Teachers’ union leader slams Government’s ‘absolute failure’ over Britain’s crumbling schools 

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Image credit: Sky News / YouTube

The leader of the UK’s top teachers’ union has ripped into the Government for its “absolute failure” to properly fund schools, following further revelations into the state of Britain’s crumbling classrooms. 

Schools across the country have been struggling to cope with urgent building repairs and mounting maintenance costs, BBC Panorama has been exposing, with schools unable to claim extra money for repairs to tackle leaks and cold. 

Commenting on the latest investigation into the state of British school buildings, Daniel Kebede, who became General Secretary of the National Education Union last year, stressed that the failings lay firmly at the feet of the Government.   

Kebede wrote on X: “Make no mistake this is absolute failure from government.


Continue Reading Teachers’ union leader slams Government’s ‘absolute failure’ over Britain’s crumbling schools 

This chart perfectly sums up how badly the Tories have ruined the economy

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While Jeremy Hunt was keen to portray an optimistic picture of his autumn statement, bragging about tax cuts and how he was ‘growing the economy’, even though the facts show otherwise

The below chart illustrates just how bad this Parliament is for household income growth. So much for the Tories being the party of sound finances.

This parliament worst on record for household income growth (Picture credit: Resolution Foundation)
This parliament worst on record for household income growth (Picture credit: Resolution Foundation)


Continue ReadingThis chart perfectly sums up how badly the Tories have ruined the economy

Truss-supporting economists call for minimum wage to be frozen, then cut

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‘Is it too much of a stretch to recognise that poverty is the CAUSE of poor growth.’

Image of cash and pre-payment meter key
Image of cash and pre-payment meter key

The Growth Commission was formed by Liz Truss, following her resignation as prime minister after her chaotic 49 days in government. Truss was in the audience at the Commission’s event, alongside Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Brexit negotiator, Lord David Frost.

Minimum wage rates increased in April. The level is currently set at £10.42 an hour for those aged 23 and over. 21-22-year-olds must be paid a minimum of £10.18 an hour, 18 to 20-year-olds receive £7.49 and under 18s and apprentices have to be paid no lower than an hourly rate of £5.28.

Growth Commission co-chairman, Shanker Singham, said the group was “concerned about how high” Britain’s minimum wage is compared with other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“There is nothing wrong with the minimum wage. What matters in terms of competition is where it is set,” said Singham.

“What we are intending to do in the UK is move it to 66 percent of median wage, which is far higher than any other OECD country by next year and will be a significant drag on the economy.

“So we are suggesting freezing it and targeting it down to 61 percent.

“Even that small reduction or that small change in minimum wage has a very big impact on GDP per capita, according to our calculations,” he added.


Continue ReadingTruss-supporting economists call for minimum wage to be frozen, then cut

Activists drench Sainsbury’s in red paint over supermarket profiteering

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Members of This Is Rigged covered the Sainsbury’s branch in Glasgow’s Buchanan Street with red paint Photo: This is Rigged / Twitter

CLIMATE and social justice activists in Scotland have highlighted their opposition to food poverty by staging a series of stunts.

Members of This Is Rigged covered the Sainsbury’s branch in Glasgow’s Buchanan Street with red paint today as they demanded an end to “profiteering” by supermarkets.

The day before, the group entered Edinburgh Castle and smashed the glass case housing the Stone of Destiny, which had recently been returned to Scotland following the coronation of Charles Windsor.

Near the end of a year of high-profile interventions pressing for decisive action on climate change and a fair net-zero transition for workers, the group’s latest stunts are focused on the cost-of-greed crisis, which they argue is indivisible from the climate crisis.

The group warned that it would escalate actions in support of its demands that the Scottish government provide “food hubs” in every community and that supermarkets reverse their 24 per cent increase in baby food prices over the last two years.


Continue ReadingActivists drench Sainsbury’s in red paint over supermarket profiteering

Rail fare increase: Green Party calls for fare freeze and for railways to be taken into public ownership

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Green Party’s co-leader Adrian Ramsay.

The Green Party of England and Wales has called for rail fares to be frozen on the day the government has announced that regulated fares will increase in January 2024.

