It’s time to think about the difficult decisions – Labour’s economic credibility relies on it

November 21, 2012 2:25 pm

By Andrew Harrop and Robert Tinker

‘What would you do?’ This simple question has a nasty habit of denting Labour’s attack on the Coalition’s deficit reduction programme. The challenge of whether and how to answer ‘what would Labour do differently?’ burdens the party from grassroots to shadow cabinet. But by saying nothing Labour risk being painted as deficit deniers, with the Tories filling-out the gaps our silence creates. Be in no doubt this will be George Osborne’s line at the Autumn Statement. He desperately wants to create the impression that the only options are Osbornomics or fiscal irresponsibility and Labour silence as the next election nears will help him in that task.

New research by Michael Ashcroft suggests that potential Labour voters are asking the same question. Many of those who would consider voting Labour feel constrained by a sense that the party has failed to learn the lessons required make tough economic decisions in power. Fiscal credibility and spending what we can afford remain a key priority on voters’ agenda.

For the last two years Labour’s refusal to give a detailed answer to this question ‘what would you do’ was absolutely right. To lay out an alternative series of cuts five years before a general election would have been disingenuous and politically divisive. As events have demonstrated, predicting the future health of the economy was at that time impossible.

But as we pass the halfway stage on the road to the next election, now is the time to think seriously about the choices we would make if elected. Having been open about the scale of the challenge the party faces, a discussion of how to reduce the deficit while retaining our values and principles is the next step towards restoring credibility on the economy.

This week the Fabian Society launches the Commission on Future Spending Choices to consider these questions. Chaired by former Treasury select committee chairman Lord McFall, our wide ranging project will explore how to restrain spending in a way that maximises prosperity, security and social justice.

What can be spent will still depend on the economy of course, and the permanent damage caused by Osborne’s Plan A remains to be seen. But as the Fabian Society’s commission will show, definite choices exist about the way in which reductions in spending are made.

We should attack the Coalition’s failed approach, but to do this effectively it’s time to start thinking about the difficult decisions Labour will face if elected in 2015. Labour’s economic credibility relies on it, and as the Ashcroft polling shows, it may be the crucial factor in making our ‘possible’ supporters turn into our voters. Labour has made massive progress since the 2010 general election. Now is the time to capitalise on our achievements by starting to answer the question ‘what would you do?’

Andrew Harrop is the General Secretary of the Fabian Society. Robert Tinker is researcher to the Fabian Commission on Future Spending Choices

  • http://twitter.com/Bickerrecord Paul Cotterill

    So the Fabian Society thinks we should continue with Plan A post-2015, but maybe call it something else, in order to look “fiscally credible” to a group of voters still susceptible to the Tory argument that cutting spending = cutting deficit.

    Has the Fabian Society not noticed that Plan A has failed even in its own tierm? http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2012/11/government-to-miss-borrowing-targets-by-a-quarter-of-a-trillion-pounds/
    The tough choice Labour needs to take is to abandon the ‘too fast, too deep’ narrative and say instead:”It was too fast, too deep, too stupid. Now we need to invest to get us out of this mess’” That doesn’t mean that there can’t be some sensible budget reallocation where outcomes are better achieved this way, but to say we have to restrict ourselves to Tory spending plans overall is political cowardice and economic stupidity writ large.
    I’m surprised at John McFall. I thought he had more sense.

  • http://twitter.com/Chas_Boz David Arrowsmith

    This article merely shows how Labour is tacking towards the position where it can ideologically accept the new neo-con plan to eject the welfare state for the limited insurance and voucher provision found in the USA. Ever since the 1930s “Tough Decisions” has always been the code for removing state support from the most vulnerable in the community.

  • Forlornehope

    Fairly simple really; higher spending on public services and benefits paid for by higher taxes. The “Scandinavian model” works for them; we need to commit to making it work here. Oh, and ditch all the guff about paying for it all by “taxing the rich” and “closing loopholes” none of that will get anywhere near what we need to spend.

