‘British govt. to double cuts in emergency budget’


A new report says the British government will double the amount of austerity cuts in its “emergency budget.”  

The cuts will affect housing benefits, reduce the state’s welfare cap further and also impact in-work tax credits.

UK treasury chief George Osborne prepares to fillet Britain’s welfare state in his “emergency budget” next week, RT reported.

Now Rodney Shakespeare, professor of economics in London, says, “We are looking at probably 12 billion pounds worth of welfare cuts.”

He also called the planned cuts “immoral.”

According to RT, in terms of slashed tax credits, child tax credits are expected to be hit the most. Ministers are also considering making those who claim housing benefit pay for a proportion of their rental costs.

At present, housing benefit covers the full cost of tenants’ rent, but could be slashed so they must cover at least 10 percent of these costs themselves, the report added.


Osborne announces cut in benefits cap to £20,000 a year outside London


Chancellor says £23,000 figure in manifesto only applies in Greater London as he launches further attacks on BBC during interview about welfare savings

George Osborne Andrew Marr show

George Osborne on the Andrew Marr Show, where he said he would be further cutting the benefits cap to £20,000 a year per household outside London. Photograph: Reuters

Benefit payments to families living outside Greater London are to be capped at £20,000 a year.

In the first Conservative budget for 19 years, George Osborne will say that the previously announced figure of £23,000 will only apply to families living in the capital in a further cut to the welfare budget.

Disclosure of the additional cut came during the chancellor’s appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, in which he claimed to have found the £12bn of welfare savings promised by the Conservatives as part of their plan to eliminate the deficit in the public finances.

Other savings to be announced in Wednesday’s budget will include a £650m raid on the BBC’s licence fee, Osborne confirmed, before launching an attack on the broadcaster’s “imperial” ambitions.

He has resisted demands from the Conservative right for a reduction in the 45p top rate of income tax as he made clear that his priority was to reduce taxes for middle and low-income earners.

Ministers will go further in capping welfare payments than the proposed household limit set out in the party’s election manifesto, at the same as time curbing the cost of tax credits.

The plan will prompt claims that lowering the cap for the rest of the country will be unfair on many claimants who live just outside Greater London but whose cost of living is still high.

Osborne said during his interview with Marr that he would be going further than previously planned in cutting the benefits cap currently set at £26,000 a year in order to ensure the system was fair to working people.

“It is not fair that people out of work can earn more than people in work, so we are going to cut the benefit cap, as we said in our manifesto, to £23,000 in London … it will be lower in the rest of the country,” he said.

It is understood that he will announce the cap outside London at around £20,000. Across the country as a whole, the government believes tthe move will affect 90,000 households. It will exempt those on disability benefits such as disability living allowance, personal independence payment and employment and support allowance.

Osborne made clear that he would also be looking to make significant savings to the system of tax credits brought in under the previous Labour government to top up the incomes of low-paid working families.

“It has become a very, very expensive system. When it was introduced, we were told by Gordon Brown it was going to cost a couple of billion pounds,” he said.
“It now costs £30bn. That is a huge sum of money. That’s three times the Home Office budget, so we have to make savings.”

Osborne confirmed reports that he wishes to transfer the annual £650m cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s from the Treasury to the BBC.

“The BBC is also a publicly funded institution, and so it does need to make savings and contribute to what we need to do as a country to get our house in order. So we are in discussion with the BBC,” he said.

He reserved his most outspoken criticism of the BBC for its website, and claimed that it had effectively become “the national newspaper as well as the national broadcaster”.



BBC could start charging to watch iPlayer in a bid cover £650m cost of providing free TV licences for the elderly


  • George Osborne this morning confirmed the BBC facing cuts in its budget
  • Chancellor planning to force the Corporation to cover cost of free licences
  • The £650m cost of free licences amounts to a fifth of the BBC’s budget
  • Comes ahead of the first Tory budget since 1996 on Wednesday this week 

The BBC will be allowed to charge for its iPlayer service to make up for a huge loss of funding set to be unveiled in Wednesday’s Budget.

George Osborne plans to make the Corporation meet the cost of providing free TV licences for over-75s at a cost of around £650million a year.

If the deal goes ahead, the BBC will take on the expense of the 4.5million licences, worth £145.50 each, from the Department for Work and Pensions.

George Osborne this morning confirmed the Corporation would 'make a contribution' towards £12billion in benefit cuts needed under Tory plans to eliminate the deficit

George Osborne this morning confirmed the Corporation would ‘make a contribution’ towards £12billion in benefit cuts needed under Tory plans to eliminate the deficit

But the broadcaster will be allowed to make up some of the lost revenue by charging people to use iPlayer – which could return at least £150million to its coffers.

The licence fee is only chargeable for people who watch TV as it is broadcast. At present, those who want to watch live BBC channels on iPlayer only have to tick a box to say they have a licence.

