A £165 million package of student support due to be introduced in September will disproportionately benefit undergraduates from middle-class families while providing only minimal support for the poor, the Conservatives claim.

The means-tested student maintenance grant, which covers living costs but not fees, will be available to students whose parents earn up to £60,000. Previously the cap was £39,305. Families on £25,000, up from the previous threshold of £18,360, will receive the full grant of £2,835.

The reforms, designed to attract more working-class students into higher education, should mean an extra 100,000 will have help to pay their way through university. But a new analysis of government data by David Willetts, the Shadow Universities Secretary, has found that 90 per cent of the extra spending will initially go to families in higher socioeconomic groups.

“Students from the most affluent families gain £150 million, while those from poorer families gain only £15 million,” Mr Willetts said. The finding could embarrass the Government, still reeling from the fallout generated by its abolition of the 10p tax band.

Part and parcel of the way the Welfare State operates. Got to bribe the Middle Classes into supporting the minimal benefits for the poor. It\’s why the structure is so goddamn expensive. If we actually moved to a system whereby only the poor benefitted from all that State spending then we\’d be able to do it all for a pittance.

But that wouldn\’t create the desired army of supplicant voters, which is why it ain\’t gonna happen.


Rather than rewrite this, here\’s the comment left on Maddy Bunting\’s this morning.

My God, why did you bother to sit on a Committee if you weren\’t going to take any notice of the information in front of you?

"Many poor families may now have an earner, but it has not got them out of poverty: the number of poor children living in working households is 1.4 million – exactly the same figure as it was in 1997. Half of all children living in poverty have a parent in work."

Even Polly has got on board with this one: the income tax net starts at too low a wage. We\’ve got the absurd situation whereby someone on that minimum wage both pays income tax and also receives means tested benefits. Ludicrous. We end up with some people in that situation facing 70%, 90%, even in some special cases, over 100% marginal tax rates. So of course they\’re still in poverty, the system is actively militating against their doing the extra hours, changing jobs or getting more training so as to raise their wages.

The first thing to do is take the working poor out of the income tax net: as, for example, UKIP suggest, make the personal allowance £10,000.

"In some regions, the proportion of low-paid is well over 25%, while in some constituencies (in Wales, Birmingham, the West Midlands, even the rural West Country) it is comfortably over 40%."

You might therefore take the obvious conclusion from this. The level of relative poverty in the UK is in fact a result of the differences in regional pay (and also regional living costs). It\’s a structural matter to do with London being the richest region in Europe: within the various regions of the country we don\’t have the variance in incomes you posit, it\’s only at that national level when we include London.

"Increases in the minimum wage are not keeping pace with average earnings, and it is set at a considerably lower rate than in other countries."

The minimum wage is lower than in other countries? Really?
In the UK it\’s 61% of GDP per capita. The US 27%. Switzerland, 38%. Sweden doesn\’t have one, Spain, 31%. Portugal 32%. New Zealand 57%. Holland 47%. Luxembourg 24%. Ireland 40%. Greece 33%. France 51%. Canada 31%. Belgium, 53%. Austria 37%. Australia 53%.

We have a higher minimum wage compared to the general income of the country than any of the other rich economies on that list. Where on earth did this "lower rate" come from?

What on earth have you been doing on this Commission? Are facts adjusted first to fit your desired conclusions?

Lawks, it is to laugh.


The Daily Telegraph understands that members of the House of Commons Commission, who have been considering the matter on behalf of MPs, will submit a suggested pay rise soon to Sir John of between £10,000 and £15,000.

A Commons source said: "All the experts the committee consulted agreed that MPs were underpaid by between £10,000 and £15,000, so that is the amount they will submit.

"They have come to accept that the public and media will never reconcile themselves to pay rises for MPs, so they have decided that they will just have to take the hit, soak up the criticism, and move on with a more sustainable pay scale in future that better reflects the professional status of being a Member of Parliament."

They\’ve swallowed the Kool-Aid there I think.

Lots of lovely comparisons about equal worth, the time the job entails, the qualifications desirable, the status even that is granted by a certain income. All done by a committee employing no doubt the latest spread sheet macros.

The thing is, we already have a system which calculates all of these things for us. Without being so subjective about it as well. Called a market, that interplay of supply and demand. As with the way that the pay for most other jobs in the economy are worked out. How much do we have to pay to get the properly qualified people we need?

Given that at each General Election there are some thousands of people, all of whom are by definition in a democracy qualified to do the job, chasing some 600 ish seats, the market is telling us that wages for MPs should fall, not rise.

Oh, one further point. This will almost undoubtedly be finessed by the claim that it\’s not so much a pay raise, rather a move of what wa previously one or other of the allowances to the pay packet. Hmm, but don\’t forget that that will mean that the higher sum will now count towards the pension, that scheme which is already the best in the country.

