Religiously selective schools criticised by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner


A new report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) has criticised religiously selective faith schools over their complex admissions rules, and has called on the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) to clarify which admissions procedures are allowed under the law. Read More »

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Debt is still the problem in this cost of living crisis


Debt, rather than earnings, is being used to cover living costs, writes Carl Packman

Kerry CatonajThe UK at long last has had a spate of good news stories about its finances: inflation has fallen, unemployment is down to a five year low of 22m, and on top of that some recent Resolution Foundation research has found that though an increasing number of the workforce are self-employed, the majority of them are content with this for now (the important words being for now).

However sadly there is a ‘but’. While this is all good news on the whole we do still have to ask ourselves whether we feel better off. As Shabana Mahmood MP said in her eloquent discussion with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight last night “people don’t live their lives on a graph”.  Read More »

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If we measure inflation by the RPI, real pay is still falling


If we measure inflation by the Retail Price Index – far more commonly used than CPI in pay bargaining – real pay is still falling, writes Richard Exell

The latest labour market statistics are positive, continuing an improving trend that began a year and a half ago. The headline figures are here.

Job Centre2jThese figures are going to be politically significant. I’ll leave the party-political aspect to the politicians, but we do need to worry about the calls we’re going to hear for higher interest rates.

The unemployment rate is now below the Bank of England’s 7 per cent threshold and earnings slightly above the Consumer Price Index in the latest inflation data. The argument will be that we need to “head off” inflationary pressures by raising the Bank Rate. Read More »

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Cost of living crisis over? Three things the Tory press won’t tell you this week


Recovery. What recovery? asks James Bloodworth

George Osborne nc1jDon’t believe the hype – the living standards crisis if far from over.

Glancing at the papers this week, or turning on the television news, you’d be forgiven for thinking that most Britons are living in a land of milk and honey thanks to the sterling work of chancellor George Osborne. “Cost of living fears groundless,” declared yesterday’s Daily Mail, while according to Guido Fawkes, Labour’s continued emphasis on living standards is “hilarious“.

Their arguments rest on a number of statistical releases that have come out this week – specifically inflation and jobs figures showing – which show that, after six long years, wages are finally catching up with inflation. Read More »

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Britain’s sharia councils and secular alternatives


sharia councils-1jThe secular legal system can uphold the rights of minority women forced to conform to patriarchal religious laws, writes Lejla Kuric

In a secular legal system, the right to hold religious beliefs is absolute. However, the right to manifest those religious beliefs is limited by the need to respect the autonomy and rights of others.

A religious or theocratic legal system, on the other hand, does not recognise such limitations – its notion of justice rests instead on the supremacy of its own revealed truths and the whims of the – invariably male – clerical authorities who interpret them. Read More »

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Villiers calls for new process to deal with Northern Ireland’s past


In a wide ranging speech to be delivered in Belfast today, Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers will call for a new process to address legacy issues, with a “proportionate focus on the wrongdoing of paramilitaries”.

Theresa VilliersjArguing that so far too great an emphasis has been placed on wrongdoing committed by the state, she will use the speech to explain: Read More »

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Unemployment down 77,000 to 2.24 million


Unemployment decreased by 77,000 from September to November 2013 to 2.33 million, with the unemployment rate now at 6.9 per cent, today’s labour market statistics reveal. Read More »

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A crisis made in Downing Street: one MILLION people visit food banks


Is that what the government calls a recovery? asks James Bloodworth

Almost one million people had to rely on a food bank for emergency food aid in the past year, according to figures released today by the Trussell Trust.

Food banks imagej913,138 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust food banks in 2013-14, compared to 346,992 in 2012-13. According to the chairman of the Trussell Trust, these figures are the “tip of the iceberg”.

To put it starkly, in the sixth largest economy in the world almost a million people are now unable to afford enough to eat, a savage indictment of the coalition if ever there was one. Read More »

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Five interesting stories about Trident


The fate of the UK’s nuclear weapon system will be decided in the next few years. Whether to renew Trident and what defensive posture to take will be the subjects of internal party debates when manifesto writing, when preparing for the NPT Review Conference in 2015 and when Parliament votes on the ‘Main Gate’ decision on Trident replacement in 2016.

Trident ncjBut there have been some interesting stories about Trident in the press of late. Here are just a few: Read More »

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America: Clinton takes on the court


It was a measure of how tedious coverage of the 2016 presidential race has already become that so much of last week’s news cycle in the US focussed on Hillary Clinton’s encounter with a stray shoe. Numerous outlets covered how Clinton handled the assault, as well as the identity of her attacker.

As it happened, Clinton’s brush with the offending footwear came just days after she made one of her most political interventions in months.  Read More »

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