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Archives For August 2014
1) Bills soar 4 times quicker than wages
“We will serve notice to every politician that voted to destroy our NHS – Join the fight back.
“Support for the NHS is growing day by day. We need our NHS so it’s time to join the thousands already campaigning together to keep it.
Right-to-buy sales of council owned properties have increased by a third in the second quarter of the year, with 2,845 properties sold between April and June.
Some are now calling for drastic reforms and changes to the scheme as housing stock is lost and not replaced at a time when more and more people are needing affordable homes and help with housing.
Schemes offering reductions and discounts on housing deposits and repayments have also been called into question.
“Darren Johnson, Green party member of the London Assembly, said right-to-buy was “a disaster” for London, where 948 council homes were sold to tenants over the quarter.
“He said: “A lot of council homes sold today will be in the hands of private landlords tomorrow. Fewer low-rent homes will drive more low paid people out of inner London. The mayor should lobby for it to be scrapped and for councils to be allowed to borrow to invest in building many more.”
5) Cameron rebuked over comments that ‘migrants take most new jobs’
David Cameron has been rebuked by the statistics watchdog for comments claiming migrants take most new UK jobs.
Cameron made the comments in an article for the Daily Telegraph, but was quickly challenged by Sir Andrew Dilnot – the chair of the UK Statistics Authority.
“Sir Andrew pointed out that figures from the Office for National Statistics show only that native Britons made up 76% of the increase in the number of people in work over the same period. “These official statistics do not show the number of ‘new jobs’,” he wrote.
“The number of people in employment and the number of jobs in the economy are not the same. One person may have more than one job, and some jobs may be shared by more than one person.”
“From the available official statistics, it is therefore not possible to estimate the number of new jobs, nor the number of new jobs that are filled by UK nations, nor the number of new jobs that are filled by non UK nationals.”
6) Property expert says benefit cap will not save money
George Osbourne’s benefit cap of £26,000 in London, and £23,400 outside London and the South East was part of further cuts of £12bn from the welfare budget.
However, Ajay Jagota insists that this will ‘not save a penny’ and just push up prices elsewhere. Jagota claims that the policy fails to tackle the broken housing market in London and does not encourage people to move away from the capital.
“Mr Jagota said: “If this really was a problem, wouldn’t the streets of the North East be awash with southern jobseekers, migrating North for an easier life? It’s certainly not something I’ve seen much evidence of.”
(sadly not satire – it’s the UK today)
There are now numerous cases of terminally sick cancer patients being told by the DWP they are unable to receive sickness benefit because they are supposedly ‘fit for work’.
The latest victim of the coalition government’s slashing of help and support for the sick, disabled and dying was Chris Smith, a plumber from Leicester with terminal cancer who died last month:
Help for the sick and disabled in the UK has now effectively disappeared and the welfare state – in England and Wales at least – has already gone.
Here’s the proof that sick people – even cancer patients – are now regarded as malingerers:
View original post 110 more words
Time and understanding how to use it, is an important tactic of any government, particularly our current coalition, in exasperating the pressures put on those facing the brunt of changing policy and austerity.
The element of timing is already understood as innately important in politics. ‘The Grid’ is a meticulous and detailed diary of news and forthcoming announcements used by government. Each entry is labeled as either ‘good news’ or ‘bad news’ and slotted into an appropriate release date which either brings attention to the government’s ‘good news’ achievements, or allows ‘bad news’ to slip out underneath bigger stories or at times where there is less attention being paid by the public or media.
During this period of austerity, where further than reduction of income and household money, there is a marked increase in the presence of debt, time has become an increasingly called upon tool to further implicate those suffering.
The Trussell Trust food bank, the largest in the UK, released data showing that benefit delays were the main reason for people needing to use a food bank. The government has made concentrated efforts to extend the gaps in which people receive help, without any provisions for those who fall into trouble within this time.
Sanctions can be implemented immediately, whereas appeals can take months to complete. In June last year, Osbourne announced that all claimants would have to wait seven days before claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance as opposed to three.
Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit scheme is seeing a claim take an average of five weeks to complete as opposed to two, which could see people falling into two months worth of arrears before receiving money. This is estimated to affect 300,000 people each month.
