Category Archives: Austerity

Universal credit: What went wrong?

Universal credit – the government’s flagship welfare reform – is in trouble, (some may say tatters) according to the National Audit Office.  Our old friend Iain Duncan Smith, says he has fixed most of the problems, but others disagree.

It was only a couple of days ago we told you that the IT was crap and was almost certain to be scrapped, now we find the whole of Universal Credit is probably Not Fit For Purpose, just like the entire ConDem coalition.

The main problems with the scheme have been identified as

  • The timetable was too ambitious
  • There was no detailed plan
  • A bunker mentality developed
  • Poor financial management
  • High staff turnover
  • Inadequate control over suppliers
  • Ignoring recommendations

So what does Iain Duncan Smith have to say for himself?

The work and pensions secretary says he was already aware of the problems raised by the NAO and they have all been fixed.

He told BBC News: “I lost faith in the ability of civil servants to manage this and so I brought in people from the outside.”

He insists universal credit will be delivered “in time and on budget,” and says the NAO report is dealing with “historic” issues.

So IDS is a fan of outsourcing/privatisation as well it seems.

Even the bullet points without the detail behind them are enough to make my blood boil.  It smacks of everything that is bad about this government;-   Arrogance, Indecent Haste, Poor Preparation, Poor Execution, Insufficient (if any) Consultation.

Any member of staff responsible for a plan like that deserves to be disciplined and probably sacked, really. But because it’s the Dave Club they’ll get away with it, DWP staff are already on bonuses of AT LEAST £500, so they must be doing something right, just can’t think what

There you have the nub of the problem in one sentence. A government department (there may be more) who have entered into the Bonus Culture, presumably envious of the bankers, and look where they got us.

A Govt. department paying themselves bonuses in times of Austerity. #AllInThisTogether? No bloody way

Universal Credit went wrong when a bunch of self-serving posh gits came up with a hurried plan, executed it in a rush, without having the proper foundations. Just like every other plan this government has dreamt up. “Must be in by 2015 cos we won’t be around after that. This is our heritage.”

How many other government departments award themselves bonuses I wonder?  And when did bonuses become part of the Civil Service? Do the Fire & Rescue Service, Teachers, Nurses, Doctors, Police Officers, Coastguards et al get paid bonuses.  Nick a burglar and get a pony? I don’t think so. I definitely don’t think it’s right in the public sector either. Not jealous, not envious, just plain WRONG.

Rant over, enjoy your day.

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Government Wastage Revisited

Hello, you haven’t heard from us for a while, but that’s not because we don’t care any more, we care just as passionately as before if not more so, we’ve both been a little busy lately, that’s all.

Two things have come to our notice this week that made us sit up and take notice again, and we feel that we should let you know as well, just in case you didn’t.

Firstly our old friend Iain Duncan Smith and his Department of Work and Pensions.  It seems that they are quite likely to have to scrap their entire IT system for Universal Credit and start again from scratch.

£300 Million wasted. #Austerity? Not in Whitehall apparently.

A review by Universal Credit director general Howard Shiplee will apparently recommend two options for the future of the IT developed so far, which go even further than previous reports have suggested.

Option one would mean scrapping all the work done so far, thereby admitting it is not fit for purpose, and bringing most of the development of new IT systems in-house under the control of the Government Digital Service (GDS).

Option two would involve continuing to use some of the existing IT to support the current Pathfinder pilot projects, but developing new systems for the full roll-out – effectively delaying any decision to throw away all the work completed so far.

Option 1? Option 2?  Both of them seem to involve scrapping everything at some point, whatever.  The Cabinet Office, which controls GDS, is understood to favour the first option, while the DWP prefers to continue with the current IT for as long as possible. Two branches of the same government with opposing views, where have I heard that before?

The final decision will probably be made later this month by the Ministerial Oversight Group for the troubled welfare reform programme, led by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,  Iain Duncan Smith.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said in a highly critical report on Universal Credit in September that £303m had been spent so far on IT. Of that amount, the DWP has already admitted to writing off £34m of IT work, although that figure is likely to end up even higher whatever happens.

Labour’s shadow secretary of state for work and pensions Rachel Reeves wrote to the Prime Minister last week, urging him to “start taking responsibility for this fiasco”. She added: “David Cameron has serious questions to answer about how he has allowed things to get to this stage and how his complacent, incompetent and out-of-touch government has wasted scandalous amounts of money on a half-baked plan IT now can’t deliver.”

Don’t sit on the fence Rachel, what do you really mean?

But if all of the IT were to be scrapped, the NAO report suggests that the final figure for the write-off would be in excess of £300m.

Most of that money has been spent with the four key IT suppliers for the project – HP, IBM, Accenture and BT.

The other piece of disastrous news that caught my eye this week was in relation to my old favourite – Aircraft Carriers.

