Archive for March, 2013

George Osborne’s last budget was an omnishambles that unravelled amid rows over everything from taxes on pasties and caravans to cuts for pensioners and a windfall for millionaires. But is his 2013 offering any better?

After by election defeat, a u-turn over minimum alcohol pricing, a climbdown on Leveson, the growth of UKIP support and ongoing rows over the bedroom tax, the Conservative part of the coalition government needed a strong performance from Osborne. But it simply didn’t get one.

Frankly this is a budget that the Chancellor would have cancelled if he could have got away with it. He knew that he would be forced to stand in front of the House of Commons and admit that, by every test he had set himself, his economic policies were failing badly. Despite austerity the national debt is still rising. Growth is non-existent. The AAA credit rating he so prized is gone. Unemployment is increasing again. A triple dip recession looms.

And Osborne’s answer? To propose the continuation of those exact same failing policies.

The Chancellor’s main messages were the typical Tory ones: there is no alternative and support for the strivers. But the details announced showed that even the previously modest growth forecasts have had to be cut and a further four years of net debt increases is now expected. Yes, despite all of the cuts announced on top of those already imposed there will be no reduction in the national debt until 2017/ 18.

This is the second time that the Chancellor has moved back the timescale for debt reduction. And over the next four financial years he forecast that an additional £46 billion will be added to the debt – on top of the £287 billion of new debt that he forecast in his last budget.

Clearly it is hurting and will continue to cause great pain– and it isn’t even working.

There was a little good news of course: a planned 3p rise on a litre of fuel won’t now happen – and a populist 1p fall in the price of a pint of beer will be welcomed by many. Increases to personal tax allowances will make take home pay just a little higher for most. Reductions in corporation tax and employers’ national insurance contributions will give some relief to business.

Great play was made of new tax avoidance measures. There was a lot of rhetoric but little in the way of substance – or figures for how much additional income he expected.

But George Osborne’s key failure in this budget was in refusing to plan the large scale investment that we can all see is needed to get the economy moving and to tackle unemployment.

Invest in infrastructure and build much needed houses. Much more than then £2.5 billion cut from elsewhere over two years is required. Significant new investment is now needed, not just a little sleight of hand reallocation from revenue to capital spending.

Lend to businesses to invest and you create jobs Get people into work and they will pay taxes. They will also spend money and stimulate demand. These are the types of measures that the Chancellor should have prioritised. Even Michael Hesaltine – not exactly a known Keynesian – made the case for infrastructure spending. But Osborne does not even propose to match the modest level of investment that he identified.

Instead of action to stimulate the economy now, the Chancellor proposed a subsidy for childcare – in 2015. A new pension structure – in 2016. Does he not realise that the economy is in severe trouble right now?

The Chancellor joined Twitter to promote this budget – which was rather odd as all of the details appeared in the London Evening Standard before he even stood up to speak in the House Of Commons. An embarrassing leak from somewhere within the Treasury it seems.

And Ed Miliband even summed up his budget for him within the required 140 characters: “Growth down, borrowing up, families hit, and millionaires laughing all the way to the bank #downgradedchancellor”

This was a budget that offered nothing new. More cuts and higher debt are the results of Osborne’s failed economic policies. Yet he refuses to contemplate a change of course. And his own forecasts are of worse to come. There is no good news from, to quote Milibrand, “a downgraded Chancellor.”

Instead of offering real investment and hope George Osborne continues to fiddle while the economy crashes around him. And the country is left to pay the high price for his failure.

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Last month the Court of Appeal ruled that science graduate Cait Reilly and unemployed lorry driver Jamieson Wilson had been unlawfully made to work for no pay.

The government’s cynical response? A quick and dirty piece of legislation that would retrospectively change the law to make their actions legal. The Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Bill, to be debated in the House of Commons next week.

Yes, this despicable bill would mean that many thousands of unemployed people forced onto an illegal scheme, or whose benefits were illegally stopped because they refused to comply with an illegal government programme, will get no compensation – because the law change would take effect before it was actually passed by parliament. Past illegal acts would actually become legal.

The government was found by a court to have acted in a manner that did not comply with the law. And now rather than admitting their guilt and dealing with the consequences they are simply trying to move the goalposts.

The reason they give for this insidious act is “to protect the national economy”.

Or, in other words, to ensure that unemployed people will not be entitled to money that was illegally taken from them.

Tessa Gregory from Public Interest Lawyers, who successfully represented Reilly and Wilson, said, “The emergency bill is a repugnant attempt by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to avoid his legal obligation to repay the thousands of jobseekers, who like my client Jamieson Wilson, have been unlawfully and unfairly stripped of their subsistence benefits.”

It’s like being fined for parking on a vacant street – and then being told that the law was later changed to mean that there was actually a double yellow line there all along.

Are there no depths to which this government will not sink?

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A Challenge To The SFA

I have today asked the SFA how they will deal with the participation of ineligible players by the former Rangers FC in past Scottish Cup ties.

Regardless of the rationale that the Lord Nimmo Smith Commission used in its decision to fine the former club but not to reverse the results of past league matches, it must be remembered that a guilty verdict was delivered. Many players over many years were not correctly registered as footballers and they played in many matches, including Scottish Cup ties.

Now consider that Spartans were thrown out of the Scottish Cup in 2011 when it was discovered that a date was missing from a contract submitted to the governing body. Surely no sporting advantage was  received because of the missing date? The judicial panel in this case did not decide, as per SFA evidence to the LNS Commission, that the player was eligible because he could have been, or because no one noticed the error until later. Instead it threw Spartans out of the Cup.

Now surely Scotland’s governing body will treat all clubs equally?

Here is the text of the inquiry I have submitted to the SFA. I look forward to receiving their response.


Dear Colleagues,

You will be aware, of course, of the recent verdict of the Commission headed by Lord Nimmo Smith into the matter of the registration of footballers by the former Rangers FC.

You will also be aware that the Commission concluded that many players were not registered correctly, as full details of payments made to them were not disclosed to the footballing authorities.

I would like to inquire how this matter will now be progressed by the SFA in relation to the past participation of the many players involved in Scottish Cup ties.

You will recall that in November 2011, Spartans were excluded from the Scottish Cup because an incorrectly registered player was fielded in a tie. The club’s victory was subsequently overturned by an SFA judicial panel because of this administrative error.

The matter was reported at the time by the BBC. This link provides the details:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/15672375

I note that the BBC reports that, “Scottish Cup rules now state that any club that plays a player who is ineligible will be thrown out of the competition. The rules also state that neither the judicial panel or anyone at the SFA has the authority to change this rule.”

I would be grateful for your comments on how this rule will now be applied in relation to the former Rangers FC in light of Lord Nimmo Smith’s Commission having confirmed that any players were not registered in accordance with football’s rules and were therefore ineligible to play in Scottish Cup ties.

Yours sincerely

Gordon Johnston

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