Tuesday, 30 April 2013

NHS whistleblowers

NHS whistleblowers are still getting a raw deal, so why is Jeremy Hunt holding back?

If you buy into the explicit, illusionary laws you will either be a cog, or worse, you buy into the illusion and violate one of the implicit, hidden laws.

In theory, holding corporations to account for their wrongdoing should be praised and protected - upholding the law and transparency are the kind of ideals we are spoon-fed from birth. Yet actual whistleblowers are inevitably ruined, slandered, and unemployable, having violated the implicit tribal laws of not endangering their institution.

It seems he is more prepared to teach nursing staff how to wash dishes that find out the truth behind the scene.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Inflation rate

We have had an inflation rate of 2% for as long as I can remember, this is set by the Bank of England.

Mark Carney will shortly take his position as governor of the Bank of England and questioned whether his call for true fiscal adjustment put him out of line with the fund’s call for the UK authorities to consider easing up the pace of deficit reduction while demand remained weak, Mark Carney made it clear that he did not see the level of fiscal austerity as a major constraint on the Bank of England’s ability to stabilise the economy.

The American Federal Bank has recently produced a model for the last decade showing evidence that downward nominal wage rigidities have been an important force shaping the dynamics of unemployment, wage growth, and inflation. With the annual growth rate of nominal GDP being so important, it is a surprise that Mark Carney, has backed-away from his suggestion that targeting its value would help in a depressed environment.

The real problem here is that David Cameron and George Osborne didn’t give the Bank of England an NGDP target.  Without that sort of explicit mandate, it’s awfully hard for George Osborne to suddenly shift Bank of England policy so radically.  Perhaps the government felt that abandoning the 2% inflation target it would be too controversial, especially with Ed Balls insisting that the 2% target should be maintained.

Friday, 26 April 2013

British economy

The British economy is estimated to have grown by 0.3 per cent in the past quarter, according to figures released yesterday.

This comes hot on the heels of this year's Rich List, which shows 11 new billionaires among a group of people worth a combined £450 billion and 80 per cent of whom made their own fortunes.

More billionaires are a sign of Britain's booming wealth and global brilliance, we're back on track, touch decisions have produced results, and it's probably about time we thanked George Osborne as a mark of our national gratitude!

So that growth of 0.3 per cent could actually be a frankly miraculous boom of one per cent, or it could be a buttock-clenching triple dip of -0.4 per cent. We don't know what the figure will be, but we do know the one we've had yesterday is almost certainly wide of the mark. Cheer up though, it could still be a positive figure. That's the politically-important bit. Anything over zero can be spun as though we've just won the lottery and can rush out to buy a Bentley, while a negative figure would be, well, um, let's just say embarrassing.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Food bank users triple in a year

The Trussell Trust [New Policy Institute] figures are:-

Number of food bank users

2008-09 25,899
2009-10 40,898
2010-11 61,468
2011-12 128,697
2012-13 346,992

Figures from the charity showed that 30 per cent using food banks over the last year were referred as a result of benefit delays and 15 per cent because of benefit cuts and sanctions.

What they do not mention is that you need a voucher from the DWP to be able to collect from a food bank and if you are receiving JSA [Job Seekers Allowance] you will not get one.

So when you here that the JSA register is going down month on month, this is why food bank queues are increasing at the same rate.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

More benefit misery

From this week on, one and a half million people who are currently on IB [Incapacity Benefit] will be reassessed to judge whether they are fit for work.

Undoing this historic mistake is going to be a mammoth undertaking, and will take three years. There are in fact about two and a half million people on incapacity benefit, but the task of reassessment is so huge that government has simply decided that anyone who reaches the state retirement age before April 2014 won’t be reassessed.

Having been assessed as able to work, how many will actually get jobs? No-one really knows. Even if only half of those classified as able to work do so, that would mean an extra half a million people in work – a stunning result not just for taxpayers, or our economy, but for all those people too.

The only problem is, we do not have half a million jobs available today!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Scottish Independance

There are so many questions unanswered connected with the referendum but one I am interested in is currency. Will they keep Sterling or move towards the Euro? They have already found out that it is not automatic for Scotland to be part of Europe, but there has been no announcement as to wether they will be invited or they have to apply.

The Treasury has warned an independent Scotland might have to join the euro or create a new currency if they failed to accept its strict terms for joining sterling.

