Tag Archive: coalition


stop-the-cutsFocus On Benefit Cuts and Sanctions

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.”No-CutsStop 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/1c48ECqwelfare10 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)Socialism or Barbarism, it really is that simple!

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Grass Roots Rank and File Launch Conference.

Saturday 12 April 2014. 12pm
Comfort Inn, Opposite New St Station,

Station Street,

Birmingham. B5 4DY.

Following the successful meeting of the Grass Roots Left National Committee in Birmingham on 18 January the launch conference of the new Grass Roots Rank and File now looks to be on a far healthier basis than was feared when Socialist Fight supporters had been reduced to a minority of two in defence of the Constitution and Platform of the GRL as the basis for the new organisation at the AGM of 9 November. Between the two meetings the SWP had split at its December conference and the new organisation, now called the Revolutionary Socialists of the 21st Century, took the majority of the Unite the union faction who had supported Jerry Hicks for general secretary twice. Both the SWP and the SR21C attended the GRL NC and as they were now rivals they sought to accentuate their leftism. It seems now that the new joint Rank and File organisation will be open and democratic and be based on a platform and constitution at least similar to the old GRL one. Both Workers Power and Socialist Resistance had to reverse themselves and now say that standing on Jerry Hicks election points really was minimalist and not enough and they abandoned their charges of ultra leftism against SF. The SWP, of course, continues its opportunist tailending of all the other the TU bureaucracies as Laurence Humphries’s report on the Unite the Resistance conference on page 30 makes clear. In the meantime we hear that fusion discussions between Unite and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), whose Executive is dominated by the SP/CWI, are going to succeed because the government will withdraw check-off facilities from the PCS and so probably bankrupt it. The SP has already approached the United Left, the Unite bureaucracy’s mouthpiece, to ensure that they become ensconced as that bureaucracy’s footstools as well as for the RMT’s Bob Crow.grass-roots-RandF

VOAG Logo (Brick)5Labour, The TUC and the Levy

The crisis of British capitalism is reflected in the war waging inside the Labour party between Ed Miliband and Len McCluskey General Secretary of Unite, the biggest trade union in Britain. According to Channel 4’s Fact-Check, “Unite the union is Labour’s biggest donor by far. It has provided 20 per cent, or £11.9m, of party donations since the election.”

Miliband, in a letter to Labour party members, is propagating the idea of “one nation”, so that Labour can prepare for coalition government with either the Tories or Liberal Democrats. Miliband states “A hundred years ago the Trade Unions helped to found the Labour Party”. From 1900 the working class through the trade unions founded, built and financed the Labour party to advance the cause of the working class by representing it in parliament.

Miliband further comments “The organised trade unions are no longer part of the Labour party, we are changing that relationship between the Labour party and the trade unions”. The actions of Kinnock who drove out the Militant Tendency and Blair who removed Clause 4 from the Labour party constitution were de-signed to kill off the last vestige of socialism in the Labour party. Miliband takes up the right-wing offensive anew and wants to turn the Labour party into an open capitalist party with no connection to the trade unions or the working class, although he wants to continue receiving big donations from unions like Unite.

McCluskey’s compromise is not designed to starve the Labour party of funds but accept abolition of the political levy. The levy is taken from each member’s contributions and goes directly to the Labour party. It is approximately £3 per year on an “in if you do not opt out” basis. As in the same debates about the Osborne Judgement from 1909 to 1913 most Tory and Liberal politicians want an “out if you do not opt in” position which would cost the party millions of lost subscriptions. The Great Unrest forced the 1913 compromise we still have today.

Ending the political levy would abolish the block vote at conferences and TU influence in local associations. It was the response that Jerry Hicks got crucially on Labour party funding in the General Secretary election in April from 80, 000 Unite members that aerated McCluskey to make his stance. The Labour party want money for nothing, vague Warwick Agreement pre-election promises never kept

The rank and file influence in the Labour party is via the TU bureaucracy, who are at one with Labour lead-ers in pandering to Imperialist chauvinism: British jobs for British workers, anti-immigrant bigotry and support for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. We must defeat this reactionary clique by establishing rank and file control. The Labour party membership must be won to this mass struggle. This is how to win the British working class to the revolutionary party.Join Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page for details of local events against the cuts.