Men Going Off Sex

Seems that the British male is less interested in bonking his partner than in the past. As to possible explanations:

Cooper, who is professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, also blamed Britain\’s culture of long working hours. \’Britain\’s work culture has gone from 9 to 5 to extremely long hours, which makes for a very stressful life,\’ he said. \’Stress can be cumulative, which means eventually people can find it impossible to switch off and relax.\’

I think we can put that to one side. Average working hours have been declining for men for more than a century. You know, this evidence thing….


Will Hutton discovers the interaction of globalisation and superstar economics.

Gosh, there\’s rich people out there! How dare people who handle the retirement investments of tens of millions make money? How appalling that the man who has revolutionised the global steel industry gets stinking rich!

How absolutely ghastly it is that a public intellectual, one married to a buy to let property developer, only has mere millions to play with, not enough for his own Gulfstream jet. How truly disgusting that such a towering figure has to arrive at Davos on a scheduled airline.



One Way of Looking at the World

By “heavily taxed” I do — of course — mean “nationalised”. I do not view non-renewable natural resources as appropriate commodities to be traded for profit.

Not a very clever one, but hearts on sleeves and all that.

So the global mining industry is to be put into the hands of governments then I assume. The Soviets certainly did that really well. Farmland is a non-renewable natural resource…in fact all land is. It ain\’t just fossil fuels that fall under this rubric.

So, can I run the nationalised Office of Scandium supply? Or does the fact that I know something about it rule me out?

David Strahan

Peak Oil all over again: you do have to wonder, has this bloke ever heard of the price elasticity of demand?

For three years the oil supply has been a zero sum game in which if one country consumes more, another has to consume less.

So? In the short term this has always been true: it takes somewhere between a decade and two to bring a new oil field on line so when existing fields are pumping to capacity this is always true.

On the other side of the equation, demand is also, in the short term, pretty much impervious to price. For it\’s built into the infrastructure of our societies and only changes on any large scale as we turnover the technological infrastucture of those societies.

If we restrict ourselves only to the short term then the Peak Oil enthusiasts have a point. However, as soon as we look to the longer term, the decades, the problem disappears. For production is indeed sensitive to price: and so is demand. For example, this little graph of the energy intensity per unit of GDP.

So, we\’ve got high prices now: maybe they\’re only a temporary blip, the confluence of those two short term insensitivities to price. Maybe they\’re not, maybe they are a real reflection of shortages in the future.

Doesn\’t actually matter: those prices will, in time, curtail demand and we\’ll continue, as we do now, to have enough oil for those willing to pay the price for it.

\’S what markets do, balance supply and demand.


Tee Hee Hee

Now this is amusing news.

Wal-Mart, the world\’s biggest retailer, was the whistleblower behind the Office of Fair Trading\’s current probe into alleged price fixing of food and toiletries, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

So, why did they do it?

In blowing the whistle, Wal-Mart, which owns the Asda chain, has guaranteed itself immunity from a fine should the OFT discover any cartel activity. Any company found guilty could be fined up to 10 per cent of its annual worldwide sales, which in Wal-Mart\’s case would be $37bn (£18.7bn).

No, I don\’t think it\’s so that they can avoid the fines themselves. Rather, they can cripple their competitors by forcing them to pay such fines while they get off scott free.

Telling teacher about the naughty boys is now part of the game theory of running a corporation. What fun, eh?

Whether or not there are in fact any naughty boys around….even, in fact, if you yourself are the naughty boy as long as you snitch first….

Breaking News!

Motorists in southern towns and cities pay up to £1.98 more to fill up their cars compared with those in northern England and Scotland.

Land is more expensive in the south of England! Film at 11!

The AA said the findings showed motorists were hostage to whatever prices retailers decided to charge.


"The South East is the most populated part of the country with the highest density of petrol stations and yet it is one of the most expensive regions for petrol, which suggests pricing isn\’t as competitive as you would expect."

See the clue in "most populated"?

Some retailers admitted that they knowingly sold customers more expensive petrol in certain parts of the country than others.

A spokesman for BP said it set petrol prices to compete "on local market conditions".

Tesco, one of Britain\’s largest petrol retailers, said that it did not have a set national price.

A spokesman said: "Our clear goal for customers is to endeavour to be competitive on petrol and diesel in the local catchments area for each store."

Quite. If costs vary across the country, and if also people do not drive from Leeds to London (or vice versa) just to fill up, then we\’ve got not a national market but a series of local ones which each reflect their own costs structures and the local supply and demand.

And the surprise is?

Good God!

Economic rationality from this government!

A stepping up by the Government, along with its international partners, of pressure on the Opec oil-exporting countries to increase production, forcing down fuel prices. A Whitehall source said: "Our hands are tied a bit here – if we cut petrol taxes there is no guarantee the savings would be passed on to the motorist."

Compare and contrast that with McCain\’s and Clinton\’s glib assumption that cutting the gas tax would pass straight through to consumers. For the answer is, of course, that it depends.


And We\’re Back!

Leetle power cut around here this morning.

So, without a computer, been and walked the dogs, done the shopping, filled in those bureaucratic forms I\’ve been putting aside, ablutions done, photos taken….it\’s amazing how much you can do in the real world when you\’re not playing with a keyboard, isn\’t it?