Join the discussions – feel free to comment below each post.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

How do we bridge the Generation Gap?

If you believe some media commentators and politicians the 'Generational Divide' is the most corrosive issue in our society. They say wealthy Baby Boomer pensioners have swallowed up all the wealth whist younger generations struggle with student debts, lowly paid jobs and inadequate housing.

The media often characterises pensioners as playing golf on lush courses or enjoying luxury cruises without a care in the world. I find it strange I don’t know one such person. However I do know older people who struggle with their health either through age, disability, loneliness, isolation and of course poverty. I also know young people who worry about their education and whether they or their family can afford it. I know many more who struggle to find a decent job with reasonable working conditions and pay and who are exploited by employers without an effective regulatory system to safeguard their rights and many without a union to fight for them.

With all this in mind it is heartening to see a more constructive analysis of the issues that can and should be tackled. It is also of interest how uniting across our generations might start to challenge the real inequality in our society between the vested interests a rich, powerful global elite, its hangers on and the rest of us. It is worth taking a moment to read the article here, and why not share your views in the comments box below this post?

Eddie Spence
ARMS National Vice Chair

Friday, 1 September 2017

DWP blunder - office repossessed

Workers arriving at Bridge House Jobcentre in Blyth near Newcastle on 30 August were confronted with a bailiff's notice on the front door. The landlord of the site, contracted to Telereal Trillum as part of the DWP jobcentre network, has posted the notice to advise that bailiffs can enter and "repossess" the building.

The department had originally planned to close Bridge House, but reconsidered its decision on 10 August. This incident with the bailiffs has simply created more confusion for the 27 workers at the site. The embarrassment comes as the DWP plan to push ahead with their plans to close dozens of jobcentres across UK, a decision which will jeopardise local economies and service delivery.

A PCS spokesperson said: "This is the latest gaffe for the DWP and again shows that they are out of touch with what's happening on the ground. They don't know the needs of the workers, service users, or of the local community. Workers are growing increasing concerned and confused about the future of their role. This is no way to treat anyone. How can the department be trusted to push ahead with their radical programme of office closures when they can't even pay the bills on time?"

PCS has called yet again on Department for Work and Pensions management to halt its planned Jobcentre closure plan, after this blunder. It would be comical except that real jobs and real clients are affected.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

A woman in your 60s affected by changes in retirement age?

Women aged between 60 and 62 are an average of £32 a week worse off due to changes in the state pension age. The Guardian Newspaper would like to find out how this affects you.

Women in their early 60s have lost an average of £32 a week from changes in the retirement age, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) reported today.

The increase in the age that women can receive their state pension has lowered the income of more than a million women, according to the IFS study, while the government has saved £5.1bn a year.

Many women are working for longer as a result of the changes and some are now facing hardship after many years of work and paying National Insurance Contributions with the expectation of an earlier State Pension, an expectation which will bring the state pension age to an equal level - 65 - for men and women by November 2018, before rising to 66 by October 2020.

PCS ARMs is supporting the 'WASPI Campaign' to address this injustice but we need to keep it in the public eye and expose what the Government has done and their refusal to properly address this injustice. You can help by telling your story or letting a family member, friend or neighbour know about this continuing campaign.

Are you a woman aged between 60 and 62 affected by the changes? Are you struggling financially? Have you decided to work for longer? How has this affected your life?
Share your experiences:

The Guardian Newspaper would like to hear from women in their early 60s affected by the change in state pension age. If you would like to share your experience, please fill in the form at this link, anonymously if you prefer. The Guardian will feature some of your responses in their reporting.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Third legal defeat for Government in a fortnight

From a PCS press release 4 August 2017:

(Note: this may affect ARMS members who left work after the changes were imposed)

Unlawful cuts to civil service redundancy pay have been quashed by the High Court in the third major legal defeat for the government in just over a week, the Public and Commercial Services union says. Judges also refused the government’s request to appeal and ordered it to pay the union’s costs, including an immediate £40,000 as an "interim payment". It opens the door for civil servants made redundant under the new terms imposed in November to claim compensation after being left thousands of pounds worse off.

