Thursday, 17 December 2009

An added cost to the Lisbon treaty

From the Telegraph-the whole thing.

MEPs are to receive an increase to their staff allowance that will see it climb to £220,000 a year to help them implement the EU Lisbon Treaty.

The European Parliament was forced to clean up the rules over the payment of staffing expenses last February following press exposure of MEPs misusing or abusing the allowance.

Despite the high-profile scandals, an internal document seen by The Daily Telegraph has proposed a nine per cent increase in the parliamentary assistance allowance "following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty".

"With more power comes more work," said a parliament official.

Marta Andreasen, a UKIP MEP and member of the European Parliament's budgetary control committee, said: "It is disgraceful that MEPs have just awarded themselves an extra 1,500 Euros per month. When the political class is held in such contempt to be awarding themselves extra money is incomprehensible."

MEPs can use the extra cash to employ extra staff or increase the salaries of existing assistants. The increase, which comes at a time of swingeing cutbacks and austerity in national public sectors, will take the annual allowance to £203,000 in 2010.

The Daily Telegraph understands that staff expenses will be further increased by another £16,000 in 2011, taking the total annual allowance to almost £220,000.

At least 17 British MEPs - including European Labour, Conservative and UKIP leaders - who returned to the parliament following elections last June use a loophole, known as la clause anglaise, to pay close relations, including wives and children, from the allowances.

The boost to staffing payments, already regarded as lavish by most outsiders, will come on top of a proposed recession-busting pay increase taking the annual salary of an MEP to almost £86,000.

Negotiations on the 3.7 per cent pay rise for all European civil servants, as well as MEPs, ended in deadlock yesterday after 10 EU member states, including Britain, expressed opposition to the legally binding wage increase.

Senior MEPs and the parliament's president have lobbied hard to insist that governments "must respect the law" as regards the indexed EU salary calculation.

Trade unions representing EU staff have threatened strike action and expensive legal action to uphold the pay rise.

A British diplomat said: "The proposed pay increase is seriously out of step with the current economic and financial situation and is not in keeping with the situation facing millions of other employees across the EU who have faced pay cuts or even lost their jobs this year. We had hoped that Community officials would recognise this."

As well as staff allowances, MEPs receive a "general expenditure allowance" worth over £44,000 without having to provide any receipts. While working in Brussels or Strasbourg, MEPs pocket a £265 cash subsistence payment, worth over £40,000 tax-free every year.

What recession?


Angus Dei on all and sundry



Wednesday, 16 December 2009

“Accredited persons”

‘Snoopers creep’, it seems that law and order is not confined to the Police any more, it seems that under this so called labour ‘Government’ there is a small army of town hall spies and civilian snoopers who have the power to hand out fines and demand names and address has been built up.

Under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme a chief constable can hand employees of local authorities or private companies limited powers such as handing out on-the-spot fines for offences such as disorder, truancy and littering, stopping vehicles for roadside tests and confiscating alcohol.

They have their own uniform and badge and can demand your name and address as well as take a photograph of you if you are being given a fine.

There are now 1,667 so-called "accredited persons" in England and Wales after an increased of a fifth in just a year – the equivalent of a small police force. There were just 945 in 2006.

A further 478 civilians have also been accredited under the scheme just to deal with specific motoring offences including no tax and roadworthy tests.

It means more than 2,000 individuals have police-style powers but are not directly accountable to a chief constable or the public.

Simon Reed, vice chairman of the Police Federation, said: "It seems like we are starting to get almost a third tier of policing. It is not quite a private police force but it is another tier and what control do we have over these people?

"They have got these powers and who are they accountable to? That is our concern and, quite rightly, the public should be concerned about that as well."

Chief constables were given the right to hand limited police powers to civilians under the scheme in the 2002 Police Reform Act. The aim was to give civilians working in the community safety to have more powers to deal with the public.

So far, 109 organisations are involved, including 31 private companies, as well as local authorities, housing associations, NHS trusts and the fire service.

