Category Archives: austerity

Remember This? Impoverished Britain:The 1997 Tory Legacy.

3521   Hang_on_until_next_election-by_Blair

For the last terrible three years we’ve heard David Cameron and George Osborne and every other Tory MP who’s given a chance to speak on TV blame the suffering they’ve brought to millions of us on ‘Labour’s legacy’ of profligate public spending. Even the lily-livered LibDems have echoed this mantra with enthusiasm. Even now, when the evidence against this ridiculous claim has been featured in the more enlightened press and even that neoliberal stalwart, the IMF, has warned Osborne to go easy on austerity, they persist with the myth. And sections of the British public, having heard the lie repeated so often, now believe its true. Meanwhile, instead of defending themselves, the Labour party , particularly Ed Milliband and Ed Balls, have preferred to hang their head in unnecessary shame whenever its hurled their way in Parliament, instead of nailing Cameron and his crew through the heart with the lie. It makes my blood boil!

images (1) Osborne’s  priggish stubbornness in refusing to be diverted from his great Austerity Scam, however, has some very chilling echoes from the not so distant past. Margaret Thatcher was infamous for declaring that ‘there is no alternative’ when challenged about the cruel cuts she presided over when in power. And her words issued forth from the same moral high ground as Osborne’s, blaming the ‘immoral’ behaviour of the working classes for Britain’s failing economic performance. Just as she waged war on the workers by demonising trade unions and destroying the livelihoods of whole communities, so equally does Osborne. aided and abetted by Duncan Smith, whip up hatred for those whose only ‘sin’ is to have inherited the poverty she created, or to be sick and disabled, sometimes as a result of her social destruction.

So_much-by_Blair We’re encouraged to have short memories by those currently in power over us. We’re encouraged to look no farther than the last few years before that power dropped into their pampered laps by a cruel fluke of a flawed electoral system that has allowed a party with only 37% of a diminished vote (how many stayed at home and refused to vote?) to dictate our non-futures. But there is a much longer history to this dire situation we find ourselves in now and its time we remembered it. Watch this video filmed in 1996, before the country elected New Labour in a desperate hope that things would or could change for the better. It will remind you of the real legacy we live with today. This Tory led-by-the-nose government is merely taking up where the last Tory governments were forced to leave off…

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What The Hell Is Happening To Our Society?

la-oe-goldberg-disability-entitlements-2013040-001            Work-Makes-Free-Clear

 

With each passing day, as I read and see more and more injustice and cruelty from this feeble excuse of a government, I wonder just what the hell is going on here?

Here’s a selection of video interviews by the amazing Artist Taxi Driver to make my point for me. The last one made me so angry and frankly, ashamed to be British and it reminded me of a documentary I saw online recently exposing the truth about the British monarchy. Its called Royal Babylon and I’ve included that too. Prepare to be shocked if you’re the kind of person who thinks the Queen is just a sweet old lady and Winston Churchill etc were ‘great’ British leaders…this is definitely NOT the version of British history that Michael Gove wants to ram down our kid’s throats.

 

 

Cameron Has Created More Income Inequality in Three Years Than Thatcher Did in Eleven Years.

inequality-cleese-and-bar-002  The following article written By Howard Reed last month for The Fabian Society is a shocking indictment of a Cameron-led government and their relentless programme of austerity for the poor. Using the now discredited and tired excuse that the previous Labour government ‘got us into this mess’, they have managed to create a low wage economy increasingly characterised by zero hours contracts and have callously denigrated the disabled and the poor, forcing many people who were just getting by before onto the breadline. Ministers, such as Iain Duncan Smith, have shown no compassion whatsoever for the thousands of people who now suffer a precarious existence and sometimes die under their regime of work capability assessments and forced workfare. And it seems there are even more cuts to welfare to come.

wealth  In statistical jargon welfare recipients are classed as being in the 1st decile whilst millionaires like Cameron, Clegg and Osborne are in the 10th decile. The huge gap in terms of wealth between these two extremes can be seen on the graph above. According to Howard Reed’s research the gap really began to open up after Thatcher came to power in 1979 and it widened dramatically during her eleven years in power. It levelled off for a while during New Labour’s reign but began to take off again in 2010 when the coalition took over. Reed shows that on Cameron’s watch inequality became turbo-powered.

david_cameron_pm_1910795 David Cameron, in my view, is no intellectual. In fact he’s a bit of an air head who never gets drawn into honest debate but simply parrots Tory sound bites. I’m sure Ed Milliband could wipe the floor with him if he wanted to. Sadly, though, the Labour opposition are giving the impression they agree, on the whole, with Cameron’s policies on welfare cuts. They’ve not shown much enthusiasm for standing up for the people who are really suffering the brunt of Cameron’s attack. Neither has Ed Milliband made any real attempt to defuse the constantly repeated myth that they were responsible for a wrecked economy despite there being plenty of hard evidence this was not the case. For three years Milliband has allowed Cameron to belittle Labour on this issue at every opportunity without defending himself. As a result of his failure and the perpetual repetition of the myth by every LibDem and Tory MP at every opportunity its now firmly fixed in the mind of the public as unquestionable truth and has done untold damage to Labour’s credibility as a safe guardian of the economy.  Why on earth has Milliband stood by and let this happen?  Its high time the Labour Party took back a little self respect and spoke out for the people its supposed to support – the working class – who are being bullied into poverty and despair by the Coalition.

