Last week could have been a disaster for the government’s workfare programme. It sends unemployed people to toil for free – and takes away their benefits if they refuse.
Superdrug became the latest firm to pull out of the scheme. It seems the free labour isn’t worth the bad publicity.
Superdrug sort of admitted as much, saying, “to be honest the response we have had has been mixed”.
Tory welfare minister, Iain Duncan Smith, was left scrambling to deny that job centres set targets for sanctions.
This came after a leaked email warning staff they’d be disciplined if they didn’t kick enough people off their benefits.
And in a major embarrassment, the government had to try and retroactively change the law to avoid paying £130 million compensation to 250,000 unemployed people.
The court of appeal had ruled that they hadn’t been given enough information before losing their benefits.
Duncan Smith must have felt he had no one to turn to.
So imagine his relief when the cavalry came over the hill—led by his Labour counterpart Liam Byrne.
You’d have thought the opposition could have brought themselves to oppose the government. But Labour whipped its MPs into abstaining – and 85 percent of them did so.
Byrne claimed to have had good, if complicated, tactical reasons. He also said he agreed with the use of sanctions to rob people’s benefits.
“I happen to believe that the work ethic has got to be at the heart of welfare reform,” he said.
The Labour front bench have had to tone down their pro-cuts language since the party decided to join protests against the bedroom tax.
But in the past Byrne has been more explicit. “Labour is the party of hard workers not free-riders,” he once said.
And again for emphasis, “the party of workers, not shirkers.”
This from the same Liam Byrne who scrounged £2,400 a month to rent an apartment by the Thames.
With an opposition like this, who needs a Tory government?
Eastlands Homes scapegoats tenants
Manchester tenants who face the bedroom tax are furious at Eastlands scapegoating from Eastlands Homes housing association.
It sent a leaflet asking “Can you really afford Sky, cigarettes, bingo, drinks and other non essentials?” It later apologised, saying it was only meant as “advice”
The same Eastlands has been refitting flats with new satellite TV connections – whether or not tenants want them
Rich Rich Ricci gets showered with cash
Last Wednesday was a good day for top Barclays investment banker Rich Ricci.
He pocketed nearly £18 million in shares as a reward for his performance. He cashed them in straight away.
But that’s fair enough, when you think about everything that investment bankers have done for us in that time.
The good news didn’t stop there. George Osborne handed rich Rich another £27,000 a month in the budget, just by scrapping the top rate of tax.
New Barclays boss Antony Jenkins got £5.6 million.
In return he’s planning to lay off 40,000 bank workers around the world.
A tradition of leaking budgets
Tory George Osborne isn’t the first chancellor to leak his budget.
He let London’s Evening Standard paper see it early. They splashed it on Twitter before he’d even opened his mouth.
In 1947 chancellor Hugh Dalton was caught leaking details of his budget to journalists.
Dalton resigned. Let’s hope Osborne takes note.
A few council cuts that we can afford
Caerphilly council in South Wales spent more than £110,000 hiring private detectives to spy on its staff.
Council bosses say they wanted to see if anyone was pinching stationery or falsely calling in sick.
But it would take a lot of days off and missing pens to be worth £110,000.
So we can’t help but wonder about their real motives for finding fault with their workers.
And in nearby Cardiff, council leader Heather Joyce wants to hire an advisor—on £80,000 a year.
Academies starve council of cash
One council has warned that if schools keep being turned into academies it will run out of cash.
One in four Birmingham schools has now been transferred to academy status, 70 in the past two years.
And the council has to pick up the £2 million bill.
Sarkozy isn't the only one facing charges
Former French president Nicholas Sarkozy now faces corruption charges. He accepted envelopes stuffed with cash from billionaire Liliane Bettencourt.
But that was in the bad old days of 2007. Nothing like that could happen with France’s new Socialist president, right?
Wrong. Jerome Cahuzac, the minister charged with collecting tax, resigned last week to be investigated over tax fraud.
Archer for NHS?
Fantasist author Jeffrey Archer thinks his wife Mary is perfect for running the whole NHS.
Dame Archer was ennobled last year for services to the NHS. She’s credited with improving Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge.
It had to cancel 37 operations due to lack of beds earlier this month, Just what the NHS needs, then.
Internet lessons for a Tory MP
Tory MP Gavin Barwell thought he’d uncovered a scandal last week.
He clicked a link to a Labour press release and saw an advert he just had to tweet about.
He spluttered, “I know Labour are short of cash but having an invitation to ‘date Arab girls’ at top of your press release?”
In return he was sent an explanation of how the internet works.
The ad didn’t come with the page. It was chosen just for him by Google, based on his own preferences and browsing history.
Sounds like you’ve been ’ad there, Gavin.