Tag Archives: Cameron

Professor Emeritus John Weeks – A Real Economist – Debunks Osborne’s Arrogant Claim That We Have ‘Turned A Corner’

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‘Caring Conservatism’ in (In)action: Four Holidays Dave Grows Fat And Brown While His People Go Hungry

images (2)  cameron-2-way_2651184b

So… six days after  chemical weapons were unleashed in Syria prompting world leaders to think about launching attacks on Assad the Prime Minister finally dragged himself away from the beach in Cornwall where he’s been enjoying his FOURTH holiday this year to do the job we pay him for. What was he waiting for? Did he hope the crisis would go away if he buried his head deep enough in the Cornish sand?

135090548__444154j    Sadly, ‘bucket and spade’ Dave doesn’t give the impression of a man dedicated to hard work despite being the leader of a party that claims to ‘be on the side of hard working people’.  He has the most responsible job in the country, one that requires him to be ‘on call’ 24/7, and whilst this can obviously be pretty gruelling and hard on his family, the remuneration he gets more than reflects that. This isn’t the first time he’s been slow to return from holiday in a crisis.

British+Prime+Minister+David+Cameron+bikini+MxsbrZBhgbbl   He did the same back in August of 2011 when the London riots kicked off, claiming he could handle things just as well from his deckchair over the phone. He doesn’t seem to get it. He doesn’t seem to understand that when you’re Prime Minister of a country that’s suffering the pain of a dire economic recession you need to be there for your citizens; you need to show some solidarity with them and at least give the impression that you’re prepared to suffer alongside them. When you introduce the most stringent austerity package in recent history , claiming (falsely) there is no alternative because the country’s practically bankrupt  and even the rich have to make sacrifices because ‘ we’re all in it together’  and when some of those who are worst affected by your actions go off the rails as a result, you don’t stay put on a foreign beach and order another cold lager – you get your pampered arse back to Downing Street right away and you bloody well deal with it.

British+Prime+Minister+David+Cameron+bikini+v7N0oAfSTR0l  Lots of other professions require being ‘on call’ round the clock yet pay nowhere near as much as the PM’s salary. My father was a detective sergeant and we hardly saw him. Many’s the time we’d be sitting down to Christmas dinner on what should have been his day off, and the phone would ring and off he’d have to go. It goes with the job, you get used to it.  Junior doctors work a ridiculously punitive schedule for a fraction of the wages Cameron takes home. And don’t get me started on the injustice of zero hours contracts…

F3A1BCC9-DF6C-BF16-D0A54A569FF86361  Truth is Cameron hasn’t got what it takes to be a serious statesman. Back in 2008 Obama called him an intellectual  ‘lightweight’, a criticism also echoed by Rupert Murdoch more recently. He got away with this in opposition because the job really only required him to be a PR man, a man who projected the image of modern conservatism that the party wanted to sell a gullible public; a public long conditioned to look no deeper than the surface, the packaging. So someone wrote his speeches, he delivered them and did the photo opportunities, selling the party ideology. He hugged hoodies and huskies, rode his bike (followed by his chauffeur driven car for when the cameras had buggered off) went for the odd fun run and learnt the manifesto off  by heart so he could blindly repeat bits of it when asked questions. He hosted a few country suppers  and wined and dined and arse-licked Murdoch and potential rich party donors; then every three months or so he jetted off to a posh beach somewhere  to ‘chillaxe’. He was, and still is, a mannequin with a mouth through which the Tories broadcast their empty  sound-bites, a vacuous, expensively suited cipher of so-called ‘caring conservatism’.

2008      Three years on, the stark truth of what that oxymoronic slogan actually means is literally embodied by the public who’ve lived with its pernicious consequences – as it is by a Prime Minister who’s cold-bloodedly  imposed it with aloof indifference to any responsibility for the damage he’s caused.

