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The Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, sends his Vaisakhi greetings to British Sikhs across the country.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIPiX3FekTU

Happy Vaisakhi from Ed Miliband

The Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, sends his Vaisakhi greetings to British Sikhs across the country. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIPiX3FekTU

The central task for the next Labour government is to build an economy which creates better and more secure jobs, and halts the Tory race to the bottom. This race to the bottom is the key factor behind the UK’s low level of investment, training, and productivity relative to other advanced economies.  Working people are suffering from reduced wages.  In turn, low pay and insecurity are driving higher government spending on Social Security to top up wages and reduced income from tax receipts.

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1.         Addressing insecurity and unfairness in the workplace

More than half of employees are worried about insecure work.  There are more than 1.8 million zero hours’ contracts in the

economy.  UK cannot succeed when working people feel insecure.

So Labour will crack down on the worst abuses in our labour market, and the first Queen’s Speech of a Labour government’s planned legislation will include: 

  • A higher Minimum Wage.
  • A ban on exploitive zero hours working.  If someone works regular hours they will get the right to a regular contract, with contractual hours averaged over 12 weeks.
  • A review of this measure, to ensure that action is taken to stop employers using short hours contracts instead of zero hours.
  • Legal rights for workers not to be forced to be available at all hours.
  • Legal rights for workers not to have shifts cancelled at short notice without compensation.
  • Making it unlawful to use agency workers to undercut the wages of permanent workers, and unlawful for employers to only recruit from overseas.

2.       Tackling low pay

In the last five years, working people have experienced the biggest fall in wages during any Parliament since the 1870s.  Average wages have fallen by £1,600 a year since 2010.  Half of all new jobs since 2010 have been in low paid sectors.  One in five workers is low paid.  More than a quarter of a million workers is estimated to earn less than the legal Minimum Wage.

So Labour’s plan for UK workplaces is to: iStock_CoinPurse.jpg

  • Set a national goal to halve the number of people in low pay by 2025, lifting over two million people out of low pay.
  • Raise the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 by 2020.
  • Introduce new 10p starting rate of Income Tax.
  • Use procurement to promote the Living Wage.
  • Extend free childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds.
  • Double paternity leave to 4 weeks.
  • Increase paternity pay, so that fathers receive the equivalent of a full week’s work paid at the National Minimum Wage for the 4 weeks of leave.

3.       Justice at work

Labour will:

  • Ensure proper access to justice in the workplace by abolishing the Coalition government’s system of charging fees for going to an Employment Tribunal.
  • Tackle bogus self-employment in construction and elsewhere.
  • Set up a full, transparent, and public inquiry to examine the issue of blacklisting.
  • Recognise that there are historic cases; for example by releasing all government  papers concerning the trials of the Shrewsbury 24.

4.       Supporting working families

Stagnating wages and rising insecurity have fuelled a cost of living crisis.  Full-time workers in UK work some of the longest hours in Europe, with a long-hours culture in many professions.  Further difficulties for caused for working families by a shortage of well-paid part-time jobs, plus a lack of affordable childcare, plus an outdated parental leave system

So Labour will: 

  • Double the amount of paid paternity leave to 4 weeks.
  • Expand free child care provision from 15 to 25 hours for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds.
  • Introduce a legal guarantee to wraparound care from 8am to 6pm at local primary schools.

5.       Promoting partnership and productivity at work

In the long term, economic success will be rooted in high skill, high investment strategies. Labour recognises that trades unions are an essential force for a decent society, and act as guarantors of jobs and wages. Nearly 60% of senior business leaders judge short-termism to be a major impediment to growth.  On average, each chief executive of a FTSE 100 company is paid over 130 times the wages of their company’s average employee.  Only 27% of employees feel that they have a say over how their work is organised

So Labour will:

  • Put employee representatives on companies’ remuneration committees.
  • Reduce short-term pressure to turn a quick profit.
  • Improve the link between pay and performance.
  • Ensure that executive pay packages are transparent by publishing the ratio of the total pay of their top earner compared with their average employees.
  • Where there is trade union “recognition” by an employer, ensure that Unions play a key role in facilitating elections of employee representatives and in supporting the training of them.
  • Place upon investors a duty to act in the interests of ordinary savers and place upon investors a duty to prioritise the long-term growth of companies.
  • Tackle short-termism by reforming takeover rules, for example by restricting voting to investors who already hold shares
  • Require investment and pension fund managers to disclose how they vote, and introduce binding votes on remuneration packages.
  • Review the implementation and operation of the Information & Consultation Regulations.
  • Reverse the decision by the Coalition-run Department for International Development’s (“DfID”) to withdraw funding from the International Labour Organisation.