Last year companies were urged to sign up to the scheme and even encouraged to use their involvement as a way of promoting themselves for "market advantage". A Home Office good practice guide at the time even admitted they are doing the jobs the police do not want to do.

It seems that we are living in a country that is becoming worse than a Police state, it is becoming a snoopers state, filled with ‘accredited persons’ accountable to no one and able to fine, photograph and add us to the growing databases of the “security services”.


Angus Dei on all and sundry



Sunday, 13 December 2009

To Con or not to Con, that is the question

Chancellor Alistair Darling has hit back at Tory claims his decision to increase some benefits in his pre-Budget report was a "pre-election con".

The claim came after it emerged Mr Darling did not set aside funding to pay for rises for more than one year.

Mr Darling told BBC Radio 4's Today the increases, in child and disability benefit, were "not temporary".

It comes as a think tank says the cost to families of paying back the national debt is £2,400 over eight years.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies said the pre-Budget report implies £15bn in spending cuts not yet identified by the government between 2011 and 2014 - which taken together with tax increases will impact on family finances.

The think tank says the government will have to cut 6.4% per year in order to protect schools, hospitals and increase overseas aid.

Defence, higher education, transport and housing are most likely to be hit, the IFS say.

In Wednesday's pre-Budget report, Mr Darling announced a 1.5% rise in child benefit and disability benefits from April - just weeks ahead of the expected date of the general election.

He also announced an above-inflation 2.5% increase in the basic state pension.

This was followed on Thursday by an announcement that jobseeker's allowance and incapacity benefits would rise by 1.8% from April next year.

Mr Darling said he was waiving the normal requirement to link the rise to the rate of inflation the previous September, as this would have led to the benefits being frozen because inflation was negative at that point.

What the Tories do if they win the next election in May or what will labour do if they call an election in March? Remember the chancellor’s statement “increases, in child and disability benefit, were "not temporary". “

Time will tell.


Angus Dei on all and sundry



Friday, 11 December 2009

Divided Britain

As I sit here in my cold damp hovel, wrapped in blankets and three layers of clothing sipping my lukewarm gruel I wonder at the huge chasm that has opened up between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’s.

I watch the news and see yet another round of MPs expenses “scandals”; I see people who are rich compared to the majority of pensioners and young people, taking seemingly without compunction from the taxpayer to make their lives better while the rest of us are struggling to make ends meet.

I see a labour Government that has destroyed the economy and put millions out of work, and a Conservative party that has no real policies, I see indecision, and greed and the worst thing I see is lack of care.

The lack of care that extends deeply into our “democracy”, I see the Chancellor using the pre-Budget statement as an election ploy, trying to butter up the old and families with promises of more money, for a while at least.

I see a lack of police on the streets, and a crumbling NHS, I see thousands of overpaid public service managers and Government advisors, and I see the “leaders” feathering their nests so that they will be able to retire in comfort while ordinary people will have to work longer in order to “save money”.

I see a lack of intestinal fortitude from the Government over the ridiculously high bonuses paid to people who helped cause our problems, and I see a lack of urgency from the same government regarding the quality of life of the people that actually keep the country running-the workers.

I see overcrowded towns and roads, a lack of decent affordable housing, a lack of chances for the young, and a lack of consideration for the old.

I see thousands of patients dying in poorly run hospitals while senior management take home £150,000 plus each year, and I see the lack of justice because those that are responsible walk away with jobs and salaries intact.

I see a country that is in a shambles because of the lack of leadership and avarice, whose only answer seems to be “tax it” and all will be alright, unknowing that the less people have the less they will spend and this will delay the “recovery”.

Sometimes I think I see too much, sometimes I wish I were like the politicians-blind.


Angus Dei on all and sundry



Monday, 7 December 2009

Pre-Budget report: what to look out for

Here is what to look out for when Alistair Darling delivers the pre-Budget report on Wednesday.

