Friday, 30 December 2011

Tories are no friends of Liverpool, says council chief

By Andrew Bounds, Financial Times

Liverpool faces “exactly the same situation” as it did under a previous Conservative government in 1981, the Labour leader of the city council said after cabinet papers from the time were revealed, condemning the Tories as “no friend of our city”. “There is a feeling of déjà vu in Liverpool because three decades on we are facing exactly the same situation as we did in the early 1980s - huge cuts in public spending which disproportionately hit big northern cities, while Conservative heartlands in the south get off relatively unscathed,” said Joe Anderson.

“Then, as now, the Tory party ideology was to let the strong survive and the weak wither away,” he said, excluding Lord Heseltine, the self-styled “minister for Merseyside”. However, he said the city was a “much stronger and much more confident place” and better able to handle the cuts. More than £4bn of public and private investment has poured into the city since the millennium, including £929m of European money alone between 2000 and 2008.

Its docks, once the source of its wealth and the trigger for its decline as trade switched from the Commonwealth to the European Union, are expanding again with a £200m investment programme to equip them to take the biggest modern ships. Owner Peel Holdings is seeking to turn the area into a logistics hub. Its economy grew 5.5 per cent on average annually between 1998-2008, the fastest of any city outside London. The £1bn Liverpool One shopping and leisure centre near the waterfront has transformed it into a top five shopping destination. The £5.5bn Liverpool Waters scheme would see a huge business district built on the northern docklands.

However, the city remains vulnerable. Some 36 per cent of its workers are in the public sector, which created much of the jobs growth of the “noughties”, against the national average of 26.9 per cent. Almost a quarter of the population receive benefits. They are expected to lose £148m annually after government welfare cuts, almost 1 per cent of the city’s annual economic output, according to the Centre for Cities think-tank. That is the largest proportion of any British city and equates to a loss of £192 per head, compared with £125 in Bristol. The unemployment rate remains 6.3 per cent, the fourth highest in the country.

In the 1970s, 100,000 people, one-sixth of its population, deserted the city. The population declined further from 510,000 in 1981 to 452,000 in 1991, before stabilising at 440,000 in the last few years. However, Tony Caldeira, a businessman and chairman of the Conservative party in the city, said the 1981 cabinet had been wrong. “You have only got to look around to see Liverpool has been transformed. Back in the 1980s people may have written Liverpool off. That is not the case in 2012.

“We have railway electrification, the new Mersey crossing, a new Royal hospital and possibly Alder Hey too. There is a lot of investment going in.” He said Francis Maude recently visited the city and was considering it for a future party conference. “The party is committed to Liverpool. There is an entrepreneurial spirit here that will pull us through.”

In March the city is hosting the Kauffman foundation’s Global Entrepreneurship Congress, the first time it has come to Europe.

Financial Times

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Great Expectations

Blower, the Telegraph

Friday, 16 December 2011

In the spirit of things

Buenaventura Durruti

'Church on Fire' by Allen n Lehman
(acrylic on canvas)

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Lib Dems vote with Tories to cut disabled children’s benefits

Three days after David Cameron vetoed plans for a financial transaction tax to protect his friends in the City, the House of Lords last night voted in favour of reducing top-up payments for disabled children on lower and middle rates of disability living allowance (DLA). An amendment to maintain benefit for disabled children at the minimum of current levels was defeated by just two votes. 46 Liberal Democrats voted with the Conservatives.

These cuts, along with subsequent changes to housing benefit, will leave tens of thousands of families with disabled children up to £3,000 a year worse off. A group of charities called Every Disabled Child Matters says the Government has failed to assess  fully the impact of the proposal which, it claims, will plunge thousands of families with disabled children into poverty.

The top-up payments were designed to meet additional costs, such as transport, heating, laundry, nappies and extra clothes that families have because of a child's disability. The Department for Work and Pensions insists the introduction of a new Universal Credit payment will simplify the system and that "there will be no cash losers". Campaigners, and a growing number of MPs and peers, had hoped to trigger a second U-turn after the Government scrapped plans to cut mobility allowances for some elderly people last month.

