Thursday, 2 October 2014

Man with a Message



I caught most of David Cameron's speech yesterday to the Tory Party conference; he looked and sounded like an man with a message, a man with a plan and a Prime Minister with a programme for government.

So whether people identified with his politics or not, the PN had worked out what he wanted to say and said it to great effect, by appealing to supporters inside the conference hall and also by speaking to the country at large.

Compared to Ed Miliband's disastrous performance at the recent Labour gathering in Manchester, David Cameron's speech was a tour de force containing, as it did, real content, passion, humour and the odd personal touch. 

Now the big message of the speech was on tax cuts in the next Westminster Parliament, aimed mainly at the so-called 'squeezed middle' but which also had good news for lower income earners as well.

David Cameron pledged to raise the threshold at which the 40p tax rate kicks in from £41,900 to £50,000 in the next Parliament and the personal allowance or starting point at which people begging to pay tax on earnings from £10,500 to £12,500 in another big move that would benefit 30 million taxpayers, apparently.

So the gauntlet has been thrown down and the Conservatives will frame the debate for the May 2015 election as a clear choice: "Do you want David Cameron or Ed Miliband running the country?" 

Now I happen to think there's been far too much talk about the 'squeezed middle' in recent years and that people in good jobs who have mortgages have done pretty of late, because of the artificially low interest rates the country has enjoyed since 2008.     

So while this group have seen their living costs fall considerably, as mortgage costs fell in 2008 and stayed flat, those on fixed incomes enjoyed no such windfall and others who pay their housing costs in rent saw their cost of living continue to rise.

The bad news for Labour in all of this is that Ed Miliband has been preoccupied with the 'squeezed middle' ever since Ed became Labour leader in 2010 and it is now well nigh impossible for him to change tack in the seven short months before the general election. 
   
So I will be surprised if David Cameron does not receive a bounce in the next set of opinion polls and I suspect he will keep banging on about the squeezed middle, for all he's worth, between now and 7 May 2015.

Cost of Living



Here's an extract from a report by the ONS (Office of National Statistics) that explains how the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is calculated and as the note at the bottom of the Table says mortgage interest payments are not part of the calculation.

As I've said many times before on the blog site, how can you have a rational debate about the 'cost of living crisis' which Ed Miliband bangs on about all the time when you don't include the biggest single cost facing a huge number of home owners and, of course, 'buy-to-let' property developers. 

And as everyone knows the costs of mortgages has fallen significantly over the past six years because of the artificially low interest rates that have been in place in the UK since 2008, while during the same period rents have gone up. 

So talking about the effect of inflation as if everyone has been affected equally is ridiculous, as is the notion that there is a 'cost of living crisis' facing mortgage payers because many of them have enjoyed a huge financial windfall since the recession struck.  

I rest my case.


How inflation data are calculated

The ONS assigns a weighting to each spending category when calculating inflation. Food has an 11pc weighting, while housing (CPI includes rents, but not mortgage interest payments) and utility bills have a weighting of 13pc, according to the CPI gauge. Using RPI weightings, housing accounts for 25pc of the index (Source: ONS)

Cost of Living (4 December 2013)


In recent weeks the Labour Party has shifted the focus of its political attacks on the Coalition Government. 

No longer does Ed Miliband argue that the economy is stalling or flatlining - instead he says that the benefits of the economic recovery that appears to be slowly gathering pace are not being passed on to hard working families - and that the UK is experiencing a cost of living crisis. 

Now clearly this is not true for everyone and while there may be people who struggle to pay their bills and/or put enough food on the table - lots of others are actually much better off because of the artificially low interest rates the country has been experiencing since 2008.

For example, anyone with a large mortgage may be thousands of pounds a year better off - even if they are in a job where the pay has increased very little, if at all, over the past few years.

So it stands to reason that the people facing a big hit to their standard of living has to be someone without a mortgage - someone who pays rent - because their housing costs will have gone up rather than down since the UK economy went from boom to bust. 

All of which means that all this talk of a general cost of living crisis is untrue - and that a much fairer policy would be one which targeted help on citizens paying rent because they have not been fortunate enough to have been handed a big financial windfall - courtesy of nothing more than a sudden and fortuitous collapse in interest rates.

Free Money (8 January 2013)

I heard someone on the radio yesterday complaining that he would be losing out to the tune of £240 per month - as a result of the government's planned changes to child benefit payments. 

Now my heart almost bled as I listened to the chap claim (convincingly) that as a result of the unexpected drop in his income - that he might not be able to keep up his monthly mortgage payments.

Next my glass eye almost shed a tear as the poor man explained the terrible burden of having his company car taxed and treated - as an expensive benefit in kind.

'What kind of world do we live in?', I thought to myself - before quickly coming to my senses and dismissing his ridiculous claims as so much baloney and hot air.

Because as I've said before on the blog site anyone who has been paying a mortgage in recent years has very little to complain about - compared to lots of other fellow citizens at least.

For example workers in low paid jobs, people who rent instead of owning a property (via a mortgage) - or folks on a fixed income, such as pensioners.

