David Cameron has ambitious plans for s Big Society in the UK. One where we all do our best to help society. Whilst there is nothing wrong with hopes of such a Utopia the reality could be rather different. One burning question of course is who will foot the bill for any expensive changes?The Big Society is thought by many in the UK to be a different kind of BS. Mr Cameron has already inspired confidence lately, has he? More often that not fancy named changes are more about cost cutting than making positive changes.Today April 4, 2012, a
new financial institution set up by the UK government to finance charities and community groups has been announced. The Big Society Capital. This is ironic as the self same government has cut funding to most UK charities causing those hit to struggle to survive.
The BBC reported"Big Society Capital has £600m, of which the majority comes from unused cash in bank accounts that had been dormant for more than 15 years."
Really! Where members of the public consulted on this?A representative on morning TV claimed that any person wanting to reclaim their funds would still be able to do so. He maintained that this change is still far more generous than in other countries. However we are not interested in other countries, are we? This government is always quick to adopt changes from abroad that suit it, whilst resisting ones that could benefit UK citizens.The BBC report goes on to say "The fund will back social enterprises that prove they can repay an investment through the income they generate. "This is about supplying capital to help society expand," said Prime Minister David Cameron."Just as finance from the City has been essential to help businesses grow and take on the world, so finance from the City is going to be essential to helping tackle our deepest social problems," the prime minister added. Venture capitalist Sir Ronald Cohen, who is Big Society Capital's chairman, told the BBC that the fund's aim was to create a "thriving market for social investment".He explained that many not-for-profit organisations relied on donations to finance themselves, and were unable to get a normal loan from a High Street bank because they lacked assets - such as property - that could be offered as a security."
In general it seems that this scheme hopes to offer rewards to those have saved the government money. A former advisor to Gordon Brown said, "I think Big Society Capital is a good thing, but it is a limited amount of money and it is a bit of a drop in the ocean, given what is happening to the sector, with the deficit-reduction programme really hitting the sector" .
"It will mask the real problem: voluntary organisations who really do need grants and won't be able to cope with risk capital."
Time will tell if the Big Society Capital works out well or is simply more government BSFull report here
Yesterday TEKJournalism reported on the UK budget. The budget included a new target, UK pensioners. Details of just how they were going to be hit were sketchy. It was one announcement that surprised many in Parliament and the UK. It had not been leaked beforehand as so many other changes had.
So how will pensioners be affected?
The change will cut tax allowances for retired people. Currently these are a little more generous than for the working population. The current level of tax relief for those people who are retired has been in place since 1925, when Winston Churchill introduced a "retired tax relief" to help older people.
Retired people tend to have more heft fuel bills, as one example of the need for such relief. At home all day and in some cases feeling the cold it is vital that they heat their homes thoroughly. Less mobile at times there are also increased costs such as taxis for hospital appointments, the need to pay for help around the home and so on.
We should never forget that the bulk of retired people in the UK have also paid year on year taxes and national insurance contributions. Some will have had a good life and so a comfortable retirement. Many may not have been so lucky. Ill health is just one factor which could lead to poverty in old age.
Even George Osborne's Treasury has admitted that the budget changes will leave pensioners at least £80 a year worse off. Add to this the increasing cost of living and they will lose out much more. When you already have a small income any reduction will hit hard. Whether Treasury figures are correct is open to opinion. According to Labour the change will leave pensioners around £300 a year worse off. Of course there could still be further cuts to pensions in later budgets.
SkyNews has reported that "The Chancellor insists changing pensioners' income tax allowances will simplify the tax system, but Treasury officials admit it will raise around £1bn a year and £3.3bn over three years." Nice pickings which will help fund the budget hand outs to the wealthy of the UK.
So how will the changes work I hear you ask? "Osborne is proposing that for people aged 65-74 their income tax allowances will be frozen at £10,500. For those aged 75 and over it will be frozen at £10,660. And from April 2013, those turning 65 will have a tax-free allowance of £9,205, bringing them into line with the working population. Treasury officials admit that 4.5 million pensioners will be affected, losing about £80 a year on average, though those people about to retire will lose £197. But those figures are challenged by opponents" And so they should be.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said "You thought from the Chancellor this was going to simplify personal allowances for pensioners in a way that would make it clearer to people who are confused. You didn't realise, in his speech, unless you know what you're talking about, he was actually announcing a tax rise."
