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Thursday, 28 October 2010

No to cuts in the UK !!

We have already drawn attention to the remarkable sound of tracks being backed by this coalition government in its over-hasty, ill-thought-out and doctrinaire cuts programme.

Today saw the interesting sight of the Tory leadership desperately trying to salvage its fragile alliance with the Lib Dem backbenches and rein in dissatisfaction with its draconian programme of housing cuts.

And, lord help them, they are even having to quell dissent among some of the more progressive of their own ranks - the ones with inner-city constituencies who can see their re-election prospects shrinking rapidly during the course of this purge.

Now purge may seem at first sight to be putting it a little strongly, but let's reprise the Tory housing programme. There's ending security of tenure for council tenants, higher social rents - which could be 80 per cent of the market rent - a cap on housing benefit of about £400 a week and a 10 per cent cut in housing benefit for anyone on jobseeker's allowance for more than a year.

Oh, and there's a cut of 50 per cent on the amount spent on new social housing, even at the new, higher rent levels. All of which would contribute to a remarkable change in the environment of our bigger cities.

Downing Street says it is "absolutely committed" to the housing benefit reforms. So let's look at the consequences of this "absolute commitment."

First, of course is the consequential forced relocation of tens of thousands of families from inner-city homes that the housing benefit cap will mean that they can no longer afford to live in.

And make no mistake, we are talking here about working families, not the mainly fictitious idle unemployed living in supposed luxury accommodation.

We are talking about those working at or near the minimum wage who keep our cities clean, who keep the services running and who work anti-social hours while the rest of us are safely asleep in our pits, preparing the cities for the new day.

We are talking about wholesale social engineering, driving the less well off from our city centres and into peripheral housing estates where they can afford to live, but how they get to work and how they bear the additional travel costs is anyone's guess.

And, since this forced exodus will drive up demand for peripheral housing, it will also drive up rents in the private sector. Which, since the government is intent on setting social rents as a percentage of those applying in the private rented sector, will in turn force social housing rents higher and higher.

One thing that is certain is that it won't work and, if it's even tried, it will result in precisely the same situation that France experiences around Paris, where outlying estates rapidly become ghettoised and centres of violent unrest for the young, poorly paid or unemployed.

And then comes a 10 per cent cut in benefit for anyone on jobseeker's allowance for over a year.

Now that's really adding insult to injury. Families trapped in worklessness by massive Tory cuts in the public sector - forcing them into a private sector which is failing to produce enough jobs - will be driven out of their homes if they can't find a new job in 12 months.

But where will these families be driven to? Why, if they are forced into the subsistence-level work that seems to be all that's available, those jobs won't provide sufficient income to live, and will thus serve merely to transfer them from one benefit onto another.

Or are the Tories presuming that they will simply starve? A neutral observer could be forgiven for assuming that to be the case.

But, since we are not neutral, let's make this plain. The working class won't be driven out, they won't be starved out and they won't be marginalised.

British people are slow to anger and slower still to fight back. But once it dawns on them that all that's left is resistance, then Tories beware. It won't be the working class that's driven out of its Westminster tenure.

In many ways, it's catch-up day today, where we look in more detail at the Con-Dem massacre of public services and the welfare state in the spending review.

There was so much hitting the working class in Osborne's indiscriminate butchery that there was barely space in the whole paper to mention it all, let alone absorb, digest and analyse it.

But, today, we survey the wreckage of the living room after Osborne's party and the debris that he and his co-celebrants left in the wake of their bacchanal. We are finding that the truth is worse than we could have ever expected.

In fact, it's so bad that economist David Blanchflower, a member of the Bank of England's rate-setting committee for three years and a professor of economics, warned that a double-dip recession was now inevitable and described the review as "the greatest error seen in our lifetime in economics."

He continued that "there's no example in history where such a thing as this has ever worked. The only examples in history is where it's failed. This is like trying to train an Olympic athlete to run faster and you say "I've got a great solution" and you cut both his legs off - it's as absurd as that."

Warwick University emeritus professor of political economy Lord Skidelsky concurred, quoting Keynes on the Great Depression to the effect that "there will be no means of escape from prolonged and perhaps interminable depression except by direct state intervention to promote and subsidise new investment," adding: "George Osborne be warned."

