Farmers, floods, and fraud

A good mixture of links this week in this, my 100th blog post. We start with the floods, and a reminder from George Monbiot that ‘cutting red tape’ can have unintended consequences:

How we ended up paying farmers to flood our homes

The Scottish Independence Referendum has been in the news this week and the debate is hotting up. Alex Salmond wants to keep the pound, but the three main UK parties have all (rightly) said no. Salmond has accused them of trying to scare people into voting no, but here’s why, for an independent Scotland, keeping the pound would be a very bad idea:

Scotland under Sterling is not truly independent

News now of the conviction of 4 A4e staff who claimed money fraudulently on one of A4e’s welfare to work contracts. This is what happens when ‘performance by results’ comes up against the reality of not enough jobs – cheating:

Guilty: The four A4e staff who fiddled the books helping lone parents get back to work

Another story on the bedroom tax now, and news that landlords are beginning to actually help tenants to appeal:

Bedroom tax is appealing: cc all social landlords

This is a nice post looking at what it’s actually like to be out of work and being required to sign on at the job centre. Not nice:

More #JSA stories from jobcentres: “It’s impossible. You’re trapped.”

Related to this, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Jobcentre Plus is no longer concerned with finding people jobs, focusing much of it’s attention instead on simply finding grounds to kick people off JSA. There are stories of staff there being disciplined for not sanctioning enough claimants, and over 800,000 people were sanctioned last year. The number of appeals is high though and over half of these are successful. Now it looks like DWP want to address this not by making better decisions, but by limiting the ability of people to appeal. Are they losing their grip?:

People stripped of benefits could be charged for challenging decision

Bankster news now and another reminder that the increasing power of the banks is incompatible with either democracy or the public good:

Predator Banks Enter Brave New World of Epic Scams and Public Hasn’t Got a Clue

Finally, we end with more ‘disappointing Labour news’, as it’s revealed their flagship policy to help the long term unemployed will only be funded for one year. I have a number of issues with this policy idea, but at least it would put back on the map the idea that governments can (and should) get involved in job creation. It seems though this is another big policy that’s in the end just more PR:

Labour ‘jobs guarantee’ promise limited to a year


Benefits bashing, house prices and the right to protest

A lot to get through this week. A lot of stuff caught my eye, but maybe that’s just because I’ve been paying attention. Here then are a few links worth reading from the last seven days.

Starting with housing, Jules Birch put up a nice post about Help to Buy and house prices:

Appearance and reality in the 2014 housing market

And here in a blog for Inside Housing, the same author pours cold water on Tory plans to remove the right to claim housing benefit from under 25s and to exclude people earning over £60,000 a year from council housing:

Benefits baseline

On to universal credit now, and news of more IT problems at the DWP:

Government descends into inter-departmental squabbling over Universal Credit

Staying with the DWP, Jonathan Portes blogged about the results of a DWP pilot called “Help to Work”. The evaluation of the pilot was released with no fanfare on the DWP website, probably because it shows the new measures had very little impact, despite the cost:

The “Help to Work” pilots: success, failure or somewhere in between?

Benefits more generally have been in the news a lot this week after the showing on Monday of a charmingly titled documentary called “Benefits Street”. This stirred up a lot of anger on both sides, and led to more head-scratching about what to do about the welfare system. Regular readers will know I think a job guarantee would go a long way to improving the (economic and welfare) systems. I lot of objections are raised about this idea, and one of the job guarantee’s leading proponents, economist Randy Wray has helpfully produced a post responding to some of these common objections:


Finally now, and on a different topic, some worrying news for civil rights – the Govenment’s  Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. George Monbiot in the Guardian wrote that this could be used to stymie the right to peaceful protest among other this:

At last, a law to stop almost anyone from doing almost anything

Although as Mike Sivier highlights, certain parts of this bill could be blocked in the Lords:

Foiled! Lords veto Coalition bid to make being ‘annoying’ an arrestable offence

Last 7 Days Reading List 07/12/13

Mostly stuff on the economy this week. First up, I liked this post from Think Left, which includes some nice quotes and a video promoting MMT:

Why do politicians tell us debt/deficit myths which they know to be untrue?

Neoliberal news now, and Guardian columnist George Monbiot informs us about the US/EU trade deal about which I was previously only dimly aware. It doesn’t sound good:

The lies behind this transatlantic trade deal

One of the positive pieces of economic news over the last year has been the increase in employment. The Tories have been trumpeting this with hilarious charts like this (what scale are they using here):employment

Beneath the headline though, what’s less certain is about the type of employment being created. Self-employment for example has risen quite sharply in recent years, but much of it seems to be quite poorly paid, and as a result, self-employed worker’s earnings have been falling:

Self-employed worker’s earnings slump by nearly a third

And in related news, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has been boasting about how many families have been ‘turned around’ by his troubled families programme. The definition of turned around seems as vague as the original definition of troubled families was. Turned around doesn’t seem to include finding work though as this story from my local paper describes:

Government jobs scheme gets jobs for just three in Bradford

On to the autumn statement now, and I liked this blog on George Osborne’s stated desire to run a budget surplus:

Why do the British enjoy committing economic suicide?

The economy does seem to be recovery though, although the OBR say they expect it to slow down somewhat next year. George Osborne vindicated? The FT’s Martin Wolf thinks not (must register to view):

Autumn Statement 2013: Britain’s needlessly slow recovery

And as long as we keep seeing stories like this, any claims of recovery must be dismissed:

Bradford food bank makes urgent ‘help’ plea

Moving on again with the news of Nelson Mandela’s death at the age of 95. I was only 8 when Mandela was released from prison, and I think a lot of people of my generation don’t know much about his life before that point, and how he was viewed by different people. A lot of rewriting of history seems to be going on and I thought this blog was interesting in its perspective:

They come to bury Nelson, not just to praise him

Finally, on a lighter note, the news that Amazon has been trialing drone deliveiesI thought this mocked-up Amazon calling card was well done: