Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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Raising the Minimum Wage is a moral duty

min wage_coins

The UK is the sixth largest economy in the world and the third largest in Europe, behind France and Germany, with predictions being made we could even overtake Germany by 2030.

So why are we still not paying our unskilled and semi-skilled workers enough to eat and heat in Britain today? The Minimum Wage – the hourly take-home pay set by law – is £6.31 for over 21s. This is immoral considering the inflation-busting cost of energy and food we have seen in this country over many years and boosted by the Labour Party-induced crash of 2008. And this does not even take into account the exorbitant rents and house prices.

It seems George Osborne – at least on the surface – thinks the same. The Chancellor has signalled he intends to raise the Minimum Wage to £7 an hour. This will still leave many living from hand to mouth and still heavily reliant on housing benefit and tax credits to make ends meet but it is a start.

I personally am in favour of the ‘Living Wage’ being enshrined in law. This would be £8.80 in London and £7.65 in the rest of the UK. 

This isn’t a Right versus Left argument (anymore). Labour’s Ed Miliband’s advocates a Living Wage as does Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson who has said he is in favour of people being paid a decent wage for a decent day’s work:

“Paying the London Living Wage is not only morally right, but makes good business sense too.”

We don’t know how Boris (if he was ever in national power) would implement a Living Wage. We do know Ed Miliband would bribe businesses by offering a tax rebate if they sign up to his policy.

But I don’t think businesses should be bribed one penny. The Living Wage should be legislated and let the businesses suck it up. Oh, what’s that? Do I hear some sections of the Tory squirearchy, who opposed the Minimum Wage at its inception, braying it would lose jobs? No it wouldn’t. Read the first paragraph of my post again. Britain is awash with money – it’s just mainly funnelled to the top 1% or to the Exchequer in middle-class tax intake. It is disappointing to read Ipswich’s very own Ben Gummer is not even in favour of raising the Minimum Wage let alone imposing a Living Wage. I personally like Ben so I won’t try and guess why he thinks this – I am happy for him to use the Comments to let us all know.

Raising the Minimum Wage then looking at introducing a Living Wage is a win-win scenario. It means more people paying tax and less money spent subsidising wages through tax credits and rents through housing benefit. In an economy which is the third largest in the EU single market, it is frankly obscene the British Government is forced to subsidise unskilled and semi-skilled workers’ wages with tax credits. This will not end overnight but we must travel in the direction of businesses paying their workers a decent wage commensurate with the profit they make for their owners.

Coupled with the Government’s policy on welfare, soon to be capped at £26,000 and hopefully being pushed lower in the coming years, a raised Minimum Wage will help to show the thousands languishing on benefits that work pays. And it may just help with the number one concern of British people after the economy: uncontrolled immigration. With more incentive given to the indigenous workforce for taking unskilled jobs, it will make Britain less attractive to temporary foreign workers.

The politics of New Labour and Gordon Brown never wanted to deal with the problem of low pay, happy instead to pay unskilled people off with tax credits and benefits, even ghettoising them into whole neighbourhoods. But the politics of George Osborne (even if it is insincere) may help to make this country a more moral place to live.

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Mass immigration is making British workers poorer

Census 2011 reveals immigration numbers are higher than we thought

There have been a flurry of news stories over the last few days, which are all intertwined.

On Monday I found myself agreeing with Labour’s Chris Bryant. I am almost nauseous in writing this but as I tweeted at the time Mr Bryant spoke a lot of sense. He was pointing out how big firms like Tesco and Next deliberately set out to recruit foreign workers over UK nationals. For all their weasel words about Corporate Social Responsibility, large companies couldn’t give two hoots about ensuring local people benefit from having the likes of Tesco, Next and any other business trading in their village, town or city. Their only concern is maximising profits and if that means busing in Poles in their early twenties with no family ties or dependencies to pack containers in a distribution warehouse for a much lower cost than a person with a family to support then so be it. What do the senior managers care? They are doing very nicely back at the mansion in Hertfordshire with their cheap immigrant nanny and gardener.

But the issue of immigrants undercutting the unskilled and semi-skilled indigenous workforce is not a simple one.

Later on Monday Channel 4 broadcast a documentary entitled ‘Benefits Britain 1949‘ which took three benefits claimants from 2013 back in time to the rules of the welfare state in 1949. The documentary demonstrated once again how ridiculously generous the welfare system in Britain has become. William Beveridge, the economist who designed the welfare state and was later implemented by the newly elected Labour government in 1945, did so for one main purpose: to stop people starving. If you fell out of work, Beveridge, rightly, stated people in a civilised country should not starve to death as a result. That is all it was meant to do.

