Pensioners To Miss Out On Half A Billion Pounds In Allowances

(Telegraph) – PENSIONERS WILL MISS OUT on half a billion pounds in state support, the Government has admitted.

In his pre-Budget report last month, Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, announced that the basic state pension would be protected from cuts, and would rise by 2.5 per cent in April.

It emerged later that pensions not categorised as “basic,” such as state earnings-related pensions (Serps), would, however, be frozen.

At the time of the PBR, the cost to pensioners of freezing these allowances was estimated at £350 million.

However, in answer to a written Parliamentary question this week, Angela Eagle, the Pensions Minister, confirmed that the most up to date estimate of how much the Government would save by not raising all pensions by 2.5 per cent was now £500 million.

Theresa May, the shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, said: “Yet again Labour have proved themselves to be incapable of being honest with the voters. “Alistair Darling raised pensioners hopes and then dashed them again, to the tune of half a billion pounds.”

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‘Full Monty’ Effect Of Recession

(Telegraph) – MEN HAVE BEEN HIT HARDER BY THE RECESSION, creating a “Full Monty” effect, said researchers at the Conservative-leaning Policy Exchange.

Official figures show that the number of men of working age with jobs has fallen from 92 per cent in 1971 to 75 per cent. The number of women who are employed has risen from 56 per cent to 69 per cent, narrowing the gap between women and men to 6 per cent.

The recession has had a disproportionate effect on men, with the number of women in employment increasing since June, while the number of men has continued to fall.

Neil O’Brien, director of Policy Exchange, said: ‘We are having a Full Monty-style recession with women faring much better than men.

‘As Britain has lost industrial jobs over the last couple of decades, the number of men in work has collapsed, and the numbers on benefits soared. The current recession is accelerating this trend further.’

The 1997 film, the Full Monty told the story of a group of unemployed steel workers in Sheffield, who became strippers. Because men have traditionally been employed in the manufacturing industry, while women worked in service industries, men have been worse affected by the lengthy decline in British manufacturing.

The manufacturing sector fell by an average of 1.2 per cent every year in the last decade and the loss of jobs in the financial sector has also affected men.

Part-time employment has remained relatively buoyant and public-sector employment, where women are strongly represented, is strong.

The number of men in employment fell three times more than the number of women in one year, with the employment rate of women falling by 2.8 per cent up to September 2009 and the employment rate of men slumping by 8.8 per cent.

The Conservative work and pensions spokesman Theresa May said: ‘Unless Labour address the growing skills gap in the economy we risk losing a generation of men to a cycle of worklessness.’

There are already more 16 and 17-year-old women in employment than their male equivalents. While 30 per cent of young women have jobs, only 23 per cent of men are working.

According to the Local Government Association, Britain risks the creation of a ‘lost generation’ of young people falling into long-term unemployment because of the recession.

Previous recessions have left increasing numbers of people excluded from the labour market – in particular amongst the under 25s and the over 50s.

The total number unemployed in the UK currently stands at 2.49 million – or 7.9% of the population – following hundreds of thousands of job losses in 2009.

According to the latest forecast from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, unemployment will peak at 2.8 million in the summer of 2010.

According to Mind, the mental health charity, the recession is causing an increase in mental health problems among men because of fears over redundancy and lack of money.

More than a third are feeling worried or low and middle-aged males are seven times more likely than women to have suicidal thoughts.

The charity said, 2.7 million men in England currently have a mental health problem like depression, anxiety or stress.

Parents Use Savings To Support Adult Children

(Telegraph) – PARENTS ARE USING THOUSANDS OF POUNDS of their own savings to support their grown up children amid the recession, it is disclosed.

During the past year, they withdrew a fifth of their hard-earned savings to help their adult children with living costs and unexpected expenses.

The figures are a fresh blow to parents who are being squeezed financially from all directions as they save for their own retirement, provide care for elderly parents and fund their grown-up children, known as kidults or the boomerang generation if they move back home.

Experts and politicians said the phenomenon was being exaggerated by the recession and record youth unemployment, which has reached almost one million among 16 to 24 year olds.

And they warned the extra financial burden being placed on parents would continue next year.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Theresa May said: “These figures expose the huge burden this recession is having on hardworking households across the country.”

Arek Ohanissian, an economist at Centre for Economics and Business Research, said: “But the recession means this problem is also affecting parents who have their own financial difficulties and it is not a situation that is going to go disappear any time soon.”

Parents with grown up children have an average of £11,800 in cash savings and gave them 18 per cent of this amount during the past year, the equivalent of £2,142, according to the findings by high street bank Abbey.

It also revealed more than a million – or one in five – people aged between 18 and 24 has either moved back in with their parents or stalled plans to move out during the past year.

And around 6 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds and 5 per cent of 35 to 44 year olds have also returned to the family address.

Andy Smith, spokesman for Abbey Savings, said: “The return of grown-up children to the family home can be a shock for parents who have no doubt become used to the quiet life.