The order comes just over a week after Unison won major victories in the courts over employment tribunal fees and the need for employers to properly consult when making major changes in the workplace.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "This is a great win for us and all civil servants, and another humiliating defeat for the government that treated its workforce with contempt by excluding us from talks. In trying to fix the terms of the negotiations the government only succeeded in showing itself to be weak, vulnerable and afraid of serious discussion. The judgement proves how important it is to belong to a trade union that is prepared to fight back."

Background:

The court ruled last month the Tories’ latest cuts to the terms of the civil service compensation scheme - which governs voluntary and compulsory redundancy pay - were unlawful because the Cabinet Office excluded the union from negotiations.

Lord Justice Sales and Mrs Justice Whipple ruled former Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer - who lost his seat at the general election - failed in his legal "duty to consult with a view to reaching agreement" by excluding PCS from more than a dozen meetings attended by most of the smaller unions.

In a letter to the unions in June, a senior Cabinet Office official wrote:

"I want to be clear that attendance at any further discussions will be taken as a clear commitment that those unions engaging in the talks have accepted that the proposal above will form the basis of a reformed, negotiated, set of arrangements that their relevant executives can recommend acceptance to their members in any ballot."

The judgement stated: "There was no basis on which the Minister was entitled to exclude the PCSU from the consultation. It cannot be said that it is highly likely that the outcome would not have been affected if the PCSU had been allowed to participate in the second round of discussions, as it should have been."

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Justice for sale - again

Hot on the heels of their defeat in the Supreme Court over fees for Employment Tribunals, the Government has surreptitiously published proposals for another way to rake in profits from our justice system by sneaking out plans during MPs' excessive summer holidays for a controversial privatisation.

The Ministry of Justice has announced today (1 August) it wants to outsource the collection of courts fines currently done by almost 150 civil servants. Two years ago an attempt to privatise all enforcement work was abandoned and a Freedom of Information request by our union revealed the five-year project cost taxpayers £8 million.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service civilian enforcement officers, who are subject to the civil service code governing standards of behaviour, have the authority to search premises and place defaulters in custody, and can access sensitive data held on government systems, including the Police National Computer. The code would not apply to staff working for private companies motivated by profit, and we share the concerns raised by Citizens Advice and other debt advice agencies earlier this year about the need for substantial reform to protect vulnerable people from rogue bailiffs.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The last time ministers tried to do something similar it ended up costing taxpayers £8 million before being abandoned, now they’re trying to avoid scrutiny by sneaking it out during the summer holiday. This work is highly sensitive and should remain in-house instead of being handed to private bailiffs whose motive is profit."

Most info from PCS website

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Overpaid public sector workers?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s statements about overpaid public sector workers may well be fading into the middle distance but they are true reflection of what the Tories really think. Not just do they deploy their age old tactic of divide and rule seeking to set private sector workers against public sector workers and young against old, they warn that doing anything other than following their dogma driven policies will lead to disaster.

It is useful to remember what Hammond said in a response to a question from Andrew Marr, which was: "When you take into account the very generous contributions that public sector employers have to pay in to their very generous pensions it is a simple fact: relative to private sector workers, they are paid a 10% premium."

The average pension of public sector workers is no more than £6,500 per annum. Many workers in the public sector are on poverty pay. The vast majority currently working along with those who have already retired will never receive the 'New State Pension' or anything close to it as the legislation debars those people who contracted out of SERPS.

Latterly millions of workers in their 30s and 40s in both public and private sectors have been told they will have to wait a year longer and lose up to £10,000 of whatever State Pension they will receive. Again we are told that to do anything else would lead to disaster. Little wonder in responding to the announcement that Labours Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams accused the Government of forcing "millions of people to work longer to pay for their failing austerity plans".

It is not just that Hammond is a hypocrite with a £9 million fortune and a Chancellor's pensionable salary of £134,000 a year. It is the fact that he is just plain wrong.

Many members of the public have written to try and correct Hammond’s misguided assertions and you can see some of the comments at this link.