Ramsay said: “This government is moving in completely the wrong direction. Fuel duty has been frozen since 2011, while air passenger duty cuts this year will be a disaster for the climate crisis by encouraging people to fly more. This is despite the fact UK rail passengers are already paying more to travel by train than flying and are faced with some of the most expensive tickets in Europe.

“Emissions from transport are higher than for any other sector of the economy. If the UK is to meet its climate commitments, then we need more people choosing trains over cars and planes, and we need more commuters opting for public transport and active travel to get to work. Making train travel more expensive, while closing rail ticket offices that support travellers to get the best deal, would underscore the government’s contempt for climate action and the travelling public.


Continue ReadingRail fare increase: Green Party calls for fare freeze and for railways to be taken into public ownership

Top oil and gas companies have made “almost no progress” towards Paris Agreement goals: report 

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The CDP’s Oil and Gas Benchmark report assessed 100 oil and gas companies on low-carbon transition and just transition indicators.

Top oil and gas companies have made “almost no progress” in reaching the climate goals agreed as part of the 2015 Paris climate summit, environmental disclosure non-profit CDP said on Thursday.  

The CDP’s Oil and Gas Benchmark report, published with the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA), assessed 100 oil and gas companies. The assessment was based on low-carbon transition and social and just transition indicators.  

While none of the companies perform well on all indicators, Finland-based Neste is ranked first, followed by French company Engie, oil giant TotalEnergies, Spain’s Naturgy Energy and Italy’s Eni. In May this year, TotalEnergies announced its plan to keep its scope 3 emissions below 400 million tonnes. However, the company scored 19.4 out of 60 on CDP’s low-carbon transition indicator, and 9.4 out of 20 on just transition.  

According to the report, the operating emissions from the oil and gas sector added up to 5.1 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO₂ in 2022. None of the companies assessed by CDP can cut their emissions “at a rate sufficient to align with a 1.5°C pathway over the next five years”, it said. 

The report observes that most companies fail to disclose their capital investment in low-carbon technologies. Currently Neste is the only one with investments sufficient to meet the climate goals. Further, despite seven major oil companies disclosing a profit of $380bn in 2022, investments in low-carbon transition fall short significantly.  


Continue ReadingTop oil and gas companies have made “almost no progress” towards Paris Agreement goals: report 

Extinction Rebellion UK target Wood Group for “utter contempt” for UK taxpayers

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Extinction Rebellion UK protest at Wood Group Aberdeen 3 July 2023
Extinction Rebellion UK protest at Wood Group Aberdeen 3 July 2023

Extinction Rebellion are protesting the Wood Group’s Aberdeen and Staines offices after Wood Group significantly reduced it’s renewables operations and expanded it’s fossil fuel operations weeks after receiving a £430m government-backed “green transition loan” in 2021.


… After receiving the £430m loan, Wood grew its upstream oil and gas business by 17% so that it accounted for more than $3bn (£2.4bn) in revenue in 2022, up from $2.6bn in 2021, according to an analysis of the company’s financial results by the Guardian and the investigative journalism organisation Point Source.

Over the same period the company reduced the size of its renewable, hydrogen, and carbon capture business units by 35% so that they only accounted for revenues of $222.8m in 2022, down from $344.6m in 2021.

The five-year loan, which was the first of its kind and was designed to help Wood transition away from fossil fuels, was announced in August 2021 by Liz Truss when she was international trade secretary.

At the time, Truss said the engineering company had “already made great strides in repositioning its business for a low-carbon future”.

After being awarded the loan, Wood announced a string of at least 20 major contract awards for work on oil, gas and petrochemical infrastructure.

Continue ReadingExtinction Rebellion UK target Wood Group for “utter contempt” for UK taxpayers

Tory minister makes baffling defence of water privatisation

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… MPs from different parties lined up to quiz the minister on how the government will tackle the crisis gripping the water sector. Among those to question Pow was Green MP Caroline Lucas.

She said: “Water companies had no debt when they were privatised. Since [then], they have borrowed £53 billion, and much of that has been used to help pay the £72 billion in dividends. Meanwhile, we have this appalling sewage scandal – particularly in the South East of England. We have a failing water company – the Southern Water company – that my constituents have no choice but to rely on and it’s considering raising bills by £279 per year by 2030, largely to pay for the investment that they should have been making in the previous years.