  • JoeDM

    It’s not the short term fiscal policy that’s the real issue. It is our long term general economic decline that must be addressed. The game has changed over the past 10 – 20 years and we have lost our comparative advantage in many areas of economic activity. That’s the real problem that politicians need to be addressing.

  • Alexwilliamz

    Employment, education, ealth and energy.
    We have to develop a welfare system with the recognition that there will probably be a sizeable chunk of people out of work. Rather than offering benefits I’d rather the gvt offered work of some kind of another, it might be a little more expensive, but it would give dignity and purpose to people, allow them to maintain and develop work skills and would save money in terms of many of the associated costs of a group of people with low morale and low self esteem. I also reckon tax payers would be happier paying people to do something than to effectively ‘watch Jeremy Kyle’ as that will always be the common perception. How about thinking about VAT, if we slashed VAT on things like spare parts and labour then this might make repairing products more financially viabll. This would keep jobs in the UK (repairmen) rather than people simply replacing slightly faulty goods with new purchases which in general are built abroad. It would also be more sustainable.
    Education reform, real reform to actually allow young people to develop skills and understanding to be part of a creative and progressive economy. By slaughtering the sacred cow of exam worship this could be done. While we remain in thrall to it we will continue to label young people as ‘successes’ or ‘failures’ in ever narrow ways. Exams have become the driver of education which has led to a kind of non education. there are other ways to sustain rigour and standards without having to try and work out how to assess it all the time. Basically we are in a situation where we value what we can measure instead of trying to work out how to measure what we value.
    Ealth in reality it is the need for a National Care service that will alleviate pressure on the NHS and also give the infirm a good deal, this might also incorporate a genuine pension reform. By developing a public service that works hand in hand with NHS we can prevent bed becoming blocked by elderly patience, ensure a decent quality and standard for all and at the same time help ensure people retain their dignity and remove the worry about this part of the human condition. It will also help to provide some of the jobs to solve point 1. It can also be served by quality apprenticeships providing young people with quality training to enter this area.
    Energy, fossil fuels are going to run out. More importantly they are not going to get any cheaper. By investing in R & D, a non fossil fuel reliant infrastructure and other measures we can leap frog some of the energy issues that are already rearing their ugly heads. We have already left it too long hoping it will go away.

    I think these are all coming crisis (education less of a crisis and more a failure to make it work as a long term solution). For which the realisation that the market cannot solve them and good old fashioned common action will be required, where just as during a war people suddenly realise what a state is really for!

    • Daniel Speight

      Alex I’m in agreement. Why do we not learn from history? This would be the FDR rulebook updated for today’s crisis.

    • AlanGiles

      ” I also reckon tax payers would be happier paying people to do something
      than to effectively ‘watch Jeremy Kyle’ as that will always be the
      common perception”

      With all due respect, Alex, I think it would be more responsible and more humane if Labour stopped pandering to this Daily Express perception. There are just not the jobs out there for full employment to be a possibility – and I really don’t believe we whould go back to the days of getting XXXX number of men to dig holes in the road and then getting XXXX number of men to fill them in again – this soul-destroying work for works sake would be a disaster. I very much doubt that there will ever be full employment again, unless we lower the retirement age, and destroy every computerised system in the workplace.

      It would be interesting to see the viewing figures for the programme you mention. It transmits at somewhere around 0930 each weekday morning – in my local town I see many people who are out of work outside the Job Centre, or using the computers in the library at that time of day. I see unemployed older people working in charity shops.

      Unfortunately people like Byrne and especially the obnoxious Blears, who alleged she once saw a whole family in their night attire watching TV at midday while she was “busy” canvassing, actually assist the Tories and other assorted right-wingers to believe that the majority of jobless are workshy which is not true. If Labour wish to continue to peddle these grotesque generalisations, then it proves that, policy review or no, they are still just another branch of the Conservative party

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

        I agree. Actually, we could create jobs of use in the public sector, which I think would be preferable to unemployment, but it would take a major shift in mindset to enable that.