The iPlayer charging plan is aimed at ensuring those who do not have a TV set still have to pay the licence fee if they watch BBC services on their computer or smartphone. Last night, there was a suggestion that a digital licence could be introduced for those who only want to watch catch-up TV. There was no implication that current licence fee holders would be forced to pay twice – it is thought they would simply be given a code letting them access the service.

More than three billion programmes are downloaded or streamed from iPlayer every year. In May, 276million shows were requested – up on the same month in 2014.

The most popular programmes were Peter Kay’s Car Share, along with election coverage and the Eurovision Song Contest.

Viewership is even higher in the winter, with the record figure of 343million requests recorded in January.

The most viewed programmes from recent years have included Top Gear, Sherlock and the London Olympics opening ceremony.

The Chancellor said yesterday that the changes were vital, because the licence fee would ‘slowly disappear’ if it continued to be charged solely on television sets.

Stop bosses using tax credits to pay poorly – Darling


Monday 6th
posted by Lamiat Sabin in Britain

LABOUR’S former chancellor Alistair Darling called for a reform of tax credits yesterday to stop bosses paying low wages which are then topped up by welfare.

Mr Darling, who served as a minister in the Treasury and for social security while tax credits were being introduced in the early 2000s, admitted that there were problems with the system.

He called for a “careful” reform to ensure that those who rely on working or child tax credits are not put into financial jeopardy in the likelihood that their wages do not catch up fast enough.

This comes after Chancellor George Osborne indicated that a cut in tax credits for people on low incomes could be announced in the emergency Budget on Wednesday — despite refusing to give a straight answer on whether the top rate of tax for earners of at least £150,000 would be reduced to 40 per cent.

Mr Darling told Sky News’ Murnaghan programme: “The risk is if employers say well the state is going to top up your wages, therefore I don’t have to pay as much, that is a problem and it needs to be addressed.”

He added: “A lot of people on tax credits are not well off by any stretch of the imagination and if you suddenly remove the tax credits they are getting now that will put them in a very difficult financial situation because it would take years possibly for the wage levels to adjust.”

Shadow chancellor Chris Leslie said that Mr Osborne should encourage bosses to pay the living wage before even considering slashing benefits for those who need them.

The Labour frontbencher told the programme: “If we can finally persuade George Osborne to U-turn and back some incentives for a living wage, that I think would be very welcome.”


The Tories’ message on social housing is that the state is for losers


Subsidised homes are being rebranded as not for decent people. This will set neighbour against neighbour

'I sincerely doubt that George Osborne's measure will save the money they claim it will.'

Forget the state; resent your neighbour; and trust the market.’ Illustration: Jasper Rietman

High earners will no longer be eligible for “subsidised” social housing, and will instead have to pay “market rates”, the chancellor has announced. George Osborne speaks directly to the nation from the pages of the Sun on Sunday in a column that doesn’t actually use the words “clampdown” or “crackdown”, but those are the terms that crop up in all the reports, so we can assume a briefing note somewhere, in which the jargon of tackling crime is deployed to describe people who have the brass neck to rent social housing and have jobs.

This is the first strand of the narrative: that social housing is for the vulnerable, and anybody not vulnerable has no business with it. It follows that aspirational people, hard-working families, strivers – real people – wouldn’t ever want to be socially housed, because they would know it wasn’t intended for them.

The language is all about support (“In times of economic hardship it is more important than ever that social housing helps the most vulnerable in society,” began the consultation paper in 2012), but the underpinning principle is that the state has no business being a provider of ordinary, decent housing to ordinary, decent people. It should instead be thought of as the houser of last resort.

That’s a pretty standard Thatcherite line, but there’s more: what counts as “high income” is a household wage of £40,000 (in London) or £30,000 (elsewhere). The Joseph Rowntree Foundation last week released their minimum income standard figures for 2015: the MIS is reached in a citizen’s jury style: a sequence of small groups are asked to figure out the least a person would need to live an acceptable life. It’s not intended as a poverty threshold, and it’s not as basic as food, clothes and shelter (it includes the category, “social and cultural participation”), but there’s also no frivolity on it.

The most recent calculation was that a couple with two children would need to be earning £20,024 each in order to reach the minimum. In other words, what Osborne calls a high-earning household is actually, in London, one that is only just managing to get by – and outside London, £10,000 per annum shy of an acceptable life. This is a pretty extraordinary manoeuvre, an apparently serious attempt to persuade the nation that a little money is actually a lot of money.

A rather pompous idea in the consultation document is that servicemen and women should take priority on social housing lists; but anybody above the rank of level-three private would, if married to someone on the same salary, immediately be “clamped down upon” and required to pay “market rent”.

The third element of Osborne’s story is this “market” of his: social housing is subsidised, while the price of private rental stock is the true price, the natural one, reached by the irresistible logic of the market. Of course, social housing is only subsidised in the cost of its creation: it then pays for itself in two or three decades of rents. It only looks cheap in comparison with private rents, which themselves aren’t arrived at by market imperatives at all, but are the result of three decades of governments subsidising landlords with housing benefit.


