Fast news

Pay squeeze

Average take home pay is lower today than in 2004, according the BBC’s Panorama TV programme – The Big Squeeze – shown on 28 March. It reckoned that the average worker takes home £1,088 a year less than two years ago after adjusted for inflation.

What this shows is that the bosses have used the recession – with the attendant fear of unemployment – to drive down wages.

The sharpest drop in take home pay has been in the construction industry.

Unemployment and shrinking wage packets mean that 659,000 households are struggling to pay their mortgages, while 117,000 people are in arrears.

Big society funding

State indoctrination and David Cameron’s ‘big society’ may sound like polar opposites, but it seems they go hand in hand.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is being made to spend much of its funding on researching the ‘big society’.

Cameron’s big society idea is all about axing public services and instead to provide vital services on the cheap with volunteers or by privatising them.

For the past 90 years the ‘Haldane principle’ has allowed university academics to choose where research funds should be spent.

Now, however, research bodies must work to government objectives to be given public money.

According to the history director of research at Cambridge University, Peter Mandler, the AHRC was told it has to study the ‘big society’ in order to get its £100 million annual funding.

Though surely it won’t take much of that money to find out that ‘big society’ is really a ‘big con’.

Nuclear fallout

The political fallout from Japanese nuclear power disaster appears to have reached Germany after the ruling right-wing, pro-nuclear power party, the CDU and their FDP partners, suffered big reversals in last week’s state elections.

Chancellor Angela Merkel saw her CDU lose control of Baden- Wurttemberg to a coalition of Greens and social democrats after nearly 60 years. The election result in Baden-Wurttemberg also reflected voters’ opposition to the environmentally destructive urban renewal project called Stuttgart 21.

The ruling coalition also suffered reversals in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

The Greens, having recovered from their discredited governing coalition with the social democrats from 1998 to 2002, are now eyeing the city state of Berlin in forthcoming elections.

Merkel had attempted to take the wind out of the Greens’ sails by announcing, after the Fukushima disaster, the shutdown of the seven oldest of Germany’s 17 nuclear power stations, pending a three-month safety review.

She also imposed a moratorium on her government’s earlier decision to extend the operating life of nuclear power stations by a further 12 years, but to no avail.

Disappointingly, the Left party’s electoral drive appears to have stalled, failing to clear the 5% threshold necessary to get deputies elected.