You can’t silence the data when it’s so deafening: The poor have borne the cost of tax and welfare reforms.

This article was published in Left Foot Forward.

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The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published today the distributional results for the effects of tax and welfare reforms since 2010. The report presents the disaggregated impact of the changes made to Income Tax, NICs, VAT, social security benefits, tax credits, Universal Credit, and National Minimum and Living Wages.

The data is both illuminating and excruciating.

Let’s start with the good news (Figure 1). The top 10% paid a little bit extra through indirect taxes (VAT and others), and the introduction of the National Living Wage had a positive impact across the board, but more so for the bottom half of society.

And now the rest. The largest cash gains from Income Tax and NICs went to the wealthiest, particularly the top 30%. The poorest adults did not get much out of it either because they were not in work or because they did not earn enough to notice the tax changes.

The most regressive impact came from benefit and tax credits and from universal credit. Households in the second and third decile (those who have to look upwards to find 70-90% of the people) lost more than twice as much as those in the top 20%. The roll out of the universal credit has led to further cash losses.

If we add up the good news and the bad ones, the conclusion is that, while everyone has lost some money, not everyone has lost the same. Net cash losses for the bottom 40% have been about £1,500 per year. For the nearly wealthiest ones (decile 9), the average cash loss has been £200. Continue reading “You can’t silence the data when it’s so deafening: The poor have borne the cost of tax and welfare reforms.”

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Pido una oportunidad para votar por Espanya

Este artículo fue publicado en El Huffington Post.Kid under the catalan flag

 

La noche del 1 de octubre entrevistaron brevemente a un votante del no en un canal de televisión estatal. Se trataba de un joven andaluz, casado con una catalana y padre de dos niñas. Había llegado a Catalunya seis años atrás y decía haber sido muy bien acogido. Visiblemente conmocionado, tras señalar el sentido de su voto nuestro protagonista se lamentaba: “Hoy siento que me han dejado sin argumentos”.

Este hombre y millones más necesitan recuperar esos argumentos. Es más, después de semanas de tensión y angustia, de la DUI y del 155, creo que no me pongo excesivamente dramático si escribo que los necesita la sociedad española en su conjunto.

Aunque no sabemos el número exacto, parece que cerca de dos millones de catalanes se expresaron por la independencia el 1 de octubre. Voces desde Catalunya sostienen que mucha gente, especialmente jóvenes, ya han desconectado de España. Para estas personas no habría solución que no fuera quirúrgica. Es posible que así se sienta parte de la población pero me niego a aceptar que sea el caso de la mayoría. Es más, aunque lo fuera, seguiríamos obligados a buscar y agotar los espacios de entendimiento.

En esta encrucijada constitucional e identitaria un referéndum en Catalunya puede ser lo mejor que nos pase. Tengo dos razones que procedo a exponer a continuación. Continue reading “Pido una oportunidad para votar por Espanya”

El Estado de Derecho tiene una hermana de la que apenas hablamos

Estado-autonomico-Derecho-Constitucional-1140x419Este artículo fue publicado en Agenda Pública

Pueblo y Democracia tuvieron mellizos, niño él, niña ella. Son iguales en peso, altura y grado hereditario, pero no les queremos por igual. El niño se llama Estado de Derecho. La niña, Soberanía Parlamentaria.

Vaya mi tesis por delante. Sostengo que si reconociéramos el mismo valor al Estado de Derecho y a la Soberanía Parlamentaria, la respuesta institucional pero sobre todo ciudadana al contencioso en Catalunya sería distinta.

Si el Estado es de Derecho la sociedad entera, gobernantes incluidos, está sometida a la ley y el papel de los jueces es velar por que así sea. Pero en democracia no nos basta con afirmar que la ley hay que cumplirla. Necesitamos que la ley sea legítima. Y la legitimidad deviene de que la voluntad popular quede reflejada en ella. Mientras no nos inventemos algo mejor, la voluntad de 7,5 o de 46 millones de personas sólo puede conocerse a través de algún mecanismo de representación. Eso es el parlamento, que debe ser soberano, es decir, debe tener poder de decisión sobre el conjunto.

Tanto el Estado de Derecho como la Soberanía Parlamentaria son pilares esenciales pero mantener el equilibrio entre ambos no siempre es fácil. Requiere una actitud responsable y consciente. El Pueblo democráticamente representado se compromete a preservar la independencia de los jueces, y éstos por su parte respetan la supremacía del parlamento.

Jueces y parlamentarios son por lo tanto garantes de una misma libertad. Cumplir con dicha misión es de una trascendencia inconmensurable que exige un ejercicio de autocontrol permanente. Los parlamentarios han de ser conscientes de que no todo lo pueden, y los jueces han de respetar que su poder no proviene de la Facultad de Derecho sino de la voluntad popular. Continue reading “El Estado de Derecho tiene una hermana de la que apenas hablamos”

The socio-economic duty: a human rights remedy against austerity and inequality

 

This post was published in the blog of The Baring Foundation

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The Scottish government is currently consulting on the implementation of Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010, which would require public bodies to consider when making decisions how they would reduce the equalities of outcome resulting from socio-economic disadvantage. Just Fair is one of the organisations leading the #1forEquality campaign to urge the UK government to do the same.