The threshold for paying inheritance tax – currently set at 40 per cent – is due to rise with inflation to £350,000 in April, but the Chancellor is likely to announce in the pre-Budget report that it will be pegged at £325,000 in an effort to create a dividing line with the Tories.

David Cameron has pledged to abolish inheritance tax for everyone except millionaires. The Tories promised to enact the necessary legislation in their first term.

Forecast: Threshold frozen at £325,000. Likelihood: 7/10

Alistair Darling has instructed officials to draw up plans to target bankers with a windfall tax to sate growing public anger at excessive bonuses. Two windfall options - a tax on employee bonuses, and a tax on bank profits - are on the table. Any measure would apply to all banks operating in Britain, including overseas firms, and would rake in substantially more than £1 billion a year for two or three years.

George Osborne has called for the Treasury and the FSA to prevent banks paying bonuses entirely in cash, arguing that traders would be less willing to take short-term risks if they received much of their bonus in shares in their company. While saying that he "wouldn't rule out" a windfall tax on bonuses, the shadow chancellor yesterday said he preferred measures to prevent banks from limiting their tax exposure by setting future profits against current losses.

Forecast: One-off tax on large bonuses. Likelihood: 6/10

A new top rate of income tax of 50 per cent on earnings over £150,000 comes into force next April. The Chancellor could lower the threshold to include those paid more than £100,000 a year, but this is thought unlikely. The accountants Ernst and Young have predicted that he could introduce a new 60 per cent band for people earning more than £500,000, raking in an extra £2 billion a year. More realistically, the accountants Grant Thornton have calculated that an extra 70,000 people a year will to be dragged up into the 40 per cent tax bracket as Darling freezes the personal allowance on which no tax is due, despite rising average earnings.

George Osborne says that he opposes the new 50 per cent tax rate but has not pledged to abolish it – at least for the first few years of a Tory government. Despite opposition from business groups the Conservatives have said that the upper bracket will remain in place for much of their first term, and won't be scrapped while lower paid groups are also struggling with other tax hikes.

Forecast: Threshold of new 50 per cent rate reduced to £100,000. Likelihood: 3/10

Profits on capital investments, including the purchase of second homes, are currently taxed at just 18 per cent. This is far less than most people pay in income tax and is seen as rewarding speculation. The accountants BDO say that Darling may address this discrepancy by increasing CGT to at least 20 per cent, and possibly up to 40 per cent for some short-term gains. Receipts from CGT have fallen sharply during the recession – the taxman is expected to take £2.2 billion over this financial year, down from £7.85 billion the year before – and raising the rate would help fill the hole in the public finances.

A commission set up by the Tory party to investigate possible reforms to the tax system in 2006 also proposed closing the gap between CGT and income tax rates. Osborne is said to be in “listening mode” about whether businesses would welcome such a change.

Forecast: CGT increased to 20 per cent. Likelihood: 5/10

The question of whether the tax system should be used to reward and promote marriage will be a hot issue during year's general election campaign. Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader and minister for women and equality, will say in a speech this week that tax breaks for married couples, which are backed by the Tories, would reward wealthy middle-aged men on their second or third marriages at the expense of single mothers and divorced women. With the cost of introducing tax allowances for married couples calculated at £5 billion a year, Darling is unlikely to announce a change in Labour policy.

What Tories would do: Women who do not work will be able to transfer their personal tax allowance to their husband, saving families between £1,295 and £2,590 a year. The policy is designed to encourage mothers to stay at home and look after their children, as it would have no benefit for couples both of whom work.

Forecast: Darling makes a point of attacking Tory policy as unfair and uncosted. Likelihood: 9 /10

The Chancellor will announce a number of measures to cut public spending in an effort to reduce in the deficit. Hundreds of millions of pounds will be saved by shelving part of the NHS computer database programme, which has already cost more than £12 billion. He will also flesh out plans to move more civil servants out of London and cut the salaries of the highest paid public sector bosses by 20 per cent over the next three years. Certain budgets within departments – cancer care, teaching, police numbers and transport infrastructure – will be protected from across-the-board cuts, meaning other areas will be hit with savage reductions of up to 20 per cent. Darling is also expected to disclose that the Britain's deficit will rise to more than the £175 billion he predicted, but not reach £200 billion...