It will be interesting to know what your thoughts are on this issue? You can join this debate and share any comments you have on this posting by clicking on the link to "comments" below.

Eddie Spence
ARMs

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Elder abuse is a hate crime

Figures released on UN World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 14 June showed that just 0.7% of all crimes against older people in the UK end in a conviction. The charity, Action on Elder Abuse (AEA) said the figures pointed to clear institutional ageism, with too many crimes being seen as a social problem instead of a criminal one. Gary Fitzgerald, AEA Director said: "Commit a crime against someone because of their age and you will probably get little more than a slap on the wrist. This needs to change and the impact of the crime can in some instances lead to admission into care or even death. This needs to be recognised in law as a hate crime," he added.

BBC research has also shown that more than 23,000 allegations of abuse have been made against carers working in people's homes across the UK in the last two years. Official figures recently revealed that up to 11,000 care home residents were not being properly fed, or left without food and drink. Older people are also often actively harmed, often by those who are meant to be caring for them or are increasingly targeted by those who are behind financial scams. For every instance of financial abuse that comes to light, 24 cases are thought to go unreported. Visit the Elder Abuse website here.

Info from the NPC's July Bulletin - borrowed with thanks.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Myth of 'something for nothing' pensioners

Pensioners are reported to be paying almost a third of their income in tax, according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics. The bill is made up of direct taxes which includes income tax and council tax, costing an average £3,050, and indirect taxes which include VAT, insurance premium tax and vehicle excise duty which cost an average of £4,360.

Dot Gibson, Deputy General Secretary of the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) said: "All pensioners pay indirect taxes and around half still pay income tax, so when some in the media argue that older people are somehow getting something for nothing - it’s complete nonsense." 

As well as paying tax, the older generation also contributes in excess of £40bn every year more than the cost of pensions and benefits through volunteering and unpaid caring.

Info from the NPC's July Bulletin - borrowed with thanks.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

STOP the new plans to dismantle our NHS

This post gives important information about these plans, info that the government is not keen to publicise. If you oppose them please sign this petition - here.

The Naylor Review, published in March 2017, laid out a new NHS Estates strategy to get rid of "surplus" NHS property. It is a con trick designed to turn public property into private wealth. Not content to just 'sell' the land and buildings, which might mean they go to Co-operatives or other socally aware groups or developers, Project Phoenix proposes a 'fire sale' via Public Private Partnerships.

Six regional Public Private Partnerships will be created to sell off “ surplus” NHS assets. Tenders for the partnerships are expected to be published in the Official Journal of the European Union this summer and the Public Private Partnerships will probably go live later in 2017. "Surplus" NHS land and buildings could be sold to developers wanting to build homes, or to the private sector to be improved and then leased to local health services.The profit from sales will probably be shared between the NHS and the private partners.

Channelling public money into Public Private Partnerships comes at a big cost. It means the state doesn't have to finance and pay capital costs upfront - but we know from the disastrous Private Finance Initiative history that these projects end up costing much much more than publicly financed projects, because of ruinous interest and facilities management costs. We also know that they compromise safety and usability standards during the construction stage, because profit is put ahead of everything else.

Government decided to cut public spending, but Hospital Trusts need money to implement the STP changes. A report to NHS England’s 15.12.16 board meeting said:
"Capital is very tight over the next few years; STPs' requests exceed what is available."
The report also said NHS England and NHS Improvement would review all STP capital requests and that funding would be available for:
"strategic schemes that are essential for unlocking local improvements and efficiencies".
A BMA report confirmed that 36 of the 44 Sustainability and Transformation Plans between them required £9.5bn of capital funding but there is nothing like that money available. The 44 STP footprints between them need to 'save' £22 billion by 2020. Less than a quarter of local politicians believe that major NHS plans to reshape local health and care services will succeed, So why, we ask are they not challenging the proposals through the Joint Scrutiny Committees?

Please help us stop the STPs. Share the petition with friends or family or share on Facebook or twitter. The petition's website address is: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/stopNHSattacks.

For more information about the land sale, click here.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Tory Government continues to use Social Care as a political football

Apparently having learned nothing from their car crash of an Election Manifesto the Tories now have a new plan to improve social care.

