Wednesday, October 20, 2010

One in ten British public sector workers faces axe

Good for Britain if it actually happens

One in ten public sector workers will lose their jobs in the bloodiest spending cuts since the Second World War. Millions more will be told to take a pay cut or reduce their hours as George Osborne ushers in four years of pain today.

The Chancellor is pinning his hopes on the private sector creating hundreds of thousands of jobs as he sets out plans to repair the battered public finances.

State workers, who currently account for one in five of the workforce, are bracing themselves for compulsory redundancies, vacancies left unfilled and recruitment freezes.

The public sector, welfare, tax credits and the Home Office and Ministry of Justice will all take the strain of paying off Britain's record budget deficit in moves expected to include:

* A dramatic acceleration of the timetable to increase the state pension age;

* Entire areas of state activity handed over to businesses, charities and citizens;

* Further cuts to tax credits, removing them from middle earners;

* A reprieve for child benefit for 16 to 19-year-olds after a dramatic last-minute U-turn by Mr Osborne;

* Cuts of around 50 per cent to the housing budget in an end to 'a council home for life';

* The biggest sell-off of state assets since Margaret Thatcher to raise more than £20billion.

The action comes as the Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King last night warned that Britain's 'nice' decade of low inflation and solid economic growth will now be replaced by a 'sober' decade.

As the Chancellor sharpened his axe, key details of the Government's radical deficit reduction plan were unwittingly revealed by Liberal Democrat Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander.

He was pictured in the back of a car in Downing Street reading a document predicting that 490,000 state employees would lose their jobs by 2014-15 as a result of cuts of more than 50 per cent by some departments.

It made clear the Government accepts forecasts on public sector employment from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility. It predicts that by 2016, the figure for job losses will have reached 610,000, or one in ten of the bloated public sector workforce.

Around 14,000 jobs are to go at the Ministry of Justice alone - 11,000 of them from the front-line, meaning posts like prison officers, probation officers, and magistrates' court staff will be lost.

Mr Alexander's papers also disclosed that millions of public sector employees who survive the cull will be told they must take a pay cut or reduce their hours.

It said state employers will be encouraged to make 'voluntary deals with staff on pay restraint or reduced hours to save jobs'.

Ministers are poised to unveil the biggest sell-off of state assets since the Thatcher era in a bid to plug Britain's budget deficit.

The Royal Mint, the Tote and Britain's air traffic control service are all being lined up for privatisation as part of plans to raise at least £20billion.

Ministers met in secret last week to thrash out details of the sell-off, due to be unveiled by George Osborne today.

Other assets which could be considered for sale include the QE2 conference centre in London, the Government's stake in Channel 4, the Dartford Crossing section of the M25, the remainder of the student loan book and perhaps even the Met Office.

The Government has already announced plans to sell off the Royal Mail and the high speed rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel. The moves will involve tens of thousands of workers moving into the private sector.

Departments are facing cuts of around 25 per cent on average under the Comprehensive Spending Review. But they will be deeper in some areas because of a long list of budgets exempted from spending reductions.

Mr Alexander's document revealed the Government plans to contribute £2.9billion towards international efforts to tackle climate change. The coalition is also ring-fencing budgets for the NHS, schools, international aid and social care for the elderly.

And following a furious row over plans to remove child benefit from higher rate taxpayers, the Chancellor has backed away from a move to save £2billion by reducing the age limit for the payment to 16. Lib Dem members of the Government are understood to have argued the move would hit poorer families with children staying on at school.

Mr Osborne will tell MPs that without radical action to rein in Labour's reckless spending, international confidence in Britain would collapse, pushing up interest rates and triggering an economic calamity.

Government sources dismissed as 'ridiculous' suggestions that Mr Alexander had deliberately left his paperwork on display in order to prepare the ground for today's announcement. Officials said the Chief Secretary had been reading a briefing document which was never meant for release, rather than the spending review itself.