Fabian_Society_Logo_CMYKHere’s Howard Reed’s article in full:-

 The Inequality Boom

Howard Reed

22 July 2013

Howard Reed finds that the impact of the coalition’s tax and benefit measures could end being as bad for inequality as the Thatcher government’s record. Turning the tide needs to be at the heart of Labour’s strategy for government

Concern about the extreme inequalities of incomes produced by capitalist societies has traditionally been a central component of left-of-centre politics, and the progressive taxation systems and redistributive welfare state put in place by the 1945 Attlee government was at least partly motivated by a desire to reduce inequalities. But how unequal is Britain now, 35 years after the Thatcher government and the end of the post-war consensus? What are the consequences of the current policies of the coalition government for inequality? And how much might impact on inequality might a Labour government expect to make if elected in 2015?

Inequality from 1961 to 2012

Inequality in the distribution of incomes is the result of a combination of two factors. One is the distribution of gross market incomes, ie income before taxes or transfer payments. The largest component of gross incomes is earnings, but the distribution of incomes from investments and (private) pensions, and property income, are also important. The other main factor determining the distribution of net income is the extent of redistribution by the government through the form of taxes and transfer payments (eg benefits, tax credits). Inequality can rise thanks to increasing dispersion of gross incomes, a reduction in the extent of redistribution, or both. Thanks to household surveys conducted on an annual basis from 1961 to the present day, we now have around half a century of data on the UK income distribution on a reasonably consistent basis. Figure 1 is based on analysis of this data by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and shows the evolution of inequality in disposable income since 1961. The measure of disposable income used is net household income before housing costs, adjusted for family size. The figures go up to the 2011-12 tax year which are the most recent figures currently available[1].

The measure of inequality used is the Gini coefficient, which is a number between 0 and 1 showing the extent of inequality in a distribution of incomes. A Gini of 0 would correspond to a situation where every household had the same net income, whereas a Gini of 1 would correspond to a situation where one household had all the income and the rest had nothing. Hence, the higher the Gini is, the greater is inequality in incomes. The figures are for Great Britain (including England, Scotland and Wales but excluding Northern Ireland) because the Family Expenditure Survey, which was the survey used to measure incomes until 1992, did not cover Northern Ireland but data for the whole UK from 1993 onwards using the Family Resources Survey (which does cover Northern Ireland) show a very similar picture.

Figure 1. Inequality of household incomes Before Housing Costs, 1961 to 2011/12

inequalityboom1-e1374506159246

Source: Institute for Fiscal Studieshttp://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn19figs.xlsx

Broadly speaking, the evolution of inequality in Britain over the past 60 years comprises three distinct phases:

  • Between 1961 and the late 1970s, inequality was roughly stable, with a Gini coefficient in the range 0.24 to 0.27.
  • Inequality rose consistently from 1979 onwards, with the Gini moving above 0.27 in 1985. By 1990, the Gini had reached 0.34 – a rise of 0.07 in just five years. The 1980s were a period of persistent rises in inequality.
  • From 1990 onwards, inequality stabilised at a Gini of around 0.33 to 0.36 and has remained at that level until the present day.

In terms of the relationship between inequality and UK politics, it looks like the period of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership (1979-90) was very different from Labour or Conservative governments before or after it. Mrs Thatcher’s tenure in Downing Street coincided with a massive increase in inequality of household incomes in the UK. What caused this rise in inequality? Research by Stuart Adam and James Browne of the IFS[2] shows that between 1978 and 2008, reforms to the tax and benefit system increased the Gini by around 0.034 compared with a situation in which the 1978-9 tax system had been kept in place and uprated according to the uprating rules in place at that time. This increase in inequality appears to result mainly from two reforms undertaken by the Thatcher government: firstly, the reduction in income tax rates, with the top rate of income tax falling from 83 per cent in 1979 to 40 per cent in 1988; and secondly the decision to uprate means-tested benefits in line with price inflation rather than earnings, which (given that this was a period where average earnings were growing by about 2 per cent above inflation every year) meant that incomes for poorer families who were dependent on benefits for a large proportion, or all, of their net income lagged behind working families.

