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Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Solidarity between British Students & Unemployed Claimants

Students & Unemployed Benefit Claimants joined forces in SOLIDARITY - protesting against the rise in tuition fees & cuts in benefits, vowed today to continue their sit-in at a Kent university building until the new year.

The protesters have occupied the University of Kent's Senate building on its Canterbury campus since December 8.

They want the university and its vice-chancellor to publicly condemn the planned fee rises and education cuts, which would see tuition fees increase to as much as £9,000 a year.

Student Alan Bolwell "We are prepared to stay over Christmas, we are prepared to stay over New Year's, we are prepared to stay as long as it takes."

But the university said it is now considering taking legal action to remove the students as it is due to close for the holidays.

A spokesman said: "The university is preparing to close down for Christmas so we're in talks with the students to try and come up with a solution that we all agree on.

"We may have to get a possession order so we can start to use the Senate building for its purpose again but that's very much a last resort."

Some British MPs joined campaigners today in condemning government plans to cut housing benefit.

The MPs warned at a cross-party parliamentary committee today that the cuts would ghettoise residential areas and see homelessness spiral out of control as people struggle to pay their rent.

They called on the government to scrutinise the impact of its proposals to cut housing benefit and be prepared to invest more.

In a money-saving bid the coalition is planning to cut housing benefit by 10 per cent after a year out of work, cap weekly rates at £400 and link payments to the cheapest 30 per cent of properties in an area rather than the average rent.

But the work and pensions committee warned that the cuts would not only cause people to move to cheaper areas but may force some onto the streets if they end up in rent arrears.

In an inquiry into the changes some witnesses told the committee that an increase in evictions and homelessness was "inevitable."

The committee also said ministers were being optimistic in assuming that landlords will cut rents in response to benefit reductions and urged them to come forward with a "more nuanced approach" that recognises the difference between disabled people and single parents from those not looking for work.

British Property Federation representing landlords Ian Fletcher said the reforms posed a "welfare gamble."

Mr Fletcher said: "This report encapsulates the deep concern there is among backbench MPs, landlords and other stakeholders over reforms to the housing benefit system. We are seeing a huge gamble with high stakes for claimants, landlords and the public purse."

He added he is not surprised that even some Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs are critical and "sensed rebellion brewing" unless the government is more transparent about the proposals.

Defend Council Housing chairwoman Eileen Short said: "Homelessness is already rising with the recession causing a record number of repossessions and evictions.

"Now the government's own expert advisers have given hard evidence that its housing benefit policies are disastrous and totally unjust.

"Combined with the government's vicious attacks on social housing, with the threat against security of tenure and rent increases, these cuts amount to a total onslaught on the whole principle of council homes and communities."

Defend Council Housing is organising a mass lobby of parliament on February 15 against the government's social housing policies.

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said that the report provided yet more evidence of government cuts leading to homelessness as an increasing number of people are unable to afford to stay in their homes.

"Future plans to break the link between housing benefit and the cost of rents will make this situation even worse, leaving large swathes of the country completely unaffordable for claimants," he said.

Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud claimed that the housing benefit reforms will "return fairness to a system that currently sees some claiming over £30,000 a year to live in large houses in expensive areas that ordinary hard-working families cannot afford."

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