What Labour’s energy price pledge says about Britain

The VOAG is everywhere - The VOAG is watchingBy Julie Hyland (for WSWS), September 2013.
The howls of outrage that greeted Labour leader Ed Miliband’s timorous suggestion of some mild reforms starkly illustrates social reality in Britain.

Speaking at the Labour Party conference, Miliband pledged that if elected in 2015, his government would freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017. The pledge is hardly the return to “old-Labour-style” policies of “tax and spend”, much less the full-blooded “socialism” claimed by Miliband’s media critics and supporters alike.

Amounting to an average household saving of just £120, it is a drop in the ocean when compared to the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition’s austerity measures, which have produced, as Miliband acknowledged, the longest fall in living standards since the 1870s.

For his conference speech, however, Miliband had to come up with some headline grabber. He is, after all, a man with his back against the wall. Miliband leads a party that is all but destroyed by its long period of association in government with rampant free market speculation and colonial-style wars of aggression. Labour’s vote collapsed to just 29 percent in the last election, and there is little sign of a revival.

Membership has fallen to just 180,000, and the most recent opinion polls give the Conservatives a slight lead on Labour despite the widespread hostility to Prime Minister David Cameron and his government. Almost half of voters think Labour would be better without Miliband, and nearly two thirds think he can’t win an election.

With such odds, Miliband had to make some pitch for support, even if only to save his own leadership. Surrounded by images of the union flag, he again advanced Labour as the “One Nation” party, where “rich and poor alike” have “responsibilities to each other”.

Pointing out what everyone knows—that the so-called economic recovery has only been for the super-rich—he complained that this was the result of Conservative support for a “global race to the bottom” at the expense of wages, conditions and rights.

Miliband barely referenced the role of the Liberal Democrats in government. With little likelihood that Labour could win election outright, the Labour leader is banking on a coalition with the Tories’ current partners—whose own poll ratings have fallen through the floor and whose membership numbers are below 50,000.

Miliband claimed that Labour stood for a “race to the top”. What this consists of was not spelt out, but it was accompanied by promises of minimal reforms such as energy decarbonisation, overturning the coalition’s tax break to big corporations in order to cut business taxes on small companies, breakfast clubs for primary schools, and a “look at whether there are some sectors where we can afford” a rise in the minimum wage. Such a rise would only take place in agreement with business, Miliband stated.

His pledge to freeze energy prices for a period was also directed primarily at providing savings for small businesses, in keeping with his One Nation mantra. It was not possible to have a “dynamic market economy when one section of society does so well at the expense of others,” he said, urging the energy giants to cooperate with his plan.

Miliband made clear that these limited measures were entirely within the framework of Labour’s commitment to austerity. Being in government would be “tough,” he said. Labour would have to “stick to strict spending limits…we are not going to be able to spend money we don’t have.”

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls stressed the same message, making clear there would be no reversal in the coalition’s cuts and that Labour would have to make more of its own. To underscore the point, he had written to the Office of Budget Responsibility requesting that it audit the party’s manifesto commitments to prove its fiscal discipline.

Their statements underscore that the energy price freeze pledge is a mere reshuffling of a hand that will see working people lose every which way. Nonetheless, the response from the major corporations and much of the media was hysterical. The Financial Times decried what it called the “whiff of Poujadiste populism” in the proposal—a reference to the 1950s French right-wing populist demagogue, Pierre Poujade.

For their part, the major energy companies threatened darkly of power blackouts and of pulling out of the UK altogether. Centrica’s chairman, Sir Roger Carr, described a price freeze as a “recipe for economic ruin,” claiming that it would no longer be “economically viable to continue” in Britain.

Amid threats of an investment strike, Neil Woodford from the fund manager Invesco Perpetual denounced the plan as “economic vandalism.” If the energy corporations “cannot make any money supplying electricity to the retail market then they won’t supply it. The lights will go off, the economy will shut down,” he said.

