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Focus on cuts – 5: the poorest targetted

A reader from Bournville draws attention to an article by Jules Birch in Inside Housing, a weekly magazine for housing professionals. He focusses on a recent TV Panorama programme about the benefit cap that now leaves thousands of people with 50p a week towards their rent.

He noticed that roughly 95% of tweets with the hashtag #benefitcap (scroll down to April 7) were hostile to the people featured in the programme rather than the policy. The majority of people commenting on Twitter were seeing the undeserving individual instead: the stroppy single mother with a mobile phone and the couple with many children. He notes that exactly the same thing happened with Benefits Street, How to Get a Council House and a Dispatches documentary on the cap last month.

Part of the problem, he believes, lay with the way Panorama framed the issue. As Joe Halewood was quick to point out, the programme and its advance publicity seemed to assume that most people capped are unemployed and on Jobseeker’s Allowance, when in fact just 13% are.

The fact that the vast majority of people capped are either unable to work or not required to work was only raised tentatively halfway through the programme. Most of those capped are lone parents with young children who are not required to look for work, or people on Employment and Support Allowance who do not qualify for an exemption but are still not fit for work.

David Pipe explained the effects in a piece following the Dispatches documentary last month. 7,500 households across 370 local authority areas have lost their housing benefit and are now receiving just 50p a week to pay their rent. The cap leaves a nominal amount for housing benefit or Universal Credit once someone’s benefits total more than £20,000 (£23,000 in London). In effect it is imposed on top of the rest of the benefits system.

The latest budget highlighted cuts for the poorest 18-21-year-olds, who will no longer be entitled to help with their rent through Universal Credit from April 1.

For many, Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are the only thing keeping them in their home and the effect over time will be rising rent arrears and evictions and allocations policies that make it less likely that people on benefits will get a tenancy in the first place. So where and how can the poorest people live? Even people in caravans are being capped, and what will the knock-on costs be in terms of homelessness and the impact on the children?

Meanwhile in Broken Britain, the May government continues the policies of its predecessors and makes decisions which seriously afflict the poorest and greatly benefit the richest: the arms traders, Big Pharma, the privatised utilities, large developers, car manufacturers, private health companies and expensive, inefficient outsourcers – Serco, G4s and Capita.

 

 

 

 

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Gordon Brown: the Labour Party needs a leader who is radical, credible and electable, someone who gives hope – Jeremy Corbyn

Under Corbyn the haves will have a little less and the have nots will have a little hope writes author Steve Beauchampé, in the Birmingham Press article summarised below.

He voices the thoughts of so many: “I did not vote for Labour in the 2015 General Election. I have not voted for the party since before Tony Blair and his New Labour ideologues ascended to power in the mid-1990s. But should Jeremy Corbyn win the current leadership contest and lead the party into the 2020 General Election, it is quite possible that I will give Labour my vote”.

This is not because Corbyn is a conviction politician (rather than a politician who should be convicted, a description applicable to several of his critics)

Again, voicing the reasoning of so many, Steve will ‘quite possibly’ give his vote because he is “in broad agreement with many of his policies and am sympathetic to the kind of society that he aims to create”.

Jeremy Corbyn’s overarching vision involves the creation of a form of social democracy that appears not dissimilar to that championed by the SNP:

“The society Corbyn envisages differs vastly to that produced by the ultra free market economy so loved by George Osborne and many luminaries of the New Labour era, an always and ever open for business society where everything has its price, but nothing is valued, money is power and the vulnerable are scorned”.

But to portray Corbyn as anti-business is incorrect

“Although he is committed to policies designed to narrow Britain’s increasing wealth gap, and to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable are not scapegoated for the results of a banking crisis and subsequent recession for which they were not responsible, he is supportive of those businesses who behave responsibly to their employees, customers and the environment whilst also being cognisant of their impact upon wider society”.

Steve comments that in most western democracies (Ed: especially Scandinavian) most proposals in Corbyn’s programme would be regarded as routine social democracy. Only in the context of a political centre ground that has travelled inexorably to the right for much of the last 35 years, and particularly since 2010, are they viewed as extreme.

He adds several paragraphs about Corbyn proposals, listed here:

  • a high tax economy for the wealthy,
  • a low tax economy for the poor,
  • increased public spending,
  • re-nationalisation of the railways (by not renewing private sector franchises),
  • nationalisation of private utilities in the energy sector,
  • removal of all elements of privatisation from the NHS,
  • bringing free schools and academies under effective local authority control
  • re-introducing rent controls to reduce the amount the state pays to private landlords,
  • strengthening those democratically accountable local institutions laid waste, first by New Labour, and then by Osborne’s austerity mantra,
  • improved and more sympathetic working conditions and practices,
  • rebalancing the economy away from a reliance on financial services to the manufacturing sector,
  • tightening banking regulations (Osborne intends relaxing them further),
  • re-introducing a 50% rate of income tax,
  • raising corporation tax (currently at a historically low level) by 0.5%, as a means of paying for the abolition of tuition fees
  • and creating an investment bank to stimulate investment and growth.

There’s much more – the scrapping of Trident, Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent, a substantial increase in the number of ‘affordable’ homes being built (at the expense of ones property speculators can afford), including those by local authorities, opposition to fracking and the creation of an elected second chamber to replace the House of Lords.

Corbyn’s agenda for devolution includes a loosening of Treasury controls over Local Enterprise Partnerships, a re-balancing of transport policy away from the South East and opposition to the imposition of metro-Mayors without approval via a local referendum.

A raft of measures designed to reverse the Conservative’s unrelenting discrimination against the economic and social rights of under-25s

Corbyn has stated that apprentices would be paid the minimum wage, young people would no longer be denied housing benefit simply because they are young and would no longer need fear the debt laden future after graduation. He continues:

“This broad sweep of policies gives lie to the myth that a Jeremy Corbyn-led administration offers nothing more than a return to the politics of the 1980s, that he would make Labour the party of protest, permanently in opposition. On the contrary, many of his ideas offer forward thinking answers to contemporary issues. For sure he proposes to finally right certain ideologically driven decisions that were taken under Thatcher and Blair, but so he should, these were wrong then and are still wrong today”.

Moving away from the New Labour era, an always and ever open for business society where everything has its price, but nothing is valued, money is power and the vulnerable are scorned: “As former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said, the Labour Party needs a leader who is radical, credible and electable, someone who gives hope. That would be Jeremy Corbyn then”.

Read the whole article here: http://thebirminghampress.com/2015/08/anyone-but-the-other-three/

Government rules out a ‘mansion tax’ – working in China – but inflicts a tax on thousands of social housing tenants

Are we really all in this together?

 

Mansion tax

 

The SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens will use an opposition day motion to call on the government to abolish its “unjust and unworkable” housing under-occupancy policy.

This docks housing benefit from families who are not using every bedroom in their home – ostensibly hoping they will move somewhere smaller.

As there are no such properties readily available this will act as a tax on the poor.

 Birmingham against the Cuts designed this poster and explore the outworking of the measure here:

bedroom tax