Tories target UKIP | Child care vouchers criticised
Declining seaside towns have become ‘dumping grounds’ following the destruction of their economies by cheap foreign travel, a report highlighted by the Daily Mail claims today. Once-thriving resorts are now heavily populated by welfare claimants, those with substance abuse and mental health problems and patients leaving the care system, it claims. Unemployment is twice or even several times the national average – with working age benefits costing almost £2billion per year.
Over the weekend, the Sunday Times blew the lid on a secret Conservative plan to wage a covert campaign against the UK Independence Party. The paper reports that campaign chief Lynton Crosby wanted to launch an in-depth investigation of all 139 of UKIP’s new councillors and monitor every council meeting they attended. The paper also reports that he had warned the plan would be wrecked if anyone found out the Tories were behind it.
Up to 96% of those affected by the Government’s new “under-occupancy penalty” will have “in effect, nowhere to move”, the Independent claims this morning. The paper says that ministers’ justifications for the change, dubbed the “bedroom tax” by its opponents, have been “debunked”, adding that the new statistics “confirm campaigners’ claims that it merely penalises poor people.
The figures, provided by local councils in response to Freedom of Information requests by the Labour party, show that 19 out of 20 families affected by the alteration to housing benefit, under which tenants with spare bedrooms face reductions in payments, are “trapped” in larger homes, with no suitable alternatives available among local social housing stock.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne is quoted by the paper as saying that the “hated tax” is “trapping thousands of families” and risks costing the country more money than it will save.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that Labour is to take the coalition on over falling living standards in an attempt to soothe jitters about leader Ed Miliband’s strategy. A poll carried out for the Party by YouGov found that 70 per cent of voters believed that the recent improvements in the economy had not benefited middle and lower income families, whilst only 10 per cent said they had.
The move is part of an attempt to win back public support for Labour after recent polling showed that their lead over the Conservatives had fallen.
Planning minister Nick Boles will outline proposals to let shops be converted to housing without planning permission, the Guardian reports. It says that under the proposals, councils will have to decide which shops are “prime retail frontage” and the rest could be converted.
Conservative Health Minister Dr Daniel Poulter has called for hospitals to adopt a “bargain hunt” mentality when procuring medical supplies, the Daily Telegraph reports. Attacking waste in the health service, Dr Poulter told the paper that “if we want to cut waste in our NHS and divert more money to the frontline patient care, the health service needs to know a good bargain when it sees one”. Under new rules, all NHS Trusts will be required to publish information about how much they were paying for contracts, supplies and goods, so hospitals know whether they are receiving a good deal.
Over a million British workers are employed on zero-hours contracts, suggesting a “far” wider use of the controversial terms of employment than previously suspected, according to new statistics reported in the Guardian today. Noting the findings of a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the paper says that 38 per cent of zero-hours contracted workers responding to the poll described themselves as employed on a full-time basis.
One third of voluntary sector employers were found in the survey to be using zero-hours contracts, while one in four public sector organisations used them. The figures, the Guardian notes, will call into question official data on their use, with CIPD Chief Executive Peter Cheese calling for “a closer look at what is meant by a zero-hours contract”, as well as on their different forms, good and bad practice in use, and “the advantages and disadvantages in practice for businesses and employees”.
Today’s Daily Mail leads with the news that Chancellor George Osborne is to launch a childcare voucher scheme to benefit families in which both parents have a job. In a bid to encourage women to return to work, childcare vouchers would be available to double-income households where neither parent earned more than £150,000 a year. However, the plans have been criticised by campaigners who have accused the Government of stigmatising stay-at-home mothers and of “discriminating against” traditional families.
Energy minister Michael Fallon has warned that pro-shale gas commentators in the Conservative heartlands will have their support tested to the limit when it happens on their doorstep. The Financial Times says he made the comments at a private meeting and warned that drilling could take place in Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey and even Kent.
A job search website which the unemployed must use in order to receive their benefits has featured requests for lap dancers despite a three-year-old ban on such adverts, the Independent reports.
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