Junior doctors have been striking a bunch this year. The Department of Health was proposing to change the working conditions 53,000 NHS junior doctors. A lot of NHS staff flat out do not want these contract changes to go through. The latest is that negotiations have ceased, and the Department of Health plans to impose the contracts whether docs like it or not.
Affordable housing is one of our biggest concerns. Prime Minister David Cameron promises to build 200,000 new starter homes for new buyers… wait, aren’t we “generation rent”?
At the moment there is a lack of affordable housing across the UK. This lack of homes is pushing the price of houses up, up and up – meaning fewer people are able to buy their own home. There are a number of reasons why this is happening. The government builds way fewer houses than it used to in the 1960s and 1970s. The Conservative government in the 1980s led by Margaret Thatcher sold off council houses under the “right to buy” scheme. The scheme was a popular policy, but critics claim it created a shortage of housing. Another major reason is that planning permission for houses takes a long time to be granted. Not all permissions lead to houses being built.
Prime Minister David Cameron just promised to build 200,000 new homes which will be available for people to buy.
“Those old rules which said to developers: you can build on this site, but only if you build affordable homes for rent …we’re replacing them with new rules… you can build here, and those affordable homes can be available to buy.”
Whether this is achievable is uncertain… in 2007 the Labour government set a target of building 240,000 homes a year. Admirable idea… but they failed to meet this target. Even if the government hits this target it may not solve high rents. The Guardian reports that offering subsidies (benefits usually in the form of a cash payment or tax reduction) to builders creating more homes has actually made things worse.
Many call 16-25 year olds “generation rent” as rising house prices mean we are less likely to be able to afford to buy a house.
The housing crisis is also pushing up rents – even faster than the price of actually buying a house. The cost of renting a room in London has jumped more than 20% in the past five years. Landlords, rejoice.
The average price of renting in London is now £1,500 a month; outside the capital is £751. Don’t forget that when renting you’ll also usually need a month’s rent as a deposit. Affordable for some, but not for those searching for work, on lower paid jobs or zero-hours contracts.
It would seem new affordable houses are definitely needed. However, the i100 reports that housing charity Shelter is skeptical over whether David Cameron’s promised new homes are actually that affordable. They say on the minimum wage only 2% of homes would be affordable. Hmm.
One thing is for sure; rents are rising faster than our wages. Paying more for rent means you’re unable to save as much (if at all) for a deposit or mortgage, lowering your chances of getting your own place or saving for a pension. In many countries it’s the norm to rent all your life, but in the UK we seem to want to own our homes. The result? More and more graduates are moving back in with their parents to save. There’s been a 28% increase in 20-34 year olds living at home since 1997.
Searches for shared rooms have risen dramatically in the last few years as others cut costs by sharing a room. It takes two to tango.
The problem is that as people become more desperate for a place to live they end up forking out extortionate amounts for cramped and often substandard accommodation.
Take the single room in Clapham advertised at £800. Or the £730 per month “fully contained” flat … basically a bed in a kitchen. This “loft conversion” (see; cupboard) was posted at the reasonable price of £40 per week. The catch – there is no standing room. Your affordable halls of residence seem like a distant daydream, don’t they?
Warning; thinking about the housing crisis for too long may lead to nausea/anger/fear/a cold numb feeling spreading through your whole body.
However we’re practical folks here at Scenes of Reason so we’ve compiled a some ways to escape the housing crisis and jump on that property ladder.
The government runs a “Help to Buy” scheme which allows you to buy a house with a smaller deposit.
Under the scheme first time buyers are able to buy a property up to £600,000, paying only 5% upfront as a deposit.
Usually you’d need around 10% for a deposit. Happy days!
The government is also offering a loan to cover 20% of the price of a new property. For the first five years you won’t be charged fees on this loan.
The BBC also has a calculator which tells you where in the country is cheaper to rent or buy. However, perhaps just buying or building houses may not solve the housing crisis.
According to the Empty Homes Charity there are over 200,000 homes left empty for over six months, and over 600,000 houses empty in total. So perhaps to solve the housing crisis we should start trying to fill these houses, rather than just building new ones?
Will David Cameron deliver on his promise to build 200,000 new homes? Will these even be affordable? How can we end the housing crisis?
Take action: If you think more needs to be done, sign the Housing Federation’s Change.org petition “Solve Our Housing Crisis”
This year is the 800 year anniversary of the Magna Carta, a document which agreed how England was to be ruled. But what has this got to do with modern politics?
It’s a document written in 1215 which recorded “the liberties of England”. Basically a posh word for the laws of the land.
Most importantly the Magna Carta stated that the ruler of England (at that point King John) had to obey the law just like anyone else. At that point the laws were agreed by the King and his barons so this didn’t exactly affect ordinary people. Who needs fairness anyway?