        • Alexwilliamz

          Exactly and I think that is the next ‘beveridge report’ moment we need.

      • Alexwilliamz

        With all due respect Alan, it would be nice if you gave me a bit of credit and not automatically interpret my comments in the light you have. Reread my post and see that I said work of some kind, it does nto follow that this would be digging holes. The private sector will never be able to create enough job with our matur economy, that is not the same as there not being enough jobs. The problem is we have reduced all jobs to a direct economic value (ie a clear monetary value has been attached). There are many jobs which have social value, which at present either get done by volunteers or not done at all. I’d rather see the gvt employ people to do many of these jobs and make our environment and society more pleasant and safer. I woudl not envisage removing benefits but would instead create a situation in which everyone who wanted a job could have one and this would pay better than unemployment benefit. This would be through a minimum wage rather than slashing benefits to a bare minimum (although there would need to be some readjustment). This would also sustain a pool of ‘workready’ people for when the private sector moved through big growth cycles, many of the jobs could be organised on a series of short term projects to sustain them, this already happens in some ways. Alongside work there would remain training and education and some of the other projects presently available.
        As to the Jeremy Kyle comment, that was a parody of the ‘daily express’ view which I thought was hinted at, and the point was it could be sold to a wider section of the population while still achieving our own goals.
        The bottom line is that in one post I could hardly put much detail on these ideas and they would need to get far more detailed if we moved forward on them. As a consequence I found it a little sad that you chose to interprest them in the way you did, I’m hardly a new poster, and I’d have thought my track record would have informed your reading of my comments.

        • AlanGiles

          Alex. I’m sorry if you felt my reply unfair, but – I feel sure you would agree – the idea that the unemployed sit watching bargain basement TV all day is all too prevelant in the press, and people like Purnell, Flint and Blears did nothing to try to correct that impression – indeed they encouraged it. Sadly, some figures on the right of the Labour party are just as opportunistic in this regard as the Tories. I really believe we need to educate people to understand the truth rather than pander to their prejudices. A lot of the tabloid scribblers would have no idea at the number of job applications individuals make, and the older the applicant is, the less likely he/she will gain an interview. Also, the criteria for people to obtain JSA is far more stringent now, and to jump through all the hoops the DWP hold up means that most of these people are working – to try to find work, which so often is not there. As Labour’s answer to the coalitions policy is always “too far, too fast”, we have to face the fact that a future Labour government would be no more willing to increase the public sector workforce than the coalition.

          Orwell wrote somewhere (Down and Out in Paris and London?) about work and it’s value – you know, an accountant works by adding up figures etc), and when you say “work of some kind”, I merely used the notion of digging holes and then filling them up again as an example of the futility of work for works sake; I genuinely believe that we will never have full employment again, even if every job became part-time there would still not be enough resources because everyone working part-time would need to have credits and benefits to make it possible for them to exist.

          I think we need to prepare people for the fact that there will forever be a lack of employment – or at least secure permanent full-time employment. People like Alvin Toffler were writing (in his case in 1970 in Future Shock) about the increased amount of leisure time that humans would have to “enjoy”(?) once computerisation, robotics etc took over mundane jobs, but, even though this extra leisure time has come about in exactly the ways predicted, too many people regard unemployment as some terrible sin. perhaps Toffler and his cohorts should have been writing about how tabloid readers and politicians should seen the law of unintended consequences, and that, obviously, if fewer humans are needed in the workplace, there will be fewer jobs.

