On Byline Times: Reflections on a watershed election and a progressive solution

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn at the last Queen’s Speech. Pic credit: Parliament.uk Jessica Taylor

As the dust begins to settle from last week’s election I have written an article for Byline Times on where politics should go after Labour’s defeat and Liberal Democrats failure to make a big impact. And also why Conservative victory is not as decisive as the Parliamentary arithmetic shows. You can read it here.

Exclusive on Byline Times: MPs £8.4m second jobs and how Boris Johnson made a £1m in the last Parliament

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn at the state opening of Parliament. Boris Johnson made £1m including £800,000 from second jobs and speeches, Jeremy Corbyn nothing from a second income. Pic Credit: parliament.uk Jessica Taylor

Today I have published from a new database how much money MPs made from second jobs in the last Parliament with Boris Johnson top of the premier league of high earners. Read the full story in Byline Times here and see for yourself from a link to the database here. You can check your own MP.

Labour’s new deal for 50swomen’s lost pensions: What does it mean?

Crowds of BackTo60 supporters after the judicial review hearing

Labour today broke through the political barrier of just offering tea and sympathy for 3.8 million women who had to wait up to six years for their pensions.

And coming only 24 hours after Boris Johnson announced that the Conservative Party would not give a penny in compensation to any of the women affected by this appalling scandal it is a major advance.

First the positives. It is a huge improvement on the offer available from the All Party Parliamentary Group on the issue co chaired by Tim Loughton, the Tory MP for Worthing East and Shoreham and Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea,East. The sums are obvious. Tim Loughton is on record of seeking £2 billion compensation, Labour is offering to spend £58 billion over five years.

From what I could gather – despite both MPs declining to answer any of my questions – it would have meant probably only £73 a week on benefit for women who have still not gained the pension in two years time and nothing for the rest, who form the vast majority of people involved.

It is also – and this is very important considering the age of people involved- to start pretty soon if Labour is elected. This compared with the previous APPG proposal with no firm date for implementation and the longer the delay, fewer people would have got anything.

As John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, said: ” “We will introduce it as rapidly as we probably can and we will try to ensure the payments are made promptly. …… we are hoping that people will appreciate the sense of injustice and anger that these women feel about the changes that were imposed upon them.”

And it is helpful for people who had relied on the now outdated married woman’s national insurance contribution to build up their pension entitlement since to get compensation Labour is treating all cases as though they paid the full national insurance stamp which would increase their entitlement.

It is also by far the best offer on the table for the December 12 election as it compares with nothing from the Conservatives and an offer from the Liberal Democrats to obtain compensation through the Ombudsman. Again that would depend when the Ombudsman considered the case and whether he decided to award any compensation.

Now the pitfalls. First it is paid at the rate of £100 a week over five years for all those born before 6 April 1955 rather than a lump sum. It is also taxed. As one of the arguments by the numerous detractors from the private pension industry -is that it should be means tested, very wealthy people will have to return, under Labour, half the payment to the state. Those who are really poor will get it tax free – because there is no tax next year on the first £12,500 of income. And this limit will probably rise over the period.

Second the scheme is complicated and the amount of compensation will be different for each individual.

Broadly it looks as though compensation will rise from a month’s loss of pension (£400) to a maximum of £31,379 for those born up to April 5 1955. It would then gradually fall again until disappearing altogether for those born after April 5 1960. The figure paid out will fall from £100 a week to a lower sum depending on a person’s date of birth from 6 April 1955.

In general terms this means that those born up to April 5 1955 will fare better than those after- though those born in the rest of 1955 will still get high compensation.

What this mean for those born earlier and have or about to get their pension that they will be guaranteed an extra £100 a week for up to five years depending on their birth date.

What the deal is not full restitution given that some women have lost up to £50,000. However Back to 60, have raised enough money through their crowdfunder, to continue their legal action and are seeking permission at the Court of Appeal to appeal the ruling.