After reducing funding on social care by £4.6 Billion since 2010 particularly through the cuts in Local Authority Budgets, the new plan is to get the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to inspect the failing and underfunded social care system. If the arrangements are found to be unsatisfactory the Government can impose a financial penalty on the relevant Local Authority rather than allow it to access funding from the Governments ‘Better Care Fund’ into which they have invested £2billion – just £2.6Billion short of the money they have taken out of social care funding.

This approach is being championed by none other than NHS saviour Jeremy Hunt. ‘Simples’ the answer was staring us in the face all along? Even Tory cheerleader the Daily Telegraph is struggling to get its head around this latest panic measure - read more here.

Eddie Spence
ARMS

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Government policy on housing disastrous

'Tory Housing policy disastrous' says the National Housing Federation along with their backdoor bedroom tax on pensioners reported in a recent issue of the ARMs Newsletter 'Up in ARMs'. The Independent recently reported that:
"From April 2019, housing benefit in all social housing will be capped at the level of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA), used in the private rented sector.
"Crucially, the LHA is calculated – like the removal of the 'spare-room subsidy' – on the basis of household size, rather than the size of the property.
"That means a single person, or a couple, living in a two-bedroom home will have their housing benefit capped at the one-bedroom LHA rate.
"The impact will be severe across the Midlands and the North, where lower private rents will mean a lower one-bedroom LHA rate, threatening tenants with huge benefit cuts."
Full article here.

Housing Associations are reluctant to commission the building of new houses because their income from rent is under threat. The consequence of a doctrinaire decision by the Tories, little noticed at the time, will almost certainly deepen the social housing crisis even further. 

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

People in their 30s and 40s and 50s will be hardest hit by Tory state pension cuts!

Protecting all generations of pensioners
- including today's young people
The Tories are preparing to hit the future incomes of those currently in their 30s and 40s and fail to meet the statutory deadline for responding on State Pension plans.

The main conclusions of the Review into state pension retirement age recently carried out by ex-CBI chief John Cridland was to end the state pension Triple Lock and accelerate the increase in the state pension retirement age. The Government was legally required to respond to the Review by 7th May 2017. They have failed to meet that statutory responsibility.

The TUC responded to the Cridland plans as follows:
  • The TUC opposes Cridland's proposed accelerated increase in the state pension age to 68 between 2037 and 2039. Under the 2007 Pensions Act this was pencilled in for 2044 to 2046. Substantial inequalities in life expectancy and, particularly, healthy life expectancy mean this policy will hit the poorest hardest. 
  • The TUC does not support the downgrading of the triple lock that currently governs rises in the level of the state pension in favour of an earnings link. The triple lock has been gradually bringing the state pension back up to a reasonable level. And its work is not done. The greatest potential beneficiaries of this policy are today’s young workers. There doesn't need to be a trade-off between pension age and the level of the state pension. 
The TUC view is that both these measures would, in practice, hit the future incomes of those currently in their 30s and 40s. This Generation X is already the worst placed of the generations in terms of workplace saving. And the poorest of this generation would be affected the most. For they are the least likely to be able to work into later life or have the substantial savings needed to cushion retirement ahead of state pension age.

In considering other input into the Review it was noted that Government Actuaries had projected 'viable future increases in retirement age to 69 and 70 by 2055'. This had not been included in the Review Report and the Government have refused to comment. However people need to 'watch this space'. The Tories see the state pension as a source of further 'savings' above and beyond the £8 billion clawed back in the value of state pensions since 2010. Doubtless this then allows them to further reduce taxes for their backers such as through further Inheritance Tax cuts that benefit the wealth.

Eddie Spence
ARMS Vice Chair

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Care in Crisis under the Tories

The Tory manifesto is a vague recipe for extending poverty not equality.

