14% of people who moved house after the 2010 annual canvass had registered at their new address by April 2011

Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission, said:

"This should be of concern for everyone who cares about democracy. There are many reasons behind the decline in registration – including changes to our population and increasing disengagement with traditional party politics. But we know almost half of those not registered mistakenly think they are, and more needs to be done to address this."

To read more on this click here

If you want to know more about registering to vote click here

The Public Administration Select Committee Criticises Big Society for Lack of Clear Plan and Warns of Dominance of Big Business

The cross-party Public Administration Select Committee [PASC] has published its report into the Big Society project. The Committee has suggested that after eighteen months of the current administration "there is little clear understanding of the Big Society project among the public, and there is confusion over the Government's proposals to reform public services."

PASC has said "the ambition to open up public services to new providers has prompted concerns about the role of private companies which have not thus far been adequately addressed by Ministers. We have recommended greater clarity on the roles of charitable, private and public providers of public services."

While the Committee has acknowledged there are serious concerns about the financial health of the charitable sector, it has also warned of the danger of large private sector contractors and the largest charities dominating the project. The Committee says early practical examples like the Work Programme "have left service providers such as the charitable sector – who would play a major role in the Big Society - with serious reservations."

The Committee has pressed the Government to explain "how crucial issues of accountability in terms of quality and regulatory powers will be managed in the Big Society project, and in particular accountability for public expenditure."

Bernard Jenkin MP, Chairman of PASC, said

"The government has not been clear enough about what the Big Society means in practical terms. There is a lot of confusion among the public and the new providers how the Big Society policies are expected work in practice. Not all public services are suitable to be delivered by charities and not all charities are willing or capable of delivering services"

To visit Parliaments Public Administration Select Committee click here

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Women and Tax Credits Underpin Rise in Living Standards for Low to Middle Income Households

A Guardian article of 6 December highlights the findings of a report from The Institute for Fiscal Studies [IFS]. This report shows the impact of women's employment on low-to-middle-income households [LMI]. 

The IFS report indicates that 78% of all growth in gross employment income among LMI households 
between 1968 and 2008/2009 has come from women. Women have provided a 27% growth in household wealth compared to 8% from men. 17% of this growth came from tax credits. 

The report's authors say:

"The LMI households today receive large portions of their income from female employment and from the benefit and tax credit system. This greater diversity of income sources may reduce the risk of negative income shocks.

"But these changes mean that LMI households are now more dependent on external support, whether directly (through the generosity of the benefit and tax credit system) or indirectly (through the availability of services, such as childcare, that make dual earning, or lone parent working possible."

The IFS figures reveal the reliance low-to-middle income households place upon women's financial security. Women make up two-thirds of the public sector workforce. The rising tide of public service sector cuts and the proposed public sector pay cap that will follow the two-year pay freeze will adversely impact on women struggling to support their households.   

To read the Guardian click here

To find the IFS report click here

Local Government Cuts 145,000 Jobs in the Last Year

In the past year it is estimated 145,000 jobs have been cut by England's 353 councils. According to a report from the Audit Commission and Local Government Association compulsory redundancies are set to rise as government funding for councils is reduced by over a quarter between 2011/2012 and 2014/15. The report indicates councils had been cutting posts before the cuts in government funding. 

The report identifies what it calls the "distinctive profile" of council workforces where "more than half of staff work part time (55 per cent), more than half work either in social care or schools support (54 per cent), and more than half earn below the UK's median pay of £19,620 (53 per cent)."

To find the Audit Commission press release click here

To read UNISON's press release click here

Monday, 5 December 2011

Wage Divide Between Rich and Poor Growing in UK

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] has launched a report today entitled "Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising" analysing the income gap between the rich and poor of 29 OECD countries.

The report has highlighted that income inequality among working-age people has risen faster in the UK than any other OECD country since 1975. This inequality gap peaked in 2000, fell slightly and has risen again since 2005.

The UK annual average income of the top 10% in 2008 was almost £55,000, almost 12 times higher than that of the bottom 10%, who had an average income of £4,700. This is up from a ratio of 8 to 1 in 1985.

Key recommendations of the report to counter income inequality include:

1. The provision of freely accessible and high-quality public services, such as education, health, and family care. Public services have had an impact in reducing inequality.

2. Creating more and better jobs that offer good career prospects and a real chance to people to escape poverty.

3. Upskilling of the workforce. The report identifies investment in people must begin in early childhood and be followed through into formal education and work.”

The OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said:

"This study dispels the assumptions that the benefits of economic growth will automatically trickle down to the disadvantaged and that greater inequality fosters greater social mobility...There is nothing inevitable about high and growing inequalities."