In reality, energy bills have almost doubled since 2000, with households spending an average of £1,339 on gas and electricity. According to the consumer group Which?, households have been paying £3.9 billion a year over the odds for their energy. Meanwhile, the annual profit made by the UK’s big energy firms rose by 73 percent in the three years to 2012.

The Guardian ’s environmental blogger, Damian Carrington, also pointed out: “Coalition policies to deliver new generation capacity will remain unchanged, which means the government will guarantee the price energy companies will be paid for 30-40 years. That’s an extraordinarily good investment in an uncertain world.”

In other words, while complaining about frozen prices for customers, corporations are more than happy with decades of frozen prices for themselves. This is a ruling elite that will not accept a few crumbs being tossed to working people, even if such a move is intended to help them keep plundering the economy for their personal enrichment. Max Hastings summed up their attitude in the Daily Mail, when answering Miliband’s rhetorical question as to whether it was satisfactory for “a country to be working harder and longer for less?”  The “fact is”, Hastings stated, “all Western societies must do exactly that.” Any politician who pretends that this can be avoided by “loading more tax on banks and millionaires, is either a fool or a liar,” he wrote.

The angry response to Miliband’s feeble attempt to gain some popularity testifies to the total grip of the major corporations and the super-rich over the entire political system. Absolutely nothing must be allowed to infringe on their interests and wealth. Even while billions of state funds are given over to maintaining their obscene lifestyles, the financial oligarchy openly declares that the maintenance of their system depends upon destroying the living standards of the mass of the population.

The continued existence of this parasitic layer is incompatible with the needs of society. But as events of the last days have underscored, its economic stranglehold will not be broken by appeals to its non-existent conscience, much less by its political lackeys in the moribund Labour Party.

It can only be achieved through the mobilisation of the working class in a revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of the capitalist profit system, and the fight for a workers’ government based on socialist policies.The VOAG is watching, the VOAG is everywhere!

Stop The War Coalition

Voag-Logo-9After a year of silence The VOAG is back!

Bringing news and scurrilous stories

from Surrey and Beyond.

Campaigning for a better society.

&

Supporting

Surrey United Anti Capitalists
Save Our Services In Surrey
Socialist Fight Group

 Join The VOAG Facebook group to join the discussion or leave comments

End the Workfare Programmes now!

Picket stores in the West End on May 1st after the May Day Parade.
Meet Up At Clerkenwell Green 12 Noon May 1st.

From the Solidarity Federation
As part of the ongoing campaign against the five government-endorsed work placement schemes (commonly known as Workfare), the Solidarity Federation has called for a series of lightning pickets throughout the West End of London to mark the end of the traditional Mayday Parade from Clerkenwell Green to Trafalgar Square. join the parade, join the pickets!

 The organisation claims that its actions will focus on three of the largest businesses that have signed up for the Workfare scheme – Holland and Barrett, Greggs the Bakers, and McDonalds – and one of the Workfare service providers, A4e. There are currently five workfare programmes being run by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in conjunction with a number of private and voluntary sector companies. The five programmes are: The Work Programme, The Community Action Programme, Mandatory Work Activity, Work Experience and the Sector-based Work Academies.

The Con-Dem government, and the previous Labour government, have borrowed these “payment by results” re-employment schemes from models previously in place in Australia; schemes which failed in their intent to reduce government subsidy and led to tighter control of the schemes. (1) Here in the UK we have now witnessed six arrests on suspected fraud at the workfare provider A4e and calls in Parliament for the DWP to release all the incidents of suspected fraud within these programmes. (2) Perhaps they have just realised that Ingeus UK is 50% owned by the long-term Australian workfare provider Ingeus… (the other 50% is owned by the accountancy firm Deloitte who have frequently been fined for failing compliance issues).