The Tory Government's 'Couldn't care less' attitude has led to record care home closures and an industry in crisis. Reports in the media have continued to reveal that since coming to office in 2010, the Tories promised improvement and delivered just the opposite. Their ideological dislike of local councils, cuts to their funding and deterioration of the 'care home industry' show no signs of stopping. £4.6 billion has been cut from Care funding since 2010 and when the human costs start to rise their best response is to say they may give £2 billion back - still leaving a massive £2.6 million credibility gap in their plans for Care.

Now the Tory manifesto promises that the cost of care will be met by the people who need the care themselves. Poverty amongst pensioners has increased under the Tories to almost 2 million. PM May now says the old in need of care must pay for themselves. There is of course no detail about how this is going to work. Vague references to 'means testing' criteria provide no detail about what that is and who will profit from their plans. More importantly: who will lose? The Manifesto refers to "those with modest or medium wealth". Where does that analysis start and end? Is it May’s own level of wealth? Well that is difficult to say as she has hidden her assets away in a Trust Fund. The only thing we have to go on is 7 years of broken Tory promises.

This isn't just about old people. When a person goes into a Care Home it involves whole families and different generations in managing not just the financial but the emotional cost of looking after their family member. The responsibility for the decline of 'Care' in our communities lies at the door of the Tory Government and even their own 'fanzine' the Mail recognises this. The following coverage looks more at these issues. This debate will run until and beyond the General Election.

Please share your thoughts on this Blog (comments section below).

Tory manifesto: more elderly people will have to pay for own social care - here.

More than 2,000 elderly and ill people die while waiting for care at home: Worse cases saw patients waiting nine months for treatment - here.

General election 2017: parties must be clear how they will solve social care crisis - here.

Eddie Spence
ARMS Vice Chair

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Equality and Human Rights guardians victimised

EHRC members stand firm
Tory hypocrisy over employment rights exposed as Equality and Human Rights Commission staff strike again over sackings and victimisation.

ARMs members may remember the long-running dispute over budget cuts and compulsory redundancies between members of PCS and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). You can play your part by supporting the Strikers.

PCS members at the Equality and Human Rights Commission are to take 20 days of rolling strike action starting today in support of their sacked colleagues. This follows 7 days of strike action taken between November 2016 and March this year.

The strike action includes the following dates:
  • EHRC Glasgow - 15 May to 19 May 
  • EHRC London - 22 May to 26 May 
  • EHRC Cardiff - 29 May to 2 June
  • EHRC Manchester - 5 June to 9 June. 
What ARMs members can do?
It is not an easy decision to take strike action. You can support our PCS members in the following ways:
  • Send motions and letters of support from your regional branch to PCS at londonbargaining@pcs.org.uk
  • Lobby your MP to expose the Government's hypocrisy (literature supporting the dispute is available from your PCS regional office). 
  • If there is an EHRC office in your area, invite their PCS rep to your next meeting. 
  • Go along to the picket line in your area. 
  • Organise for your regional branch to get as many members as possible to visit the picket line. 
  • Make a donation to our Fighting Fund which is used to support our members who take strike action. 
The key facts about this dispute are as follows:

Nine staff were given dismissal notices on 9 February, some by email with just 24 hours' notice; three members of staff were also sacked by email a few weeks later. After representations by PCS the EHRC have agreed to put staff back on to the pay roll but the dismissal notices have not been withdrawn and the staff concerned are banned from EHRC premises, their reinstatement is also part of the campaign

Agency staff
The Commission has spent over £260,000 on agency staff in the first 5 months of this year whilst at the same time trying to substantiate an argument that they need less staff. The union argues that the Commission have not justified the need to cut staff numbers.

However even if the Commission could justify a need for restructuring then the staff should be redeployed into Commission vacancies - more than 30 of which have been identified within the Commission, some of which are the equivalent grades of the sacked staff - or found roles in the wider civil service.

Equality
The EHRC is responsible for ensuring other public bodies consider the equality implications of their actions. Yet they have clearly failed to apply the same standards to themselves.

