Tag Archive: lib dem


Diabled CampaignThe Black Triangle Campaign was founded to support the human rights of disabled people and to oppose the Government’s “Work Capability Assessments”, which re-classify sick and disabled people as “fit for work”.

 

The hidden welfare state that the U.K. government dares not speak of

The UK has two welfare states. There is one that is reported and endlessly discussed, and another, which is rarely mentioned. Whilst the first is suffering enormous cuts under the Tory/LD coalition, the other just keeps expanding.

Governments on the left and the right can always justify welfare cuts by pitting, for example, mobility scooters against needle exchanges, or the soft-play area in children’s playgrounds against an old people’s home. Who deserves it most, they say, students or cleaners? Old or young? But when we’re running not one, but two welfare states, that’s a totally fake scenario. The real choice is between playgrounds or gas rigs; between Meals on Wheels or The City of London Currency Speculators’ Maintenance Allowance.

There’s a connection – never mentioned – between, let’s say, Britain’s eight new deep-water gas rigs and its new food banks. The connection is that the $4.5 billion subsidy package being doled out to transnational gas corporations is a very big slice of the welfare pie. And to keep the gas transnationals on the benefits to which they are addicted, hungry humans have to queue for tinned food that is too close to its sell-by date to be kept on the shelves of supermarkets, many of which are themselves massive recipients of corporate welfare.

Not only does the UK pay out unemployment benefits less generous than Romania, Albania and the US, but the wages of the employed have simply not kept pace with productivity over the last 30 yrs. Tory Ideology is all about Handouts to the Wealthy paid for by the Poor.unemploymentGeorge Osborne has cut £18bn from benefits plus a further £81bn from public services in the name of unavoidable austerity, whilst at the same time providing huge subsidies, tax cuts and removing regulation for the hidden ‘welfare’ system that benefits the private sector.

No goods or services are directly returned to the government in exchange for these expenditures, although of course, politicians will argue that they’re stimulating the economy, helping struggling industries, creating jobs or funding important research but actually this is just a corporate welfare system.

The Cato Institute, for example, estimated that in the US, $93 billion were devoted to corporate welfare in 2002. This was about 5% of the federal budget, and nearly twice the amount spent on social welfare ie. feeding people, housing the homeless, raising children out of poverty etc.

There is no reason to think the situation is different in the UK. However, overall statistics for the UK corporate welfare budget are hard to discover, and the variety of different subsidies are staggering. Needless to say, the Tories focus their attention on fraud and waste in the social welfare budget.

Welfare fraud and waste is never far from the top of the UK’s news agenda – but the real figures often bear almost no resemblance to popular belief. The British public, for example, think around 27% of the welfare budget is lost of fraud, according to TUC research.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ latest data on fraud and error in the benefit system shows a very different reality: fraud exists, but at a far lower level than the public believes – and is outweighed by errors from claimants and officials alike. The DWP estimates £3.5bn has been overpaid due to errors and fraud in the system; 2.1 per cent of the overall benefit expenditure.

The corporate welfare budget arises from four main sources: Paying little or no tax – Tax havens; tax breaks; enjoying huge subsidies and the removal of employment and environmental protection regulations.

Tax Havens
 The UK’s 100 biggest public companies are running more than 8,000 subsidiaries or joint ventures in onshore and offshore tax havens, according to research. The figures, published by the charity Action Aid, show that only two of the companies listed on the UK’s FTSE 100 have no subsidiaries in tax havens – while companies such as Barclays and Tesco own hundreds. http://www.guardian.co.uk. The UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories constitute half of the world’s most frequently used tax havens.

Tax Breaks
Almost one in four of Britain’s biggest listed companies paid no corporation tax in this country last year – and almost half fail to disclose their tax payments to the UK at all, according to research by The Mail on Sunday.  According to the annual reports and accounts of all the companies in the FTSE 100, 47 companies gave no obvious figures for tax paid in Britain.  Of the 53 who did, 12 showed they paid no tax at all and, six actually received a tax credit.Tax AvoidTax Avoidance

 Treasury minister, David Gauke, admitted in reply to a parliamentary written question that only four employees of HMRC are working to capture 124 tax fugitives. The amount of uncollected tax rose again last year. A Labour MP pointed out that the four officials dedicated to the tax fugitives compares with the 450 HMRC staff involved in administering the withdrawal of child benefit from higher-rate taxpayers.

Subsidies
Currently, it is estimated that the government has already provided £43.5bn in various subsidies including the National Infrastructure Plan, the Equity Loan and Help to Buy schemes, the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and the Regional Growth Fund, with nothing to show for it. Far greater sums are in the pipeline, up to £310bn.

Meanwhile supermarkets get an enormous subsidy to help with one of their major overheads, staffing costs. This is because many employees in these large and successful companies are paid only the minimum wage. And because the current minimum wage is not a living wage, nearly everyone on it has to claim tax credits to be able to make ends meet. Those tax credits are funded by the taxpayer. The supermarkets are effectively state subsidised industries.

