Archives For WWLLW

1) ‘Humiliation’ greets new Work Capability Assessment provider in first week

 

Over 30 protests were held across the country against the new provider of Work Capability Assessments (WCA) on Monday 2nd March. American company Maximus replace ATOS but campaigners claim that this is merely a shift from one ‘toxic’ profit seeking company to another, making no difference to the disabled people being assessed. Maximus also has a history of discrimination, incompetance and alleged fraud in the US.

Protests held by activists from Disabled People Against Cuts sought to re-name the company as Maximarse which trended briefly on Twitter during the demonstrations. Embarrassingly for Maximarse, it was revealed that the company had bought the domain http://www.maximarse.com to prevent any spoof websites being created against them.

The purchase was made on 26 January by the company’s senior manager for investor relations and corporate communications. Maximus have yet to comment on the domain purchase or their plans for the site.

Read more about this story here.

2) Jeremy Hunt accused of cover up over damning NHS report

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been accused of a ‘politically motivated’ cover up of a critical report on the NHS, written by Tory peer and ex-M&S boss Stuart Rose. Sarah Wollaston, a GP and Tory MP who now heads up the health select committee has accused Jeremy Hunt of with-holding vital information until after the election. The report is critical of problems with NHS management, which could come as a blow to the Tory election campaign, as the NHS becomes a hot topic. Rose is said to be angry at the report’s stifling, though has not made any comments.

“Wollaston told the Observer that reports which had been commissioned by government and paid for by taxpayers should be made available at the earliest opportunity on matters of such clear public interest. “There is far too much of this going on, with uncomfortable information being withheld,” Wollaston said. “Just as with the Chilcot report into the Iraq war, it is not right that reports paid for out of public money are not made available to the public on such vital issues as soon as possible, particularly ahead of a general election.”

 Read more about this story here.

3) Occupy Democracy protestors given go ahead to challenge Boris over Parliament Square fencing

Occupy Democracy returned to Parliament Square this weekend on a day that coincided with the thousands of Londoners at the Climate March, with the good news that they have been given permission to challenge Mayor of London Boris Johnson over the decision to erect a fence halfway through a 10 day Occupy demonstration, prohibiting peaceful protest from continuing.

Protestors were told that the fencing was required for maintenance of the grass, but the area was quickly extended, forcing the protestors further and further away. Occupy Democracy went to great lengths to ensure there was no littering and an alcohol free zone. There were also never so many protestors to inhibit others being able to join them or dominate the area.

“Rosie Brighouse, Lawyer for Liberty, said:

“The UK has a long, proud history of holding the powerful to account, and the right to protest peacefully is enshrined in law in our Human Rights Act. Unfortunately that can be something of an inconvenience for those in power.

“The Mayor’s flagrant disregard for one of our most fundamental freedoms, on the very doorstep of the palace of power, cannot be allowed to go unchecked – so we’re delighted the courts have seen fit to review his actions.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Boris Johnson’s ‘duplicitous claims’ over vanity project revealed

London’s ‘garden bridge’ project was billed as a free gift for London, but a confidential letter leaked to the Guardian has revealed the public purse is obliged to pay the £3.5m maintenance costs yearly on top of £60m committed funds.

This goes against everything Johnson has publicly promised about the project, which now is causing a strain on transport funds while he sells it as a ‘sponsored gift.’This is also amid growing austerity, poverty and social cleansing in the capital, and while Boris makes attempts to shut down the voice of the public as above.

Read more about this story here.

5) Paul Mobbs arrested during citizens’ arrest of Cabinet

Environmental researcher and consultant Paul Mobbs was arrested under the Terrorism Act last week outside 10 Downing Street while he tried to arrest the Cabinet for Misconduct in Public Office. Watch this brilliant video detailing how Paul Mobbs went through with the action, giving great advice on how to deal with police and law at a time of institutional ignorance to human rights and corruption:

 

Update:

‘Paul has now been released from Charring Cross police station. He has officially reported a crime (misconduct in public office) which the police are now duty bound to investigate and he has provided them with everything they need to investigate the crime. He is now setting off home and should be back in Banbury in a few hours. He is going to celebrate by going for a walk tomorrow.’

 Read more about this story here. 

6) Wannabe Tory leader says it’s ‘impossible’ to raise family on £67k

Millionaire Windsor MP Adam Afriyie became yet another example of out-of-touch MPs after he claimed that it was ‘impossible’ to raise a family on an MP’s salary of £67k.

Afriyie said that MPs salaries and expenses should be scrapped and they should be given an allowance of £225,000 a year to spend however they want, adding that if wages from 1911 kept pace this is the figure MPs would be on. He failed to mention the rate at which the minimum wage would be if it had not been stifled by governments, or the rates of pay for nurses and care workers had they not been kept down by successive governments and environments of austerity and stagnant wages.

Read more about this idiot here.

1) Real Media Gathering 

It was a successful gathering for Real Media on Saturday. So many highlights and insights from the array of great speakers including Nafeez Ahmed, Des Freedman, Donnachadh Mccarthy, Samantha Asumadu, Jamie-Kelsey Fry and Angela Haggerty. We have some great pictures from ‘Fields of Light Photography’ – you can find more of their work here and more pictures from the conference here. Videos to come. Thanks to all involved.
Images: Fields of Light Photography 10410549_818513151535418_3351211666109392205_n 10456817_818513494868717_4988557541414463412_n 10647139_818513164868750_4858145583955167207_n 11043197_818512988202101_2624333882209417146_n 10919016_818513028202097_1896150508559306475_n 11025179_818512804868786_5840824138894688795_n

2) Maximus protests today

Nationwide protests are taking place today against the new provider of Work Capability Assessments; Maximus. The American provider replaces ATOS but concerns remain high as Maximus has a history of fraud and fundamental changes to the assessment system have not been implemented leaving sick and disabled people at risk of further problems.

Paula Peters explains more in this video interview with the Artist Taxi Driver, and you can find out more here.

3) Homelessness up more than 50% since 2010

Statistics released last week show that street homelessness has risen 55% since the coalition came to power.

In London, street homelessness has risen 80% since 2010.

Rick Henderson of Homeless Link said:

“We should ask ourselves why it is acceptable that anyone has to sleep rough in Britain today.

“What’s even more shocking is that the number of people in this situation has risen every year since 2010.

“Unfortunately, many charities have seen funding fall at the very time that demand for help is on the rise.

“To turn the tide, politicians need to make sure the right support needs are available in every area so that no one has to live on our streets.”

 

Read more about this story here.

