The former chair of Conservative Future has suggested that the unemployed should not be allowed to vote. Tom Bursnall, who recently defected from the Tories to UKIP on Windsor and Maidenhead Council, specifically targeted the unemployed people on his “Pro Capitalist” blog, asking: “Should people on benefits be allowed to vote?”
And it gets worse — when Tom “Batshit” Bursnall goes on to suggest that rich people should receive more votes than the poor: “It would be terribly ‘unfair’ of you to give equal representation rights to the chap who contributes 50 times more than the next person. In the same way as if you own 60% of shares of a company, you’ll get 60% of the voting rights at the Annual General Meeting.”With Tom and his councillor wife trousering more than £14,000 from the taxpayer, The VOAG wonders how many more votes the Bursnall household would receive.
Now UKIP’s most high-profile new recruit, former Ukip candidate for Farnham North in the last Surrey County Council elections, Alexandra Swann, has joined in. She claims Cllr Tom Bursnall “has a point”, going on to say it is “dangerous” to let unemployed people vote. She continued: “allowing people to vote on how other people’s money is spent — if they dont contribute — is dangerous”
As with Tom Bursnall, Alexandra Swann defected from the Tories in 2012. 23 year-old Alexandra Swann was the star turn at UKIP’s recent conference in Skegness — with party leader Nigel Farage proudly declaring that “the Swann has migrated”. A statement on her website says she left the conservative Party for UKIP because Conservative-led” government submits to every liberal-left piety imaginable.’
She was narrowly defeated by the Tory incumbent, Denise Le Gal, by just 43 votes in the 2012 Surrey County Council elections. Don’t Vote UKIP, Don’t vote Alexander Swann.
The UK has two welfare states. There is one that is reported and endlessly discussed, and another, which is rarely mentioned. Whilst the first is suffering enormous cuts under the Tory/LD coalition, the other just keeps expanding.
Governments on the left and the right can always justify welfare cuts by pitting, for example, mobility scooters against needle exchanges, or the soft-play area in children’s playgrounds against an old people’s home. Who deserves it most, they say, students or cleaners? Old or young? But when we’re running not one, but two welfare states, that’s a totally fake scenario. The real choice is between playgrounds or gas rigs; between Meals on Wheels or The City of London Currency Speculators’ Maintenance Allowance.
There’s a connection – never mentioned – between, let’s say, Britain’s eight new deep-water gas rigs and its new food banks. The connection is that the $4.5 billion subsidy package being doled out to transnational gas corporations is a very big slice of the welfare pie. And to keep the gas transnationals on the benefits to which they are addicted, hungry humans have to queue for tinned food that is too close to its sell-by date to be kept on the shelves of supermarkets, many of which are themselves massive recipients of corporate welfare.
Not only does the UK pay out unemployment benefits less generous than Romania, Albania and the US, but the wages of the employed have simply not kept pace with productivity over the last 30 yrs. Tory Ideology is all about Handouts to the Wealthy paid for by the Poor.George Osborne has cut £18bn from benefits plus a further £81bn from public services in the name of unavoidable austerity, whilst at the same time providing huge subsidies, tax cuts and removing regulation for the hidden ‘welfare’ system that benefits the private sector.
No goods or services are directly returned to the government in exchange for these expenditures, although of course, politicians will argue that they’re stimulating the economy, helping struggling industries, creating jobs or funding important research but actually this is just a corporate welfare system.
The Cato Institute, for example, estimated that in the US, $93 billion were devoted to corporate welfare in 2002. This was about 5% of the federal budget, and nearly twice the amount spent on social welfare ie. feeding people, housing the homeless, raising children out of poverty etc.
There is no reason to think the situation is different in the UK. However, overall statistics for the UK corporate welfare budget are hard to discover, and the variety of different subsidies are staggering. Needless to say, the Tories focus their attention on fraud and waste in the social welfare budget.
Welfare fraud and waste is never far from the top of the UK’s news agenda – but the real figures often bear almost no resemblance to popular belief. The British public, for example, think around 27% of the welfare budget is lost of fraud, according to TUC research.