“Doesn’t that just show that the privatisation of water was a serious mistake and it needs to be permanently rectified?”

In an unbelievable response, Pow came back: “What I would say is that privatisation has enabled clean and plentiful water to come out of our taps.”


Continue ReadingTory minister makes baffling defence of water privatisation

Public Pension Funds Have Lost Billions on Their Fossil Fuel Investments: New Analysis

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Orifginal article by Dana Drugmand republished from DeSmog

Six major US retirement funds would be worth a combined $21 billion more today if they had divested a decade ago, University of Waterloo researchers find.

US public pension funds would be worth billions more if they divested from fossil fuels, researchers have found. Credit: Climate Clock

For U.S. public pension funds, divesting from oil, coal, and gas would result in overall higher financial value.

That is the key takeaway from a new study examining the past decade’s portfolio performance for several of the largest public pension funds in the country. The analysis by researchers at the University of Waterloo, published today in partnership with the organization Stand.earth, has found that the total cumulative value of six major U.S. public pension funds would have been about 13 percent higher had they divested from fossil fuel holdings ten years ago – equivalent to around $21 million in earnings.

Using Bloomberg Terminal data, the researchers looked at the actual portfolio performance between December 31, 2012 and December 31, 2022 of six funds: the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, California Public Employees’ Retirement System, California State Teachers’ Retirement System, New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, Oregon Public Employees’ Retirement Fund, and the State of Wisconsin Investment Board.

Then they analyzed how the funds would have done over the same time period if the fossil fuel investments had been divested, and their value spread evenly among the remaining holdings.

The analysis found that while the total actual value of the six funds was $402.8 billion at the end of 2022, they would have been worth $424.6 without the fossil fuel holdings. 

“Financially it doesn’t make sense to stay invested [in fossil fuels],” Olaf Weber, a University of Waterloo sustainable finance professor and co-author of the study, told DeSmog.

He said the findings are consistent with other similar studies, such as a 2019 analysis which found that California and Colorado’s public pension funds would have been a combined $19 billion richer had they divested from fossil fuel holdings in 2009.

Although major fossil fuel companies have reported record profits over the past year, this growing body of research suggests that it has not significantly boosted the value of pension funds that remain invested in these companies. 

Experts have pointed out that in addition to the great volatility of the fossil fuel industry’s value,  the sector appears to be bound for long-term, perhaps even permanent, decline.

“Today the oil and gas sector is in a pitched battle for last place in the stock market,” said Tom Sanzillo, director of financial analysis at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, during an April webinar timed to the release of a report calling for major hospital systems to divest from the industry. 

While the fossil fuel sector commanded about 28 percent of the stock market in 1980, it now accounts for about 5 percent or less of the market, Sanzillo said during the event.

Oil and gas sector profits “are unsustainable,” he said, “and their future is on shaky ground.”

Fossil Fuel Divestment ‘a Win-Win Situation’

One often-used argument for staying invested in fossil fuels is that it allows investors to try influencing companies through shareholder engagement. The problem with this argument is that shareholder engagement has not been very effective at compelling big polluters to take serious climate action. 

“The results show there is not really an effect of engagement because if [investors] put pressure on the fossil fuel companies to reduce production, it will have a negative impact on the share price as well,” Weber said. “So that’s kind of a conflict.”  

Weber and his colleagues also looked at the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the public equity investments of eight U.S. pension funds: the same six plus the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association and the Alaska Retirement Management Board. They found that if the funds had divested from fossil fuel holdings ten years ago, their cumulative carbon spew would have been about 16.6 percent or nearly 280 million tons lower  – the equivalent of the annual energy use of 35 million homes.  

“[Fossil fuel] divestments are able to create a win-win situation with higher financial returns and lower carbon footprints,” the researchers concluded.

