Sunday, April 30, 2006

persistent poverty

The Joseph Rowntree foundation has recently produced a study report that shows that persistent poverty (poverty is defined as a family income below 60% of the median income) in Britain is on the increase.

There are approximately 3.5 million children living in poverty in Britain today. That's more than a quarter of the total child population.

Why is this so important? Apart from the obvious effects of deprivation for those children, this poverty has every chance of persisting throughout their lives, and later being passed on to their own children. Childhood poverty experience leads to adult poverty, which in turn affects future generations.

The study looked at two groups of teenagers, one from the 1970s, and one from the 1980s. The purpose was to research the link between childhood and adult poverty, and to discover if this link is getting weaker or stronger. Its findings relegate the notion of social mobility in Britain to the waste bin.

Almost 20% of 1970s teenagers from poor families were found to have grown up to be poor in later life, whilst only 10% of the non-poor teenagers had this outcome. Poor teenagers from that decade had twice the chance of staying poor throughout their life than teenagers from non-poor families. This effect has been ascribed to general background disadvantages such as parental unemployment and poor education, rather being directly attributable to poverty itself.

The results for the 1980s poor teenagers were significantly worse. This group were found to be four times as likely to remain in poverty throughout their lives. A doubling of the persistence of poverty link from the previous decade. The increasing risk has been attributed to the direct effect of poverty for 1980s teenagers. Their own adult unemployment rather than the more general family factors of the 1970s group.

There is considerable difficulty in identifying specifically the cause of persistent poverty from the numerous factors involved, but income poverty is clearly tied up with deprivation in its many guises. However, unemployment, for self and/or partner, and having a poor work history seem to be the strongest factors, and it is their direct effect that caused the massive increase in the chance of persistent poverty for the 1980s teenagers.

Although not specifically mentioned in the report, the results clearly indicate the effects of the Thatcher years in increasing persistent poverty. The 1980s teenagers first employment opportunities were blighted by unemployment which was at its highest since WWII, peaking in 1984 to more than 3 million. During this decade the richest 10% of the population more than doubled their disposable income, whilst the poorest saw little or no increase in theirs.

The concise conclusion of the report is that there is a clear link between childhood poverty and poverty in later life, and this link is becoming increasingly stronger.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Blair's Enforcer's

Coming to a city, town or village near you, Blair's half SS Squad.

Defence Secretary John Reid has announced the establishment of a counter terrorist elite force.

The Special Forces Support Group (SFSG). Its insignia, a dagger run through by a lightning flash, looks unsurprisingly similar to half an SS double lightning flash.

Jackboots anyone?

Monday, April 17, 2006

power to the people?

A Comment on Power to the People, the report of the Power Inquiry

Power is an independent inquiry into Britain's democracy established and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. It was set up to determine why British people have become increasingly disengaged from formal democratic politics, and how to reverse this trend. It set about resolving three main issues;

The survival of Britain's democracy when politicians are perceived to be uncaring and unlistening.

The revival of politics when party political support is diminishing.

Increasing voter turnout despite the common feeling that elections are a charade.

It is, to all intents and purposes, a report that attempts to formulate the revival of the legitimacy of the status quo, not to revolutionise the distribution of political power. They state, 'The British parliamentary system of elected representation and considerable executive power was built in an era of very limited educational provision and in which deference and rigid hierarchy and static social relations were taken for granted. This explains why so many British citizens now no longer feel formal democracy offers them the influence, equality and respect they believe is their due.'

The power commissioners want us to become re-engaged with formal democracy. They feel this would;

Give legitimacy to government. Decreasing electorate turnout weakens the mandate of the elected party. In the last election, more people refrained from voting than voted Labour. And the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who rules by virtual presidential power, only received some 24,000 votes himself.

Improve political equality. Many people feel totally disenfranchised, their views are not represented.

Improve effective communication between the governed and the governors. Actually when I have bothered to vote in the past I've voted to be represented, not governed - a naive disappointment. Representation does not occur, which in turn leads to being disenfranchised.

Improve the calibre of political recruit.

Prevent the rise undemocratic forces.

Prevent governmental authoritarianism.

However, for all this pro-governmental tosh, it did come up with some interesting reasons for Britain's mainstream political malaise.

Contrary to the assumptions of political analysts, the public are not apathetic. There is massive involvement in pressure politics, e.g. signing petitions, supporting consumer boycotts, and joining campaign groups. It's formal politics that turn people off. Electorate turnout has declined for general elections since 1997, and has been low for other elections for many years. Political party membership is diminishing, and MPs, MEPs and councillors are distrusted.

People are not sick of formal British politics because they are apathetic, negative or inadequate human beings. They feel that the they are ignored and powerless, and that party politics restricts their options.

British parliamentary democracy doesn't work, other than to advance corporate exploitation. The ballot box offered by parliamentarians in any guise is no means for change. The reinvigoration of the status quo, as recommended in the Power Report, is not going to work, other than to delude the electorate.

Time for riot and revolution?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

may day doncaster

Monday 1st MAY

80 th Anniversary Commemoration of the Miners Lock-out and General Strike

The Woolpack Pub, Market Place, Doncaster.


Film: The Miners Film (Cinema Action)

Presentation: The bitter lock-out, Days of hope in the General Strike, and the betrayal by the TUC. David Douglass, National Union Mineworkers.

Debate and discussion.

Folk Music Social: with Toe'in'the Dark.

Organised by Mining Communities Advice Service in conjunction with The Doncaster Miners, The Industrial Workers of The World (IWW) and
Doncaster Class War

Saturday, April 01, 2006

mp's pensions

The MP's pension fund deficit currently stands at £49.5m having risen from £25.2m in 2002, and the taxpayer will pay the cost of this shortfall.

It has just been announced that contributions from public finance to this fund will rise from 24% to 26.8% to cover the deficit. Taxpayer contributions to the MP's pension fund is already more than four times the amount that currently goes into the average worker's fund.

This announcement quickly follows that on MP pay rises. An MP's salary will rise to £60,277 from £59,095, Cabinet ministers' to £136,677 from £133,997, and the prime minister's to £187,610 from £183,932.

This means that an MP, who is paid £60,277, and retires after 26 years service will receive an inflation proof £40,000 per year.

It is, however, a contributory pension. MP's will now have to contribute 10% of pre tax income for 26 years to receive this pension which is calculated as 26/40ths of final salary. They can elect to pay a reduced rate of 6% per annum, but in this case will receive 26/50th of final salary. This is in comparison with the local government worker who contributes 6% of pre tax income for 40 years to receive a pension calculated as 40/80ths of final salary.

In their fight with the unions, the government seem happy to infer that all local government workers retire at 60 on full pension. In reality the average retirement age is 64.5 years. Of those who retire early, 22% are forced to retire due to ill health. The average pension received is only £3,600, and for women this drops to £1,500. This average is more than 10 times less than an MP, and up to 100 times less than a CBI director.

The '85' rule that is currently at the centre of the public sector pension dispute does not apply to MPs. Instead they have the more favourable '80' rule. This means that they can retire on full pension at 60 years of age if their age and service years total 80 or more. This is a strange situation, since the main argument against the '85' rule is that it fails to comply with age discrimination legislation, however this does not appear to apply where MPs are concerned.