Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Budget 2015 - The Chancellor takes with one hand and gives back with another

by Sunil Patel

The Chancellor George Osborne has pledged a 'national living wage' of up to £9 per hour by 2020, in the Conservative's first full budget in 18 years.

This means the rebranded minimum wage would rise to £7.20 for over 25-year-olds by next year.

Businesses will pay for the wage increase through a cut in corporation tax to 19 percent by 2017 and then to 18 percent over the five years.

The Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) claims this measure will result in 60,000 job losses, but a bullish George Osborne reveals this will be a pay rise of £5,000 for 2.5 million people over the next five years.

In Mr Osborne's seventh budget speech, he declared Britain was open for business after revealing business investment was up by 31.9 percent since 2010.

He also promised to raise the tax-free threshold for low wage earners from £10,800 to £11,000 from 2015/16.

And for the top earners, their 40 percent taxable income threshold would rise from £42,385 to £43,000 over the same time period.

Maintenance grants for poorer students would be scrapped and replaced by loans but chancellor predicted this would not lead to a drop in numbers attending university.

He argued the rise in tuition fees from £3,000 a year to a maximum of £9,000 a year in 2012 had not deterred students from poorer families.

Many Twitter followers tweeted their discontent on social media at latest proposals to hit students in the pocket.
Some critics have suggested the Conservatives have also continually hacked away at the welfare bill in efforts to raise up to £35 billion over the next five years.

Low-paid worker benefits were targeted despite describing the chancellor describing it as a budget for designed for working people.

The £26,000 benefits cap which is the maximum which can be claimed by one household would be slashed by 12 per cent  to £23,000 in London and by 23 per cent to £20,000 in the rest of the country.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The HS2 rail project won't bring additional investment into Midlands, say pressure group

by Sunil Patel

An anti-HS2 campaign group have dismissed the prediction that High-Speed Rail 2 could create more business opportunities for the Midlands and have suggested the project could drag further economic activity towards London.

With conservative estimates of the cost of HS2 project to be at £50 billion based on 2011 figures, it comes as no surprise to the Campaign Manager of Stop HS2 that business leaders have been queuing up for a 'slice of a taxpayer funded pie'.

Joe Rukin said, “This is a government vanity project with rocketing costs that they (business leaders) will not have to pay for.

It is likely any new development of East Midlands HS2 stations at either Toton or Breaston will be built on greenfield sites.

And this will result in a negative impact on Nottingham and Derby city centres, according to the campaign group.

As a result of this, Leicester could also miss out any potential economic benefit as the city is bypassed in the plans.

Mr Rukin added,”If there is such a great business case for HS2, then why are these business leaders not all lining up to fund it themselves?

Today, business leaders organised by the British Chamber of Commerce from the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North sent a letter to Chancellor George Osborne urging him to bring forward the confirmation and then construction of the Eastern leg of HS2.

The proposed leg linking Birmingham with Leeds via the East Midlands and Sheffield and further north through the East Coast Mainline could bring up to £4.1 billion of additional revenue to areas covered by the route, according to KPMG report in 2013.

The business group have argued, the new HS2 eastern route will provide better connectivity and potentially lead to increased productivity.

It will also support the growth of businesses locally and internationally, according to the Head of Information and Representation at East Midlands Chamber.

Chris Hobson said: “HS2 is s a huge opportunity for businesses in the East Midlands. It will bring the capacity that will help underpin the region’s future success, so it must deliver for the whole region.

“However, uncertainty kills confidence. It is imperative that Government confirms the route as soon as possible and that delivery plans are accelerated to maximise the business benefits which come with creating a national rail network that can compete with the best in the world and create the opportunities needed for long-term economic growth.”  

On Monday, the Chancellor visited the engineering firm Garrandale, Derby and he described the Midlands as the 'engine for Britain's growth'.

Mr Osborne confirmed he would back the productivity of the region by committing to improving transport projects including the funding for HS2. 