6.       Supporting young people into work

Young people’s wages have fallen by over 8% since 2010.  Only 10% of employers in England provide apprenticeships.  The proportion of apprenticeships taken up by young people has fallen significantly, from 82% of all apprenticeships in 2010, to 63%in 2014.  25% of apprentices aged 19-24 receive no training at all.

So Labour will:

  • Introduce a new Apprenticeship Guarantee, so that all those that get the grades at 18 are able to access a new high quality apprenticeship.
  • Mandate that apprenticeships are offered by every firm which is to be awarded a large government contract.
  • Require large firms recruiting skilled workers from outside the Europe Union to invest in apprenticeships in UK.
  • Make sure that apprenticeships can lead to higher level qualifications.
  • Improve technical training for young people.
  • Ensure that the government creates thousands more apprenticeships in the public sector.

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

 

Labour’s Manifesto for UK Workplaces, a summary

The central task for the next Labour government is to build an economy which creates better and more secure jobs, and halts the Tory race to the bottom. This race...

Labour has set out plans to protect neighbourhood policing.  Savings have been identified which will enable police forces to
safeguard over 10,000 police officers over the next three years.  Labour will legislate to introduce a new Local Policing Commitment, which will ensure that police forces guarantee neighbourhood policing in every area. police_logo_1_1.jpg

Because of the Conservatives’ decisions, neighbourhood policing – the foundation of good British policing – is at risk of disappearing, whilst increasing numbers of serious criminals are avoiding justice.

To safeguard over 10,000 police officers, Labour will make £800 million worth of efficiency savings.  These will include mandating joint procurement and sharing support services; and ending the police subsidy of gun licences; and abolishing the posts of the elected Police & Crime Commissioners, albeit this will lessen democratic accountability.

Conversely, the Conservatives simply the Tories plan to cut thousands more police officer posts – on top of the ones they’ve already cut. 

Alongside the commitment to protect over 10,000 police officers from the cuts, Labour’s Crime and Justice Manifesto sets out plans to:

  • Put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system – by introducing the country’s first ever Victims’ Law.
  • Prevent crime before it occurs.
  • Tackle child sexual exploitation.
  • Tackle violence against women and girls.
  • Build a justice system fit for the 21st Century, which should include Legal Aid and Judicial Review.
  • Address extremism and the threat of terrorism.

Labour has a better plan. We will make different choices, finding savings to safeguard 10,000 officers in the next three years.  We will ensure victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system with the country’s first ever Victims’ Law, and we will ensure the police have the powers they need to keep us safe, including proper controls for dangerous terror suspects.

Rob Marris, Labour candidate for Wolverhampton South West

Labour will guarantee neighbourhood policing in every area

Labour has set out plans to protect neighbourhood policing.  Savings have been identified which will enable police forces to safeguard over 10,000 police officers over the next three years.  Labour...

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Labour will cut the deficit every year and balance the books – with a surplus on the current budget, and falling National Debt as a percentage of GDP, as soon as possible in the next Parliament. How fast we can go will depend on the state of the economy, including what happens to wages, growth, the Housing Benefit bill, and events around the world.

Decisive action to strengthen growth, increase productivity and get sustained rises in living standards is the only way to balance the books fairly in the next Parliament and safeguard vital public services.  Labour’s calculations show that if, in the next Parliament, wages were to grow in line with their historic average, tax receipts would be £12 billion higher.

1.  Labour will deliver the rising living standards and stronger growth needed to balance the books. So we will:-

  • Increase the minimum wage to £8 an hour before 2020;
  • Give tax breaks to firms who start paying the Living Wage;
  • Ban exploitative zero-hour contracts, to ensure that workers who work regular hours get a regular contract;
  • Introduce a compulsory Jobs Guarantee, paid for by a bank bonus tax, to provide a paid starter job for everyone young person unemployed for over a year, which they will have to take up or else lose their Benefits
  • Cut Business Rates for small business properties;
  • Establish a British Investment Bank, to boost lending for small and medium-sized businesses, to foster growth and thereby create jobs;
  • Make work pay by expanding free childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds;
  • Introduce a lower 10p starting rate of Income Tax to help 24 million working people;
  • Get at least 200,000 new homes built a year to relieve the UK housing crisis;
  • Secure our country’s place in a reformed European Union and boost exports;
  • Create an independent National Infrastructure Commission in order to stop long-term decisions being kicked into the long grass;
  • Devolve £30 billion of economic power and funding to city and county regions

