As with most Blairite schemes it is couched in the most sanctimonious language: a new "age of giving", a "new civic patriotism", a "decade of giving" and so on. It is meant to sound so caring and compassionate.
The Treasury estimate the measure will provide charities with an extra £l billion by 2002 and will redress the fall in charitable donations.
But behind the pious talk is the government's determination to stick to the former Tory government's income tax and public spending levels. Instead of raising taxes on the rich the government is encouraging the voluntaty sector to do more in alleviating the worst problems caused by state underfunding of public services, while just a bit of extra cash comes from the government to fund the tax relief scheme.
For the wealthy minority it signals the continuation of the low-taxes-for-the-rich policy that has lasted since Thatcher came to office in 1979. And while some more money may be raised for charities, this is a voluntary option that will never match the sums which a policy of progressive taxation could raise.
For the majority of people it signals something else -- a continuation of underfunding by the government of all those services and facilities which have been slashed, and even destroyed completely, over the past two decades and it indicates that all we're going to get is piecemeal handouts from the voluntary sector.
Above all it elevates cold-handed charity above the need to defend a decent social wage. It ignores the fact that all the wealth there is in the world has been created by the hands and brains of worldng people. Then it offers workers some tiny pittance of alms out of the wealth the idle rich have taken away for themselves.
There is nothing caring or compassionate about ring-fencing the vast fortunes of the very rich by forcing the least well-off, the sick and the old to appeal for help to charities.
It is scandalous that so much medical research needs to be supported by good-hearted people rattling tins in our High Streets. And it is shameful that a prosperous country in the 21st century should be trying to expand its voluntary sector and preaching about the vi rtues of "giving" in order to provide the necessities of life for its citizens.
Most of us are giving all the time -- giving ourtime, our energy, our skills. More and more workers are being badgered into working long hours and are suffering increasing levels of stress. The gains from all this, together with the gains from new technology, are making fortunes for the bosses and the rest of the parasitic leisured class which rakes in the super profits.
It is often argued that the country can't afford decent pensions, a decent health service, adequately maintained and resourced schools, the range of local services we had just a few decades ago. This is what the ruling capitalist class would like us to believe.
It is false on two counts. Firstly that the wealth of this country is notjust the money in the Chancellor's pockets. Most of the wealth of Britain lies out of sight in private pockets, bank accounts, share certificates, bonds, offshore tax havens and property. The lion's share of this wealth is in a very few hands and the gap between the richest and the poorest is growing wider all the time. In a capitalist society like Britain, income tax is the only way this wealth can be reached and social provision funded.
Secondly, even the revenue that is in the Chancellor's pocket gets wasted on anti-working class projects such as Trident nuclear weapons and costly wars against workers in other countries. And yet, like the rich, these things are ring-fenced by every government and the costs hardly ever mentioned or questioned.
Mr Brown, we don't want your alms, we want an end to your arms. We want a reformed taxation system not a bigger begging bowl and we certainly don't want any pious lectures about "giving" -- we've already been bled enough!
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THE GOVERNMENT last week drew up plans to sell off the work of three Labour-controlled local education authorities which were deemed to have been failing.
And in the same week, Chris Woodhead, the controversial chief inspector of the Government's education watchdog Ofsted, condemned 23 out of 59 LEAs as failing in their duties -- indicating that the Government intends to step up the process of privatising the administration of education in England and Wales.
Another 92 LEAs are yet to be inspected but many of these are expected to "fail".
Woodhead said that the 23 were found to be wasting public money and making it harder for schools to raise standards.
And he had particularly harsh words for the three that are to be sold off now: Leeds, Rotherham and Sheffield. Sheffield is the constituency of Education Secretary David Blunkett.
Schools minister Estelle Morris announced a big drive to recruit more (management) consultants to help with the expected increase in "interventions" (sell offs).
The three Yorkshire LEAs now being put into the private sector will have outside consultants appointed to them and some functions will be privatised though Ms Morris called it "outsourcing".
Another three LEAs, Liverpool, Hackney and Islington, have already been sold off.
The list of complaints against the failing LEAs is predictable: councillors competing for funds for schools in their own wards, poor repair of buildings to the point where teaching is impaired and so on.
There obviously has been some bad management of resources but it is even plainer that the local authorities are battling against ever dwindling budgets.
Cuts to education budgets have been going on now for two decades and it is this which lies at the root of the LEA's problems.
Meanwhile the schools and LEAs have faced ever increasing demands with the introduction of the national curriculum, continual changes to if sats tests, Ofsted inspections and exam league tables.
