Thursday, 17 February 2011


The government has dropped its plans to cut in housing benefit by 10% after 12 months of claims. The cut was proposed in George Osborne’s June budget last year, however, as realistically it would only have created homelessness, crime and misery, Boris Johnston and Nick Clegg are thought to have scuppered it.

The cut was supposed to be an incentive for the unemployed to find work, which is a very good idea, but there really have to BE jobs before you can put someone out of their home for not having one.

I have a professional interest in Welfare Bills, having worked for many years trying to get people off benefits and into work.

To be fair to IDS there
are some good things in this bill. The benefits system is being streamlined and simplified. Currently there are far too many JC+ staff who know little of the complex rules, and millions of pounds is wasted and much misery suffered as people are over or underpaid, because staff are hardly trained, lowly paid, overworked and have very low morale. I must say that I have never hated a job as much as the 8 miserable months I spent there.

IDS tells us that there are 500,000 jobs in the jobcentres every week, but a recent report said that 90% of jobs available are part time, and my experience of JC+ is that many of them are not just part time, but very part time.

“Cleaner: 1 hour a day 7-8 am, (2 hours Fridays). Min Wage. Must be flexible and available for extra hours as required. Key holder. Experience required with buffing machinery. References requ’d!” What use is that to most people?

No one would argue that getting people back to work is important. We have nearly 1 million unemployed 16-25 year olds. That is a scandalous waste of lives, as unemployment not only means poverty now, it is also associated with ill health and premature death in the future.

The trouble is that except for the start of the New Deal programme in 1997/8 we never do it properly. We send people along to job search courses willy nilly. All the wrong people together in a room, all with different needs; all looking for different types of work.

We underpay the staff who work with them, in what can be a very challenging job, and frequently get staff who have little knowledge or interest in what they are doing.

But for all that there are successes.

And what the successes need are jobs. Not part time jobs with zero hour contracts; not jobs which are totally unsuited to their needs and talents. We need decent suitable jobs with fair pay.

"What will happen is British people will genuinely be able to get British jobs because they will be incentivised to take those jobs, we will expect them to take those jobs but work will pay better than benefits. A life on benefits will no longer be an option for somebody.” IDS told the BBC.

So quite apart from falling into the trap that Brown fell into with his Britishness, I look forward to him finding the estimated 6 million jobs which will be needed to ensure that ”a life on benefits will no longer be an option”.

Incidentally, he talks too about sorting the sick note culture. He might want to start with JC+, which when I was there, was so badly managed that around 10% of the staff were off sick long term!!

Pics: (1) Boris, sporting his Mrs Thatcher bouffant, was the first to see the folly on housing benefit cuts. (2) People under 35, however, will be forced out of their homes and into shared accommodation to get housing benefit. (I don’t think the authors have been outside London.) (3) IDS was hoping to grab 10% of the housing benefit after 1 year’s claim, but Nick and Boris spiked his guns.


  1. I would have had a job in a JC any day Tris when I came back here. The job I did temporarily was far worse paid, 3 month contract etc while JC staff had it very comfortable. They still are I believe - at least up here.

    This is a start. There has to be a culture change insofar as people don't see their giro as a salary. That can't go on. As you say the whole system needs streamlining as many don't know the various allowances.

  2. When I was made redundant by a local training provider I had to sign on. After about two weeks I got a call from JC+ to come in and speak to the manager. I was a bit worried, but they offered me a job as a temporary assistant on the bottom pay band. That was the minimum wage +3p an hour. It was 3p an hour more than the cleaners got. Only because of my experience and qualification they asked me to help them set up recruitment office. I was so poor, I couldn’t afford to take the car to work; I had to walk, but I was doing a management job. When I complained and said the job was worth at least twice what I was being paid, the manager said, sorry, we can’t pay you more; you’re not permanent. If you don’t like it you can do some filing instead.

    It took me 8 months to find another job, but I couldn’t wait to get out.

  3. 75 applicants per job is the worst I have heard so far and with economy still tanking it's going to get a lot worse. Soup kitchens are going to be the norm for years to come until the UK gov stops trying to think that they are something that they are obviously not. But that is like asking an alcoholic to stop drinking because the causes are the same, mindset/addiction and that has to change.

    The futures not orange within the union its a rather murky dark colour.

  4. Dirty brown CH... or dirty Brown maybe....

    Oh well. The thing is that we must try to ensure that school leavers go on to something worthwhile. Not stupid courses where they learn nothing.

    We have to get this million young people into work. That's mroe important than anything else.

    Mrs Thatcher's lost generation is still here. We can't afford another one.

  5. Mrs Thatcher's lost generation is still here. We can't afford another one.

    The real numbers have been hidden in 'bogus' college courses for decades by successive governments but like everything else we are powerless/apathetic to make change.

