Tag Archive: community


Even fellow Tories distance themselves from this “crazy fascist”

Yesterday, The VOAG re-published a story about John Butcher, a Conservative Surrey County Councillor for Cobham ward. He has worked out a brilliant scheme for pushing up property values in the county – by driving out everyone who is fat, takes recreational drugs, gorges on junk food or has ‘self-inflicted’ health problems of any kind. As a member of the council’s health committee, he has sent an email to staff suggesting a two-speed NHS in which “patients with self-inflicted morbidity, (mainly smoking, alcohol, narcotics or obesity) or an injury through ‘dangerous activities’ are placed in a much slower-moving queue”. https://suacs.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/john-butcher-surrey-heath-tory-councillor-health-committee-nhs
In a response to the Elmbridge Guardian, which first broke the story, John Butcher added: “If sports can ban performance-enhancing drug use, then entertainment etc. should ban narcotics and alcohol abuse”.

“Everyone in, or aspiring to, a position of public responsibility and everyone in a position to influence the public, including entertainers etc, should be asked to sign a voluntary pledge not to take illegal narcotics or consume excessive alcohol, or drive when so affected”.

“Anyone who fails to sign that pledge, or who signs it and breaches it, should be excluded from positions of public responsibility and influence. All public organisations, including regulated broadcasters etc, should agree to impose this exclusion”.

Fellow Councillor, Karen Randolph was also quoted in the paper. She  said: “The views expressed by Councillor Butcher challenge the very credibility of Surrey County Council’s Health Overview Scrutiny Committee, of which he is a member. It is highly disturbing that the Conservative administration at SCC has deemed it appropriate to appoint to this committee a councillor who clearly does not support the NHS and who holds such extraordinary views about the responsibilities of the state to its citizens.”

Cllr John Butcher also sits on Elbridge Borough Council, where he lists his chief concerns as “Challenging wishy-washiness” and “nebulous do-goodery”.

Simon Cook, a Conservative councillor in Cullingworth, Yorkshire called John Butcher “a real deal health fascist” and blogged yesterday: “So if you smoke, drink, drive fast cars round a track or climb rocks (not sure whether Cllr Butcher’s ‘dangerous activities’ includes horse riding and playing rugby) you’ll be made to wait longer in the hope that you’ll move away from Surrey. Indeed, it seems that Cllr Butcher thinks that, by doing this, all these people with “self-inflicted” illnesses will move to places where the authorities believe in equal treatment”.

The real question is: How would John butcher’s proposals push up house prices in Surrey, and to whose benefit would it be? John Butcher’s argument is that people with illnesses will be repulsed from Surrey, whilst “healthy people will be attracted to the better healthcare that Surrey could afford, having been freed from the burden of treating sick people”.

What the councillor is really saying is drive out the poor and less affluent from Surrey (the sick, disabled, smokers obese et al, who are by-and large the less well off) to make lebensraum for his wealthy friends. Bring on the concentration camps.

But let’s give the councillor a chance. Let’s take his comments on face value. There are 1.08 million residents in Surrey. According to Surrey County Council, one in four adults in Surrey are smokers. Surrey NHS estimates there are 455,000 “hazardous”, “harmful” or “binge drinkers” in Surrey. http://www.surreydaat.org.uk/pdf/Alcohol%20Needs%20Assessment.pdf

The Obesity rate in Surrey, lower than the national average, is estimated by Surrey PCT to be at 20% of the population. http://www.guildford.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=569&p=0 As for drugs use, there are no statistics for Surrey, but in the South East, according to the ONS, 8.6% of the adult population took illegal drugs last year, with 3.3% of the population described as frequent drug users. http://data.gov.uk

The councillor extended his attack on the unfit and unwell to people engaged in “risky past-times and sports”. It’s plainly obvious that this is just a smoke screen to hide his real agenda, which is to chase the less affluent, who have a propensity to be less fit, out of Surrey. I can’t believe the Councillor is thinking of his horse riding, rugby playing chums when he talks of “dangerous sports”. However, taking Cllr Butcher at his word again, we have to take account of horse riding, rugby, perhaps even motor cycling, and a host of other recreational pass-times that might be considered potentially hazardous.      

For example, according to Surrey County Council’s 2007 Rights Of Way report, there are 20,000 horses in Surrey. A 1998 Gallop poll found 6% of Surrey residents had gone horse riding in that year. http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/176058/ROWIP-main-text.pdf

Where’s all this going, what’s the point of all these statistics? Well, by my reckoning, if the Councillor had his way, they’d be no-one left in Surrey. His policy certainly wouldn’t produce the rise in property prices that he and his chums so desire.     

As an aside to these arguments; according to the ONS, Excise duty & VAT raised by the UK Drinks industry amounts to £22bn annually, whilst alcohol consumption costs the nation, through the health service, crime, lost production etc £20bn.

Estimates of the costs to the NHS from smoking varies greatly, one study estimated an annual cost of £610m. Another study (Allender, S- The burden of smoking-related ill health in the UK) estimates the cost to be £2.7bn – whilst the Centre for Health Economics estimates the cost to be between £1.4bn and £1.7bn.  According to the HMRC (Revenue & Customs) Tobacco tax revenue last year amounted to £12.1bn.