At the same time, the conversation taking place within government is not one that concerns or addresses the problems that come from this engineered timing gap. IDS continues to deny that benefit delays have anything to do with the increase in food bank usage. Osbourne continues to ‘stick up’ for the savers, despite the continuing fall in wages (for all but one of the last 50 months) and working conditions being a huge factor behind 9m of us not having any savings.
For those who dare to fight the hand they are dealt by new policy, time is again used to wear out the individual against government. We spoke about this briefly before:
“Last year, when five families took the Secretary of State to court to exempt disabled children and families from the bedroom tax, the government delayed changing the law as much as possible despite David Cameron publicly announcing that these exemptions existed.
“The government then tried to put the legal fees on the shoulders of the families, as a mother of one of the claimants explained after the hearing:
“I am relieved that at last the position for families like mine is clear and that following the court’s decision in July the government have finally changed the rules which would have had such a terrible effect on families like mine. My son needs his own bedroom because of his serious health problems. Without that bedroom, we were told he would have to go into residential care. I m sure that everyone can understand what heartbreak such a situation would cause any mother. We have been very disappointed by the way that the government have behaved throughout our case, but delighted that at last the position is clear. We will continue with our appeal, because at the moment the government has an order for legal costs against us, which seems ridiculous to me, given that we won our case and that the rules have now been changed as a result. However, we are so happy that the real battle is over.”
Jeremy Hunt has applied for appeal after appeal to enforce his plans for the NHS, which included the closure of Lewisham hospital. Judges have repeatedly ruled that workfare providers must be named, but government continue to appeal against this. A report revealing the failures and expenditure on the Universal Credit system has been postponed by the desperate IDS, now appealing for the third time against it’s release after two failed attempts. Yet, despite these rulings in favour of the public interest, ministers continue to run down the clock, and extend cases as long as possible.
The government has the ability, time, resources, manpower and might to continue appealing, whereas an individual fighting a unjust policy may not. And given that they may be fighting against sanctions, bedroom tax, workfare policies – they are fighting laws that affect the poorest in society, and thus will be the poorest.
This period of austerity is marked by the presence of debt, the obstruction, prolonging and postponement of processes and provision, and the vilification of the marginalised, which suggests this is an era far more focused than ever before, on the psychological control and burden it is putting on the worst off.
The purposeful complexities and delays are of course also an assault on the freedom to fight back. David Graeber, an anthropology professor who had a hand in the start of the Occupy movement, suggests that the vast amount of ‘bullshit jobs’ we have in the world, which provide no real social good or cater to any real human need are there to prohibit dissent: ”A population kept busy with bullshit has no time to start a revolution.” No doubt this can also be applied to the additional bureaucracy in our welfare system, our justice system and beyond.
by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass
“Used By Us, Owned By Us, Loved By Us. Now The NHS Can Only Be Saved By Us.”
The People’s March for the NHS, set up by a group of Mums outraged by the attacks and moves to privatise our NHS, began on Saturday 16th August, and will continue for 300 miles across 23 towns and cities all the way to Parliament.
The march is inspired by the Jarrow Crusade which marched against unemployment and extreme poverty in the North East of England during the Great Depression.
Their webpage reads:
“We will serve notice to every politician that voted to destroy our NHS – Join the fight back.
“Support for the NHS is growing day by day. We need our NHS so it’s time to join the thousands already campaigning together to keep it.
“DO 1 MILE, 10 MILES OR 300 MILES. COME TO A RALLY.
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT”
1) Last day to sign the EU Media Initiative for media plurality
Today is the last day to sign the Initiative fighting conflict of interest, cronyism, and monopoly ownership of our media. To find out more, go to the website www.mediainitiative.eu (Or search media initiative on RealFare) and make sure you add your name today!
2) Green Party announce Basic Income will form major part of manifesto
The Green Party have said the Universal Basic Income will form a major part of their campaign for the election in 2015. Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett said:
“It’ll be more prominent than it’s ever been before,” she said. “It’s really risen up the public agenda. We’ll be talking about it during the election.”