From across the full range of British society, the condemnation is coming thick and fast.

Unite's joint general secretary Derek Simpson encapsulated the trade union movement position when he fumed: "This is not a spending review, it's a massacre. It's totally perverse to claim that cutting half a million jobs and razing our public services to the ground is good for this country."

And Paul Kenny from GMB noted that, "after this review, the broadest shoulders will still have the fattest wallets. The price for George Osborne's day of reckoning will be paid by the economy, in the public and private sectors and by the unemployed, for a decade to come. In a well-leaked, ideological speech, arrogantly delivered, the demise of public services and the welfare state was laid out in front of us."

RMT leader Bob Crow, in characteristically blunt words, summed it up when he warned that "this is all-out class war with its roots firmly planted in the playing fields of Eton."

Local authority workers, council tenants, disabled people, the unemployed, school pupils, students, single parents, rail and bus passengers, motorists, the regions, the devolved governments, hardly anyone has escaped the cold, dead hand of Tory cutbacks.

And, from deputy Lib Dem leader Simon Hughes, who boasted that we could see the footprints of the Lib Dems all over the review, down to Rochdale Mayor Zulfiqar Ali, who claimed that the spending cuts would be good for everyone - including the 84 per cent of residents on benefits in his council ward - the snivelling Lib-Dem toadies of the Tories bear their full share of the blame.

Mark you, the Labour Party hasn't exactly covered itself in glory. Its commitment to cuts has hamstrung any fighting defence of our class, reducing it to faint demurrals along the lines of "too soon, too deep."

But there is a fighting response to this class-war assault. There is another way to manage the economy.

It is now up to the trade union movement to take a bold and progressive stance, rejecting these cuts, resisting this assault and working for a society in which the rich take responsibility for the results of their greed and the poor are not forced to pay for them.

George Osborne has drawn a line in the sand and it is now up to the leaders of our organised working class to step up to the mark and lead the fightback.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Unions and activists unite for demo

Unions and activists unite for demo

Sunday 24 October 2010

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Sheffield on Saturday as part of a nationwide day of campaign against the Con-Dem spending cuts.

Unions and campaigners attending the huge demonstration included PCS, NUT, pensioners' groups, trades councils, GMB, Unision, Unite, Green Party, Labour Party, Communist Party of Britain, unemployed activist groups and Socialist Workers Party among many more.

TUC deputy general secretary Frances O'Grady (right) said the union organisation was "fully behind you" in the fight against these savage cuts and invited the demonstrators to join the "biggest, boldest" mass rally in London next March.

She added: "Today London FBU striking firefighters are trying to protect the people's services - we stand shoulder to shoulder with them."

Sheffield Liberal Democrat councillor Ben Curran annouced at the rally that he had defected to Labour because of "lack of resistance" shown by his party locally to the cutbacks and the "disgraceful decision" to cancel a government loan to local company Forgemasters.

"As Sheffield Lib Dem councillors, we were asked to defend what turned out to be a completely unjustifiable decision and it soon transpired that all the reasons in favour of cancelling the loan were just a pack of lies," he told the rally.

Mr Curran's decision could mean the Liberal Democrats losing control of Sheffield City Council.

Sheffield Central Labour MP Paul Blomfield MP demanded that his fellow Sheffield MP and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg steps down as MP for Hallam.

"The people of Sheffield did not elect him to savage Britain by working with the Tories - he has betrayed the people of Sheffield," he said to massive loud cheers.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

British old people, cold and a prime target !

The British Government (Tories and their Lib Dem toadies) are floating all sorts of betrayals and wizard wheezes ahead of the October 20 spending review, it appears that they are contemplating nothing less than the entire, if piecemeal, abolition of universality in benefits and the wholesale dismantling of the welfare state.

And some of the betrayals that they are casually introducing into the cuts dialogue are so bare-faced and aggressive they almost take the breath away.

Vince Cable has already reneged in public on the Lib Dem signed pledge by all MPs at their recent conference to oppose any increase in fees.

Instead, the coalition is preparing changes to university funding that will lead to massive increases in the cost of gaining a degree. And that's just one straw in the wind. There's much, much more.

Let's cast our mind back to those days before the election. At that time - in fact, on May 4 - now Prime Minister David Cameron said unequivocally: "Let me say very clearly to pensioners if you have a Conservative government your winter fuel allowance, your bus pass, your pension credit, your free TV licence, all these things are safe. You can read my lips, that is a promise from my heart."

We will see, Mr Cameron. We will see. But the signs don't look good. Already, there are rumours that the winter fuel payment could be cut from those over 60 and not paid until age 66.

There are also signs that the universality of the benefit could be challenged by the coalition, despite the fact that a recent Age UK poll showed 73 per cent of the public opposes means testing.

Also, the emergency payments made when the average temperature in a specific area falls to freezing or below for seven consecutive days are threatened.

Gordon Brown raised those payments from a miserable £8.50 a day to a more reasonable £25.

But, on Wednesday, the coalition sneaked through a statutory instrument which had the effect of cancelling the £25 rate and reverting the payments to the £8.50 of three years ago.

So much for reading the Cameron lips.

It is unfortunate for demolition man Cameron that, at the same time as his vicious government is contemplating a reversion to barbarism and leaving the old to die of cold, figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) show the number of households living in fuel poverty has risen yet again.

They rose by half a million to 4.5 million in 2008, the last date for which definitive figures are available, although recent newspaper estimates put the current figure at around 6.6 million in 2010.

The figures showed that "vulnerable" households - around three-quarters of homes - were being hit by fuel price rises and the number of homes with elderly people, children or someone who has long-term illness or disability suffering from fuel poverty rose by half a million in 2008 to 3.75 million.

Those figures are horrifying and it becomes even worse when you look back just a month or two and remember that the coalition shelved plans for an independent inquiry into the £25 billion-a-year energy industry amid accusations of profiteering.

And this is despite profits by the energy companies soaring. A good example is British Gas, whose residential supply forms the main part of its business.

It reported operating profits in the first half of 2010 of £585million, up 98 per cent.

But in spite of loud pre-election threats of reference to the Competition Commission by both Lib Dems and Tories, the DECC, run by Lib Dem Chris Huhne, has confirmed: "No referral to the CC at present."

We read your lips, Mr Cameron, but all the exercise confirmed is that you are as big a liar as all your Tory and Lib Dem mates in this rancid, dishonest, class-war coalition you have the cheek to call a government.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

A cold, hard winter coming for the unemployed etc !!

If you were looking for indicators of the direction the economy is taking, it's safe to say that you won't get much joy from yesterday's unemployment statistics.

They are, without exception, poor and discouraging, especially since it's clear that the draconian cutbacks long heralded by this coalition government have yet to take their definitive shape and there's a lot more hurt to come for working people yet.

Things may be bad already but, as Unison general secretary Dave Prentis warned, "this is the false calm before the storm. Next week the Chancellor will lay the groundwork for adding 750,000 public-sector workers to the dole queues. The knock-on effects to the private sector will be huge."

There are other indicators as well and we're seeing them emerge already. If you remember, the Halifax Building Society handed out 200 free shares to each of 7.6 million society members when it floated on the stock market in 1997.

At the time of the handout, the shares were worth £1,465. They are now valued at around £38. So much for the share-owning democracy, then.

The demutualisation exercise helped no-one except the dealers who took their slice of the action when the shares were sold on, as many of them were.

To add to the feelings of impending disaster, insolvency practitioner Begbies Traynor warned yesterday that 50,299 companies had fallen into financial trouble in the third quarter of the year.

And the number of firms with either significant or critical financial woes stood at 123,361 in the three months to the end of September.

The company warned that the planned cutbacks in public-sector expenditure were set to rattle the private sector to a huge degree.

It observed that "even if the wider UK avoids a double-dip recession, public sector-dependent industries face higher levels of financial distress."

Which makes the statement by Employment Minister Chris Grayling ring fairly hollow.

"We are pressing ahead with radically overhauling the welfare system, with reassessments of those on incapacity benefits in Burnley and Aberdeen beginning this week," he said, claiming that this would somehow help the economy. Quite how wasn't made clear.

It can hardly be of help to the economy to ram people back into a jobs market which already is several million jobs short of the number needed to satisfy the unemployed figures - especially since, as Mr Prentis pointed out, there are another 750,000 public-sector jobs at risk.

And that's in addition to the 500,000 jobs in the private sector that accountants PwC forecast will be lost as a result of the public-sector cutbacks.

Those aren't trade union figures, remember. These are management estimates. They make grim reading.

Other warning signs are also emerging, although they are being desperately dressed up to appear less significant than they really are.

High street bank HSBC warned yesterday that three out of 10 people have less than £249 set aside to see them through any emergency and a third of these have no savings at all. And that's no surprise, since people are feeling the pinch already.

Birmingham Midshires, a division of Bank of Scotland, gave its own warning yesterday.

It said that Britons withdrew more than twice as much from their deposit accounts as they managed to save during the past quarter.

It was the second quarter running that consumers took more than twice as much out of their savings accounts as they paid in.

The pain is starting to appear and we haven't even been hit by the full impact of the government's spending review yet. It's going to be a long, cold and bitter winter and there's no wrapping up against it. It's time to fight back and it's time to organise. And it's a fight we have to win.

Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants

British TUC backs national demo against youth unemployment !

I attended the annual meeting of trade unions recently, brought together by the Trade Union Congress (TUC), a motion calling for action on youth unemployment, beginning with a national demonstration by the end of this year, was overwhelmingly passed.

Speaking in favour of the motion on behalf of PCS, national young members' committee (NYMC) vice chair Helen Flanagan said: "The key to the resolution is point eight, which calls for a national demonstration against youth unemployment to be built for by the trade union movement before the end of 2010. Actually I think the TUC should have had a national demonstration against all cuts in October".

The motion came from the TUC youth conference in March. Then, PCS young members' played a vital role in debating key issues and winning support for the majority of the aims and demands included in the motion. The NYMC is now calling on trade unionists and campaigners to raise the need for the TUC to name a date for the demonstration as soon as possible. A branch model motion will be drafted by the NYMC for members to raise in their branches.

Commenting, NYMC chair Alan Warner said: "When the reality of the cuts bite, young people will not stand back and do nothing. No jobs, no education, no prospects. Young people are angry and need the support of the organised trade union movement to help them break the financial shackles which stops them having a decent future".

Motion in full:

As the financial crisis unravels, youth unemployment has soared to record levels. Unemployment amongst 16- to 24-year-olds now stands near the politically sensitive one million mark. The recession means large-scale unemployment among those completing their education. Young people are forced into jobs in low-paid, low-skilled sectors, as competition for graduate opportunities and apprenticeships becomes far greater.

Congress believes it is the responsibility of the whole trade union movement to campaign for decent jobs and opportunities for young people. Tax payers’ money should be spent on investing in public services and creating jobs, instead of funding bonuses for bank bosses. Congress opposes the privatisation agenda. Money should be invested in a new social housing building programme to tackle the massive housing waiting lists and create new jobs for those unemployed within the construction industry and as well as supporting the cultural sector.

Trade unions and trades union councils nationwide are already supporting a mass mobilisation of young people to campaign for these aims through the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign. Congress calls on TUC young members to come together on the issue of youth unemployment to fight for real jobs on trade union rates of pay that offer the guarantee of a secure future for young people.

Congress calls on the General Council and affiliates to:
• Defend jobs and conditions in all sectors, to ensure people are fairly compensated in the event of job losses by campaigning for employment rights for all workers from day one
• Campaign for decent, permanent jobs for all young people, linked to the needs of communities and the environment
• campaign for apprentices to receive at least the full adult rate of the NMW from day one, unless that is superseded by a beneficial collective agreement, with at least one day a week set aside for paid training and a guaranteed job at the end of the scheme
• encourage the growth of, and work with, bodies seeking to organise the unemployed to harness their collective strength, while supporting them individually
• build for a national demonstration against youth unemployment across the trade union movement by the end of 2010

Support the Scottish Trades Union Congress “There is a Better Way Campaign”. The campaign is focussing on jobs, services, fair taxation and a living wage. The STUC will be highlighting specific events or stunts every day leading up to 23 October which are being organised by affiliates and community groups. We need to build a massive presence on the day of the demonstration in Edinburgh.23 October · 10:30 - 13:30

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Monday, 11 October 2010

Anti-cuts movement - Who's up for the fightback?