To read the report click here.

BBC Poll Tracker

If you are interested in the seeing the changes of public support for Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems over the years you should visit the BBC's Poll Tracker here.

Using the Poll Tracker you can trace the party ratings from the current back to 1983.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Far From a Damp Squib. 30 November Day of Action a Carnival of Colour

30 November was a bright clear autumnal day in the East Midlands. Tens of thousands of public sector workers and their families thronged the major towns and cities of the East Midlands to demonstrate the need to protect public sector pensions. In a carnival atmosphere public sector workers marched and rallied to a cacophony of drums, whistles, vuvuzelas, bagpipes, singing, and chanting. The towns came to a standstill as members of the public lining the pavements clapped and waved as the procession of colour snaked through the streets.

The marches and rallies were a culmination of strike activity across the region. The information is still rolling in but so far 934 schools, 136 public buildings and 22 libraries were closed.

David Cameron commented the 30 November day of action was a damp squib.

Squibs are miniature explosive devices which have been used for hundreds of years. Older uninsulated squibs which became damp would not perform hence the expression "damp squib".

30 November was no damp squib. 30 November will be a day long remembered.

Below just a few photos form Leicester.

Piper Preparing to Lead the March

A Carnival of Colour

A Day for All the Family

The First to Arrive at the Rally

Thousands Gather Together

Get a feel for the atmosphere here

Report on the State of Poverty and Social Exclusion Identifies Worrying Trends

The annual report on the state of poverty and social exclusion in the UK, from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the New Policy Institute has been released today.

Using official government data the report analyses a wide range of issues including low income, debt, ill-health, unemployment and problems in communities

The report has highlighted worrying trends: 

Six million people were under-employed in the first half of 2011 – this includes people who are unemployed (2.5m), working part-time but wanting full-time work (1.2m), and those classed as economically inactive but wanting work (2.3m). Though no higher than the previous year, this was 2 million higher than in 2004. 

The poverty rate for working-age adults without dependent children is now 20%, the highest since 1997. and is increasing at a faster rate than any other group. 

Changes to Tax Credits now mean that an additional 1.4 million households lose over 70p for each extra £1 they earn

The proportion of children living in low income households that were going without ‘essential’ items for reasons of cost was higher in 2009/10 than in 2005/06 across a range of items

The proportion of households in fuel poverty has risen significantly in the last few years. Almost all households in the bottom tenth by income are in fuel poverty, as are half of households in the second bottom tenth.

The number of households accepted as homeless in England rose in 2010/11 for the first time since 2003/04 and now stands at 65,000. The number of court orders for mortgage repossessions in England and Wales rose to 21,000 in the first half of 2011, the first significant rise for three years.

To read more on this click here

Women Bearing the Brunt of Cuts

This is the stark message of the Fawcett Society. Responding to the Government's Autumn Statement on Tuesday Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society,  said:

"Women’s unemployment is at a record high, women are absorbing the bulk of cuts to benefits, and women are being expected to ‘plug the gap’ as services roll back...Capping public sector pay will impact disproportionately on women who make up the bulk of the public sector workforce:  this real terms decrease in take home pay will see millions of women who are already struggling to make ends meet trying to survive on tighter budgets than ever"

Women will likely bear the brunt of public sector job cuts. Women make up two-thirds of the public sector workforce. The predicted rise in public sector job cuts from 400,00 to 700,000 will be unwelcome news for public sector women workers struggling to make ends meet in the run-up to Christmas. 

For the full Fawcett response to the Government's Autumn Statement click here 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Government's Autumn Statement Spells More Misery for Public Sector Workers

Some key points identified by the BBC:

Public Sector pay awards will be set at an average of one per cent for each of the two years after the current two year pay freeze comes to an end next year.

The Government will not go ahead with the planned £110 above inflation increase to the child element of the Child Tax Credit and will not uprate the couple and lone parent elements of the Working Tax Credit in 2012–13.

The rise in the state pension age to 67 will be brought forward to 2026 from 2034.

Economic growth for 2011 has been revised down to 0.9% from 1.7%.  Growth in 2012 is now expected to be 0.7% down from 2.5%.

The Office of Budget Responsibility forecasts total public sector job losses up from 400,000 to 710,000

An additional £100 billion in government borrowing will be needed over the next four years.

For more key points from the Autumn Statement visit the BBC's quick guide here.

Read the case studies of local government workers on page 6 and 7 of the trade unions local government pay claim released at the end of October 2011. The government's Autumn Statement offers no relief. Click here to view. (The report is contained in a pdf of approximately 1 MB).