          • Alexwilliamz

            I don’t disagree with some of your concerns, just did not understand why they were directed at what I think should be the role of the state; if the economy will not generate sufficient jobs, then we should act as a society through gvt, to provide everyone with MEANINGFUL employment. Why have care assistances rushing from one visit to another with barely enough time to do the rudiments, when there is unemployment. Why not put together a proper care service and ensure those people get a proper service, what’s more the assistant can also get the job properly and feel genuine job satisfaction. Why have class sizes well into the mid 30s, we could employ more teachers and reduce class sizes and begin to make genuine improvements. Basically why should we settle for rushed inadequate services because of staff shortages while there are so many people out there looking for work. If they need some training or education to do that properly go for it.
            We seem to be creating work that is overly stressful because we are expecting fewer and fewer hands are having to do more and more work. This kind of made sense with mechanisation of industry but not every human endeavour can be replaced by robots, yet we are attempting to apply the same rules of productivity insane. I guess Marx looks like being proven right after all.

          • Daniel Speight

            You could add, ‘why are we increasing the retirement age at a time of high unemployment?’

          • AlanGiles

            I certainly don’t disagree with the sentiments you express, Alex, but I think Labour (and every other party) has to be very careful if it promises more than it delivers: the public’s confidence inb the integrity of politicians is at an all time low: they have woken up to the fact that frankly none of the parties can solve of our present problems – and as Labour are so keen not to offend the tabloids, I don’t think a large scale increase in public sector employment is something they would care to consider. That would need leadership of the imagination and courage of a Clement Atlee or a Harold Wilson. I am sorry to say the current leadership is too weak to challenge the current thinking, they would rather go along with popular thinking.

            I was reading yesterday how Barnet council in London has rebranded itself “Barnet One”, what this trendy term means is that nearly all council services have been outsourced to Capita (except for the bits they don’t want), and I am sorry to say this sort of penny-pinching low class company will probably end up running Britain, which will result in less rather than more jobs, and public services getting even worse than they are now. I don’t see Miliband and co making too many waves.

          • AlanGiles

            I certainly don’t disagree with the sentiments you express, Alex, but I think Labour (and every other party) has to be very careful if it promises more than it delivers: the public’s confidence inb the integrity of politicians is at an all time low: they have woken up to the fact that frankly none of the parties can solve of our present problems – and as Labour are so keen not to offend the tabloids, I don’t think a large scale increase in public sector employment is something they would care to consider. That would need leadership of the imagination and courage of a Clement Atlee or a Harold Wilson. I am sorry to say the current leadership is too weak to challenge the current thinking, they would rather go along with popular thinking.

            I was reading yesterday how Barnet council in London has rebranded itself “Barnet One”, what this trendy term means is that nearly all council services have been outsourced to Capita (except for the bits they don’t want), and I am sorry to say this sort of penny-pinching low class company will probably end up running Britain, which will result in less rather than more jobs, and public services getting even worse than they are now. I don’t see Miliband and co making too many waves.

          • AlanGiles

            I certainly don’t disagree with the sentiments you express, Alex, but I think Labour (and every other party) has to be very careful if it promises more than it delivers: the public’s confidence inb the integrity of politicians is at an all time low: they have woken up to the fact that frankly none of the parties can solve of our present problems – and as Labour are so keen not to offend the tabloids, I don’t think a large scale increase in public sector employment is something they would care to consider. That would need leadership of the imagination and courage of a Clement Atlee or a Harold Wilson. I am sorry to say the current leadership is too weak to challenge the current thinking, they would rather go along with popular thinking.

            I was reading yesterday how Barnet council in London has rebranded itself “Barnet One”, what this trendy term means is that nearly all council services have been outsourced to Capita (except for the bits they don’t want), and I am sorry to say this sort of penny-pinching low class company will probably end up running Britain, which will result in less rather than more jobs, and public services getting even worse than they are now. I don’t see Miliband and co making too many waves.