 2.  There will be sensible spending cuts in non-protected areas; for example, we will:-

(a)  cut the Winter Fuel Allowance from the richest 5% of pensioners;

(b) cap Child Benefit increases at 1% for two years;

(c) have a “Zero-Based Budget Review” of every pound spent by government, to identify savings and to cut waste and inefficiencies – so we can safeguard vital public services upon which people and businesses depend.  That Review will be completed in our first year in government, but  we have already published 8 interim reports – with more to follow in the coming weeks –  which identify savings including:

  • £250m in the policing budget, including from scrapping elected Police & Crime Commissioners, and reforming police procurement through mandatory joint purchasing of equipment by police forces;
  • £500m a year in the Communities & Local Government budget through shared services, back-office collaboration, and streamlining;
  • over £70 million of annual savings in the courts’ budget, including co-locating County Courts and Magistrates’ Courts, and by scrapping the use of the 15 High Court judges’ lodgings;
  • £230m saved by cutting back on the wasteful expenditure related to this government’s Free Schools and Academies programmes.
  • A modest £60 million of efficiencies in the Defence budget by bringing down the numbers of the armed forces top brass to sensible levels, by better managing inventory, and by improving defence procurement.

 3.  We will also make fairer choices by:

  • Reversing this government's £3 billion a year tax cut for the top 1% of earners who earn over £150,000 a year;
  • Introducing a Mansion Tax on properties over £2 million

Long-term Economic Pain: The Tories’ Real Plans for Spending

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Were the Conservatives to win the General Election, their plans would mean £70 billion of cuts to public spending.  That is more than double the amount admitted to by Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne.  The unprecedented and extreme scale of these spending cuts would pose a major risk to public services, particularly the National Health Service.   Their plan would entail even bigger cuts in the next four years than those of the last five years. For the Tories, the UK is not even half way through the cuts they want.

These would be the most extreme cuts in post-war history; a bigger fall in day-to-day public services spending as a share of GDP than in any four-year period since demobilisation at the end of the Second World War. They would also be the most extreme internationally:  the largest consolidation planned among advanced economies, according to the International Monetary Fund. 

In 2010 the Tories planned to balance the books by 2015, with Mr Cameron claiming that he had been elected to deliver “rising living standards for all”.  They failed to deliver these central pledges:  real wages are down by an average more than £1,600 a year.  This failure to raise living standards means that, during its 5 year term of office, the Coalition Government has borrowed over £200 billion more than they said they would in 2010.

The Tories’ plans for the next Parliament now go much further than balancing the books.  Instead they plan to cut spending as a share of GDP back to a proportion last seen in the 1930s:  35%.  They claim their plans would involve just £30 billion of spending cuts, but this is not true.  Independent experts have already said that the Tories’ plans mean over £50 billion of cuts to public services, and that this must entail “cuts on a colossal scale” and pose a legitimate question as to whether they amount to “a fundamental reimagining of the role of the state”.

The Conservative & Liberal Democrat Coalition can’t have it both ways:  either their economic policies over the last five years have failed (yes, they have) or if – as per the Coalition – those cuts have worked, then they are intent on using the next 5 years to pursue an ideology of shrinking the state on an unprecedented scale.

Mr Osborne has promised to cut £12 billion from Social Security spending. If the £70 billion of spending cuts (minus that £12 billion; i.e. £58 billion net), were applied equally to non-protected departments, they would lead to unprecedented cuts to vital public services such as policing, defence, and social care.

Analysis published by Labour in March 2015 shows that, if that net £58 billion of cuts were shared between government departments in the same proportions as they were in this Parliament, three government departments would effectively cease to exist. This would mean closing all our embassies around the world, closing all JobCentres and back-to-work programmes and disability benefit testing, and all but ending central government funding for local government.  This is clearly impossible for a civilised person to countenance.

If instead that net £58 billion of cuts were distributed evenly across all non-protected budgets (excluding schools, the NHS, and ODA budgets) this would mean a cut of 35% over four years for every non-protected department.  This would lead to the smallest police force since the late 1970s (the earliest available comparable data), the smallest army since Oliver Cromwell in the mid-seventeenth century, and over a third of older people who currently receive social care losing their entitlement to it.

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has challenged Mr Osborne to explain whether he will press ahead with these unprecedented, extreme and close to impossible cuts; or admit that his spending plans could realistically only be delivered either by raising VAT again or by cutting the National Health Service.

The Tories want people to think they will ring-fence NHS spending but, just as they broke their 2010 promise not to reorganise the NHS in this Parliament, the Tories cannot be trusted to keep their promise to protect it in the next.