The document said the public sector pay bill accounts for around half of departmental spending - meaning pay would 'inevitably' be hit by the deficit reduction programme. It stressed that addressing the deficit was 'unavoidable', and there would be an 'inevitable impact' on state workers.

It indicated that the coalition is pinning its hope on stimulating the wider economy, with policies designed to 'facilitate a movement of jobs from the public sector to the private sector'.

Sources said transport had done 'better than expected' in today's deal, with free bus passes for pensioners protected and big infrastructure projects, including Crossrail, going ahead.

However, rail travellers face steep fare rises - expected to be at least 30 per cent over the next four years - as state subsidies are withdrawn. University funding will face huge reductions as the current £3,000-a-year cap on tuition fees is lifted.

Independent economists forecast budget cuts of between 15 and 20 per cent in most departments under Labour's own plans. But the Coalition is committed to reducing the deficit more quickly, meaning deeper cuts.


Medieval paths in Iron Age British village deemed too dangerous by health and safety chiefs

A perfectly preserved medieval village is set to lose its iconic cobbled paths over health and safety fears, it emerged today. The historic settlement of Dunster, Somerset, dates back to Bronze and Iron Age Britain and is regarded as one of the most-perfectly preserved medieval villages in England. The village attracts thousands of visitors a year because of its 1,000-year-old castle and quaint features including the medieval cobbled streets.

Now health and safety chiefs have ruled them to be too dangerous and a working group is considering replacing them with smooth-surfaced roads at a cost of more than £100,000 'to bring the village into the 21st century'.

But residents have slammed the ruling and are demanding that the cobbled streets be repaired to protect the 'character' of the village.

The Dunster Working Group, comprising West Somerset Council, Somerset County Council, Exmoor National Park Authority and the local parish council, was set up to find ways of 'enhancing' the village.

Chairman Paul Toogood said its plan would see cobbles removed from the centre of the streets to make them wheelchair friendly. He said: 'We have no choice. This year we've had to call the ambulance five times for people who have fallen over on the cobbles. 'Our aim is to enhance the village. No money has been spent on it for a generation. From a health and safety point of view the pavement is not fit for purpose.

'We are just trying to improve the village for people who live here, as well as the visitors. At the moment access is not easy to shops or homes on the east side.

'We've got to bring the village into the 21st century. We want an area in the middle that is wheelchair and buggy friendly.'
Residents of Dunster, listed in the Domesday Book, fear the village will be stripped of its character if the cobbled streets and pavements are removed

Residents of Dunster fear the village, listed in the Domesday Book, will be stripped of its character if the cobbled streets are removed

Mr Toogood added that the streets are currently in a state of disrepair because local business owners are afraid of facing litigation if they fix the cobbles themselves. He said changes needed to be made because some stones had been dislodged creating awkward ridges and holes.

But locals are demanding that that the cobbled streets be repaired rather than replaced. Resident Donna Richards said: "I often walk through the village with a pushchair and young child and, yes, repairs need to be made. But I don't see them as a problem worthy of replacement. 'It is vital to keep the history of the village as it is. It is more important now, more than ever, to keep the character.

'In generations past these cobbles have been left for us to see and experience, so do we have the right to take it away from future generations?'

One elderly visitor to the village, Giles Parks, 69, said he was managing to cope with the cobbles despite using a walking stick. He said: 'Get rid of something as old as this? They must be joking. I'm on holiday from Derbyshire and where I live the council is paying huge sums of money to put in cobbled paths in an old part of town. 'Why can't people leave things alone? It's mainly because this village has been left alone that we've come to see it.'

Dunster began as a Saxon village and became famous for making a thick type of wool called Dunsters.

In August, a similar proposal was put forward to replace a cobbled path at medieval Sherborne Abbey in Dorset which dates back to 705AD. Councillors feared that someone would trip on the uneven surface and sue them for compensation.