The Department for Work and Pensions’ latest data on fraud and error in the benefit system shows a very different reality: fraud exists, but at a far lower level than the public believes – and is outweighed by errors from claimants and officials alike. The DWP estimates £3.5bn has been overpaid due to errors and fraud in the system; 2.1 per cent of the overall benefit expenditure.
The corporate welfare budget arises from four main sources: Paying little or no tax – Tax havens; tax breaks; enjoying huge subsidies and the removal of employment and environmental protection regulations.
The UK’s 100 biggest public companies are running more than 8,000 subsidiaries or joint ventures in onshore and offshore tax havens, according to research. The figures, published by the charity Action Aid, show that only two of the companies listed on the UK’s FTSE 100 have no subsidiaries in tax havens – while companies such as Barclays and Tesco own hundreds. http://www.guardian.co.uk. The UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories constitute half of the world’s most frequently used tax havens.
Almost one in four of Britain’s biggest listed companies paid no corporation tax in this country last year – and almost half fail to disclose their tax payments to the UK at all, according to research by The Mail on Sunday. According to the annual reports and accounts of all the companies in the FTSE 100, 47 companies gave no obvious figures for tax paid in Britain. Of the 53 who did, 12 showed they paid no tax at all and, six actually received a tax credit.Tax Avoidance
Treasury minister, David Gauke, admitted in reply to a parliamentary written question that only four employees of HMRC are working to capture 124 tax fugitives. The amount of uncollected tax rose again last year. A Labour MP pointed out that the four officials dedicated to the tax fugitives compares with the 450 HMRC staff involved in administering the withdrawal of child benefit from higher-rate taxpayers.
Currently, it is estimated that the government has already provided £43.5bn in various subsidies including the National Infrastructure Plan, the Equity Loan and Help to Buy schemes, the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and the Regional Growth Fund, with nothing to show for it. Far greater sums are in the pipeline, up to £310bn.
Meanwhile supermarkets get an enormous subsidy to help with one of their major overheads, staffing costs. This is because many employees in these large and successful companies are paid only the minimum wage. And because the current minimum wage is not a living wage, nearly everyone on it has to claim tax credits to be able to make ends meet. Those tax credits are funded by the taxpayer. The supermarkets are effectively state subsidised industries.
In addition to the recent unprecedented public support for the financial sector The NEF (New Economics Foundation) identified at least three significant hidden subsidies:
* The ‘Too Big to Fail’ subsidy: The government now provides a public guarantee, effectively insurance against banks going bust. This gives banks a huge commercial advantage over other firms in a market system. It means banks are able to borrow money much more cheaply than if they were not ultimately underwritten by the public. Exchanges with leading auditors in front of the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs in January 2011 confirm this. A conservative analysis reveals that this hidden subsidy could be worth £30 billion annually. It means that bonuses to senior staff for ‘performance’ and dividends to institutional investors are at least in part a straight transfer from the taxpayer.
* The quantitative easing windfall subsidy: When it was decided that the economy needed more liquidity, the Bank of England pumped money in using the technique called ‘quantitative easing’. To meet various, and sometimes self-imposed, requirements, it did by purchasing government bonds through investment banks. Merely for being passive conduits for this ‘risk free’ arrangement the banks took a cut of every trade. Here nef analysts found that banks enjoyed a significant windfall, but that lack of transparency keeps the likely amount hidden.
* The ‘make the customer pay’ subsidy: Since the baking crisis of 2008, the banks have been increased the gap between what they have to pay to borrow money, and what they charge people to borrow from them. This is the so-called interest rate ‘spread’. This is because they can borow money from the Bank of England at virtually 0%. As it is, the taxpayer is subsidising the banks twice over: once through taxpayer funded public support to the banks, and secondly through paying much higher interest to borrow than the banks do. This hidden subsidy amounts to at least another £2.5 billion each year.
From Daily Mirror
Westminster Tories have revealed their true colours by banning charities from running soup kitchens for the homeless.Conservative Westminster council in Central London also wants to make it an offence to sleep rough – while slashing £5million of funding to hostels. Astonishingly, town hall chiefs claimed soup kitchens only “encourage” people to sleep on the streets.
