Tag Archives: David Cameron

Pls send this letter to your coalition MP

24 Jun

They lie and lie and they lie again . . . hold the Con Dems to account for their disgraceful, self serving distortions

The SKWAWKBOX

There has been a big response from readers to the two recent posts (here and here) on the response of Tory MPs to questions from their constituents about the government’s blatant abuse of statistics (i.e. lies, since they continue to repeat them even after the UK Statistics Authority rebuked them and told them not to repeat the claims).

In particular, the fact that most MPs who bothered to respond had clearly simply cut and pasted their response from a Conservative Central template, as the wording was identical, and the fact that even this response completely failed to address the questions raised, caused much outrage.

I would therefore like to enlist your help to send a letter or email to every coalition MP that cuts out – or at least renders overtly embarrassing – the option of doing the same thing in response. Hopefully, the wording of this new…

View original post 356 more words

The Eton sociopath and the craven coward

21 Jun

NB It is with great sadness that we are taking down the previous post on the hunger striker George Rolph.  We feel we cannot endorse him for many reasons which we cannot get into here, although many of you will have heard about the issues involved.  However, at the end of that post was a long list of atos, government and bbc bod’s addresses which we feel are still useful if you wish to protest or simply to cost atos money.   There was also a guide to answering questions at the WCA which is a useful resource.  We are therefore simply going to retain these elements and you will then be able to find them as our blog post ‘More resources’.  M and L x

Warning:  After innocently opening my Guardian on Saturday to see a two page spread of smirking embodiment of evil David Cameron I was put right off my breakfast.  So I think it only fair to warn you that this piece contains images both of aforementioned persecutor of the poor and his opposite number, the dark prince of the Oxbridge careerists who have hijacked and stolen the Labour party, Ed Miliband.  BUT readers, as always, after this short (I promise!) comment piece, stay tuned and I’ll link you to a really excellent benefits guide.

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It is making me very tired to write this.  Tired and sad.  However, we’re here to comment as well as advise and so I’ll try to fully express my feelings of despair, disgust and anger at David Cameron’s most recent antics.

DC claimed at the recent Conservative Party conference in Scotland that the changes to benefits which are devastating millions of lives and ending thousands were both ‘Fair and compassionate’.  I can’t help thinking here of the recent reports of the Eton entrance exam essay question:

o-ETON-COLLEGE-EXAM-570

David Cameron doesn’t really think the ‘reforms’ are fair and compassionate.  He doesn’t give a shit.  This is simply, as Laurie Penny puts it in this brilliant piece: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/05/eton-scholarship-question-how-british-elite-are-trained-think, simply how the elite are trained to think.  They are experts in double speak.  They can justify anything.  That doesn’t mean it is just.  DC’s line at the conference was that reforms were ‘compassionate’ because they would ‘help people get back on their feet’.  Also that the current system had led to people out of work doing better than those in work (1. simply untrue; 2. even if it was true, the solution is a living wage, not cuts to benefits, because that’s one of the many, many scandals he’s trying to obfuscate; the fact that people working full time still can’t afford the basic necessities).