4) Rifkin in ‘policy for sale’ scandal, Cameron attempts to smooth over corruption

Much like Boris Johnson’s defence of tax avoidance by Boots as ‘doing the job well’, Cameron now defends MP’s second jobs as they need a ‘range of experience’ despite the clear conflict of interest. We’ll leave it to Mark Steel writing in the Independent to sum up this one:

“Members of Parliament should have second jobs, said David Cameron, to give them a “range of experience”, and keep them in touch with the common person. So that’s why they do the sort of second jobs they have, because nothing keeps you in touch with the common person as much as being paid five grand a day consulting an Arab bank.

“They also maintain there was nothing underhand about the services they were offering. This may be true, and when Straw offered to work for a Chinese company, it never occurred to him that the reason they were interested in him was he could use his position to influence ministers. He thought they’d heard he was really good at filing. And when he said he charges between £5,000 and £8,000 for a speech, he never imagined companies pay that to get access to the Government. He gets that much because he does a hilarious impression of Saddam Hussein, and juggles with cauliflowers for an extra 50 quid.”

Find a list of MPs who earned more than £7m outside of Parliament in 2014 here.

Read the full article here.

5) Greg Wise and Emma Thompson refuse to pay tax until HSBC are punished

Actor Greg Wise, married to actress Emma Thompson, has vowed not to pay tax until those involved in the HSBC scandal are sentenced:

“Wise spoke of his disgust with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and the bank after the Guardian and other news organisations published leaked details of 100,000 accounts held by HSBC’s Swiss arm which showed how the bank had helped clients to move cash out of the country.

“I want to stop paying tax, until everyone pays tax,” Wise told the Evening Standard. “I have actively loved paying tax, because I am a profound fucking socialist and I believe we are all in it together. But I am disgusted with HMRC. I am disgusted with HSBC. And I’m not paying a penny more until those evil bastards go to prison.”

1) HSBC offers full page apology only for the least of their crimes

“They don’t mention all the tens of thousands of beheaded people in Mexico and Columbia. They don’t mention all those ripped off by all the Libor rigging, or all the clients they ripped off in the Forex scandal.”

Stacey Herbert

Max Keiser hits the nail on the head in this video, putting some perspective on the actions, treatment and non-punishment for years of mass criminal behaviour and financial terrorism at one of our largest banks, including the fact HSBC funded terrorist groups. The media has worked hard to shape the debate and limit our understanding of the gross injustice inflicted on the world by banks like HSBC. In the video, co-host Stacey Herbert highlights that the Department of Justice in the UK failed to prosecute and punish HSBC because of ‘collateral consequences’ suggesting they are too big to punish. However, Iceland has punished, sentenced and regulated their financial industries and guess what? Their economy has not collapsed, and their public are much safer.

2) Peter Oborne publicly resigns from The Telegraph over ‘fraudulent’ coverage

Political Commentator, Peter Oborne publicly resigned from The telegraph with this letter posted on Open Democracy where he accuses the Telegraph of having committed a fraud on its readers over coverage of HSBC.

 

Image: The Commentator

Image: The Commentator

From the letter:

“With the collapse in standards has come a most sinister development. It has long been axiomatic in quality British journalism that the advertising department and editorial should be kept rigorously apart. There is a great deal of evidence that, at the Telegraph, this distinction has collapsed.

“Late last year I set to work on a story about the international banking giant HSBC. Well-known British Muslims had received letters out of the blue from HSBC informing them that their accounts had been closed. No reason was given, and it was made plain that there was no possibility of appeal. “It’s like having your water cut off,” one victim told me.”

“When I submitted it for publication on the Telegraph website, I was at first told there would be no problem. When it was not published I made enquiries. I was fobbed off with excuses, then told there was a legal problem. When I asked the legal department, the lawyers were unaware of any difficulty. When I pushed the point, an executive took me aside and said that “there is a bit of an issue” with HSBC. Eventually I gave up in despair and offered the article toopenDemocracy. It can be read here.

“I researched the newspaper’s coverage of HSBC. I learnt that Harry Wilson, the admirable banking correspondent of the Telegraph, had published an online story about HSBC based on a report from a Hong Kong analyst who had claimed there was a ‘black hole’ in the HSBC accounts. This story was swiftly removed from the Telegraph website, even though there were no legal problems. When I asked HSBC whether the bank had complained about Wilson’s article, or played any role in the decision to remove it, the bank declined to comment. Mr Wilson’s contemporaneous tweets referring to the story can be found here. The story itself, however, is no longer available on the website, as anybody trying to follow through the link can discover. Mr Wilson rather bravely raised this issue publicly at the ‘town hall meeting’ when Jason Seiken introduced himself to staff. He has since left the paper.

“Then, on 4 November 2014, a number of papers reported a blow to HSBC profits as the bank set aside more than £1 billion for customer compensation and an investigation into the rigging of currency markets. This story was the city splash in the Times, Guardian and Mail, making a page lead in theIndependent. I inspected the Telegraph coverage. It generated five paragraphs in total on page 5 of the business section.

“The reporting of HSBC is part of a wider problem. On 10 May last year theTelegraph ran a long feature on Cunard’s Queen Mary II liner on the news review page. This episode looked to many like a plug for an advertiser on a page normally dedicated to serious news analysis. I again checked and certainly Telegraph competitors did not view Cunard’s liner as a major news story. Cunard is an important Telegraph advertiser.”

In this short video, Oborne explains how news judgements were made based on advertising partners which severely distorts journalism. This is why we need Real Media.

3)  Cameron takes aim at working poor and ‘unhealthy’

While David Cameron claims to be on the side of the ‘hardworking’ he quietly slipped through plans for a pilot scheme beginning in April targeting and punishing those in low paid or part time work.

It is important to bear in mind that Cameron has garnered an environment of low pay and insecure employment with record numbers of people in in-work poverty. The Prime Minister has taken steps to remove power and rights from employees, and give more to employers. This allows large employers to exploit desperate workforces, keeping them on poverty wages, while company profits are subsidised by the state when topping up low pay. And for this, Cameron now plans to make the lives of employees even harder with the kind of bureaucratic delays, sanctions, punishment and hardship which halt people’s ability to function or get on in society.

“One change in particular threatens to scupper Cameron’s claim to be on the side of Britain’s hard working people. In an alteration to legislation that went largely unnoticed at the end of last month, the government introduced a pilot for 15,000 low-paid working universal credit claimants. Those participating in the mandatory scheme may find that their benefits are reduced if they do not actively seek to work more hours or increase their salary.

“The change is important because this policy goes beyond targeting jobseekers, the sick and disabled. If penalises those who are hard at work, maintaining part-time, low-salaried jobs

“Labour peer Baroness Sherlock said in the House of Lords before the secondary legislation was introduced: ‘If you have been on benefits and you get a job, you do not expect the department to ring you up at work saying, “Come and talk to me because you’re not working enough”.