The GMB (Britains General Trade Union) union unleashed a counterattack against the government's cuts yesterday, warning that local authorities are already preparing to slash jobs even before they discover the extent of the assault on their budget.

The union claimed that official notifications of possible redundancy were now "piling up" in offices across the country, mainly from councils in anticipation of savage cuts in the government spending review to be announced on October 20.

When GMB warns of a "tsunami" of job losses in the public sector even before the government's comprehensive spending review, it isn't indulging in fantasy or speculation.

The union is telling the plain, unvarnished truth.

A tidal wave of notifications of impending redundancies is horrifying its members and deeply worrying the union's officers, who are finding themselves in an almost Canute-like situation, trying to hold the line against an attack of dire proportions.

When national officer Brian Strutton warns that "the people losing their jobs have nowhere to go because the private sector is shedding people too," he is not only reflecting a present reality but a future perspective for tens and hundreds of thousands across the public and private sectors.

Because this government, this coalition of butchers, has barely started on its declared objective of decimating the public sector in the cause of saving money.

Chancellor George Osborne's spending review is still in the future, but its conclusions are being prejudged by local authorities across the country.

As a result, private-sector suppliers to authorities are in as much fear as public servants themselves.

It's not only local authorities who are behaving as if disaster is a foregone conclusion, however.

Ministers, who obviously know more about the way things are developing, are also attempting to prepare for the worst.

Turncoat-in-chief Vince Cable is even willing to take his own party on in the quest to serve his Tory wrecker masters better.

Despite his party's pre-election pledges to stand firm against raising tuition fees and its commitment to a graduate tax, Mr Cable was backtracking so fast that he stood in danger of vanishing up his own back passage at the weekend.

Suddenly, he has seen the light and is now fully in line with his Tory masters. Are there no depths that this opportunist time-server won't sink to?

Perhaps that's because he's been tipped off that Lord Browne's report into university funding and student finance will zero in on increasing fees.

It has even been suggested that he will recommend the total abolition of a fees cap, in which case Mr Cable would have looked so out of step that resignation would have been the only honourable alternative.

And the evidence is that he's so fixated on power he would rather turn on his own party's declared policy than relinquish his slender hold on the reins.

So forget defending education, forget defending students who are starting their working lives deep in debt and, just as important, forget defending equal access to education for poorer people who can't ven contemplate that level of indebtedness. Just safeguard your own position appears to be Mr Cable's motto.

And it's that last piece of forgetfulness that will hurt most. Because it's in the field of equality that some of the deepest damage is being done.

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, equal pay for men and women appears to be "grinding to a halt" with full-time women workers still earning 16.4 per cent less than men, disabled men earn 11 per cent less than other male workers, while the gap is 22 per cent for women.

Black graduates face a pay penalty of up to 24 per cent, the list is almost endless and figures say that the cuts will his these groups hardest.

To cap it all, total household wealth of the top 10 per cent is almost 100 times higher than for the poorest 10 per cent, while one in five people live in a household with less than 60 per cent of average income.

So, with benefits cuts on the horizon and job prospects falling, the outlook is bleak indeed and the coalition is set to make it immeasurably worse.

The need for a full-on fightback has never been more apparent. Now all that's needed is the organisation and the leadership. Who's up for the fight?

If you think of Thatcher in the '80s, the most she cut was 10 per cent and we are still feeling the effect in many a town & cities up & down Britain. Councils are planning hundreds if not thousands of redundancies on top of previous threats to thousands of jobs in areas including Birmingham, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Walsall, Croydon and Dorset. This tidal wave of redundancy notices is coming because councils are seeking to further reduce staff costs for next year in anticipation of reduced budgets when the government announces cuts on October 20.

Activists called on people from across Scotland today to get behind the STUC to oppose the cuts.

A packed workshop on the coalition's cuts in Glasgow debated a full range of methods and tactics to oppose the Con-Dems' agenda and shared their experiences to find a common way forward.