The UK is a very unequal society. While the share of income in the top 20% has remained approximately stable since the early 1990s, the share of the top 1% continuously increased well into the 2000s. There are significant gaps between ethnic groups, with the median income of a family of Bangladeshi origin 35% below that of a white British household. Inequality is most evident in the distribution of wealth: The richest 1,000 people accumulate more wealth than the poorest 40% of households.

The austerity policies implemented by successive UK governments have been strongly criticised by independent international human rights bodies.

In summer 2016 the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed serious concernsabout “the disproportionate adverse impact that austerity measures, introduced since 2010, are having on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups”.

Last August the Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities described the situation in the UK as a “human catastrophe”: “Each disabled person is losing between £2,000 and £3,000 per year; people are pushed into work situations without being recognised as vulnerable, and the evidence that we [the UN Committee] had in front of us was just overwhelming”.

Like all other countries, the UK is expected to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015, including the 10th one, whereby governments pledged to ensure equal opportunity and to reduce inequalities of outcome between and within countries.

However, because of its comparatively low investment in education and a regressive tax structure, the UK does not rank highly when it comes to the commitment to reduce inequality.

The UK must change course soon but luckily we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 imposes a duty on public bodies, when making strategic decisions, to consider how they can reduce the inequalities of outcome that result from socioeconomic disadvantage.

To take effect, though, this provision requires a formal decision by the Government to activate it, or as is known technically, to commence it.

Despite being at the forefront of the Act, successive governments have failed to bring the socioeconomic equality duty into force. As a result of the Government’s inaction in this regard, in the mentioned 2016 report the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights concluded that the UK was not doing everything within its power to tackle discrimination in relation to these rights.

Thankfully the Scottish Government is committed to introducing the socioeconomic duty before the end of the year, and has launched a consultation about what this duty should mean in practice. At the end of this process, Scotland will become the first part of the UK to bring the socioeconomic equality duty to life. Continue reading “The socio-economic duty: a human rights remedy against austerity and inequality”

Seize the moment, because Britain needs a broad movement for social rights

This article was published first in The Human Rights Essay

Britain is a very unequal society and austerity has seriously damaged our welfare system and our social fabric.

UN bodies have issued damning reports about the state of human rights in our country. Last year, for example, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights strongly criticised “the disproportionate adverse impact that austerity measures, introduced since 2010, are having on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups”.

Senior see the empty purse

We are witnessing historical changes in politics and society in general. The mentioned UN report came out only three days after the referendum. As I write this, the Government continues to refuse to bring into the UK law the rights contained in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which includes some social rights. Unless Parliament introduces the necessary amendments, citizens will no longer be allowed to demand the enforcement of the rights as recognised in the Charter. In the meantime, the Government is determined to deliver a heavy blow to democracy with power grabbing Henry VII clauses, and fails to dispel the suspicion that they would like to see lower and fewer employment rights once EU law is off the table.

Whatever one thinks of the reasons why people voted out and of the prospects of leaving the European Union, there is no question: Defending social rights is now more pressing than ever. Continue reading “Seize the moment, because Britain needs a broad movement for social rights”

SDGs and Economic & Social Rights under the Brexit Uncertainty

cover spotlight sdg 2017 reportThis text introduces the UK chapter of the Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2017 international report, with other contributions from Social Watch, Third World Network, the Global Policy Forum and the Center for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, among others. 

“While the Sustainable Development Goals themselves are not framed explicitly in the language of human rights, virtually all of the Goals correspond to the contents of key economic, social and cultural rights.”—UN Secretary-General, December 2016

This report examines the progressive realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and economic and social rights in the UK. Specifically, it focuses on three issues: a) the impact of welfare reforms on the right to an adequate standard of living; b) substantive equality; and c) human rights-based accountability for the implementation of the SDGs.

The present and future of economic and social rights in the UK will depend considerably on the legal and policy consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. In March, the UK communicated formally its intention to leave the EU, and the negotiations only began in late June. What follows will therefore frame economic and social rights in the context of the uncertainty derived from Brexit.

Author: Koldo Casla

Read more…

International human rights can help reverse yet another heavy blow on sexual and reproductive health

My Body My ChoiceThis article was published first in UK Human Rights Blog

Women’s sexual and reproductive rights are not safe and accessible in all corners of the United Kingdom.

Abortion is still a crime in Northern Ireland. Women who choose to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights have to travel to mainland Britain, but they have to face costs (about £900 in this recent case) that would not apply if they lived in England, Wales or Scotland.

By a majority of 3 to 2, the Supreme Court has ruled that, while this situation does in principle concern the right to enjoy a private and family life without discrimination (Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights), the difference in treatment is justified because the decision on this matter falls under the powers of the devolved administration of Northern Ireland (paragraph 20 of the Judgment). And therefore the human rights of women living in Northern Ireland are not being breached.

Well, international human rights bodies beg to differ. Continue reading “International human rights can help reverse yet another heavy blow on sexual and reproductive health”