Why being poor can cost the earth

Our economy has been hollowed out. More families are in work but struggling to make ends meet as underemployment, job insecurity and low pay dominates the lives of too many. On top of that millions of people pay more of what little they have for basic goods and services.

Poverty premium means that people living in poverty or on a low income are often paying more for the same goods and services than people who are better-off financially. Research from the University of Bristol suggests that this could cost low income families on average £490 a year. Of course, averages can hide extremes. In its worst manifestations, poverty premium can cost some households over £1000 a year.

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Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill to turn back the plastic tide

On Wednesday 13th June, I’ll be introducing a Ten Minute Rule Bill to Parliament with the aim of convincing the government to force producers to take responsibility for the packaging they produce. Known as the ‘polluter pays’ principle, it would mean that local authorities and taxpayers no longer have to foot the bill for increasingly expensive recycling and waste management, and the UK can lead the way in safeguarding our wildlife and oceans for our future generations.

Packaging pollution first came to my attention over ten years ago while working as a specialist adviser to Welsh ministers in the Welsh government. Back then, the impact that packaging and plastic pollution were having on our wildlife, natural resources and on climate change was becoming increasingly evident.

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It’s Brexit crunch time. Theresa May’s no-deal disaster is not an option

Theresa May has just faced yet another torrid period of Tory revolts over her Brexit strategy. David Davis was on the verge of resignation. Government MPs were publicly rejecting her customs backstop fudge. And Boris Johnson became so exasperated that he was telling his supporters that he wanted Donald Trump to take over the negotiations.

It is now clearer than ever that May will fail to deliver the Brexit deal that Britain needs. She cannot command the confidence of her cabinet, of her party, or of the country. Instead of negotiating for Britain, the prime minister is lurching from crisis to crisis, increasing the risk that the talks break down, and we crash out without an agreement. We cannot go on like this.

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Is EEA Membership Actually A Good Option For Britain?

Next week, the Commons will vote on the amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill which have been made by the House of Lords. Most of these amendments are positive in that they reduce the damage caused by the Government’s cack-handed approach to Brexit.

There is, however, one amendment which ought not to be supported. This is the amendment which opens the possibility of Britain being a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), like Norway. Given that Norway is outside of the European Union but benefits from being part of most of the EU’s Single Market arrangements, the so-called Norway option might seem to hold an attraction for the UK.

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Nicola Sturgeon should toss the SNP Growth Commission report in the shredder

It’s already been torn apart by economists and independence supporters. Now the renowned experts at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) have had their say and confirmed that the SNP’s Growth Commission report offers further austerity. It’s time for Nicola Sturgeon to dump the discredited document in the shredder.

The First Minister is a master at the art of spin: she learned from her mentor Alex Salmond, who presented that magnificent work of fiction – the 2014 White Paper – to voters.


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Representation in film matters – here’s how Labour would boost inclusivity

When Hollywood actor Frances McDormand ended her Oscar acceptance speech with the words “inclusion rider”, many people took to the internet to find out more. Like me, many will have found a Ted Talk by Dr Stacy Smith of the University of Southern California explaining what inclusion riders are, and why the film industry needs them so badly.

Dr Stacy Smith’s research found that across the top 100 films of 2015, almost half did not feature a black or African-American speaking character. 70 did not have any female Asian or Asian-American characters, and 84 films featured no female characters with a disability.

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There’s no need to fear automation – not if we apply these reforms

Automation doesn’t need to be something to fear. Instead it should be something to welcome and develop, offering the opportunity for more interesting work, increased leisure, and easier interpersonal connections and communication.

But alarmist stories abound of an ominous robot takeover (though I, for one, welcome the suggestion that they’ll be capable of assembling flat pack furniture). Despite this, parliamentarians have seemed surprisingly uninterested in digging deeper into the broader implications of automation beyond the immediate. Beyond large-scale pieces of work like Tom Watson’s future of work commission and the Fabian Society’s commission on automation, most parliamentarians are apparently taking little notice of the automation phenomenon. A quick glance at the number of Written Parliamentary Questions referencing either ‘artificial intelligence’ or ‘automation’ shows that we’ve asked a meagre 90 since June 2014 (even ‘beer’ manages to do better than that, with 113 references over the same time period).

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Labour is the true party of small business

Labour is the true party of small business. It’s been clear for the last eight years that the Tories are on the side of the biggest corporations, not the small businesses that are the lifeblood of the British economy. In government, the Tories allowed Carillion to grow into a racket that threatened small businesses across the country when it finally ran out of track.

 

Today, research published by the Federation of Small Businesses shows how damaging late payment practices can be for small firms. One in three firms are paid late, and over a third have seen agreed payment terms lengthening over the past two years. Companies are supposed to pay within thirty days, but in Carillion’s case, it was 120 by the time the company went bust. If people cannot get away with paying their mortgage or their rent 120 days late, then large companies that support jobs up the supply chain shouldn’t either.

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Snoek signals: May must learn from history or face a fishy fate

There is a story about how tins of fish nearly derailed Clement Attlee’s government.

The war had been won, but rationing and austerity were far from finished, and the government decided to substitute an odd looking and foul tasting South African fish, snoek, for the sardines that Brits were used to. Officials soon discovered, however, that changing the British diet was not as simple as that. The humble snoek was soon dispatched to cat food bowls across the land.

May is putting party before country because she’s too chicken to lead. Instead, she delays legislation simply in order to avoid a defeat by her backbenchers. Moreover, the government rejected sensible amendments in committee. Its progress halted by legislative border guards, our trade policy is rotting in transit.

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Britain’s problem is not too many robots – it’s too few

Harry Bridges was the legendary president of the American dockers' union who won his spurs organising through the bloody strike of 1934. But it was the mechanisation revolution of the Sixties that really put him to the test. Bridges knew he couldn't turn back the tide. So he set out a different question: how to win for his members “a piece of the machine”. The challenge, said Bridges, was how to get the machines working for the workers and not against them.

That question – the “Bridges test” – is once again the challenge for progressives as we face the future of work.

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