The fact that BackTo60 went to the courts prompted Labour to prepare a much more generous offer for the 50swomen – their briefing makes it clear that this was in their mind.

” It’s a one-off historical redress for a historical wrong, so the state will be expected to find the money, just as it would do if the Government lost a court case.”

This is the opposite to the view of Guy Opperman, the pensions minister, who takes the position ” we act within the law” and the defeat means no money need ever be paid.

The fact that both Unison and Unite unions supported full restitution was also hugely influential in Labour’s thinking.

Labour’s manifesto has promised talks with all groups before it is implemented which will give all 50swomen representatives the chance to comment and discuss the implementation of the scheme.

Last night Waspi Ltd – which has not wanted full restitution – and ” We paid in, you pay out ” were advising their supporters to back Labour at the general election.

BackTo60 which never intended to advise its voters which way to vote – will produce a comparative guide to all the offers from the main parties to 50swomen and leave it to their supporters to draw their own conclusions on how they wish to cast their votes.

John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, said
“We’ve prepared a scheme to compensate these women for a historical wrong. It’s one that they were not been able to prepare for and for which they’ve had to suffer serious financial consequences for as a result.

“Some of them have been hit by a combination of poverty and stress, having lost out on what they had contributed towards. These changes were imposed upon them by a Tory-led government. So we have a historical debt of honour to them and when go into government we are going to fulfil that debt.”

On Byline Times: Johnson’s power grab over EU withdrawal bill revealed by Lords report

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn at Queen’s Speech. Pic credit: UK Parliament/ Jessica Taylor

Boris Johnson thought he had got away with Parliament not being able to scrutinise his EU Withdrawal bill by calling an election. But on the last day of Parliament the House of Lords rumbled him and their analysis does not paint a pretty picture. Full report on Byline Times.

For purists actual House of Lords Constitution Committee report here.

Johnson slammed for wasting £137 billion of taxpayers’ cash while denying 50s women a penny in pensions compensation

Carole Irwin in Spain: Rightly angry at waste of taxpayers money when nothing is paid out to 50s women

Today I have decided to highlight one of my angry blog supporters who lives in Spain and is a victim of the pension scandal that has seen 3.8 million 50s women waiting up to six years to get their pension.

So outraged at the Prime Minister refusing to consider any compensation for the women that she has written to complain to Boris Johnson and highlight how much money he and his ministers have wasted after researching the bills.

As she puts it: ” Had we run our household budgets as you have run yours, we would have lost or homes and been made bankrupt yet you are able to get away with it. You will get extremely good Pensions unlike the true workers of the country who get the smallest Pension in Europe. I actually don’t know how you can sleep at night!

Carole Irwin lives in the mountains behind Malaga. She tells me :

” I am 60 years old and during my working life paid NI payments whilst working as a nurse for several years, and as a civilian in the Police Service.  I then brought up my children, so received child benefit credits for those years.

I moved to Spain to retire with my family 14 years ago. 6 years ago l was diagnosed with an incurable and life changing illness. This costs me between 80€ and 90€ in medications per month alone.

This is why I became a member of  #WePaidInYouPayOut which has been supporting  Back to 60. 

….I am one of the many who has received no letter informing me of this change. When I started working it was on the understanding although only an assumed agreement that I would receive my pension at 60.This change of retirement age along with my illness has affected our plans for our future life in Spain. “

This is her full letter to Mr Johnson:

” I am writing to you as l have many concerns about the enormous amounts of money being wasted by Government’s various departments.
In order to be concise l am writing it in bullet points so as not to waste your time.