Yes this is why for many including those on the Shadow front bench confusion reigned. At first hearing it sounded hunky dory. However you could see the opposition trying to figure this one out. Masked in Tory wording it was not obvious immediately. Spin is alive and well even in the Budget delivery.
OPINION: So there you have it. A budget to reward work but not those who have worked all their lives. Part of a bigger plan it seems to this blogger. First let's make everyone work longer. Up the retirement age so that these changes will affect them. Make work the only way to survive. Let's make sure that those at the lower end of the work force have to work until they drop.
Now we, the Coalition, want to make a start on reducing the 50p wealth tax and also want to increase the child benefit cut off point. Hitting pensioners will be the Coalitions win win factor. It will incense people so much that the CB and wealth tax will be overshadowed. It will help fund the money lost by these positive changes for the more wealthy in the UK.
It has not escaped any person in the UK that the front bench of the UK Coalition all stand to personally gain a great deal of money.
You may be asking don't pensioners count? Wont their votes matter? Well no. After all the number of pensioners is set to dwindle as more UK citizens work until they drop. Add to this the happy bunnies who have personally gained at the expense of pensioners and Osborne is on to a winner.
The fact that sooner or later we will all be pensioners, unless of course you die young, will not matter to some. After all retirement is a long way of to many and getting further all the time.
12.30pm UK time March 21, 2012, Chancellor George Osborne's budget address.The House of Commons listened to the third budget from George Osborne. Leaks had meant that some details were already known but there are always some surprises. Of course the Budget included more privatisation details. This time it was with the smiling approval of Vince Cable the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary.
Changes to planning laws were announced that will help cut red tape.For the period of the UK Jubilee and the Olympics Sunday trading laws are to be relaxed. Osborne insisted that this will only be for the period of the Olympics but time will tell. Sunday trading may be good for business and shoppers but it is bad news for those who work in this area.The military budget will be cut
by £2.4bn less than announced previously to the withdrawal of UK troops from Afghanistan,Investment in apprenticeships for young people is to increase. As it was the previous Tory government that scrapped UK apprenticeships this is rather ironic but still good news.Reforms to the tax system were also announced.
Simplification of tax systems for small businesses sounded good news. It will cut the time spent on tax returns and hopefully reduce penalties.VAT, value added tax, is to be simplified which will prevent loopholes currently being abused.Changes to age related tax allowances will be in place by 2013. For this blogger these will affect the household income come retirement in a few short years. Negatively or positively remains to be seen. However the age related allowance is in effect scrapped.
That at least on the surface is bad news. Those already in receipt will be protected.The age of retirement may be linked to current life expectancy in the future. This is something that will now be looked at.The Tax annual statement reported yesterday by TEKJournalismUK was officially announced. What it will cost was of course not mentioned.Tobacco products are to rise at 5% above inflation. Osborne was at pains to say that this was to reduce young smokers and the like. He however has chosen to leave the duty on alcohol unchanged. Presumably so that Parliament can continue to get drunk at taxpayers expense in the Parliament Bar.. After all that alcohol is subsidised by we the UK Tax payers.Osborne went on to detail taxes related to vehicles. Then it was crunch time. UK taxes. After spiel regarding the low paid he went on to closing tax loopholes for the rich. Stamp Duty avoidance by using companies for example to purchase property
will be closed. It is to be done by setting a stamp duty of 15%. Capital gains tax which will be set against property owned abroad.New land tax duty for properties worth more that £2ml to come into force tonight.
In other words the expected Mansion Tax. Corporation tax will however reduce yet again.A new cap on pension tax relief is to be capped. As Osborne said they have capped welfare so it is right to cap tax relief.After speaking on how high UK taxes are Osborne announced his tax changes. Yes he scrapped the 50p tax rate after using the fact that it did not raise enough revenue to justify it. That is because
most people in that bracket have found tax dodges. After much justifying he finally announced that it was to be scrapped. Well the front bench of the Coalition will be happy as they personally will now pay less tax. It was however not totally scrapped but simply reduced to 45p from next year and will reduce in the future.The level for child benefit reduction has been increased from £40,000 to £50,000. Even then it will not be lost but simply reduced until an income of £60,000 is reached. Yes people on such incomes really need hand outs.The largest ever increase in personal taxallowance was announced. An increase to £9,205 before tax is paid, but not until 2013. Not the £10,000 that Clegg wanted
but a step in the right direction. The current increased cost of living in the UK though will swallow most of this up. Many workers have no cost of living wage increase to look forward to as that has been frozen by this government. Then again there are the millions now out of work.Osborne insisted as he finished speaking that his budget was designed to reward work
. Carefully worded it set a trap for Ed Miliband who was to get to his feet and respond. However people are not so blind that they cannot see beneath the frothy words. As Miliband reminded him last year Osborne insisted that it was not right to cut the 50p tax whilst others were being hit. Mr Miliband said
this budget was the end of the Coalition's "We are all in this together". For this blogger the in it together statement was always BS.A budget to reward work? No. A budget to reward the rich.