          • AlanGiles

            I certainly don’t disagree with the sentiments you express, Alex, but I think Labour (and every other party) has to be very careful if it promises more than it delivers: the public’s confidence inb the integrity of politicians is at an all time low: they have woken up to the fact that frankly none of the parties can solve of our present problems – and as Labour are so keen not to offend the tabloids, I don’t think a large scale increase in public sector employment is something they would care to consider. That would need leadership of the imagination and courage of a Clement Atlee or a Harold Wilson. I am sorry to say the current leadership is too weak to challenge the current thinking, they would rather go along with popular thinking.

            I was reading yesterday how Barnet council in London has rebranded itself “Barnet One”, what this trendy term means is that nearly all council services have been outsourced to Capita (except for the bits they don’t want), and I am sorry to say this sort of penny-pinching low class company will probably end up running Britain, which will result in less rather than more jobs, and public services getting even worse than they are now. I don’t see Miliband and co making too many waves.

          • AlanGiles

            I certainly don’t disagree with the sentiments you express, Alex, but I think Labour (and every other party) has to be very careful if it promises more than it delivers: the public’s confidence inb the integrity of politicians is at an all time low: they have woken up to the fact that frankly none of the parties can solve of our present problems – and as Labour are so keen not to offend the tabloids, I don’t think a large scale increase in public sector employment is something they would care to consider. That would need leadership of the imagination and courage of a Clement Atlee or a Harold Wilson. I am sorry to say the current leadership is too weak to challenge the current thinking, they would rather go along with popular thinking.

            I was reading yesterday how Barnet council in London has rebranded itself “Barnet One”, what this trendy term means is that nearly all council services have been outsourced to Capita (except for the bits they don’t want), and I am sorry to say this sort of penny-pinching low class company will probably end up running Britain, which will result in less rather than more jobs, and public services getting even worse than they are now. I don’t see Miliband and co making too many waves.

          • AlanGiles

            I certainly don’t disagree with the sentiments you express, Alex, but I think Labour (and every other party) has to be very careful if it promises more than it delivers: the public’s confidence inb the integrity of politicians is at an all time low: they have woken up to the fact that frankly none of the parties can solve of our present problems – and as Labour are so keen not to offend the tabloids, I don’t think a large scale increase in public sector employment is something they would care to consider. That would need leadership of the imagination and courage of a Clement Atlee or a Harold Wilson. I am sorry to say the current leadership is too weak to challenge the current thinking, they would rather go along with popular thinking.

            I was reading yesterday how Barnet council in London has rebranded itself “Barnet One”, what this trendy term means is that nearly all council services have been outsourced to Capita (except for the bits they don’t want), and I am sorry to say this sort of penny-pinching low class company will probably end up running Britain, which will result in less rather than more jobs, and public services getting even worse than they are now. I don’t see Miliband and co making too many waves.

          • AlanGiles

            I certainly don’t disagree with the sentiments you express, Alex, but I think Labour (and every other party) has to be very careful if it promises more than it delivers: the public’s confidence inb the integrity of politicians is at an all time low: they have woken up to the fact that frankly none of the parties can solve of our present problems – and as Labour are so keen not to offend the tabloids, I don’t think a large scale increase in public sector employment is something they would care to consider. That would need leadership of the imagination and courage of a Clement Atlee or a Harold Wilson. I am sorry to say the current leadership is too weak to challenge the current thinking, they would rather go along with popular thinking.

            I was reading yesterday how Barnet council in London has rebranded itself “Barnet One”, what this trendy term means is that nearly all council services have been outsourced to Capita (except for the bits they don’t want), and I am sorry to say this sort of penny-pinching low class company will probably end up running Britain, which will result in less rather than more jobs, and public services getting even worse than they are now. I don’t see Miliband and co making too many waves.

  • Sam Julius

    I don’t see how this article is of any use to those interested in the Labour Party. In essence, anyone reading this can come to the conclusion that, yes, Labour needs an economic policy come 2015. THAT IS SHOCKING NEWS. Surely Labourlist’s articles should actually have some substance.. I think most people know that having an economic policy is quite important to running a country.. Maybe give the readers an idea of what this plan could be?