This is spurious and amoral on so many levels.  The man is a monster.  Yet again, he fudges the issue that the majority of benefits are paid to people IN WORK (hello again, lack of a living wage and a bit of working dignity!).  Yet again, he fudges the fact that there are around 400 000 available jobs to go round MILLIONS of people; yet again, because he conveniently doesn’t mention this, he can lie again and claim our national troubles are all because of poor people and immigrants, rather than telling the truth that the reason there are no jobs is down to HIS people, the banks and corporations for whom profit is the only imperative.  Still worse, he knows full well these reforms do the opposite of ‘getting people back on their feet’.  They kill people.  They terrorise the sick and disabled with a ‘revolving door’ of sham medicals driven by targets rather than the truth followed by appeals followed almost immediately by medicals again (or in some cases, whilst the previous decision is still under appeal).  They force people to work for nothing (thereby taking even more jobs off the market).  They have no problem with welfare for rich people, with companies given fat handouts for denying disability (atos) and offering worthless workfare ‘placements’ (numerous; see http://www.boycottworkfare.org/ for up to date details).  They take all financial support away for up to THREE YEARS if claimants don’t dance to their every tune, including handing over PASSWORDS TO PERSONAL EMAILS (see http://skwalker1964.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/major-dwp-ujm-security-flaw-but-forces-claimants-to-use-anyway/).  My partner’s brother, who lives in Bradford, has been sanctioned 8 times; the latest ‘jobseeker direction’ he faces is travelling to either York or Harrogate, both over 40 miles away, to participate in a full time workfare scheme.  When asked about how he was supposed to afford this, he was told to use his JSA.  When he then correctly pointed out that that would only cover part of his travelling costs (this assuming he used ALL his JSA to pay for travel, and so wouldn’t be able to eat or anything) he was told his mum could help him out.  His mum is disabled and on benefits herself, and that is beside the point anyway; the sheer arrogance of them, assuming that his mother 1. CAN and 2. SHOULD be able to help him financially so he can jump as high as the DWP wants.  He is being asked not just to work for nothing; worse, he’s being asked to PAY to work.  To STARVE to work.  And his mum’s benefits are calculated (and meagrely at that) to meet HER needs, so she can afford to live.  There IS nothing to spare, and every time he is sanctioned the household budgets teeter precariously on the brink of collapse as family who are poor themselves rally round to keep him from going hungry.  Meanwhile, his mum is afraid to even leave the house because there’s a woman down the road whose hobby is phoning the benefits hotline to say people aren’t really disabled.   Divide and rule at its best; and that’s why DC is ‘proud’ of these reforms.  Not because they are ‘fair and compassionate’ – really, how dare he – but because he is a psychopath in a cabinet full of psychopaths with not a shred of guilt or empathy between them, and his true aim of crushing the poor so hard they’ll never be able to get up again looks like it’s succeeding.

I am so sad, and so tired, of reading and writing about all this.  Of hearing the stories of friends and family suffering, and those of the people who write to us at KTA desperate and with nowhere else to reach out to for help.  Of seeing the food bank donation box in the supermarket, and buying food for it out of my own pocket, and crying afterwards, knowing that it’s utterly wrong that hungry people should have to rely on charity, knowing that having enough to eat is a basic human right; but also knowing that there are people out there who are nonetheless going hungry, their children are going hungry, and the government are quite happy to let them starve.  There is no bread?  Let them eat cake!   But can we expect any help from the Red corner (or in fact, as it has been since Tony Blair’s day, the Other Blue Corner)?  What do you think?

miliband

Miliband, in his worthless recent speech, simply repeated the same old Tory drivel about ‘ending the something for nothing culture’ (hmm, who first came up with that little gem?  Wasn’t it the hard right winger Peter Lilley?), the same old false dichotomy of ‘scroungers v strivers’ and generally left us in no doubt that he cares not a jot about the social safety net for the poorest and most vulnerable, not a jot for the truth (ie the fact that MOST PEOPLE RECEIVING BENEFITS are in work, there ARE no jobs, and the rate of fraud is just 0.5% for disability benefits and that overall, just 2.1 % was overpaid due to fraud and error in the last year [see the DWP’s OWN statistics: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/203097/nsfr-final-090513.pdf%5D; and note that word error, that means through the DWP’s incompetence rather than any dishonesty on the part of the claimant); but that he only cares for his own Oxbridge careerist ambitions.  The party has now moved so far away from the people it originally represented that we may as well be on the moon.  Nye Bevan would be turning in his grave; so would my dad.  In a way this makes me even more sad and tired, because I grew up in a household that was Labour through and through, and the party I believed in so fiercely doesn’t exist any more.

That’s why we have to unite and fight in whatever way we can at the grassroots level.  Because at the party political level, as Orwell wrote:

Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike.  No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs.  The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

PIP Guide by B&W I don’t have anything else to say today about these two sorry excuses for men – and writing what I have has left me with tears in my eyes – but here’s a guide to DLA and PIP; it’s apparently the best one there is, and we’ll be referring to it heavily when we write our post on DLA/PIP.

As always, love and solidarity.

Michelle and Laurie.

Bedroom Tax

7 Apr

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BEDROOM TAX

** if you are affected by the bedroom tax and fear forced eviction, please send us a private email at: kickingtoryassonwelfare@hotmail.com and, along with other activists we WILL defend your home **

What is it?

