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It’s time for a Jobs Guarantee for the Long Term Unemployed

Following an Opposition Day Debate in the House of Commons, Dame Anne Begg, has called for the introduction of a compulsory jobs guarantee creating a real, paid job for every 18 to 24 year old who has been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than a year and for every adult aged 25 and over who has been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than 2 years.

With the oil crisis starting to bite in Aberdeen, it’s time we ensured that people have real opportunities and are not left claiming unemployment benefits for years. It scars their lives, weakens our economy and costs billions.

It’s time we got the benefit bill down by getting people into work, instead of unfairly cutting benefits for the most vulnerable.

This Jobs Guarantee will be paid for by a banker’s bonus tax, and restricting pensions tax relief on those who earn over £150,000.

This will provide over 13,890 people in Scotland with a job, training, and the opportunity to succeed in life.

There are over 1,445 people across Aberdeen currently on job seekers allowance, including 230 young people and 235 people who have been on benefits for over a year.

It is unfair that in one of the richest cities in the UK people still can’t find work. It’s time we act, get the benefits bill down, get people into work, and create a successful economy where all can succeed and not just the few.

The full motion of Labour’s opposition day debate is

That this House calls on the Government to put a strict limit on the amount of time that people can be left on Jobseekers’ Allowance without being offered, and required to take up, paid work, by introducing a compulsory jobs guarantee that would ensure that anyone under 25 who has been receiving Jobseekers Allowance for a year, and anyone over 25 who has been receiving Jobseekers Allowance for two years, would be offered a paid job, with training, that they will have to take up or face losing benefits; and further calls on the Government to ensure this compulsory jobs guarantee is fully funded by a one-off repeat of the tax on bankers’ bonuses and restricting pension tax relief on incomes over £150,000.
Policy
Labour’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee will guarantee a real, paid job, preferably in the private sector, to every 18 to 24 year old who has been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than a year and for every adult aged 25 and over who has been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than 2 years.

The Government will pay full wages and national insurance costs (at National Minimum Wage levels) directly to the business to cover 25 hours of work per week at the minimum wage.  In addition we will provide an extra £500 per employee to help businesses with set-up and admin costs.

In return, the employer will be expected to provide training and development for participants for a minimum of 10 hours a week.  In bidding for the money employers would also have to explain how the jobs are additional and would not exist without the Compulsory Jobs Guarantee investment.  They will not be able to replace existing jobs or vacancies and must not lead to someone else losing their job or seeing a reduction in hours.

Participants will be required to undergo training provided by the employer as well as intensive job-search activity for a permanent opportunity at the end of the six months. Those jobseekers who refuse to take up the offer of a job would risk losing their benefits, in line with the existing sanctions regime.

By bringing together government, employers and workers to tackle the issue of long-term unemployment Labour will ensure that this is a recovery for the many.

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Lets get Fairness for the Scottish Emergency Service

MP Seeks fairness for Scottish Emergency Service

In a letter written to the Chancellor George Osborne, Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South asked that the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service be allowed to reclaim VAT on the goods and services they need to provide a service to the public.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service came into being on 1st April last year combining the 8 former local authority services across Scotland. The previous eligibility for VAT refunds through local authorities was therefore lost. This loss in eligibility has created an additional financial burden of £10million per year for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

Dame Anne Said

 I was appalled to learn that the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service and Police Scotland are the only two blue light organisations in the United Kingdom who are unable to reclaim the VAT on the goods and services they purchase in order to carry out their duties to the public.
The money they pay in VAT could provide 40 new fire appliances and over 300 firefighters and it is shocking that we are being treated in this way.  I want the anomaly to end.  The Chancellor has already indicated he is to carry out a review, Scottish services should be a priority in that review. It’s time that fairness was given to the Scottish Emergency Service so that more money is available to keep people safe

Dame Anne calls on the UK Government to “Get on with” building a new runway at Heathrow

In a submission to the Airport Commission, Dame Anne backed submissions from Aberdeen Airport and Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce to support the proposal to expand Heathrow Airport.

