Them & Us

Boom and bust

Last year government business secretary Vince Cable boasted of rising output in Britain’s car industry as illustrating a recovering UK economy.

What Vince forgot to add was that it’s boom time for car bosses but job cuts, short-time working and pay freezes for car workers.

Last year 87,000 people worked in the UK’s auto industry, compared to 123,000 in 2004. And while wages for the lowest-paid 30% of car workers have fallen by 7.5% since 2009, the average pay of the highest paid directors at the UK’s six largest carmakers has rocketed by 34% in real terms.

Pay squeeze

What’s happening in the car industry is mirrored elsewhere. According to the government’s own figures real wages have continually fallen since the onset of the recession in 2008, as pay levels have been eroded by inflation.

Nuclear crap

The cost of clearing up the radioactive sludge at the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria is estimated at a staggering £70 billion.

But where there’s muck there’s brass, and the private consortium involved in the clean-up – Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) – is quids-in.

According to the Public Accounts Committee, the government granted a five-year extension to NMP’s contract last year despite being £2 billion over budget and accused of endless delays and costs spiralling out of control.

The government also passed up an opportunity to bring the clean-up operation back into public hands.

Slam dunk

UK Sport recently announced its funding for Olympic games. Canoeing got £20 million, sailing £25.5 million and equestrianism £18 million.

However, basketball – a large working class participation sport – had its budget cut from £8.5 million to zero.

As David Walsh, the Times sports writer, concluded: “To think Lord Coe sold London as an Olympic host able to inspire the youth to participate in sport. What a joke that now seems.”

Billionaires row

An estimated 800,000 people are on council housing waiting lists in London as the capital experiences its worse ever housing crisis.

At the same time there are at least 740 uninhabited mansions worth a combined value of £3.2 billion, enough to fund the building of more than 10,000 affordable homes.

There are 72,457 empty homes in London, of which 24,226 are classified as ‘long-term empty’.

According to empty homes ‘detective’ Paul Palmer: “Offshore investors are still using some of London’s finest homes as real-life Monopoly pieces, hiding behind solicitors and anonymous PO box accounts in places like the British Virgin Islands.”

Many of these mansions are left to rot, even though they could be compulsorily purchased and repaired and converted to flats. But local authorities won’t do so because of the spending cuts.