Nonetheless the Magna Carta document is still regarded as an important step to creating the constitution of the United Kingdom.
A Constitution is a set of principles and rules which determine how a country is governed. It is the supreme law; which means how the country is run and outlines the rights and freedoms of the citizens of that country. No biggie.
One of the most famous examples is the Constitution of the United States of America. This lays down how the power lies in the USA and outlines the civil rights belonging to citizens of the US. Woo, freedom!
That’s right. The UK is one of a very small number of modern countries which doesn’t have a written constitution.
Before you panic; things like your human rights and the laws of the country are set down in different treaties, documents and traditions which have existed for centuries. What we don’t have is one single document which brings all these different parts together.
The “Unwritten Constitution” is a group of traditions and practices for how the UK is run. For example, the idea of having a Prime Minister and how they are appointed (by gaining a majority in the House of Commons) is a convention. Whereas in America the Presidency is written in law by the constitution.
Last year the government held a committee exploring the idea of creating a constitution for Great Britain. They found that people liked the idea of having a constitution or a “second Magna Carta”, but couldn’t agree what should go in it. Go figure.
A written Constitution would make it clear who governs and how they are appointed. At the moment the UK head of state is the Queen. One of the options explored by the committee was having an elected head of state (like the Presidency in the USA) rather than a monarch. Bye-bye Queenie?
A new Magna Carta or Constitution would mean the UK would also have constitutional laws. These would ensure citizens cool stuff like “all men and women are equal” and the right to a private life in a widely acknowledged way, which could be referred to. So if a new law was proposed which could threaten those civil liberties the court can throw it out for being “unconstitutional”. Would this protect the rights of the people, or do you think it would slow the work of government?
Magna Cartas and Constitutions can lead to a LOT of legal headaches. In some cases it just makes things more complex. US Lawyers constantly find loopholes within the writings of their constitution.
Example: The US Supreme Court is currently deciding if there is a constitutional right for Gay Marriage. Supporters of Same Sex Marriage say that banning it is discriminatory which is against the constitution of the United States. Time to get lawyered up.
Once the Constitution is put into law it is extremely difficult to get rid of it or even change it. The American constitution has had only 27 amendments added since its creation in 1787. Realise a few years down the line that you missed something major? Tough Cookies.
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Yes and no.
Hong Kong is a territory (made up of the island of Hong Kong and other small islands) and lies to the south of China. Hong Kong used to be a British colony and was given to China in 1997 but only under the condition that it would become a special administrative zone aka. I make my own rules! When we refer to China, we are probably talking about mainland China, which Hong Kong is technically not part of. Neither is Taiwan by the way.
Though the area is Chinese territory, when it comes to law making it’s easiest to think of Hong Kong as similar to a state in America, for example like Ohio…
China agreed to govern Hong Kong as “one country, two systems” – meaning Hong Kong get to make their own laws, up to a point. Hong Kong has its own legal system but mainland China is in charge of the big issues like defense and international affairs.
The main city in the territory, also called Hong Kong, is where the local laws are made.
So, is Hong Kong part of China? Yes, as a territory, but with some control over their own laws. One of the times they have major dealings with mainland China is when there are elections…
Democracy = system of government where the people rule, either directly or through an elected government
Does Hong Kong have one? Another, yes/no answer I’m afraid…
Hong Kong’s leader is called the Chief Executive and is elected by a committee made up of 1,200 chosen members who are elected from the constituencies in Hong Kong.
The winner is then appointed as leader by the Central People’s Government (the main government in mainland China). The election committee is thought to be Pro-China…
Hong Kong’s legislative council is made up of 70 members – 35 elected from geographic constituencies, five elected from district councils across the country and 30 voted in by organisations and big corporations. Complicated, much?
Pro-Democratic groups joining the Hong Kong protest have been arguing for a fairer election system for decades. They call the current system a “fake democracy”.
Mainland China had promised reform to the current system: offering direct elections for the Chief Executive in 2017. Fair enough?
However in August last year China ruled out open nominations and stated that voters will have a choice between only two or three potential candidates. Any candidate wishing to stand would have to get support from at least 50% of the committee. Better get schmoozing.
The problem: Democracy activists say this will allow mainland China to screen out candidates it disapproves of. Not the fairest of systems then…
Democracy groups such as Occupy Central and the student group Hong Kong Federation of Scholars and Students have been staging rallies pressing for political reform since the proposal was put forward. They ran an unofficial referendum on reform, and ran a pro-democracy march which tens of thousands turned out for. It was called the “Umbrella Revolution” – because protesters used their brollies to protect themselves from pepper spray being fired by the police. Neat. Students have also been staging walk outs in protest and other protest marches across the city.
