First Conservative Budget in 18 years declares War on The Young and The Poor

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The first Conservative Budget in 18 Years declares war on the Young and the Poor

From Alex Little: @alittleecon 

First Published here

The most eye-catching announcement in today’s Budget perhaps was the one about the “National Living Wage”, set to be introduced for over 25s next April at £7.20 per hour. This falls below the actual living wage of course, said to be £7.85 an hour outside London, but Osborne announced his intention to raise it to £9ph by 2020, which assuming the OBR’s inflation forecasts are right would actually see wages rise (outside London) to above the living wage by 2020. Iain Duncan Smith in particular seemed delighted: 

With this announcement Osborne also managed to make Labour leadership hopeful Liz Kendall look a bit daft after she announced last week that she would look for ways to get businesses to voluntarily pay the living wage.

What Osborne didn’t say of course, was that the lowest paid won’t actually be any better off (for the most part) as they will lose their entitlement to tax credits at a similar rate to the increase in the minimum wage. Even so, it seems to me better to have employers pay more and have the government pay out less in tax credits.

At the same time though, these changes don’t apply to those under 25 who still have to make do with a minimum wage at a much lower level.

It was Osborne’s announcements on changes to the social security system that are most controversial, and I would say cruel. He is practically ending benefits for young people, making poor students take on even more loans and worst of all cutting by £30 a week the amount new claiments of sickness benefit ESA (WRAG) are entitled to. He’s also freezing working-age benefits for 4 years. They are already at below subsistence levels. To me it sends a clear message about what people like George Osborne think about the poorest.

It’s a very 19th Century attitude to the poor. George Monbiot spelled out this attitude rather well in a recent column, but in summary, here are some of the underlying assumptions that form the basis of the proposed changes:

  • Those who are declared unfit for work will quickly turn into malingerers if they are given too much. Many are outright faking their conditions when they could get a job.
  • If you are unemployed, you must not be trying very hard to get a job
  • If you are young, you are basically lazy and unproductive and will do nothing useful unless forced.
  • Young people all have strong family bonds which they can draw on for support in hard times.
  • The only reason the low paid and poor have children is in order to claim more ‘welfare’. They must be stopped.

If these things are true, there won’t be much hardship suffered as a result of the new changes. People will just pull themselves together and find work. Those that don’t, obviously deserve only contempt. If they in fact turn out to be utter bullshit though…

Related:

Council Workers have reason to be angry (they’re certainly not sad) Support the Strike.

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Published on Jun 30, 2014

Unite the union activists showing how happy they are to be part of, and supported by, the best union in the UK – Unite!

Welcome to Breadline Britain

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Welcome to Breadline Britain
from Gracie Samuels

With all the furore over energy prices and now water bills, it’s about time someone mentioned those who are forced to buy their energy through prepayment metering by the energy companies.

Often it is the weakest, the poorest and the most vulnerable in our society who are forced to purchase their energy like this. For example: The low-waged; the disabled; the elderly; the unemployed and single parents, those forced to live on benefits and also those “hardworking people” the prime minister talks so glibly about who are struggling with the soaring cost of living. These are the people who are existentially being hit by these price hikes much harder than people who pay directly by direct debit.

As these people have been placed on prepayment plans by their energy providers they will end paying more than the price hike for their domestic fuel bills. Prepayment means they will be asked to pay for their gas and electricity before they actually use it.

Those consumers who have been placed on prepayment metering have usually been placed on them because they cannot afford their energy bills or may have been late paying their bills on a few occasions. These consumers often have no choice and and the metre[s] will be installed by their energy providers whether the consumer wants them or not.

The energy companies take the view that they will not terminate supply for non-payment but will install a prepayment metre. Often the rate of gas or electricity consumption is set on an estimation of how much the consumer is likely to use, plus the metre is also set to recoup any debt owed to the company. So if the consumer buys £15 of electricity or gas on their card/key to top up their prepayment metre and they owe the energy company for a previous bill, the energy company will automatically take half of that payment to recover any arrears and for standing charges. The consumer may be left with as little as £7.50 for gas or electricity out of their original £15.00. This process will continue until the debt is cleared. So if the debt is around £100  it may take at least around 16 weeks to clear. That is 16 weeks of often the poorest, the disabled, the low waged, the unemployed and often some of our most vulnerable consumers of gas and electricity who are already experiencing fuel poverty being forced into even more fuel poverty while the debt is collected. Unfortunately the energy companies do not usually make adjustments for seasonal collections of debt, so the arrears could be being collected through the deepest of our winter months, exposing people to the risk of hypothermia!