Of the eight union members issued notices of compulsory redundancy, six are black or minority ethnic, five are disabled and seven are older workers. Four are union reps and one was a lead negotiator opposing the cuts. PCS are now pursuing legal action against the EHRC for victimisation

Making the EHRC toothless
These cuts could threaten the Commission's UN-accredited status as a human rights body. Mark Serwotka says "The fact that the government has cut the Commission to a quarter of its original size demonstrates the Tories' lack of commitment to equality and human rights issues. Further budget and staff cuts would leave the commission toothless at a time when more needs to be done to tackle hate crime and discrimination."

More information on the dispute can be found on the PCS websitewith more info on the renewed strike action here.

Barry Fuge
National Assistant Secretary
PCS ARMs

Sunday, 14 May 2017

This 'weak leader' is taking on the whole British Establishment

Corbyn has mass meetings.
May meets selected party loyalists.
For far too long there was precious little real choice at a general election. As Labour drifted to the right and both they and the Tories fought for the same centre ground, more and more of their policies converged, which left many voters struggling to distinguish between them. Thanks to Corbyn, this is no longer the case. The leaked Labour manifesto is a programme for serious change to the way this country is run, and for whose benefit it is run.

Gone are the days when timid Labour leaderships, cowed by Thatcher’s legacy, dared not mention the word 'socialism', were afraid to talk about wealth redistribution in case it caused a media backlash, and meekly fell in line with the military ambitions of the USA, which caused many traditional Labour voters to desert the party.

Now we have a Labour party that is taking aim at the UK's gross wealth inequality and is planning to do something about it, that recognises how adversely public service cuts affect working class people and intends to reverse them, and that is prepared to stand up against unhinged Trump's foolish and dangerous war games rather than give him unquestioning succour.

Corbyn is standing up for, and firmly defending, what he believes in, putting forward a strong case for making the fat cats and wealthy corporations pay more tax in order to improve the lives of ordinary people, and today telling the USA that he will not be their poodle.

It is difficult to overestimate the fortitude and courage of a politician who is prepared to challenge head-on the accumulated privilege of the whole of the British establishment, along with all the rich and powerful interests it protects, yet he seems to be relishing the task. In that respect, Corbyn is arguably a far stronger Labour leader than any since the 1980s (with the all too brief exception, perhaps, of John Smith).

Working class voters can no longer complain that they only have a choice between Tory and Tory-lite. They can now choose between a full-blooded Labour party that firmly has their interests at the core of its manifesto and a determination to carry it out, or a Tory party that has run out of ideas, will make their lives even worse, and whose manifesto, I predict, will contain barely any firm policies to 'help ordinary working families'. The choice this time will be stark.

The Tories portray Corbyn as spineless - even though nothing could be further from the truth - because they know that his policies are very popular (the leaked manifesto has very high approval ratings already) and that their best hope of stopping him is if they can maintain the myth that he is weak and unfit to be prime minister.

So, don't expect May's 'strong and stable' mantra to stop anytime soon.

Brian Nelson
ARMs Yorkshire and Humberside region

Friday, 12 May 2017

NPC Campaign Bulletin May 2017

Please find a link to the May 2017 issue of the NPC's Campaign! Bulletin - here

The NPC has also produced a print friendly version which reduces the amount of ink needed when the document is printed out. This can be found here

If you have any further queries about this bulletin, please get in touch with the NPC.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Turning Of The Tide?

Now that the election campaign has started and Labour’s policies are finally beginning to get more media coverage, is public opinion beginning to shift in their favour? A Times/YouGov poll published this week already bucks the media predictions of an inexorable swing towards the Tories - and we are only a week into the campaign. I’m not holding my breath but it will be interesting to see how many other media sources (I have only seen it in the Independent on 27th April) publish this poll’s findings, which embarrassingly don’t fit their analysis that Labour has no chance of winning power.

I have said before that I believe one of the main reasons for Labour’s poor poll ratings has been the media’s (including the hitherto Labour-supporting media) obsession with reporting the party’s factional infighting, rather than its policies. But general election reporting standards require that all the main parties now get proper coverage to enable voters to make a properly informed choice, and the more Labour’s message gets across, the more people will be able to see that they, not the Tories, have the policies that will help ordinary working families.