“When Assisted Death is Legal”


In 2012, thanks to an award from The Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, disabled actor and activist Liz Carr travelled to the then five countries where assisted suicide and/or euthanasia are legal ie Belgium, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg and in the USA, Oregon and Washington State.  (Assisted suicide is now also legal in the US state of Vermont and in Canada).


Liz is opposed to the legalisation of assisted suicide and wanted to discover for herself how these laws work in practice and how, if at all, their existence changes the culture of a country.  She shares her discoveries in a two-part BBC World Service radio documentary entitled, “When Assisted Death is Legal” and which is available to listen to here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p014dkq5


In under an hour of listening time, these programmes provide important new information and perspectives on this most difficult of topics.  For example:


* In Luxembourg, Jean Huss and Lydie Err, who co-sponsored the Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia Bill 2012, admitted they were disappointed in the law because they said it failed to include children and those with dementia.  When I asked why these groups were not included in their law, they said that they knew it was easier to pass the law initially for terminally ill people only and then, once passed, to increase the law’s application.


* In Oregon, where the law is the blueprint for the Assisted Dying Bill currently before you in the House of Lords, the 2013 statistics reveal that pain is infact not one of the main concerns of people requesting assisted suicide.  Instead, the three main reasons are loss of autonomy (93%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that make life enjoyable (88.7%) and loss of dignity (73.2%).  By comparison, inadequate pain control or concern about it was one of the least important concerns at 28.2%.


*  Since this documentary was produced, Washington State’s 2013 annual report has shown that 61% of all those who were supplied lethal drugs in order to commit suicide listed the feeling of being a burden on family, friends or caregivers as one of their main reasons for their request.


* In Switzerland, assisted suicide has been legal since the late 1800’s and one of its most stringent safeguards is that each case is investigated by the police


* The Netherlands are currently debating something called ‘Completed Life’ which would legalise assisted suicide for those 70+ who are tired of life



Greek referendum result: what happens next?


A flurry of eurozone meetings are set to go ahead in Athens, Brussels, Paris and Frankfurt, but Greek exit contingency plans will also be discussed in the UK

“No” supporters wave Greek national flags on the main Constitution (Syntagma) square in Athens.

“No” supporters wave Greek national flags on the main Constitution (Syntagma) square in Athens. Photograph: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

What’s next for the Greek banks?

The Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, will hold an emergency meeting with the bosses of the local banks on Sunday night. He has said he is on a “war footing”. The governor of the central bank, the Bank of Greece, Yannis Stournaras, is also likely to be summoned amid fears that Greece’s banks are close to being completely depleted of cash.

Banks are reported to have only some €500m left in cash – equal to just €45 (£32) per head of the 11 million-strong population.

The stakes are high: before the result of the referendum, Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament, told the Daily Telegraph: “Without new money, salaries won’t be paid, the health system will stop functioning, the power network and public transport will break down, and they won’t be able to import vital goods because nobody can pay.”

Where does this leave the bailout negotiations?

Greece’s negotiating team was set to fly to Brussels where they will attempt to get eurozone leaders back to the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, Angela Merkel, the German premier, is flying to Paris on Monday evening to meet her French counterpart, François Hollande, in a move that suggests no immediate deal.

Will the European Central Bank cut off Greece’s liquidity?

The European Central Bank holds the key. Led by Mario Draghi, it is scheduled to meet on Monday morning to decide whether to extend its “emergency liquidity assistance” (ELA) to Greek banks. So far, it has pledged €89bn and it was the ECB’s decision last week not to offer more that led to capital controls being put in place. Greece will ask for help again.

If the ELA was suspended altogether it would ultimately propel Greece towards a euro exit. Analysts at Société Générale said: “The Greek government has already clearly indicated that it is not actively seeking to take the country out of the euro. We have long argued that the day the ECB cuts off ELA is de facto the day that Greece would leave the euro”. But the ECB seems unlikely to want to do that, says SocGen.

How will the markets react?

Investors get to react to the shock referendum result once markets start trading in Asia at 2.30am London time on Monday.

Barclays had teams of foreign exchange traders at their desks from 5pm on Sunday night in preparation for any moves in the currency markets. The focus will be on the euro – which has already been under pressure – but also on government bonds and stock markets. Goldman Sachs has predicted that there could be an initial 10% wiped off the European shares.

Is Greece more likely to leave the euro?

While Tspiras has said a no vote would give him a better negotiating hand with his creditors, analysts at Deutsche Bank are sceptical. According to its analysis, one potential scenario is that Tsipras’s Syriza government is replaced with one of national unity to enable a new deal to be made with creditors. The Deutsche analysts also think it possible that a no vote will result in a Grexit. “We see the probability of Grexit increasing the larger the margin of victory of the no vote,” the Deutsche analysts said.

What about the UK?

In the UK, George Osborne, the chancellor, will hold crisis meetings with the prime minister, David Cameron, and the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney. Carney had already been attending meetings of Cobra – behind-the-scenes talks at the highest level of government – as the Greece crisis was deepening last week and said that contingency plans to deal with repercussions if Greece exits the euro are being put in place.