“While many parents can live with more noise and a bigger laundry pile, many may be unprepared for the financial impact of their return home.”

Lavish Housing Benefit Payouts To Be Axed

(Telegraph) – LUXURY APARTMENTS AND LARGE HOMES in sought after areas will be ineligible for housing benefit claims under new rules designed to crack down on lavish pay outs.

The changes which will see top rents excluded from claims are part of a wider shake-up of the benefits system aimed at making work pay, and follow a series of high profile instances where claimants had their rent paid while living in houses worth millions of pounds.

Ministers are said to fear that the current system is seen as unfair, because people on benefits in some areas, particularly in the Capital, have been able to have rent paid on homes which most “hardworking families” would not be able to afford.

At the weekend, it emerged that a single mother of eight was living in a £2.6 million mansion in Notting Hill, north London, at a cost to the taxpayer of £90,000 a year in rent.

The Government is set to consult on the best way to limit claims for top rents, with proposals including barring the top five to 10 per cent of rents, or banning claims from the most exclusive areas, such as Canary Wharf in London.

As well as the housing benefits reforms, the Department for Work and Pensions is also unveiling a jobs white paper, including plans to ensure that people on benefits will always be better off if they get a job.

Yvette Cooper, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “Housing benefit needs to help people into work and it also needs to be fair.

“We want to make sure that families have a decent place to live and that they are encouraged to move off benefits and into jobs.

“That means going further with benefit reform to give people more support and certainty in work.

“But it also means tackling the problems caused by a small proportion of very high rents to make the system fairer too”

As part of the proposed reforms, housing benefit will continue to be paid at the same level for the first three months after a claimant gets a job to allow them to “settle in” to work.

The plans also include a proposal that the partners of those claiming benefits be forced to seek work if they are fit.

But Theresa May, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “It is totally unfair that families on benefits can afford better housing then those in work.

“Labour’s had 12 years to get to grips with welfare reform.

“Now in the dying days of Gordon Brown’s government they are rushing out a series of policy announcements aimed at grabbing votes as the election looms”.

David Cameron And Shadow Cabinet Referred To Sleaze Watchdog Over Expenses

(Telegraph) – DAVID CAMERON AND 10 OTHER MEMBERS OF THE SHADOW CABINET have been referred to the Westminster sleaze watchdog after using Parliamentary expenses to make payments to their constituency associations.

A Labour MP has written to John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, asking him to investigate thousands of pounds in fees charged by local parties and claimed back on the MPs’ expenses.

Receipts filed with allowances claimed by a number of shadow cabinet ministers list the payments as having been made to ‘constituency worker,’ ‘constituency secretary,’ ‘secretarial and office services’ and ‘surgery.’

The receipts, usually for around £3,000 a year, appear in the MPs’ Incidental Expenses Provision allowances dating back over the last five years.

John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw, has lodged a formal complaint with the Parliamentary watchdog saying that the payments raised concerns over whether national insurance was paid and the stated work actually carried out.

MPs are barred from using their expenses to fund their party political campaign work.

In total, 11 Tory front benchers, including George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, and Eric Pickles, the Conservative Party Chairman, have been reported to the commissioner.

The payments ranged from £9 to £32 an hour paid by Theresa May, the shadow work and pensions secretary, for a staff member to attend a surgery in her Maidenhead constituency, during which, she said, they worked: ‘arranging appointments, receiving and making calls.’

In his letter to Mr Lyons, Mr Mann said that he understood that a number of Conservative MPs had the permission of the now discredited Commons fees office to make the payments.

He added: ‘I believe there are a number of issues that need to be addressed in the light of this practice.

‘Paying staff out of the IEP means that no national insurance number is required and no national insurance is paid; and without formal staffing arrangements, such as a contract, there is no way of determining what work has been carried out.

‘Moreover, whilst the annual amount paid to local parties is around £3,000 for staffing, the hourly rate for staff varies from as little as £9 per hour to as much as £32.58 an hour, as does the number of hours worked.

‘Finally, there is no means of determining whether staff have indeed been paid, as payments from the IEP are made directly to local Conservative Associations.

‘I am, therefore, concerned that what appears to be the payment for reasonable expenses incurred in the cause of carrying out Parliamentary duties maybe seen as a way of directing public money to a local political party.’

A Conservative spokesman said that all of the payments were in order, adding that MPs of all parties, including many Labour MPs, used their Parliamentary expenses to pay for staff and other support in their constituencies.

He added: ‘These payments reflect genuine costs incurred by MPs in performing their parliamentary duties in their constituencies. The arrangements were, of course, fully disclosed to the fees office, and have been approved by them.’

Other members of the shadow cabinet reported to Mr Lyons include Dominic Grieve, the shadow justice secretary, Michael Gove, the shadow children’s secretary, Sir George Young, the shadow leader of the House, Andrew Mitchell, the shadow international development secretary, and Theresa Villiers, the shadow transport secretary.