Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Labour MPs would rather clock off early than vote against abolishing 50p

Ed Balls and Labour MPs have spent the whole of last week telling anyone who'd listen that they will vote against any changes to the additional tax rate of 50p.

Last night they had the chance to do just that on the last division of the day:

That, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the practice of the House relating to the matters that may be included in Finance Bills, any Finance Bill of the present Session may contain the following provisions about income tax taking effect in a future year—

(a) provision that for the tax year 2013-14—

(i) the basic rate is 20%,

(ii) the higher rate is 40%, and

(iii) the additional rate is 45%, and

provision about other rates of income tax.

Whilst Labour are spinning this morning that they voted against all provisions in the bill earlier in the evening and they "abstained" from this vote, I understand that Labour MPs (except for the 2 who really believe the rhetoric the party has been putting out and voted no) had actually all gone home for the night.

Clearly clocking off early is more important to them than their principled stand against cutting the 50p rate.

For anyone saying it was a surprise motion it was clearly on the Budget resolutions paper for last night!

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Why Steve Hilton Leaving matters

Every commentator and their dog is either writing a piece about Steve Hilton at the moment or has already written one. Who he was, what he’s done, what kind of a person he was; comment piece after comment piece is pouring out of laptops everywhere.

I don’t know Steve Hilton, I’ve never met him, I’m not sure I’ve ever even been in the same building,  but I do feel that his leaving is going to leave a hole. Why? Because by all accounts he has a vision, and he’s a man that is all about getting things done andy politics and government is all to short on those kind of people.

Don’t get me wrong, politics is full of very smart, very hard working people, but in the main they’re adrenaline junkies. They thrive on crisis and reacting, they’re about responding to what’s happening now. They get things done, but they’re not

By all accounts Hilton was the opposite, yes his day job was implementation, but he was thinking about the long term. Anyone that knows anything about transformational change, knows it’s not about reacting and responding ,it’s about getting things done that will create the change in time. Looking ahead to the future and importantly  thinking outside the box.

In politics you don't get to do that often, it’s all about the now, about responding to what’s happening to the detriment of long term planning. I came into politics with an aim to think long term, but I spend my life responding, worrying about what’s on the table now not later. I do get to think about the future from time to time (projects like Masters of Nothing and 2020 are the two that come to mind the most) but it’s not nearly often enough.

The other reason that I think Hilton will be sorely missed is his radicalism, it was his detoxification strategy (radical at the time) that drew new people to the Conservative party. People that would never have dreamed about voting Tory before. ConHome may blame this strategy for a lost election, but in my view it was what brought us to Government for the first time in 13 years. Without it we wouldn’t have stood a chance.

And it was many of his policies on things like transparency, open public services, and the post bureaucratic age that got me really inspired about politics. It was some of these ideas, thinking about them, and blogging about them, that ultimately saw me leave the world of business behind to go work for an MP.

Steve leaving Downing Street is a loss, someone always needs to be pushing the envelope, being reigned back, asking the awkward questions, and that was him. That role is important and someone has to fill it in any organisation that really wants to create lasting change.

I really do hope that that commentariat is wrong, and he’ll be back after his sabbatical. We need radical thinking from a doer, not just from big academic brains and  in the meantime we need to find someone to fill the Guru’s shoes (not that he wears them much).

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Quote of the Day

"The belief that you can just sit at home or wait to become a TV star and that work simply lands in your lap, in turn, feeds the pernicious idea that success is not related to effort and work."
- Ian Duncan Smith on work experience - read more

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Defining "efficiency savings"

To most being told to make efficiency savings means you would look at how things work, can you buy things more cost effectively, if you rearrange a process would it take less time and hence less man hours to do. Not so though it seems for NHS managers who apparently believe that making efficiency savings equates to just cutting the amount of work they do.

As reported in the Telegraph today:

"managers, who are already rationing surgery for cataracts, hips, knees and tonsils, say they must restrict treatment as the NHS is under orders to make £20 billion of efficiency savings by 2015."

Restricting treatment isn't making an efficiency saving, it's just doing less. It's like saying the way we'll save money in a manufacturing business is to make less stuff because then we'll spend less on materials and staff.

However it gets worse, even the most die-hard don't touch our NHS, leave it as it is'er will surely question the idea that NHS management and accountability structures don't need an overhaul when they read the findings of the independent Co-operation and Competition panel report. As described by the Telegraph:

"Executives believe the delays mean some people will remove themselves from lists “either by dying or by paying for their own treatment” claims the report"

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ed's 24 hour u-turn

Yesterday Ed Milliband said:
“I think that BSkyB is a separate issue about the operation of competition law,” (Video below)

Yet at PMQs today he said that the Prime Minister was out of touch with public opinion for saying exactly the same thing. Has public opinion changed so dramatically since yesterday that he had to u-turn? or was it really just for a cheap PMQs hit

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Was public debt really lower in 2008 than in 1997?

Ed Balls keeps banging away that the national debt was smaller before the crisis than they inherited from the Conservatives. The other day Labour List used this graph to illustrate his point.

Damning stuff, except it's two data points, let's look at the whole picture from 1999 to present courtesy of the ONS (It's the graph on the right we're interested in).

So what does this show, it shows that from when they took over and whilst they were following Conservative spending plans, national debt as a percentage of GDP did indeed fall, (aided as well by the sale of 3G mobile phone licences for £22.37bn in 2000, which as Ed Balls said this morning went towards paying off national debt.), but as soon as Labour economic policies kicked in we saw an upward trajectory. By 2008 we were already running a significant structural deficit, then we had the crisis which was an excuse for opening the spending taps even more. 

What's important to remember is that this graph excludes interventions in the banking sector, so the debt didn't go up in 2008 because we bailed out the banks, as the language Balls uses always implies. Trust me you don't even want to see that graph, in April 2011 debt including interventions was 148.9% of GDP.

So next time someone tells you that the debt was lower in 2008 than in 1997, ask them if they know what it was in 2002.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The truth about ESA and cancer patients

At PMQs today Ed Milliband used all of his questions on a technicality of the Welfare reform bill, basically justifying his opposition to welfare reform. He used a press release from earlier this week from Macmillan Cancer care which states that 3,000 (or 7,000 depending on who wrote it up) cancer patients faced the removal of up to £94 a week's Employment Support Allowance.

As far as I can see it the reality is this.

Claimants for ESA are divided into two groups:
1) those undergoing treatment (the support group);
2) Those deemed able to perform "work-related activities"

For those in the support group there is no time limit for their claims for ESA. If you are a cancer patient undergoing treatment for 2 years, 3 years, or 5 years  then it appears that you are entitled to ESA.

However if you're in the second group and your treatment has ended and you have been assessed (by a medical test) as being able to perform work related activities, to help you to return to full work, then you face means testing of your work related activities ESA after having received it for 12 months. This means that if you have savings over £16,000 or you have a partners with either works more than 24 hours or earns more than £149 a week that you would lose the entirety of your ESA, otherwise you would lose either a portion of it, or nothing at all.

So will cancer "patients" be worse off by £94 a week? I guess it depends what you call a patient.

Update: I also understand that the government ammended the Bill to ensure that individuals awaiting or between courses of chemotherapy will automatically be placed in the support group and retain their indefinite ESA.

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