Thursday, 18 January 2018

PFI? Should've gone to Brighthouse

PFI is in the news again following the collapse of Carillion. Coincidentally the National Audit Office have reported today that PFI will cost the taxpayer almost £200 billion. One point made, as if we didn't know already, was that PFI eventually costs more in the long run than if projects were fully publicly funded. But how much more?

A while ago the All Party Parliamentary Group on Debt and Personal Finance published a report on so called 'rent to own' stores the best known of which is probably Brighthouse (other rent to own wekly payment stores are available) (2015 APPG Report on Rent to Own). The report was damning, accusing them of cashing in on people's financial struggles. I know from experience that it is so easy to find yourself in financial shock when the cooker suddenly breaks down or the fridge is beyond repair. Your options to finance a purchase of this magnitude can be severely limited and there may be little choice but to go for rent to own. The APPG report gave a raft of recommendations to make the rent to own weekly payment stores operate more fairly and transparently. There is some justification for the APPG intervention, too. A fridge from an online retailer which cost £176 would cost £468 from a weekly payment store after paying, drip drip style for 156 weeks. That's a staggering 165% mark up.

PFI has been used to build all manner of public projects and manage them for years, even decades afterwards with a lucrative management contract as part of the deal (a part which was axed under the PFI replacement PF2). PFI is, however, most closely associated with a stark reminder of the legacy that Labour left to the NHS. As a parting gift in 2010 the out going Chief Secretary to the Treasury left that famous note, to the NHS Labour left PFI. Just as with rent to own PFI meant that there was no upfront payment and, just as with rent to own, payment is by regular installments. At the end it's yours to keep. This is where the parallel ends. That fridge would be yours after paying 165% more than you'd pay for it from an online retailer. With PFI, as well as repaying for literally decades, the interest, based on HM Treasury figures, works out as a staggering 581%, well over triple that of Brighthouse.

The APPG recommended that rent to own stores, Brighthouse included, should have health warnings so that people are aware of the total cost. I completely agree, and as PFI is over three times more expensive to fund than buying from a weekly payment store, hospitals funded in this way should also prominently display similar information so taxpayers are completely aware that not all health care funding goes on health care but also pays for Labour's disastrous misuse of PFI and we will be doing for many years to come.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Making Universal Credit Universal

1992, I was on a low income with a family and just started work as a farm labourer. I applied for the then working family orientated benefit, Family Credit. The rules were that you had to submit five weeks of wages slips but, having not worked and therefore no payslips I applied on my first day in work with a letter of confirmation from my boss. The application was approved and from posting off the application form to money in the bank took 3 weeks.

Fast forward to 2017 and for Family Credit, read Universal Credit. In principle this is a master stroke and an improvement on the old fragmented system of benefits. I could never understand why, when someone found themselves in need of state support, the state thought that a person had suddenly lost the ability to manage their finances. Instead of a regular wage you’re hurled into a world where you income is split into various schemes of cash payments and payments in kind such as direct payment of rent to landlords. Universal Credit corrects this and treats claimants as grown-ups. Find yourself with a sudden stop of income and Universal Credit can seamlessly pick up where your wages leave off. But it doesn’t, and that is a bigger problem than I think the Government and the Department of Work and Pensions realise. There is a real risk that something  ground breaking and innovative will be rubbished by an ignorance of bureaucracy and an inexplicable lack if urgency to correct it.

As a parliamentary candidate in 2015 I was often faced with questions about benefits, the system and its failures. More often than not it was a failure of process and not policy. Claimants were being let down my slow handling, inaccurate processing and too much of the ‘computer says no’. This is not the case with Universal Credit. Those in need of it are very likely to have next to no financial resilience built into their affairs. To go without any form of income for over a month can have devastating consequences when most bills are monthly and will therefore go unpaid. Advance payments can be an answer but this is just substituting one crisis for another. Yes you will have money in the bank but with this advance taken from the first payment it’s not dealing with the problem of not income, it’s time shifting it. The recent increase in advance payments is not something to celebrate but an indicator that the mandatory 6 week waiting period for payment is not working.

The answer is right inside the very principle of Universal Credit itself in its intention to replicate a wage. When I started work on the farm in 1992 I was on a weekly wage. At the end of the week I expected to get paid, and I was paid. What worker would start work and tolerate not seeing any payment for six weeks? No worker should tolerate that and, if Universal Credit is supposed to replicate this, neither should a Universal Credit claimant. 

The waiting period needs to be one month from the date of application and preferably synchronised with the payment of a claimant’s working wage so it is a genuine top up payment. Failure to do this will destroy the worthy principles of Universal Credit and bury it so deep in controversy it will never be seen as anything but a failure.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Jeremy Corbyn Apologise? Why Should He?