Communist Party of Britain executive member Tommy Morrison opened the discussion by reporting on the Unison union's campaign in Scotland to defend members against wage freezes and job losses.

Although accepting there were difficulties in getting people to resist pay restraint, Mr Morrison pointed out: "There has been success in community campaigns.

"We have to give confidence to local councillors to issue defiance budgets by having mass turnouts at lobbies," he said.

"We can really turn the screw and build a mass movement against the cuts."

Unison's Steve Smellie emphasised the need for "getting over the point that the cuts are not economically necessarily - they are politically and ideologically motivated.

"And it's not just about saving one day centres or nurseries - it's about linking it up all these cuts as part of an overall programme.

"No political party has earned the right to lead this resistance, so the trade unions need to inspire and lead this campaign."

There were several calls to build support for the STUC-backed anti-cuts march in Edinburgh and use alternative media such as the Morning Star to get the message across that there is an alternative.

STUC assistant general secretary Stephen Boyd added: "October 23 is not the culmination for workers across Scotland - it is the start of a mass campaign against the cuts."

Friday, 8 October 2010

Attacks on UK benefit Claimants - Erosion of democracy !

Chancellor George Osborne's proposals earlier in the week for a maximum limit on the amount of benefits a family could claim, is a cap on family benefits it would cause suffering to some of society's most vulnerable children.

The Chancellor did not put a figure on the new welfare cap but said that, with the exception of the disabled, no family should receive more in benefits than the average family was paid for going to work.

Politicians should be focusing on how they are going to meet the target to end child poverty in the UK by 2020 rather than perpetuating the myth of the undeserving poor.

Children are the ones who'll end up suffering if a parent suddenly loses their job because of the economic crisis, or if their mum or dad becomes a single parent.

Most children in poverty had at least one parent in work, but were still poor because their work was low paid.

The government needs to concentrate its energies on making sure that families are better off when a parent takes a job or increases their hours rather than staying on benefits, as Iain Duncan Smith is proposing.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt also came under fire for saying that the government's new family cap reflected the need for long-term claimants to "take responsibility" for the number of children they have.

The state "shouldn't support" large families who receive more in benefits than the average family earns, he declared.

"The number of children that you have is a choice and what we're saying is that if people are living on benefits, then they make choices but they also have to have responsibility for those choices," he argued.

"It's not going to be the role of the state to finance those choices."

Coercion has been used in the past. The 1974 USA case of Relf v Weinberger showed that between 100,000 and 150,000 low income women were sterilised annually under federally-funded programs, and that some of these women had only consented to be sterilised after being threatened with removal of benefits.

Birth control programmes and forced sterilisation were also used in Germany to eliminate groups that the "Third Reich" disliked.

Tory Chancellor, Osborne went to war on benefit / welfare claimants during his speech to the Conservative Conference in Birmingham. In an unprecedented move, the Chancellor capped how much the unemployed can get from the state. Osborne told Day Two of the Tory Party Conference that no household will be able to claim more than £500 a week in total in benefits - the average family's take-home pay.

The cap - which will come into effect in April 2013 once local authorities have built schemes to administer it - will see most tenants evicted from rented properties who's landlords charge criminal rent levels. In Britains major cities private landlords rip off & overcharge tenants for rent, once again we see an ultra right wing government supporting big business & private landlords.

What we are seeing today in 2010 are the same policies that we saw in the late 80's. The policies propounded by Dame Shirley Porter and her Conservative colleagues and officials on Tory Westminster City Council in July 1989.

The council was engaged in gerrymandering, which was disgraceful and improper purpose, and not a purpose for which a local authority may act.

In 1972, Westminster council started a policy of "designated sales". In an effort to reduce its housing stock, when some homes fell vacant they were not re-let but sold. The numbers involved were small, some 20-30 homes a year. On 8 July 1987, the housing committee resolved to expand the policy by earmarking for sale 9,360 properties, 40 per cent of its total stock - a move that was expected to generate 500 sales a year.

The reason for the increase was the local government election of May 1986. Dame Shirley, who had been leader since 1983, suddenly found herself with a majority of just four.