In addition to the recent unprecedented public support for the financial sector The NEF (New Economics Foundation) identified at least three significant hidden subsidies:

* The ‘Too Big to Fail’ subsidy: The government now provides a public guarantee, effectively insurance against banks going bust. This gives banks a huge commercial advantage over other firms in a market system. It means banks are able to borrow money much more cheaply than if they were not ultimately underwritten by the public. Exchanges with leading auditors in front of the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs in January 2011 confirm this. A conservative analysis reveals that this hidden subsidy could be worth £30 billion annually. It means that bonuses to senior staff for ‘performance’ and dividends to institutional investors are at least in part a straight transfer from the taxpayer.
* The quantitative easing windfall subsidy: When it was decided that the economy needed more liquidity, the Bank of England pumped money in using the technique called ‘quantitative easing’. To meet various, and sometimes self-imposed, requirements, it did by purchasing government bonds through investment banks. Merely for being passive conduits for this ‘risk free’ arrangement the banks took a cut of every trade. Here nef analysts found that banks enjoyed a significant windfall, but that lack of transparency keeps the likely amount hidden.
* The ‘make the customer pay’ subsidy: Since the baking crisis of 2008, the banks have been increased the gap between what they have to pay to borrow money, and what they charge people to borrow from them. This is the so-called interest rate ‘spread’. This is because they can borow money from the Bank of England at virtually 0%. As it is, the taxpayer is subsidising the banks twice over: once through taxpayer funded public support to the banks, and secondly through paying much higher interest to borrow than the banks do. This hidden subsidy amounts to at least another £2.5 billion each year.Rebuild The Fourth International

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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!

The Friern Barnet library victory shows the way to
campaign against cuts

Local residents, Occupy activists and squatters have worked together to force the council to re-open Friern Barnet library.Friern Barnet library

The Guardian, Nov 15th, 2013
Local residents, Occupy activists and squatters have worked together to force the council to re-open Friern Barnet library.

When Bob Marley and Peter Tosh wrote the classic protest song Get Up, Stand Up they could not have envisaged that it would be adopted by a group of mainly white, middle-aged, middle-class north Londoners who have formed a remarkable alliance with a group of squatters and members of the Occupy movement to oppose a library closure.

On Tuesday, all of the above joined hands in a human chain around Friern Barnet Library in north London. It was closed in April 2012 due to council cuts, and occupied by squatters five months ago, who reopened it with the help of local volunteers almost immediately.

Needless to say the council was not pleased. It has now reopened as a community library with financial input from the council who shut it down. Together, the disparate group of library fans sang an adaptation of their song that Marley and Tosh would probably have approved of – Get Up, Stand Up, Save Our Libraries.

The council threatened to close the library in 2009. Residents and Labour councillors staged various protests, including leafleting, a five-hour sit-in and the temporary establishment of a pop-up library. When the library closed the council brushed off the pleas to reopen it on that site.

When the squatters climbed through an open window in September and began working with local residents to restore a library service in the building the council was stymied.

Officials had to lodge court proceedings to evict the squatters, and as the weeks ticked by before the case was heard the disparate groups forged genuine and trusting relationships and the initially empty library shelves swelled until they had more than 10,000 donated books on offer to lend.

The library became a community hub with events for children, yoga classes and book signings with the likes of Will Self. Barnet county court granted an eviction order in December. But local residents speedily formed a legally constituted group of licensees who offered to take over the running of the library when the squatters moved out on Tuesday. They are now negotiating a long-term lease with the council and plans to sell the site off to a developer have been shelved – for now at least.

When David Cameron put forward his “big society” idea he probably wasn’t advocating unusual alliances of people working together collaboratively to overturn closures of public services implemented by radical Tory councils such as Barnet. But, arguably, this is the big society in action.

The Occupy movement has raised a great deal of awareness of global inequality but has not focused on or achieved small, concrete wins such as this one. The Barnet residents’ protests fell on deaf ears until the squatters supported by Occupy moved in. Squatters have had an opportunity to rebrand themselves as socially responsible, community minded individuals who are working to restore closed-down public services. The local residents are clear that without the input of the squatters and Occupy, the library would not have reopened.

The squatters know that without the huge support from residents they would have been unceremoniously evicted from the library premises much sooner and Barnet council would have gone ahead with its plans to sell the site to a commercial developer. But together the different groups formed a potent alliance. Assisted by a strong legal team they were able to argue in court that they were providing a greatly valued public service. Their arguments were reflected in the judge’s ruling. While granting Barnet council an eviction order, district judge HHJ Pearl recognised the right to protest and said of the occupied library: “There is no suggestion that this is anything other than a happy, pleasant, well-run place.”

The relationship between the various groups involved in the library protest and occupation has been characterised by gentleness, mutual respect for the range of views put forward and a very sincere spirit of collaboration. The residents have become more tuned in to the issues raised by the squatters and Occupy, and the latter have worked sensitively with the locals to help them achieve their objectives of restoring a much-loved public service.

As those gathered to celebrate the establishment of Friern Barnet community library on Tuesday lit candles on a very long cake modelled on Eric Carle’s classic children’s book, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, the unity of purpose resonated around the room. Could this kind of unusual alliance be the future of campaigning against cuts in services and other matters of public concern? This unprecedented reopening of a closed down library suggests that it could.Voag-Logo-Darker

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