Co-location support should be provided to A&E Service, according to new report

by Sunil Patel

TheRoyal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) and the PatientsAssociation (PA) are calling on the NHS to do more to provide more co-location services paired with Accident and Emergency departments, according to a new report.

The key findings suggest, patients are aware of the other options to A&E but are forced towards these over-stretched departments because they unable to access the level of care required.

And significant numbers of patients attend A&E because they are advised to do so by some health care providers.

More needs to be done to better inform patients of out-of-hours GPs, walk-in centres and the NHS 111 service.

And these services should have the capacity required to provide the support to the additional numbers, according to the authors of the 'Time to Act' report.

The jointly authored report warns, if they the situation is not addressed it will place further strain on an A&E service which many argue is already at breaking point.

A&E patients were asked to give answers to their choices, decisions and experiences in accessing urgent healthcare, in a survey which was carried out between September 2014 and February 2015

Many patients experience an A&E service as a central point for emergency care. 

Both the RCEM and PA groups have acknowledged the power of the A&E brand.

They have recommended the co-location of out-of -hours services with A&E so patients are channelled towards the most appropriate care provider.

Currently, only 40 per cent of A&E  departments provide co-location of services, according to RCEM.

Dr Cliff Mann, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “Co-location of primary care services has previously been supported by many national organisations and the Keogh Review of Urgent and Emergency Care, Colocation now needs to be implemented.”

The Chief Executive of the Patients Association has backed the move towards the co-location of services describing the case as 'compelling'

Katherine Murphy, said: “Now is the time to act to decongest A&E departments and, in so doing, benefit all patients.”

Almost 7,000 patients attended Accident and Emergency in the East Midlands for week ending May 24, according to NHS England figures.

Out of the total admissions for the region, 96 percent of patients were assessed in four hours or less. 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Twitter reacts to #CharlesKennedy death

A picture from Charles Kennedy's website

Twitter users pay tribute to the former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy who died suddenly this morning aged 55.

There was a mood of shock at the death of the former MP for Ross Skye and Inverness West, and this was reflected through tweets on social media as the news first broke..

The former MP had served his Highland constituency for 32 years until last month, when he lost his seat in the general election, amid an SNP landslide in Scotland.

In the ruff and tumble world of political points scoring, Mr Kennedy had been described as a man who stood apart from many of his former Westminster colleagues as funny, genuine and a man with a great personality.

As Liberal Democrat leader, Mr Kennedy was an outspoken critic of the controversial invasion of Iraq in 2003, despite both Labour and Conservatives backing the campaign.

He had once described the country 'being bulldozed into war' and his defiant opposition will ultimately be his political legacy, according to many supporters on twitter.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Police access private emails, phone calls and text messages

by Sunil Patel

UK police forces have made over 700,000 applications for access to private communications, with 96 percent of all requests being approved, according to new data from a civil liberties and privacy pressure group.

On average, there was one request every two minutes over a three-year period and total of 244,412 requests every year.

Despite claims police's access to communications data is decreasing, 26 Police forces have increased the number of requests with only 11 showing a reduction in the number enquiries.

The Metropolitan Police service topped the table with 177,287 requests with the Thames Valley Police making the least with 17,562 inquiries, according to figures published by Big Brother Watch (BBW).

The Essex Police force had the highest number of refusals at 28 percent and the Northamptonshire force the fewest rejections at 4 percent from the period between 1st January 2012 and 31st December 2014.

The communications data includes details of who, where and when of any text, email, phone call or web search.

The surveillance watchdog has called for greater transparency, better safeguards and a clearer application process in the access of communications data.

Some of BBW's recommendations are listed below

  • Police forces should be required to publish transparency reports detailing how requests are approved, the number of individuals affected and the type of crime
  • Proof that data of more than 6 months old is regularly used in order to establish a proportionate approach to data retention
  • A clear, standardised procedure for the access of Communications Data, which all police forces, telecommunications and internet service providers must adhere to.
In the Queen's speech last week, the Conservatives announced the Investigatory Powers Bill, which would give the police greater power to monitor internet and phone use.