Thus, changes to taxes and benefits under the Thatcher government account for around half the overall increase in inequality seen between 1978 and 2008. The rest of the increase in inequality can largely be explained by two factors: firstly, increasing dispersion of earnings, with growth in earnings for top earners far outpacing average or low earners; and secondly a shift in the distribution of national income from wages to profits (income from profits is far more unequally distributed than income from wages).[3]

The record of the Labour governments between 1997 and 2010 on inequality is also worth commenting on here. New Labour was much more concerned with reducing poverty, and child and pensioner poverty in particular, than with reducing inequality per se. However, there is an obvious link between poverty and inequality in that redistribution via the tax and benefit system from richer households to poorer households – aiming to reduce poverty by increasing the net incomes of the poorest families – will tend to reduce overall inequality in net incomes as a by-product. Overall, the IFS research by Adam and Browne shows that New Labour made the tax-benefit system more redistributive (as a result of increased benefit payments for poorer pensioners and tax credits for low-income families with children). However, inequality in gross incomes continued to increase over this period. Overall, the two effects more or less cancelled each other out, meaning that inequality in 2010 was almost unchanged from its 1997 level.

The impact of coalition government policies on inequality

Figure 2 presents a breakdown of the distributional effects of most of the reforms made to the tax, benefit and tax credit system over the course of the current parliament using a tax-benefit micro-simulation model constructed by Landman Economics for the Institute for Public Policy Research. The analysis divides families in the UK income distribution into ten equally sized deciles ranging from decile 1 (the poorest) to decile 10 (the richest). The line in the graph shows the overall impact of reforms to the tax, benefit and tax credit systems as a percentage of disposable income, averaged across all families in each decile. Overall, the reforms introduced by the coalition are regressive across most of the distribution – the poorest families lose over 12 percent of their net income on average, compared with only around 3 percent of net income for families in the ninth decile. At the very top, the reforms are slightly progressive, with the top decile losing a slightly higher percentage of their income than the ninth decile; this is mainly due to increases in national insurance contributions and below-inflation increases in the higher rate income tax threshold.

The main factor driving the regressiveness of tax and benefit reforms between 2010 and 2015 is cuts to benefits and tax credits, particularly for working age families with children. The generosity of working tax credit, in particular, was cut back severely over this period. Furthermore, the uprating regime for working age benefits and tax credits has been changed from the retail price index (RPI) to the consumer prices index (CPI), and as annual CPI increases are typically smaller than RPI, this means that households reliant on benefits and tax credits lose out increasingly as time goes on. The decision in the 2012 Autumn Statement to limit working age benefit and tax credit increases to 1 per cent in nominal terms – well below CPI inflation – exacerbates the regressiveness of the reforms to social security. Meanwhile, coalition reforms to income tax and national insurance contributions during this time – principally the above-inflation increases in the income tax personal allowance and the lower thresholds for national insurance contributions – help families in the middle of the income distribution more than the poorest families, most of whom were not earning enough to pay income tax or national insurance in the first place.

Figure 2. Impact of Coalition Tax and Social Security Reforms introduced in 2010-15 Parliament, by income decile

The-Inequality-Boom-3-e1374506123849

Source: author’s own calculations using IPPR/Landman Economics tax-benefit model and Family Resources Survey data for 2010-11

The impact of the total package of tax and benefit reforms between 2010 and 2015 is to increase the Gini by 0.018 points – more than half as much again as the total increase in the Gini which arose from tax and benefit reforms over the period 1978 to 2008. There are additional reforms that it is not possible to model due to insufficient data on benefit claimants in the UK Family Resources Survey (such as many of the changes to housing benefit, and the replacement of disability living allowance by the personal independence payment). However, if they were added in to Figure 2, it is quite possible that the impact of the coalition’s tax and benefit measures would be as bad for inequality as the Thatcher government’s record, despite the fact that by 2015, David Cameron will have been prime minister for less than half the duration that Margaret Thatcher was. Looked at in this way, the coalition government’s tax and benefit reforms are like a speeded-up action replay of Thatcherism. This may come as a particular shock to Liberal Democrats in the government, many of whom spent the 1980s railing against the kind of increase in inequality which I forecast to occur as a direct result of policies introduced in this parliament.

The actual increase in inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, over the period 2010 to 2015 is likely to be more than 0.018 because of the continuation of the trends which contributed to increased inequality in gross earnings between 1980 and 2010. While earnings at the top of the distribution are continuing to increase, real wages for low-to-middle earners have been falling behind inflation for at least the last five years. And the most recent available data shows the share of wages in national income continuing to fall, to 53.7 per cent of GDP in 2011 (down from 59.2 per cent in 1980).

Reducing inequality in the future

How should a future Labour government respond to these trends? Discussion of the role tax and benefit measures to reduce inequality – or even to reduce poverty – after 2015 (should Labour emerge victorious at the next election) has not figured highly in policy discussions over the last three years. To a large extent, Labour seems to have bought into the argument of the right-wing media – trumpeted loudly by coalition politicians – that redistribution through the welfare state became increasingly unaffordable under New Labour. This is despite the fact that in 2007-08 – the last year before the Great Recession – total spending on benefits and tax credits as a share of gross domestic product was 11.4 per cent, compared with 11.9 per cent in 1996-97, just before Labour came to office[4].