In a paper called "Keeping Westminster Conservative", she set out her strategy for the next election in 1990. The critical point was that at local level the margin between electoral success and failure is tiny.

Her paper noted: "Conservative members of the council have identified eight key battlezone wards. The results of the 1990 local elections will depend on how people vote in these wards." The eight wards were marginal - a swing of just 70 votes in each could determine control - and "they have suffered particularly from the destabilisation of their resident middle class, the natural Conservative voter". The new, expanded, designated sales was aimed at these "key wards".

The Conservative Government with help from the Liberal Democrats are demonising, harrassing, patronising working class benefit claimants who are more likely to vote Labour in an election. The present Tory/ConDem government are creating "Boundary Changes" to enable themselves more likely to win at the next election. Deception of democracy is taking place, the government never got elected in the first place & yet they are laying the foundations to destroy democracy.

Politicians should be focusing on how they are going to meet the target to end child poverty in the UK by 2020 rather than perpetuating the myth of the undeserving poor. Children are the ones who'll end up suffering if a parent suddenly loses their job because of the economic crisis, or if their mum or dad becomes a single parent. Most children in poverty had at least one parent in work, but were still poor because their work was low paid.

Monday, 4 October 2010

British tories end universal welfare !

The universal welfare state moved a step closer
to destruction today when Chancellor George Osborne announced proposals to end child benefit payments for all higher-rate taxpayers.

Mr Osborne was speaking at the annual Tory conference in Birmingham where he revealed the benefit would be cut from those earning over £44,000 a year.

The Conservative Chancellor said the plan, to be introduced from 2013, aimed to raise around £1 billion that would be put towards plans to bring benefits together into a single universal credit.

It comes as Mr Osborne prepares to unveil massive cuts to Whitehall budgets in the spending review on October 20.

At present, child benefit is paid universally and is worth £20.30 a week for the first child and £13.40 a week for any other children.

Under the new restrictions families with two earners paying basic-rate tax would still receive the benefit even if their combined salary is more than £44,000.

This could mean households with a total income of £88,000 would still be eligible for child benefit while single-earner households taking home half that would lose out.

Mr Osborne admitted there would be "anomalies" and said this was because he did not want to introduce a complex means test into the child benefits system.

He added that he hoped higher rate taxpayers would do the sensible thing and stop claiming child benefit.

Left Economics Advisory Panel co-ordinator Andrew Fisher described the move as "an ideological attack on the principle of universal benefits" and believes that the £1bn saved will have little bearing on the economy.

He said: "If Mr Osborne is worried about lower-rate taxpayers subsidising the rich, why not raise taxes by charging 50 per cent on income over £100,000?"

"By 2013, child benefit will have been frozen for three years - a real-terms cut of 10 per cent to an already low level of benefit."

And Mr Osborne faces conflict with his Liberal Democrat peers as they voted to safeguard universal child benefits at their own party's annual conference in Liverpool last month.

He also upset charities, with Child Poverty Action Group's chief executive Alison Garnham arguing that hitting families with children was "very unfair."

Labour MP John McDonnell accused the Tories of using the economic crisis as an excuse to return to a Poor Law-type system in which benefits are distributed to the "deserving" poor and its recipients are stigmatised in an attempt to destroy the welfare state.

And he argued that the reason the coalition was delaying the introduction of this cut was for fear that the reaction from families set to lose out would add to the growing anger against swingeing cuts.

A Treasury spokeswoman said the reason the savings were not being made from taxation was because overspending had been identified as a key field in tackling the deficit.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Stop picking on the poorest

Blog Report, On Sunday's anti ConDem Demo in Birmingham at the Conservative Party Conference.

Thousands of trade unionists & unemployed marched past the Tory conference.

Ensuring an unpleasant Midlands welcome for delegates on the opening day of the conference, people from all walks of life braved soaking rain to declare their opposition to sweeping cuts in welfare and public sector spending.

Amid a heavy police presence, activists held a rally before the march with folk songs from local musicians Banner Theatre and speeches from leading figures in the trade union and anti-cuts networks.

Tory delegates and business leaders were due to discuss "people power" and "the big society" on the opening day of conference.