Bennett said that recently she had been facing extensive questioning over the Basic Income which has gained traction over the last twelve months. The Basic Income has been a part of the Green Party manifesto for a while, but now it’s time has come to take centre stage. If you want to find out more about it, read our piece, 6 Way of Progress: The Universal Basic Income.
3) NHS Staff up the ante on strike action over pay
Fifty Doncaster carers for the disabled are staging one of the longest strike actions in the history of the service to campaign for a living wage from the now privatised NHS service.
“Care UK, whose former chairman Lord Nash is now a government minister, took over services for people with severe learning disabilities in Doncaster, south Yorkshire, this year, cutting wages of staff who had been on NHS terms by up to 35% while bringing in 100 new workers on £7 an hour.
In an attempt to rewind a national trend for the de-skilling and the imposition of low wages in social care, the strikers, a majority of whom were transferred from the NHS to Care UK, are demanding a living wage of £7.65 for their poorest-paid colleagues.”
The care workers have already faced 7 weeks without pay.
Care UK won the contract to provide care for those with disabilities in the Doncaster area after claiming it could provide the service for £6.7m over three years, despite the wage bill alone costing around £7m.
It has been argued that contracts like these are deliberately taken out of the hands of the NHS (70% of contracts offered have gone to the private sector), with a view to rising prices and profits when the state sector has become smaller.
4) Pressure on interest rate rise increases as housing market grows
The number of mortgages taken out in the month of June increased by 4%, putting pressure on the Bank of England to increase interest rates from the historic low of 0.5%.
Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, has said controls must remain vigilant to keep prices in check, and this is made possible through greater borrowing restrictions such as affordability tests, which check outgoings as well as income before lending. Although, figures show this has only cooled the market for some months and mortgage lending is now increasing again.
The average income of first time buyers increased from £36,500 to £37,000 and the average borrowing amount increased by £2000 to £123,865.
5) Coalition pay-gap scheme sees only a handful of companies publish results
The coalition attempt to tackle the gender pay gap through greater transparency has seen only four companies publish results.
Think, Act, Report was launched three years ago, ‘amid great fanfare’ and hundreds of companies initially signed up.
Gloria De Piero highlighted the failures of the £90,000 scheme in a parliamentary question.
“According to De Piero, the figures show the Lib Dems’ new policy is a desperate attempt to cover up a failed initiative. “This scheme has flopped and has been given no priority by government, which only gives lip service to equal pay. Publishing pay gap figures is crucial if firms are to address pay differentials. Indeed, the CBI is calling on the government to set a target to reduce the pay gap,” she said.”
And this news comes as reports show that the recession has actually widened the gender pay gap even further, according to the Fawcett Society, and it now stands at 19.1%
by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass
The Universal Basic Income (or Basic Income, or Unconditional Basic Income) is a great way of debasing some of the pressures on inequality that are repeatedly exploited in a wayward economy, and will be a positive step forward in the redistribution of wealth which is the greatest divide of our times.
When we mentioned the UBI before a commentator took great offence that people should receive something for nothing, at the idea that there is this much money for people and a worry that we will descend into a feckless, workshy populus. Such faith.
These comments speak highly of the fear we have come to feel of our own capability and independence in a world where we are barraged with the constant alienation and villification of each other, the idea that everyone is out to get what’s yours, where the economy isn’t so much controlled by us as ‘happens to us’, where the fetishisation of work has penetrated consciences as a virtue in and of itself no matter how low the pay, and the idea that there must be this degree of suffering in falling working conditions and treatment as it is the crappy badge of honour we must all share to keep this tragic system going.
It is a fear of a world where people might decide more for themselves, than be governed. It is a fear that if we don’t continue doing as we’re told we might do something crazy, like live a more fulfilling life. This system is one that makes us think that taking steps to give ourselves more time and resources to live as we please is ‘radical’ and somehow undeserved, yet we bear witness to the growing army of food bank users, growing inequality, a growing number of people in poverty – many of these in work, growing debt and growing mental health issues. What system of work is being protected here exactly?
So to alay some of these fears that probably cross all of our minds in some way when the notion of the Universal Basic Income comes up, this article will walk us through the concept.
How much and from where?
The Swiss surfaced the idea of the Universal Basic Income a few months back with a referendum and a suggested allowance of £1750 a month. This is quite a lot, and while the suggestions for UK rates are lower, the Swiss are an example of what might be achieved.
Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader, backs the idea of the Universal Basic Income and has noted that around £7000 a year could be allocated to every UK citizen through the removal of the over-complicated benefits system and staff. The Citizens Income Trust estimate that £10,000 for everyone could be achieved through these measures and adjustments elsewhere.
The idea of getting money for nothing
George Osbourne has repeatedly been banging the drum to end the ‘something for nothing’ culture, as if it were a notion no sane human being would walk within yards of, temporarily forgetting his birthplace got him something for nothing, the interest on the bank accounts of those with money get them something for nothing, the housing crisis the same Chancellor is driving is giving homeowners something for nothing as house prices increase far beyond comprehension and the means of everyday people, and of course, a bailout with no conditions for banks is indeed, a whole lotta something for less than nothing, a deficit in fact.
Getting ‘something for nothing’ is common in our economy, but it seems it is only distasteful and linked to ‘fecklessness’ when the lower classes benefit from it.
We are also kidding ourselves with the idea that this economy fairly gives someone what they are owed. And I say this while there are hundreds of thousands of food bank users who are in work, while 93% of new housing benefit claimants are in work, while nurses are seeing blocks to pay rises of even 1% while bankers pay themselves millions in bonuses for abject failures. We hear time and time again about abolishing the something for nothing culture, and yet hardly a peep that there are plenty out there getting ‘nothing for something.’
And thus, in a such a clearly unequal and unforgiving economy, shouldn’t we be worrying less about getting something for nothing and concentrate more on giving everyone some basic subsistence to live?
Perhaps we need to focus on why we think giving everybody some money to live seems a reckless idea. Could it be to do with the blanket coverage of benefit cheats, immigrants, the unemployed, the disabled and the young who have taken centre stage in the austerity villification games. These people, with nothing, are bleeding the system dry. But we never hear, during this harsh austerity when ‘every penny counts’, that the FAILED (thankfully) student loan-book sell off cost £12bn which could have paid each student £5100, or that the work programme is costing us tens of thousands of pounds per person in work, or that the the Universal Credit system has wasted so much money that IDS uses even more of our money to fight the case for releasing the failures of his almighty UC in a report. We’re paying to not be told the truth. We’re paying for crooked ministers to cover their arses. So why on Earth is it radical to take some of this money back into our own hands?
Our system is maintaining and growing the insane Wealth Gap…
We can’t rely on this broken economy, engineered so well that 99% of us are fighting over 6% of the world’s wealth, to suddenly choke out some better results. But in agreeing that every person deserves the amenities to live, we can move towards better wealth distribution and equality.
UBI is a real step towards equality, demolishing the too handy and too oft turned to political tactic of scapegoating. Like the lie that if repeated comes to be believed, the government have repeatedly set about filling the public airwaves and newspapers with blame on the country’s poorest for a situation caused by the country’s richest. The hardest hit are always the already hardest hit. Single mothers, the disabled, the young, the unemployed, immigrants. All of these people are the ones who then have to jump through the expensive and bureaucratic hoops because their vilification in the media and on the street is not enough. I wonder what the papers will fill their pages with if the constant hate-spew upon the money these groups receive were no longer applicable. The UBI will at least restore some dignity for those the government have preyed on throughout austerity, to make their claims more difficult and longer to process, to prod and mock them for being ill, just to prise some more money, time and self-worth from the most in need.
The Universal Basic Income is a policy which moves us forward with the technological advances taking place. Checkouts are being replaced up and down the country, removing jobs from people who, in our current system, are then punished for not having a job. The takeover of technology is going to become more commonplace, and we need to move with it. Technological advances can, will and should free us from the tedious and mundane.
Yes, people’s attitudes to work may change, but the UK needs more flexibility as we are currently seeing one section of society work so much they are driven to poor health, and another section who cannot find work and are driven to poverty. John Ashton, a leading UK scientist remarked on this earlier last month:
“When you look at the way we lead our lives, the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, [work-related] mental health is clearly a major issue. We should be moving towards a four-day week because the problem we have in the world of work is you’ve got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that haven’t got jobs”, Ashton said.