There is another option, creating their own currency, and if they go down this root I would like to suggest the Tartan  ;)

You could get ten tartans to the pound and nice colourful notes - lol

Monday, 22 April 2013

Local Elections

Local elections are always treated, by the media and the politicians, as a litmus test of the national mood. All the contestants regard this year's battle for control of the counties as both especially crucial and unusually unpredictable. Local elections may not be a reliable predictor of the next general election; in fact, they are often a poor guide to what will happen when voters are asked to choose a Westminster government. Yet they still matter to the national picture. Because of the impact they have on the parties' relative morale, the way in which the media rate them, and the authority of leaders over their troops, they can be very important in setting the weather.

In advance of the elections, all the main parties are trying to manipulate how the results are interpreted by setting low targets for themselves and high bars for their opponents. Not so Ukip. Exceptionally, it is raising expectations about its performance by talking a highly ambitious game.

All the main parties have cause to be anxious about Ukip and so all have been trying to understand the rise of the Farageists. One way they do this is to put together focus groups of voters who have switched to Ukip to try to fathom why these people are attracted to Nigel Farage's gang.

Will they find the answer or is this just the usual round robin of politics?

Friday, 19 April 2013

Change is required

Wednesday's labour market figures, for many, will have felt like another blast from the past. Though the claimant count fell slightly, employment is down - and the wider measure of joblessness rose 70,000 in the three months to February. Most striking were the earnings figures. On average, weekly earnings [excluding bonuses] have risen by 1% in the past year, a cash increase of just £3 a week. That's the lowest percentage rise since comparable records began, in 2001.

By this measure, at least, the squeeze isn't "easing" at all. For many people it's actually getting worse.

When joblessness rose in those recessions, the number of people who were out of the labour market altogether - "economically inactive" - also went up. And stayed high. People stopped looking for work and often never got another job. This time around, inactivity did rise when the recession started, but it's since come down dramatically, even as unemployment has stayed relatively high.

What's driving that change? Some 109,000 of that 285,000 fall is due to a a smaller number claiming to be retired, the squeeze in pension pay-outs must be playing a role in that. In a flat economy, the message of today's numbers is that the jobs market is starting to look rather flat as well.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Comfort zone

The bomb at the Boston marathon has killed 3 and injured 177 [so far! some of the injuries are life threatening].

In Iraq this week there have been more than 30 bombings killing 50 people and injuring over 300, hardly making the back pages, I hate to think what is happening in Syria which appears to have fallen off the media radar completely.

I have no wish to denigrate the Boston bombing, but when the event is close to home it seems more shocking to the locals. We should not forget what is happening in the rest of the world.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

We are all in it together

min wage rise 1.9%
inflation stands @ 2.8%

The minimum wage has been cut, not increased.

Vince Cable rightly noted that "cuts in real wages depress consumption" but the 12p increase in the minimum wage to £6.31 is a real-terms cut. After recent speculation that the minimum wage could be frozen or cut in cash terms, Vince Cable used his speech at The Institute of Directors to announce that the adult rate would increase by 1.9 per cent (12p) to £6.31 an hour, the under-21s rate by 5p to £5.03 and the under-18s rate by 4p to £3.72.

In justifying the increase, against those on the right who argue that the minimum wage prices workers out of employment, Cable cited the Keynesian insight that "cuts in real wages depress consumption and demand and thereby cause unemployment." Cable is right; low earners are forced to spend, rather than save, what little they receive (their "marginal propensity to consume" is greater) and stimulate growth as a result.

It's worth noting, then, that the minimum wage has just been cut in real-terms. CPI inflation was 2.8 per cent in February and RPI inflation was 3.2 per cent. The former is forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility to average 2.8 per cent this year. Indeed, as the Resolution Foundation's James Plunkett recently noted, in real-terms, the minimum wage has already fallen back to its 2004 level.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013


For decades, the measure of a country or region’s economic vitality has been the output of GDP [gross domestic product]. Lately, however, economists and other informed observers have been questioning the accuracy of GDP, as it tends to be based on industrial measures, and misses the ever-expanding mass of digital activity.

GDP fails to capture the explosive amount of free information goods available over the Internet, including Wikipedia articles, Google maps, Linux open source software and YouTube videos. While suitable when economies were dominated by the production of physical goods, GDP does not adequately capture the growing share of services and the production of increasingly complex solutions that characterise advanced economies. Nor does it reflect important economic activity beyond production, such as income, consumption and living standards.

