back to top
Politics

The Government Sneaked Out All Its Bad News Today

Pay attention! It's Take Out the Trash Day.

Posted on

In tribute to a West Wing episode where a vast amount of bad news is dumped to avoid scrutiny, it's been dubbed "Take out the Trash Day" .

On the very last day of the parliamentary year, the government traditionally publishes hundreds of documents and announcements, just when there are fewer journalists and MPs to scrutinise them.

Perhaps every one of the 400 reports, statements, and data releases that were published on Thursday simply weren't ready until today.

An alternative explanation is the government is very happy to publish all these documents at a time when most MPs are heading home and the country is distracted.

The idea is that there's so much to analyse, at least some of the bad news will be missed, but even if it's picked up, the negative reaction will be drowned out.

These are just some of things the government announced on Take Out the Trash Day:

1. The vast majority of those affected by the bedroom tax had to cut down on food to make up for the reduction in housing benefit.

The bedroom tax, which reduced benefits for social housing residents who have spare rooms, was implemented in 2013 and affected hundreds of thousands of people. The long-awaited report into the impact of the cuts was finally published on Take Out the Trash Day, and was carried out by the independent research organisation Ipsos Mori along with the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research.

More than three-quarters of those affected by the bedroom tax said they were forced to cut down on food to afford the additional costs, while almost half also said they had to find ways to cut down their energy bill. A third said they had to reduce the amount they spent on transport as result of the additional burden.

2. The government bill for political special advisers has continued to increase.

The government has repeatedly delayed the publication of the spad list – the list of special advisers and other appointments who serve ministers' political interests while being paid by the public.

After the 2010 general election an updated list of advisers and salaries was published within a month but this time the government has waited until Take Out the Trash Day – seven months after the election – to publish the details.

They show the total bill for 2015-16 will be £9.2 million, with some staff earning up to £140,000. Chancellor George Osborne has been allowed to employ 10 staff as part of his beefed-up political operation, although aides insist this reflects him taking responsibility for all Treasury political advisers following the end of the coalition government with the Lib Dems.

3. The long-awaited report into the Muslim Brotherhood has finally been published, almost two years after it was announced.

A review into the actions of Islamic political group the Muslim Brotherhood was ordered by David Cameron in April 2014. The government has been criticised for constantly delaying the publication of the document but finally decided to release its findings on Take Out the Trash Day. David Cameron said the report showed the organisation has a "highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism".

4. The government finally released an updated list of ministers' potential conflicts of interest.

The government has not published a list of ministers' interests since October 2013 but has chosen to release an updated version on Take Out the Trash Day. The list sets out non-governmental positions held by ministers and their potential conflicts of interest. It was accompanied by a raft of other data showing ministerial visits and gifts over recent months.

5. The government published hospitality records showing George Osborne had a private dinner with Rupert Murdoch in September.

In common with many departments, the Treasury published a detailed breakdown of meetings for all its ministers on Take Out the Trash day. It reveals that the chancellor met with media magnate Rupert Murdoch and his colleague Robert Thompson for dinner on 13 September, the day after Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader.

In the same week Osborne dined with Telegraph owner Aidan Barclay, representatives from the BBC and HSBC, and the Chinese ambassador. The records also show he was given an iPhone 6S by Apple – although departmental rules mean he wasn't allowed to keep it.

6. The government confirmed the badger cull will continue.

The government said it had killed over 1,400 badgers across the South West of England in the last year as it attempts to stop the spread of bovine TB, which affects cattle and is carried by badgers. Opponents insist there is little link between culling badgers and reducing the level of bovine TB and have made a habit of very publicly protesting similar decisions in the past.

7. The government announced a mass expansion of licences for fracking for shale gas.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth confirmed that licences are being offered to companies to start looking for and extracting shale gas from 159 areas in England and Wales. "This licensing round will see the great majority of the UK's shale prospectivity licensed to be explored and tested," said the peer.

Labour MP Lisa Nandy said: "This afternoon [the energy secretary] snuck out that fracking companies will be awarded licences to explore for shale gas underneath our precious national parks. It's a disgrace that the government is ignoring all the risks to the environment and serious public concern."

8. The government admitted air quality will remain poor in major UK cities until 2020.

British cities will continue to have poor air quality until 2020, the government has said, announcing its intention to ban certain types of vehicles from major cities. This comes after the government was found to have been breaking the law since 2010 by allowing a harmful level of pollution to continue in city centres, which is blamed for thousands of premature deaths. It chose to publish its final response to the April ruling on the final day of the parliamentary term – just in advance of the 31 December deadline.

9. The government confirmed that court charges for many cases will rise.

The government announced it is going to increase the cost of court charges in civil law cases by 10% – meaning the price of justice could increase in many non-criminal cases. "Fees are never popular, but they are necessary if we are to reduce the burden of the courts and tribunals on the taxpayer," said the government.

It will also introduce a £20 charge to challenge a tax penalty decision. Lord Faulks said the initial plan to charge £100 was deemed too high.

10. The government formally accepted a report into failings at an NHS trust.

A report into the deaths of over a thousand people with learning difficulties or mental health problems was released by NHS England on Thursday, and found that an NHS foundation trust failed to properly investigate and learn from the deaths.

As a result, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that there will be a review into the way deaths are investigated in future, and the chief executive of Southern Health, Katrina Percy, apologised "unreservedly" for failings in how it had dealt with the deaths.

She said, "We fully accept that our processes for reporting and investigating deaths of people with learning disabilities and mental health needs were not always as good as they should have been."

11. The government confirmed plans to limit the power of the House of Lords.

The House of Lords would lose the power to block certain legislation under government plans announced on Take Out the Trash Day, commissioned by David Cameron after the upper house blocked government plans to cut tax credits. Under the proposal the House of Commons would have the final say on all secondary legislation, avoiding the need for a confrontation in the Lords, where the Conservatives do not have a majority.

Labour MP Graham Allen said, "The casual, undemocratic way in which these proposals have been produced is completely inappropriate to the gravity of the matters it addresses."

12. The government confirmed cuts to local government budgets.

Local councils will see their funding fall by 6.7% in real terms over the course of this parliament, the government announced on Take Out the Trash Day, after coming to a deal with local authorities. The deal, which the government said will give councils the ability to plan in the long term, will also come with £3.5 billion of additional funding for adult social care.

13. The government confirmed that ministerial cars cost over £6 million last year.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon confirmed that the government spent £6.325 million on ministerial cars in 2014-15. He said, "We are committed to continue reducing the cost to the taxpayer of the provision of secure ministerial cars."

14. The government confirmed plans for substantial cuts to green energy subsidies.

Government funding for household solar panels has been cut by two-thirds in a bid to save hundreds of millions of pounds. The move is predicted to cost thousands of jobs in the industry, although the government insists it is an uneconomical way of shifting to green energy. "We cannot afford to continue providing unchecked support for the renewables industry via demand-led schemes," said energy secretary Amber Rudd.

Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Jim Waterson at jim.waterson@buzzfeed.com.

Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.

Contact Jamie Ross at jamie.ross@buzzfeed.com.

Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Siraj Datoo at siraj.datoo@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.