But with the Labour leadership seemingly insistent that the poor state of the public finances rules out further action to reduce inequality through the tax and benefit system, attention has shifted to what the political scientist Jacob Hacker has called ‘predistribution’ – measures to make the distribution of gross market incomes more equal, thus reducing the pressure on the tax and social security systems to do the ‘heavy lifting’ of reducing inequality. This would be a big change in policy away from the New Labour years, where the market was more or less left to ‘let rip’ in delivering increasing inequalities in gross earnings and investment incomes, with the tax and social security systems having to do more and more redistribution to hold after-tax inequality constant.

There are several policy options for more equal predistribution of earnings, mostly focusing around changes in wage determination, bargaining structures and trade union representation, particularly in private sector industries and services, as well as upgrading skills and improving employment and job progression opportunities for the lowest paid.[5]

But while measures to equalise the distribution of gross earnings would be most welcome, they would work best in conjunction with a more redistributive tax and benefit system, rather than one being a substitute for the other. Many features of the current tax and benefit system are needlessly regressive; for example, council tax, which on average charges low-to-middle income households a much higher percentage of their disposable income than the richest households. There is plenty of scope for major reforms of the UK’s tax and social security systems to increase their progressiveness and reduce net income inequality, at the same time as simplifying the system and raising more money to help balance the public finances.[6]

At the same time, a lot of the inequality in incomes from investments is a function of vast inequalities of wealth and assets and therefore it would be necessary to redistribute wealth – perhaps via radical measures such as land value taxation – to equalise the distribution of investment income significantly.[7]

Whichever set of policies Labour chooses in 2015, it will be important for inequality reduction to be at the heart of the party’s strategy for government. As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett show in their book The Spirit Level, there are clear links between lower inequality and a range of better social outcomes (eg lower crime, increased levels of trust in society, and greater social mobility). For Labour to enter government with a mindset that inequality doesn’t matter would be a serious mistake. Instead, it is to be hoped that despite the difficult economic circumstances which the next Labour government is likely to inherit, they can nonetheless place a clear focus on getting UK income inequality down to the levels which prevailed before the Thatcher revolution of the 1980s.


[1] Prior to 1993 the annual surveys used to obtain data on the income distribution were conducted in calendar years; from 1993-94 onwards they changed to fiscal years.

[2] Stuart Adam and James Browne, Redistribution, Work Incentives and Thirty Years of Tax and Benefit Reform, IFS Working Paper 10/24. http://socialwelfare.bl.uk/subject-areas/services-activity/poverty-benefits/instituteforfiscalstudies/132531wp1024[2].pdf

[3] Both these trends, and the reasons behind them, are examined in more detail in Jacob Mohun Himmelweit and Howard Reed, Where Have All The Wages Gone? Lost Pay and Profits Outside Financial Services, TUC, 2012. http://www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/466.pdf

[4] Source: IFS analysis of benefit and tax credit spending as a proportion of GDP. http://www.ifs.org.uk/ff/ben_spend.xls

[5] For more discussion of how to reduce gross earnings inequality see Stewart Lansley and Howard Reed, How To Boost The Wage Share, TUC, 2013.

[6] The bare bones of such a reform package are Richard Murphy and Howard Reed, Financing the Welfare State: Towards a Full Employment Economy, Centre for Labour and Social Studies, 2013. http://socialwelfare.bl.uk/subject-areas/services-activity/employment/centreforlabourandsocialstudies/1464492013_Policy_Paper_-_Richard_Murphy__Howard_Reed_(Social_State_-_Idleness.pdf

[7] Several options for introducing a wealth tax in the UK are looked at in Kayte Lawton and Howard Reed, Property and Wealth Taxes in the UK: The Context for Reform. Institute for Public Policy Research, 2013. http://www.ippr.org/publication/55/10503/property-and-wealth-taxes-in-the-uk-the-context-for-reform

The Crazy Tory Law That Criminalises The Homeless And Could Cost £790 Million.

On 1st September 2012 it became a criminal offence to be found squatting in a residential building, punishable by a fine of £5000 or six months in prison. Section 144 of the new Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill was rushed through Parliament with little attention being paid to the consultation responses from various homeless charities and police, 98% of which were against the legislation.

According to a report in March this year by Squatters Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH) evaluating the first six months of the Bill, there have been 33 arrests leading to 10 convictions. Their press release summarises their findings thus:-

“The Case Against Section 144″ Press Release

Press Release

For immediate release

Campaign to repeal new squatting law launched in Parliament

Entitled ‘The Case Against Section 144’, SQUASH (Squatters Action for Secure Homes) are launching a new report and campaign in Parliament today.

The report’s findings suggest the major concerns regarding criminalisation that arose during the government’s consultation process have been proven right, with homeless and vulnerable people disproportionately affected. No arrests so far have been for squatters displacing anyone from their home, which does suggest that the Criminal Law Act 1977 was sufficient for dealing with squatters – as predicted by many legal experts.