Westminster council, one of the richest in the land, wants to bring in a bylaw making it an offence to “give out food for free”, punishable by fines. The twisted move blows apart David Cameron’s Big Society boast that an army of volunteers will flock to help those worse off.
And it sparked a storm of criticism. Reverend Alison Tomlin of the Methodist church in Westminster said: “The proposals are nothing short of disgusting. This bylaw punishes people solely for their misfortune and belongs in a Victorian statute book, not the 21st century.”
Labour’s London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone added: “Only the Conservatives would try to make it illegal to give food to the homeless. “With Tory mayor Boris Johnson cutting affordable housing to a trickle, the number of people sleeping on the streets is rising and cuts to housing benefit threaten thousands more with eviction and homelessness.”
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the Labour Group, said: “Nothing illustrates the cold-hearted and callous approach of the Conservatives than this attempt to criminalise those offering help to homeless people. “I thought this was what the Big Society was supposed to be all about, generous-hearted people giving their time to those less fortunate, at no cost to the public purse. This is a nasty, mean move from a nasty, mean party.”
A consultation paper says rough sleeping and soup runs would be banned in the Westminster Cathedral Piazza and surrounding area. Labour said the cruel move comes as the council withdraws funding for three hostels in the borough and housing trust.
Westminster’s Daniel Astaire provoked fury by declaring free food “keeps people on the street longer”. He added: “Soup runs have no place in the 21st century. It is undignified that people are being fed on the streets. They actually encourage people to sleep rough with all the dangers that entails. Our priority is to get people off the streets altogether. We have a range of services that can help do that.”
Benefit claimants Assessed as ‘fit for work’ are dying within six weeks of assessment
Thousands of sick benefit claimants are dying within six weeks of being wrongly assessed as “fit to work”, a North-East MP claimed yesterday, during a commons debate in which he called for an independent assessment of the Coalition’s welfare policy.
Ian Mearns, Labour MP for Gateshead, blamed the Government for the misdiagnosis at least 10,600 sick and disabled people in just ten months, who then quickly died. He said: “Four people a day are dying within six weeks of being declared fit for work under the work capability assessments. It is scandalous.
Mr Mearns said the figure of 10,600 deaths, after unsuccessful claims for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), covered the period January to November 2011. And he added: “This Government has repeatedly refused to release updated 2013 figures for deaths within six weeks of an end of an ESA claim.”Stop the benefits cuts and sanctions says Citizens Advice Bureau Punishing Poverty is a report published last week by Citizens Advice and which is based on a national survey of those who have had benefits stopped or sanctioned for not meeting the endless ‘work related activity’ conditions imposed by Jobcentres. Hundreds of thousands of claimants have faced sanctions varying in length between four weeks and up to three years. These sanctions are often imposed for the most trivial of reasons and as this report exposes, quite often for circumstances that are entirely beyond the claimant’s control. It is not just unemployed claimants who face sanctions, but increasingly sick and disabled people and single parents with children over the age of five.
The results of the survey portray a truly horrific account of the destitution and human misery that this regime has inflicted on people. Stories of families ripped apart, pregnant women left without food, those with dietary needs due to health conditions becoming sick, mental health deteriorating, suicide attempts and people forced to beg or go through bins to find food.
These stories are not the inevitable consequence of economic crisis, the UK is still one of the richest countries in the world. Benefit sanctions barely save the tax payer a penny such is the cost of policing and administering the system.
As the Citizens Advice report reveals there are countless tales of benefits being stopped due to a mistake by the Jobcentre, or because a claimant faced unavoidable circumstances such as travel delays, hospital appointments and even job interviews which caused them to be late to an appointment with their advisor. It is the widespread, seemingly haphazard nature of the regime which forces all claimants into a state of perpetual fear. The threat of the dreaded brown envelope through the door from the DWP is a feature of life on all benefits, a daily reminder that you are only ever a heartbeat away from complete destitution.