The Tories want to cut state spending to 35% of national income (“GDP”).  Countries with similar sized states to that 35% all have lower public health spending than the UK, and all require higher private funding of healthcare than is consistent with the NHS as we know it.  For OECD countries with public spending below 35% of GDP in 2012, the average for health spending funded by public sources was just 55%.

In government, the Tories and Liberal Democrats have made deep cuts to many councils’ budgets.  Those cuts have been unfairly focussed on deprived areas like Wolverhampton, with some richer areas actually getting an increase! Overall, the Coalition cuts have meant that £3.53 billion (= 26%) has taken out of adult social care budgets.  Since 2010, spending on social care has fallen by 12% yet the number of those needing support has increased by 14%. So it is not surprising that the number of older people receiving home-delivered meals has fallen by 59% since 2009-10.

Pressures on the social care sector are having a knock-on effect in the NHS, ramping up the pressure on services already suffering from five years of Tory/Lib Dem neglect and mismanagement – and a botched £3 billion reorganisation (which the Tories promised they would not do). More older people are resorting to A&E because they are cannot access the care and support they need.  Increasing numbers of older people end up trapped in expensive hospital beds when they don’t need to be – these delayed discharges, due to a lack of social care in the home, are at record levels.

In the next Parliament, the Tories’ plans would be equivalent to 260,000 fewer older people would be receiving social care – a third of the number currently getting it.

For the police, there are now almost 17,000 fewer officers than there were in 2010.  The Tories’ plans for the next Parliament would be equivalent to 29,900 police officers and 6,700 PCSOs lost. That would mean that the Tories would have cut police numbers by a third (from 144,000 to 96,500) between 2010 and 2020 – well below the levels of the late 1970s when there were 110,000 officers.  In 2010, the ratio of officers was 2.6 per 1,000 population.  These cuts would mean a ratio of about 1.7 – close to the 1930s ratio of 1.5.

The Tory/Lib Dem cuts to frontline policing have come at a time when many more serious and violent crimes (e.g. child abuse, rape, and domestic violence) are being reported, when the terror threat has grown, when the population to be policed has grown, and when  there has been a massive increase in online crime. 

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

Long-term Economic Gain: Labour’s Plans for the Economy

Labour will cut the deficit every year and balance the books – with a surplus on the current budget, and falling National Debt as a percentage of GDP, as soon...

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On 16 March 2015, Labour leader Mr Ed Miliband made clear that Labour will not go into coalition government with the SNP, and that there will be no SNP ministers in any government he leads. He said:  "Labour will not go into coalition government with the SNP.  There will be no SNP ministers in any government I lead.  So the true election choice is what it has always been:  a Labour government with a better plan for working people across UK, or a Conservative government that stands for the rich and powerful.”

It is vital that our country spends the period until the General Election debating the real choice facing the British people in this election:  a choice between a better future for Britain, with renewed hope, with a Labour government; or continuing with the failing policies of the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government.

Labour’s campaign is fully focused on winning that debate, so that Labour wins a majority government which can deliver the change which our country so badly needs. The Tories don’t want that debate. They don’t want to talk about that choice.  That is why Mr Cameron is running scared of the TV debates.  He’s frit, but wouldn’t you be, if you wanted to take government spending back to the 1930s?

For over 20 years, the Conservative Party has not had enough electoral support to win a UK majority in the House of Commons.  Yet they now have the temerity to run a misleading campaign based on the idea of a Labour-SNP coalition.  This idea is nonsense. It will not happen.  There are big differences between Labour and the SNP; not just on the integrity of the United Kingdom and another referendum, but on fair funding between the countries of the UK; and on fair taxes. In continuing to repeat their wild claim, the Conservative Party and Mr Cameron are simply trying to scare people.

Meanwhile, UKIP leader Mr Nigel Farage has announced that he would be happy to prop up the Conservative Party in government after the election.  So UKIP has revealed its face as a party willing to throw in its lot with Mr Cameron’s Conservatives . Apparently, the Tories are willing to go along with it.  The real danger to our country is a Tory government propped up by UKIP.

So this is the real binary choice at the election:  a Labour government or a Conservative one – a Tory government which believes that our country can be termed successful when just their rich friends at the top do well.  Labour will be a government which stands up for the whole of UK, for working people in every part of our country, for young people facing a grim future without much hope.  In short, a Labour government for the many, not the few.

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

Labour will not enter into a Coalition Government with the SNP

On 16 March 2015, Labour leader Mr Ed Miliband made clear that Labour will not go into coalition government with the SNP, and that there will be no SNP ministers...