1-s2.0-S0735675703000834-gr1  rickets

Whilst the PM’s body has grown fat and brown on his many holidays from inconvenient duty so the bodies of his citizens are being reshaped by the malnourishment he’s decreed for the likes of them. Diseases once eradicated by social policies that improved diets and damp and squalid housing conditions are returning to Britain with a vengeance at a time when the NHS that could alleviate them is being ruthlessly dismantled to puff up the profits of the Prime Minister’s cronies. Diseases such as scurvy and rickets which deform bodies are back with us. Asthma and other respiratory illnesses exacerbated by damp and mouldy houses are on the rise. And Cameron’s ‘caring conservatives’ who will never suffer this fate, and know it, don’t give a monkeys.

2009 2010

His holiday photographs, which he no doubt thinks of as photo opportunities, that sell him as a ’family man’ devoted to his wife and kids, when put into perspective and contrasted with the lives of the families he’s destroying,  instead bear witness to the truth of Cameron’s upper class essence: a weak,egotistical wealthy man who likes the lifestyle of the idle rich. 

child-poverty-007Family-poverty

Cameron is a man who is either totally oblivious to the irony of his throw away words when he said his wife had an ‘unconventional’ childhood because she went to a day school – or is totally dismissive of the millions to whom he owes a duty of care and for whom  this is the norm, because we are of no consequence in his world except as ‘human resources’ judged merely by our use value and thus can be discarded like used tissues when we’re all used up.

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Cameron is a millionaire who claimed DLA for his disabled son because , like Tesco and all good capitalists he knows that ‘every little helps’ in the ‘global race’ for bigger profits in which the real effort is never theirs and the real risks are borne by those with least to lose.

nov 2012David+Cameron+Double+Olympic+Champion+Mo+Farah+OL_UPS0ZWjMl

Cameron is a vain, elitist man who secretly believes that hard work is something that the servants should do. whilst, purely in the interests of political expediency, publicly pretending  to ‘care’ about a class of people he really thinks of as nothing better than livestock.

And sadly, he is the man we call ‘Prime Minister’.

Britain’s Daily Mail: U.S. ‘backed plan to launch chemical weapon attack on Syria”

Another story from Global Research exposes a recent embarrassing mistake by the Daily Mail – they told the truth for once.

Britain’s Daily Mail: U.S. ‘backed plan to launch chemical weapon attack on Syria”.

Hague Criticises Syrian Government’s Atrocities Whilst His Own Brings Misery At Home

eviction  Bedroom-Tax-2202836

 

On the same morning I’m hearing Tory William Hague expressing moral outrage at the way Bashir Assad’s government is mistreating its own people I read the following story which demonstrates how HIS government is prepared to mistreat theirs. The hypocrisy was deafening.

Lorraine Fraser,pictured above along with a photograph of her specially adapted bathroom, is a severely disabled mother of two children about to be evicted from her council home in North Lanarkshire because she’s been unable to pay the bedroom tax and is now in arrears that amount to less than Mr Hague is likely to spend on food in a week. Here’s the full story from the Daily Record.

Bedroom tax: Disabled mum-of-two Lorraine set to become first person in Scotland to be kicked out of their home

22 Aug 2013 07:18

THE 46-year-old who suffers from scoliosis and arthritis has had court action taken against her to force her to leave her flat.

A SEVERELY disabled single mum is to become the first council tenant in Scotland to be evicted because of the bedroom tax.

Lorraine Fraser is being kicked on to the street after her Labour-run council took court action to force her out her specially adapted flat.

She has scoliosis – curvature of the spine – and arthritis and she is wheelchair-bound.

The council moved Lorraine into a specially adapted flat with a wheelchair ramp, wet room and handrails two years ago.

Now they want to turf her out for failing to pay just £248 in bedroom tax arrears.

Lorraine, 46, said: “Where will I go? I need a specially adapted home just to survive.

“What kind of people would throw a disabled woman and her kids out on the street?