  6. Thats two major U-turns caused by the Johnson clan. The Housing Benfit shakeup U-turn and the idiot Spelman woman selling off the forestd U-turn. Both corkers!

    Now "call me" is sick of all the gaffes and clangers spewed out by his team that have resulted in the positive glut of U-turns. So despite having roundly criticised both Gordon Brown and Tony Blair for employing micro managing spin doctors to keep a lid on the worst garbage brought up by his ministers, he is employing 15 Malcolm Tuckers (one for each department) to keep the worst "ideas" at bay. We can add that to the huge list of U-turns!

  7. And many other things CH. If a person was on Training for Work (a course which involved classroom and work placements, originally for up to a year) they were off not counted; anyone who was undertaking New Deal was similarly uncounted. If they could keep a long term unemployed person off the register for 12 weeks, they went back on to the register at the end of the course as a short term unemployed person. As in everything to do with (every) government, the figures are "fiddled" if you like, but at very best manipulated to show the best possible outcome for the government.

    Unfortunately this attitude at the "top" of the food chain trickles down. Everyone knows that the level below them is lying about the figures (or if you prefer, presenting them in the best possible light), but no one does anything about it, because the better the level down does, the better it looks as it continues upwards to the DWP, the minister and the public...who are the final managers!

    It's best we all understand that whatever the figures are, they are wrong, because, at every stage from operative to government they will have been presented in their most favourable light.

    A propos JC+, figures, targets, results, being above profile were the only things the management cared about.

    It didn't matter that people had been put into the wrong job, where they would be unhappy, miserable, less than effective. Not at all, as long as each section had achieved its targets, that was all that counted: all that was in the heads of the supervision/management.

    That is one of the reasons why we are in such a mess. That is one of the reasons why nothing works right, service is poor and nothing ever arrives on time. A sufficiently large number of people are in the wrong jobs doing stuff they hate and couldn’t care less about with crap managers who are in teh same situation.

  8. Yes. I read that somewhere Munguin.

    The trouble is that in many cases ministers are just hopeless at their jobs... not just in this government but in all governments. They refuse to be told by the senior civil servants, who are actually professionals in their departments (whatever we think of them and their bonuses) and they are competing not just with the opposition, but with each other, to be smart.

    I’m convinced that that is what happened with House Elf Gove. He was desperate to get the English Education department’s revolution in schools out before anyone else got their plans out. So I’ll bet against the advice of his civil servants he rushed out half finished lists, without thinking. When it was all wrong he looked like an idiot, and because he is an idiot (there can be no other explanation) he blamed it all on his civil servants. Brilliant way to start his relationship with the permanent secretary!! If the PS can do him down in (say in discussions with the Cabinet Secretary, who has the ear of the PM), then he may well take that opportunity.

    Being a minister seems to me to be all about having a car, and red boxes, the style “right honourable”, and posing about looking important, while the public laughs at their incompetence.

    Cameron has found out, like Labour did before him, that they need keeping in the box.

  9. I'll argue that the creation of jobs is a bad thing! We don't need people useless producing, destroying the environment just promote a system that is geared for endless, unssutainable and pointless growth. Just as we need a new economy that doesn't rely on constantly spending, we need to realise that working for the sake of work is no good. Working to have food, have utilities, etc is good, but why work when there's no point to it?

  10. lazaruszine

    Capitalism doesn't work never has never will
    we should destroy it and its supporters totally.

    Then we can

    "Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation."

  11. I agree lazaruszine but how else is a political party going to elected as that is what people want without realising/taught that it is impossible.
    The Peak Oil Crisis: The 3rd Transition

    With declining quantities of fossil fuels, and the likelihood that renewable forms of energy cannot be developed and expanded quickly enough, continued worldwide economic growth is unlikely. While countries that are self-sufficient in fossil fuels and those able to get a lock on a share of fossil fuel production (most likely the Chinese) will be able to grow for a while.

  12. It's an interesting concept Laz, but if we don't create more jobs how do the unemployed live? They haven't stopped consuming just because they are unemployed, as you point out. The manufacturing is still done; it’s just done at the cheaper end in China and India and SE Asia, and at the more expensive end, in Germany or Denmark.

    I think too that people need something to do with their days. Of course work is probably the last thing that they want to do... well most people anyway, unless they are lucky enough to have a job that they like with a boss that they can tolerate, but they need something. I suppose of course they could all be persuaded to take part in the Big Society, just like Francis (I volunteer for so many things I can’t remember any of them) Maude. Or rather NOT like him...

    But of course I do understand your point. The trouble is that unless we learn to live a very very different kind of life, our not working will simply mean that someone somewhere is doing our polluting for us.

