I watched Prime Minister's questions and was given the impression that I was living in a parallel universe. Employment at an all time high - well, given that you only have to work one hour per fortnight to qualify as being in employment and there is immense pressure to take any work with the threat of benefit sanctions, that is hardly surprising. The problem is that it forces people into the wrong jobs. Many years ago I learned about frictional unemployment: that period of unemployment while people search for the right job that matches their skills. To my mind it is an acceptable form of unemployment because it helps to optimise the skills of individuals where they can maximise their productivity. In Britain we have high levels of employment but falling productivity. Forcing people to take the very first job offer irrespective of their skills just seems like a waste of talent and an inefficient use of resources. There is a classic example of this in today's Guardian which typifies the plight of many graduates who have been convinced to make a massive investment in their education, piling up huge student debts, but betrayed by government who have failed to come up with a coherent industrial strategy to boost high value, high paid jobs.
The government also talk about wage rises. That's not the feedback I get from friends and relatives who are stuck on minimum wages. The minimum wage is going up next year by 4.9% - sounds great doesn't it. But when you look at what that actually means in cash money it is just 38p an hour. When you look how much energy, food and rent are rising by then you realise that 4.9% of f*** all is still F*** ALL.
This week also saw Capita come in for even more criticism of their failings in the National Health Service and Army recruitment yet they still keep their contracts, propped up a government who seem to accept poor performance in return for keeping privatisation of the public sector.
What I see is a cruel, self-serving, remote and out of touch Government that seems to demonize the poorest in society and reward the privileged and wealthy.
This translates from a national level to local politics in leafy Barnet. This week we saw approval given to £68 million of cuts to frontline services, including Children's, Adults', Environment and Housing services.
At the same meeting Conservatives decided that it was okay for officers to ignore the unanimous request of Cllrs to prepare full business cases for the in-sourcing of Capita services. This means that we will have to put up with paying for failing services like pensions, payroll, customer services and IT for even longer.Qs and comments are not relevant to the decision making process. So what is the point of them? I asked. Not a lot says Tatlow. They can make decision even if there are no questions. But, says I, don't you think that the public are an important part of the democratic...— Julia Hines (@JuliaHines) December 11, 2018
Then, to round off the week, Barnet published the unredacted version of the Grant Thornton Report into the £2m fraud. It set out in detail the evidence of the fraud, one missed by both the Council's internal auditor and the Capita-run Finance Department. What was most shocking was the statement Capita released which seemed to shirk responsibility, undermining the credibility of the report even though we know it happened and the offender is in prison.