‘I think that people who feel that they have escaped the tender ministrations of the jobcentre are going to be a little taken aback when they find that it starts following them to work.’

“Sanctions can apply of claimants working less than 35 hours a week on minimum wage (typically £12,000 a year) who do not comply with the scheme. Failure may include failing to attend ‘job focused interviews’ or failing to apply for a job that might bring in extra hours. Welfare reform minister Lord David Freud says “tougher” conversations will be had with claimants after two months.

“For claimants, one of the most worrying aspects of the programme – called work related requirements – is that it can apply to housing benefit (technically the housing cost element of universal credit). That’s potentially a chunk of your rent lost to the DWP if you do not take active steps to get a better-paid job.”

Cameron also announced that benefits would be cut for obese people and addicts who refused ‘help’, pretending he was a moral crusader by condemning more poor people as moral failures who need to be punished.  Meanwhile, Tory Minister Lord Green is protected and rewarded by Cameron and his party, despite his chairmanship of HSBC during heinous criminal activity remarked on above. He cares so much.

Read more about this story here.

4) Universal Credit Fact Sheet

HuffPost shared this fact sheet on the bewildering Universal Credit system, just in case there was any lingering confusion on the flagship scheme which is now being rolled out nationally.

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(Fact sheet created for HuffPost UK Comedy by David Schneider and David Beresford)

Daniel Pacey, who was featured in the government’s own film about Universal Credit, has since spoken out about the ‘nightmare’ system which left him with no money for six weeks before his first payment, and ongoing problems and delays to his claim. Pacey warned that Universal Credit is likely to push people into hardship.

5) Firefighters strike this Wednesday

Firefighters confirmed plans for a 24 hour walkout taking place this Wednesday, over continued fights for pensions and disputes on retirement age.

The strike comes after fire authorities backed down on promises to not reduce pensions for those failing fitness tests over the age of 55.

The strike begins at 7am on Wednesday with many staff joining a Fire Brigades Union demonstration in Westminster.

Read more about this story here.

1) Six firms including Facebook and Google, made £14bn last year but paid just 0.3% tax

Image: PA/Reuters

Image: PA/Reuters

An investigation by the Sunday Mirror has revealed that Facebook, Google, Amazon, Ebay, Apple and Starbucks have paid less than 1% tax.

The companies reported revenue of £2.6bn but further income by sister companies have been collected and have avoided tax through havens. The total they are estimated to have made is actually £14.2bn.

“The Sunday Mirror also reported that there was £9bn black hole in corporation tax, helped along by corporate tax cuts brought in by George Osborne.

“These changes include a scheme “so blatantly a tax avoidance arrangement for big business” it is now being reformed after protests from Germany and the EU, said Richard Murphy of campaign group Tax Research.

“Meanwhile, ordinary people were clobbered with a 2.5 per cent VAT hike within weeks of the Tory-led Government taking office in 2010.

“A group of 17 leading charities, including ActionAid, Oxfam and the Equality Trust, are urgently calling on all political parties to support a Tax Dodging Bill.”

Further support for tax avoidance was shown by Mayor of London, Boris Johnson who defended Boots Boss Stefano Pessina’s tax avoidance, insisting that Pessina had a ‘duty’ to avoid tax for his shareholders.

Crucially, in this defence figures like Boris never highlight that this is money owed to the UK, that should be used for social good, public services and resources. Boris is attempting to make this acceptable, but Frankie Boyle put it succinctly enough on Twitter last year:

‘If you’re rich don’t look at it as tax avoidance, look at it as a children’s hospital buying you a pool.’

Read more about this story here.

2) Number of City backers doubles for Tories

The number of City donors has doubled for the Tories since 2010 with figures from the Square Mile, the Financial Times reported last week.

We’re sure this has nothing to do with the lucrative money grabbing policies for the city allowed by the Tories through corporate tax cuts and the free reign and support of loopholes and avoidance as above. But they clearly like something about them.

Image from Financial Times – read the full story here.


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3) 40 MPs on guest list for dinner with arms trade dealers

40 MPs were on the guest list for a dinner organised by trade organisation ADS, at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane, according to information passed to The Independent by Campaign Against Arms Trade (Caat).

Jeremy Vine gave a speech at the event for a five figure fee, and Business Secretary Vince Cable also attended the event.

Andrew Smith from Caat said: “It’s outrageous that the government actively supports and promotes this deadly trade.

“The fact that arms dealers were swilling champagne with over 40 MPs is a disgrace and shows the extent of the arms trade’s connections and political lobbying.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Costs of Universal Credit plans not to be revealed until after election

The costs of the troubled Universal Credit System will not be revealed until after the May 2015 election, according to information received by Computer Weekly.

The new system has faced trouble from the start, and was estimated to cost £12.85bn in 2012. However, since then problems and costs have mounted and the government has failed to release a new estimate for 2 years.

“The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which leads development of Universal Credit, and the Cabinet Office, which has responsibility for project oversight, have concealed the revised cost estimate since tearing up plans for the computer system in 2013 after two years of development – a process they called a “reset”. “

Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has also used taxpayer’s money to fight the release of information in the Courts, appealing several times.

This is a clear manipulation of information, in order to serve the current government’s PR in the run up to the election.

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Read more about this story here.

5) Hinchingbrooke hospital handed back to NHS

Hinchingbrooke hospital, the first hospital to be given to private management will be handed back to the NHS by the end of March.

Steve Melton, head of Circle Health who ran the hospital, was answering questions to the Public Accounts Committee on the hospital’s failures and a Care Quality Commission report that declared Hinchingbrooke as ‘inadequate’ – the first hospital to be declared so by the CQC.

Melton denied that the report gave the full picture of the problems.

Read more about this story here.

6) Number of teachers quitting classroom reaches 10-year high

The number of teachers quitting the profession has reached a 10-year high according to figures released by the Department for Education.

50,000 teachers quit in the year to November 2013 (the latest figures to hand), a 25% increase over 4 years.

Christine Blower of the NUT said falling working conditions and pay were pushing candidates away:

“A combination of unacceptable number of hours worked, a punitive accountability system, the introduction of performance-related pay and being expected to work until 68 for a pension has turned teaching into a less than attractive career choice.”

Read more about this story here.

 

 

 

1) Crispin Odey predicts next crash is looming

Banker Crispin Odey who made millions predicting the ‘credit crunch’ has warned that the next crash is looming and it’s effects will be ‘remembered in a hundred years.’
Image: Solari.com

Image: Solari.com

Falling oil prices, which despite saving households money, he says are a sign of a slowing worldwide economy.

The US and the UK both have had slower growth than expected over recent months.

Mr Odey, founder of Odey Asset Management, said in a letter to investors: “We are in the first stage of this downturn.

