Friday, 16 January 2015

BBC's #SuperRichAndUs fails maths test

In Episode 2 of the BBC's The Super Rich and Us, in which presenter, Jacques Peretti "investigates how the super-rich are transforming Britain" he makes the rather astonishing claim that
"In reality two thirds of the jobs created since the crash are self employed." (42:30)
Putting aside the overtly political intentions of the show and the one-sided argument put forward, the facts don't support that statement and the entire segment of the show predicated on it.

If we look at the ONS data for the quarter in which employment hit its lowest point during the recession (Jan-Mar 2010) and compare it with the latest data (Aug-Oct 2014), we see that in fact 1.7 million more people are in work today than in March 2010, of which 1.2m of those, two thirds, are in employee jobs. Just 32% of new jobs since the downturn are self employed.

In fact, between March 2010 and October 2014:

  • There are 1,783,000 more people in work
  • Unemployment has fallen by 568,000
  • There are 1,185,000 more company employees, 82% of which are Full Time
  • Self Employment has risen by 581,000
Change in employment types Jan-Mar 10 -Aug-Oct 14

The facts destroy Mr Peretti's claim.

Taking Mr Peretti's assumption, the key question is whether self employment is driving changes in the jobs market rather than economic growth leading to more genuine jobs. As I've shown above that is not the case - 66% of new jobs since the recession are employee jobs, and 82% of those are full time.

If we look further at self employment as a percentage of the workforce, the recent increases in self employment is the continuation of a trend that started in 2001. In late 2001, self employment in the UK hit a historic low of 11.8% of the workforce. Looking just 6 years previous, in 1995 the self employed made up 13.9% of the workforce. Today that figure 14.7%.

An entrepreneurial society should welcome genuine increases in self employment. There is a challenge that only 55% of those self employed are full-time, but we have no indication of how many of those are part time through choice. With many finding appeal in the idea of a 'portfolio career' and the latest cohort to join the jobs market being the most entrepreneurial generation. a boom in self employment should be celebrated, not misrepresented.

Back to school time for Mr Peretti and the BBC.

Lambeth Council pushes up propaganda spending by 300 per cent

Back in November, the latest edition of Labour Lambeth’s propaganda rag dropped through my letter box. I’m not a fan of councils wasting huge sums of taxpayers’ cash to blow their own trumpets and have a record of campaigning against council newspapers.
I’ve also highlighted previously the use of Lambeth Talk to promote the Labour council’s agenda during election purdah.
But this edition was particularly frustrating. The council chose to use it as a mouthpiece to justify cuts in services, carrying their now famous scissors image attacking government cuts.
What price do we, council taxpayers, have to folk out for this?
My recent FOI Request reveals Labour Lambeth spending £210,600 a year of council taxpayers’ money on this pointless publication. That is the equivalent of the total Band D council tax of more than 172 households.
This is before accounting for the time of the communications team in writing copy for the publication.
Lambeth state:
“Lambeth Talk is overseen by a communications officer who edits the magazine and a designer. It also has contributions from the communications team, the wider council and partner organisations. The officers who oversee the magazine also have other responsibilities as well and only spend a percentage of their time working on the production of the magazine.”
Lambeth’s communications team has 15 staff and a budget of £1.25 million.
Perhaps even more shockingly, in a time of council austerity, Labour have chosen to expand the production of Lambeth Talk from four editions a year to monthly publication, while cutting other services.
Labour Lambeth have increased the ‘design, print and distribution costs’ of Lambeth Talk from £86,064.73 in 2011/12 to £191,238.77 in 2013/14, with a budget of £266,520.24 this year. A threefold increase in Labour’s self-promotion budget while, in their own words “Lambeth’s savings challenge means council services will stop and more staff will lose their jobs”.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Can vote / Can't vote. Who decides if I can vote?

Something is going wrong with our democracy.

It may be a little dramatic to say so, but last week the Government took another dangerous step on a slippery slope against a free and fair democracy in the UK.

Secretary of State for Wales, Stephen Crabb, allowed an amendment to the Wales Bill in the House of Lords which will allow the Welsh Assembly to decide if 16 and 17 years old can vote in a future referendum on tax powers for Wales.

Now, I am on the record of being sceptical about the merits of lowering the voting age, but whatever your view of the issue, the idea that the Government of the day can alter the electoral franchise for each election should worry you.

Clearly, following the Scottish referendum there is a debate that needs to be had about the case for votes at 16. A debate I would welcome. But, our stable, free and fair democracy is a threat if we allow politicians to chop and change the eligibility to vote whenever it pleases them.

It was a mistake to grant the vote to 16 and 17 year olds in 2014 Scotland and go on to deny those same people a say over who governs the UK just 8 months later. But it looks as if the Government will allow the Welsh Executive to make that same mistake. 

What we should never do, and what we seem to be taking dangerous steps towards with the Wales Bill, is allowing the Government of the day to set a different franchise for each election - in effect choosing who they allow to vote for their own re-election.