Many of these metres are placed outside in awkward to reach places or inside in awkward to reach places making it very difficult for the elderly or disabled to reach. This also has hidden problems and dangers if the consumers does run out of gas for any reason it will mean relighting pilot lights on gas boilers before normal supply can be fed through to their heating systems, often people, especially the elderly and the disabled have great problems reigniting these pilot lights especially if they have back boilers as this means laying on the floor to reach the pilot light and this means they will be forced to sit in freezing cold conditions until someone can come and help them. (if indeed they have anyone that can help!)

This is not all, because these vulnerable people are on prepayment plans and metres, the energy companies say it costs more to collect their bills so people will usually pay more for their energy. if they cannot afford to buy tokens or re charge their card or keys then they will not have any energy. Also during the coldest months when people need to buy more gas and electricity to keep warm, then the more energy they purchase, the more of their money will be taken off of them to pay off their arrears.

There are also hidden costs, the nearest charging point may not be near and consumers will be faced with the additional cost of getting to their nearest charging point. If people are on both gas and electricity prepayment plans then the charging points for gas and electricity may even be located in separate locations adding to the problems.

What is the government doing about this very serious problem? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! As usual David Cameron is standing by and allowing his friends the in the energy companies to make even more money out of our most vulnerable people.

Not only is Cameron and this hideous government doing nothing to help these people, they are actually making their situations worse by cutting their benefits, even though many of these people will actually be IN WORK!

Iain Duncan Smith at the Department for Work and Pensions has made these peoples lives intolerable in many different ways will be making it impossible for these struggling people not only to feed and clothe their families and themselves this winter, but to pay something as basic as their fuel bills will also prove impossible.The hidden costs of the Tories and Liberal Democrats welfare reforms are many and varied.

Bedroom Tax – thousands of people are now being forced to pay between £14 and £24 per week or between £56 and £96 extra per month out of their low wages or benefits for extra bedrooms if they are deemed not to be needed by the DWP. Many of these people are working on low pay or are disabled and need their bedrooms and thus far it has not created one single situation where it has actually helped anyone, there are no smaller properties for people to move into. It is one of the nastiest ill thought out, ill conceived pieces of legislation in the entire history of the British parliament. Yet still this government will not admit they have got it wrong and get rid of this ludicrous policy. (If the Labour party win the next election they have promised to repeal the bedroom tax) 96% of people affected by the Tories bedroom tax have nowhere to go, in effect they are trapped and are now falling into arrears with council for non payment of bedroom tax as well as falling into arrears with domestic fuel bills.

Housing Benefit Caps – Starting in July 2013 and earlier in some pilot areas, the government introduced a cap on the amount of housing benefit you can receive. At first, the benefit Cap will only affect those in receipt of Housing Benefit, however later, it could also affect those who are in receipt of Universal Credit. if the cap affects  you then your benefit will go down. Again this not only affects those who are entirely in receipt of benefits, it also affects those on low wages who receive help with their rent and council tax.

Working Families Tax Credit Cuts – Due to government changes the new rules on working tax credits from April 2013 will hit around 212,000 low income families according to information published in the House of Commons Library. This will reduce income on average by around £2,600 per year. This affects ALL those “hard working people” that David Cameron keeps talking about. Up until now providing one partner works at least 16 hours per week, they would be eligible for tax credits, but now couples will need to work at least 24 hours between them to apply, with one partner working at least 16 hours. It means that “hardworking families” will see their incomes fall by around 30%.

Council Tax benefit cuts – Are forcing people to stay on the side of the law or to break it in order to feed, liable for charges between 10% and 30% of the full bill.  Again many of these people are IN work earning low pay and have been forced into this position by this government. How much money are councils losing in non payment and in chasing people for payment? how much money is taking all of these people to country costing the country? How are people already struggling to live going to manage having to pay higher fuel bills and some are paying the bedroom tax and some are also now being charge council tax on top of everything else.

People Queuing outside Peterborough Magistrates Court
Answering Summonses for non payment of council tax.
It’s not they won’t pay it is because they CAN’T pay!