William Beveridge

William Beveridge

But in 2013, millions of people receive handouts and in some families, three generations have NEVER worked. They have everything paid for by the State (i.e. the taxpayer) and we are not just talking about food and heating. Flat screen TVs, Xbox, Sky TV, cigarettes, alcohol, cars. The list goes on. We learnt from Channel 4’s documentary half the population of Nottingham are on benefits. Beveridge will be spinning in his grave.

On Channel 4’s Benefits Britain 1949 there was a woman called Karen who hadn’t worked for years and certainly didn’t look like she went without food. She pulled up at the Labour and Welfare Office (as the Job Centre was called back in 1949) in a shiny new car, paid for by the taxpayer through her Mobility handout. Karen then met the welfare officers who interviewed her for eligibility for out-of-work payment. Karen was keen to point out every part of her body had an ailment and so she was judged eligible for some form of handout from the 1949 UK state. But it was nowhere near as generous as she gets today in 2013. Karen’s 1940s weekly handout was deemed to be £38.48 (adjusted for today’s prices) — compared to the £155.34 she currently receives. The car she has courtesy of her Mobility allowance was also taken away. Karen’s immediate response was to hurl expletives saying: “I’ve done my f***ing share for Britain, I’m doing no more. They can f*** off.”

Later Karen has a medical assessment using 1949 criteria for determining her fitness to work. Karen is asked to lift a bag of potatoes which she fails to even lift off the floor so the doctor places just one potato on the desk in front of her and asks Karen to pick it up. She pauses and then reluctantly decides to pick it up but immediately complains of pain in her arm. The doctor then asks her to cut out the shape of a star from a piece of paper which Karen bounds up to do, until the doctor explains it will help assess if she is capable of tailoring work. Karen suddenly has a pain in her thumb.

The problem with Karen is there are millions more like her in Britain and this is one of the reasons why millions of other workers are fed ‘chicken corn’ by their employers or not even offered work at all. There is just no competition in the indigenous workforce as millions know they are paid more in benefits than work could offer them. The labour gap is then filled with cheaper, eager young workers from other EU countries with no family ties or dependencies enabling businesses to lower wages to maximise their profits. It is then the unskilled and semi-skilled UK nationals who suffer as they are caught between a rock and a hard place: many want to work but cannot afford to as wages are lower than benefits. So immigrants who are being paid, in some cases ten times what they could get paid for the same job back home, suck up the jobs and the vicious circle keeps on turning. There is a solution of course: cut and cut again the welfare bill. Lowering it to a cap of £26,000 (which is equivalent to earning £35,000 in work), as the Coalition have now done, is insulting not only to the taxpayer but to the unskilled and semi-skilled people desperate for a job.

Back in Benefits Britain 1949, Beveridge’s original inception was proving fruitful once more. Another claimant featured was Craig who has spina bifida and is confined to a wheelchair to move around. He is, rightly, on disability allowance, but in 1949 a person with a serious condition like Craig’s would not receive his current £171.25 a week and instead he would have been paid just £7.49 (adjusted for today’s prices) a week to stop him starving. I’m glad the system has progressed to offer Craig greater monetary assistance from the State today but the 1949 system was actually very generous indeed. In the documentary, Craig was offered a training course to help him get a job and if he accepted the course he would get £100 a week. Craig is provided with a training course in a call centre selling entertainment venue tickets. The office environment, desk, computer, telephone setup is ideal for Craig with his disability and he soons excels – to the extent the boss offers him a job. Craig is overwhelmed with happiness and tells the producers this is the first time he has ever been offered a job. In 1949, companies were compelled to take on disabled workers and they would be prosecuted if they failed to comply. The documentary presented a startling statistic which dismisses the notion everything was horrible and evil in the past and today is the enlightenment era: in 2013, only 46% of disabled people are in work; in 1949, 94% were.

Yesterday, the perversity of the way modern Britain allocates money was thrown into the spotlight once again when it was announced railway season tickets will be going up by as much as 9.1% from January. Whilst we are happy for ordinary workers to be squeezed of tax until the pips squeak to pay the likes of Karen to sit on her backside all day, the same workers are then hit AGAIN with exorbitant travel costs they MUST pay to get to work to PAY their taxes. Surely, we should be helping those who work hard and keep the country afloat and not assist millions to shy away from work?  I’m surprised us hard working people in this country haven’t revolted yet.