Once a place of free inquiry, Europe is slowly stifling itself

Andrew C. McCarthy

For a prosecutor, it was a simple matter of cause and effect. First, I showed that the “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, called for acts of violence: He admonished Muslims that Allah commanded them to slay non-believers and precisely quoted Islamic scriptures to back up that admonition. Then I showed that Muslim terrorists responded to these scripturally based exhortations by plotting and carrying out terrorist acts.

For this, the Clinton administration presented me the Attorney General’s Exceptional Service Award, the Justice Department’s highest honor. For doing exactly the same thing, the justice department of the Netherlands presented Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders with an indictment.

I got the pretty glass eagle for the mantelpiece, and the Blind Sheikh got sent to prison.

Wilders, by contrast, got to stand in the dock while the global Islamist movement got to savor the possibility of something far more valuable than a trophy: a white flag draped over the shriveling remains of free speech. Wilders has been acquitted, but his trial was nonetheless damaging to what remains of the Western tradition of free discourse and inquiry.

For demonstrating cause and effect, for graphically displaying — most notoriously in his short film, Fitna — that Islamic scriptures beget jihadist atrocities, Wilders was put on trial in the Netherlands. In this Kafkaesque situation, as Diana West reports, it would have been hard to conjure words more frightening than the ones that tripped off the Dutch prosecutor’s lips:

“It is irrelevant whether Wilders’ witnesses might prove Wilders’ observations to be correct. What’s relevant is that his observations are illegal.” And so they might easily have proved to be, in much of Europe.

Wilders was charged with speaking words and producing images that were discriminatory toward Muslims, and that insult and incite hatred against Muslims. Such speech is criminal in the Netherlands, as it is throughout Europe, which teems with defiantly non-assimilating Muslims and which has responded to the resulting cultural confrontation with the societal surrender known as political correctness.

That the things Wilders has said may be true made no difference in the case. It is immaterial whether the bracing opinions he has expressed are grounded in fact, or that the success of a free society hinges on its being an informed society. Wilders, says the prosecution, was guilty simply for saying these things. In the new West, we are unconcerned with the pathologies that besiege us. But those who call our attention to the pathologies — who dare to puncture our “religion of peace” fantasy — must be quelled. After all, they may get Muslims upset, and you know what happens when Muslims get upset.

Here in America, I can still write the last part of that last sentence — for now. But maybe not for long, if President Obama has anything to say about it. Last spring, the administration joined with the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to propose a United Nations resolution that condemns “negative stereotyping of religions.” The resolution exhorts all nations to take “effective measures” to “address and combat” incidents involving “any advocacy of … religious hatred” that could be construed as an “incitement” not just to “violence” but to any form of “discrimination,” or even to mere “hostility.”

We needn’t worry about that here, you tell yourself. We’ve got the First Amendment. Don’t be so sure. The anti-hostility resolution states that the “effective measures” it urges are compelled by each nation’s “obligations under international human-rights law.” When we look at one source of such law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (foolishly ratified by the first President Bush, after U.S. Senate consent, in 1992), we find — nearly verbatim in Article 20 — the same speech-suffocating standard proposed by Obama and the OIC: “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

Even before Elena Kagan made it to the Supreme Court, there existed a five-justice majority (including Anthony Kennedy) for the proposition that international and foreign law should be weighed in interpreting American constitutional guarantees. Justice Kagan keeps that bloc intact, sliding comfortably into the shoes of her predecessor, Justice John Paul Stevens. She is also known to harbor hostility toward free speech: As an academic she belittled its value, and as solicitor general she argued that “categories of speech” may be suppressed if the government, in its wisdom, decides the “societal costs” of permitting them are too high.