  13. I'd say, Niko that capitalism doesn't work very well, but then neither did communism.

    When you say "to those, according to their needs; from those according to their abilities" is sounds totally inspiring. I'd go for it in a heartbeat. But of course it really couldn’t be said to work anywhere from North Korea to Cuba, from Latvia to Mongolia.

    I would imagine that the nearest it came to working was Yugoslavia, under Tito, but then I've never had to live under it.

    I'm intrigued by the form of socialism used in Scandinavia, but then again I’m also inspired by the kind of capitalism practised in Switzerland.

    If I could come back and try over I’d want to be Swiss, Finnish, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese or a Liechtensteiner.

    I wonder if an independent Scotland, which, I suspect, would be more European in every way than the current set up, could be persuaded to look at any of these other social democratic states.

  14. 很好,我希望蘇格蘭可以那時是獨立的,但如果不,我學會了中文。CH


    Well, I hope Scotland can be independent by then but if not, just as well, I've learned Chinese CH.


  15. Can I get that as wallpaper please? velvet.

    If the UK gov is hiding the real debt by a factor of 4-8 times think what that does to the real unemployed numbers, then that will get very nasty as time goes on.

  16. CH,

    I can see that as things get worse and worse there is a chance that the indolent brits will get off their backsides, as has been suggested in some of the comments on Golem's post.

    If Ken Clarke is right things are going to get a lot worse, very very quickly. Of course it has to be quick because even if it slow it will be painful, but Cameron must have things starting to look rosier by the time the next election, which he has already promised us will be, not in the four years that we all expected, but in 5 years.

    Given the depth of the problem and the fact that the government as yet has not shown itself particularly adept at anything, I have a feeling the pain might be even greater than Clarke suggests.

    This could of course result in us all getting out every night an running a library, taking over a ward in a hospital, manning the fire station and the police office and generally doing all the things we pay taxes for other people to do. It could be that we will all agree to a 20% cut in our salaries, and a drop in our pensions. But I don’t think we will.

    Especially not when even more money is going to be poured into the Olympics and the so-called royal wedding, and when despite all the poverty at the bottom, and reduced standards in the middle, the richest people, (that will be the ones who caused this problem in the first place, and of course most of the cabinet), will be laughing their silly heads off at all the lower classes going hungry and the middle classes having to do without.

    I suspect that one of these days as Charlie and Cammy come gliding up in their Rolls, glittering with millions of pounds worth of stones, someone who is hungry, or who has lost their kid due to underfunded hospitals is going to take a swipe at him, the police are going to shoot the miscreant stone dead and the country will erupt.

    Count me in.

  17. The food bubble video is good CH.

    I wish she had been my ecnomics teacher. Her explanation made it sound so simple. Evil, but easy to understand evil.

  18. Libya and Bharain are erupting in violence meanwhile the UK will keep on manufacturing armaments to sell around the World, its the economy stupid as that is more important!

    The UK sickens me.

  19. Derek Bateman Newsweek

    We've had a bit of an obsession with al
    -Megrahi recently so we had a sense of things turning full circle this week when it was announced that the Americans - whom you remember giving the Scots such a hard time over his release - decided that the best thing to do with the man who trained the leader of the London 7/7 bombers was to free him after only five years in jail without telling the families of the victims.

  20. Yes, me too CH. All that matters in money.

    Price of everything and the value of nothing, and all the time trying to give away human rights, instead of curbing the lawyers with their no win no fee chancer mentality who are making a mockery of the human rights legislation we signed up for.

    Clearly most of them have never been in a country where there was very limited access to human rights. I have. I've seen what it's like. No thanks.

  21. Well, I never... or as a well known numpty would say..."Golly Gosh".

    Who would have thought it? After all they yelping and whining about releasing the terrorst Al Megrahi, America has let the 7/7 bomber go after 5 years of a 74 year sentence, not because he was dying and they were compassionate, but because he snitched on his mates.


    As well as wondering what Mr Baker might have to say about that (because of course it will be pathetic and stupid) it would be nice to see what the senators from NY adn NJ have to say.

  22. First of all, sorry for my short absence from my regular spot here on the comments role.

    That said, I too think the IDS reforms will streamline a benefits system too complicated by half. By introducing the single, universal credit; we can enable people who actually do need help to understand the system. Currently it is a morass, a labrynthian creation of Browns; who introduced a new off-the-books tax credit...

    But equally, the need to create more jobs is surely also obvious, and IDS almost certainly wants to see that happening; but that ain't so much his departments as boy-George (who needs to stop being a silly fiscal conservative and start being a good MacMillanite keynesian).

  23. Hey Dean.

    You were missed.... I was just saying to Munguin this very afternoon that I hadn't seen you around.

    Welcome back.

    Yes I agree with you. George Osborne is driving this country into the ground. Unfortunately, either we have a Tony and Gordon situation between him and Call Me, or Our Dave is simply not economically literate enough to see where we are heading.