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On budget Day 2015, Mr Osborne spent an hour telling people they are better off – yet the most comprehensive figures from the Office for National Statistics show that wages after inflation are down by an average of £1,600 a year since 2010.  In March 2015, the respected and independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (“IFS”) said that living standards are lower now than in 2010, and it criticised the measure of living standards used by Mr Osborne in his Budget. Even on Mr Osborne’s own measure, most people are worse off at the time of the 2015 election than when this government came to power in 2010.

The IFS says that tax and benefits changes since 2010 have left households on average over £1,100 a year worse off; for example, the big Coalition VAT rise to 20%, which the Liberal Democrats promised they would oppose, but as usual didn’t …

Mr Osborne may have shuffled around the numbers, but he is still planning extreme spending cuts after the election, cuts which go way beyond balancing the books. This government’s own Office for Budget Responsibility says that his Budget plans will mean “a much sharper squeeze on real spending in 2016/17 and 2017/18 than anything seen over the past five years", and “a sharp acceleration in the pace of implied real cuts to day-to-day spending on public services.”

The National Health Service is approaching crisis – yet the Budget said nothing about the NHS. Instead, Mr Osborne confirmed his plans for extreme spending cuts in the three years after the election – which will put the NHS at further risk. The Tories’ current plan is failing the NHS: more patients are waiting longer, and it’s getting harder to get the care needed. For example:- 

  • In the last 12 months, over a million people have waited more than 4 hours in A&E; more people are having long waits on trolleys before being admitted to a hospital bed; and more people are having to wait in ambulance queues outside hospital because A&E is full;
  • Waiting lists for treatment are growing: they’re at their highest level for six years;
  • It’s harder to get see a family doctor: one in four patients waits a week or more for a GP appointment;
  • More than half of nurses say that their ward is dangerously understaffed;
  • Cuts to elderly care are making it harder for older people to get the care they need at home, meaning more end up in A&E, and then some of those patients can’t leave hospital soon enough because of Tory cuts to the social care they need to get home.

Mr Osborne’s budget proposals must also mean deep cuts to police, to defence, and to social care which are almost impossible to achieve – unless he really does take us back to the 1930s, which he has indicated he would like to. That is why Labour believes the Tories will end up putting the NHS at risk, and they’ll end up raising VAT again.

So the election remains a choice between a Tory plan which is failing working families, and which will get more vicious if they are returned to government – versus Labour’s plan to put working people first and to save the NHS. We’ve always said all our manifesto commitments will be fully funded and that will remain the case. Labour will:-

  • Raise living standards for the poorest workers by increasing the Minimum Wage to £8 an hour by 2020, by banning exploitive zero-hours contracts, and by incentivising employers to pay the Living Wage;
  • Offer 25 hours of free childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds;
  • Help bolster the NHS with a £2.5 billion a year Time to Care Fund, which will pay for 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, 3,000 more midwives, and a guarantee of cancer tests within one week;
  • Cut Business Rates for 1.5 million small business properties;
  • Get 200,000 new homes built a year by 2020;
  • Balance the books in a fair way, for example by reversing the Tory/Lib Dem tax cut for millionaires;
  • Cut Income Tax for 24 million working people through a lower 10p starting rate of tax;
  • Guarantee an apprenticeship for every school leaver who gets the basic grades;
  • Cut university tuition fees to £6,000 a year, funded by changes to pension contribution tax relief.

Mimicking Labour, Mr Osborne announced a change to tax relief on pension contributions. However, it’s just 20% of the £2.9 billion package Labour announced in February 2015.

The vast majority of the revenue for Labour’s package comes from two measures which Mr Osborne is refusing to do: reducing to 20% the amount of tax relief that people earning over £150,000 can get (the same as Basic Rate taxpayers), and reducing the annual allowance to £30,000. At the same time, we’ll increase protections for public sector workers in Defined Benefit pension schemes compared with the Conservatives’ policy.

Alas Labour says it is going to have to make some cuts. These will not be extreme spending cuts which would threaten core public services like the NHS, as the Conservatives promise. Instead, Labour has a different approach, which is to get government spending into surplus and the National Debt (up by well over 50% in the last 5 years, despite austerity) falling as soon as possible in the next Parliament.

Unlike the Conservatives, Labour will not cut public spending in an extreme way. A Labour government will lessen the deficit using a balanced approach, by implementing sensible spending cuts following an early a Zero Based Budget Review, to identify savings across government. We’ll reverse the £3 billion a year tax cut the Tories have given to the top 1% of earners. Most importantly Labour will employ economic policies which deliver a much-needed and sustained rise in living standards, which in turn will boost tax revenues, which will in turn help to cut the deficit – a virtuous circle.

