The official starting gun has now been fired on the European Referendum campaign. From now until 23rd June it is going to be Europe at or near the top of news.
But while politicians and the media focus on what is obviously a very important issue for our country we mustn’t take our eye off the ball on what else is happening in Britain.
Here’s my alternative news service for things you might have missed in the past week because of the focus on Europe:
Persistent misconduct and miss-selling by Britain’s banks has cost them £53 billion in fines, compensation and legal fees over the last 15 years. It’s estimated that our four biggest banks will have to fork out a further £19 billion by the end of the year.
This is a simply staggering amount of money and shows the scale of wrongdoing that the banks were up to before the crash.
To put it into context, this amount of money would have paid for the 2012 Olympic Games eight times over. It would pay for George Osborne’s planned cuts to disability benefits for 55 years. It would keep the Port Talbot Steelworks running for 145 years. It would enable Ipswich Borough Council to run all its services for free for around 500 years.
The banks took the world economy down in 2008 and we’re still paying the price. We cannot ever let them get into this mess again.
The NHS has suffered its worst ever performance for the second month running.
More than 200,000 people had to wait over four hours to be treated in A&E. Over a quarter of a million people had to wait more than the supposed maximum 18 weeks for hospital treatment. The proportion of “Red 2” ambulance calls answered on time was the lowest since records began in 2012.
This is despite Britain having its warmest ever winter. Imagine what things might have been like if we had suffered a real cold snap.
Don’t expect things to get any better as Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt focuses all his efforts on his pointless and dangerous battle with the junior doctors.
Attack on the worst-off in our society
Iain Duncan Smith may have resigned but the monster that is his Universal Credit lives on.
The Tories did a u-turn on tax credit cuts but, in a little-noticed move at the time, decided to press ahead with similar cuts to Universal Credit. From this May, low paid working families will lose out by up to £200 a month.
It has also emerged that the Government is fining low paid workers on Universal Credit for not earning enough.
Under new “in-work conditionality” rules, if the Government thinks you could work more hours you can be required to attend job centre interviews every week or fortnight. If you don’t attend then the Government will “fine” you.
People who have been employed all their adult lives and who couldn’t get to the job centre because they were working are now being fined hundreds of pounds.
Whatever David Cameron says, these are not the actions of a Government that is on the side of low paid workers.
The European Referendum may be grabbing all the headlines but in the real world it’s very much business as usual.