Because he said things like this recently …

"Latin America is going through a fascinating period in history where the market solution accompanied by military dictatorship is being comprehensively rejected in favour of anti poverty programmes, as well as an understanding of the oppressive colonial rule up to independence in the 1820s, and similar rejection of the power of landowners and international money since then ... solidarity with Venezuela enables us to explore and understand the difficulties facing Venezuela and other countries, but above all to learn from their experience and apply the lessons ourselves”

In this and statements like it Jeremy Corbyn gives he Socialist project legitimacy in the eyes of ordinary Venezuelans. His love for the regime is not hard to understand. The Venezuelan people were duped into voting for the current Socialist Government. Duped by promises of subsidised food and fuel just as Corbyn’s Labour attempted, and failed, to dupe students into getting him into Downing Street. The problem for the Venezuelan socialists is that they succeeded in getting into Government and with oil prices at an all time high the promises could be paid for … but not anymore.  Whereas Corbyn and just deny he ever made any commitment to clearing student debt, the Chavez/Maduro regime have had to follow the project through to it’s inevitable failure. We’ve all seen how desperate the left can be to gain power with rash unaffordable promises. Nicolas Maduro, Hugo Chavez’s chosen successor, is now demonstrating how desperate they can be to stay in power resorting to rigged elections, alternative parliament and the latest we see is the public prosecutor’s office being placed under military siege for refusing to recognise the legitimacy of the false parliament they call the constituent assembly.

A long, passionate and vocal supporter of the regime, Jeremy Corbyn owes it to the Venezuelan people to call out for Maduro to either stand down or face the electorate in a free and fair presidential election. It will be tough for him to find words that maintain his political dignity yet condemn the regime he’s been such a supporter of but he’s now had more than long enough to come up with a form of words that shows his contempt for the Maduro Government crackdown and supports the ordinary Venezuelans.Yet he is silent.

Colin Burgon, the Labour Leader’s close colleague, former Labour MP and uncle of Labour MP Richard Burgon once wrote in support of the Venezuelan failed Socialist project opening his article with the words of Martin Luther King;

“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

Enough Said.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Labour - Why Cancel Student Debt? Because Twitter Told Them To

To put it mildly the General Election didn't quite go according to plan for the Conservatives. It's been mooted that Labour's command of Twitter and Facebook to capture the attention of the young voter was key to their higher than expected vote. With recent attention turning to student debt there are claims and counter claims as to what Labour did and didn't promise. What is clear is that Labour's best e-friend, Twitter, could now turn out to be their worst enemy. On the 22nd May Labour officially announced that they would scrap tuition fees. No doubt this policy was focus grouped and researched before inserting into the manifesto and I would imagine they felt quite pleased with themselves. However a quick trawl of twitter on the day of the announcement shows that this was not well received by students. Below is a snap shot of literally hundreds of responses in a twitter fall calling for the cancellation of student debt.

And the reason for these calls for student debt cancellation. Just two days before their announcement on tuition fees the Green Party had announced in their manifesto that they would cancel student debt. The genie was already out of the bottle. Labour's campaign masters will have noticed and will have known they needed to placate the young voters with a bigger offer. It was too late for the manifesto but not to be trumped by their left wing competitors this 'new and improved' offer came on the 2nd June when Jeremy Corbyn said in an interview that he would deal with student debt. This was accepted as a promise by Labour to cancel student debt and with more twitter comments clearly confirming this the votes just rolled in. And if anyone is in any doubt this is just one of many tweets after his announcement;

With Labour being so influenced by Twitter they have created a storm of their own making.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Glastonbury - The silent voice of the f***ing workers

Glastonbury! Awash with celebs milking the opportunity to get into the public, festival goers and of course Jeremy Corbyn. Adored by his followers paying hundreds of pounds to be there and even more if they drive there. 

A group completely ignored in all this are the workers most of which could only dream of having enough disposable income to spend on a music festival. Security guards for example, many of which are ex-serviceman. 

A first hand account from one such guard whose job it was to patrol the fence that keeps the poor people at bay while the bourgeoisie revel. When Corbyn took to stage he said ...
"if anyone wants to come over the fence to have a go at him I'll f***ing help 'em over".

There's always another point of view.

Friday, 26 May 2017


For the UK, the World War 2 started with the phoney war. This relative calm was shattered with Luftwaffe attacks on our airfields and then came the blitz. Early in the war we were stoic but we were in all honesty losing. The war on the Nazi regime at that point was not working. At no time did our leaders give up. War leaders including Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee continued the fight and gave no quarter in word or deed to the aggressors and led us to victory and freedom.