The A4e scandal, the embarrassing questions raised by companies such as Argos and Tesco about the mandatory elements of these schemes at the highly publicised meeting between the government and business using workfare staff on February 29th, and the continuing campaign by Boycott Workfare, have raised the issue to such an extent that a recent Freedom of Information request has shown that three of the five workfare programmes have had the mandatory sanctions – the delay or removal of benefit payments – “temporarily” suspended. (3) What that doesn’t reveal is that claimants are now being shunted onto one of the schemes where it is still in place, with Mandatory Work Activity placements. (4)At a conference on 18th April 2012 the Con-Dem think-tank, Policy Exchange, who boast the reforms in the NHS amongst their successes, revealed the true intent behind the move towards encouraging the private sector into workfare: the reform of the Jobcentre Plus to be wholly run by private and third sector organisations (under a new scheme called “Community Link”), where the employees are also paid by performance targets – “National pay bargaining should also be ended” – increased individual claimant data-collection and profiling, the introduction of smartcards to claimants to prevent them from purchasing unnecessary items with their benefits and the increase in job-search requirements to become equivalent to the regular 35 hour working week. Claimants will continue to be means-tested, but will not be able to make a claim until they can prove they have already sought work for two weeks from the start of their unemployment. (5)

The Workfare programmes are unsuccessful re-employment schemes that continue to blame the young, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed and the recently imprisoned for the incompetence and failures of successive governments to face up to the economic basis of laissez-faire capitalism. It has become acceptable to blame the vulnerable individual for their lack of employment opportunities, rather than recognise the imbalance between the need for so-called “austerity measures” and the requirement to prop-up business profits.

In continuing to believe the mythical “Big Society” will allow private enterprise to furnish the unemployed with new jobs, the government continues to fund a series of privately-owned companies with taxpayer monies despite the failure of these companies to meet their contracted targets. It is a way of making profits from the unfortunate and the impoverished. The limited numbers of “third sector” groups involved in Workfare – charities and other voluntary organisations – are usually specialist groups who are already being squeezed out of the market in favour of global providers like ATOS and Ingeus.

“The only way to halt these policies is to make them more expensive to enforce than to drop,” Song continued. “This means discouraging businesses from adopting these schemes and exposing the providers who benefit from Workfare.”

Potential sites for protest can be viewed at the following Google Map at: http://g.co/maps/wx93f


END NOTES

1.)   http://www.redpepper.org.uk/a4e-a-scandal-so-big-it-could-be-seen-from-2008/

5.)   “Personalised Welfare: Rethinking employment support and Job Centres”; Ed Holmes, Policy Exchange, 2011 pp71-3. (ISBN 978-1-907689-10-9); “No Rights Without Responsibility: Rebalancing the welfare state”; Matthew Oakley and Peter Saunders, Policy Exchange, 2011 (Hand out, headed “Summary May 2011”).

For a background to the government’s Workfare programme See:
https://suacs.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/anti-workfare-demonstration-march-3rd-2012

World’s richest woman says poor
should have less fun, work harder.

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2012
Just in case you were beginning to think rich people were deeply misunderstood and that they feel the pain of those who are less fortunate, here’s the world’s wealthiest woman, Australian mining tycoon Gina Rinehart, with some helpful advice.

“If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain,” she said in a magazine piece. “Do something to make more money yourself – spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working.”

Gina Rinehart, the world’s richest woman, says people who are jealous of the wealthy should work harder. (Twitter / August 30, 2012)

Yeah, let them eat cake.
Rinehart made her money the old-fashioned way: She inherited it. Her family iron ore prospecting fortune of $30.1 billion makes her Australia’s wealthiest person and the richest woman on the planet. “There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire,” she said by way of encouragement. “Become one of those people who work hard, invest and build, and at the same time create employment and opportunities for others.”

Boom. Almost too easy.
Why are people poor? Rinehart blamed what she described as “socialist,” anti-business government policies, and urged Australian officials to lower the minimum wage and cut taxes. “The millionaires and billionaires who choose to invest in Australia are actually those who most help the poor and our young,” she said. “This secret needs to be spread widely.”
And now it’s out there. Thank you, rich people. We’re not worthy.

TUSC, The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to challenge for a seat on London Assembly

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), made up of trade union members and socialists, is to stand candidates in the Greater London Election on 3 May to challenge the all-party support for the government’s austerity cuts and pay freeze.

The coalition expects to win support from trade unionists and other voters who are angered by the recent statements of Labour leader Ed Miliband and the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, in which they stated that they will not reverse the Government’s cuts and that they support its pay freeze.

A list of candidates will challenge in the ‘top up’ section of the election and if it wins at least 5% of the vote across the whole of London it could win at least one place on the 25-seat Greater London Assembly.