Firstly Chris Grayling ( who possibly has wasted the most money) who has served in several roles during his time in government and unbelievably still is employed as
Secretary of State for Transport of the United Kingdom
(2016 to 2019). Had he been employed in the private sector would have been dismissed as his record shows how incapable he actually is!
*Chris Grayling alone has so far wasted almost 3 billion pounds of public money…

*At least £500 million to sort out the mess he made when attempting to privatise the probation service (source: National Audit Office)

*£33 million when sued by Eurotunnel over Seaborne Freight fiasco (source: The Guardian)

*£38 million – cost to the economy in the north of England due to the rail chaos in July 2018 (source The London Economic)

*£50,000 on the failed ‘lorry jam’ Brexit exercise in Kent (source: The Guardian)

*£70,000 on failed attempt to ban books from prisons (source: The Independent)

*£2 billion cost to taxpayers on the collapse of Virgin Trains east coast franchise (source The London Economic)

*£15 million a year in additional costs to the Carillion contract to run facilities management in prisons (source The London Economic)

*£5 million on ‘wasted rail fares’ for HS2 staff (source: Huffington Post)

*£50 million on cancelled No Deal ferry contracts (source: The Guardian)

*£32 million of charges that were unlawfully collected – which the government were ordered to pay back (source The London Economic)

*£23 million contract to develop a new generation of GPS tracking tags for dangerous offenders written off because the project proved “too challenging” (source The London Economic)

*£60 million over the £130 million original budget on the electronic tagging programme – described by the PAC as a “catastrophic waste of public money” (source The London Economic)

More government waste is shown by the Tax payers alliance.

Although excellent work has been undertaken by the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group in terms of finding savings, taxpayers’ cash has still been wasted in a number of ways, with significant sums ripe for being saved in many areas, including:

*£53 billion – Additional cost of funding pay and pensions for public sector workers over and above the private sector average, based on analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics and the Pension Policy Institute
*£25 billion – Amount wasted through inefficient public sector procurement and poor use of outsourcing, based on an authoritative report from the Institute of Directors
*£20.3 billion – Cost to the economy of public sector fraud, according to the National Fraud Authority
*£5 billion – Amount paid in benefits to those with an income in excess of £100,000
*£4 billion – Losses to the taxpayer from RBS and the sale of Northern Rock£2.9 billion – Amount spent needlessly by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Department for Culture, Media & Sport, which should both be scrapped
*£1.2 billion – Annual subsidy to foreign farmers through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy
The planning of the London garden bridge cost £58 million without so much as a pot plant being placed!
These figures are also almost certainly an underestimate. A rigorous assessment of the public sector efficiency commissioned by the European Central Bank found that if the UK’s bloated public sector were as efficient as that in the economies of countries like the US, Australia, and Japan, no less than £137 billion could have been saved in the last year! Those is a Huge amount of money!

In addition to the big ticket items, we have identified hundreds of examples of smaller sums being wasted. It is, however, all still taxpayers’ money and there is no excuse for waste, regardless of the amount involved. Among the culprits identified are:

Arts Council: Gave a £95,000 grant to artists in Brighton for “Skip”, a rubbish dumpster outlined with yellow lights!

Crawley Council: Spent £5,070 on 12,200 hot drinks from vending machines for council employees, when the equivalent number of tea bags would have cost just £200!

Department for International Development: Spent £21.2 million on a road maintenance project in Bangladesh, later pulled due to “fiduciary irregularities” after it emerged that less than 10% had actually been spent on roads!

Durham Council: Funded a £12,000 clothing allowance to allow councillors to wear “Geordie Armani”!

Hull Council: Spent £40,000 on a concert in honour of the councillor who is Lord Mayor this year!

Ministry of Defence: Paid £22 for light bulbs that are normally 65p!

Prison Service: Paid £720,000 to professional actors for role playing that is aimed at helping inmates become employed.

Scottish Government: Signed a £1.4 million 4-year contract for taxis for civil servants in Edinburgh – despite staff being told to use buses.

Stoke-on-Trent Council: Spent £330,000 to pay for redundancy packages and subsequently rehiring 25 members of staff.

All this money wasted by your government was paid for by the hard working tax payers and I’m sure if l did more research l could find many more examples.
One being to your own embarrassment the purchasing of water cannons. I wonder what they were worth at the local scrap dealer?