The cost of two new aircraft carriers being built for the Royal Navy is expected to be almost twice the original estimate, the government is expected to confirm this week.

In the latest budget, the Ministry of Defence is set to estimate the cost of the two ships at £6.2bn.

£6.2 BILLION. What on earth are they doing? How many hospitals, schools, police officers etc etc could be funded by just the difference in cost between that and the original. Six years ago, when the contract was approved, costs were put at £3.65bn

The shadow defence secretary, Labour’s Vernon Coaker, said: “This is the latest in a series of financial fiascos in the MoD under David Cameron.  It’s that word fiasco again (see above).

This government seem to be very good at cut cut cut in just about every public sector. We must all pull together, this is a national crisis, a time of severe austerity, and all of these cuts have to be in place before 2015 because we know we don’t stand a snowball’s chance of being re-elected.

Whilst, at the the very same time, they are increasing their salaries, increasing their pensions, and their expenses have almost returned to the excesses of the bad old days.  Only a few days ago was there news about how they were claiming for gas and electricity in their second homes, and as one of my Twitter colleagues put it “Why do they need to do that, because if they’re heating their second home they’re not heating their main home, or cooking etc?”

So nothing has really changed since we spoke last. We are most definitely NOT All In It Together and the ConDem government that NOBODY voted for has shown just how arrogant and uncaring they can be.

Trouble is, it’s left me the dilemma, Who the hell do I vote for in 2015?

Answers on a Postcard please, assuming that Royal Mail still exists when you read this.

I’m So Furious I Can’t Even Think of a Title

I wasn’t going to write a blog today.

Got too much plumbing and gardening that need seeing to.

Then I was going to have a rest.

Then I saw this headline in the on-line Daily Mirror (at least it wasn’t the #Fail)

Iain Duncan Bloody Smith has excelled himself AGAIN.

‘He’ paid his staff bonuses totalling more than £44million last year while slashing benefits for countless needy and vulnerable people.

The top Tory’s department is in chaos with delays to flagship benefit reforms, a huge benefit tests backlog, botched work capability assessments and an IT crisis.

But senior civil service fatcats based in Whitehall were still paid bonuses of up to £17,500, based on performance the previous year.

In all, just 62 of them shared £671,000 on top of hefty salaries that often run to six figures.

And more junior Department for Work and Pensions staff were paid bonuses of up to £2,710 to top up their wages.

The average payment to rank-and-file employees was £515.

In all, 97,701 of the department’s 99,739 staff – a staggering 98% – shared more than £43.8million.

Quite apart from the fact that this is morally bankrupt, what on earth is the Bonus System doing in the Public Sector anyway?  This means that we, Mr and Mrs Taxpayer, have paid these bonuses.
Did you want to pay DWP bullies a bonus?  I didn’t.  When I worked in the Public Sector I didn’t get paid a bonus, nor did I even expect one or think that I SHOULD be paid one.
Where does this bonus money originate from? Savings from the ATOS Experience?  What, exactly does one have to achieve in DWP to qualify for a bonus?
I feel an #FOI coming on.
Have a good weekend
Rant over.

The Crucifixion Cycle

And so it has started.

In truth it probably started a year or two ago, but various distractions have kept our blinkers in place.

The Crucifixion Cycle

Stage 1

Slash Resources

Government slashes the resources of the public body in question.  Be it NHS, Armed Forces, Police, Education, Coastguard, Fire Service, Probation…..the list just goes on and on.  They have all had their resources slashed to the bone (and possibly deeper) by this failing coalition government in the name of Austerity. Be under NO illusions, more cuts are coming, Gideon says so.

Stage 2

Highlight The Failings

Next Step is to commission a report highlighting the failings of said public body. Policy Exchange (other Think Tanks are widely available) are normally good at issuing reports that seem to support government’s plan of action.

Stage 3

Get the Press to Crucify the Public Body for Their Failings

Certain sectors of the British Press seem only too willing to publish articles, splashed across their front pages, or 1st item on the 10 o’clock news etc, crucifying the public body for their failings. They never seem to mention slashed resources at this stage, just how serious and awful the failings have been, whip up some public backlash, and launch a “heads should roll” theme to move it forward.

Police and NHS are currently suffering at the hands of Stage 3.  Whose turn next?

Stage 4

Privatisation.

These public bodies can’t be trusted to organise a beer-drinking event in a brewery.  Just look at the headlines at Stage 3. I know how to sort this out, we’ll privatise them.  We’ve got some Lords with interests in suitable private companies, let’s give them a shot at sorting it all out, perfect solution.

Am I wrong?

Is this NOT how it happens?

Where are you on the Wheel of Fortune?

Have you been crucified yet?

Claiming DLA on line? Do not use up to date tech or a smartphone.

I saw this this morning and re tweeted it and think it is worthy of a mention here.