The cutting of the “spare room subsidy,”[1] colloquially dubbed the “Bedroom Tax” by Labour (a term that Iain Duncan Smith has complained about to the BBC several times)[2] is directed at working-age housing benefit and unemployment claimants who are deemed to have a ‘spare’ bedroom in social housing. The Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Circular states that the following will be entitled to one bedroom each: a couple, an adult aged 16 or over, two children of the same sex (aged under 16), two children aged under 10 regardless of sex, any other child under 16, and a non-resident carer providing overnight care. Should certain people fail to fit into these ‘boxes’ they stand to lose 14% of their housing benefit and those with two or more spare bedrooms are forecast to lose 25%.[3]  An estimated 1 million households with extra bedrooms are paid housing benefit,[4] which infers the mass impact it is going to have on the UK population. Critics say it is an inefficient policy; especially in the north of England where families with spare rooms outnumber overcrowded families by three to one, indicating that thousands will be hit with the tax despite no local need for them to move.[5]  Alongside this there is also nowhere to move to. In Hull for example, around 4700 tenants will be taxed, but there are only 73 smaller council homes in the town.[6]  This is a direct consequence of the three decade long continual purge of council housing by both the Tory and Labour governments, for which tenants are now having to pay the price (quite literally).[7] Additionally, two-thirds of the people hit by the bedroom tax are disabled.[8]

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So why is it being imposed? Well, statistically it aims to save £465 million a year; as many as 660,000 people in social housing will lose an average of £728 in benefits annually.[9] Yet, the number of disabled affected is estimated to at 420,000, thus accounting for about 64% of all bedroom tax affected households.[10] Stories and news reports have focused on families where, for example, a lift has been installed which takes up much room downstairs and also renders the upstairs ‘bedroom’ unusable. These ‘bedrooms’ will be counted under the tax and are clearly unfair by any definition; legal or otherwise, and lack any morality,[11] victimising the already vulnerable.

SPeye[12]’s social housing blog raises a pertinent issue within this new system: social housing is the only option for many who live their day-to-day lives with a disability: “when was the last time a private landlord spent thousands on installing disability adaptations in his property? The answer to that is never, as private landlords [in general] just don’t accommodate for disabilities and thus those with a disability either reside in owner occupied properties or the social housing sector.”[13] Hence, either the government has ignored or paid little regard to their Equality Duties in bringing the bedroom tax into social housing,[14] which clearly disproportionately affects the disabled. Through the Coalition’s blatant and wilful ignorance of the major disparities between the private and social rented sectors: simply if the private landlord don’t provide for those disabled and the social landlord does, then imposing a bedroom tax which the government maintain brings the social housing sector in line with those renting privately,[15] fundamentally ignores this binary. Statistically there are 999,058 Housing Benefit claimants with a disability in social housing and 314,233 in privately rented housing meaning 76% of claimants with a disability live in social housing and 24% live in privately rented homes.  Hence, the impact on those disabled is more than 3 times greater in the social rented sector than in private housing.[16] Additionally, the government’s woeful treatment of the disabled in society is further accentuated in that assessments of the bedroom tax’s  impact on them says it has not looked into this but will monitor it after the bedroom tax comes in.

Thus, the government is going to run the bedroom tax for at least two years to see what its impact is without having taken any precautions to assess such an impact beforehand. Page 21 of the Bedroom Tax assessment reads:

“DWP intend to undertake independent monitoring and evaluation to assess the impact of the introduction of size criteria in the social rented sector as outlined during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act. DWP expect the research to be undertaken over a two year period from 2013/14, with preparatory work starting in 2012/13 with initial findings being available in early 2013 [an ad hoc assessment therefore!] … Different types of authorities including a range of urban, rural and county district local authorities will be included and these will be selected to cover a range of different housing market demands, to ensure DWP can explore the effects of the introduction of size criteria effectively, and gain sound insight into the experiences of tenants of various age groups, those with a disability, their gender and ethnicity.”[17]

As Michelle and I recently stated, we believe that the mark of any society’s decency is how it treats its most vulnerable members, and that on current evidence, Britain in 2013 is falling very short, as this government continually falls excessively short of their responsibilities. Indeed the favouring of the rich over the poor is evident within the Welfare ‘Reform’ that came into action on  Saturday 6 April, which saw the 50p tax rate scrapped for high earners. [18]  Indeed, Labour claims 13,000 millionaires will get a £100,000 tax cut, which clearly indicates where the Coalition’s loyalties lie. With 62% of the Coalition being deemed millionaires[19] the injustice of these taxes are evident. Indeed, Patrick Wintour of the Guardian writes that the government’s aim is to tackle overcrowding and encourage a more efficient use of social housing,”[20] yet for those affected it seems much more sinister than that doesn’t it?