The reason being, of course, that most people in these groups have little - if anything - to show for the artifically low interest rates which have greatly benefited UK mortgage payers in recent years - as can be seen from the previous posts below.

So my advice is simple - don't shed any tears for people losing out on child benefits because they earn more than £50,000 or £60,000 a year - because they don't need or deserve a hand-out of free money from the state.

Something For Nothing (17 July 2012)

I listened to a chap on the BBC the other day explaining how the artifically low interest rates - have been saving him £700 a month (net) on his mortgage for the past three years or so.

Now that's a fair old amount of money - in anyone's language - £8,400 in a single year or £25,200 over three years.

Or to put it another way - much more than the average salary in the UK - especially when you consider this is money in the chap's hand - net of tax and national insurance.

I've been banging on about this for a long time of course - as regular readers will know from previous posts on the blog site.

Yet so far at least - I've not heard a single politician remark on how unfair it is that so many people benefit so greatly - for doing absolutely nothing in return.


£20 Billion Windfall (5 January 2012)

I read something the other day - a claim by an organisation know as the Family and Parenting Institute (FPI) - of which I know very little.

Presumably it does what it says on the tin - seeks to speak up for families with children - because the FPI claims that average income of households with children will drop between 2011 and 2016.

By 4.2% would you believe or around £1,250 a year - depending on the exact income of the household in question.

But I say - so what - what does that have to do with the price of mince?

Because unless you factor in other things - such as how much some households have benefited from our artificially low mortgage rates - then the FPI's claim is completely meaningless.

I know some folks - some with others without children - who are saving hundreds of pounds every month necause of low interest rates - worth many thosuands of pounds a year.

So spare me all this special pleading from special interest groups - as ever they are concerned with their own narrow agenda - and have no time for the big picture.

And the big picture means big savings - not for everyone - but for those paying mortage interest when rates dropped like a stone - and the bigger the mortage the bigger some people's windfall.

Here's what I had to say on the issue in 2011 - no doubt the £20 billion figure now needs to be revised - in an upwards direction.

'All in this together' (September 15th 2011)

When people start urging us to take the view that 'we are all in this together' - it's time to stop and think.

Who's 'we'? - will do for a start.

The fact is that not everyone in the UK has been doing badly in these hard economic times - in fact people who are in a secure job and who have been paying a mortgage off - are doing very nicely thank you very much!

Compared to lots of other people anyway.

And just to demonstrate this point here's something I wrote back in March 2011 - arguing for a 'windfall tax' on the £20 billion that mortgage payers have saved in recent years - as a resul tof artificially low interest rates.

Now the people who are not part of this £20 billion windfall are - typically - the less well off and those on fixed incomes who rely on their savings - which produce little or no interest these days - to help pay the bills.

So why don't we hear any of this at the TUC conference - where delegates are good at telling everyone else what to do - but seldom come up with practical ideas for resolving problems.

A special windfall tax would recoup just some of the £20 billion that mortage payers have gained - simply through sheer luck - and it would seem to embrace the 'were all in this together approach'.

Which the present government and the trade unions both espouse - when it suits their own argument of course.

I imagine most union leaders are paying mortgages - because most live in private housing - and most will have benefited hugely out of the artifically low interest rates - we have witnessed in recent times.

Ironically the one union leader who would escape a special 'windfall tax' on mortgages - would be Bob Crow - who has been living in subsidised social housing in London for years.

But a windfall tax on mortgages would be redistribute income between the 'haves' and 'have nots'.

A windfall tax would be progressive because it would tax 'unearned income' - and would be likely to affect the majority of delegates this year's TUC.

In other words - a real life demonstration of solidarity - that we really are 'all in this together'.


Windfall Tax On Mortgages (March 4th 2011)

I read a remarkable statistic the other day - which made me stop and think.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has apparently calculated that the UK's artifically low interest rates in recent years - have meant an unexpected windfall of £20 billion to the nation's mortgage payers.

Yet another example of the old saying - 'It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good'.

In this case £20 billion to the good - and the bigger the mortgage - the bigger the killing people have made - without any effort or risk.

While those who can't afford or no longer need a mortgage (e.g. low paid workers and pensioners) - have lost out big time, comparatively speaking.

So I have a suggestion for the government and our policy makers.

Bring in a special windfall tax on mortgages which claws back some of this £20 billion - and use the money to reintroduce the 10p tax rate to help the low paid.

Low paid workers will spend the money - because they don't have a lot to start with - and that will help to boost the economy.

Readers will remember that the 10p tax rate was abolished by the 'man with a moral compass' - Gordon Brown - in one of his worst decisions as Prime Minister.

But here's a chance to right a great wrong - help the lower paid - boost our flagging economy - and with money that has simply fallen into people's laps by sheer luck - nothing else.

Japanese Maple



The Australian writer, comic and raconteur Clive James was at the peak of his powers some years ago and has been out of the public eye recently because he is dying, sadly, from a chronic lung disease which ambushed him late in life.    