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

Mr Osborne's Budget: More Failure

On budget Day 2015, Mr Osborne spent an hour telling people they are better off – yet the most comprehensive figures from the Office for National Statistics show that wages...

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Mr Shapps MP has been exposed as having continued to have a second job, which he ran under an assumed name, while he was an MP – despite his previously having denied this on many occasions.

Just three weeks before being exposed, Mr Shapps had told LBC radio: "I don’t have a second job, and I have never had a second job whilst being an MP; end of story."

This was not true. In 2006, when he had been an MP for a year, Mr Shapps was still working for his marketing company, under the name Michael Green, selling his self-help guide Stinking Rich 3.  (The mere title tells one a lot about Tory values … )  Recently, a tape recording of Mr Shapps promoting the product in 2006 has been made public.

It does not beggar belief that the Chair of the Conservative Party went on live radio in February 2015 and stated three times that he was not doing business as Michael Green while he was an MP, when it is now clear that he did.  What else do you expect form a failed minister in a failed government which bends facts to suit them – or even wilfully misquotes facts. 

Evidence:  the Office for National Statistics has repeatedly upbraided Conservative ministers, including Mr Cameron, for deliberately citing incorrect statistics.

Mr Shapps' repeated denials were not made in the heat of the moment, as he now tries to claim.  Those denials were contrary to the facts, as Mr Shapps himself knew.  He even went so far as to instruct solicitors to threaten court action against a lowly blogger who had claimed – quite correctly, as Mr Shapps now admits – that the MP had indeed had that second job under the name Michael Green.

Mr Shapps has got himself into this hole because:

(a) he did not tell the truth; and

(b) he was greedy and wanted a second, paying job. 

 The solutions are simple:

(a) throw the rascals out; and

(b) ban MPs from having second, paying jobs. 

Some MPs claim that having a second job broadens their experience and/or helps them keep in touch with a former profession.  If an MP really believes that, then the MP will doubtless be prepared to do the work for free.  How many of them does one think will do so?!

In 9 years as an MP I never had any other earned income nor any other job – MPs get very well paid, and ought to be full-time.

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

Conservative Party Chair Mr Grant “two jobs” Shapps MP is Caught out Being Greedy

Mr Shapps MP has been exposed as having continued to have a second job, which he ran under an assumed name, while he was an MP – despite his previously...

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Mr Cameron's government's failure is dismal on housing.  Young people starting out know the dream of having a home of their own is disappearing into the distance.  We are building less than half the number of homes we need, and young people are being priced out of the market with the average house price now eight times the average wage.

This Coalition government has achieved nothing but record lows for house-building and home ownership – and record highs for working people living involuntarily with their parents and young families having to pay rip off charges to rent.

Labour has a plan to get hundreds of thousands of new homes built, 200,00 a year by 2020, and to give priority for those homes to local young people; and a plan for tenants comprising new, longer-term tenancies which prevent rip-off rent rises.  We will include legislation in our first Queen’s Speech to ban letting agent fees charged to tenants, saving Generation Rent more than £2.5 billion over the Parliament – or on average £625 for each family. 

This will help to tackle the cost-of-living crisis with more homes, fairer rents, and help for first-time buyers.  It will also tackle the huge bill for Housing Benefit by helping to bring down rents.

 Labour will:

  • Legislate for 3-year tenancies giving tenants security and peace of mind;
  • End excessive rent rises by putting a ceiling on rent increases during the new three-year tenancies;
  • Ban unfair letting fees, saving the typical tenant £625 over the course of the next parliament, and Generation Rent £2.5 billion;
  • Increase the number of new homes built every year to 200,000 by 2020, with priority for first-time buyers;
  • Give local communities stronger powers to build the homes needed in the places people want;
  • Get the public sector back into building;
  • Tackle land banking through new "use it or lose it" powers;
  • Shake up the housing market by backing SME builders through Help to Build;
  • Build the next generation of Garden Cities;
  • Grant first-time buyers from the area priority access rights when new homes go on sale.

Conversely, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government has failed on housing.  For example, they have caused the lowest level of:

  • House-building in peacetime since the 1920s. Under this government, house-building has been lower in every year than any year under a Labour government; and with 118,000 home completions in 2014, we are building half the number of homes we need to keep up with demand;
  • Home ownership since 1985, with 205,000 fewer homeowners than when Mr Cameron came to power, and a record 11 million people now living in the private rented sector, including 1.5 million families with children; and in 2014 private rents soared by 8%;
  • Homes for social rent built in at least two decades;
  • Affordable homes built in five years, a fall of 32% since 2009/10;
  • Young people living independently, with one in four (3.3 million) involuntarily living at home with their parents, into their twenties and thirties.