Furthermore, alongside this preposterous tax being imposed, on Monday 8 April, the Disability Living Allowance will be disposed of and replaced by the Personal Independence Payment (PIP),[21] demonstrating how the vulnerable are suffering disproportionately to the rest of the population under the cuts we Con-Dem. According to the DWP, assessment will not be based on your condition, but on how your condition affects you, so narrowing accessibility to the PIP.[22]  The qualifying period before someone can claim again will also be extended from three to six months,[23] meaning that should you fail to “prove” your disability you will remain destitute for the 6 months until you can be reassessed!  So nice of the government to determine that individuals have to “prove” how disabled they are: only once sufficient points have been scored on the assessment can a claim be made.[24]  The Tory rhetoric of “scroungers”, “skivers” and those committing benefit fraud which ‘justifies’ such schemes is clearly redundant when the harsh facts are looked at: $1.9 billion is lost in benefit fraud overall, in contrast to the $40 billion that is lost through tax avoidance by the rich.[25]

However, Cameron is determined to listen to his non-sensical party and enforce the “spare room subsidy” regardless of the potential consequences (of which he is not aware due to aforementioned failures to analyse this issue!) Ministers say the tax will encourage people to move to smaller properties and save around £480m a year from the spiralling housing benefit bill.[26] Yet this completely ignores the fact that there is a shortage of one-bedroom properties in certain areas and the fact that the upper floors of high rises were universally decreed unsuitable for families several years ago, meaning the Council placed single people in them. Additionally, critics such as the National Housing Federation (NHF) argue that as well as causing social disruption, the move risks increasing costs to taxpayers because a shortage of smaller social housing properties may force many people to downsize into the more expensive private rented sector.[27]  The federation’s warnings came as charities said the combination of benefit cuts and tax rises coming in from this week will amount to a £2.3bn hit on family finances.[28] Such certainly highlights how economically non-sensical this tax is. Indeed, Ministers came under new fire over benefit cuts as the independent body representing 1,200 English housing associations described the controversial bedroom tax as bad policy and bad economics that risks pushing up the £23bn annual housing benefit bill.[29] Channel 4 News recently suggested this too: “the governments controversial new “bedroom tax” will cost rather than save money in parts of the country.”[30]

Furthermore, research by the NHF says that while there are currently 180,000 households that are “under occupying two-bedroom homes”; there are far fewer smaller properties in the social housing sector available to move into. Last year only 85,000 one-bedroom homes became available. The federation has calculated that if all those available places were taken up by people moving as a result of the “bedroom tax”, the remaining 95,000 households would be faced with the choice of staying put and taking a cut in income, or renting a home in the private sector.[31] Indeed, if all 95,000 moved into the private sector, it says the cost of housing benefit would increase by £143 million, and by millions more if others among the remaining 480,000 affected chose to rent privately.[32]

This will only serve to deepen the housing crisis as more people are pushed out of council housing, making it easier for councils to sell the homes off – thus shifting more housing stock to private landlords and into the chaos that is the current market.[33] Indeed, it is private landlords who stand to gain the most out of this tax, because the tenants forced into smaller homes on higher, private rents, will be forced to claim more benefits as a result. Indeed, the rent controls that used to control such rampant capitalism were abolished by Thatcher in 1988 and so without those, there is little that can be done to control the amount of rent families will be forced to pay on their new properties, without spare bedrooms.[34]

So, what the hell is the point when this tax will not even improve the situation?

As Chief executive Leslie Morphy stated: “our poorest households face a bleak April as they struggle to budget for all these cuts coming at once. People are already cutting back on the essentials of food and heating but there is only so much they can do.