According to the official GDP statistics, the information sector (software, publishing, motion picture and sound recording, broadcasting, telecom, and information and data processing services) is about the same share of the economy as it was 25 years ago -  about 4%. Do we not have access to more information than ever before?

Monday, 15 April 2013


In discussions on the internet, when discussing groups of people, quite often these people are divided into two groups: The haves and the have-nots, the good and the bad, the intelligent and the stupid, the hardcore and the casual, and so on. Statements about these two groups are usually made as if there was a clear distinction between them. In mathematical terms, if you plotted something like video game skill on the x-axis and the number of people having this skill on the y-axis, people talk of it as if the distribution was bi-modal; that is as if the curve would have two distinctive humps, one of good players and one of bad players.

Scientifically speaking that is utter nonsense. The Central Limit Theorem says that if you make for example this plot of video game skill of a large enough population, what you will get is a bell curve with a single hump in the middle. That is why this curve is called a "normal distribution". The nature of this curve is that 68% of people are within one standard deviation of the average.

For example 68% of people have an IQ between 85 and 115, and are thus of average intelligence. Of course people are notoriously bad at estimating their own IQ or other qualities, so that if you rely on self-assessment you end up with the observation that most people are above average, which is a mathematical impossibility.

Friday, 5 April 2013


Greg Mulholland MP for Leeds North west has just slammed Anne Keatley-Clarke CEO of Children’s Heart Federation on Radio fours Today programme, of raising inflammatory statements when she raised parents concerns in the Leeds medical row. She pointed out that parents feel frightened because they had been threatened by local administrators at the trust, when raising issues previously.

Last week the Prime Minister David Cameron and the government said that people should not feel inhibited about raising concerns about the NHS. Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Health said “he will set up a new regulatory model for the NHS with a strong, independent Chief Inspector of hospitals” . He also said there would be no more NHS cover-ups as the NHS was told to adopt culture of zero harm and those found going against this principle will be put on a blacklist which will stop them working in the health service.

How is he going to progress this issue when members of the coalition accuse people who speak out against bad NHS practices of being inflammatory? Greg Mulholland needs to realise that he is crushing the debate rather than adding to it, by going down the road of censorship.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Bedroom Tax

There is a problem here with the maths. The scale is enormous.

56,000 households by the overall benefit cap
500,000 disabled people will lose out when DLA becomes PIP
660,000 households will be hit by the bedroom tax
1.36 million households by Local Housing Allowance cuts
2.4 million households by the Council Tax Benefit cut
9.6 million households by 2015/16 by benefits up-rating

Last year 1.7 million grants and crisis loans were made to people on the brink of destitution or rebuilding their lives following homelessness - these are to be abolished, cut and localised. Even Legal Aid for housing and benefit disputes is to be stopped, so people who believe they have been treated unfairly will have no power to challenge.

Homelessness is already rising as the economic downturn and previous cuts take their toll. Over the past two years rough sleeping has risen by 31 per cent, and the number of households accepted as homeless by local authorities has gone up by 26 per cent. Unemployment and underemployment remain stubbornly high.

How much is the government saving by doing this?

Oh, let us not forget that at the end of this week those making more than £150,000 a year will have their income tax cut!

Monday, 1 April 2013

What if?

The ratcheting up off rhetoric in Korea, North & South is worrying.

On the one hand, there is no real evidence that North Korea would be able to defeat the US in a one on one and China & Russia have both urged caution in media statements, showing quite clearly that at this time they do not want any involvement.

However, what if China and or Russia saw North Korea take on the US and inevitably the West and decided to step in to assist? There are several reasons why they should. Officially they are allies, they might consider the little guy is being picked on, or they might just fancy getting stuck into some aggression. Well we have a nightmare scenario unfolding.

I feel as though there is never enough shouting going on before a conflict starts, and I wish the UN and others not just in the West would become more verbally aggressive in situations like these so that they do not slip over into an irreconcilable state. Once the first shot is fired, it is too late, but before that happens negotiations can always have a chance of success. I am not suggesting that our PM goes rallying in with the first volley, but it does appear as though those that could speak out are sitting in meetings wondering who is going to make the first move.

Guys, it needs to be now, today, everyone with a bit of sanity needs to condemn North Koreas actions so that they slow down.