As Ed said, "the government's bankers bonus" When he challnged the front bench of the coalition as to which of them would personally gain greatly from the tax changes there were many red faces but no answers.
Full Budget details here
It is almost 30 years to the anniversary
of the start of the Falkland Conflict between the UK and the Islanders on one side, and Argentina on the other. In the last few weeks TEK has reported on Prince William's tour of duty
on the Falkland Isles, an apparent show of strength
by UK Naval forces and the UK company's search for oil in the waters
off the Falkland Isles.
During this time the President of Argentina has been vocal as far as the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands goes. It seems that she, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, is ready to do battle, hopefully only verbally, for the Falkland Islands.The Islands are situated miles away from the UK and are part of our Colonial heritage. It could be likened to Argentina owing the UK Isle of Man. However the UK government maintains that as long the Falkland Islanders want to stay under British rule we will do what it takes.In the conflict of 1982,
more than 600 Argentinian and 255 British troops died. Surely no-one wants to go down that road again. A negotiated agreement must be possible.
As the Anniversary approaches other South American countries are joining the cause of Argentina. Today March 20, 2012, Peru has announced that the British Royal Navy are no longer welcome to visit Peru. According to the BBC "HMS Montrose had been due to dock at the El Callao naval base this week. The UK Foreign Office said officials could have raised concerns with Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne when he was in the country last week".The Peruvian Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo has said that he supports the Argentine claim that the Falkland Islands or Las Malvinas should belong to them. Cancelling the visit of HMS Montrose he said, "This decision has been taken in the spirit of Latin American solidarity commitments undertaken in the framework of Unasur (Union of South American Nations) with regard to the legitimate rights of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding waters."During the previous conflict Americans to the North, that is in the USA. stayed neutral.Argentine Minister Hector Timmermann has already threatened the UK with legal action over its oil exploration. The UK Foreign Office has said that it regrets Peru's cancellation of the Royal Navy visit, saying, "HMS Montrose was scheduled to make a short visit to Peru as part of a routine deployment to the region"A Foreign Office spokesman said "This was agreed as an act of friendship and co-operation between Peru and the UK. Ship visits are a sovereign decision for states, but we regret that Peru has revoked its previous agreement to this visit. This is despite the Peruvian government having had the opportunity on Friday to raise any concerns it had about this agreed co-operation."UK PM David Cameron has reiterated that the Falkland Islands sovereignty is not open for negotiation, as long as the majority of the islanders wish to remain with the UK as its country.
David Cameron on the edge
Yesterday UK Bank of England chief Mervyn King
came the closest any top official has to saying that the Eurozone will collapse. He warned UK banks to set money aside and formulate contingency plans for the unprecedented event.This of course is not to say it will happen but it seems increasingly likely.Today UK Prime Minister David Cameron has hot footed it over to France for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Before his visit the news showed that Sarkozy was trying to forge a French and German alliance which would dominate the EU.
The two leaders are meeting in Paris amidst fears that the UK could easily slip back into recession, as part of the fall out from the EU crisis.
Changes that are already planned for the EU could see the seventeen Eurozone countries forging closer ties. This would inevitably lead to the marginalisation of the other countries, which include the UK. Cameron has previously been told rudely to shut up by Sarkozy so it is easy to see where all of this is leading. The new plans will be assessed by the European Council at the end of next week.France looks set to want to run with the current EU dominant force which is Germany. On Monday Sarkozy will meet with the German leader Angela Merkel to unveil proposals.
All of these breakaway meetings prove that the EU in far from a Union. It is spilt and divided. The 17 Eurozone countries outweigh the rest in number so if they agree those countries without the Euro will have little choice. Each leader is looking after their own, whilst preaching they are acting for the good of all. What bunkum.