“It is too early to see what will happen – a change of this magnitude means the darkness and mist is very great.”

Although, rather cynically, Mr Odey suggested that now was the best time to make money since the 2007 financial crash by betting on falling share prices.

The wealthy Tory donor has made a fortune from betting on falling prices this way.

Read more about this story here. 

2) Cameron vows to cut benefit cap to £23k as first election action

David Cameron has vowed his first act should he win the 2015 General Election is to cut the benefit cap to £23k.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

This is a deeply cynical promise to create further misery by cutting from welfare as the PM’s shiny first promise. The current benefit cap has already resulted in social cleansing of the capital where rent prices continue to rise (and the government fails to do anything about this). Social cleansing was such a clear result of this cap that Boris Johnson was even forced to publicly acknowledge it, though he has failed to stop it.

But, as Danny Dorling explains in ‘All That Is Solid’ this is not a new Tory tactic by any means:

“The housing benefit cap is not a particularly new scheme when it comes to attempts to move poorer people away from richer areas. A generation ago the Conservative party tried to achieve the same outcome, but more subtly. In 1986 the Conservative controlled Westminster Council decided that the number of council house sales should be accelerated so that ‘a natural and permanent majority could be manufactured in Westminster.’ Some 10,000 council homes were earmarked to be sold privately when the tenants in them either moved on or died. In other words, those tenants were not to be replaced with people from a similar demographic; Westminster was to be gentrified and the political balance shifted by selling homes that were located mainly eight marginal wards. Eventually the policy was found to be illegal, but not until January 1994, long after it had its desired effects.”

 

And once again the PM has vowed to make cuts to the poorest, and protect through his silence the £85bn of welfare provided to rich corporations.

“Benefits are what we grudgingly hand the poor; the rich are awarded tax breaks. Cut through the euphemisms and the Treasury accounting, however, and you’re left with two forms of welfare. Except that the hundreds given to people sleeping on the street has been deemed unaffordable. Those millions for $150bn Disney, on the other hand, that’s apparently money well spent –whoever coined the phrase “taking the Mickey” must have worked for HM Revenue.”

 

Aditya Chakrabortty, Cut benefits? Yes let’s start with our £85bn corporate welfare handout, Guardian 2014

Read more about this story here.

3) Benefit spending in 2015-6 forecast to be the same as 2010-11

A damning report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies reveals that benefit spending in 2015-6 will be £220bn, the same as in 2010-11.

This demonstrates the lies in the economic plan Cameron purports to have. An ageing population, stagnant and low wages (which pulls many people out of the tax bracket and forces them to need help) and rising rent prices are main contributors to the benefit bill’s growth. It also shows that government has made the situation worse, by not reducing the bill but causing misery and destitution for millions of people.  Austerity is a complete falsehood.

 Read more about this story here.

4) Thousands in ‘March For Homes’ take to streets

Thousands took part in a Londonwide march to protest against social cleansing, and for affordable homes for all, better tenants rights and better services. The march brought together some of the brilliant grassroots housing actions groups who have made a huge impact in the last year including Focus E15 mothers and New Era Estate who have been helping other groups across London continue their fight against unjust evictions and policy. Around 5000 people attended the march.

Image: Brixton Buzz

Image: Brixton Buzz

5) Activists help migrants at Daily Mail’s expense
Activists from Strike! magazine have taken advantage of a Daily Mail ferry deal to take supplies and blankets to refugees in Calais in action against the DM’s negative coverage of refugees and migrants!

“In an open “thank you letter” to the paper, notorious for its critical stance on the refugee population in Calais, [two members of Strike!] wrote:

Some freeloading scroungers might have cynically used your festive promotional offer with P&O Ferries to go over and stock up on cheap continental booze and fags.

But we know you meant to launch a D-Day-style flotilla of solidarity with Fellow Human Beings who have fled the blood and torture and killing and more blood and bombs.”

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1) Oxfam reveals 1% own half world’s wealth and increasing

New research released on Monday, by anti-poverty charity Oxfam, reveals that the top 1% own around half the world’s wealth, and if current trends continue, they will own more than the other 99% by next year.

In 2009, the 1% owned 44% of the world’s wealth. By 2014, this had increased to 48%. Meanwhile, the bottom 80% own just 5.5%.

Oxfam released this released their report ahead of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and said they would use their profile at the Forum to put pressure on countries and groups to tackle this increasing inequality.

 

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Read more about this story here.

2) 40% of British families ‘too poor to play a part in society’

Those aiming to keep subjects like the wealth gap, and the increasing power and wealth of the 1%, out of the limelight, often claim that this has no bearing on the poor, and that focus should be on the poor instead of ‘attacking the rich’. They will aim to break the relation between increasing wealth for the rich and increasing poverty for the poor, but that money is being taken out of societies, from public money, public services, and welfare. The same year 1million people needed a food bank in the UK, the rich list increased their wealth by 15%.

Now the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have released a report detailing that 4 in 10, or 8.1 million people, live below an income required to play a part in society. This increased by a third from 2008/09 to 2012/13.

The findings show ‘economic growth’ is not happening for those that need it most.

“The definition of minimum income threshold assumes a single person of working age needs an income of £16,284. It suggests in the case of a couple with two children, each needs to reach an income threshold of £20,400. It does not pretend to be a poverty measure, or act as a substitute for the government’s half-abandoned child poverty measure of the numbers earning 60% below median earnings. It is instead a definition of the income required to have not just food, shelter and clothes, but also to be able to be a participant in society.

“The definition, reached in discussion with the public through focus groups, looks at what a household needs to be integrated in society and has been used in the past as a benchmark for the living wage.

“It includes, for instance, the ability to pay for a week’s holiday in the UK, or a second-hand car for families with children. It assumes no cigarettes or visits to the pub.”

Read more about this story here.

 

3) Government challenged on benefit figures, as new poll shows British claimants in EU outnumber immigrants here

A new survey, conducted by the Guardian newspaper, shows that the number of Britons claiming benefits across the EU, outnumber immigrants from respective countries claiming here, going against government figures.

For example the report says that 23,011 Britons were on welfare in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, France and Ireland, compared to just 8720 of those nationals claiming here.

The survey was conducted on 23 of the 27 EU countries.

“Thirty thousand people, or 2.5% of all British nationals, in other EU member states means that the overwhelming majority of Brits abroad as well as European citizens in Britain are not an undue burden for the countries in which they live,” said Dr Roxana Barbulescu, researcher on international migration at the University of Sheffield, to the Guardian.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Farage admits he wants to privatise NHS

in 2012, UKIP leader Nigel Farage let slip that he would ‘feel more comfortable’ with a privatised NHS. Spin doctors did their best to say that he had changed his mind, despite Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall also expressing his desire to let privatisation in.