“We’ve got a maldistribution of work. The lunch-hour has gone; people just have a sandwich at their desk and carry on working,” added the leader of the UK’s 3,300 public-health experts working in the NHS, local government and academia.”
Perhaps a deeper focus on the jobs we have will happen. But is this not what we need? We have all bore witness to the things a profit motive drives alone. It is the reason Cameron and predecessors like to arm the conflicts around the world. It is the reason our care industries have become so neglected, while we instead hold up occupations such as bankers and stock market brokers as achievements and success with more than ample payment and respect despite the amassing of money and risk-taking providing no social good.
Also, how many call centres do we need? How many jobs are aimed at catching us out, or annoying us, in the hope that because of our busy lives we will just say yes to be done with it? How many of these would we honestly miss?
The UBI won’t remove any healthy competition but it will redress some balance of profit with human need and quality of life.
“If people are working because the economic system forces them to, and pays them below what they feel they deserve but they are forced to accept it to even barely scrape by, then our economic system isn’t functioning for the population, it’s functioning for itself. Basic Income is an economic systemic equaliser.”
If the UBI were to come into being, there would need to be some work done and decisions made around some housing benefit claims which the proposed UBI amount may not cover. But again, the escalating housing and rent prices are something that need tackling, as our current government have simply resolved to do nothing about the rising prices, instead punishing claimants by capping their housing benefit which could push them into arrears. We have spoken before about why the government doesn’t want to solve the housing crisis or help control prices as it contributes to growth, but housing policies need to be a huge part of any future plan for Britain, so we welcome some focus on the need to provide affordable housing and rents.
The other issue would be any backlash formed from granting the UBI to the rich too. Personally, I say, they would have got it anyway, through tax breaks or some other scheme, so if the majority are finally getting something out of this, and it is truly universal and unconditional, then that is positive.
It’s time we stopped trying to diminish the true qualities of life – time, friends, family, freedom, creativity. The books we want to read, the people we want to see, the new advances and ideas that could propel us even further forward in our evolution have no time live in the minds of those spending every waking moment trying to scrape by.
The government aren’t going to encourage these things. But when was the last time you heard them say they were doing something for your personal freedom? To give you more time to be, well, a human being and not a workhorse. When did you last hear Cameron or Clegg speak about your quality of life as they do about our need to be hardworking citizens in a system of low pay?
That’s why it’s up to us to make the UBI a demand.
Read the others in this series:
This summer stand up for social, environmental and economic justice.
Thursday 14th – Wednesday 20th August 2014
We’re excited to stand in solidarity with the community groups on the front-line of the fight against fracking. Transport info here.
Support the community fightback
Get skilled up and take direct action
Build the world you want to see
Martin Luther King Jr said that a riot is the voice of the unheard. More and more we live in a country where the majority are unheard.
After 2 explosive years of mass demonstrations, riots and occupations, the end of the Occupy movement saw the end of coverage of the politics of dissent.
The media had tried to make these movements seem as petty and awful as possible, but public support was overwhelmingly on their side.
With a Royal Wedding, the Olympics and a hopeless national football team to support, the media ignored the silencing of activists and refused to cover the actions of anti government protestors.
When the Electricians strike crippled Balfour Beatty (the largest construction company in the world), we heard nothing.
When Manchester hosted the largest demonstration in it’s history to protect the NHS, we heard nothing.
When Disabled People Against Cuts occupied the BBC to protest the lack of coverage of their issues, we heard nothing.
TTIP, legal aid cuts, workfare, mental health care slashed, fracking, the bombing of Palestine, housing crisis, benefit sanctions, food poverty, fuel poverty, people’s assemblies, public sector cuts and many other issues have seen movements go beyond protest to direct action and have been routinely ignored.
It is now that we ask the question, when do the unheard riot?
Of course we feel there is still a voice of dissent.
Increasingly aware of the continued anger and frustration of the majority of people in the country the media show us one man who is prepared to stand up to establishment.
That man is – former commodities trader – Nigel Farage!
During the last 12 months UKIP have received 5 times more media coverage on the BBC than any of the main parties and 25 times more than the Greens.
Yet when polled, 73% of UKIP voters said they preferred Green policies. We just never got to hear those policies.