“They have no compassion or conscience.”

North Lanarkshire Council have sent Lorraine a series of hard-hitting letters, warning her that eviction proceedings are under way.

The latest letter, dated August 8, states: “I can advise you that North Lanarkshire Council has commenced court action to evict you from your home.”

She has also been told she faces paying for the authority’s “considerable” legal costs.

Lorraine receives disability living allowance. And even before the bedroom tax, she struggled to pay her bills and feed her family.

When the hated tax was introduced in April, she was told she would have to pay an extra £62 in rent every month.

She was informed she was being targeted because she has two spare rooms.

But Lorraine is baffled because she shares her three-bedroom flat with her daughter Collette, 19, and son Mark, 17.

They are both students who live at home, although they also spend time living with their dad, who is divorced from Lorraine.

Lorraine thought she still had a month left to fight her case because she was told in a letter that legal proceedings to evict her wouldn’t begin until September 2.

But she was devastated when the council’s letter on August 8 said they had already started court action.

Council housing officers visited her at her home in Uddingston, near Glasgow, yesterday to go through the eviction process.

Lorraine said: “I can’t believe I am going to be thrown on the street.

“My condition is getting worse every day. This has caused me so much stress and anxiety it’s making me really ill.

“I feel at the end of my tether. I have tried to explain to them that my children still live here.

“My son sometimes stays at his dad’s house because we are divorced but this is still his home.

“I feel angry, upset and totally helpless.

“I thought I still had a month to sort this mess out but then I got a letter to say they had already started the legal process.

“I feel like my life is falling apart. I have been in this house for two years and it was the council who put me here because they knew I needed a specially adapted home for my disability.

“Now they want to throw me out on the street like a piece of old rubbish.

“They are targeting the most vulnerable in our community.

“It’s a disgrace they are allowed to get away with it.”

North Lanarkshire Council are one of the few local authorities in Scotland who have refused to adopt a no-evictions policy.

In April, First Minister Alex Salmond pledged that no SNP-run council would throw out tenants who had fallen into arrears because of the bedroom tax.

North Lanarkshire Council leader Jim McCabe called the bedroom tax “the single worst piece of legislation I have ever seen”.

But that hasn’t stopped the authority from starting eviction action against their tenants.

Lorraine called on the All Scotland Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation and Glasgow lawyer Gordon Dangerfield to help save her from eviction.

Federation chairman Tommy Sheridan said: “North Lanarkshire Council’s treatment of a disabled bedroom tax victim is shocking and shameful.

“How do these councillors and highly paid council officials sleep at night? They should be ashamed of themselves.

“They told this disabled bedroom tax victim she had until September 2 to find the money or else.

“Then they started eviction proceedings anyway. They know this woman is on the breadline yet they have harassed her.”

A North Lanarkshire Council spokesman said: “We have offered every tenant potentially affected by the bedroom tax an opportunity to have a visit or advice by phone.

“The tenant in question has consistently refused to fully engage with us and has repeatedly refused to apply for a discretionary housing payment which may help to alleviate her situation.

“We are committed to helping all tenants hit by this UK Government legislation.”

Lorraine reacted with anger to the council’s claims that she refused to cooperate with them.

She said: “It is an outright lie. I have tried to convince them that I am not eligible for the bedroom tax but they are not interested.”

Pride Comes Before A Fall: Problems With Universal Credit Could Leave IDS With Egg On His Face.