  • Daniel Speight

    Ashcroft finances, the Fabians speak. I’m happy knowing that Ashcroft is such a great Labour supporter.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Eeek.

    One of the messes Labour will have to clear up is Universal Credit which cannot possibly work as described. As a taste of things to come the DWP launched Universal Jobmatch last Monday, a very intrusive job-seeking and job-matching service which it commissioned to be built by the American company Monster Inc. As per usual the site doesn’t work properly and is currently displaying a “You may have difficulties using this service while it’s being improved – if you’re affected, please try again later” message. Being improved? The site is only three days old! If the DWP can’t get a simple website like this up and running properly after years of preparation how can Universal Credit possibly be “on budget and on time”?

    I think IDS’s UC might be going down the WC!

    Universal Jobmatch is rather creepy too as it surveils the activity of everybody that is foolish enough to register and log in keeping details of when the person logged on, when they logged off, what jobs they looked at and for how long, what they applied for and refused – pretty much everything they get up to on the site. Foolish people can also upload a CV to the site which can be viewed by anybody posing as an employer. Eeek. In the site’s terms and conditions it says:

    “We will comply with our legal obligations to keep your information safe and secure, but we cannot guarantee the absolute safety of any information that you send to us. This means that you send Us information at your own risk. We will not pay you any damages to cover any loss that has resulted from someone accessing the service without permission or making changes to information on the site, except for where Our employees or agents are at fault.”

    Rather you than me but there you go!

    Apparently claimants are being bullied and threatened with sanctions if they don’t sign up when in fact registration is voluntary and cannot be mandated. Jobcentres are trying to fool and/or intimidate citizens into waiving rights given to them by European Law and our own lovely little Data Protection Act 1998, by pretending something purely voluntary is falsely mandatory. So at the behest of the DWP Jobcentre staff are actively lying to claimants (and getting away with it) while claimants who make a mistake while filling in a claim form get fined £50.00 as a punishment!

    Franz Kafka couldn’t have made it up.

    Monster are hosting a lot of the data in the USA where data protection laws are different and so the fact that the DWP cannot guarantee the safety and confidentially of your data is very worrying. As is the fact that DWP employees can scrutinise your jobseeking activities and use that data to police claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance and similar; people could end up being sanctioned for not spending enough time on the site. Mad old bugg*r that Iain Duncan Smith is expecting that unemployed people on Universal Credit to spend 35 hours a week looking for work without providing them with the facilities to do so, e.g., venues, internet and phone access, stamps, stationary, travel expenses etc. How any unemployed person without a computer and internet access will be able to fulfil this requirement poses an interesting dilemma, especially if they live in an isolated rural area.

    Will IDS buy internet deprived claimants Smartphones and pay their tariffs for them while they “actively look for work” seven hours a day, every week day, day in and day out, week in and week out, until they find employment?

    Straw poll: Hands up those of you who think he will!

    Hmm… anybody?… no?… thought not.

    Coalition welfare policy will soon demand that benefit claimants literally “do the impossible” and will sanction them when they can’t. Those lucky enough to have jobs will witness this disaster from the comfort of our homes as it unfolds. I’ve been rather flippant here but this is the beginning of a horror approaching that will see innocent men, women and families made homeless and hungry and cost the unluckiest among them their lives, not because they have done anything wrong but because they’ve made an error, slipped up, or been unable to do complete impossible tasks on time and in the manner specified.

    Difficult decisions?

    You betcha!

    I bet Liam Byrne loses sleep worrying about how the Labour Party, even with a well established record of heartlessness and hopelessness as far as welfare reform goes, be able to compete with the ideas of a man as black-hearted and idiotic as Iain Duncan Smith in the harshness, coldness and cruelty stakes?

    Quite a dilemma for the Labour Party, eh?