There are a great many extremely angry women not yet receiving their hard earned Pensions which was paid for by themselves throughout their lives by paying national insurance.
I’m sure they would not have chosen to waste so much money in the way you did, as had that money still been available you could have decided we earned and deserved our pensions.
Had we run our household budgets as you have run yours, we would have lost or homes and been made bankrupt yet to are able to get away with it. You will get extremely good Pensions unlike the true workers of the country who get the smallest Pension in Europe. I actually don’t know how you can sleep at night!
Due to the appalling waste as listed above, please do it get too comfortable in your role as Prime Minister as l have a strong feeling come the next general election you will have many people choosing not to vote for your incompetent and cruel party.”

On Byline next month I am planning to try and see how much money the PM has also wasted on the No Deal Brexit which increasingly looks unlikely to happen on October 31. This can be added to the figures she has researched.

But I thought it was worth publishing this gigantic list because it highlights the anger people feel about this issue and the waste of taxpayers money by politicians. No doubt the reply will be stuck in a queue in the PM’s correspondence unit. But wider publication will not allow him so easily to get away with it. Nor should he.

On Byline Times: Brexit chaos leads to big drop in EU science money as scientists stay away from UK

Nanotechnology helping the food industry. Pic credit: European Commission

The Royal Society has issued a dire warning that the UK is already suffering a big drop in science funding from the EU because of Brexit.- MPs in Parliament warn it could get even worse contrary to claims by Boris Johnson. Full story here

Boris Johnson’s two faced “support ” for 3.8 million 50s born women who lost their pensions

Boris Johnson’s big U turn on helping 50s born women over their pensions

In July well before the publication of the decision of the judicial review Boris Johnson during the Tory leadership campaign was quoted by Dan Bloom in the Mirror of promising some sort of support for 50swomen who had to wait up to six years for their pension. The quote reproduced by the BackTo60 campaign in the picture below raised hopes that the present government might soften its attitude and offer something.

Image

Now just after the publication of the judicial review decision he has changed his mind. Writing to a constituent in Uxbridge and South Ruislip who wishes to remain anonymous he has completely backtracked and also got some of the facts wrong into the bargain.

In a letter to her he now is promising nothing.

” Making further transitional arrangements would not only complicate the system but could also cost the taxpayers many billions of pounds and the potential cost of reversing the 2011 changes has been estimated at £39 billion.”

He then goes on to state that people affected by the 2011 change had all been told between January 2011 and November 2013. And further claims that those affected by the 1995 Pensions Act which raised the pension age were all told between April 2009 and March 2011.

The latter is a major gaffe since even I, as a severe critic of successive governments handling of the issue, would concede that some people were told before 2009. It also is an admission that the whole purpose of introducing the change in 1995 so people had notice was a failure – as April 2009 is just one year before the changes started to take effect. What a monumental own goal.

He also seems to confuse the role of the £1.1 billion concession in 2011 to delay the effect of further changes to the additional rise of the pension age to 66.

He seems to think this was a godsend for women claiming that he was pleased that it mitigated their position. In fact it only delayed the rise and also helped men who started to be affected after 2018.

Finally he talks of the ” sharp increases ” in longevity making the system, unsustainable. Well these cease in 2011 and have flat lined – even falling in the poorer areas such as Blackpool, north of Glasgow and in North Wales.

I can only hope that the PM has a proper understanding of the current negotiations going on over Brexit – because if this is an example of his grasp of facts – they are going to get in a real mess this week.

It also means – if this is now the PM’s view – that Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea East and Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for Worthing East and Shoreham, are wasting their time seeing Therese Coffey, the new works and pensions secretary to discuss any concessions for the 50s women on behalf of the all party group against pension inequality.

For the women themselves the one power they have left is their vote at a soon to be called general election. Unless they are happy to remain living in poverty voting for a new Conservative government is a waste of space.