From The Independent: Philip Hammond‘s income tax cuts will “overwhelmingly benefit richer households” as the squeeze continues for lower-income families, according to one of the first independent analyses of the 2018 Budget.
From The Times: A government business that was sold off by the Tories for only £2m has delivered annual profits of £7.1m for its American owner.
[Read article on The Times website…] (paywalled, but free registration allows access to two articles per week)
From Morning Star: Bosses of England’s nine private water companies have pocketed £175 million in pay and benefits in the last five years, general union GMB disclosed today.
GMB, which has thousands of members working in the water industry, revealed the pay packages as part of its “Take Back the Tap” campaign, calling for the water industry to be returned to public ownership.
Since water privatisation in 1989, customers’ bills have increased by 40 per cent in real terms.
The union says the industry’s top 54 executives pocketed an enormous £40.3 million in 2017 alone. Executive directors and senior management received an average of £746,296 each in salaries, pension contributions, bonuses and benefits.
From Daily Mirror: A Tory income tax cut for millionaires has cost Britain £11 billion which could have been invested in the NHS, police and schools.
From HuffPost UK: Theresa May has prompted anger after reviving her flagship policy to expand grammar schools by handing them £50 million to increase places.
Lifting the ban on creating new grammar schools was a key part of last year’s Conservative manifesto – but the proposals were dropped in the wake of May’s election humiliation.
Under fresh plans by Education Secretary Damian Hinds, however, tens of millions of pounds are to be pumped into creating more places at selective state schools.
The controversial move comes just days after the Office for Budget Responsibility said the cost for a planned 1% pay rise for teachers could only be met by heads “squeezing non-pay spending and by reducing the workforce”.
A poll by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) in March also showed more than a third of school heads have already cut teachers or teaching hours due to the Tories’ funding squeeze.
School leaders, unions and the Labour Party have lined up to slam the decision to resurrect “the grammar school corpse” with “scarce” new money, claiming the model stoked inequality.
It is staggering how enraged @ScotTories are at those on higher incomes being asked to pay a little bit more to protect public services (while the 70% on low and middle incomes get small tax cut) – but don’t bat an eyelid when their own party cuts the incomes of disabled people.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) December 15, 2017
Theresa May’s entire social mobility commission quits because “she’s too busy with Brexit to help the poor”
From Daily Mirror: Theresa May’s entire social mobility commission dramatically quit last night, accusing the Prime Minister of being too busy with Brexit to help the poor.
From RT: Jeremy Corbyn poured his scorn on the May government over announcements that the Tories claim will pull Britons out of poverty and put the young on the property ladder.
Corbyn slammed the government, and mocked them for the policies that he agreed with, stating they had been “lifted” from his own manifesto. “It’s falling pay, slow growth and rising poverty,” he said.
“This is what the chancellor has the cheek to call a strong economy. The poorest tenth of households will lose 10 percent of income by 2022, while the richest will lose just 1 percent. So much for tackling burning injustice. This is a government tossing fuel on the fire,” added the Labour leader.
“8.3 million people are over indebted. If he wants to help people out of debt, back Labour policy for a real living wage of £10 per hour by 2020.” Read more
From BBC News: The north of England has seen the biggest cuts in Tory government spending over the past five years, official figures show.
Spending in the north has fallen by £696m in real terms since 2012, while the south of England has seen an increase of £7bn.
Labour have called on the government to end its austerity programme in the budget on Wednesday.
Government figures show that, when inflation is taken into account, every region in the north of England has seen a fall in spending on services since 2012, while every other English region has seen an increase.
Dave Prentis writes in The New Statesman: Analysis carried out by UNISON shows that between 2013/14 and 2017/18 the income tax cuts for those earning over a million pounds a year alone have saved the nation’s super-wealthy on average £554,000 each. Those tax cuts have also cost the British taxpayer £8.6bn over those five years.
From The Independent: The number of young adults living with their parents has reached an all-time high, with more than a quarter of people aged 20 to 34 still living at home, new figures have revealed.
From Daily Telegraph: A legal loophole which allows developers to build fewer affordable homes has contributed to a big shortfall in such properties, according to new research by Shelter.
From the Daily Express: In 2014, Tory-run Kensington and Chelsea Council decided to hand back £100 to residents paying the top rate of council tax in an “overachieving efficiency drive”, while it had also stockpiled reserves of £274 million.
From The Observer: Plans to ditch the triple lock on the basic state pension would represent a “double whammy” for the poorest pensioners, many of whom have already lost out under this month’s new flat-rate pension, according to a leading pension expert.
Pensioners who rely on the state pension for most of their income will be the biggest losers should the Tories drop the element of the triple lock that guarantees annual rises of at least 2.5%.
Chris Noon, a partner at leading pensions consultancy Hymans Robertson, said linking increases to earnings growth or inflation would, over time, erode the value of the pension and push larger numbers of people into poverty on reaching retirement age. He said: “The low paid were the community most negatively affected by the significant changes to the state pension introduced from April 2016. Removing the 2.5% minimum increase … is a double whammy that would again impact this community hardest over the medium to long term.”
The flat-rate state pension, worth £159.55 a week, combines the basic state pension with pension credit and the state second pension, which previously rewarded low-paid workers with generous top-up payments. Estimates put the savings at £8bn by the end of the parliament. Ending the triple lock would come on top of this cut.
From The Guardian: Fewer affordable homes were built in the past year than any time in the past 24 years, while there was a 52% fall in the supply of new homes in just 12 months.
Builders put the finishing touches to 32,110 affordable homes in England in the year to the end of March 2016, compared with 66,600 over the previous year, according to figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
Of those, just 6,550 – about 20% – were for social rent, which critics say is the only truly affordable housing tenure, with the rest made available to rent or buy at “affordable” rates of up to 80% of market value.
Critics said the figures were disastrous, and called on the government to do more to encourage housebuilding. They come as the proportion of households that own a property is at a 30-year low and rising house prices have driven the cost of buying a home to more than 10 times the average salary in a third of England and Wales.
From The Independent: Conservative MPs have voted to reject a proposed rule that would have required private landlords to make their homes “fit for human habitation”. 72 of the MPs who voted against the measure are registered as landlords themselves.