    Eeek.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Eeek. One of the messes Labour will have to clear up is Universal Credit which cannot possibly work as described. As a taste of things to come the DWP launched Universal Jobmatch last Monday, a very intrusive job-seeking and job-matching service which it commissioned to be built by the American company Monster Inc. As per usual the site doesn’t work properly and is currently displaying a “You may have difficulties using this service while it’s being improved – if you’re affected, please try again later.” message. Eeek.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Eeek.

    One of the messes Labour will have to clear up is Universal Credit which cannot possibly work as described. As a taste of things to come the DWP launched Universal Jobmatch last Monday, a very intrusive job-seeking and job-matching service which it commissioned to be built by the American company Monster Inc. As per usual the site doesn’t work properly and is currently displaying a “You may have difficulties using this service while it’s being improved – if you’re affected, please try again later” message. Being improved? The site is only three days old! If the DWP can’t get a simple website like this up and running properly after years of preparation how can Universal Credit possibly be “on budget and on time”?

    I think IDS’s UC might be going down the WC!

    Universal Jobmatch is rather creepy too as it surveils the activity of everybody that is foolish enough to register and log in keeping details of when the person logged on, when they logged off, what jobs they looked at and for how long, what they applied for and refused – pretty much everything they get up to on the site. Foolish people can also upload a CV to the site which can be viewed by anybody posing as an employer. Eeek. In the site’s terms and conditions it says:

    “We will comply with our legal obligations to keep your information safe and secure, but we cannot guarantee the absolute safety of any information that you send to us. This means that you send Us information at your own risk. We will not pay you any damages to cover any loss that has resulted from someone accessing the service without permission or making changes to information on the site, except for where Our employees or agents are at fault.”

    Rather you than me but there you go!

    Apparently claimants are being bullied and threatened with sanctions if they don’t sign up when in fact registration is voluntary and cannot be mandated. Jobcentres are trying to fool and/or intimidate citizens into waiving rights given to them by European Law and our own lovely little Data Protection Act 1998, by pretending something purely voluntary is falsely mandatory. So at the behest of the DWP Jobcentre staff are actively lying to claimants (and getting away with it) while claimants who make a mistake while filling in a claim form get fined £50.00 as a punishment!

    Franz Kafka couldn’t have made it up.

    Monster are hosting a lot of the data in the USA where data protection laws are different and so the fact that the DWP cannot guarantee the safety and confidentially of your data is very worrying. As is the fact that DWP employees can scrutinise your jobseeking activities and use that data to police claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance and similar; people could end up being sanctioned for not spending enough time on the site. Mad old bugg*r that Iain Duncan Smith is expecting that unemployed people on Universal Credit to spend 35 hours a week looking for work without providing them with the facilities to do so, e.g., venues, internet and phone access, stamps, stationary, travel expenses etc. How any unemployed person without a computer and internet access will be able to fulfil this requirement poses an interesting dilemma, especially if they live in an isolated rural area.

    Will IDS buy internet deprived claimants Smartphones and pay their tariffs for them while they “actively look for work” seven hours a day, every week day, day in and day out, week in and week out, until they find employment?

    Straw poll: Hands up those of you who think he will!

    Hmm… anybody?… no?… thought not.

    Coalition welfare policy will soon demand that benefit claimants literally “do the impossible” and will sanction them when they can’t. Those lucky enough to have jobs will witness this disaster from the comfort of our homes as it unfolds. I’ve been rather flippant here but this is the beginning of a horror approaching that will see innocent men, women and families made homeless and hungry and cost the unluckiest among them their lives, not because they have done anything wrong but because they’ve made an error, slipped up, or been unable to do complete impossible tasks on time and in the manner specified.

    Difficult decisions?

    You betcha!