The welfare state is not a political weapon to stigmatise or scapegoat people, force down wages and pursue a work makes you free ideology. It should exist as the opposite, to empower, provide dignity and even act as a force against poverty pay – saying to grasping employers that there is an alternative for people if all you’ve got to offer is shit wages. Benefit sanctions must be brought to an immediate end with no exceptions. The full report can be downloaded at: http://sdrv.ms/1c48ECq10 Facts About Benefits Britain
1) A TUC survey showed that people think around 41% of benefits go to the unemployed, the real figure is 2.6%. (1)
2) 42% of the Welfare Bill goes to pensioners, 21% goes to people in low paid work. (2)
3) Nearly 80% of JSA claimants stop claiming within 6 months. (3)
4) Of the 7.8 million families receiving child benefit, 1.2 million have more than two children. (4)
5) A TUC survey found that people think around 27% of welfare is lost to fraud – the real figure is only 0.7%, around £1.2 billion. (5)
6) Around £17 billion of benefits that people are entitled to goes unclaimed every year. (6)
7) Immigrants are 60% less likely to claim benefits than a British-born person. (7)
8) 64% of families receive benefits – that’s 20.3 million families. (8)
9) The UK spends 12% less on benefits per head than France does, and 19% less compared to Germany. (9)
10) 93% of new Housing Benefit claimants in 2010 and 2011 came from working people, as UK housing costs are the 3rd highest in Europe. (10)
“With the Conservatives there will be no more of the tiresome, meddlesome, top-down re-structures that have dominated the last decade of the NHS”.The coalition government went on to make some of the biggest changes to the NHS since its creation.
“We have absolutely no plans to raise VAT. Our first Budget is all about recognising we need to get spending under control rather than putting up tax”.George Osborne rose VAT from 17.5% to a record 20%.
“I like the child benefit, I wouldn’t change child benefit, I wouldn’t means-test it, I don’t think that is a good idea”.The coalition government later abolished Child Benefit for higher earners.
“Yes, we back Sure Start. It’s a disgrace that Gordon Brown has been trying to frighten people about this. He’s the prime minister of this country but he’s been scaring people about something that really matters”.Hundreds of Sure Start centres have since closed their doors.
“We have no plans to change existing Future Jobs Fund commitments”.Within weeks of the coalition government taking office it announced the abolition of the Future Jobs Fund.
“Let us look at the issue of dependency where we have trapped people in poverty through the extent of welfare that they have”.Since then we have witnessed some of the biggest cuts to welfare since the formation of the welfare state, which has led to a five-fold increase in poverty-stricken families turning to food banks.
“People are increasingly frustrated that decisions taken further and further away from them mean their living standards are slashed through enforced austerity”.The UK has been forced to endure some of harshest austerity measures in decades and those policies haven’t come from “further and further away”. They’ve come from David Cameron and his coalition government.
“We cannot go on as we are with 2.6 million people on incapacity benefit, 500,000 of them are under 35.”Sick and disabled benefit claimants are still being wrongly found ‘fit for work’ by inhumane benefit tests.
“We will say to people that if you want to work, we will do everything we can to help you. We will give you the training, we will give you the support, we will give you the advice to get you back at work”.Or hide jobseekers away on the government’s controversial Work Programme so that they can manipulate unemployment statistics perhaps?
“When you’re taking the country through difficult times and difficult decisions you’ve got to take the country with you. That means permanently trying to make the argument that what you’re doing is fair and seen to be fair”.Tax cuts for Millionaires whilst some of the poorest in society are struggling to make ends-meet due to welfare cuts and poverty wages”.
“What we’re putting forward is the most radical reform of the welfare state for 60 years. I think it will have a transformative effect in making sure that everyone is better off working rather than on benefits”.Figures show that for the first time in history there are now more working people living in poverty than those in workless households.
When Bob Marley and Peter Tosh wrote the classic protest song Get Up, Stand Up they could not have envisaged that it would be adopted by a group of mainly white, middle-aged, middle-class north Londoners who have formed a remarkable alliance with a group of squatters and members of the Occupy movement to oppose a library closure.
On Tuesday, all of the above joined hands in a human chain around Friern Barnet Library in north London. It was closed in April 2012 due to council cuts, and occupied by squatters five months ago, who reopened it with the help of local volunteers almost immediately.