Another argument, developed by the University of Public Health, Rotterdam indicates that smoking may even save the NHS money. Their study shows that since smokers on average die younger, they do not incur the costs of a lengthy old age or the costly diseases that are associated with it. Their study concluded that the average health cost of a non-smoker was $83,400 whilst the average health cost of a smoker was $72,600.

These fiscal arguments, which clearly show the tax payer incurs no cost from smoking and alcohol consumption, can be equally applied to the sporting activities Cllr Butcher appears so against. In each and every case revenue exceeds the costs.

It’s not the first time John Butcher has hit the local headlines. A council employee lodged an official complaint against him in February 2010.

Council proceedings start with a prayer, during which no one is allowed to enter or leave the council chambers. Cllr Butcher arrived late to the 2010 February council meeting- and finding that prayers had already begun, and the door to the chambers closed and guarded by an attendant- he lost his temper. He aggressively forced his way in to the chambers, thrusting the door in to the face of the attendant, injuring him and bruising his face.

An eye-witness told the Surrey Advertiser: “During prayers I became aware of someone attempting to gain entry to the council chamber, through the door being ‘guarded’ [by the officer], using his body to keep the door shut. It quickly became apparent that this someone had not been deterred by the efforts and they again tried to enter the chamber in a more forceful manner. I then recall [the officer] turning his head towards the door as if to indicate through the frosted glass to the person on the other side that prayers were still ongoing. A very short time afterwards I recall hearing something of a thud as the door hit [the officer] on the side of the head and I witnessed John Butcher stumbling/forcing his way into the chamber through the partially opened door.”

After the incident John Butcher refused to apologise to the attendant and denied injuring him, even though there was a council chamber full of witnesses.

Not only are John Butcher’s views abhorrent, but as I hope I’ve shown, they don’t even make sense or stand up to any kind of reasoning. Rather than exile the less-well-off, the sick and the disabled from Surrey, it’s time to kick John Butcher out of Surrey. Do not re-elect John Butcher to Surrey County Council or Elmbridge Borough Council.
John Butcher
18 Bramble Rise
Cobham Surrey
KT11 2HP
Tel: 07899 891685
jbutcher@elmbridge.gov.uk

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Leabank Project Ltd (A Not-For-Profit Ltd Company) Public Meeting.
Stop The Alisa Street Waste Management Development!
February 18, 2012. Truissler Hall Community Centre, Poplar.

The VOAG has been on holiday in East London. And together with a local activist, attended a public meeting “To Consider the proposal of Tower Hamlets Council that land in Ailsa Street be reserved for a waste management facility, to assess the likely consequence of this, and to agree if possible on how best the people of Poplar may respond.”

The 5.8 hectare site comprises of a long strip of land running between the River Lea and the A12. At the north end of the plot lies ACME House and the A12/Glender Street junction. The Southern limit is adjacent to Aberfeldy Street. The site is dissected East-West by Alisa Street and Lochnagar Street, which run parallel to each other and divide the site in to a northern part and a southern part.                                                       Proposed waste facility site
The Northern half of the land is used for a mixture of industrial activities and a small waste transfer station. The Southern half is largely disused land, a former primary school and some warehousing. Within the area lies Bromley High School, a listed building, with two more graded buildings on its boundaries. The site borders the Aberfeldy and Teviot estates.

Tower Hamlets intends to use this space for a waste transfer station to eventually deal with the entire boroughs waste, estimated to be around 300,000 tonnes. The facility will receive the waste from domestic collection lorries and store it until it is carried off by larger vehicles for subsequent treatment or disposal. The plan will mean an extra 200 trucks will travel down the A12 and along the A13. Just south of the location, opposite the Aberfeldy Neighbourhood Centre, on land presently housing a gas works, there is a plan – already approved – to build a primary school, a housing development, and a public park to link up with the Lea River Park.

The Tower Hamlets Local Development framework, which calls for the waste site, says it must be “integrated in to its surroundings”. It “should minimise negative impacts on the environment, transport and amenities and respect the surrounding environment”. It should also “protect heritage assets on the site and surrounding area”; “address noise and air pollution”, “enable ‘activation of the river side”, and “improve walking and cycling access and connections”.

John Baker, the founder and director of Leabank Project, presented the case that the proposal for the waste transfer station made no reference to the planned gas works redevelopment. Neither plan takes account of the impacts one would have on the other. The waste management facility would negatively impact the development planned for the gas works site. He told the meeting that lorries entering and leaving the site would significantly increase traffic congestion and pollution along the A12 and A13. He said that the river side will suffer and access to it would be further restricted. For these reasons he believed the waste facility proposal was incompatible with the council’s own Local Development Framework, and there were better uses for such a river side location.
  




John Baker is also the treasurer and founding director of Tower Hamlets Council For Voluntary Service Ltd, a registered charity which is endorsed by the mayor and funded by the council. Its web site says it aims to “Provide ‘third sector’ organisations with the necessary support, information and services to enable them to pursue or contribute to any charitable purpose.” According to THCVS’ February e-bulletin, their Council funding was overdue and in a recent letter John Baker had asked the mayor for an assurance their funding wasn’t going to be cut.