This would replace the communications data bill which has been  infamously dubbed the so-called 'snoopers charter'.

Renate Samson, Chief Executive of Big Brother Watch, said: “We have yet to see real evidence that there is a gap in the capability of law enforcement or the agencies’ ability to gain access to our communications data.

“We are also yet to see any concrete evidence that access to communications data has and indeed will, make the country safer.  The only evidence we have is of numerous failures to make effective use of the data already available.

“Any new draft legislation must acknowledge that the bigger the haystacks the harder it will be to find the needles.“

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

George Osborne says he has delivered a national recovery #Budget2015

by Sunil Patel

The UK economy grew by 2.6 percent last year, which was the largest growth figure of any advanced economy.

And George Osborne boasted the UK would overtake the German economy to be the biggest in Europe in the next 15 years.

The 'significant' sale of UK assets have enabled the total proportion of debt to Gross domestic product (GDP) to be at 80.4 percent and has been predicted to fall to 80.2 per cent, according to the OBR.

Danny Alexander, George Osborne and Priti Patel posing ahead of Budget 

In his Budget speech, the Chancellor announced a rise in the personal tax threshold for workers to £10,800 by 2016 and then £11,000 for the year after.

The government provided a much-needed tax cut boost for the ailing North Sea oil industry, which has been badly damaged by the falling global price of oil.

The Petroleum Revenue tax would be reduced by 15 per cent from 50 per cent to 35 per cent.

Mr Osborne claimed this was a speech aimed at the 'earners' and 'savers'.

Beer drinkers were rewarded by a penny cut in duty for the third year in a row.

There was also, a 2p cut for both cider and scotch duty, with the tax on wine frozen at current levels.

In the last budget before the general election, the Chancellor argued his tax proposals will 'save more pubs and create more jobs.'

However, Ed Miliband delivered a damning assessment on Mr Osborne's sixth budget.

He argued people would be £1600 worse off under Tory proposals and predicted massive cuts in the next parliament if the Conservatives were re-elected.

Mr Miliband pledged to raise the minimum wage £8 per hour if elected, in a direct response to the 20p rise to the £6.70, announced by the government yesterday.

Labour MP, David Blunkett, speaking ahead of the Budget to BBC News said:“You only have live and work and represent northern cities to see what will happen if the deficit reduction programme laid out by the conservatives comes into fruition and cuts are imposed in the way described.

"It's eye-watering what's about to hit those cities and towns and I don't think you can experience it without being there," the former home secretary added.

Monday, 29 July 2013

MP's face public backlash over pay proposals

 Picture from 

By Sunil Patel
Leicester residents have slammed a Westminster watchdog's MP’s pay proposals as ‘insulting’ to hard workers across the country.   

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) has recommended a wage increase from £66,396 to £74,000 for MP’s by 2015.

The independent body say that the package should cost an additional £500,000 which can be found from the existing £170 million annual budget.

Darra Nagra, Mayflower Road, Leicester thinks it is an outrage MP’s could be getting a nine per cent hike in wages when real time wages for everyone else have decreased.

Mr Nagra said, “MP’s basic pay is plenty compared to the minimum wage. They get paid enough without needing to make extravagant claims for expenses.”

Joyce Remington, Evington Flats, Leicester said, “I don’t think they should be getting it”

HS Bharaj, Turner road, thinks MP’s should not get paid more than 50K, he said, “All they do sit in the commons and talk all day.”

A couple from Evington, Main Street, Leicester who did not want to be named, thought the pay increase should be moderated considerably. The woman said, “I’m a nurse and I don’t agree with it especially with everybody else in the country struggling.”

IPSA is also recommending a new cost-effective pension scheme, a scrapping of the so-called ‘golden goodbye’ and tighter regime on expenses.  

IPSA is expected to announce its preliminary proposals later this month.