Op-ed: The British Tory government has pinched yet another UK Labour party idea; the so-called living wage.
The government has in effect rebranded the minimum wage as the national living wage as in truth it is anything but a real living wage.
The introduction of a minimum wage was one Tony Blair's Labour government's big success stories.
It took some people legally employed for around £2 an hour out of real hardship and poverty but only went part of the way to addressing income imbalance in the UK.
It did however mean security guards for example were no longer 'forced' to work upwards of 60 hour working weeks to make ends meet. With income top ups for those with children it was an all-round good measure; a start.
Almost 19 years later in work benefits have been slashed and the minimum wage has failed to keep up. Sure inflation currently may be relatively low but think of all the years between 1997 and 2016 when it was not.
During those years the minimum wage failed to keep up and the fact inflation is low right now is in real terms meaningless to those employed on a basic income, in receipt of a benefit such as a state pension or JSA or on a temporary or zero or part time hours contract.
But it is a better option than scrapping a minimum or living wage.
When the minimum wage was introduced one security firm which operates locally said it would be bankrupt and soon if it was faced to pay more than its paltry £2.25 an hour. All these years later that firm is as prosperous as ever.
The introduction of this 'living wage' could end up meaningless as there are reports that some firms will claw back bonus payments and other perks to pay for it. These days employment contracts have less protection which means they may have carte blanch to do so.
But paying people a fair wage for a fair day's work has many benefits.
If people have even a little disposable income they may book a holiday, buy nice household goods, treat themselves to a new outfit, save a little money, go out for a meal or what-they-will.
Keeping too many people of the UK on an income knife edge hurts the economy, local business and more.
It can damage the health of the young, vulnerable and the elderly. That in turn impacts on NHS costs, crime figures and so much more.
So while we applaud the living wage we question whether it is a real living wage or not. After all it was set by some people who are millionaires and some who had a great start in life due to family wealth.
The new national minimum wage of £7.20 per hour is for everyone 25 and over.
So it is not a universal living wage.
Again it shows David Cameron's 'One Nation' spin is just that-spin.
Looking back over my life-by the age of 23 both my parents were dead. Unlike David Cameron who inherited vast sums of money nicely tucked away in off shore tax havens by his father there was no inheritance; aged 49 Cameron's mother is still alive and he did not lose his father at a young age.
My Dad always worked apart from some periods when unrecognised WWII PTSD caught up with him. But he was employed by Hull City Engineers in its building division at a time when the council was not facing privatisation and severe cuts. So he was kept employed until he died at the age of 55; and I should add he was a damn hard worker.
The house we lived in as kids was not much by today's standards but it was home and it was a tenancy for life; so at least no worries about a tenancy ending as long as you paid the rent.
There was no crippling council tax either just the rates which on a small two up two downed property with no bathroom and an outside loo were relatively cheap.
How very different to today.
Young people face high rents, tenancies that are far from secure, a lack of affordable housing and a cut price wage until they become 25 and not much better when they reach that age.
[The government has spent so much money implementing and publicising the new national living wage it could give us all an income top up]
Yet those same under 25s may have children and already be married.
Saving for a first home may not be on the cards and even after they reach the magic age of 25.
While children these days are in many ways so much more grown up in essence they are being kept as children much longer unless they hail from a family with wealth.
University education now comes at a price and sadly a price many cannot afford.
And if I look back to when I married in 1972, when I was a smoker, I could purchase a pack of 20 cigs for 18p. I quit cigarettes in 1985, or so, so I had to check the current price online which is listed as £9.60 for a pack of 20 cigarettes; however these days many packs only have 18 or 19 and making cheaper looking prices misleading.
But I use cigs as one example as we all know smoking is not good for you in any sense; it is just used as an example of increased costs.
Consider my first little rented property in 1972 which had a rent of around £4 a month. It still lacked some basic amenities but was a good start for us and we soon made it home. And it was worth decorating and more as we again had a tenancy for life unless we defaulted on the rent or broke our rental contract.
Short tenancies hardly encourage you to spend money renovating do they?