Needless to say the council was not pleased. It has now reopened as a community library with financial input from the council who shut it down. Together, the disparate group of library fans sang an adaptation of their song that Marley and Tosh would probably have approved of – Get Up, Stand Up, Save Our Libraries.
The council threatened to close the library in 2009. Residents and Labour councillors staged various protests, including leafleting, a five-hour sit-in and the temporary establishment of a pop-up library. When the library closed the council brushed off the pleas to reopen it on that site.
When the squatters climbed through an open window in September and began working with local residents to restore a library service in the building the council was stymied.
Officials had to lodge court proceedings to evict the squatters, and as the weeks ticked by before the case was heard the disparate groups forged genuine and trusting relationships and the initially empty library shelves swelled until they had more than 10,000 donated books on offer to lend.
The library became a community hub with events for children, yoga classes and book signings with the likes of Will Self. Barnet county court granted an eviction order in December. But local residents speedily formed a legally constituted group of licensees who offered to take over the running of the library when the squatters moved out on Tuesday. They are now negotiating a long-term lease with the council and plans to sell the site off to a developer have been shelved – for now at least.
When David Cameron put forward his “big society” idea he probably wasn’t advocating unusual alliances of people working together collaboratively to overturn closures of public services implemented by radical Tory councils such as Barnet. But, arguably, this is the big society in action.
The Occupy movement has raised a great deal of awareness of global inequality but has not focused on or achieved small, concrete wins such as this one. The Barnet residents’ protests fell on deaf ears until the squatters supported by Occupy moved in. Squatters have had an opportunity to rebrand themselves as socially responsible, community minded individuals who are working to restore closed-down public services. The local residents are clear that without the input of the squatters and Occupy, the library would not have reopened.
The squatters know that without the huge support from residents they would have been unceremoniously evicted from the library premises much sooner and Barnet council would have gone ahead with its plans to sell the site to a commercial developer. But together the different groups formed a potent alliance. Assisted by a strong legal team they were able to argue in court that they were providing a greatly valued public service. Their arguments were reflected in the judge’s ruling. While granting Barnet council an eviction order, district judge HHJ Pearl recognised the right to protest and said of the occupied library: “There is no suggestion that this is anything other than a happy, pleasant, well-run place.”
The relationship between the various groups involved in the library protest and occupation has been characterised by gentleness, mutual respect for the range of views put forward and a very sincere spirit of collaboration. The residents have become more tuned in to the issues raised by the squatters and Occupy, and the latter have worked sensitively with the locals to help them achieve their objectives of restoring a much-loved public service.
As those gathered to celebrate the establishment of Friern Barnet community library on Tuesday lit candles on a very long cake modelled on Eric Carle’s classic children’s book, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, the unity of purpose resonated around the room. Could this kind of unusual alliance be the future of campaigning against cuts in services and other matters of public concern? This unprecedented reopening of a closed down library suggests that it could.
One small step for the proletarian revolution, one giant leap for the Surrey United Anti-Capitalists, as the SUAC Students Society Romps home with 72 new members recruited at this years Surrey University Freshers Fair.
The VOAG salutes and congratulates those (they know who they are) who made this year’s Freshers Fair the most successful freshers fair ever. And not a swappy in sight!
The stool looked amazing, featuring picture boards of recent activities, a looping slide show, as well as various flyers. Props to all those that helped!
SUAC is the only left group on campus. The SWP have tried in past years to start a student group, but to-date have always failed to get enough members to establish themselves. This year the SWP stayed a home.
Whilst the Lib-dems and Tories have abandoned Surrey University, there is, on paper, a Labour Club. It keeps its head well low, never campaigns and doesn’t ever meet. The Labour Club appears out of thin air every Freshers Fair, and then hibernates until the next.
The Green Party managed to arrange a stool, and sent two elderly, woolly jumper types. The VOAG ventured over to the lonely couple, but was scared off, fearful of frostbite, The Socialist Fight magazine the VOAG was carrying, alerted them that the VOAG was outside their target audience, and an icy chill deended on their stall.