When it comes to Islam as a category of speech, there is no doubt that our current government reflects the transnational progressive consensus: the Western tradition of critical examination must give way to the Muslim tradition of submission. This is why when jihadists attack, the self-loathing elite’s response is to wonder what we did to offend them. It is also why when Muslims rioted over harmless cartoon depictions of their warrior-prophet as a warrior-prophet, the State Department’s harshest condemnation was reserved not for the marauders but for the offending newspaper. It is why Yale University Press would only publish a book about the cartoon controversy after the author agreed to purge from its pages the cartoons themselves. It is why the Washington Post just spiked a “Where’s Mohammed?” spoof in which the prophet nowhere appeared — and, by this craven act, validated cartoonist Wiley Miller’s point about Western timidity.

At least Mr. Miller is around to tell the tale. Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris had to go underground for merely suggesting an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” — as Mark Steyn observes, even being a good lefty who never followed through and tried to disavow the whole business didn’t help her. The threat whose name must not be spoken was too much. On the FBI’s advice, she disappeared without a trace, much to the relief of her former employer, the Seattle Weekly.

The Blind Sheikh has more maladies than I’ve got space to describe them. He can’t build a bomb, hijack a plane, or carry out an assassination. His one and only capacity to cause mayhem is his renowned mastery of Islamic doctrine. We know little about Islam. By comparison, the Blind Sheikh is a doctor of Islamic jurisprudence, graduated from storied al-Azhar University and steeped in that ancient institution’s literalist, militant construction of Muslim theology. We are instructed by our betters to view Islam as a religion of peace — indeed, as one of our best assets in the fight against terrorism. To the contrary, the Blind Sheikh instructed the faithful that Islamic scriptural commands — Allah’s personal commands — to violence and intolerance mean exactly what they say.

Because of his exalted clerical status — that is, owing to his authority in Islam and nothing else — the Blind Sheikh was able to spur Muslims to terror. Upon demonstrating this fact, I was given an award, while he was locked in a prison cell.

Fifteen years later, for making a similar demonstration, Geert Wilders risked being the one locked in a prison cell. Fifteen years later, when Iraq’s Ayatollah Ali Sistani says Islam requires the killing of homosexuals, it is considered preaching; when Geert Wilders says it, it is a hate crime.

I don’t know if the Netherlands gives its prosecutors baubles for proving this sort of thing. Wilders’ prosecutors seem unlikely to be lauded: They have now tried to dismiss the charges against him for a second time, the first (in 2008) having been rejected by Dutch jurists who seem hell-bent on nailing Wilders and whose approval is needed before the case can be dropped.

I do know the Islamists at the OIC have already been handsomely rewarded by this travesty. Their campaign to impose sharia proscriptions against speech unfavorable to Islam — against telling uncomfortable truths about Koranic injunctions and the terrible consequences that flow from them — is steadily vanquishing the West’s commitment to discourse and reason.


Nutty EU court says fathers in Spain are entitled to take "breastfeeding leave"

Too bad if their tits don't work

Working dads may wish to take Spanish citizenship after reading this. Europe's top court has ruled that working fathers in Spain are entitled to take "breastfeeding leave" daily even if the child's mother is not employed.

The new ruling by the European Union Court of Justice in Luxembourg means that both the mother and father are allowed to leave work for an hour during the day or reduce their working day by half an hour during the first nine months following the birth of a child, the Telegraph reported.

In Spain, fathers are currently only allowed to apply for breastfeeding leave if the mother is employed full time.

But, the top court ruled last week that the Spanish law, which was instituted in 1900 to facilitate breastfeeding by the mother, caused an "unjustified discrimination on grounds of sex" as fathers do not have the same rights as mothers.

The Spanish man who challenged the law, Pedro Manuel Roca Alvarez, said his request to take breastfeeding leave from his job in Galicia was rejected because the mother of his child was self-employed.

Such a refusal, the court said, could have the effect of forcing self-employed mothers to limit their work because the father cannot share the burden.

Not giving dads the same right as mums in this case "is liable to ... keep men in a role subsidiary to that of women in relation to the exercise of their parental duties," the court ruled.

Breastfeeding leave should now be considered as "time purely devoted to the child" in order to reconcile family life and work after maternity leave, the court said.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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