How will they manage to clothe their families and heat and light their homes? More than a 100,000 people have been issued with court summonses for non payment of council tax. Many people whom have never been in council tax arrears in their lives before now suddenly find themselves in debt owing large amounts and hundreds are turning up on council office doorsteps to protest, or are being forced to form queues outside Magistrates courts where they will be tried and fined EXTRA money for non payment of council tax bills. Most of the people who are being fined do NOT have the money to pay the bill in the first place which is why they are now being forced to court. An estimated 1.9 million who did not have to pay council tax before the changes now find themselves deeply in debt with their incomes cut and no way of paying for soaring food prices and soaring energy prices.

As you can see some of David Cameron’s and the Tories and Liberal Democrat government’s “hardworking families” can be clobbered at least 4 times each and the total effect on their weekly incomes will be absolutely devastating, can anyone in this absolutely ludicrous insane narcissistic government please explain how on top of all these cust, people are going to be able to pay to keep their homes warm and lit? How will all those on prepayment metres cope with the soaring costs of energy on top of all of these cuts?

Why isn’t someone doing something about the energy companies charging vulnerable people MORE per unit of energy ABOVE the price everyone else pays?

The devastating verdict is in just one year this Tory led Coalition Government has pushed a million people into absolute poverty and all the progress the previous Labour government made in tackling relative child poverty has ground to a halt. In their first year this Government have pushed a million people into poverty and it is getting worse.
Now more than 5 million people in Britain are being paid less than the minimum wage, thanks to the Tory and Lib Dem Coalition Government’s naked attack on peoples living standards and their deliberate driving down of wages.

How are these people going to afford to heat and light their homes?

A recent Oxfam report says that austerity will drive more than one million children into poverty. The Oxfam report says George Osborne’s cuts and tax rises are “massively increasing” inequality in the UK and the Government’s austerity policies will push a further 800,000 children into poverty. Oxfam warns that by 2020  there will be an additional 800,000 children – up from 2.3 million at present – and 1.9m more adults living below the breadline.

How are these people going to afford to heat and light their homes?

Food Banks – Over 350,000 people received emergency help from the Trussell Trust food banks between April and September 2013. Inquiries  for help at foodbanks has tripled this past year. The level of poverty and deprivation in the country is not acceptable, it is scandalous. Michael Gove should hang his head in shame for accusing people of not managing their money properly, they have no money to manage he and his government have seen to that! And his wife filling her fridge and cupboards with junk foods throughout the summer and writing about it is just callous and shows how out of touch this hideous government is.

The Trussell Trust has also reported that people have been giving back items that need cooking because they cannot afford the gas or electricity to cook them, this is an absolute abomination, we are the 7th richest country in the world and we are forcing the poor, unemployed, the elderly, the disabled and the vulnerable to pay for the greed of the bankers.

And what is George Osborne’s answer to this while Ed Miliband is fighting the Government and the energy conglomerates to try and get a better deal for people? George Osborne is away with the fucking fairies in the EU taking them to court to safeguard bankers mega bonuses and just to add insult to injury, Osborne is forcing the taxpayer to pay over a million pounds in bankers legal fees!

The government is grabbing money from poor people hand over fist at the same time as they have given a huge tax concessions to millionaires handing them at least a £100,000 cheque tax cut. I bet they do not have to worry about turning the heating on, or worry about having enough power to cook the food a food bank gave them!

Today it is reported that cabinet ministers have been claiming thousands of pounds for energy costs, while Tories are all in it together!

Nadhim Zahawi laughing with the PM
after the millionaire claimed £5882
back in energy costs

 Our poor and vulnerable are freezing cold and cannot cook their food, and one millionaire Tory Nadhim Zahawi claimed  £5882 off of the taxpayer in just 12 months, more than four times the average household bill! Yep those –

I am so glad they think the situation they have caused in this country to be so funny, they laugh while millions struggle in despair and the winter hasn’t even started properly yet!

Someone needs to do something and do it fast, if they do not then people are going to die of starvation and hypothermia this winter.

And why are the energy conglomerates charging people with prepayments metres MORE for their energy? It is a bloody disgrace!

Will the ‘left’ throw the baby out with the bathwater?

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By Councillor Jim Grundy

To friends and comrades: the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition is standing a candidate in Hucknall for the Nottinghamshire County Council elections on 2nd May.  I cannot tell you – do I need to? – how thoroughly depressing I find this to be.