The Tories said that “Every additional home sold will be replaced by a new affordable home on a one-for-one basis.” (Grant Shapps, then Housing Minister). Another spectacularly empty promise.  Since Right-To-Buy was re-launched by the Coalition government in 2012, more than 20,000 properties have been sold off, with discounts of up to 70% on market value – but over the same period, local councils have begun building fewer than 5,000 homes to replace those sold.  The rot has been going on for a long time:  there are now 1.5 million fewer social homes today than in 1979,yet the population is now one fifth larger.

The Tories said they would build more homes and “get Britain building”:

  • We will restart the housing market and get Britain building again." (David Cameron, CBI Annual Conference, 21 November, 2011)
  • “Building more homes [than Labour] is the gold standard upon which we shall be judged.” (Grant Shapps, the then Housing Minister, DCLG Select Committee, 13 September 2010)

Official UK figures show that quarterly new housing starts in England fell by 20% in the second half of 2014.  The number of affordable home ownership homes built in the last year dropped by 50% to 11,330, compared with the 22,240 that were built in 2009-10, the last year under Labour.

The respected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) is the main independent research organisation for the richer countries.  In its biennial survey of the UK economy published late February 2015, the OECD said that UK is failing to build enough houses to meet demand, and soaring house prices could pose "risks" to financial stability.  It added that the Coalition government’s Help to Buy mortgage subsidies had revived mortgage lending, but "housing supply has not risen to meet demand". 

The Conservatives want to extend their Help to Buy scheme until the end of the decade, at a cost of £6 billion.  This project is doing little more than fuel a damaging housing bubble because all it really does is assist buyers to bid up the prices, whilst offering very little incentive for new homes actually to be built – so the scheme jacks up demand but does almost nothing for supply.

Government schemes to boost homeownership have not helped anywhere near the number of people this government claimed they would.  Mr Cameron claimed that the NewBuy scheme would help 100,000 on to the property ladder but it has helped less than 6% of that figure (5,518) (source: Link)

We’re also falling behind internationally:  home ownership in the UK is now beneath the EU average of 65.7% (for the pre-accession 15 countries) for the first time on record.   The level of home ownership has fallen from 67.4% in 2009-10 to 63.3% in 2013-14.  Meanwhile, two and a half million more people now live in the private rented sector than in 2010, and rents in 2014 rose by 8% in England (up 9% in London).

Only 36% of 25 to 34 year olds now own their own home, while the percentage of young people renting their homes from a private landlord now stands at 48%. 

In addition since Mr Cameron became Prime Minister, homelessness has risen by 26% and rough sleeping by 55%.  In Opposition, Mr Cameron loftily talked about the need to combat homelessness, saying   “I think that it is simply a disgrace that in the fifth biggest economy in the world that we have people homeless, people sleeping on the streets, sofa-surfers, people in hospitals. I think it is a disgrace.” (Launch of the Conservative Homelessness Foundation, 15 May 2008​)

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

Housing

Mr Cameron's government's failure is dismal on housing.  Young people starting out know the dream of having a home of their own is disappearing into the distance.  We are building...

Labour will cut tuition fees to £6,000 and raise grants by £400

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The incoming Labour Government will cut university tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 a year, and provide additional annual £400 grants for students from lower and middle income backgrounds.  This will be funded by restricting Pension Tax Relief for those on the highest incomes – a change for which I have argued for over ten years; politics can be slow.  I’d prefer a Graduate Tax, but this is a big step forward.

Labour’s goal is a country where the next generation can do better than the last, with tuition fees reduced to £6,000, an apprenticeship for every school leaver who gets the basic grades, and smaller class sizes for 5, 6, and 7 year olds.

The current university tuition fee system is bad for students and bad for taxpayers.

The decision by the Conservatives to increase tuition fees to £9,000 was made with the connivance of the Liberal Democrat MPs – who had all promised in writing to vote against any increase.  So much for their much vaunted principles – disappeared at the first whiff of power…  That decision meant that the average student will now graduate with £44,000 of debt.  Almost three quarters of students will never pay their loan back in full – after having had tens of thousands of pounds of debt hanging over them for 30 years. 

By 2030-31, the current student fee system is set to add £281 billion to the national debt.

Labour's better approach is fairer for all.  We will tackle spiralling student debt by cutting the tuition fee cap from £9,000 to £6,000 for all undergraduates from September 2016, and by providing additional grants for students from lower-income backgrounds.