The report concludes with a call for repeal of Section 144. It provides a detailed six-month analysis of the effects that the new legislation has had since its introduction in September 2012, and sets this against the wider backdrop of the UK recession, high homelessness rates and current housing crisis.

The report will be launched today in the House of Commons at a meeting of concerned MPs, Lords, lawyers, homelessness groups and academics. An online government e-petition petition calling for repeal has reached over 2000 signatures in only a few weeks.

Last week, a homeless person in Kent died outside of an empty bungalow, media reports suggest he was prevented from going inside the building by Police because of the new offence of Section 144 which makes it a criminal offence to squat inside a residential property.

SQUASH campaigner Joseph Blake said:

“The new law is appalling. Homeless people are being put in jail for using empty buildings to keep a roof over their head. Section 144 needs to go and any further criminalisation quickly dismissed”.

Professor Danny Dorling, endorsing the report said:

“Squatting is what people do when they get desperate, it is not criminal behavior. Squatting rises when inequalities increase and housing is not treated as a necessity. This is a great report – every MP needs to read it.”

John Mcdonnell (Labour MP) said:

“”This meticulously researched report confirms what we feared about the effect of the new laws criminalising squatting. People are being made unnecessarily homeless and very vulnerable people are suffering as a consequence. This legislation was based upon prejudice and has only made matters worse. This new evidence demonstrates so clearly the need to repeal this misguided law.”

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer (Lib-Dem Peer) said:

“A few months after the Government brought in the disgraceful law criminalising the homeless occupying an empty house we can see that some of the most needy are indeed suffering in the way that we feared. This is a very useful report that should make people think hard.”

crispin-blunt-paul_1404232c  There was much opposition to s144 during Parliamentary debates of the Bill which was led by Tory Justice Minister Crispin Blunt pictured here alongside his £485k Surrey constituency home – he has a second family home in London which is heavily subsidised by tax payers. Labour MP John McDonnell tabled an amendment which had it been successful  would have protected the genuinely homeless who were squatting in long empty properties. Blunt, however, put forward several specious arguments to justify the criminalisation of squatters. He first of all blamed the squatting homeless for the fact that properties were empty in the first place:-

Many homelessness charities, for instance, are likely to continue to say that the new offence will criminalise homeless and vulnerable people who squat in run-down residential properties, but one of the reasons that the properties remain in that state is that the owners cannot get in to renovate them because the squatters are present.

And its clear whose interests this government are more concerned about and just how out of touch they are by the following excuses he makes for the properties being left empty by their owners:-

We consider that this option strikes the best balance. It will protect those who are likely to suffer most from squatting—those whose homes are taken over by squatters.… that point was made by squatters and squatters groups, but respondents who made that argument were missing one rather important point: the houses are not theirs to occupy. There are many reasons why a house might be left empty for more than six months without any steps being taken to refurbish, let or sell the building. For example, somebody might decide to do charitable work in another country for a year, or they might visit their second home during the summer months only…. 

Clearly, on Planet Cameron its quite normal to be able to afford to take a year off work and commonplace to own a second home. Blunt was obviously oblivious to the irony of such normalisation of privilege during a debate essentially about the growing thousands of people without hope of a secure roof of any kind over their heads.

Bribing-Mike-Weatherley-MP When you consider the number of empty houses there were at the time of this debate in November 2011 – a massive 710,000 – Blunt is really stretching our credibility if he wants us to believe that they are all merely empty because their owners are off doing good works in foreign climes or languishing in luxury in their second homes, unable to get back into their properties because of all those inconvenient paupers cluttering up the place.

McDonnell provided the charming Mr Blunt with a few statistics about the squatting population, no doubt hoping to shame him into a more compassionate state:-

41% of homeless squatters report mental health needs, 34% have been in care, 42% have physical ill health or a disability, 47% have experienced drug dependency, 21% are self-harming, 15% have a learning disability, and 90% have slept rough. Those are the people whom this legislation is about to criminalise…..The Crisis survey found that many of those people had no alternative, and that 78% had approached the local authority for help and been turned away. Among the housing charities—Crisis, Thames Reach, Shelter, Homeless Link, Housing Justice, St Mungo’s—there is a fear that the new legislation could criminalise extremely vulnerable people and force them into more dangerous situations, particularly rough sleeping.

625527_302908889837161_1145371516_n  What MP McDonnell feared but couldn’t have known at the time, was that there could be very drastic consequences for the vulnerable homeless he was describing. Tragically, he was proved right when not six months later homeless Daniel Gauntlett died from hypothermia whilst sleeping outside the abandoned and boarded up bungalow pictured here after being warned by police that if he entered the property to shelter from the bitterly cold weather he would be arrested and possibly sent to jail. Daniel decided to obey Blunt’s law and died as a consequence. No doubt Blunt from the comfort of one of his own homes was ‘unavailable for comment’, despite there also being no doubt that he and his government was indirectly responsible for this young man’s death. As McDonnell said at during the debate in November 2011:-

When there are 40,000 homeless families, 4,000 people sleeping rough in the capital, and 1.7 million households on waiting lists, desperate for decent accommodation, it is immoral that private owners should be allowed to let their properties stand empty for so long.

487757  At lot has happened since that debate that has made the housing situation in Britain far worse than it was back then. As the tide of welfare benefit cuts and bedroom tax has swelled so have the numbers of families whose housing has become very insecure indeed. SQUASH  have estimated that the cost of mitigating the effects of s144 alone could cost around £790 million over the next five years. We already know that the consequences of the bedroom tax are going to cost millions in increased housing benefit as families are forced into private sector renting. Not to mention the possible burden on the NHS from increased ill health due to stress, malnutrition and other poverty related conditions. If this is the government’s idea of saving money then I can only conclude that they are dangerously crazy.

timthumb Mr Blunt may not show much concern for the finances of the homeless and being Tory is automatically implicated in the media hate campaign which characterises the poor as workshy scroungers living it up at the state’s expense. I’m always amazed by the blunt dishonesty of such double standards. This Telegraph report of 2009 is a good illustration of what I mean:-

Documents lodged with the fees office show that Mr Blunt claimed that London was his second home from 1997.It was not until April 2003, when he discussed his Additional Costs Allowance with the fees office, that an official noted: “It was clear that his London home is his main home and has been for some time. His family live in London and his children attend London schools.”

The official said that “it would appear” Mr Blunt had nominated his London home as his second home because of his “mortgage arrangements”. He added: “I suggested that he change his nomination.” Mr Blunt then wrote to the fees office agreeing to move his “main home” designation to London, but suggesting that he took out an additional mortgage on his house in his Surrey constituency, and secure it on his home in south-west London. He said: “I will only claim mortgage interest from my additional cost allowance up to a sum not exceeding the valuation of my now ‘additional home’.”

The fees’ office reply is not recorded, but land registry documents show that Mr Blunt sold the property in Horley, Surrey for £224,000 in July 2004. He bought another property in the same village for £485,000 in November 2005 and claimed £16,000 in stamp duty and legal bills.

Daniel Gauntlett lost his life because he was a law abiding citizen. Mr Blunt commits what can only be seen as fraud without a prick of conscience and loses nothing. On Planet Cameron this is known as ‘fairness’. Where I come from its known as corruption.

UK On Fast Track to Third World Status Says US Commentator.

not interested      He’s not interested in …

_69113648_69113647  the living conditions of people living here…

He caused them but he doesn’t have to put up with them.  

Read what an American observer thinks of Breadline Britain… 

 

 

Force-Fed UK Austerity

By Stephen Lendman
4-11-13

Since 2008, America, Britain and other European nations force-fed austerity harshness. Neoliberal and imperial priorities take precedence.

Bankers, war profiteers, other corporate favorites, and privileged elites alone benefit. Ordinary people lose out entirely. Public needs go begging. Human misery grows. Things go from bad to worse. Nothing ahead looks promising.

Britain made things harder. Parliament imposed the largest welfare cuts in modern times. More on them below.

They come when Prime Minister David Cameron wants UK nuclear defenses upgraded. He wants billions of pounds spent doing so. He claims Britain faces threats that don’t exist. An “ultimate weapon” is needed, he says.

His Daily Telegraph op-ed headlined “We need a nuclear deterrent more than ever,” saying:

(A)s prime minister, with ultimate responsibility for the nation’s security, I profoundly disagree with” naysayers. The “nuclear threat has not gone away.”

“My judgment is that it would be foolish to leave Britain defenceless against a continuing, and growing, nuclear threat.”

Saying so defies reason. Wanting billions of pounds spent on what’s not needed reflects deception writ large. Britain’s FY 2014 budget allocates 44.7 billion pounds for defense.

Billions go for nuclear deterrence. Cameron wants billions more. It’s worth the cost, he says. No cheaper options exist, he claims.

He wants Brits to think wasteful spending will protect Britain from nuclear attacks. Estimates run up to 20 billion pounds. It reflects multi-year spending.

At the same time, he supports massive welfare cuts. They come when Queen Elizabeth got a five million pound pay increase. In FY 2013-14, she’ll receive 36.1 million pounds (around $54 million). It’s up from 31 million last year.

She gets regular pay increases. They come from the Crown Estate. Its properties are worth eight billion pounds.

She’ll now receive 15% of their profits. In 2011-12, they earned 240.2 million pounds.

The Queen claims she needs the money. Royal priorities aren’t cheap. Annual expenses keep rising. She’s having a hard time making ends meet.

She’s dismissive about ordinary people’s suffering. It’s their problem, not hers. Let ’em eat cake doesn’t wash. A former monarch learned the hard way.