Now Farage says this is a debate he will have to return to, revealing that he is courting the idea of implementing a US style insurance scheme. Bear in mind, the US spends the most on healthcare and has the worst system in the developed world.

Image: Leftfootforward

Image: Leftfootforward

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Hinchingbrooke hospital became the first to be declared ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission, and was accused of putting patient safety at risk, with tactics including skeleton staffing. The hospital was owned by Circle Health, a private healthcare company which won healthcare contracts following donations to the Tory party.

Read more reasons why the NHS does not need privatisation. 

Read more about this story here.

5) There are 10 homes for every homeless family in England

The Mirror revealed that there are 10 homes for every homeless family in England, and yet numbers of homeless people keep rising.

While efforts by Labour to reduce homelessness over five years of government saw figures drop from 100,000 to 48,000, the number of homeless people has been increasing again since 2011.

While some of these empty homes are waiting for renters or sales, many are being held empty by investors.

The Labour government brought in a ‘use it or lose it’ policy that allows councils to seize properties left empty for 6 months. The Tories extended this to two years upon their election and even resisted attempts to multiply council tax on these homes.

Image: The MIrror

Image: The MIrror

Read more about this story here.

6) Steve Emerson laughed off BBC News

American ‘Terrorism expert’ (lol) Steve Emerson, who hit the headlines the other week for saying that Birmingham in the UK is a ‘no-go zone for non-Muslims’ was interviewed on the BBC about his comments and where he got his ‘findings’. It’s quite funny.

 

 

7) Occupy Democracy return to Parliament Square

 

Occupy Democracy enter Parliament Square, Judicial Review, 24th January 2014 from Occupy London on Vimeo.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) ‘That’s rich’ – Osborne feigns concern for energy costs to consumers. Election time is here.

Image: businessforscotland.co.uk

Image: businessforscotland.co.uk

Chancellor George Osborne and the Tories attempted to double back on energy policy they had promoted and voted for to feign concern for the public. Unsurprising that this has happened four months before the election, as Michael Meacher explained in his post last week:

“It’s really rich that Osborne has tweeted: “Vital this (drop in the oil price) is passed on to families at petrol pumps, through utility bills and air fares”.   He’s spent the last 5 years lambasting Labour in support of the Tory free market mantra that the State should get out of the way and leave it all to the markets.   Now rather pathetically he’s pleading with market operators to show a dose of fair play rather than exploit a windfall for their own interests which is the natural instinct of capitalism.   It takes some gall for Osborne to try to jump on the bandwagon at the last minute, four months before the election, when he’s been aggressively promoting ruthless self-interest throughout his chancellorship.”

Osborne’s gesture is made even more hypocritical and insincere when taking into account the Tory participation in the vote AGAINST giving the UK’s energy regulator a statutory duty to pass on energy savings to customers when wholesale prices fall. You can see a list of who voted against and for on the Vox Political site here.

The cost of this self-interest goes much further than hypocrisy before an election. Last year, there were 18,000 excess winter deaths in the UK, with more than 6,000 dying from the impact of a cold home.

2) Manifesto calls on next government to end homelessness

A manifesto sent to politicians by Homeless.org calls on those seeking the next government to vow to end homelessness by focusing on five key areas. “Let’s Make the Difference” uses the experiences of those who have been homeless, and the services that support them, to understand what is needed from government.

The manifesto says that it is ‘unacceptable’ that people are sleeping rough in Britain today. And they are right. We have the resources to house every person in this country, yet homelessness is rising, increasing in cost to the public purse and the mental and physical health of those out on the streets.

Homeless.org.uk

Homeless.org.uk

Read the manifesto in brief and find out more about homeless,org here. 

Read the full manifesto here.

3) Greens have more members than UKIP

The number of Green Party members overtook UKIP numbers last week.

“On Thursday morning Green Party sources said it had 43,829 members as of midday. Ukip’s reported membership is 41,966.

Green Party sources also claimed to have put on 2,000 members yesterday, in what potentially is its biggest one-day surge in numbers ever.”

The news comes as The Green Party leader Natalie Bennett battles for a spot on TV debates.

Ofcom ruled that the Greens were not a ‘major party’ in the way that Lib Dems, UKIP, Conservatives and Labour are. However, following this increase in members many are calling this ruling into question.

David Cameron said that he would not take part in the debates if the Greens were not included, and has been accused of using this as an excuse to avoid the debates. Clegg said the idea of Cameron’s concern for a fair debate with the Greens included was ‘laughable’.

Read more about this story here.

4) Farage faces challenge from FUKP

Al Murray’s comic character, The Pub Landlord, has announced he is standing for election in Thanet alongside Nigel Farage, for the Guv’nor’s newly formed Free United Kingdom Party “because it’s time for a man waving around a pint offering some common sense solutions.”

The landlord sets out 13 points as his manifesto in this following video, assuring voters he will “make Thanet the capital of the UK” with “pints for 1p” adding:

“Let it be known that like many of the Parliamentary hopefuls in the forthcoming election, I have no idea where South Thanet is – but did that stop Margaret Thatcher from saving the Falkland Islands? No.”

5) Government names and shames 37 National Minimum Wage offenders

The government released the names of 37 employers who failed to pay the National Minimum Wage to employees on 15th January. Business Minister Jo Swinson released names and penalties totalling £51,000 for the employers who owe £177,000 collectively. This follows the release of 55 other offenders since the ‘naming regime’ came into force in October 2013.

Employers face fines of up to £20,000 for paying below the minimum wage, currently set at £6.50 for those aged 21+. Jo Swinson has announced that government are now looking to apply this penalty per employee rather than per company.

You can find the list of employers here.

 

1) #FatCatTuesday demonstrates income inequality continues to grow

On Tuesday of last week, most Top CEOs already earned more than the average worker will earn over the whole year in the UK.

Image: High Pay Centre

Image: High Pay Centre

 

The High Pay Centre who coined the phrase #FatCatTuesday, say that figures demonstrate the inadequacy of government to deal with the pay gap and the excesses of the super rich which are ‘unfair, disproportionate’ and don’t make ‘economic sense’:

“FTSE 100 Chief Executives are paid an average £4.72 million. The High Pay Centre found that even if CEOs are assumed to work long hours with very few holidays, this is equivalent to hourly pay of nearly £1,200

“When the High Pay Centre made the same calculation last year, the think-tank estimated that top bosses would have to wait until the first working Wednesday of 2014 to surpass the earnings of the average worker. But while pay realised by FTSE 100 Chief Executives has risen by nearly £500,000 since last year, the annual pay of the average UK worker has increased by just £200, from £27,000 to £27,200.