Of course the Government can get away with setting rules which allow train operators to impose inflation-busting ticket price increases as the workers who pay the country’s bills are a captive market. More and more people have to commute long distances to reach work because the cost of housing closer to their place of work is too expensive. On top of that because of mass immigration caused in part by an incredibly generous welfare system, overall competition for jobs is cut-throat, thereby keeping wages down as well.

It all comes back to immigration. No wonder EU-phile Chris Bryant has been forced to talk about it. It is the number one issue when voters are asked in surveys because the people know it is the reason why their pay is low, their son cannot get a job and the reason millions of idle work shy Karens sit at home all day feeding off the wages of those who have jobs. We know it must stop but the papers on Thursday tell us the political elite still don’t get it.

Quelle surprise, the number of Romanians and Bulgarians heading to Britain has increased by 37,000 since June last year taking the total to 141,000. How, you may ask, is this possible when the accession rules forbidding Romanians and Bulgarians from working freely across the EU is not lifted until next year? Ah, they use a well-known loophole in the rules and declare themselves self-employed so no work visa is required. Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of MigrationWatch, estimates 50,000 Bulgarians and Romanians will arrive in Britain each year for the next five years. So Tesco and Next can breathe a sigh of relief there profit margins aren’t going to be squeezed by the demands of local people wanting work quite yet. The peasants are back in their box for the time being.

It is time Britain was less tolerant. We pour £50 Million a day into Brussels but receive very little back. What does our EU membership fee get us? It allows millions of EU migrants, some from very poor countries like Romania and Bulgaria, to come over to Britain and look for work. The operative word being ‘look’. The likes of Tesco and Next might give them work – for less than they would pay the indigenous peasants population – but even if they don’t, the same migrants can board the great UK welfare gravy train and start claiming for housing allowance, income support, mobility handout, and, of course, the state pension.

I’m surprised Great Britain hasn’t sunk yet under the weight of the mass influx from East, West, South, North within the EU into our little island, which due to following an economic model which actually works (unlike the Eurozone), enacted by Margaret Thatcher, we became one of the richest countries on Earth, never mind Europe. But in typical socialist fashion, Brussels has dictated they will have our money thank you very much, and the mass redistribution of wealth from the UK to the other 27 EU states is now the order of the day.

Isn’t it time we put our own people first?


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The scandal of low pay

Observer_21_7_13_FrontpageOn Saturday evening, I was scrolling through my twitter feed and I saw The Observer frontpage with the headline: ‘The scale of low pay in Britain is a national scandal’. And you know what? I agreed with every word of the headline and story from this left-wing Sunday paper, sister title of The Guardian.

Putting aside for one moment the grotesquely generous benefits system we have in the United Kingdom where millions of people can live comfortably off the taxpayer whilst watching daytime TV all day, it is also grotesque that businesses pay so little to millions of workers they cannot afford to simultaneously heat their homes, feed their kids and save for a rainy day.

During Labour’s rule between 1997-2010, the UK was the fourth richest country on Earth and that is why the Labour Party were able to get away with boosting the benefits systems to such a ridiculous level. We are now the seventh richest country on Earth (I wonder why?) and thankfully the welfare trap is now being tackled by Iain Duncan Smith on the Conservative side of the Coalition Government. But it is not just the bone idle who are claiming benefits. So are people in work.

In-work benefits such as assistance with housing and tax credits had to be brought in to subsidise the businesses who are paying so little to their employees. In short, some businesses are so greedy they don’t even pay their staff enough to live on.

Archbishop of York John Sentamu

The man who calls this a ‘national scandal’ – which it is – is none other than the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. From my experience, I find Archbishop Sentamu a sound man who is a conservative and most of the time I agree with him. Some would say he has become left-wing with his comments on low pay but I agree with them wholeheartedly and I’ve never been accused of being a centrist never mind left-wing.

Businesses who pay such low wages to the extent the worker can’t pay for the essentials in life are immoral because the money is there to pay them more – it’s just squirrelled away into the executives’ bank account. Unskilled workers have had their wages deflated by mass immigration (where there is a thriving black market of workers who will toil for below minimum wage, never mind a living wage) and even in skilled and management jobs wages have not kept up with inflation for nearly fifteen years whilst the price of food, fuel and services have rocketed.