Previously, in January 2006, John Baker was one of the founding Directors of New Mill Consultants. It was originally set up by Poplar HARCA – a large, not-for-profit, social landlord – as a group of residents to provide the government’s Guide Neighbourhoods Programme. The centrally funded programme is “awarded to social housing groups to “encourage regeneration, empower and include residents in planning decisions and promote a range of environmental and social benefits”. Once the residents group was established it incorporated as a company and operated independently of Poplar HARCA. After six months John Baker resigned.

New Mill founded the Linc Cafe as a drop in and advice centre. Its web site says: “the company provides professional courses and consultancy services to community and residents groups” and has helped to set up residents trusts. Between 2002 and September 05, John Baker was also a director of Poplar HARCA.

John Baker made the case that the riverside should be “recovered and developed with houses, shops and leisure facilities. I don’t even mind luxury flats” he said. “There should be protest and unanimous opposition to the plans”, But he continued: “the campaign must submit viable waste management alternatives. A NIMBY attitude will not be good enough to dissuade the council”. “What we need is more information, research and more residents’ participation”.

“The council has other vacant land available. Houses have been good investments recently in the area, due to environmental improvements and investment from the council and housing associations. If the plans go ahead property prices will fall. Public money spent on regeneration projects will also be wasted” John Baker said, “because the value of the investment will decrease with the property values. Businesses and landlords will also suffer”. “Poplar HARCA, many councillors, and the MP Jim Fitzpatrick have all stated their support for the campaign”.

“Tower Hamlets Council have been working on the proposals for months, yet the idea has never been discussed in public. Their scheme only came to light when it was included in the 212-page Tower Hamlets’ Development Plan Document (DPD) – part of the Local Development Framework – buried on pages 127-9 and 130!. There followed a wholly inadequate, six week consultation period during which most residents were unaware of the plans”.

I counted seventy people, seated in groups of five, around tables. Most were residents from the Aberfeldy and Teviot estates. There were four landowners, and a couple of ‘small businessmen’. Representatives from Poplar HARCA, one of whom was another director of Leabank Project, were also present.There were four councillors present. Three of them were on the board of Poplar HARCA. They all voiced their opposition to the plans. However, Cllr. Shiria Khatun pointed out that: “There was a shortage of alternative land. Transporting the waste out of Tower Hamlets would be costly and not the best environmental solution. There were options that could be looked at for example locating the facility underground or autoclaving the waste instead of moving or incinerating it.”.

Autoclaving, treats the waste by sealing it in tanks and passing high pressured steam through it. The majority of waste is biodegradable which is shredded into strands. There are presently no plants of this kind in the UK, and there is no market for the resultant biomass. Glasgow Council has been advocating large scale autoclaving, but recently distanced itself from the process, opening up its waste disposal contract to tenders with alternatives to autoclaving. Autoclaving is energy intensive, and since there is no market for the resultant biomass it usually ends up in land fill where it degrades to produce methane, a ‘greenhouse gas’.

John Baker, knew almost everyone in the meeting. In a gesture to the landowners, “who have not been allowed to develop or sell ‘their’ land, he said: ”Housing should be developed on the site, I don’t mind luxury flats, we need proper returns for the landowners. The Deputy Mayor, independent Councillor Ohid Ahmed joined in: “We want housing on the site, that’s what the developers want”. John Baker hands petition to Dpt Mayor Ohid Ahmed
The Deputy Mayor giggled nervously and looked bemused as he addressed the audience. He was obviously unprepared to speak to the meeting. He said “the council did not support a waste facility in Poplar”. “After the Fish Island site was decided against as a location for the waste plant, we had to come up with an alternative place to put it – for reporting and central government purposes. – To fulfil our statutory obligations. We have no intention of actually putting it there”. He went on to say that many of the businesses in and around the proposed site were sited on illegally held land. The VOAG found these remarks astounding, but they went completely ignored and unchallenged.

One of the Landowners spoke to the meeting. He was a friend of John Baker. He suggested smaller waste sites spread across the borough as an alternative, which could be used to produce electricity or gas. “I’m not a business man, coming in from outside the borough just to make money.” he said.

Several residents spoke out from the floor. One said:”they’re not thinking of the residents, they just think about themselves.”. Another said:”we must persuade the council” Another resident called the estates “the forgotten estates”. Labour councillor, Rajib Ahmed, also spoke to the meeting. He said that London Thames Gateway Development Corporation (LTGDC) has the power to over-ride Tower Hamlets Council (THC). Cllr. Kosru Uddin, Development Committee member and board member of the (LTGDC) added: “The (LTGDC) is being disbanded in the Autumn. Some of its powers will be transferred to THC, whilst others will go to the newly formed London Mayoral Development Corporation, which will have to approve any plans of THC once the powers have been transferred.

Shiria Khatun, Councillor

Oddly it seemed, John Baker stressed several times that the mayor and the council were not responsible for the decision to build the waste plant. It was “down to an officers job and ‘administration”. John Baker was at great pains not to criticise the council executive especially the mayor. Cllr. Shiria Khatun addressed the meeting. “London Thames Gateway dictates that THC must have a plan for waste management, but it must take into consideration air quality and nature reserves”. She emphasised that it was the mayor and the executive that was responsible, not the “clerks and council officers” as John Baker had said earlier. “You must demand another meeting with the mayor” she urged the meeting. The Labour Councillor went on to suggest Leabank Project organise a lobby of the council and apply to speak to a council meeting.

Cllr. Khatun, together with another councillor was sitting at the same table as the VOAG. At one point she whispered in my ear “why don’t you speak, go on ask John Baker why he doesn’t want top blame the mayor”. Naturally, the VOAG said nothing. The VOAG has never been to a meeting quite like this. Hidden agendas hung like shadows between the lines of everyone that spoke. It has become clear to the VOAG since the meeting, that the reason John Baker is reluctant to criticise the mayor is because the mayor is holding the funding for the Tower Hamlets Council For Voluntary Service which John Baker is a director of.

The VOAG noted that although the councillors, one independent and three Labour, arrived more or less at the same time, they entered the hall separately and sat as far away from each other as possible. There was a tension between the councillors and also between two of the councillors and John Baker. The source of this tension and the issues behind it, are not quite clear to The VOAG – yet.It was all-in-all an intriguing meeting which left open many questions regarding a serious local issue. There were many different concerns and contradicting agendas represented. What did the councillor mean when he said “the council had no intention of putting the waste facility on the site”? Are the councillors seriously opposed to the project? What are the interests of the landowners? How does the close relationship between the various stakeholder organisations and the councillors effect the dynamics of the debate? And lastly; what on earth was the councillor referring to when he said “many of the businesses were sited on illegally held land”. But as you know: The VOAG is always watching!

Workfare – The Facts & The Figures: Another Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford Investigation.

See bottom of the post for a list of events and demonstrations in London. 
It must be the ultimate dream of capitalists. You get free workers. After all, as Tesco is fond of saying ‘every little helps’. But people have finally begun to rebel over the stigmatisation and demonisation of people on the dole. The new Tory Work Program has a core underlying philosophy. The unemployed are to blame for their own predicament.

Was it the unemployed who dealt in derivatives and financial instruments based on fraudulent risk assessments? Did the unemployed gamble with billions of pounds of other peoples’ money? Have unemployed people caused the recession?

Working for your £67.00 a week dole in a climate of no jobs simply means exploitation. And if someone gets a job at the end, then it means someone else doesn’t. All it teaches people to do is to compete more effectively against each other.

The government claims that “Work Experience”, “Community Action Programmes”, and other slave labour schemes are helping people “back to work”. But the truth is, companies availing themselves of these slave labour schemes are replacing paid staff with unemployed forced labour, creating more unemployment. Why would companies pay for staff when they are being provided free at the taxpayers’ expense?

Furthermore, there is a large body of research that indicates that shelf-stacking work only leads to more low paid shelf stacking work. Even highly qualified graduates, once they embark on low paid, low skilled jobs, find it much harder to gain skilled employment.

We need to get the message across that unemployment is endemic to capitalism. That demonisation and finding scapegoats is essential to a system that is desperate to blame any and everyone, except those who are most responsible.

Tesco, Burger King, Poundland and many other businesses are pulling out of the “Workfare” programme, as well as the other slave labour schemes. These schemes are in crisis. Now is the time to pile on the pressure.

March 3rd will see the next day of action against Workfare, and it promises to be the biggest yet. Workfare and the other slave labour schemes affect us all. They increase unemployment and reduce wages for the rest of us. Companies such as Poundland are paying their workers less and less whilst making huge profits because they know there is an ever-increasing pool of unemployed labour threatened with doing the same work for nothing.

Before pulling out of the scheme, Tesco reported that over the past four months some 1,400 people have worked for them without pay. Meanwhile, its profits for the first half of 2011 were £1.9 billion. And Tesco CEO Philip Clarke is on target for £6.9 million this year.

Steve Short, from the Boycott Workfare Campaign http://www.boycottworkfare.org told The VOAG; “It is staggering that while unemployment continues to rise, the government is replacing paid work by pushing out workfare on a massive scale. The organisations profiting from free labour can afford to pay a wage but are choosing not to. Actions this weekend will show that they risk their reputation if they do not withdraw from workfare.”

It is our duty – as trades unionists, activists, workers and youth to join in the day of action on March 3rd. These schemes are teetering on the edge. One more push and we can close them down for good. Below is a list of demonstrations in London on Saturday March 3rd. Please consider joining one near you or come to the main demonstration in Oxford Street. Details below. 

There are several government forced labour schemes – and no matter what the government says there is an element of compulsion to all of them.The Work Experience Scheme –
This scheme is designed for 16 to 24 year olds. The government admits that young people who refuse to go on the eight-week placements will loose benefits. It intends to create 250,000 Work Experience placements. Once the placement is completed, benefit claimants can be forced to go strait on to another scheme. The placements can be never ending.

The Mandatory Work Activity Scheme –
This scheme is for claimants aged 18 or over. The scheme mandates four weeks’ work unpaid for 30 hours a week. Although the government claims it is “community work”, its definition of this includes private companies. 24,010 people were mandated to take part in MWA between May and November last year.