Airport capacity in the South East of England is not just an issue for the immediate catchment area of the respective airports; it affects the economy of every area of the United Kingdom. The recommendation that the Airports Commission makes to the next government must therefore take into account the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom.

Dame Anne said,

As a UK city, Aberdeen is unique in that there are no realistic alternatives to access it from London or other European cities apart from air travel, particularly for business travellers. The strength of its air connectivity underpins much of the economy of North-East Scotland, and with that, the jobs and livelihoods of my constituents.

Aberdeen Airport has grown its direct connections in recent years, with the ability to connect directly with European cities such as Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Oslo and Copenhagen. However, Aberdeen – because of the nature of the employment clusters that flourish here – will always require connections beyond European cities. Therefore, for global connectivity purposes, Aberdeen will always rely on a frequent and convenient connection to a hub airport.

Only the link to Heathrow provides the frequency that enables convenient travel, with 11 flights a day and almost 800,000 passengers travelling every year. Crucially, one third of those passengers are not ending (or beginning) their journeys at Heathrow but are transferring to or from a flight from cities in every continent of the globe. With the global economic growth shifting away from Europe and towards Asia and the Americas, the connection to Heathrow is currently Aberdeen’s gateway to global connections.

Yet, the connection to Heathrow is under threat. As long as Heathrow is full, airlines will prioritise their slots for more lucrative long haul routes over their domestic connections. Over the past decade, this process has seen the number of flights leaving Scottish airports to Heathrow decline from 50 to 35 today. If the Virgin Little Red slots are not filled, this number will reduce further to 26, with Aberdeen left with just 8 departures per day

This is not because the routes are not profitable but because airlines are making the false choice between their domestic and long-haul networks. With expansion, they would not need to make this choice. Expanding Heathrow is the best way of reversing the erosion of air connectivity from Aberdeen

It is clear to me, the future of Aberdeen and the North East of Scotland’s Economy depends on Heathrow Expansion. It’s time the UK Government gets on with it and support’s Aberdeen’s economy in connecting it to the world

Dame Anne urges more action to stop consumers bring ripped off by Copy Cat websites.

Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, today urged the Government to take action to stop consumers being conned by Copy Cat websites.

In Business Questions in the House of Commons Chamber, Dame Anne urged the Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey MP, to work with search companies to ensure consumers aren’t misled.

Using her own experience when applying for a European Health Insurance Card Dame Anne said

The top options offered when I searched for the correct website to apply for my EHIC card were not the genuine website for the Department for Health. A number of these were charging for this service, which is of course free. It was really quite difficult to work out which the genuine website was. It’s particularly worrying as consumers don’t know these services are free so they don’t necessarily know they are being ripped off and left out of pocket.

“This kind of Copy Cat website seems to be becoming more and more popular, not just with government services but with a whole range of goods and services. It seems too easy for rip off merchants to mislead consumers and more must be done.

Let’s Scrap the Bedroom Tax by Christmas

Dame Anne Begg has urged MPs from all parties to back Labour’s attempt to scrap the Bedroom Tax by Christmas. Labour has forced a debate and vote in parliament on Wednesday 17th December on the Bedroom Tax.

Since the Bedroom Tax was introduced around half a million low-income households have been forced to find, on average an extra £700 a year. In Aberdeen South, 419 were caught by this charge and over 1600 in Aberdeen have been hit by the Bedroom Tax.

Dame Anne Begg said;

‘Scottish Labour dragged the SNP kicking and screaming to mitigate the bedroom tax in Scotland but it still harms others elsewhere. David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s government introduced the tax in April 2013 and it’s time for it to go. I hope all MPs from right across the United Kingdom join together and vote to abolish this pernicious tax from these islands’

Dame Anne Welcome the Scrapping of Air Passenger Duty on Children’s Flights

Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, is pleased the Government has heeded her calls to scrap tax on children’s flights.