Democracy depends on people having their say, not the government hand picking the voices it will listen to. The franchise is universal and should be fixed as such. If we want 16 and 17 year olds to vote then we should have a proper debate and change the electoral franchise permanently, not mess about allowing politicians to decide the electorate on a whim each time a vote is called.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Why UKIP is wrong to target international aid to fund tax cuts

At their conference in Doncaster, UKIP are setting out their stall for the general election. They will no doubt want the headlines from their £19bn tax cutting promise to be all about helping 'blue collar' workers, but the reality is they plan to balance their books on the backs of millions of the world’s poorest (and even then the IFS says the sums don't add up).


This year, for the first time, the UKs aid budget rose to 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI). This meets a long-standing international commitment to the world’s poorest people, first agreed in 1970 at the UN General Assembly. I'm proud to live in a country, which even whilst running a £100bn deficit, spends a small amount of our income helping those in the world who are in the most desperate need. As the world’s 6th largest economy, surely that is our duty?


We owe more to fellow man-kind than to retreat to a domestic policy agenda that ignore the world around us.


To put the aid budget in context, this year (2014/15) the total UK aid budget is £10.3bn[1] – less than 50 pence a day, per person in the UK. A small price to pay for a mission that in the last 3 years has provided 43.1 million people with access to clean water; helped 10.2 million children, including 4.9 million girls, to go to primary school; reached 11.4 million people with emergency food assistance; helped 85.8 million people to hold their authorities through democratic processes.[2]


Yet UKIP are willing to throw all that away in a cheap and ill thought-out plan for an election giveaway.


British taxpayers’ money, through international development, is helping to build a strong and investable business environments in many developing nations. It is providing security and education to millions of people. Our aid budget is supporting the eradication of preventable disease across swaths of the developing world. It is supporting democracy across the developing world and in doing so underpinning security of our borders at home.


In what they claim will be a patriotic rally against the establishment, UKIP are willing to put at risk.


What matter in politics is your priorities. Unfortunately, UKIP are not only kidding themselves and the country about how to pay for their tax cuts, but risk damaging the UKs hard won reputation on the world stage by pulling back to a little-England mentality.


[1] Budget Red Book, Page 61

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Ed Miliband, Labour's fundraising and Amazon's tax avoidance

Ed Miliband and his Labour colleagues are very keen on attacking companies like Amazon over the amount of tax they pay in the UK. So why are they channeling their cash through them?

"We've got a situation where many British companies and many individuals are paying their fair share of tax and they look in horror at a system where multinational companies, some multinational companies from other countries, can make huge profits in Britain and not pay taxes in Britain. This is scandalous, it's got to change. The next Labour government will change it." Those we Ed's words on the Andrew Marr show just 18 months ago.With the General Election now 9 months away and Ed hoping to be able to put his words into action, you might expect Labour to be acting as they preach.

So why then have Labour actively choosing US based Amazon to host their fundraising website?

Accompanying a bizarrely airbrushed photo of Ed, the Labour party's website carries a helpful message reminding donors that cash donations are "NOT tax exempt" (unlike those in shares), but that is presumably not a subtle message to the website hosts, which the site also helpful inform us is "Amazon Web Services, P.O. Box 81226, Seattle, Washington 98108, USA" 

Not the first time the Labour leader's hypocrisy on the Amazon issues has been exposed.


Monday, 18 August 2014

Lambeth's response - In defence of taxpayer’s cash on local election propaganda

I recently posted about how Labour in Lambeth Splashed £7,000 of taxpayer’s cash on local election propaganda and promised to update when I had a response from the council. Here is that, rather unsuprising response:
Our findings

As stated in our previous response, the May edition of Lambeth Talk was in fact cleared by the Council’s lawyers who were satisfied that the May edition complied with the pre-election restrictions on Publicity (PERP).  The Council took care in this edition not to publish any items which related to any candidates standing for election nor did it refer to the Labour Group being the majority group in the administration.  The fact that the Council describes itself as a Co-operative Council is embedded in its Constitution, and refers to the Council as a whole. We have discussed and voted on this matter at Council meetings and  are fully satisfied that by talking about the Council in this way is not a political statement but simply describes the manner in which the Council is structured and operates, something that was voted on before the election and confirmed by councillors from 3 different political groups.

The objective of this issue of Lambeth Talk was not to encourage people to vote in any particular way. Of course we want people to vote, and we want them to be aware of what the council does, and we hope this publication helped with that.

Therefore we do not agree that it implied people should vote any particular way and have found no evidence to date to suggest that anyone was influenced in that way.  Some candidates may have identified themselves with the co-operative party but this did not appear on the ballot papers nor on any official election documentation.

Monday, 30 June 2014

David Cameron's response to Juncker

Friday was a bad day for Europe.

I made no secret of my opposition to the election of Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the EU Commission - and I stood firm in my opposition, because an important principle is at stake here.

His election hands power to the European Parliament and risks undermining the position of national governments.

This whole process has reinforced my conviction that Europe needs to change.

Securing reform is going to be a long, tough fight and sometimes you have to be ready to lose a battle to win a war.

But we have showed that we won't be put off from our task - we won't be cowed, we won't be silenced.

Because the status quo is not right for the EU. And it is certainly not right for Britain. It has got to change.

And at the end of 2017, it will not be me, it will not be the House of Commons, it will not be Brussels who decides Britain's future in the EU. It will be the British people with an in-out referendum on our membership of the EU - delivered by the Conservatives.

Help us secure that referendum - and deliver the change we need in Europe - by donating to our campaign today.


David Cameron

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