Tough times keep getting tougher. Ordinary Brits struggle to get by. Britain’s coalition government made things harder. On April 3, Russia Today headlined “UK govt imposes avalanche of cuts,” saying:

Low-income and financially vulnerable families will be hit hardest. Opposition Labour MPs called new cuts announced “the beginning of ‘Black April.’ ” It’s hard imagining why. They’re as neoliberal as Tories.

From June 2007 – May 2010, Gordon Brown was prime minister. Austerity began on his watch. Budget cuts hit ordinary Brits hardest. Brown said “Labour will cut costs, cut inefficiencies, cut unnecessary programmes, and cut lower priority budgets.”

He targeted public sector worker wages, pensions and other benefits. At the same time, Britain spent 94% of its GDP on bank bailouts. It amounted to taxing every Brit about 30,000 pounds.

Labour and Tories conspire against ordinary people. Austerity is policy. So are harsh welfare cuts. Imposed them inflicts enormous hardships. Earlier amounts totaled tens of billions of pounds. In January, another 14.2 billion were announced.

New ones are toughest of all. Britain’s Baptist Union called them “unjust (forcing) the most vulnerable (to) pay a disproportionate price.”

Methodist Church Public Issues Policy Adviser Paul Morrison said they “make April fools of us all.”

“We are witnessing what happens when we create a culture that blames poor people for their poverty.”

“It is a lie to say that most people on benefits are lazy, that they have an easy life or that they are responsible for the nation’s financial deficit.”

“When people are willing to believe those lies, poor families pay the highest price.”

At the same time, wealthy elites got a tax cut. In late March, Britain slashed its 50% top rate to 40%. Corporations got a 1% cut.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s “granny tax” left around five million middle-class pensioners up to 323 pounds worse off. It’s when they most need help. They face other harsh budget cutting measures.

Welfare benefits will be cut another 10 billion pounds by 2016. On average, around 18 million Brits will lose 500 pounds annually. Billions more welfare cuts were announced earlier. Where this ends who knows.

Cameron wants public spending cut 5.3%. Expect more cuts to follow. Since financial crisis conditions erupted in 2008, one in 10 Brits lost their jobs.

The latest measures are worst of all. They include a new “bedroom” tax. It’s on local council and housing association tenants. They get housing benefits.

Recipients claimed to have a “spare” bedroom face cuts totaling 14%. Those with two “spare” ones lose 25%. Britain calls the measure an “under-occupancy penalty.”

Imposing it seeks to encourage more efficient social housing use. It inflicts enormous harm on vulnerable households. Expect more ahead hitting them harder. It’s coming in waves. One measure leads to others. Like America, Britain’s heading for third world status.

Hundreds of thousands of people are affected. Many will become homeless. Britain’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said the new bedroom tax will “end up costing more than it saves as tenants are forced to go homeless or move into the expensive private renter sector.”

Around 90,000 households are affected. Less than 4,000 smaller homes can accommodate them. In April, “personal independence  payments (PIPs)” replace disability living allowances.

Private consulting and information technology services firm ATOS will assess whether benefit claimants can work. It’ll be paid up to one billion pounds to do so. In the past, it claimed stroke victims were fit to work.

ATOS aims to remove another 500,000 claimants from benefit rolls. Doing so will throw many of them in the street. They’ll risk losing out entirely.

New Health and Social Care Act legislation affects them. Enactment reverses 1946 free, universal National Health Service care. Government no longer has a legal duty to provide it.

Newly created Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) now have a “duty to arrange” what used to be mandated. Doing so shifts costs on the backs of vulnerable Brits least able to afford them. Commercializing healthcare lets predatory private profiteers take full advantage.

Combining austerity with welfare cuts heads Britain for third world status. Poverty and unemployment will rise further. So will public anger. On March 30, protesters targeted London’s Trafalgar Square.

Unionists joined anti-poverty campaigners, the disabled, homemakers and others.

Simultaneous gatherings were held in cities and towns nationwide. Thousands turned out in Glasgow. “Axe the bedroom tax,” signs read. One protestor spoke for others, saying:

“We won’t forget what they are doing to working class people.”

Another said:

“They have just shut the soup kitchen in Waltham Forest despite having a real problem with homelessness. I’m a working single parent. Now I’ve a tiny boxroom, and I’m faced with the choice between food, heat or paying the ‘bedroom tax.’ ”

At issue are numerous other cuts. Expect new ones to follow those announced. More recent ones began last October. Dozens of imposed changes were made. They include:

 

cutting support for mortgage interest from 6.08% – 3.63%;

 

scrapping the Child Trust Fund;

 

reducing the Council Tax benefit;

 

ending the Health in Pregnancy grant;

 

abolishing the Disability Living Allowance;

 

cutting legal aid;

 

freezing the Child Benefit and Working Tax Credit for low-income workers; and

 

much more implemented from October 10 through mid-April.