The coalition has already selected prominent London trade union leaders such as Alex Gordon, the national president of the RMT rail and maritime union and Steve Hedley the RMT’s London Transport regional organiser, Ian Leahair, the Fire Brigades Union executive committee member for the capital, Joe Simpson, assistant secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association and Martin Powell-Davies, who is the London representative on the national committee of the NUT teachers union.

The Labour Party will be concerned that many public sector workers who participated in the 30 November pensions’ strike may be moved to vote for this coalition because of the failure of Labour leaders to support the walk-out.

Labour leaders will also be worried that rank and file union members of Labour affiliated unions could press for their funds to go to a party like TUSC instead of to Labour.

Steve Hedley, whose RMT union was expelled from the Labour Party in 2004 for backing the Scottish Socialist Party, said, “We need candidates who support the ordinary man and woman. TUSC is the only organisation that opposes all cuts, defends pensions and benefits for all working people. Labour just wants a compliant, silent union movement to hand over its money. TUSC will be a voice for all workers and will support trade unions in struggle.”

TUSC national committee member Nick Wrack, who is also a candidate, said, “London is a city of stark contrasts. There is a huge amount of poverty amidst the plenty. Corporate bosses and bankers still get their million pound pay and pension packages while one in six London workers is paid less than the Mayor’s £8.30 per hour living wage. Millions are suffering from the cuts to services and benefits yet last year the city paid out over £4 billion in bonuses. It’s extremely hard even for those on better wages to make ends meet. We believe that there is an opportunity for a party that will speak up for working-class London to make a real break-through and that would begin to change the nature of political debate in Britain today.” TUSC believes it can get a candidate elected if it wins at least 150,000 votes across London.

Candidates selected for the TUSC GLA list so far include (in alphabetical order):
April Ashley, UNISON National Executive Committee

Alex Gordon, RMT President
Steve Hedley, RMT London regional organiser
Ian Leahair, FBU National Executive Committee
Martin Powell-Davies, NUT national executive
Joe Simpson, POA assistant secretary
Jenny Sutton, UCU Chair, London Regional Committee (FE)
Nick Wrack, TUSC national committee member (former chair of Socialist Alliance and Respect)
There will also be candidates from the CWU postal union and the PCS public service workers union.
(All standing in a personal capacity)

The final list is not yet decided. Other candidates are still being considered.
The FBU has 5,500 members in London.
The RMT has over 12,000 members in London Underground alone

 TUSC CONFERENCE: Saturday 28 January 2012,
11:00am – 4:00pm, University of London Union, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HY
http://www.tusc.org.uk

ALARM (All London Anarchist Revolutionary Movement) Conference

I left the comforting hills of Surrey today, Saturday 7th January, to attend the ALARM (All London Anarchist Revolutionary Movement) conference.

I was impressed with the conference. The discussions were sensible; the conference well-organised, and the attendance was around 100 people.  

The conference was devoted to community action and organising issues. There were no theoretical or historical sessions. Several discussions referred to the August riots and to police repression. The conference had some good ideas about how to link the two issues and build connections amongst the youth to promote grass-roots organisation.

One idea was a poster campaign on estates, explaining legal rights under ‘Stop and Search’ laws, followed-up by legal-rights workshops. Also to support existing groups, for example, various local Police Monitoring Groups.

One contribution spoke of those who have been convicted of offences, relating to demonstrations or the August riots, as political prisoners: “Everyone who is charged with offences relating to demonstrations or riots, should be supported throughout their legal process and any subsequent sentence. Support should also be given to those effected by the riots, such as those made homeless”.

The Legal Defense Group added that their organisation provided support to political defendants in court. They appealed for more volunteers, and suggested that everyone who gets arrested and released without charge, or is wrongly accused, or mistreated by the police, should sue the police and donate some of the money to such groups.

It was a good conference, well worth attending.

Meeting on Total Policing @ LSE. With the London Met Police Commissioner
16th January, 6.30 – 8.30

WEB:              http://www.soundthealarm.org.uk
F/B Group: http://www.facebook.com/#!/Alarmists