We have posted before about the amazing waste the government creates in introducing IT systems and it looks as though they have not learnt a thing from their failures.

The computer system claimants are encouraged?? use to claim the DLA & some other benefits only seems to work with outdated tech as described here in ComputerWorldUK 

You are likely to have problems if you use Internet Explorer 7, 8, 9 and 10, Windows Vista or a smartphone. Clearing temporary internet files may help but you may wish to claim in another way.
There is also a high risk that if you use browsers not listed below, including Chrome, Safari or Firefox, the service will not display all the questions you need to answer. This is likely to prevent you from successfully completing or submitting the form.”

Sampb has also written a good post on the subject: Want to claim DLA Online, Make Sure You Use an Outdated and Insecure Computer

So this is a system that I presume is supposed to make claiming Disability Living Allowance easier? How can that possibly be the case when it is not even up to date.

I have long thought this Government was treating people with disabilities cruelly and unfairly and this is yet another sign that yes indeed they are.

Cynical? Me?

Now I’m a cynical, sceptical old soul, but there are things going on (some may say many) in the world of government that I don’t understand.

Police Service – As much as possible seems to be in the process of being identified by privatising, probably to G4S. Budgets slashed by 20% and thousands of Police posts have to go across England and Wales.

Armed Forces – Too many Strategic Defence Reviews, servicemen being laid off, Armed Forces now at their lowest strength for decades.

NHS – Again, ripe for privatisation. Just look to see who the directors are of the companies in line to benefit.

Who is destroying our NHS

Who is destroying our NHS

And I don’t understand why, at a time when demand on Accident and Emergency Units has never been greater, A&Es across the country are being closed down. Does that make any kind of sense?

Target time to be seen in A&E is apparently now 4 hours. Nobody should have to wait 4 hours to be seen in A&E.

Probation Services – Being Privatised, again to G4S amongst others, and a Social Media Gagging Order imposed upon Probation Officers by Chris Grayling just in case they’re upset by what’s going and might want to Tweet about it, so I’ll do it for them, he hasn’t managed to gag me.

Coastguard Service – Coastguard Stations being closed down, service streamlined, Search and Rescue operations Privatised to an American Company.

Fire and Rescue Service – Fire Stations closed down, Fire Engines sold off or mothballed, jobs at risk or been lost.

Education – Schools turned into Academies, judged by complex League Tables. We nearly had to ditch GCSEs and create an English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC), but Gove backed down on that one.  The National Union of Teachers has also warned that 2015 will bring an “unmanageable level of change which could lead to a collapse of the system.”

G4S are now teaching and looking after our children. Are we all mad?  A Blog by Tom Pride, read the full article Here

Banks – Apparently responsible for a lot of the mess this country now finds itself in, making huge losses still, some of them, but still manage to pay out millions in bonuses. How does it work that you get paid a bonus for making a loss?  And still they are not lending enough to ordinary folk to kick-start the economy and get the housing market moving again.

My first question is ‘Are they changing too much, all at the same time?’ This is a government that seems hell-bent on reforming everything in sight before the next election and its inevitable result. Naive? Arrogant? Greedy? Self-Serving? All of the above?

My second question is this; Why, in times of austerity when ‘We’re All In This Together’ are we laying folk off, privatising public services that have served us well for generations, closing down public buildings, letting foreign companies come in and run certain aspects of the service, all because the country cannot afford to maintain these services at their existing levels, why then do the government then reduce Income Tax for the richest people. Those who earn the most now pay less Income Tax, 45p in the pound instead of 50p.

This might not sound much, but is it going to provide an incentive for the richest folk to spend more? I don’t think so. Is it going to give you and I the incentive to go out and spend more? I don’t think so.

Why not consider having a two tier VAT system like certain European countries do; 20% for most things, but 5.5% for Restaurants, Bars, Home Improvements etc etc, giving folk the incentive to eat out more, employ builders more because the VAT bill is nothing like so big, and that’s just the beginning.

Raising Taxes is never going to be a Vote Winner, never has been, but we’re seldom in the pickle we are now.  Once these services are Privatised they are very unlikely to be unpicked and put back into National ownership again.  As long as it was fair I think I personally would prefer to pay a modest sum more each year in taxes and keep British Public Services in Public, British, ownership. There is nothing wrong with making these services as efficient as they can possibly be, but Police, Fire, NHS, Teachers, Armed Forces etc etc are NOT BUSINESSES. They cannot be run like businesses, they should not be treated like businesses. They are not for profit, but if G4S, amongst others, come in, make no mistake their first priority will be to make a profit for their shareholders, anything else will be secondary, less important.

Lobby your MP, sign all the petitions you can find, demonstrate peacefully when the opportunity arises, make your voice heard. The government are getting away with this massacre because not enough people are standing up to them. they are behaving like playground bullies, and we don’t like bullies do we?