It is no wonder that morale is low in some LEAs.
But it is amazing that anyone should think that people from the business sector who have no experience or undestanding of education should be able to improve things when those who have worked in education for years cannot.
It is almost like sacking bus drivers because they can't make their vehicles go properly without petrol and imagining that bringing in newsagents will be able to do the trick.
But that of course is looking at it from the point of view of pupils and parents. The business sector looks at it from only one point of view -- is there a profit to be made? And if there is, they will be very efficient at doing that and in their terms it will be a success.
Chris Woodhead gave a clue as to where the would-be profit makers are really setting their sights when he warned that many middle class schools are "coasting".
He accused teachers of complacency and failing children in middle class schools, despite apparently good exam results.
He said the "hidden crisis in the leafy suburbs" will be revealed soon.
David Blunkett is now to make it easier for schools to fail -- and so become eligible for throwing to the private sector -- by introducing a new category of inspections for those that are apparently doing well.
From now on, schools deemed not to be pushing their pupils hard enough will be marked as "under-achieving".
There will also be refresher courses for teachers thought to be stuck in their ways, which heads will be able to use as part of an "MoT" for teachers half way through their careers.
Teaching unions hotly denied complacency among teachers. National Union of Teachers general secretary Doug McAvoy said: "One reason they don't trust the Government is because it has failed to have a programme of professional development as of right. Instead it targets individual teachers for the purposes of spin rather than real educational development."
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by Caroline Colebrook
WAGES for young people living in rural areas are significantly lower than for their counterparts in towns and their long-term career prospects are dismal, according to two reports published last Monday.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation surveyed more than 1,000 people between 18 and 25 and round that while young people in rural areas are less likely to suffer long-term unemployment, they tend to be more socially excluded and have fewer opportunities for training.
And a survey conducted by Glasgow and Edinburgh universities round that rural employers have less knowledge about training and are reluctant to take on employees who have long or complex journeys to work.
The sort of work on offer is more likely to be very low paid, unsatisfying, seasonal or part-time.
There are few chances for young people to develop a career or realise their potential.
Even those employers who are aware of Government training schemes give reasons for not getting involved.
Young women find it easier to get settled work but this is often in tourism and service industries.
Most rural employers do not employ a large workforce and many rely heavily on seasonal workers.
Few young people find seasonal or part-time work a stepping stone to a proper full-time job.
The costs and scarcity of public transport are a barrier to many young people finding work.
Fred Cartmel, author of the report, carried out research in four types of rural community in Scotland.
He said: "It may be lovely waking up to look at a beautiful view but the quality oflife is only better in rural areas if you are well off. If you haven't got the money, you are farther from shops, facilities and opportunities.
"Mr Blair is saying that rural areas are all the same. He's not taken on board that, as we have shown from the four rural areas in our study, they are very different."
The research also showed that housing was a major problem and that the fact that many young people remain in their parental home well into their adulthood, disguised levels of poverty.
Co-author Stephen Pavis said: "The lack of diversity in the rural labour market was a major issue for young people.
"Those who lacked qualifications found themselves trapped in poorly-paid, low quality employment. Simply getting a job was not enough to avoid being socially excluded.
"Low incomes meant owner occupation was beyond their reach and they were not judged a high enough priority for the public sector housing available."
Another report from the New Policy Institute found that one in ten rural people live below the poverty line and that low incomes can mean the experience of poverty in rural areas is worse than in cities.
Living among comparatively wealthy people who can afford to choose to live in the countryside, means there are far fewer facilities for the rural poor.
Again, the low level of public transport makes for a dismal quality of life.
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by Our Middle East Affairs correspondent
LEBANESE resistance forces are continuing to attack Israeli and puppet troop positions in the occupied south despite daily Israeli air-raids across the entire south of the country.
Two Israeli soldiers have been killed and a number of Israelis and "South Lebanese Army" auxiliaries wounded by the guerrillas this week. Israeli warplanes are continuing to bomb villages they claim are guerrilla bases and others hit power stations right across Lebanon, cutting off the power to the Lebanese capital for a time.
Lebanese Hezbullah (Party of God) guerrillas vowed on Tuesday to keep hitting Israeli soldiers occupying southern Lebanon, undeterred by Israeli attacks that destroyed three Lebanese power stations.
"Last night's Zionist aggression will not protect troops of the occupation in the occupied zone...the occupation soldiers will remain steady targets for the bombs, rockets and ambushes of our fighters," a Hezbullah statement said.