“The result will be misery – cold rooms, longer queues at food banks, broken families, missed rent payments and yet more people facing homelessness – devastating for those directly affected, but bad for us all.”

However, a Department for Work and Pensions spokesman stood by the policy, stating that: “our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with universal credit simplifying the complex myriad of benefits and making three million people better off. And by next year, we will have taken two million of the lowest earners out of paying tax altogether.” And sadly it appears that the media in general support such rhetoric, as the recent Bedroom Tax protests were largely under reported, despite activists turning out in their thousands.

Conversely, shadow chancellor Ed Balls surmised what we believe to be the truth: “this is the week when the whole country will see whose side David Cameron and George Osborne are really on and who is paying the price for their economic failure.” And sadly, it is not our side, but we will be footing the bill regardless.

How can we help? Are there any loopholes?

Loopholes in this new ‘reform’ are pretty hard to come by; however, there are a few:

  • People avoided the window tax which began in 1698 and ran until 1851 by blocking up their windows, so rise up and take off your bedroom doors that’ll make your house open plan – without a door a room is not separate.  Alternatively, take Labour MP Mr Field’s advice that land lords should “brick up” doors and “knock down the walls” in defiance,[35] thus removing tax commitments
  • If you have a spare room in your house under 70sq ft. then it cannot be classed as a bedroom under Housing Act 1985 Section 326,[36] instead it’s a box room and you cannot be charged for it

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  • Approach housing trusts and ask them to reclassify your spare rooms as studies or box-rooms so the tax cannot be placed upon them. In action: Knowsley housing trust in Merseyside has said it will do this to help tenants avoid the tax[37]
  • Put pressure on “social landlords” to take a stand against the tax and refuse to evict people from their homes who cannot afford the rent anymore. In action: Dundee council,[38] run by the Scottish National Party, has promised not to evict people for the first eight months Brighton and Hove, under the Green Party have since followed this action[39]
  • Get trade unions on side so that those of you who oppose the payment are stood by when legal action is taken against you. In action: unions in Glasgow housing associations and Tower Hamlets  council in East London have voted to stand by those housing workers who are disciplined for opposing evictions[40]
  • Join an anti-cuts group and let people in your area know that you are willing to collectively and physically prepared to defend people from being evicted. In action: this is exactly what people are doing in Sheffield on Firth Park council estate, as well as the Burngreave which is the next estate along[41]
  • Unite with other activists across the country to bring back the rent controls abolished by the Thatcher era
  • Join UK Uncut’s “Who wants to evict a millionaire?” protest. More information on this can be found on: http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/updated-call-out-who-wants-to-evict-a-millionaire-saturday-13th-april
  • For more information on local groups or how else you can take action, just go to http://benefitjustice.wordpress.com/
  • There are many bedroom tax focused groups on Facebook and many have template letters and useful information in their files so it’s worth joining one; also there is our template letter below, which you could send in its entirety or copy and paste the part about the bedroom tax
  • Here’s a link to an excellent blog for some more ideas: http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/thousands-turn-out-for-bedroom-tax-protests-but-what-happens-next/

 

Inspiration from Spain: unions of locksmiths and firefighters voted to refuse to evict those who couldn’t pay mortgages. The firefighters’ worked under the slogan of “we rescue people, not banks.”[42] Let’s unite and build this kind of movement against the bedroom tax and benefits cap, and kick some Tory ass!

IN SOLIDARITY, WE CAN DEFEAT THE WAR ON THE POOR!

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[6] ‘Socialist Worker’, 23rd March 2013, p 10

[7] ‘Socialist Worker’, 23rd March 2013, p 10

[12] Ibid

[19] ‘The New Internationalist,’ NI 459 January/ February 2013, p 

[25] UK Government, DWP and HMRC, 2011

[30] Channel 4 News, February 4, 2013

[33] ‘Socialist Worker’, 23rd March 2013, p 11

[34] ‘Socialist Worker’, 23rd March 2013, p 11

[37] ‘Socialist Worker’, 23rd March 2013, p 7

[39] ‘Socialist Worker’, 23rd March 2013, p 7

[40] ‘Socialist Worker’, 23rd March 2013, p 7

[41] ‘Socialist Worker’, 23rd March 2013, p 9

[42] ‘Socialist Worker’, 23rd March 2013, p 11