Not everyone backs the Hong Kong protest. Silent Majority for Hong Kong and Caring Hong Kong Power are just some of the Pro-Beijing or Pro-China groups. They argue that civil disobedience and opposition to mainland China will only damage Hong Kong, both economically and politically.
Hong Kong’s government has now put forward proposals agreeing with mainland China’s ruling. Despite pro-democracy law-makers walking out in disgust and ever more people joining the Hong Kong protest it’s looking more and more likely that the new Chief Executive will not be voted in by the majority of the people. Bad times.
Key Message: Let us finish the job…
PAT ON THE BACK: WE’VE DONE A GOOD JOB
We have created 1,000 jobs for each day in Parliament since 2010
We have halved the deficit as a share of our economy
AND THERE’S MORE TO COME…
HAVE A LONG TERM ECONOMIC PLAN AND STICK TO IT
Get the debt down! Reduce government spending by 1% each year for two years. Put simply: Save £1 a year in every £100 that government spends. If I had £1 for every time I spend £100 I’d have saved £1.50…
Get rid of the Budget Deficit by 2017/18. Deficit = gap between what the government spends and what it receives in taxes
Not only that: the Conservatives want to run a Budget Surplus by 2018/19. Surplus = bring in more money in taxes than it spends and have some left over…
WORK, TAX AND PLAY
Give more money to hardworking people: The amount you earn before you pay any tax is going up to £12,500. On a bigger salary? The amount you earn before you pay higher 40% rates of tax will also go up to £50,000 from £31, 786.
The Minimum Wage will continue to go up to £8 by 2020 and after the first budget of the new government anyone working 30 hours on the Minimum Wage won’t pay ANY tax at all.
Business will be encouraged to pay the Living Wage and the amount you’re allowed to earn before you pay tax will automatically go up as the Minimum Wage rises.
Homes worth up to £1 million will be exempt from inheritance tax under new laws.
The Conservatives are big on apprenticeships: they want to create 3 million AND if you’re an apprentice under 25 you won’t have to pay national insurance meaning more money for you.
Big Changes to state benefits as they are combined into one Universal Credit system which will continue to be rolled out. The whole idea: Work pays and if you can work, you should. The amount of benefits one household can receive will go down to £23,000 and working age benefits will not go up for two years – with exemptions for disability and pensioner benefits.
Young people pay attention: instead of job seekers allowance for 18-21s, there will now be “youth allowance” where after 6 months you will have to be in an apprenticeship or do community work to receive benefits.
Go Equality… for companies with more than 250 employees. You guys are the chosen ones and will have to publish the difference between the average pay of their male and female employees. Here’s hoping there is a reason why it isn’t for all companies.
IT’S JUST BUSINESS
Don’t trust banks? They will be supervised more strictly by the Bank of England. More safeguards will be put in place so your money will be more protected should the economy go wobbly again. Let’s hope we can trust the B of E then hey?!
Conservative Plan: Tax the banks on their debts to stop them borrowing silly amounts and DON’T allow them to pay less tax by knocking down their profits with their losses from previous years.
Help small businesses to grow with loans from the “Help to Grow” scheme, and give them “the most competitive taxes of any major economy”. Young Entrepreneurs will get the chance to start-up their own businesses when the “Start Up Loans” Programme is expanded. YAY FOR SCENES OF REASON!!!
Sell more British products = stronger British economy. The Conservatives have a target of £1 trillion in British exports and will work on a 25 year plan to sell more British food. Nom nom.
GETTING OUT AND ABOUT
Keep it cheap: rail fares will NOT go up. Train companies will not be allowed to raise ticket prices above inflation levels (inflation: where value of money goes down, but how much stuff costs goes up)
Invest the North! £13 billion will go on transport in the north of England AND £38 billion for the UK’s railway network in the next five years. This includes work on High Speed 2 (ultra-fast train line between London and the North) and development of High Speed 3 (proposed line going further north) connecting up the country.
Not impressed? Well, let’s throw in £15 billion to improve roads around the UK. Austerity, wha?
SCHOOLS, EDUCATION AND CULTURE
Time to get tough: We need to improve at stuff like maths, science and grammar as we’re currently dropping down the league tables. 17,500 extra maths and physics teachers will be brought in. Kids will have to sit exams at the end of Primary School and retake when they start Secondary School if they fail. Where’s my calculator?
More free schools for those who want them. Free Schools can be set up by parents, charities, universities, trusts and can choose their own curriculum of what to teach as long as it’s “broad and balanced”. Sound good? Not everyone agrees with dismantling the education system…
Increase the number of women in charge of national sports departments to inspire women in sport AND support school sports funding with £150 million a year. That will probably go on lost tennis balls..
Protect the children! Bring in age verification for access to all websites containing pornographic material and age-rating for all music videos. We suggest they also do tutorials on how to delete your browser history. Just sayin’.
