Work No Longer a Way Out of Poverty, Says UK Government Report
Alan Milburn, the head of the UK government’s social mobility and child poverty commission, has presented a report which concludes that having a job and working is no longer a way out of poverty and that more must be done to help workers earning low wages. He said the way out of poverty is fraught with low pay, the falling value of tax credits and a lack of workforce skills. He also suggested that wealthy pensioners should lose their winter fuel allowance since they had been spared the brunt of the austerity measures. “The right question to ask is whether in this time when families are under pressure, where people who are working are facing a squeeze on their benefits and public services, and when the poorest people are having their benefits capped, is it right that pensioners are having their benefits not just protected, but enhanced?”, he asked. The report also warned that many children faced the prospect of growing up to lower living standards that those enjoyed by their parents. “When combined with rising house prices, university fees and youth unemployment, these factors may have induced a sense of fear among many average-income families’ parents that their children will be worse off than they were. There is precious little sign of a decade-long trend of bottom-half stagnating in terms of earnings coming to an end”, said the report.
British Gas Raises Price, PM Says Consumers Should Switch
British Gas announced on Thursday that it would increase the price of electricity and gas to its 7.8m residential customers by 10.4 percent and 8.4 percent respectively from the end of November, with those on dual-fuel bills facing an increase of 9.2 percent. British Gas is the second of the country’s big six providers to announce a price rise. SSE had earlier announced that its customers would face an 8.2 increase from November. “We haven’t taken this decision lightly, but what’s pushing up energy prices at the moment are costs that are not all directly under our control, such as the global price of energy, charges that we have to pay for using the national grid that delivers energy to the home, and the cost of the Government’s social and environmental programmes”, said Ian Peters, managing director of British Gas Residential Energy. Prime Minister David Cameron urged consumers to switch companies and find better deals to keep their bills under control. “We are intervening because we are legislating to say these companies have to put their customers on to the lowest tariff. But there is something everyone can do, which is look to switch their electricity or gas bill from one supplier to another”, he said.
‘The American People Are Completely Fed Up’, Says Obama After Shutdown Ends
US President Barack Obama spoke on Thursday after the late Wednesday night passage of legislation to move the debt ceiling to February 7, pushing a potential default to March and effectively ending 16 days of government shutdown. “Democrats and responsible Republicans came together. The first government shutdown in 17 years is now over. The first default in over 200 years will not happen”, he said. On the actual effect of the shutdown, Obama said that “the American people are completely fed up with Washington. We’ve got yet another self-inflicted crisis, and for what? There was no economic rationale for all of this. There’s been a lot of discussion of the politics. But let’s be clear, there are no winners here. Every analyst believes it’s slowed our growth. Families have gone without paychecks”. “We fought the good fight”, said House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, adding that “we just didn’t win”.
China Cracks Down on Online ‘Rumor-Mongering’
Chinese police have arrested a blogger and a cartoonist amidst a crackdown on online “rumor-mongering”, according to associates who spoke to the Reuters news agency on Thursday. The moves are seen as part of the Communist Party’s recent crackdown on dissent after the ascension of President Xi Jinping to power. Dong Rubin, who runs an internet consulting company and is also a blogger, was arrested explicitly on the “suspicion of falsely declaring the capital in his company’s registration”, but was widely believed to have been detained because of his criticisms of the central government. Meanwhile, cartoonist Wang Liming was arrest on Wednesday night and summoned to explain why he had forwarded a blog post which included the story a mother whose baby starved to death during the floods that hit eastern China after Typhoon Fitow hit the region earlier in the week. “Suppression of this kind by the Chinese government is of no use. Rumors arise because there’s no freedom to communicate on the Internet. Arresting people will not solve the problem because the problem does not lie with the people, but with the government”, said a friend of his, Wu Gan.