Cutting the tuition fee cap will reduce graduate debt by nearly £9,000.  Labour will also increase student grants by £400, so that the full grant increases from around £3,400 to around £3,800.  This increase will benefit all students with an annual household income of up to £42,620. More than half of students will benefit.

Because our policy is fully-funded, it is fairer to universities and taxpayers too.

Universities will not lose out, because we will increase the teaching grant they receive by around £2.7 billion; i.e. the same amount that their fee income falls.

This policy will reduce government debt by £40 billion by 2030-31. Just over the 2015-20 Parliament, it will mean over £10 billion less debt.

This policy will be funded by raising £2.9 billion by lessening Pension Tax Relief for those on the highest incomes.  At the moment, people with annual  incomes of over £150,000 get tax relief on pension contributions at a rate of 45%, which is more than twice the 20% rate for Basic Rate taxpayers. This means that the Labour leadership has at last recognised that, although the richest are only the top 1% of taxpayers, they receive 7% of all Pension Tax Relief.  How fair is that?  So Labour will reduce the rate of relief for those with incomes of over £150,000 to 20%; i.e.  the same as basic rate taxpayers.  The annual and lifetime allowances for pension contributions will be reduced. Thus the amount that a person can put into their pensions tax free will be capped at £30,000 a year, or £1 million in their lifetime.  This is fairer – after all, how many people could ever afford to put such a huge amount into their pension pot?

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

Tuition Fees

Labour will cut tuition fees to £6,000 and raise grants by £400 The incoming Labour Government will cut university tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 a year, and provide additional...

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A future Labour Government will ensure that:

  • All low-income homes are made energy efficient. This allows an area-based approach to be taken, rather than complicated targeting of individual households depending on current circumstances;
  • Every home is improved to a much higher standard than previous schemes. Improving every home to reach B and C on an Energy Performance Certificate cuts the energy needed for heating to a level which will mean that households are far better protected (nay, “insulated”!) from future price rises;
  • Tackling cold homes will become an infrastructure priority. Investing in energy efficiency is a great way to make the UK economy more productive.

Sadly, as far as I am aware, by comparison neither the Conservative Party nor the Liberal Democrat Party has thus far announced any clear policies at all to help people keep warm.

To be fair, at their 2014 Party Conference the Liberal Democrats’ “pre-manifesto” promised to make energy saving a “top infrastructure priority”, but as yet there seem to be no details of how many homes would be improved, to what standard, or by what date. 

I believe that the Conservative Party has published no details at all, and in fact, they did not think energy bills and cold, draughty homes, were important enough to have an energy speaker on the platform of their 2014 Party Conference. 

Instead, the Coalition Government’s record is one of cutting insulation schemes drastically.  The number of energy efficiency measures installed under Labour peaked at 2.5 million a year, while under the Conservatives it has fallen to 661,000 in 2014.

An End to Cold Homes is a report published by Labour at the end of 2014.  It sets out how a future Labour Government will make millions of homes much more energy-efficient, cutting the bills of those who live in them, and cutting CO2 emissions.

The Labour plan uses the government’s own figures to show just how vital energy efficiency is to people who struggle to keep warm.  Those living in the least well-insulated homes pay on average almost £1,000 a year more in energy bills than those in an average home.  In countries such as Sweden, where winters are colder and heating fuel is more expensive, fewer people struggle to pay their bills because their homes are better built.

Labour, therefore, aim to bring UK homes up to a standard where energy use is cut dramatically – reaching B and C on the Energy Performance Certificate.  (The energy efficiency of a home is rated A to G on an Energy Performance Certificate, with A being the best and G the worst.  The average UK home is currently a D.)

The programme would provide free energy efficiency improvements to bring 200,000 low-income homes each year up to this standard, and by 2027 all landlords would be required to ensure any home they rented also met the standard.  Labour would also offer free energy reports and interest free loans to other home owners to remove the up-front costs of saving energy. 

Finally, Labour has promised to make the scheme an “infrastructure priority”.  This recognises that for many millions of people, a warm, healthy home is the most important infrastructure investment of all – and also that spending less on energy bills would be a real boost to the economy as well as cutting emissions.

The benefits are enormous:  not only would households have cheaper energy bills, but the programme would create jobs and mean vulnerable people would be far less likely to become ill from living in the cold.  If all the parties got together on this, and recognised this was one of the best ways we could invest in the UK to transform peoples’ quality of life, we could deal with this problem in a decade.

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

 

Making Homes Energy Efficient

A future Labour Government will ensure that: All low-income homes are made energy efficient. This allows an area-based approach to be taken, rather than complicated targeting of individual households depending...

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