“The figures will raise doubts about the effectiveness of Government efforts to curb top pay by giving shareholders the power to veto excessive pay packages. The High Pay Centre has argued that further measures are necessary, such as representation for ordinary workers on the company ‘remuneration committees’ that set executive pay and compulsory publication of the pay gap between the highest and lowest earner within a company.”

Read more about this story here.

2) Iain Duncan Smith urged to suspend sanction regime

Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has been urged to suspend sanctions on benefit claimants until an investigation into their impact has been carried out. Concerns have been raised from many groups, individuals and professionals on their effect, particularly on mental health and the disabled.

“Experts, ranging from academics, food bank administrators, disabled groups and employment service professionals, told MPs on the work and pensions select committee on Wednesday how sanctions were “more likely” to hinder their target’s journey into work, rather than help them.

“A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union told the Huffington Post UK: “There’s no evidence that sanctions spur people into finding sustainable work, All they do is poison the relationship between jobcentre staff and claimants, which makes it much more difficult to build the kind of relationship that is required.

“A jobcentre should be a place that supports people into finding a job, not a place of conflict and suspicion.”

A DWP-commissioned review, carried out by welfare expert Matthew Oakley, who has worked for the Treasury and the centre-right thinktank Policy Exchange, revealed that the most vulnerable were often left punished by a system that they barely understand.”

Read more about this story here.

3) Hinchingbrooke hospital declared ‘inadequate’  by Care Quality Commission

Hinchingbrooke hospital has had to be put into special measures following a ‘scathing’ report by the Care Quality Commission which revealed serious failings, putting patients in danger.

Circle, a private health firm which has won £1.36bn of NHS contracts, told the London Stock Exchange that the CQC report was one of the reasons they were pulling out of running the hospital.

RealFare

RealFare

“The report said some children arriving at the A&E department were left “potentially unsafe” at times because of a lack of specially trained paediatric nurses both there and in some operating theatres.

“Patients told inspectors that the response of nurses to them ringing a bell for assistance was poor, especially at night. Drinks were found to have been left out of reach of patients, even after inspectors had pointed that out.”

The report also noted that the hospital was substantially and frequently short staffed.

This is the first time the watchdog has declared a hospital to be ‘inadequate’ in how it cares for patients.

Allowing private firms, who’s top interest is profit, is a danger to the NHS and the patients it serves. It is not done in the interests of the public but the private interests of a few.

Read more about this story here.

4) ‘Liam Fox wants to kick half a million Indians and Pakistanis off the electoral register’

The Times recently reported that the Conservatives wanted an emergency change to a well-established law allowing those in the UK from the Commonwealth and Ireland to vote in elections. Interestingly, The Times referred to the law as ‘obscure’. The piece read:

“Senior Tories called for an emergency change in the law last night as official figures revealed the scale of foreigners who will be free to cast a vote in May.

“This could result in them being able to decide the outcome of what is set to be the closest and most unpredictable election result in decades. Under an obscure law that has never been reformed, people from Ireland and the Commonwealth who live in the UK are given voting rights. Irish, Indian and Pakistani citizens top the list of those allowed to cast a vote…

“Some Conservatives believe that the number of voters from ethnic minorities included in the list will provide a boost to Labour. The previous election showed that Labour was far more successful in winning the votes of those from ethnic minorities…

“Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, said: “It is ridiculous that the government of a country like ours could be decided by those who are not British citizens. It is high time we brought this law up to date.”

These are desperate lengths to control election results. It is not ‘obscure’ for people who live here to have the right to vote.

Mark Pack, Liberal Democrat commentator added in his post:

“Who would such a change kick off the electoral register?

  • 345,000 Irish
  • 306,000 Indians
  • 180,000 Pakistani
  • 73,000 Australians
  • 52,000 Zimbabweans
  • Other countries in the top ten are Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Canada and Bangladesh.”

As Mike Sivier of Vox Political commented:

“Let’s hope those of minority ethnic backgrounds, living in the UK, get the message:

“Conservatives don’t want your vote.

“Like UKIP, they want to deport you.

“They’ll say it’s “fair” that you don’t get a say in who governs the country where you live.

“In that case, would you say it’s “fair” that you’ve been paying taxes for the last five years of Conservative-led rule?”

5) Shelter is here to help – Pass It On

January is infamous for being a tough money month, and as housing prices and rents continue to rise, if you are struggling, you can seek help from Shelter, who are offering advice and assistance in the Pass It On initiative.

1 in 5 rent or mortgage payers have borrowed money to cover housing costs and 1 in 4 would feel too ashamed to ask for help if they couldn’t pay the rent or mortgage. If you’re in this situation, make sure you get advice on managing your rent or mortgage worries.

“Getting advice from Shelter could make all the difference.

“Please share our advice and pass it on!”

6279_January-Advice-Pass-it-on-A-promotable-1

Find out more about Shelter here.

 6) Real Media 

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Real Media – a coalition of independent bloggers, journalists and media organisations for independent journalism and against mass media misinformation – now has a temporary site so you can find out more and stay ahead of events and announcements ahead of the launch in March.

We have new organisations joining us all the time and so far include Bristol Cable, Bella Caledonia, Salford Star, Transition Free Press, Counterfire, Media Reform Coalition and more.

We also have a gathering in February in Manchester supported by John Pilger, Red Pepper, Open Democracy and more…

Go to http://www.realmedia.press and show your support by joining the below…

Like Real Media on Facebook here.

Follow Real Media on Twitter here.

Please join our Thunderclap here

And find out more about the gathering in Manchester in `February.

 

1) Chancellor holds back £30bn surplus in National Insurance pot, as families are driven to poverty and food banks

Image: businessforscotland.co.uk

Image: businessforscotland.co.uk

It has been revealed that Chancellor George Osborne sat on a £30bn surplus in National Insurance last year. The House of Lords Library shows that £106bn was spent from National Insurance contributions last year, with £85bn spent  on the benefits system and £21bn on the NHS.

Writing in the Daily Mirror, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott explained his findings:

“I discovered something that stunned me – the Government last year held back nearly £30 billion”, he said.

“National ­Insurance money can only be used for the NHS or benefits. So since he can’t spend it on anything else and chooses not to fund ­hospitals, the Chancellor lets it sit there.”

Can there be a clearer display that the economic policies of this government are ideological?

Bear this act in mind when the Chancellor claims we need to cut welfare by £25bn, that we don’t have enough to fuel the NHS, but do have room for another tax cut for millionaires.

Read more about this story here.

2) Autumn Statement: Misery and lies

The Chancellor George Osborne announced his Autumn Statement on Wednesday. Again, he manipulated statistics and attempted to appease the public with some extra funding for the NHS (expect more of this appeasement in the run up to the elections) however, these statements are insincere.