I expect that distinction to sharpen once the party manifestos are published because the Tories will have to find a way of showing in print exactly how they plan to fulfil May’s hollow claim that they are now the party of ordinary working families. Since she became PM, she has done absolutely nothing to back up those easy, glib words but her manifesto team now faces the uphill task of converting a meaningless soundbite that the Tories privately don’t believe into a published action plan that they know will be examined more forensically than May’s snippets of verbal propaganda have been.

The Tories may try to console themselves by dismissing this poll as a rogue result but they will be a lot more worried by another YouGov poll published alongside it that shows a considerable shift of public opinion away from Brexit (only 43% now supporting it compared to 52% in the EU referendum). If voters really are beginning to reassess the merits of a hard Brexit now that some of its unpalatable realities, rather than the referendum campaign deceptions, have had to be acknowledged by May’s ministers then that could put a very different complexion on this election in the very seats that May (and UKIP) gambled on winning - i.e. those where a ‘remain’ Labour MP’s constituents voted for Brexit. The last thing May will want to see is evidence that those voters are revising their previous support for a hard Brexit and possibly moving closer to Labour - particularly when she intends to make Brexit her main election pitch.

That much-vaunted Tory landslide is beginning to look a lot less certain than the establishment would have us believe. If this poll turns out to be correct and public opinion is already starting to shift in Labour’s direction with still another six weeks to go before polling day, May could soon be wondering if she will finish up with a smaller majority than she has now, or possibly none at all.

The article in the Independent is here.

Brian Nelson
ARMs Yorkshire and Humberside region

Monday, 24 April 2017

Recent articles from the internet

The following are recent articles you may find of some interest, selected by Eddie Spence:
  • General election 2017: parties must be clear how they will solve social care crisis - here.
  • Hammond and May must not allow Labour to scare them off unpicking the pension triple lock - here.
  • Labour promises to maintain triple lock state pension guarantee until 2025 if it wins power - here.
  • Labour unveils four-point pensioners' pledge card - here.
  • Hargreaves warns of '1980s'-style pension mis-selling scandal - here.
  • Working past aged 68 'too much for people to bear' - here.

Friday, 21 April 2017

How do we reactivate lost voters?

Eddie Spence explains how so many voters are turned off by media distortions and political misdirection.

No prizes for guessing the issue that has headlined in the Media over the last week. I suppose it's typical, you wait 5 years for the General Election in 2015 and then two come along within two years.

Prime Minister May who promised that she wouldn't have an election until 2020 has now decided that she will and it's everyone else's fault. Apparently the general election will be about giving the UK a stronger hand in Brexit negotiations as it would appear that the tricky negotiating tactic of saying "Brexit means Brexit" and then staring into the middle distance isn’t making much progress. Plan B of saying it’s going to be "a red, white and blue Brexit" and then and staring doesn’t seem to be getting very far either. So what else is there to do apart from go to the nation in a general election and say trust me with everything. That's not just Brexit negotiations but other key issues and policies that will affect us all over the next 5 years as you can bet your bottom dollar that May's commitment to a fixed term parliament will return if she is able to secure a working majority.

Over coming weeks we can no doubt look forward to those old cheery Tory election campaign 'one-liners' such as: "The NHS is safe in our hands." Or maybe we will hear the one about controlling energy prices in the industry they privatised or rail fares in another industry they privatised. They could tell us about putting £2 billion into Social Care and forget to mention that they've taken £4.6 billion out. We could also hear how they are being tough on Tax Dodgers and big business. We may be told again that older people and pensioners will fare better under the Tories despite the total inequity created by the 2012 Pensions Act, cutting the State and public sector pensions link to RPI and driving down the value of any savings older people may have through a constant process of quantitative easing to keep interest rates low.

There will be much talk of May's strong leadership but based on what? She was last woman standing as Gove and Johnson stabbed each other in the back amidst Tory leadership in-fighting. No doubt much will be made of Theresa May's dazzling achievements as Secretary of State for Home Affairs since 2010. Erm, then again maybe not. Her track record was observed as follows by Alan Travis of the Guardian:

"Her six years at the Home Office were marked by an instinctive secrecy, a talent for 'going missing' or delegating when things went wrong, and a too careless approach to civil liberties.