But Clive has not lost all his sparkle just yet and wrote this lovely poem about a Japanese Maple tree, a gift from his daughter, which he wants to see change colour one last time.

So I salute Clive and hope he gets his last wish because he has felt like a friend over the years with his great love of words and irrepressible sense of humour.  

Poem: Japanese Maple

Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.
So slow a fading out brings no real pain.
Breath growing short
Is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain
Of energy, but thought and sight remain:

Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?

Ever more lavish as the dusk descends
This glistening illuminates the air.
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
Beyond my time, but now I take my share.

My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
Is live to see that. That will end the game
For me, though life continues all the same:

Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colors will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.

Calling Glasgow



Letters are going out to A4ES clients in Glasgow this week regarding holiday pay claims and I've had lots of enquiries already from people in Glasgow asking whether they might have a claim.

Just like any other part of Scotland, the issue comes down to whether you regularly earn 'additions' to your basic pay.

So lots of Home Carers employed by Cordia these days work overtime and do shifts - so if these payments have not been included when people take holidays and annual leave, then it's very likely you have a valid claim.

What kind of jobs are involved? 

All kinds of public sector jobs potentially, both male and female dominated jobs, as well as workers in the private sector - people who receive various additions and 'top ups' to their pay via overtime, shift allowances etc. 

Here's a simple test from the blog site that can help you to work things out.  

Simple HBPC Test (12 September 2014)



Here's a simple test to help discover if you have a holiday backpay claim.
  1. Take your entire wages for 3 months without holiday pay and divide by 3 to give you your average pay for those 3 months.
  2. Then compare this average pay with your pay in the month you were on paid leave. 
  3. If your holiday pay is less than your average pay, then it is less then it is highly likely you have a claim. 
If in doubt make a claim. 
If you don’t make a claim you won’t get paid anything - as many people found out to their cost over equal pay. 
If you the sums don't work out for you, then pass the word on to your friends, family members and colleagues as they may have a claim, especially if they work shifts or regular overtime. 
If you would like a claim form please visit http://www.holidaybackpayclaims.co.uk and fill in the ‘New Claim Pack’ request form.

Or contact HOLIDAY BACK PAY CLAIMS LIMITED on the following numbers: 0800 024 6888or 0141 343 8066

North Lanarkshire News



Enquiries about Holiday BackPay Claims keep rolling in from North Lanarkshire after a recent mail shot to existing A4ES clients.

A lot of people have the same question - "Is this an entirely new claim or is it connected with my existing A4ES equal pay claim?" 

And the answer is that it's an entirely separate claim.

So even if you are an existing A4ES client, you still need to submit a new claim because the issues involved are quite different to equal pay.

Here's a simple test which explains what's involved, but if you're in any doubt contact the HBPC office by email or the telephone numbers below.


Simple HBPC Test



Here's a simple test to help discover if you have a holiday backpay claim.
  1. Take your entire wages for 3 months without holiday pay and divide by 3 to give you your average pay for those 3 months.
  2. Then compare this average pay with your pay in the month you were on paid leave. 
  3. If your holiday pay is less than your average pay, then it is less then it is highly likely you have a claim. 
If in doubt make a claim. 
If you don’t make a claim you won’t get paid anything - as many people found out to their cost over equal pay. 
If you the sums don't work out for you, then pass the word on to your friends, family members and colleagues as they may have a claim, especially if they work shifts or regular overtime. 
If you would like a claim form please visit http://www.holidaybackpayclaims.co.uk and fill in the ‘New Claim Pack’ request form.

Or contact HOLIDAY BACK PAY CLAIMS LIMITED on the following numbers: 0800 024 6888or 0141 343 8066  

Frequently Asked Questions



I still get email enquiries every day asking if there is a connection is between equal pay and Holiday BackPay Claims.

The straight answer is No, not a direct connection at least, because equal pay is all about gender differences - the difference in pay between male and female jobs.

Whereas Holiday BackPay Claims is solely about whether workers, male and female, received their normal pay during periods of annual leave, going back several years potentially.

So workers in the public sector who regularly receive 'additions' to pay such as overtime or shift payments may well have a claim and this is true across the public and private sectors.

In Scottish councils, for example, this could apply to lots of traditional male jobs who never had a claim in respect of equal pay - refuse workers, gardeners and suchlike - jobs which have often attracted overtime and shift work.

But Holiday BackPay Claims are also likely to apply to many female dominated jobs such as Home Carers who nowadays work additional hours and weekend or split shifts.

Likewise in the private sector, where a big employer like TESCO which has thousands of employees spread across lots of different workplaces, 24 hour supermarkets and out-of-town distribution centres, is well worth investigating for example.         

Holiday BackPay Claims



I've heard from a number of people who want to know if they can transfer a holiday back pay claim to HBPC even though they've already registered a claim with another organisation.

The answer is Yes it's possible, but each case is likely to be different so the best thing to do is to phone the HBPC office and discuss the situation with one of our staff - contact details are below. 


For more information you can also call 0800 024 6888 or 0141 343 8066.

So start spreading the word to fellow workers, friends and families and if people have any queries they can also drop me a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com