One big trope used by Conservatives is feigning that we all of a sudden have a ‘strong economy’ – ‘the fastest growing in the G7’ is a phrase that gets bandied about. What Conservative representatives fail to tell you is that fast growth following harsh stagnation for long periods is not difficult to achieve, but more importantly we are also the only country in the G7 to have wider inequality than we had at the turn of the century.

This means that for most of us, things are no better or are worse, but for a small handful, the top echelons of society, bank balances are still growing.

The richest 1000 people have increased their wealth by 50% since 2008 – enough to wipe out the deficit. Bank managers have paid themselves bonuses worth £81bn since 2008. Again, enough to wipe out the deficit. Yet, George Osborne fights to stop limits to these bonuses and gives us Autumn statements that tell us we must cut further from welfare and the poorest, knowingly plunging people, families, children into insecurity, poverty, hardship and illness.

Osborne also claimed that because we have such a ‘strong economy’ he can afford to give the NHS an extra £2bn. This isn’t true. Firstly, there is no strong economy. There is no strong economy. The Conservatives have borrowed more in their four years than 13 years of the previous government. Borrowing has had to increase due to weak tax receipts because lots of rich people don’t pay their tax, and the growth of low pay employment has meant that those in work are not earning enough to pay tax. The deficit would be gone by the next election said Conservatives in 2010, yet every target has been missed.

And on the protection of the NHS, a senior Tory was recorded saying that Cameron would have to renege on promises to ringfence NHS spending if he is to win the next election and cut the deficit. Further, plans to overhaul A&E services have been put on hold due to risk of backlash described as potential ‘political suicide’ this close to the election. This means that they would do it despite it being clearly against public interest and opinion. And they will do it if given the chance of another term. And let’s not forget all those lucrative connections for Conservative Ministers who want to profit from our NHS, like Steve Dorrell MP who was also acting as adviser for KPMG while they eyed up a £1bn NHS contract.

The Conservatives do not care for our NHS, our welfare or the lives of those not in the top 1%. Apparently, they ‘have no need to attract dog-end voters in the outlying regions’ and in these sorts of statements we see not just the understanding of who this party is for, but also their indifference to the treatment and lives of those they aren’t.

In the run up to the election, we must also be aware of attempts by government to shut down any challenges and debates, as we saw when the Chancellor blasted the BBC when a reporter described the budget as ‘utterly terrifying’ and condemned the deepest cuts since the 1930s. The Chancellor claimed it was ‘nonsense’ and called the BBC ‘hyperbolic’. Though with the Institute for Fiscal Studies also claiming that government spending cuts would have to happen on ‘a colossal scale’ (with £35bn having already taken place, and £55bn yet to come) it seems difficult for the Chancellor to keep his facade even in Mainstream press.

Though that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty more hidden within these statements. While the Chancellor withholds money from benefit claimants and our NHS, PR for corporate companies is happily funded:

https://www.facebook.com/GuyMcV/photos/a.146354958854507.33377.133561296800540/399461633543837/?type=1&fref=nf

Read more about this story here. (Though be aware – these points about the Autumn Statement from the BBC do not challenge the things that Osbourne said, such as his comments G7 as we have above. This is merely a list of the points from the statement).

3) Lack of anti-tax avoidance laws contributing to ‘yawning’ tax gap

Image: blogs.telegraph.co.uk

Image: blogs.telegraph.co.uk

And as we are told that there ‘is not enough to go around’ and we must ‘tighten our belts’ and the Chancellor creates budgets to eat away at the morsels of life for those at the bottom of the economic scale, a study from Tax Research LLP on behalf of the PCS Union, shows that the tax gap – the gap between what should be paid in UK tax if the system worked as intended and what was actually paid – is over £119bn.

“The figures clash significantly with those produced by HMRC, the government’s tax collecting body. The PCS-commissioned research estimates that over 2013 and 14 the UK lost £73.4bn to tax evasion (“tax lost when a person or company deliberately and unlawfully fails to declare income that they know is taxable or claims expenses that are not allowed”) over the course of the studied period, dwarfing the official government estimate of £22.3bn.

“The other areas that contribute to the tax gap are tax avoidance – defined as “tax that is lost when a person claims to arrange their affairs to minimise tax within the law in the UK or in other countries”. The PCS estimates tax avoidance costs the UK economy £19.1bn over the course of the year. Tax debt – tax which is not paid by a person or company who knows that they owe it, but who don’t pay or delay payment – cost the UK £18.2bn over 2013-14.

“While the total tax gap has narrowed slightly from the £120bn Tax Research estimated in 2010, tax evasion has been rising quite sharply over recent years and is predicted to do so.

“Tax Research estimates that the £73.4bn estimate will grow beyond £100bn in 2018-19 should the UK government not take action.

“In a pamphlet written to accompany the report, the research’s author Richard Murphy recommended that the UK government introduce wholesale reform to its tax law to incorporate avoidance strategies, and “the introduction of country-by-country reporting for multinational corporations” combined with “a reversal of the cuts to staff in HMRC and at Companies House”.

Where is the clampdown on this loss of vast amounts of money? Richard Murphy once described tax evasion as ‘the cancer eating our democracy.’

Read more about this story here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

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1) Young at increased risk of poverty, says report

Joseph-Rowntree-Foundation

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has released a report revealing that the young are now at an increased risk of poverty, as unemployment and insecure work continues to blight the jobs market.

The report said:

“Youth unemployment has risen continuously since 2004. By 2011 it was two-thirds higher than 2001. At a record high, it’s three times higher than that of other adults.”

Education and qualifications seem to play a major part in whether a young person is able to remain out of poverty. The less qualified a person is, the more likely they are to be unemployed and living in poverty and after the age of 19, the likelihood of getting qualifications drops significantly.

  • “The lower people’s qualifications, the higher their risk of unemployment. This risk has risen over the past decade.”
  • “16- to 19-year-olds not in full-time education are at greater risk of poverty than any age group except the youngest.”

Though, gaps in attainment and increased risk of unemployment can be sourced back to early education. The report said:

“An ‘attainment gap‘ emerges before school. It continues through childhood. By 16 and older, it is considerable.

  • Tests at age 3 show a significant gap between more affluent children and the poorest fifth
  • Lower-achieving but more affluent children overtake the highest low-income achievers by age 7
  • Poorer children are half as likely to go to university as their more affluent peers

Across ethnic groups, white young people do less well than their peers from many minorities. But the performance and treatment of black Caribbean and Traveller children raise serious concerns.

For minority ethnic groups poverty is twice as likely, despite improved qualifications.

Poorer higher education students were already more likely to drop out, defer, switch, repeat or restart courses before tuition fees and cuts to Education Maintenance Allowance applied.