Making ordinary Brits bear burdens they can’t afford is policy. Expect new imposed hardships ahead. Tories and Labour are in lockstep. It bears repeating. Britain’s heading toward third world status. It’s on a fast track toward getting there.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Who Said the Tories Have Changed? The Kirkby Rent Strike and the Housing Finance Act 1972

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Politicians have short memories. The moral outrage expressed by current Conservatives at the size of the nation’s Housing Benefits bill has been, unsurprisingly, targeted at an irresponsibly profligate Labour government but they forget that there is a history behind this that goes back to legislation that, in its time, did as much damage to the poor as today’s Bedroom Tax. Legislation that was passed by Edward Heath’s Conservative government in 1972. You may remember it. It was called the Housing Finance Act and it was sold to the public as a benign policy to house the homeless.

The Act placed a duty upon Local Councils  to give priority to housing homeless families with children. It gave councils a nasty surprise because it demanded they find the resources for an immediate result and it appeared to sweep away the idea that homeless families, new to a council’s area, could simply be ignored.  Instead of legislating for open access to council houses which would have stimulated the building of a larger stock, better able to respond to urgent need, councils were required to examine in detail, the meaning of a duty to house the homeless with immediate effect. There was no time to plan for and build more housing capacity and so this simply led to increases in the waiting lists. When it comes to making policies directed at the working class, it seems the Tories have always failed to think things through. But it gets worse…

download      Although councils had to find accommodation immediately for families with children, their legal duty only required that it be for a limited period which would allow time for “responsible families” to find their own accommodation. This period was determined to be 6 weeks. Inevitably the result was to  revive the category of Bed and Breakfast accommodation for homeless families and the cost of this per day to councils quickly rose to double the weekly rent of a council house  providing lots of scope for Tory rhetoric about how the “irresponsible families” who were unable to find a house in 6 short weeks were a drag on the economy.

In fact, what happened as a result of the 6 week rule was that many families once kicked out of their temporary shelter were forced to move back to the council areas they’d originally left in the hope of finding a home. What we’re seeing now with the Bedroom Tax forcing people out of high rent boroughs isn’t much different to what was happening back in 1972. It’s a tried and tested old Tory ruse to destabilise the poor working classes, ‘softening’ them up to accept jobs at any price and be grateful for the worst kind of housing.

images (1)  The true intentions of the Act were revealed in an announcement in 1971, the year before its passage. Council rents would double, ostensibly to subsidise the housing of the homeless.  However, in Tory circles it seems this rent rise was a cynical attempt to manipulate the housing market.  They gleefully predicted a                                                                      boom in private house building driven by an expected flight of council tenants from the high council rents into home ownership.

House prices rose rapidly, but council tenants didn’t miraculously become rich enough overnight to buy their own homes. They stayed put and more of them claimed Housing Benefit to cope with the rent increase. The hapless Tory market driven logic had failed again to appreciate the real circumstances of working folk, but their divisive moral rhetoric was on top form nonetheless…

Under the increased pressure of rising house prices council waiting lists inevitably grew and with this came a moral panic fueled by suspicions of queue jumping. An insidious new category of “scrounger” known as  “the intentionally homeless” was created. These were people considered to be homeless as a result of their own actions. Just as today, people were  incited to hate by the insidious Tory rhetoric. Once labelled intentionally homeless it sanctioned the official withdrawal of help from “offenders”. They do love their sanctions, these Tories, don’t they?

images (2)  The reason for this doubling in council rents reveals another enduring Tory meme, one that Iain Duncan Smith is currently flogging to death.This is their notion of ‘fairness’. In the private rented sector at the time there were procedures for setting what was known as a ‘fair rent’ on a property which had to take account of current market conditions in order for landlords to be able to make a profit from renting their property.

Before the Housing Finance Act 1972 this didn’t apply to council housing. Local Authority rents were charged at the level of a balanced budget, which meant rental income balanced against loan charges and the costs of new building. The Act changed all that and they were now required to raise them to private sector levels. Mr Heath called this ‘an economic fair rent’.

So basically, under the pretence of looking after the homeless and bringing fairness into the system the Tories manipulated the housing market with the effect that their property and that of their supporters increased massively in value. House prices rose 12% in the year of their announcement to increase council rents, 36% the following year when the Act was passed and an amazing 51% the year after.

On the other hand, council waiting lists grew exponentially, homelessness increased and the Housing Benefits bill went through the roof. But hey, they could blame all this on the poor!

IMG_3101 As with the Bedroom Tax today, one of the hardest hit areas in Britain was Merseyside.  The 1970s were a time of soaring inflation rates – reaching a peak of 25% in 1978 and unemployment in Liverpool was high.

3,000 residents on the Tower Hill estate in Kirkby were enraged by the rent increases, especially since the homes they rented from the council were in a dire state of repair. They protested by organising a 14 month long rent strike and the documentary below, which was filmed in the October of 1972, is the story of that action. I was amazed at how relevant what was being said by those council tenants almost 41 years ago is to what is happening right now under a Tory government (effectively) which relies on the same old ideology. Who said the Tories have changed? Why ever should they? It wouldn’t be in their interests.