Dame Anne had previously supported a motion in Parliament calling on the Government to reduce the financial impact on hardworking families by scrapping the air passenger duty applicable to children. With today’s Autumn Statement announcement that this tax will be scrapped, many families will see a benefit from this saving at a time when household finances continue to be stretched. Changes to the tax will also benefit the local and national economy by ensuring that UK aviation is more globally competitive.

Currently, children pay the same tax on their tickets as adults, despite there being a well-established principle that children are exempt from taxation, for example VAT on food and clothing. A campaign, Scrap the Tax on Family Flights, was launched last month and called on the Government to scrap Air Passenger Duty (APD) on children’s tickets as they believed it was acting as a barrier to allowing hardworking families to take holidays abroad, when the majority already have to pay a premium due to school term-time restrictions.

Aberdonian families already pay the highest air tax in the world, with APD adding £52 to the cost of a family of four’s economy class flights to destinations in Europe and £276 to economy class flights to long haul destinations such as the US. Aberdonian families are also hit with a double APD charge if they fly through another UK airport on their way to their final destination.

Dame Anne Begg said:

“Families in Aberdeen deserve a break, and I’m pleased the Government has backed this campaign to help make an annual holiday less strenuous on the family budget.

“I called on the Government to scrap this tax, and it’s great they have listened. Hundreds of my constituents have contacted me about the unfairness of Air Passenger Duty which will be devolved after the Smith Commission, and I hope the Scottish Government will agree not to reintroduce this unfair tax on children’s flights.”

ABOUT SCRAP THE TAX ON FAMILY FLIGHTS

  • You can find out how much APD you can expect to pay by visiting apdcalculator.com
  • Scrap the Tax on Family Flights is a campaign being launched by the A Fair Tax on Flying alliance which consists of over 30 leading business organisations and travel organisations including airlines, airports, trade associations and destinations. More information about the group can be found at afairtaxonflying.org and www.facebook.com/afairtaxonflying
  • Follow the campaign on Twitter @ScrapFamilyAPD
  • Only four other European countries levy some form of air passenger tax.
  • Denmark, Norway, Malta and Holland have all scrapped similar taxes as the revenue raised was outweighed by the damage caused to their economies.

The current rates of APD, effective until 31st March 2015, are below:

 BAND Reduced rate Standard rate
Band A

(0-2,000 miles*)

£13 £26
Band B

(2,001-4,000 miles)

£69 £138
Band C

(4,001-6,000 miles)

£85 £170
Band D

(over 6,000 miles)

£97 £194

Dame Anne repeats calls for a cumulative impact assessment as charity report shows “the Coalition’s welfare reforms are failing”

Social Action charity Community Links today called on future governments to adopt an ‘early action’ approach to reforming welfare. The charity says that a social security system that acts earlier, tackles the root causes of problems, and ‘presumes the willingness’ of people who receive benefits would be better for both claimants and the public purse.

Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South and Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, hosted the launch of Community Links’ new research which warns that the Government’s welfare reforms are “likely to lead to considerable costs” by wasting money in reacting to rather than preventing crisis. It also warns that the reforms are failing claimants by “pushing people towards a cliff edge”.

These warnings come on the eve of the Autumn Review, in which Chancellor George Osborne is expected to argue that continued cuts to the welfare budget will be required far into the next Parliament

Dame Anne Begg said: This research sheds valuable light on the very human impacts of the recent changes to the benefits system. We need to ensure that future changes to social security tackle the root causes of problems, rather than moving costs around and passing blame to benefit recipients.

Community Links’ research looked at the lives of people with jobs and people out of work.  One participant, Diana, is in her late 50s. She “used to love going to work” as a school cook and cleaner but is now unable to work due to a range of serious health issues including diabetes and depression. Diana has been hit particularly hard by four different welfare reforms, which have together pushed her into really tough situations, including significant rent arrears, being unable to heat her home and not eating.  Now Diana says that she “just doesn’t feel secure at all” and that she feels like she’s “just living here week-by-week.”