"Her capacity to make herself scarce at key moments of political danger peaked during the referendum campaign. Her minimal public contribution not only failed to defend her record on immigration but instead focused on her personal pledge to withdraw from the European convention on human rights to demonstrate that she was a wafer-thin remainer."

A track record based on personal survival as opposed to public responsibility and achievement is hardly the best qualification with which to support her claim to be a 'strong leader'. How many in the media will test May on the reality of her record in public life? If anyone has the guts to do it you can guarantee that her lack of achievement will be everyone else's fault. Now where have we heard that before?

Of course more recently May has pledged to help those 'Just about managing' or 'Jams' as the media describe people in work who are struggling to make ends meet after 7 years of Tory Austerity policies. That will be the Tax Credit cuts will it, or maybe the pay freezes or minimalist 1% often unconsolidated pay increases in vast swathes of the public sector? MPs have borne the weight of austerity as well with their salaries only increasing between 2010 and 2017 from £65,738 to £74,962. But none of this has anything to do with Theresa May; it's not her fault.

Criticisms that the Tory Cabinet decision to call for a General Election simply amount to blatant political opportunism have been rebuffed. However no political party worth its salt can resist the opportunity to take its policies and its candidates to the voters and ask us to decide. Of course that requires us to vote and in 2015 there were 15.9 million people who were entitled to vote in the General Election who did not - that's 34% of the 'voting population' and much more than any one political party received in 2015.

What we can predict is the vested interest in much of the mainstream media will continue to attack and undermine the opposition to the Tories and in particular the Labour Party as the main opposition party. They will endeavour to ignore the policy commitments being promoted by Jeremy Corbyn and instead focus on attacking the image they have created of the man. In truth it is the policies that matter but the media won’t want to focus on them particularly as many will be aimed at tackling those vested interests that the media serves. We will see febrile attacks, sensationalism and attempts at character assassination all designed to take our eye off the real issues about what an incoming Government will do that matters to us and our families? It's up to us to see through that and to talk to friends and neighbours about what is at stake.

2017 may well be the year where we have clear policy differences on offer and if we haven't liked what has been done by past Governments then we have the chance to change that. The argument posed by some non-voters that 'politicians are all the same' will not stand up and so it is up to those people who haven't voted in the past to vote for real change in the society we live in.

Well, we have 7 weeks to look forward to and we will have the opportunity to question those candidates who are standing across the United (at least for the minute anyway) Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Members will no doubt have a lot of questions for all the candidates but as well as keeping in touch with developments in the media we will post thoughts on this Blog about those issues you may wish to probe candidates on in particular. We would also welcome your thoughts.

We welcome your views on all of this. For example how are we going to convince the 15.9 million people who didn’t vote in the 2015 General Election to at least play a part in the society we live in?

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

New PCS ARMs national blog & website

Welcome to the national blog/website of PCS Associate and Retired Members (ARMs). You can register to receive blog updates now by inserting your email address in the 'follow us by email' box in the column on the right. You can also add this site to your 'favourites'.

This site provides information about ARMs that will be of interest to current ARMs members, prospective members and PCS representatives who wish to find out more about ARMs. Just click on any of the tabs on the right hand side to find the information you are looking for.

The site will be regularly updated with topical news stories and information about ARMs members’ activity. You can easily comment on articles by clicking on the 'comment' link below each post and typing in your comment. If you wish to submit a post for publication on the blog, please email it to Eddie Spence, ARMs national vice chair and editor - click here.

The site is moderated by the PCS ARMs National Committee Communications Team to ensure that postings do not contain inappropriate language or material, including SPAM mail or any unsolicited advertising.

Where ARMs Regions or Local Groups have their own blogs, websites, Facebook pages or similar, send us the links and we will put them on the blog. Please click on the 'North West' link – if your region would like a similar standing page to list your committee members, where you meet and how to contact you, please send us the details.

The ARMs blog will be as useful and successful as members wish to make it, so please support this new initiative and register to receive blog updates.