But the aspirations of disadvantaged young people are high.”

Read the report here.

2) Bill to stop ‘revenge evictions’ talked out

Image: Shelter

Image: Shelter

On Monday last week, around 1000 protesters demonstrated outside Parliament in demand for better rights for tenants.

Shelter estimate that some 213,000 people are evicted every year in ‘revenge evictions’ which happen following complaints to landlords over poor housing.

A Bill was put to the House of Commons to end these evictions. It required 100 signatures. Unfortunately, only 60 MPs signed.

Shelter also estimate that 2% of the public are landlords and that private tenancies have seen an increase in poor housing standards. Further, at a time of rocketing rents and stagnant wages, affirming rights for tenants should be a priority for government. Everybody should be able to access safe, secure housing.

Unfortunately, the outcome of this Bill shows priorities are held elsewhere.

Shelter later revealed that 2 MPs ‘filibustered’ the Bill – a tactic of talking out, to delay or ‘talk to death’. They are MPs Philip Davies and Christopher Chope.

Shelter vow to continue the fight until they win.

Read Shelter’s blog ‘We Will Make It Happen’ here.

Read more about this story here.

 

3) Government accused of ‘numbers game’ in use of apprenticeships

Hundreds of thousands of people aged 25 and over are entering apprenticeships which pay as little as £2.73 an hour.

Apprenticeships have been bandied around by parties of all colours as a solution to youth unemployment but  “figures from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) show that more than 350,000 of the UK’s 851,000 apprentices were over 25, with more than 50,000 aged over 50.”

“The number of UK apprentices has risen from 491,300 in 2009 to 851,500 today – an increase of 73%.

“However, the proportion of those over 25 has more than doubled – it was 19% of all apprentices in 2009/10, but now stands at 42%.”

There is now concern that apprenticeships are being used to subsidise full paid jobs and losing focus on the young whilst also massaging employment figures.

Read more about this story here.

4) Theresa May says ‘Time is right’ for more police powers

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

Speaking at a counter terrorism event last week, the Home Secretary Theresa May said that the ‘time is right’ to increase police powers to monitor online behaviour in order to combat terrorism and child abuse.

This news snuck out following a general silence since the terror threat was raised to ‘substantial’ earlier this year in the UK.

Considering the ‘loss’ of 114 files on child abuse within government and the Home Secretary’s inability to find someone to lead the child abuse inquiry who had no connection with those involved, we remain unconvinced that these greater powers to probe our online conversations and activity is in our interests or for the protection of potential victims.

May said these powers should be implemented following the General Election.

Read more about this story here.

5) David Cameron attacks migrant workers, but does nothing about exploitative bosses

David Cameron was criticised for attacking migrant workers with further restrictions to benefits, whilst doing nothing to stop exploitative bosses from paying low wages.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Today David Cameron did not act as a prime minister but as a low-grade scrapper, trying to save his political skin by kicking migrant workers.

“He knows he cannot please his big business paymasters who want free access to European workers and the profits that come from their hard work on low wages.

“Instead he inflames a fear of European workers, proposing to cement them as a second-class workforce with no access to the assistance that millions of low paid workers in this country simply need to make ends meet.

“Too many UK employers are addicted to welfare to top up their low waged workforce. It is not migrants that are dragging down pay, but boardrooms that are holding it down.

“Why does he not tackle this by ensuring that collective bargaining can safeguard wages? Look at Germany, which has far greater levels of immigration than the UK but which has laws to protect decent wages.

“What the prime minister did today was to send out a message that the problems in our economy are the fault of workers, wherever they come from. This is a lie. It is not migrant workers who recruit in Poland, or force zero hours work upon people desperate for a job.

“It is not migrant workers who have sold off council homes, cut our Sure Start places, brought ruin to our NHS, or have forced the greatest collapse in living standards in generations.

“It is business behaviour and political decisions that are causing insecurity, not ordinary people trying to make a living.”

Read more about this story here.

6) Government not doing enough to tackle ESA problems

Dr Litchfield’s fifth and final independent review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has been published and the Government has responded to a Work and Pensions Select Committee review into Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
For the last five years, Mind has been feeding into the independent reviews, calling for changes to the WCA process which is used to decide whether someone is able to get the disability benefit ESA. We have also submitted evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee outlining our concerns about wider benefit reforms and the failure of government schemes to support people with mental health problems into work.MIND%20logo[1]

Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manger at Mind, said:

“We welcome the ongoing improvements to the WCA through the independent review process, and particularly the focus on the experience of people with mental health problems. However the narrow scope of these reviews means that wider problems with the system for people with mental health problems have still not been tackled.

“The Work and Pensions Committee report provided a comprehensive evaluation of ESA and the WCA and included strong recommendations. Unfortunately the Government’s response represents a missed opportunity, with little sign that they are willing to make reforms of the scale needed.

“Very few people with mental health problems are being supported into work through ESA, and huge numbers of people are receiving benefit sanctions from a system that does not understand their needs and barriers. As a result, many people are finding that the stress and pressure they are put under is making their health worse, and making them feel less able to work. That’s why we’re calling for everyone with mental health problems claiming ESA to receive personalised, specialist support which acknowledges and addresses the barriers they may face in getting and staying in work.”

7) Pensioners lead protest for energy rights, after ONS reveal 18,200 excess winter deaths last year

Image: Fuel Poverty Action

Image: Fuel Poverty Action

Pensioners marched and demonstrated outside the offices of lobbyists Energy UK following the release of the winter death toll from the Office for National Statistics.

Find out more about Fuel Poverty Action here.

8) #Cameronmustgo trends for four days

The hashtag #Cameronmustgo trended for 4 days last week, with an outpouring of hundreds of thousands of messages and reasons to sack the Tory PM. Unfortunately, it got no coverage in the media.

From ‘Bring Back News to the BBC’ – Nov 25 –

#CameronMustGo is still trending in the UK on Twitter for the fourth day in a row. No sign at all of it on the #bbctrending Twitter feed. I haven’t heard mention of it on any BBC news outlets (do let us know if you see/hear anything like meaningful coverage). Daily, wall to wall coverage of a single tweet by Elizabeth Thornberry on all mainstream media outlets for many days, but 400,000 + tweets largely ignored by all but single articles in the liberal outlets (HuffPo, Guardian, etc), which have all written multiple articles on Thornberry – 2 to 3 a day for 5 days.

“The mainstream media is talking a completely different language and setting a totally different agenda to the people of the country, and it is happy to talk UKIP, immigrants, scroungers, but not austerity, injustice and poverty. That’s why we need to speak up for ourselves.”

9) George Osbourne’s #AusterityFail

Ahead of budget day on 3rd December, the People’s Assembly have put together a video of messages for George Osbourne.