Nicolas Sarkozy said, "France will push with Germany for a new European treaty refounding and rethinking the organisation of Europe. The Maastricht Treaty has revealed itself to be imperfect". This was the pact which led to the creation of the euro currency back in 1999. Germany was a forerunner then so why should we believe they hold the answers now?For once this writer agrees with David Cameron on one small but significant point. Cameron believes the EU should have less power over national budgets. Sarkozy believs the opposite. If this were to happen we could be bailing out every tom, dick and harry country who refuses to implement the hard cuts the UK has endured.Cameron has rightly said he will look to furthering our National interests which is what all of the other leaders are doing.Where this writer would disagree with Cameron is over what rights he wants to take back from Europe. He will be quick to amend parts of any treaty which offer UK workers better rights, for example, but be happy to go along with ones that don't.The question all of this raises is how much longer the EU will be sustainable and should the UK vamoose from it sooner rather than later?
Councils were partly funded by housing rates for many years. It was generally decided that the rates was an unfair system and a change was necessary.
Just what sort of changes come into force for such costs depends on the government at the time. It was Maggie Thatcher's right wing government which implemented a change creating the now infamous Poll Tax. This tax was to prove a thorn in the Tory party's side and after many protests it was changed again.
The council tax was thought to be fairer overall although again it will depend on your political leanings and your personal circumstances. Each year since its inception the Council Tax, in most regions of the UK, has risen. The UK Coalition government implemented a freeze on Council last year and George Osborne has confirmed this will be maintained next year.
Is this news as good as it sounds on face value and what about the huge cost of £805 million?
Chancellor Osborne has said that the government found the £805 million necessary from underspending across Whitehall departments. You have to wonder just how much underspending is happening and what more could be utilised. It is believed that Osborne wants to appease hard hit voters. He has said that this council tax freeze for 2012 - 2013 will help families. Well it will help any person who pays council tax. If you are a millionaire with a huge property you will in effect receive more help.
Although it is nice to have at east one bill not increasing it is not good news for the economy. The Unions have already blasted the council tax freeze saying it does nothing to help growth and employment. It may help small businesses.
UK voters must also remember that this same government increased VAT to 20% just before the first council tax freeze and further increases cannot be ruled out. With the cost of living in the UK rising all the time no person will feel the benefit of the freeze which for most people will put £72 a year back in their pockets. Almost enough to pay for one extra loaf of bread a week, at current prices. However of course we could have been facing huge council tax rises and more, so it has to be a glimmer of good news.
The Tory Party conference will continue in Manchester all this week and more vote pullers and vote losers will no doubt be announced.
September 4, 2011
As an NHS worker in the UK this story is both dear and near to my heart. As a potential NHS patient also I have a vested interest in protecting and maintaining this wonderful UK Health Service. With retirement only a stone's throw away it is my possible patient status that offers me the greatest cause for concern.
Many people believe that the Tory Government have no such ideals and would be happy to dismantle the NHS. Today more evidence of this has been revealed.
The UK Coalition Government should be striking a balance between Tory Ideals and those of their political bedfellows the Liberal Democrats. Fair enough the Liberal Democrats only received a small amount of seats at the election but without their support the Conservative Government would be facing an election.
Peer Shirley Williams, former Labour poilitician and long time activist of the Liberal Democrats, has voiced her concerns over Health Minister Andrew Lansley's plans to reform the NHS. The NHS may need some updating but does it need an expensive major overhaul right now? The answer has to be no.
The latest news is that the government are looking at plans to sell-off the management of 20 UK hospitals to overseas companies. This is bad news for all concerned. Patients, the community and the staff will face an uncertain future. If this happens you have to assume it wil lead to further sell-offs. If not the NHS will be operating a worse health-care post-code lottery than ever before.
Emails have been released which show the ideas. Lansley as usual has poo pooed the information. It was only released after a Freedom of Information request by non-profit investigations organisation Spinwatch. So if it is nothing to worry about why all the secrecy?
Lansley again states that privatisation of the NHS is not on the cards but this move would be seen by many as the start of it. Sadly we all rememeber Maggie Thatacher and her government's sell-off of the UK. This left less wealth for future governments and future generations. It also left an unworkable rail system and more.
Personally, it just shows the sort of reform this Government are considering. Just who the foreign investors would be is not known. If it were to happen the plan is to sell one hospital at a time. I guess they thought they could sneakily achieve thier ends through the back door as usual. Think again David,