Contrast this to the current Labour leadership who has announced changes to our foreign policy and lessening our international reach and projection of military power, the rationale being that our war on terror is not working. Even on very basic analysis this is plainly wrong. We were reminded after the 2015 Paris attacks that our security services prevented seven terrorist attacks in one year. 

This week a bomber got through and we are all shocked, horrified and angered but how many others were prevented? How many plots don't even begin with potential perpetrators discouraged by our strong military presence and unwavering message of defiance.  Yes it's right to review our responses in the light of this attack but it's just as right to send a message to the terrorists that we are united in the civilised world and will continue the fight to rid the world of warped ideology. 

The western world will have a mixed response to Jeremy Corbyn's speech but to the terrorists' world this will be seen as a victory for their hurt and aggression. It will be used as a recruiting sergeant to convince the doubtful that their wicked campaign is working. The evil seek to divide us and they will be telling their foot soldiers that a potential Prime Minister of a major western nation has wavered in the face of their terror. 

We shouldn't be surprised at his speech. His association with some of the world's most evil is well documented and in 2004 backed an early day motion supporting a Journalists assertion that there was no genocide in Kosovo  (Early Day Motion Denial of Kosovo Genocide). 

It is an almost patriotic duty for all politicians to distance themselves from the Labour Leader's words.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Immigration Policy? Manx Maybe The Answer

This article was first published in Conservative Home on 14th May 2017. (

To many who voted in the EU referendum immigration was front and centre of their decision. A mis-representation which is showing little sign of abating is that Brexit means stopping immigration altogether. Scare stories about the NHS running out of nurses and crops rotting in the ground as they go unharvested have been perpetuated by those who doggedly pursue the remain agenda in the vain hope that somehow it won't happen if they scare people hard enough and complain long enough.

Brexit is not and never has been anything to do with stopping immigration, it's about controlling immigration in a way that is best for the UK. Nurses can still be recruited from anywhere in the world and farmers will still have the workforce they need to harvest seasonable crops.

Many 'models' have been mooted as being the right one for the UK. The Australian points based system, the Canadian system, a combination of systems? You only have to look to the middle of the Irish Sea where the Manx Government has been quietly getting on with a simple, effective and flexible system which places Manx citizens as a priority and is always in the interests of the Manx economy.

This low tax economy, completely separate from the UK, is a very attractive as a place to live and work but back in 2009, as the economic crisis gripped hard, The Island's Department of Trade and Industry pledged to refuse work permits to overseas workers in five low skilled sectors where there was a clear availability of suitable Manx workers. Bear in mind here that to the Isle of Man overseas includes the United Kingdom (or 'Across' as we are affectionately called). 

The policy was immediate and the results decisive. While the UK's unemployment rate went up the Manx unemployment rate was at an envious 2.2%. This had knock on effects for the hospitality industry where regular seasonal workers were away for the close season when the changes were made and were unable to return to their jobs which they had had for years. The flexible approach to the scheme meant that this could be rectified by allowing an exemption for hospitality as temporary work permits for the season.

Recently the Manx economy has been doing very well with growth exceeding the UK. Unemployment is down to its lowest level in a generation at just 1.2% and only 507 people in a population of 85,000 claiming unemployment benefit ( Employers found it so difficult to recruit that appeals to the Government to relax the work permit scheme could not be ignored. In the face of hard evidence selected permit exemptions have been introduced to the industries most affected. 

This move has given the industries concerned and the Manx economy a major boost and the economy continues to grow. In short, the Manx Government 'gets it'. They still and will always place the Island's residents at the centre of their immigration policy. The permit system can be tightened up again as it was in 2009 if the economy is squeezed. This is their decision and this is the whole point of this article; it is their choice to act in the way they choose in the interests of their residents. 

A similar idea to the Manx system for the UK hospitality sector was floated and the press, as they would, dubbed this the 'Barista Visa'. Those of us who are deep inside the hospitality sector know just how sensible a move this would be to support this service industry, essential to UK economic growth. This is unfortunately lost on some of the more shallow politicians who just see the consumer end of the argument and not the fact it is a major employer and contributor to GDP. Indeed, Andy Burham the out going MP for Leigh, Former cabinet Minister and at the time of writing Mayoral candidate, completely ignored the employees and went straight for the cheap political point (he has form for this

This may look like a bit of political banter but it is what policy makers are up against when trying to make sensible post Brexit changes to our immigration policy.
If I were asked to draw up a post Brexit immigration policy I would be doing an awful of cutting and pasting from the Manx system.