    I bet Liam Byrne loses sleep worrying about how the Labour Party, even with a well established record of heartlessness and hopelessness as far as welfare reform goes, be able to compete with the ideas of a man as black-hearted and idiotic as Iain Duncan Smith in the harshness, coldness and cruelty stakes?

    Quite a dilemma for the Labour Party, eh?

    Eeek.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Eeek.

    One of the messes Labour will have to clear up is Universal Credit which cannot possibly work as described. As a taste of things to come the DWP launched Universal Jobmatch last Monday, a very intrusive job-seeking and job-matching service which it commissioned to be built by the American company Monster Inc. As per usual the site doesn’t work properly and is currently displaying a “You may have difficulties using this service while it’s being improved – if you’re affected, please try again later” message. Being improved? The site is only three days old! If the DWP can’t get a simple website like this up and running properly after years of preparation how can Universal Credit possibly be “on budget and on time”?

    I think IDS’s UC might be going down the WC!

    Universal Jobmatch is rather creepy too as it surveils the activity of everybody that is foolish enough to register and log in keeping details of when the person logged on, when they logged off, what jobs they looked at and for how long, what they applied for and refused – pretty much everything they get up to on the site. Foolish people can also upload a CV to the site which can be viewed by anybody posing as an employer. Eeek. In the site’s terms and conditions it says:

    “We will comply with our legal obligations to keep your information safe and secure, but we cannot guarantee the absolute safety of any information that you send to us. This means that you send Us information at your own risk. We will not pay you any damages to cover any loss that has resulted from someone accessing the service without permission or making changes to information on the site, except for where Our employees or agents are at fault.”

    Rather you than me but there you go!

    Apparently claimants are being bullied and threatened with sanctions if they don’t sign up when in fact registration is voluntary and cannot be mandated. Jobcentres are trying to fool and/or intimidate citizens into waiving rights given to them by European Law and our own lovely little Data Protection Act 1998, by pretending something purely voluntary is falsely mandatory. So at the behest of the DWP Jobcentre staff are actively lying to claimants (and getting away with it) while claimants who make a mistake while filling in a claim form get fined £50.00 as a punishment!

    Franz Kafka couldn’t have made it up.

    Monster are hosting a lot of the data in the USA where data protection laws are different and so the fact that the DWP cannot guarantee the safety and confidentially of your data is very worrying. As is the fact that DWP employees can scrutinise your jobseeking activities and use that data to police claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance and similar; people could end up being sanctioned for not spending enough time on the site. Mad old bugg*r that Iain Duncan Smith is expecting that unemployed people on Universal Credit to spend 35 hours a week looking for work without providing them with the facilities to do so, e.g., venues, internet and phone access, stamps, stationary, travel expenses etc. How any unemployed person without a computer and internet access will be able to fulfil this requirement poses an interesting dilemma, especially if they live in an isolated rural area.

    Will IDS buy internet deprived claimants Smartphones and pay their tariffs for them while they “actively look for work” seven hours a day, every week day, day in and day out, week in and week out, until they find employment?

    Straw poll: Hands up those of you who think he will!

    Hmm… anybody?… no?… thought not.

    Coalition welfare policy will soon demand that benefit claimants literally “do the impossible” and will sanction them when they can’t. Those lucky enough to have jobs will witness this disaster from the comfort of our homes as it unfolds. I’ve been rather flippant here but this is the beginning of a horror approaching that will see innocent men, women and families made homeless and hungry and cost the unluckiest among them their lives, not because they have done anything wrong but because they’ve made an error, slipped up, or been unable to do complete impossible tasks on time and in the manner specified.

    Difficult decisions?

    You betcha!

    I bet Liam Byrne loses sleep worrying about how the Labour Party, even with a well established record of heartlessness and hopelessness as far as welfare reform goes, be able to compete with the ideas of a man as black-hearted and idiotic as Iain Duncan Smith in the harshness, coldness and cruelty stakes?

    Quite a dilemma for the Labour Party, eh?

    Eeek.

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