What Tories would do: They have promised more aggressive action to reduce central government spending than Labour, while ring-fencing NHS and international development budgets. "This country is virtually bust," Osborne said yesterday. "If we don't deal with those debts then we are not going to have the sustainable recovery and the jobs that this country so desperately needs at the moment."

Forecast: Legislation committing government to halve deficit within four years. Likelihood: 10/10

In last year's pre-budget report Darling cut VAT from 17.5 per cent to 15 per cent in an effort to stimulate consumer spending. That reduction is due to expire on New Year's Day, although the Chancellor has been lobbied by retailers to push the date back. Ernst and Young accounts have predicted that he may consider extending the discount for another three months, then claw back the money by setting VAT at 20 per cent when it is reimposed. Estate agents are also calling for the stamp duty holiday, which affected properties worth between £125,000 and £175,000, to be prolonged beyond Jan 1.

What Tories would do: The party has criticised Labour's surprise VAT cut as an ineffective and expensive gesture. Reports this summer indicated that senior figures in the shadow cabinet were considering plans to increase the rate to 20 per cent within weeks of coming to power.

Struggling firms would be allowed to defer their VAT bills for up to six months, while the Tories have also pledged say they will abolish stamp duty for nine out of ten first-time buyers.

Forecast: Darling confirms that VAT will go back up to 17.5 per cent next month. Likelihood: 8/10

With one in five young people currently unemployed, the Government is expected to announce £2.5 billion has been set aside to extend a scheme to provide training or an internship for anyone between the ages of 18 and 24 has been out of work for 12 months. Yvette Cooper, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said that this "big further push" should ensure that young unemployment begins to fall in the second half of 2010.

What Tories would do: Money earmarked for unemployment benefit would be diverted to provide tax breaks to support the creation of new jobs. They are also calling for the government's various schemes to provide small firms with access to capital to be simplified. The Conservatives proposed a £50 billion nation loan guarantee system during the height of the recession, but are now calling for "failed" Government alternatives to be overhauled, with less red tape.

Forecast: £2.5 billion to train the long-term youth unemployed. Likelihood: 9/10

And of course the usual: Petrol and diesel prices up, fags up, booze up, car tax up. MOTs up, food up, gas and electricity up, wages down, productivity down, economy down, morale down, depression up, and bankruptcies up, makes you proud to be British doesn’t it?


Angus Dei on all and sundry



Angus Dei politico

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


In an effort to make today “have a laugh dayhere is a snippet of news from Westminster:

MPs at the House of Commons were hit with a strange short of shortage, after the building came dangerously short of loo roll paper.

In an episode that left officials suitably red-faced, the Palace of Westminster had at one stage on Tuesday morning just two packets left in the whole building.

The company who supplied paper admitted they had a problem with their supplies, but it remained unclear what caused it.

First disclosed in a blog by the Daily Telegraph’s political reporter James Kirkup, commons sources said there were only two packets left to re supply the entire parliamentary estate.

After MPs and Peers were left desperate by the lack of paper, frantic staff rushed throughout the building in a vain attempt to locate any remaining lavatory paper.

As news of the unusual crisis spread through Westminster, some MPs were so desperate for paper they even sent staff to the local Tesco Metro across the road to replenish stocks.

Some reports even suggested that some raided the women’s lavatory, where the supply had yet to run out.

The company responsible for supplying the paper, KGB – Kevan and Gina, Brown – admitted there was a problem with supply.

“There has been an issue with supplies,” a company spokesman said.
But it will be sorted out as soon as possible.”

They could not say what had caused the shortage.

With the amount of crap that comes out of Parliament I am not surprised, mind you they could always use the Lisbon Treaty for all the good it is.


Angus Dei on all and sundry