Orifginal article by Dana Drugmand republished from DeSmog

Continue ReadingPublic Pension Funds Have Lost Billions on Their Fossil Fuel Investments: New Analysis

Ofgem ignored 140,000 debt complaints before British Gas scandal

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Original article republished from open Democracy under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Image of banknotes and prepayment meter key
More than 30,000 complaints were about the disconnection and forced installation of prepayment meters. Image of banknotes and a prepayment meter key

Exclusive: Energy regulator forced into action this week did nothing about mountain of complaints last year

Adam Bychawski

3 February 2023, 1.53pm

Energy companies received more than 140,000 complaints about their treatment of customers in debt last year alone, openDemocracy can reveal.

They included 33,000 complaints about the fitting or disconnecting of pre-payment meters.

Yet the energy regulator Ofgem was only forced into action this week when an undercover Times investigation found British Gas had sent bailiffs to break into vulnerable people’s homes and fit the meters by force. It has now asked energy companies to pause the practice.

The data, obtained by openDemocracy through a Freedom of Information request, has revealed for the first time the scale of alleged mistreatment of vulnerable customers since the energy price cap was first hiked in April.

“Ofgem has known about this crisis for years, and so have the companies themselves. Suppliers are not being honest when they act like they’ve just discovered it and they’re shocked, like the CEO of Centrica did yesterday,” Ruth London, co-founder of the Fuel Poverty Action campaign group, told openDemocracy.

Energy companies are required to report the number of complaints they receive from customers every month to Ofgem. Between January and October last year, they received 146,046 complaints related to disconnection and debt issues – though Ofgem has refused to tell us which suppliers received the most.

The category includes complaints from customers about their energy supply being disconnected or having a prepayment meter installed forcibly without a warrant or despite them being vulnerable.

Other examples of complaints include customers being disconnected by error or without due process and being put on debt repayment plans that are unsuitable or unaffordable.

The true number of people being ill-treated is likely to be much higher. Ofgem revealed yesterday that customers were being left on hold for hours by energy companies, leading to more than half hanging up before they could report an issue.

Ofgem said revealing how many complaints different companies had received would breach Section 105 of the 2000 Utilities Act, which states that the public disclosure of information companies supply to the regulator is prohibited in order to protect national security. The law has previously been criticised for preventing whistleblowers from raising issues about the energy sector that are in the public interest.

The regulator said yesterday that it was “unacceptable” to forcibly install prepayment meters before all other options had been exhausted, and has launched an urgent investigation into British Gas

But charities have criticised the regulator for ignoring calls to end the practice for months.

“Lives have been and are being lost because of their silence and refusal to act on the truth they have long known,” said London.

Clare Moriarty, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, said it “should not have taken this long” for Ofgem to act. 

The charity said it saw more people unable to afford to top up their pre-payment metre last year than for the entirety of the previous decade combined.

The Times reported this week that British Gas customers who had prepayment meters forcibly installed included a woman in her 50s who the company’s bailiffs were told had severe mental health problems and a mother whose “daughter is disabled and has a hoist and electric wheelchair”.

The paper’s undercover investigation also alleged that the Arvato Financial Solutions employees were incentivised with bonuses to fit prepayment meters. The boss of British Gas owner Centrica apologised and said he was “disappointed, livid and gutted” on Thursday.

Last year, a non-executive director at the regulator resigned saying Ofgem had “not struck the right balance between the interests of consumers and interests of suppliers”.

Peter Smith, policy director at the charity National Energy Action, said: “The recent announcement by major suppliers that they would temporarily pause forced installations of pre-payment meters is welcome, but this was prompted by public shaming of suppliers and there is still no market-wide ban.

“We also desperately need a coherent plan to help millions of people already trapped on prepayment meters. This means rewiring the energy market to provide more affordable tariffs and finding new ways to address the underlying debt issues which are rife due to soaring energy costs.”

Richard Lane, Director of External Affairs at StepChange Debt Charity, said: “We welcome Ofgem’s move to suspend the forced installation of prepayment meters (PPMs), but it’s clear that thousands of households have been struggling with energy bills for some time now, which is evident in our own client data.

“For the people that have already been moved onto PPMs, there must be better protection to prevent self-disconnection and extreme energy rationing.”

Original article republished from open Democracy under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingOfgem ignored 140,000 debt complaints before British Gas scandal