But the platitudes tied in poorly with the content of conference talks, which saw health and safety review chief Lord Young recommend a "rethink" of rules in local councils.

Proposed changes could see workers faced with more dangerous conditions on top of job cuts from a projected loss of 30 per cent of public sector funding.

Prime Minister David Cameron thinks that we are all getting a bit too excited about forthcoming changes to welfare benefits, urging us to put his government's public spending cuts "into perspective."

One of his ideas of perspective is to suggest that spending cuts of up to 40 per cent may not be as painful as some people think.

Another is to declare that the Con-Dem coalition's "refreshingly radical" changes to welfare will mean that people will always be better off in work.

It beggars belief that cutting spending by 40 per cent would have a less than drastic effect unless the government is suggesting that there is waste and inefficiency of that order across our public services.

As for people being better off in work than on benefits, there are two ways to achieve that.

One is to ensure that the minimum wage is equivalent to a living wage. The other is to degrade benefits to a level even lower than our current inadequate minimum wage.

Guess which alternative the Con-Dem Cabinet, three-quarters of whom are millionaires and multimillionaires, including Cameron, his deputy Nick Clegg and Chancellor George Osborne, is likely to favour.

The fallacy underlying the coalition government approach, in common with Labour's own welfare "reform" plans, is that there are vast numbers of jobs out there waiting for people currently claiming benefits.

Labour chose not to develop an industrial strategy, relying on a flexible labour market - making it cheaper for companies to close down workplaces and sack workers in Britain than elsewhere in Europe - to attract inward investment.

And this choice was a failure since many companies either went for the cheap option of investing in cheap-labour eastern Europe or, paradoxically, in high-wage Germany because of its impressive state-supported skills and training levels.

Gordon Brown's government responded earlier this year to union pleas to safeguard the vital Sheffield Forgemasters engineering firm, in Clegg's own constituency.

But no sooner was the well-heeled government cobbled together than it cancelled this arrangement.

So any idea that the new coalition will be more disposed to supporting job support and creation is doomed to failure.

Cameron and his cronies are intent on a public relations exercise to persuade public opinion that people on benefits are there because they are feckless ne'erdowells who need a kick up the backside to fend for themselves and their families.

They understand that majority opinion in Britain approves of the NHS and the welfare framework established after the war and so the Tories and their Liberal Democrats will not launch a full-frontal assault.

Their tactic is to spotlight apparent contradictions and attempt to build up a head of steam to undermine the universal ethos.

Millionaire Clegg's statement that he would be happy to give up his family's £2,450-a-year child benefit payments is irrelevant, as is speculation about whether highly paid footballers and pop stars should receive these universal payments.

Imposing a means test always results in a drop-off in benefits take-up, which is a contributory factor to, for example, pensioner poverty.

Child benefit and other universal payments to the seriously well-off can be clawed back through the inland revenue, as already happens.

Ministers worried about a budget deficit should stop picking on claimants and increase revenue income by raising the rate of taxation on big business and the rich and tackling tax avoidance havens.

Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, who have both campaigned constantly against the cuts agenda, brought solidarity from the Labour Representation Committee.

Mr McDonnell warned the Conservative Party that if the coalition government came for working people and their jobs and services "then we will come for you."

Keep the NHS public campaign group spokeswoman Dr Jackie Davis said the austerity and outsourcing measures spelled disaster for public sector workers, potentially making NHS employees "an endangered species."

GMB regional secretary Joe Morgan urged workers to recognise that "the only real power we have in this society is our industrial muscle."

"Contrary to the right-wing media lies, nobody wants to go on strike but, comrades, sometimes you have no choice,"

We brought down the Heath government with trade union action in the workplace. This time, with an alliance of union action and community campaigns we will defend our public services and drive then from office.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who has spent recent weeks doing the media circuit to try and justify savage attacks against people dependent on welfare provision, told his delegates that "good savings" could and would be made in welfare in order "to balance the budget."

But closing the rally, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka countered the PM, declaring co-ordinated strike action to be "inevitable" if these cuts were not shelved.

"We should say loud and clear, 'not one public sector job should be lost or one penny of public spending cut to pay for this crisis," he added.