This is a classic example of spectacular distraction, media divide and rule at it’s finest.
The corporate and state media will always be drawn to spectacular over substance – but even the spectacular protests of the recent years have been hidden.
It will always organise in the interests of the powerful and represent their interests whilst it is owned by them, funded by them, influenced by their lobbying and given all their ‘official’ news by them.
However we live in an age of immediate response, of the possibility for our own free press globally.
We can change the story. We can take action that can’t be ignored.
We can hound the media in huge numbers – on their forums and on their websites and at their offices.
We can create an alternative media, and get our news and information directly from those in the know.
We can Reclaim The Media.
1) Britain’s slow recovery is historically unprecedented
We said before that this had been the slowest recovery for a hundred years, but it seems Osbourne is breaking records with this one, as it is in fact the slowest recovery in 314 years! (We are still using the word ‘recovery’ in a mocking way, bytheway). David Blanchflower, Independent Journalist, decided to dig a little deeper at the record of the coalition, and found that not only is this the slowest recovery in over three centuries but the Coalition did choke the recovery’s progress.
“First, all previous recessions’ lost output was restored in four years or less, in contrast with just over six years – in fact 76 months according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research – for the current recession. Second, it is apparent that the steepness of the path of recovery in all previous recessions was approximately the same, that is to say, the slopes of all the upward lines pre-2008 is approximately the same. Third, the recovery under Labour between Q32009 and Q32010 also broadly followed that same path, as does the current recovery over the last year or so.
“Finally, what is unprecedented is the flatlining of the economy in the Great Recession under the Coalition, once the recovery was already underway, from around months 37 (February 2011) through month 59 (December 2012). In February 2011 GDP was 4.9 per cent below the starting level; it was 4.2 per cent below it in January 2012 and still 4.2 per cent below in December 2012. It had still only reached minus 3.1 per cent by May 2013, in month 64. The Coalition killed off recovery at birth.”
2) Osbourne suggests welfare money should be redirected onto high-speed rail links for north
George Osbourne has suggested that welfare payments which provide no ‘real economic return’ should be redirected into creating high speed rail links and infrastructure for the north of country.
Osbourne suggested that welfare payments can indeed ‘trap people in poverty’ – this is true in some ways, but if we were to remove these welfare payments to build more trains, people would still be trapped in a state of poverty, whilst a train they cannot afford a ticket for is built outside their house. We have a suggestion for what we could do with redirected welfare payments – start the Universal Basic income – an unconditional income of £7000 a year could be granted to every citizen if we removed the welfare system altogether. Stay tuned for our article explaining the UBI this week.
3) 300,000 people wait five weeks for benefit payments in UK
A report published on Thursday by the TUC revealed that the Universal Credit scheme hits 300,000 people a month with a five week wait as it assesses benefit payments. Previously, you had to wait two weeks for payment.
The new waiting time could see people going into 2 months of rent arrears before receiving support. The report revealed that 39,000 newly unemployed people will be hit by the wait each month. The report also revealed that only 1 in seven people knew about the plans, with 70% saying they would be worried if they had to wait this long if they lost their job.
The TUC has now launched their new campaign, Save Our Safety Net, highlighting the holes in the welfare system, including the five week wait.
4) Iain Duncan Smith interview
IDS gave a interview to a BBC journalist which demonstrated that he is achieving exactly what he set out to.
“And what of those stories of people suffering hardship because of benefits being reduced or not paid. “These stories about people in difficulty didn’t start the day I walked through the door. But of course those stories are sad and I want to find out about them – the speed with which you pick those up is what you really test yourself on.
“The reality is that the change itself should help resolve that, if you don’t change it they’re still going to be screaming.”
“Speed” as demonstrated by the previous story, doesn’t seem to be the Minister’s strong point. 1 million people using a food bank should probably sound alarms for IDS, or perhaps the fact that the main reason given for needing a food bank is benefit delays, and yet an even longer wait has been installed in the new flagship welfare system Universal Credit. Although, yes, we should have known from the fact this MInister has remained in his place past the reshuffle, that he is wholly being rewarded for the work he has done. The work that is so good, that IDS wants to suppress the reports of failures and costs of implementation from the public. All at public expense of course.
by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass