Tag Archive: democrats


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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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!

The VOAG joined the Kingston Anti-Cuts Group for a demonstration outside Kingston Council’s Budget meeting at the Guildhall, Wednesday, 29th February.

 The council approved cuts of over £8.6million with another £4.4million planned for next year and a further £12 million the year after. They follow cuts of over £15million last year.

Kingston Council has already made a 100 redundancies, cuts to  children’s services and £1.4million cuts to mental health facilities. At the same time the council has spent £20,000 on car park “rebranding”. A further 600 jobs are to be lost at Kingston hospital, together with £6million cuts to adult social care and services for children with Special Educational Needs. Another £500,000 is to be cut from “One Kingston” projects.

Kingston TUC, the CWU and GMB unions, the Communist Party, Kingston Anti Cuts Group, Kingston SWP, the Socialist Party, Surrey Unison, the IWW and Kingston Labour Party were represented in the 60 strong demonstration.

The demonstration was joined by the Christian Peoples Alliance, who held a candle-lit vigil and said prayers for “those less fortunate than themselves” (us), before taking off in their brand new cars.

As the Tory and Lib-Dem councillors arrived for the meeting, they were met with chants directed at the Tory council leader: “Derek Osbourne get out, we know what you’re all about- cuts, job losses, money for the bosses”. Campaigners also shouted “Save our services- stop the cuts!” and gave out leaflets to passers-by.

Kit Leary from Surrey County Unison gave a spontaneous speech to the demonstration assembled on the steps of the Guildhall, he said: “With all these job losses, it’s a time when we need our public services more than ever.” When the meeting was due to start the campaigners joined the councillors in the warmth of the Guildhall.One fat balding Tory, councillor Priyen Patel, spoke of the council becoming a “commissioning council”. This is Tory speak for privatising services, where-by public services, presently provided direct by the council, are bought, or commissioned from private companies who profiteer from the tax-payer. He spoke of boosting charities rather than providing services.

Campaigners and residents in the public gallery were outraged. They shouted “They’re not ‘savings’ they’re CUTS, call them what they are” and chanted “Shame on you!”. The mayor Councillor Patrick Codd was forced to adjourn the meeting whilst half the public gallery were escorted out of the meeting under a threat of arrest. They chanted “shame on you” and “why don’t you stand up for the people you represent?” Some of the protesters broke away from their escort to run back into the meeting via another door to continue their berating.

The demonstration attracted a very positive reaction in the local press and won some great publicity for the Kingston Anti Cuts campaign. Once again the Super-Swappies (SWP) of Kingston, who organised the event, show the rest of us how it’s done. Some of those present asked after the South London Anti Capitalists and wondered why they hadn’t come out to support the demonstration. Well, the VOAG thinks the clue is in the acronym.