Remploy, the government owned company providing employment for disabled people is to close 36 of its 54 factories with the loss of 1700 jobs.
Minister for disabled people Maria Miller said the sites were not financially viable and that the decision to close them was ‘difficult but important.’ She went on to sat that each job at Remploy was subsidised by £25,000 of taxpayers’ money whereas the Access to Work programme, the government’s preferred method of helping disabled people find work, required a subsidy of just £3,000.
The decision to close so many factories in one fell swoop was made on the basis of findings in a report written by Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability UK, speaking to the BBC this week Ms Sayce said that is was important that the factories slated for closure ‘should be given the chance to show if they are viable.’ Good luck with that; a government in the mood to cut spending at all costs seldom changes its mind.
Shadow minister for the disabled Anne McGuire said that making a decision with such serious consequences on the basis of ‘a report by an individual is frankly not acceptable.’
Liam Byrne, shadow minister for work and pensions, said that closing Remploy factories was ‘the wrong plan at the wrong time.’ The Conservatives had, he said, promised to protect jobs at Remploy whilst in opposition, adding ‘now we know the truth. People with disabilities will never trust a word they say again.’
Phil Davies, national secretary of the GMB trades union said ‘I never thought I’d see the day that an organisation set up to provide sustainable employment for disabled people would be shut down.’ It was, he said, ‘an attack on the most vulnerable members of our society.’
The government has set up an £8million fund to help former Remploy workers but, as Anne McGuire told the BBC, ‘there are tens of people in each of the constituencies where these redundancies are going to be made chasing each job.’
Even by the standards of this increasingly out of touch government closing so many factories in one hit seems like a cruelly low blow struck against the people least able to be resilient. Liz Sayce may genuinely have written her report with good intentions and believe fully that the factories under threat should be given the chance to prove whether they are viable; it will never happen though.
A government that has systematically starved Remploy of support since taking office is hardly likely to support something that would expose the cynicism of its policies.
Defending the closures Iain Duncan Smith said that segregating disabled people form the rest of the workforce was a Victorian idea that had no place in the modern world. In doing so he seemed to wilfully ignore the fact that without the supportive environment provided by Remploy many disabled people will struggle and probably fail to find fulfilling work.
If anybody id guilty of holding Victorian attitudes it is Iain Duncan Smith and the rest of the government. Their attitude to the disabled, single parents, the unemployed and just about anyone outside their own charmed circle is let them sink or swim and if they drown who cares?
Quite a lot of people actually, people who may not be naturally aligned to the left but will still agree with Phil Davis that disabled people will never trust the Tories again and with good reason. Neither come to that should anyone else, this government is operation on the principle that everything it gets away with is a spur to trying something even more short sighted, selfish and damaging next time.
The growing number of people being left high and dry economically and socially by a government that its even its own members secretly admit has no direction or vision for the future will not forget what has been done to them in the name of balancing the books; they must not forgive either when it comes to casting their votes.
A slow train to nowhere
The days of above inflation rises in ticket prices for rail users are to end; more money is going to be spent on rolling stock and refurbishing dilapidated stations. Put out the bunting, get the champagne on ice; things are looking up at last.
Oh no, hang on a minute, the sting in the tail is a whopping £3.5billion cut in government funding for the railways; which probably means all the things promised above will be delayed until the twelfth of never.
Transport secretary Justine Greening said in parliament that the government was going to set about ‘building a more efficient and affordable rail network that serves its passengers better, encourages the rail industry to thrive and ultimately invigorates Britain’s economy.’
Fine words, but, unfortunately, ones that will never be turned into actions, instead what we’ll get are job cuts and a deteriorating service. The whole sorry mess will stumble on as before in the hands of greedy train operating companies and overseen by dim politician who have no idea what they want the railways to do; but they want them to do it more efficiently.
Pigs in the dock
Have you seen the new TV advert for the Guardian that turns the story of the three little pigs into a fable about freedom of the press?
It’s a brilliantly conceived piece of marketing and just a little bit bonkers.
I couldn’t help wondering what some of the other members of the fourth estate would make of popular fairy stories, Goldilocks and the three bears say.
The Daily Express would probably have the protagonists discovering that porridge either caused or cured cancer before hinting that Goldilocks looks (nudge, nudge) a bit like a certain princess with whom they are unhealthily obsessed.
The Daily Mail would be up in arms about British bears being forced out of their homes by porridge scoffing immigrants, all the fault of the EU, the welfare state and the BBC it seems.
The Sunday Sun, which isn’t the News of the World under another name honestly, would probably take the prize though with the banner headline:
Goldilocks: my porridge fuelled nights of passion with three hot bears.