It now costs an average £2,583 a month to take on a rented property in central London, compared with £663 in the north of England, the cheapest place to rent in the UK, according to Countrywide, which analysed more than 75,000 properties in England, Scotland and Wales.
Such rents are obviously out of the reach of many young people; and some not so young too.
With high deposits and short term tenancies the odds are not in your favour.
Buying a property could be a better option but hold that thought; interest rates are low but sooner or later will rise; lenders also now want large deposits.
Taking the first step into a home of your own was never so tricky.
BBC magazine has some facts and figures relating to what £7.20 an hour may be you in the UK and it shows that in spite of Tory trumpets that is not a living wage.
Govt National Living Wage
Op-ed: One day after Chancellor George Osborne's spring budget the big red budget book has been analysed and the conclusion is more spending cuts will be necessary.
Osborne has rejected claims that he will have to cut spending or raise taxes to meet his budget but something will have to give and you can bet your bottom dollar it will not be wealthy citizens.
The Chancellor is standing by his promise that Britain will be back in the black by 2020 but with a proviso; as long as the economy keeps growing. He has been forced to revise growth forecasts down and admit he missed key targets in his budget which was a giveaway for the rich.
The problem is the UK is not as 'productive' as many countries; with so much sold off to foreign investors and outsourced little is produced in the UK these days.
But Osborne is a typical style over substance politician and Wednesday after a semi shaky start soon got into his stride and by the end of his budget bombastically hammered home his set phrases.
Phrases such as working to a plan, helping hard working people (changed from families possibly after attacking child tax credit) we are on course and more were all used to pad out the budget.
Delivering the budget could be simpler and quicker but it starts with an intro which is all about political campaigning and is stuffed with theatrics.
Osborne's main budget aim, he claims, is getting the country into surplus by 2020 and the price paid by others to achieve this appears immaterial as long as it is not Tory fat friends losing out.
The Tory attack on disability benefits such as PIP, personal independent payments, and ESA, employment support allowance, when you consider the budget handouts to others by way of cuts to corporation tax and more, highlight priorities not good government.
The Independent had quickly analysed the budget details Wednesday and their report is well worth reading. It includes the following;
For those with large salaries, the threshold for the higher rate of income tax will be raised from £42,386 to £45,000. For those with valuable assets, capital gains tax will be cut from 28 per cent to 20 per cent. For those wealthy enough to have savings, the ISA limit will be increased from £15,000 to £20,000. For those wealthy enough to run businesses, corporation tax will fall from 20 per cent to 17 per cent.
Osborne tends to quote bodies such as the OBR which he claims are independent but he shies away from the IFS, institute for fiscal studies, which is less supportive. Budget 2016: 'Last chance' for George Osborne, IFS chief says reports the Independent.
Thursday the IFS will give its response to the budget but ahead of that Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies criticised the budget saying Osborne only has a 50/50 chance of reaching his target.
If Osborne was serious about his so-called plan being all about fixing the roof while the sun was shining he would have delivered financial pain across the board; that would have been fair and done the job faster.
But Osborne's modus operandi has nothing to do with fairness and everything to do with securing Tory votes and helping fat friends.
Take his lifetime ISA promise Wednesday which sounds good on paper. It will allow anyone under 40 to save ideally for a first home with a little government top-up thrown in for good measure. But the point here is ANYONE.
This means if eligible on age the children of millionaires, including some adults in politics such as Tony Blair, David Cameron, Iain Duncan Smith, George Osborne and Nick Clegg could benefit from the scheme. Young people from poorer backgrounds may struggle to save and obviously save less over the 'life time' of the ISA which has a 50 age cut off. The Express writes;
The scheme for under-40s will be introduced in April 2017 but there are worries it could encourage workers to spurn existing pension schemes that hold a number of benefits for long-term savers.
For many people the conclusion is Wednesday's budget is flawed and fails on all levels except helping the rich get richer.
The latest from the Guardian is - Richest households gain £225 from Osborne's income tax cuts - and the poorest just £10, thinktank says.
Perhaps Osborne is waiting until the May elections and the EU referendum are out of the way before slashing budgets further.
After all there will always be another budget along and he could always opt for yet another emergency budget in July once votes are under his belt.
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British political scene
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