"We reserve the right to respond in the appropriate time which might be very soon. The enemy will not be able to impose a new formula in the confrontation field," Hezbullah said referring to Israel's attempts to deter attacks on its soldiers by hitting the Lebanese economy.
Northern Israel is under a state of emergency and the settlers are taking cover in their shelters fearful of Hezbullah rocket attacks while others have left for safety in central Israel.
Lebanese Electricity Minister Sleiman Trabousli said after touring the wreckage of the Jumhour power station on the outskirts of Beirut -- the third time it has been raided by Israel since 1996 -- that all three stations bombed in the midnight assault had been destroyed.
"Rationing will be harsh," Traboulsi told a Lebanese public that had suffered through last summer with severe power shortages following an Israeli onslaught in June. It will be a blow to an economy already in recession. But it will do nothing to quell the rising temper amongst the south Lebanese Arabs who want the Israelis out, and want them out now.
In his rage Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak -- the man who won last year's election pledging to pull the troops out of Lebanon by this summer and sign peace treaties with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians by the end of the year -- has reverted to the old Israeli policy of brute force.
Tel Aviv admits that no progress has been made on the Syrian or the Palestinian tracks. The Syrian talks are stalled and the Palestinians are still trying to get the Israelis to honour their last interim withdrawal, now months overdue.
Barak blames the Syrians but it's the stubborn refusal of his Labour-led government to accept that peace can only come with a total withdrawal from all the occupied territories that has led to the deadlock and the current bloodshed in Lebanon.
This was recognised by the European Union's peace envoy, Miguel Angel Moratinos, who told the press on Monday that peace in the Middle East is not attainable unless Israel totally withdraws from Syria's Golan Heights.
He could have added that this goes for south Lebanon; the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well. But at the moment the focus is on Lebanon. The Israeli government is still saying it intends to withdraw from southern Lebanon in the summer -- with or without an agreement. The Lebanese resistance have said they will fight on until that day comes and Hezbullah seem determined to see Barak quit the south with his tail between his legs.
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by Steve Lawton
YEARS of hard and painful political graft fashioning the Irish peace process, are now under serious threat as the Northern Ireland Assembly is held to ransom over the IRA's so-called failure to begin decommissioning weapons.
If a solution to this crisis isn't found by today, the Northern Ireland Bill is expected to come into force suspending the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly institutions. Westminster thereby re-imposes direct rule.
The Ulster Unionist Party's (UUP) demand that the IRA begin to disarm, imposing a timetable in breach of the Good Friday Agreement that coincides with the UUP's council meeting tomorrow, excludes the overwhelming military power of the occupying British troops, the RUC and Loyalist organisations.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, wherever he has been speaking over recent days -- on Ulster Radio and TV and on the BBC's Newsnight programme -- he has given a very pointed and stark message for the immediate future.
Despite two statements by the IRA over the last fortnight to categorically reiterate its defence of the peace process, and the clear reaffirmation of maintaining the ceasefire with silent guns remaining silent Unionists are set on pushing Sinn Fein a step too far. Yet another statement is being demanded.
On BBC Radio Ulster last Tuesday he said that the present crisis "has to be resolved definitely and conclusively." Sinn Fein has, he said, "honoured [its] commitments under the [Good Friday] Agreement.
"We have gone much further than that and there is a collective responsibility in all of this, for all of the parties and the [British and Irish] governments to sort it out."
This would prevent a crisis, he said, but "if the institutions are collapsed, if we go into review, then this party and this party leader is going to sit back and reflect in a very contemplative way what role I have to play as a messenger who continuously gets shot."
The Continuity IRA-claimed bombing of Mahon's Hotel, Irvinestown, County Fermanagh last Sunday, provided an ill-timed weapon for anti-Agreement unionists to stoke up anti-Republican sentiment.
There is an unfortunate coincidence of anti-Agreement unionists, disaffected elements like Continuity IRA, combined with the actions of the British government in failing, yet again, to contain the destabilising strategy of hardline unionism that is pushing the peace process over the edge.
It remains to be seen whether there is an eleventh hour solution defining the IRA within the overall requirement of demilitarisation, beginning particularly with a British military scaling down. Normalisation cannot otherwise proceed.
It would be a dire irony to think that the current first Bill going through the Assembly on disability should abruptly end with the real danger of a return to open conflict.
Sinn Fein has a democratic mandate under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement which the referendum endorsed by over 70 per cent in a cross-community vote -- and it has adhered to it.
The effect of taking away that absolutely legitimately attained starting block for Ireland's tomorrow, bringing both communities together, will be measured in a horrendous cost of lives yet known.
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