Friday 17 December 2010

Treasury officials' bonuses

There we were, wondering whether the Treasury would introduce restrictions on bankers’ bonuses, when all along they were tucking something away for themselves.

Figures from the Treasury show that 736 bonuses of some sort were awarded in 2006/07 – totalling £1.1m.

Amounts then rose to 2008/09 – the year in which the recession kicked in – when 990 bonuses totalling almost £1.4m were handed out.

In 2009/10, a higher number of bonuses, 1,273, were awarded albeit with a lower overall total of around £1.3m.

In total over the four year period up to 2009/10, over £5m was handed to Treasury officials.

You might think that when the overall annual cash figures are divided among the number of bonuses given out, that each bonus doesn’t seem that big.

Take 2008/09 for example… £1.4m / 990 bonuses = £1,414 per bonus.

But the truth is that bonuses varied in size and the top bonuses in each year ranged between £15,000 and £22,000 – not far off the average basic annual salary in the UK.

The amounts are not like the sky-high bonuses bankers get, but some of these officials may well bear responsibility for the regulatory system which contributed to the banking collapse.

Interesting to see whether Osborne has taken out his axe over the issue by the time the 2010/11 figures come out.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Losing a grip on prisoner voting...

Lobbydog was chatting to a member of the previous administration earlier about Government measures which will allow some UK prisoners to vote.

The Coalition says the measures must be taken because of a ruling by the European Court that denying all prisoners the vote is unlawful.

Any time a Labour MP attacks the Government in the House on the issue, the minister hits back saying that a Labour Government would also have had to follow the court’s ruling.

The previous government did nothing to resolve the issue whereas the Coalition, goes the Government line, is now taking the hard decisions Labour could not.

I asked the former minister whether it wasn’t a bit rich of them to attack the Coalition when all Labour had done was to hold two consultations on the issue without ever getting to grips with it.

“Of course we never got to grips with it,” said the former minister.

“That was the whole point. We couldn’t go against the court, but giving prisoners the vote was wrong. So our view was that we should just kick it in to the long grass.

“Then, when we got to it again we took the view that we should kick it into the long grass again and we would have kept doing so.”

I get the feeling that there are probably quite a few Tories who would support such a strategy.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Watch Ed Balls work his magic on Lorely Burt

Cut to foreign convicts scheme...

It feels like Immigration Minister Damian Green has surreptitiously announced a cut to a Home Office scheme which saw the Government paying foreign convicts to return to their own countries today.

Before October 1 the Home Office would pay £5,000 to foreign lags who still had time left on their sentences, and £3,000 to those who had finished their jail term, to go back to their home country.

The initiative, called the Facilitated Return Scheme (FRS), cost the Government some £4.8m in 2009/10, but had been hailed by the previous and current administrations as a “practical solution” to getting rid of foreign convicts.

But, tucked away at the bottom of an answer to a written question, Green said today:

“In order to make the scheme more affordable and bring it in line with other assisted voluntary, return programmes, it has been necessary to reduce the amount of assistance given to those who leave the country under FRS. As of 1 October 2010, those who apply for and are accepted onto the scheme will receive a reduced cash payment amount. We anticipate that high numbers of individuals will continue to take up the scheme and we will monitor the level of applications over the coming months.”

Lobbydog put in a call to the Home Office who said the amounts now paid out would be reduced to £1,500 and £750 respectively.

That’s a meaty 70% reduction for the upper tier amount and an even bigger 75% reduction for the lower tier amount.

You might think it’s a good thing we're not giving so much taxpayers’ cash to convicts.

The question is, will it mean more foreign convicts deciding to stay in the UK? The £750 might hardly cover the plane fare home.

MP's sneaky bid to split student vote

One MP it seems is not prepared to take the student offensive sitting down.

David Morris has tabled an EDM raising concern over the fact that students can register to vote either at their "permanent" address (usually their parents' place) or at their term time address.

Morris says the “unfair” result is that "transient" student populations in university areas might end up out-voting the settled population when it comes to election time.

The problem could be solved by laying regulation that limited students to registering at their permanent address only, says Morris.

Of course, this would also mean strong student voting blocks ceasing to exist in university constituencies in the way they currently do - stripping them collectively of the power to have a significant impact in specific seats.

It's a rather cheeky version of the old divide and rule.

But students need not worry just yet. Morris is the only person to have signed the motion so far.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Pickles delayed by Whitehall bickering

As part of the Localism Bill published yesterday, the Government said it would steer the country’s 12 biggest cities towards having all-powerful executive mayors.

We had previously been told that the powers conferred to the new mayors would be defined when the Bill was published – and that they would be more influential than council leaders and mayors as defined under previous legislation.

But yesterday ministers failed to define exactly what powers they would have – instead saying things would become clear as the Localism Bill moved through Parliament.

The reason for this, I’m told by a source, is that when the draft Bill was sent round other Whitehall departments some objected to the level of influence being handed to the new mayors.

In particular they objected to powers which gave the mayors control of an area of policy, health for example, which came under their jurisdiction.

Bickering over just what powers the mayors should get was delaying the already delayed Bill and so Eric Pickles kicked the issue into the long grass to get the legislation published before Christmas.

No doubt it’ll come back to haunt him in the New Year.