Diana’s story illustrates how drastic cuts to the social security system can cause costs elsewhere for public services. She said “I’m diabetic so I am supposed to eat three times a day which I can’t afford to do, I was supposed to take my medication with meals but I couldn’t do that… So my son was coming at about 9 o’clock with chicken and chips from up the road – just £2 for those – and I ended up in hospital… it was total hell.”

Diana said: “They’re taking the money out … I know it sounds stupid but I am past the stage of caring, because every time I pay my rent I think, there’s another week with a roof over my head.  I just don’t feel secure at all… I feel like I’m just living here week-by-week.”

Dame Anne Begg commented: Cases like Diana’s show the devastating impact the Coalition’s welfare reform is having. It’s hitting the least well off the hardest.

Every week at my constituency surgery, I listen to similar stories of people being hit again and again by the welfare changes. The Coalition Government continues to cut money from those who already have very little and it is having a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing, making it harder for them to find work.

I have repeatedly called for a cumulative impact assessment which would study the overall effects of welfare reform on individuals. So far, the Government has failed to do this saying its ‘Too Difficult’. Yet this report shows it’s certainly possible. It’s as if they’re deaf to the problem they’re causing

660 people in Aberdeen waiting in huge backlog for Personal Independence Payment assessments

Dame Anne Begg MP has called on David Cameron to urgently deal with a huge backlog for Personal Independence Payment assessments affecting 660 people in Aberdeen North & South. According to the latest DWP figures and independent House of Commons analysis, Personal Independence Payments introduced last year to replace Disability Living Allowance is beset by delays and rising costs. 529,000 people have applied for PIP, but only 206,000 have received a decision about whether they qualified for help – leaving 323,000 people in limbo across the country.

Dame Anne Begg MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee said,

It’s absolutely disgraceful that 660 people across Aberdeen are still waiting for a Personal Independence Payment assessment. David Cameron must step in and sort out this backlog which is leaving disabled people waiting months and months for an assessment.

Personal Independence Payments (PIP) provide vital support to cover the extra expenses faced by disabled people. Many are having to borrow money to meet the extra costs while they wait for a decision and without knowing whether they will eventually qualify.

The Minister for Disabled People has appeared in front of my select committee twice in the last few months saying this backlog is reducing but it doesn’t appear to be so. This is yet another example of Tory inefficiency which is causing hardship for hundreds of people in Aberdeen who have been left in limbo by this Government.

A breakdown of the figures shows 440 people in Aberdeen North, 220 in Aberdeen south and 180 across Gordon, covering Aberdeenshire and parts of Aberdeen, are waiting for an assessment.

Dame Anne Begg MP Backs Bill to Stop Unwanted NHS Privatisation in Scotland

With the English NHS under increasing threat, and NHS Grampian under increasing strain, Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, will back Labour’s new Bill to repeal the Tory’s competition rules that are driving the privatisation of the NHS in England. The Bill would also opt the Scottish NHS along with the NHS across the whole of the UK out of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Today, Labour MP Clive Efford has introduced a Bill in Parliament which will set tough controls on privatisation, scrap competition frameworks and make sure local patients are always put first. The Bill would also see the Scottish NHS being opted out of the TTIP preventing it from being opened up to unwanted private competition.

Dame Anne Begg said:

The Tory’s approach in England is to let private companies cherry-pick the most profitable NHS services, regardless of patient need, and spend more money on economic regulators and competition lawyers.

Instead, Labour will ensure that the NHS once again prioritises patients. Labour will rescue the NHS with our £2.5 billion Time to Care package which will fund new staff including 20,000 more nurses. This will also provide extra funding of hundreds of millions to Scotland which will be vital in helping address the underfunding of our NHS.

I have received hundreds of email correspondence from my constituents on this important vote. I am proud to vote today to stop privatisation of the NHS in England, and to work with my colleagues from across the United Kingdom to make sure our NHS in Scotland is opted out of TTIP.