Community Action Programme
Jobseekers are referred for up to 30 hours unpaid work per week for six months. They can be stacking shelves or tossing your burgers. The government says the Community Action Programme is designed for the benefit of the community. It is a clear sign that the government intends to use forced labour to replace the gaps left in public service delivery in the wake of service cuts. Provider guidelines suggest that a community placement would be appropriate at Local Authorities and Councils, Government Departments and Agencies, Charities and third sector organisations, Social Enterprises, and Environmental Agencies.

The Work Programme
370,000 people were referred to the Work Programme between June and November 2011. 850,000 people are expected to be forced on to the programme by the end of the year. Ingeus, which administers Mandatory Work Assignments in the East Midlands and the North-East (owned by city financiers Deloitte) force people to do six month workfare placements. The Work Programme, is expected to cost the taxpayer £5 billion pounds. Claimants loose all benefits if they refuse to go on the scheme or drop out before its completion. Once the six month programme is concluded, job seekers can be required to immediately start another work placement. For more information on these schemes and for tips on how to avoid them visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org

Workfare Doesn’t Work
On the 1st of April 2011, the Social Security Advisory Committee advised the government not to introduce Mandatory Work Activity. Its report said there was “no evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work”. It continued: “there is evidence to suggest that by limiting the time available for job search activities, Mandatory Work Activity can in fact reduce the participants’ chances of finding employment.

The Committee stated “it appears to us to signal that being mandated to mandatory work activity is regarded as a punishment rather than an opportunity to learn and develop new behaviors and skills”. The report continued: “there is a risk that the presence of Mandatory Work Activity on a jobseeker’s CV could stigmatise a jobseeker when applying for a job in the future.
The report went on to say that the Committee is “very concerned that this is an exploitation of people who have no choice” and there is no provision to “monitor employers or to end their involvement should they be found exploiting participants or requiring them to undertake inappropriate work.

There is no requirement for “employers” to provide equipment, for example clothing. There is no provision for job seekers to take time off for illness or to attend medical appointments, or to look after a child if it falls sick. There is no requirement for the employer or placement administrator to reimburse expenses for travel or childcare. The lack of childcare costs will make it impossible for one-parent families to participate in the programmes, leaving them vulnerable to benefit sanctions.

This 18 page report by the governments own Social Security Advisory Committee ends in big bold letters in a text box, copied and pasted from the report below:A4E and Emma Harrison
These schemes don’t come cheap. They are administered by private companies. A4E is one such company. Emma Harrison, the chair of A4E has had to step down from the company she founded, together with her government post as “Back to Work Czar”, after being caught with her hands in the till. Ruling-class scum like Harrison preach about benefit scroungers, whilst they take home millions. Whilst her company is mired in fraud and corruption scandals, Harrison paid herself £8.6m last year.

The only revenue A4E earns comes from our taxes. It is paid by the government according to the numbers of job seekers it manages to force on to government schemes. The Guardian reported on 22nd February that A4E was under police investigation. It had been forcing job seekers to work unpaid in its own offices in order to get the “placement” commissions. Jobseekers were forced to work in their offices in Woolwich, Camden and Holloway or have their benefits stopped. The investigation, reported the Guardian, also revealed that from the 12 months to late June 2011 the company sent people to work unpaid in Asda, Sainsbury’s, Oxfam and a host of other businesses.

A “company official, who did not want to be named” was quoted in the Guardian, as saying; “that in addition to the revenue from the commissions and the free labour, sending jobseekers to work in its offices helped A4e cut down on its overheads as it didn’t have to spend time on organising placements”.

So far four A4E employees have been arrested, and the head of the Commons Public Spending Watchdog has demanded the government stops working with A4E until the police investigation is completed. The Public Spending watchdog has highlighted that A4E has been named preferred bidder for a £15 million contract with the Skills Funding Agency to provide education to prisoners in London.

A4E admitted that the present police investigation was only one out of a total of ten cases of corruption that had been referred to the Dpt of Work and Pensions. As a result, the company has been forced to repay public funds on five separate occasions due to “irregularities”.

The  Dept of Work and Pensions has also criticised A4e for paying £11 million in dividends last year, 87% to Ms Harrison, despite all its £180 million UK turnover resulting from Government welfare to work contracts. In addition to these incredible sums of public money, Emma Harrison also received nearly £2 million from leasing properties she owned or controlled back to her business.

The allegations against A4e are unending. Jobseekers report being made to sign blank time sheets, and of government vouchers—intended to help the jobless buy adequate clothing for interviews—being stolen by advisers. Its also been accused of claiming that jobseekers have found full-time work placements, when their jobs lasted less than 24 hours.

According to the Mail On Sunday, A4E receives a fee of £400 for every jobseeker referred to it. When that person finds work for 26 weeks—whether it is continuous or in breaks—it receives £1,200, followed by a monthly “sustainment fee”. It is estimated that A4E earns approximately £13,000 for every successful placement.

A dossier compiled on A4E includes the complaint that the firm was “nothing short of a gravy train”, in which fraud was “systemic” and “common practice”. In response, an unamed Labour MP contacted the Guardian to say Labour MPs were concerned that the MWA programme had not been scrutinised by the Commons and had passed into law with the “tick of a minister’s pen” last year.

Other Workfare providers include REED, SERCO and Atos – and they are being subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of billions. It is they who depend on state handouts not the unemployed. Seetec made £53 million last year from its involvement in the Work Programme, while Ingenus was awarded contracts worth £727 million.
Social Security Advisory Committee Report, April 2011: Condemming the Workfare programmes. Read Here.

Where to go on the March 3rd Day Of Action Against Workfare
Islington            10am         Outside Angel Islington Tube

Brixton              12pm         Outside Tesco, 13 Acre Lane, Brixton

Brixton              12pm         Outside Brixton Job Centre

Kingston              1pm         Outside Starbucks, Kingston

Oxford Street    11.30am      Outside BHS

Ealing                 1pm          The Arcadia Center, 50/52 Broadway

Lewisham            1pm         Outside McDonalds, Lewisham High Street

Walthamstow     12pm         Outside Nat West bank, Walthamstow Town Square

Hackney             12pm         By St Augustines Tower, Mare Street

Stratford             12pm         Westfield Center
For a comprehensive list of Workfare demos and actions around the country visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org

                                     Workfare to be imposed in Britain

Britain is being subjected to a savage programme of social engineering, designed to create an economy where millions work for much less than the present £5.93 an hour minimum wage. This centres on plans to introduce workfare for the long-term unemployed, who will be forced to work for their benefit plus a £1-an-hour top-up.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is set to introduce US-style compulsory “workfare”, under threat of withdrawal of benefits to entire families. A new “claimant commitment” will include sterner conditions, notably the threat that unemployed people who refuse community work or the offer of a job may lose their jobseeker’s allowance for three months; if they refuse twice, six months; and three years on third refusal.

The £30 or £40 a week, or £1 an hour, those forced to do such work will receive is one sixth of the present minimum wage and sets a new benchmark that will see it effectively nullified.

The meagre £65 a week unemployment allowance will be removed for three months on a first “offence” of refusing work, six months the second time and three years after a third breach. People will also be subject to penalties for failing to turn up on time or not working hard enough. Those convicted of benefit fraud could also have their benefits stopped for three years. There will be no right of appeal.

The net result will be the mobilisation of the unemployed, including single mothers and over a million of the sick and infirm on incapacity benefits, as a “reserve army of labour”. They will either directly replace existing workers’ jobs or be used to depress wage levels.

This exercise is being sold first of all by whipping up populist prejudice against the supposedly “workshy” and the “feckless”, who are unemployed as a “lifestyle choice”. Prime Minister David Cameron declared that “a life of benefits will no longer be an option”. People “don’t pay their taxes to pay for people to stay on benefit”, he said.

Secondly, the government is packaging the measure together with a pledge to introduce a single universal credit that will replace at least 30 existing benefits, including jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit, working tax credit, income support and employment support allowance. This is claimed to guarantee that those who move into work but still need to claim benefits will be penalised less heavily than at present for the wages they earn above benefit level. Presently this penalty can be as high as 90 percent.

Smith also played the anti-immigrant card, saying that it was “a sin” that 70 percent of the extra jobs created over the last 14 years had been taken by immigrants. He claimed that this was because British people were not “capable or able” to do them, when for the most part the issue was they were so poorly paid.

The supposed “carrot” cited by the government is nothing of the sort. “Making work pay” in fact means a subvention to employers who pay poverty wages. As for working while claiming benefits, people coming off welfare into work would still lose 65 pence of each pound they earn on top of their benefit. The Economist pointed out, “Even when the universal credit is introduced, claimants earning enough to pay the basic rate of tax will face a marginal deduction rate of 76 percent.” Around 300,000 people in work earning below the tax threshold would also face an actual increase in the rate at which they lose income in benefit abatement and taxes.

An additional iniquity is that the new system will be based on making claims and checking payments online. An estimated 1.5 million unemployed people do not currently have Internet access, according to the government’s own figures.

The provisional timetable for introducing a universal credit will not begin until October 2013 and will not be completed until October 2017. In contrast, punishing those who “refuse” jobs will start immediately.

This potentially will have a direct impact on 5 million people—1.5 million on unemployment benefit, 700,000 single parents and 2.6 million on incapacity benefits.

The chancellor has already cut the welfare budget by £18 billion, which has hit the poor the hardest, including not only the lowest paid but all working families with a household income of less than £30,000, who, after the October Spending Review, are worse off by between £700 and close to £2,000.

The impact was spelled out by the heads of various charities. Oxfam’s director of UK Poverty, Kate Wareing, warned that the changes “will expose people to the risk of destitution”. Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope, said the “white paper does not address the state of the employment market today, nor take into consideration the reality of people’s lives.” He said the “regime of sanctions” would affect “disabled people who do play by the government’s rules …Who try repeatedly to get work but are not successful.”

Sally Copley, head of UK policy at Save the Children, said, “It is hard to see how Britain’s poorest children are going to be helped using sanctions creating a climate of fear. It is children who will suffer when a single mum is told to take a job, but there is not suitable childcare available. It is the children who will suffer when the safety net is withdrawn for three months, living in homes where mums and dads already struggle to put a hot meal on the table or buy a winter coat.”

Almost 2 million children are living in workless households.

The full impact can be measured by Duncan Smith’s claim that his reforms will reduce the number of workless households by 300,000, meaning at least that many will be forced into low-paid employment. But many more will be forced off benefits because they will be penalised for not taking jobs that are simply not there to take! Duncan Smith asserted that there are 450,000 vacancies for jobs, “even as the country is coming out of recession”. But there are 5 million out of work and this is set to rise by at least 1.6 million as a result of the impact of government cuts and an incalculably greater number in the event of a widely expected second recessionary wave.

Even now, the number of long-term unemployed alone has more than doubled since 2008, to 797,000—outstripping by 330,000 the 467,000 job vacancies.

An insight into the long-term aim of these measures—targeting broad layers of workers—can be gleaned from the comments of Professor Lawrence Mead of New York University, one of the main influences behind “workfare” reforms in the US, who was consulted by the government on its planned reforms.

He told the Guardian, “People in the UK still think it is normal to go onto welfare. In the US they don’t. In the US it is a last resort. … They wanted me to talk about Wisconsin and New York. They really wanted to know how to do it”. The Guardian reports that he told the government to change people’s “mindset … so that they do not see welfare as a viable alternative”. This had been achieved in the US because benefits have been driven so low. In Texas, for example, the average monthly benefit is around £46 per person.

There is no precedent for such profound shifts. This would take Britain back to a situation before the welfare state was created, to the conditions that existed during the Hungry Thirties, when people starved on the streets, homeless and destitute. It is equivalent to the “shock-therapy” imposed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe following the downfall of the Stalinist regimes—which facilitated an economic crisis twice as intense as the Great Depression.

In the face of this assault, the working class is leaderless. The Labour Party has pledged its backing for workfare, with Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Douglas Alexander declaring, “We support the underlying principle of simplifying the benefits system and providing real incentives to work”—barely bothering to add the caveat that there must be jobs for people to take up for the scheme to work.

Meanwhile the trade unions continue their efforts to prevent any opposition to the government being mounted. Duncan Smith made his announcement the week after the Fire Brigades Union called off the strike by London firefighters and the same week as further strikes by BBC journalists were cancelled. The Trades Union Congress is not mounting a national protest against the government’s £83 billion cuts until March 26 next year.

The struggle against austerity must be waged as a united offensive to bring down the hated Tory/Lib-Dem government and replace it with a government answerable to working people and pledged to socialist policies. It means rejecting all attempts at pitting one section of workers against another and mobilising the employed in the public and private sector, the unemployed, students and pensioners. Achieving this demands a political and organisational break with the rotten organisations of the misnamed “Labour Party” and “trade unions” that are more properly understood as a specialist arm of management in disciplining workers into accepting “sacrifice”.
Join Guildford Against Fees And Cuts F/b Page for updates

By Chris Marsden

13 November 2010
WSWS

March 1st

Civilian Death Toll In Iraq And Afghanistan

We at The Voice of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford were reading the Stop The War Coalition newsletter and wondering, what is the true civilian death toll in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.

By death toll we don’t just mean direct violent deaths. But all deaths, through disease and loss of infrastructure for example.  All ‘extra deaths’ over and above what the levels would have been, had there not been an invasion.  This is the true cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We found no reliable data or studies into civilian deaths caused by the war in Afghanistan.

Regarding Iraq however, we found several surveys and estimates. These ranged from 1.2million deaths to 1.6million deaths. The pre war population of Iraq was 22.5million people. Amazingly then, using the most conservative figure, the  British and American governments have so far caused the deaths of between 1 /19 & 1/18 of the entire population.  Now that’s a sobering thought.

Click on the link below for tables and sources.
Civilian Deaths In Iraq

12th February 2010.
The Voice of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford went to a demonstration in support of victimised migrant worker and Trades Unionist Alberto Durango.  

Please hit the link below for our report. 
Support Alberto Durango

Park Lane Squat Party – Kicked off by the police (12th Feb 2010)

Blog Statistics – The first two months
Well it’s already two months since we started our blog. 
Click on the link below to see how many visitors we’ve had. Find out what have been the top posts.

Blog Stats 19-12-09 

 Spotlight On Committees Of Action

As Labour and the Tories compete over who will deliver the most savage cuts, and the bosses and bankers demand the working class pay for their financial crisis, we need to think strategically about how we can organise the fightback. Joy Macready explains Marxist tactics

The mainstream parties’ assessment of the extent of the pubic sector cutbacks needed – an estimated 10-20% cuts in the health sector, £2bn cuts in education, 10 per cent savings across government departments – is staggering. Their representatives and their loyal friends in the media, however, never mention that it is caused by the gaping hole left in the public purse from the £1.3 trillion bailout of the banks.

Meanwhile, private sector bosses are using the recession to relocate production, sack workers, cut their wages and steal from their pensions. Share prices and profit margins may be recovering, but this is not enough for the greedy capitalists; they want to inflict further damage on working class families and communities.