For the academics: there will be loans for post-grads and PhD students, entry to major museums and galleries will be kept free and you’ll have no rise in the BBC licence fee.
HOW THE COUNTRY IS RUN
The number of MPs will be reduced from 650 to cut the cost of politics and make votes of more equal value. Constituency boundaries will be reviewed and altered to make sure that everyone is represented equally around the country. And let’s see more jobs in the public sector going to women and more female MPs please.
More control will be given to Scotland (as promised after the referendum) and Wales will also get more powers to govern themselves. Large cities (e.g. Manchester) which choose to have elected mayors will also get more choice of where their budget is spent.
English MPs will have more say over matters only affecting England, including on Income Tax. And the whole situation of which MPs can vote for what will be sorted out properly. Umm, haven’t we heard that before?
STRENGTHENING THE COUNTRY
Get 95% of the UK covered for superfast broadband by 2017. Netflix binge, anyone? Oh, and don’t worry if you have to get back to work. The Tories are upping the amount of free childcare for working parents of 3-4 year olds to 30 hours.
Time to get tough on those who break the rules though: random drugs tests, mobile phone blocking tech and measures introduced to tackle corruption in prisons, plus banning orders for extremist organisations.
Also say goodbye Human Rights Act (e.g. right to live, right to not be tortured) which originated in Europe and say hello to the British Bill of Rights: breaking a link with Europe and tellin’ em the Brits make the rules round here.
Also new rules for Migrants from the European Union: no council houses until you’ve lived here for four years. No job seekers benefits either and if you haven’t found a job in 6 months, you’ll have to go…
Everyone who works for public services will need to speak English.
It’s not all doom and gloom: Conservatives want to invest at least £7.5 million a year in relationship support.
But if you’re a fox, get worried: Tories want to give Parliament the opportunity to get rid of the Hunting Act…
UK ON THE WORLD STAGE
Time to decide: straight “in-out” referendum on our membership of the European Union by the end of 2017.
Before that though the Tories will reclaim power from the EU, so the UK government makes the majority of our decisions.
And we’ll be keeping the pound as well. None of that Euro nonsense here please.
0.7% UK income will go on helping those in need in other countries. Aren’t we nice?
The UK will also continue to work to get rid of Islamic State and stabilise the situation between Israel/Palestine. Oh, and prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And stay pals with the USA. And sort out Russia.
Worried we’re getting too involved and we need to look after ourselves first? Army reserves will be expanded to 35,000. So you can sleep easy.
NHS spending will increase by at least an additional £8 billion by 2020. The Conservative want 7-day a week access to your GPs, no more wasted paper when you’ll be given access to your own electronic medical records and continued investment into research for cures for Cancer and Dementia. The Better Care Fund will integrate health and social care = a streamlined health service where less money is wasted. Well, that’s the idea anyway…
Let’s all save the planet. Tories will work towards targets set in the UK Climate Change Act, even though some say they’re falling short of the target…
Invest £500 million to make all cars zero emission vehicles. No more exhaust clogging up the planet. Why is this important? CLIMATE CHANGE OF COURSE
Local people will have more control over planning and can protect Greenbelt land (areas of open land where no building is permitted) and new “blue belt” areas will protect marine habitats. Spend £3 billion to clean up rivers, lakes and enhance England’s countryside over the next five years. And plant another 11 million trees.
Just in case you were worried about all the new transport plans mentioned earlier: £300 million will ensure less light pollution from new roads and any plant or animal life disrupted in the construction of High Speed 2 will be replaced. Phew.
Animal lovers rejoice: an international ban on trade in ivory and polar bear skin and ‘endangered species’ status for polar bears is also part of the plan.
The UK will push for a strong global deal to limit carbon emissions at the Paris Climate Summit in December. C’est très bon.
GETTING ON THE PROPERTY LADDER AND GROWING OLD COMFORTABLY
Getting more people into homes: 200,000 starter homes created and sold at 20% below the market price for first time buyers who are under 40. The Right to Buy Scheme where you can purchase your council property will be extended to those in housing associations.
Continue to increase state pension in the “triple lock system”: pensions rise each year either by 2.5% or in line with inflations and earnings – whichever is highest. Other pensioner benefits such as free bus passes, TV licences and the Winter Fuel Payment will be protected.
SO HOW ARE THEY GOING TO PAY FOR IT?
Watch out, Tax Avoiders – they’re coming for you.
Increase the annual tax for non-doms (And what the hell is a non-dom?!)
Find £30 billion: £13bn from making the government more efficient and making departmental savings, £12bn from welfare savings (benefits), £5bn created from clamping down on those pesky tax evaders…
Earn more than £150,000? Conservatives will restrict tax relief on pensions for the top earners. So you can pay less in without being taxed = more money for the government.
Manifesto Decoded: SO. MANY. GIVEAWAYS.
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