Some people will never be content with the Labour Party as a party of the Left – and that is their prerogative.  Some within Labour can often appear to be somewhat less than ‘left-friendly’ but within Hucknall – where we have no county councillors (for the moment) but all nine district councillors – what are they opposing?

Hucknall’s Labour councillors have taken leading roles in ensuring that the District Council adopted the Living Wage.  Hucknall’s Labour councillors supported the moves to freeze, not only Council Tax but Council housing rents too.  We haven’t passed on the cuts to Council Tax Benefit and are currently developing a package to protect those affected by the Bedroom Tax.  We’ve also ensured that all low-paid council and Ashfield Homes’ employees received £250 when the Government vetoed a pay rise.  No other council can claim to have done more.  None.  I challenge anyone to prove otherwise.

Services, such as the call monitoring service, one that the most vulnerable rely upon in an emergency, have been supported, filling the gap left by the Tory-run (for the moment) County Council’s cuts to the budget.  We are about to begin the construction of the first council houses in Ashfield for over 30 years, with more planned.

All of that, it seems, is not good enough.  We’ve worked – and continue to work – with local Trade Union representatives.  But we now find ourselves opposed by people we might have hoped would’ve supported the measures we’ve put in place to support those most affected by the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition.

We won’t change course.  But, it seems, some will never abandon their position of opposing Labour whatever it does, wherever they find it.  One day they might discover the Tory Party and others on the Right but it seems, they’re far happier… much more comfortable attacking the evils of Labour without ever, even for a nanosecond, thinking they would have to do anything other than utter some empty rhetoric that they will never have to back up with action in the real world.

It is referred to in political circles as sectarianism.  I am sure that those trying to come to terms with what the Tories are doing to them, have other expressions that best describe it.  But, whilst they might claim my complaint is merely seeking to shut down criticism of the Labour Party – for they can have no other critique, rarely dealing with ‘real people’ – the reality is that they are self-indulgent, self-serving individuals who positively revel in ordinary people’s misery if they believe it serves as a recruiting agent for their own purposes.  That, I think, is shameful.  But, obviously, I will be proven wrong… triumphantly so… when that mass workers’ party otherwise known as the Socialist Party takes centre stage.

I have many friends on the Left and I value their friendship more than I can tell.  A lot of them would never dream of voting for, let alone joining Labour.  Few of them, though, would spend time attacking a Labour council with our recent track record.  They’d rather back what we were doing, whilst arguing… arguing very strongly, that there was still much more to do… but they would think it much more profitable to spend their time attacking Tories and Lib Dems rather than seeking to undermine what we’re trying to do locally.  But some people are not and never will be my/our friends.  Good luck to them and when they’ve proved that their red flag is a much purer shade of red than mine, they can go home, safe in the knowledge that they never have to actually do anything beyond writing a slogan to oppose what the Tories are doing.  I don’t doubt their slogans are better than ours.  But I do wonder how much they help those about to be hit by the Bedroom Tax.  I have to try to do something in the here and now for such people and not go back to Nottingham, smug in my political theorising and safe in the knowledge that I’ll never have to do anything in the real world to alter what is taking place to real people in the here and now, rather than the glorious future that is to come.

If that sounds horribly negative and angry, well, it is.  Except I and my fellow Labour councillors in Hucknall are taking action to help those on the receiving end of what is happening, and not simply proving to a very narrow section of society just how morally superior we are to everyone else.  We’ll carry on, working hard to ensure that real people receive real help now.  There is a difference.  And ‘real’ people can spot it a million miles off.

Yes, I am pissed off at finding ourselves opposed by people who, even if they will never be our friends, should at the very least recognise who is on the same side.  We might choose a different path and others will argue about the veracity of that too but there is a bigger prize to be won than a test of political theory.  Honest.

Related posts by Jim Grundy

This Ghastly Bedroom Tax spreads Fear… #bedroomtax

The Bedroom Tax: The Unkindest Cut of All?

How can pay rise be unfair when mega-rich get tax cut?

The Unnatural Death of Affordable Housing

Planning to Blame Immigrants? Get Your Facts Straight & Get Rid of Your Prejudices, Nick Boles

Arguments that every Liberal Democrat would do well to hear