Solidarity
But already we see the signs of a militant fightback. Occupations are leading the way: Visteon, Two Sisters, Prisme, Waterford, and Vestas, to name a few. Parents and teachers in Glasgow and Lewisham occupied their schools to prevent closure. Postal workers are balloting for a national strike against redundancies and reductions in hours and wages. Tower Hamlets College lecturers took all-out indefinite action for four weeks, while Leeds bin workers are still all out.

The list of struggles shows that it is not just the public sector that is under attack, but also the private sector; it is not just workers fighting back against service cuts, but the users of worsening services. Although the public sector is in the direct firing line of the government, all workers will be affected by cuts in housing, healthcare or education.

As Marxists, we do not just live in the realm of ideas and theory, but we put our theory into practice. The challenge is to find a way to link these struggles together, overcoming the division between public and private, between providers and users, and between the various unions. Those struggles listed above are inspiring but all are isolated to a degree.

Within the different struggles, Workers Power has argued for local committees of action to unite activists at a community level. The Vestas solidarity committees, which attracted workers from many different unions, community and green activists, and socialist organisations, were an encouraging step in this direction. But we need a more permanent form of organisation that goes beyond the limited scope of one struggle, one strike or one issue – committees of action that can be mobilised to fight on a number of fronts at the same time.

Such committees can react quickly to events, overcome divisions between workers in different unions, and also bring into struggle the unemployed who have been thrown out of work. They should also include users of public services; as the government and bosses try to lay the blame for deteriorating services at the feet of public sector workers, pubic opinion must be won to the struggle of these workers for quality services.

Unity from below
Britain has developed organs of class struggle like this in the past. During the 1926 General Strike, councils of action were built by the trades councils in each town and city – all working class political, industrial, co-operative and unemployed organisations were represented, and, importantly, women were also heavily involved. They counteracted the “poisonous and pernicious propaganda” of the government and the employers’ organisations and even took control of food supplies, organised defence corps against scabs and the police and army, and directly controlled the strike locally.

In 1984, during the Great Miners’ Strike, a network of Miners’ Support Committees criss-crossed the country, providing vital solidarity like food supplies, Christmas presents for the miners’ children, speakers to factories to explain why the miners’ needed support, campaigning against police harassment of strikers and mobilising support for the picket lines.

But, say the sceptics, Britain today is not at that level of class struggle – the working class does not have the “confidence” or the fighting spirit to create committees of action. This is a self-defeating argument. In every area where there is struggle, strikers can put out the call for committees of action and rally support from others. The committees will in turn help to boost confidence and raise fighting spirit.

Take the Vestas struggle, for example, where workers occupied a plant that made blades for wind power when bosses announced its closure. It was the solidarity movement – the climate camp and Campaign Against Climate Change – that encouraged the workers to occupy the plant. If solidarity committees could be built for Vestas, then why not for other struggles? By building committees of action in every town and city, more workers will feel able to take militant action and the general level of the class struggle will rise. But to do this, they must do more than simply raise donations, hold meetings and stand on picket lines, crucial though these acts are. They can start to become an alternative centre of power in society.

Alternative power
What do we mean by “an alternative centre of power”? Three things.

First, we know from bitter experience that the trade union leaders often sabotage our struggles, selling them short, calling off action, disuniting strikes. Committees of action can help thwart such treachery by building unity from below.

Second, committees of action can also lay the basis for a political alternative to Labour – a basis from which to build a new anti-capitalist party in Britain, one that will fight for the interests of the working class.

Committing to a new party is not a precondition to joining the local committees of action – many workers who still look to Labour or who are against all parties can be rallied to them. But, because these will be engaged in the local struggles, because they will be coming up against the government’s cuts and attacks, many will begin to realise that only a working class political party can secure general, society-wide victories for our class through fighting for the overthrow of the capitalist system and the formation of a workers’ government.

Finally, a government of the workers would be based not on an unelected civil service bureaucracy, unelected generals, unelected millionaires in the boardrooms, and 600-odd MPs who are elected every five years but are free to break their promises itself. It could be based on democratic organisations of working class delegates from below, workers’ councils with all delegates recallable by the workers who voted for them. The formation of committees for action is a step in that direction – a step towards an alternative centre of power for the whole of society.

Surrey United Anti-Capitalists Song

We want jobs, we want to live
This is something that war and unemployment cannot give
We will fight to take their power
We will strike their ivory tower
Revolution comes closer by the hour

We are marching through Europe together
Youth from all countries unite
We’ve a future to win and nothing to loose
Take the power, complete the final fight

We want jobs, we want to live
This is something that war and unemployment cannot give
We will fight to take their power
We will strike their ivory tower
Revolution comes closer by the hour

Labour and Tories want to smash us
They want to destroy the working class
There is no way that we can reform them
‘Cos their so called democracy’s a farce

We want jobs, we want to live
This is something that war and unemployment cannot give
We will fight to take their power
We will strike their ivory tower
Revolution comes closer by the hour

The army and police they want to kill us
With bombs and missiles by the score
So we’ll seize their armouries and take the power
And put an end to third world nuclear war

We want jobs, we want to live
This is something that war and unemployment cannot give
We will fight to take their power
We will strike their ivory tower
Revolution comes closer by the hour