If we don’t these services will be irrevocably changed and some may disappear forever.

April Fool – The Nightmare Continues

Many thanks to @OldRolyBirkinQC for letting me nick the following list (although he doesn’t actually know I’ve done it yet, but he soon will);

Here are some of our millionaire cabinet ministers who just gave themselves a tax cut, while we pay more for being poorer…..which is nice.

Lord Strathclyde worth £10m
Philip Hammond worth £7.5m
George Osborne worth £4.6m
Jeremy Hunt worth £4.5m
David Cameron worth £4m
Dominic Grieve worth £3m
Francis Maude worth £3m
William Hague worth £2.5m
David Laws worth £1m-2m
Nick Clegg worth £1.9m
David Willetts worth £1.9m
Theresa May worth £1.6m
Oliver Letwin worth £1.6m
Owen Paterson worth £1.5m
Kenneth Clarke worth £1m+
Sir George Young £1m+
Iain Duncan Smith worth £1m+
Michael Gove worth £1m+
Grant Schapps is under his other name of Andrew Green.

So, on top of Bedroom Tax, loss of Legal Aid for many, reduction of all kinds of Benefits, the rich just carry on getting richer.  David Camoron and George Osborne have, between them, cooked up a scheme to reduce the rate of tax for people on the top rate from 50p in the £ to 45 pence.  This does not sound very much, 5 p in the pound but it has been estimated that 13,000 people earning more than £1,000,000 per year will be at least £50,000 per year BETTER OFF.

In times of austerity this does not sound morally or ethically justifiable to me.  The poor are going to get poorer, and the rich will get richer by almost £1,000 PER WEEK for doing nothing.

And this is just the beginning;

On April 6, working-age benefits and tax credits will be cut in real terms with the first of three years of maximum 1% rises – well below the present rate of inflation.  The poor are beginning to get poorer.

On April 8, disability living allowance begins to be replaced by the personal independence payment (Pip), which charities say will remove support from many in real need.  Now the disabled are beginning to get poorer.

From 15 April 2013 a limit will be put on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. This is called a ‘benefit cap’. Local councils will be introducing this between 15 April and 30 September 2013.

From 15 April 2013, the benefit cap will affect people in 4 council areas:

  • Bromley
  • Croydon
  • Enfield
  • Haringey

The benefit cap will be introduced in all other council areas between 15 July and and 30 September 2013.

I guess the poor are going to get a bit poorer yet.

What’s included in the Benefit Cap?

The cap will apply to the total amount that the people in your household get from the following benefits:

  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance (unless you get the support component)
  • Guardian’s Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Widowed Parent’s Allowance (or Widowed Mother’s Allowance or Widows Pension you started getting before 9 April 2001)

How much is the benefit cap?

The level of the cap will be:

  • £500 a week for couples (with or without children living with them)
  • £500 a week for single parents whose children live with them
  • £350 a week for single adults who don’t have children, or whose children don’t live with them

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Osborne and Mr Duncan Smith said: “Our changes will ensure that the welfare state offers the right help to those who need it, and is fair to those who pay for it.”  The three-year, real-terms cut was a hard but “necessary” decision to save the taxpayer £2bn a year as part of austerity deficit-reduction measures, they wrote.

37 authorities across Britain revealed 96,041 households faced losing benefit but there were only 3,688 smaller homes available.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: “These shocking new figures reveal the big lie behind this Government’s cruel bedroom tax.

“They say it’s not a tax but 96% of people have nowhere to move to. In the same week that millionaires get a huge tax cut, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people will be hit by a vicious tax they can’t escape.

“This wicked bedroom tax is going to rip neighbour from neighbour, force vulnerable people to food banks and loan sharks, and end up costing Britain more than it saves as tenants are forced to go homeless or move into the expensive private rented sector.”

One of our illustrious banks, RBS,  sheepishly announced £5 BILLION of losses at the end of February, but still felt they could afford to pay out nearly £700 MILLION in bonuses.  My first question would be “why are they paying bonuses for making a loss?”, and secondly, doesn’t the UK taxpayer own 82% of RBS now?  Did we sanction this?  Wouldn’t we rather that they repaid what they could to the taxpayer a.s.a.p.?

In the meantime Iain Duncan Smith’s claims that he could live on £53 per week if he had to seem to have backfired somewhat.  An on-line petition calling for him to put his money where his mouth is attracted 100,000 signatures overnight, and currently stands at 150,000 signatures. Demonstrators gathered to voice their displeasure

Protesters-against-Iain-Duncan-Smith-outside-the-Edinburgh-Hotel-1789231

And said Mr Duncan Smith was pictured driving a sports car that would cost considerably more than £53 per week to run.

Iain-Duncan-Smith-1797485

All in this together? My arse.