At present, parents of children with disabilities who receive DLA are entitled to a substantial top up of their Child Tax Credit entitlement.  This addition is currently worth around £2715 (£52.21 per week) for each child in the household who has a disability. Along with this, children with the most severe disabilities (in receipt of the high rate care element of DLA) are entitled to the severe disability element, worth an extra £1095 (£21.06) – meaning they get a total addition worth £73.27 per week.

Under Universal Credit, additions for disabled children will change to align them with the level of support available for disabled adults. This means that severely disabled children will be entitled to an addition worth £74.50 per week – a very slight increase on current rates.  However, for other children with disabilities, the addition will be reduced to £25.95 per week (£1349.40 per year) – less than half the current rate.

New claimants will receive the reduced support at the point of claiming Universal Credit, while existing claimants will receive transitional cash protection while being transferred on to Universal Credit.

Sources: Family Action/The Independent

Result of vote here (go to Division 2 of 3)

Saturday, 10 December 2011

What Europe is saying about Britain

"From the concept of habeas corpus to the BBC, from Elizabethan poetry to John Le Carre, from rock to the invention of the Sixties, from London springtime concerts to Wimbledon, via Liverpool FC. So many things do we hold dear from across the Channel ... But Germany, France and the majority of the other EU member states were right, at daybreak on Friday 9 December, to say No to London." Le Monde, France

Dave Brown, the Independent

"No sooner did David Cameron cross the entrance to the council, on the occasion of the 8 December summit, than the sky over the negotiations darkened. He had one aim: to protect British interests." Le Figaro, France

"What's the point of keeping this country in the EU? The British people should put pressure on their government to quit. Maybe the British would do better without the EU. Europe will definitely do better without the UK." Yvan Duvant, writing to the BBC from Olargues, in France

"The British manoeuvre [means] that London now finds itself outside, on the margins of Europe. The first European Council session in Brussels, which should have solidified and perhaps even resolved the euro crisis produced instead, after 11 hours of tense and at times dramatic talks, a deep division between member states." Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy

"All of continental Europe goes forward, leaving Britain behind - towards a common fiscal policy, rules that will govern finance, work and business. Cameron finds himself alone." Luca Gaballo, RaiNews24, Italy

"There is an obstacle to Europe and it must be overcome. It's not Germany. Right now, the main obstacle is Britain. And this dirty game that the British are playing - wanting to stay with one foot in and one foot out of Europe - risks collapsing the entire system. London must be either in, or out. But they simply cannot sabotage everything." Massimo Riva on Repubblica TV, Italy

"They're splitting Europe. Great Britain has acted in an unconstructive way. 'Unhelpful' as they say in English." Carl B Hamilton, Liberal People's Party MP, Sweden

"If you're not ready to abide by the rules, you'd do better to keep your mouth shut." Elmar Brok, Christian Democrat MEP, Germany

BBC News

Friday, 9 December 2011

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Mobility element of disability allowance for people in care homes is to stay following government u-turn

Campaigners have hailed a Government U-turn over the scrapping of benefit payments for disabled people living in residential care homes. Ministers will confirm today that the mobility element of disability living allowance (DLA) will be spared the welfare reform axe. Up to 80,000 people benefit from the £51-a-week allowance but it was targeted as part of efforts to slash billions from the welfare bill. Critics had warned that removing the payments would have robbed some of the most vulnerable people of their independence. 

The Turning Point health and social care provider welcomed the change.  Director of learning disability services Adam Penwarden said: "We are reassured by the fact the government has listened to those who need support the most and has decided not to remove the mobility component of the disability living allowance. This benefit is integral to the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our society, allowing them to access and be part of their local community. The removal of this vital resource would have rendered many of them housebound, robbing them of the chance they would otherwise have to lead fulfilled and independent lives."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said yesterday: "We have always been clear that we will not make any changes that stop disabled people in care homes from getting out and about. Our officials have spent the last few months gathering information and evidence, including visiting disabled people in care homes to find out from them and their families about their mobility needs. The Low Review also looked at some of the same issues and so we have been reflecting on the outcome of this work before we announce the final decision tomorrow."

Press Association

See here for full list of government u-turns since coming to power.