John Sentamu is beginning his chairmanship of the Living Wage Commission and over the next twelve months he and his colleagues will be investigating how the living wage can be brought about for everyone, with a particular focus on how business can be helped to pay a living wage for those who work for them.

The BBC have also recently raised the topic as a back-story to their two-part documentary Nick and Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefitswhich ably made the point the benefits system doesn’t work. One chap in the programme works as a plumber and in episode two he is partnered up with a man who is living on benefits to act as his mentor to help him embrace the world of work once again. It transpires during the programme the plumber earns less than the man living on benefits. Is it any wonder the man on benefits will not pick up any old job? Why bother when you can bring in more from state handouts.

Now this is certainly a problem with the benefits system but it is also because of the scandal of low pay. Even the Government’s welfare reforms are only bringing the benefits cap down to £26,000 – tax free.  You would have to be earning £35,000 at work to make £26,000 a year. As my hairdresser said to me the other day: “Earning £18,000 in Ipswich is a lot of money”. Well it is not a lot of money at all if you a) look at the price of food and fuel and b) if you can claim £26,000 off the taxpayer.

So the question of low pay is a complicated one. But this does not excuse businesses from paying wages so low they don’t cover the cost of living. Because the money is there to pay the workers. Business executives need to seriously question if they need to pay themselves so much compared to their employees. In the corporate world the difference in wages between the CEO and the receptionist is obscene: we are talking millions of pounds. But even in small to medium sized business here in Ipswich the difference is highly questionable.

Is it really necessary to own a helicopter if your call-centre staff can’t afford to heat the house and feed the kids simultaneously?


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Ed Miliband’s Government wouldn’t be much different

Iain Duncan Smith tried so hard but has failed to decrease the welfare bill

Stifled: Iain Duncan Smith has conceded benefit bill will rise

The only Tory policy the coalition may have implemented was in fact a lie all along.

Last week, Iain Duncan Smith was heckled whilst delivering a speech in Scotland by “anti-cuts” activists. The video of the episode spread through the internet more because the Work and Pensions Secretary fought back. But when I watched it, what IDS actually said struck me: “If you listen to what I am saying, you will understand the reality is that this country is not cutting welfare, it is managing the growth [in benefits] at a lower level.”

At the time, I hoped it was just Mr Duncan Smith being a skilled political operative by shutting down the socialist hecklers so he could get on with his speech. But it was only a hope and today the truth has been unveiled by IDS himself.

The Work and Pensions Secretary has confirmed what we feared and has told the Daily Telegraph that unlike other European nations, the “reality is that this country is not cutting welfare” because the Coalition Government is simply “managing” the increase in handouts.

He added: “all those on benefits will still see cash increases in every year of this Parliament”.

This is the nail in the coffin for the Conservative Party at the next General Election as it was the only Tory policy that traditional (i.e. those with principles – age is irrelevant) Conservative-members and Tory voters were holding on to to motivate themselves to cross the Conservative box on polling day. With this flagship policy being exposed as a lie, the game is up. This now makes it more likely Ed Miliband will win a majority in the Commons and become the next Prime Minister in May 2015 or failing that the Liberal Democrats will form a Coalition with Labour, most likely with Vince Cable at the helm of the Yellow Peril.

But will it matter? It’s not as if David Cameron and George Osborne are turning the economy around: the single most important task they have to do and the whole point of David Cameron jumping into bed with Nick Clegg (rather too keenly many backbench Tories think). The country was crippled by debt when Gordon Brown was ousted and instead of cutting the debt, the Coalition is adding a whopping £600bn of national debt onto the pile by the next General Election. This is not only taking Britain into a lost decade of stagnant growth but is highly immoral as the Government is borrowing on the backs of our children and grandchildren to placate the millions of benefit scroungers of today (what are Dave and George frightened of – it’s not as if they vote, never mind vote Tory?!?!).

Every one in three pounds taken from you in income tax is handed out to benefit claimants. And to make it even more sickening, the Coalition is – in real terms – cutting the police and armed forces to pay for it.

Defeat in 2015 is now certain. John Major was right about some parts of the Party being “bastards“. However, this time it is the Liberal yellow-peril loving Cameroons who are taking the Party into the abyss. I don’t blame IDS – he will have tried so hard but he was never one of the Notting Hill fellows!

What have these bastards done to our beloved Party?