Fee-for-use-Iain-Duncan-Smith-1797134 In yesterday’s Observer Iain Duncan Smith once again boasted about how proud he was of his precious welfare reforms. Instead of addressing the very real and totally legitimate criticisms of his performance so far he pointed to the fact that the DWP had delivered their programme of torture on time:-

… we already have a proud record of achievement… We promised a benefit cap and it began, on time, in April in four London areas. It will be completely rolled out by September. We introduced the new personal independence payment as planned and on time. Automatic enrolment started last year, and now 1 million people have been registered into a workplace pension. People are using our Universal Jobmatch website for more than 5m job searches a day. Our Work Programme has launched and the industry tells us that so far 321,000 people have found a job through it.I am proud of this record.

sick  How any decent, sane human being can ignore the thousands of lives that have been devastated by his policies or refuse to acknowledge the deaths and suicides that can be directly linked to his actions is totally beyond my comprehension. Why a newspaper like the Observer gave him the space to make those comments is also a  mystery to me. And his refusal to undertake an impact assessment of the effect he’s had on the lives of disabled people simply shows that he doesn’t want to know. The only conclusion you can draw from this is that he’s irresponsible, unprofessional and should never be allowed to ‘serve’ as a politician again.

shoes But as usual the odious Mr Smith is not giving us the true picture about the DWP’s performance when it comes to the progress of Universal Credit. There are huge problems with it. Two aspects stand out here. The first is to do with their badly thought through devotion to ‘digital by default’. This report from Public Net published today shows that the DWP have overestimated the number of people who will be able to claim the benefit online. The potential for chaos is tremendous.

UNIVERSAL CREDIT PILOTS REVEAL CHALLENGES FACING BENEFIT CLAIMANTS

Headlines: July 29th, 2013

Many benefit claimants will struggle to meet the requirement of the new welfare arrangements which are due to be introduced from October 2013 with the launch of universal credit. Pilot schemes started last year by councils have revealed the scale of the difficulty many claimants will experience.

Universal credit will require all claimants to submit claims on line. Although 86 per cent of the UK population have access to the internet, the pilots have found that in the case of benefit claimants it is closer to 60 percent. Theoretically claimants can use facilities in libraries to submit claims, but they don’t visit libraries and they need support to cope with the technology and with the benefit processes. Some pilots are experimenting with providing access points in council premises and with staff on hand to support the claimants. Other pilots are exploring various approaches to improving access but have found it difficult to encourage take up.

Universal credit will roll up all benefits into a single payment which will be made directly to the claimant. This will meant that currently where some housing benefit is paid to landlords, in future it will be paid directly to the claimant. The pilots have revealed that many social housing tenants have problems with debt and rent arrears which might compound possible problems with personal budgeting.

Some councils have found a reluctance from customers to take part in budgeting and financial training in group sessions. It is thought the reluctance is due to the stigma of engaging in sessions which may highlight personal debt and rent arrears issues. The uptake of group financial education sessions in some authorities has been so low that sessions have been cancelled. This evidence is mirrored in the Direct Payment Demonstration Pilot areas.

Different approaches are being used to support personal budget management. They include sessions in smaller community groups and collaborating with partner organisations. Changing the welfare culture, which universal credit seeks to achieve, is a mammoth undertaking and it raises issues which must be addressed to bring success. While solutions to the problems are available, they will need time and funding on a scale which has probably not been foreseen in the implementation plan.

global race  The second report is potentially more damaging since it concerns the IT system that’s being developed to allow Universal Credit to be calculated. Because it combines all previous benefits into one package claimant information has to be gathered from HMRC systems and the system used by local authorities to calculate Housing Benefit. It seems they’ve messed up and now need to start from scratch. With the next roll out due in only two month’s time (October) its looking increasingly unlikely that even the six centres that are earmarked for the next stage will be able to cope. These computing problems were highlighted earlier in the year but in typical IDS fashion our SoS shrugged them off and refused to acknowledge that his ‘baby’ wouldn’t be born on time. Again Public Net have the story:-

UNIVERSAL CREDIT AMBER RED-RATING VINDICATED

Headlines: July 15th, 2013

Last year’s Government review conclusion that the Universal Credit project should be rated as amber/red because its successful delivery was in doubt and urgent action was needed, has been proved to be correct. Current trialling of the system with simple claims has revealed failings and there is to be a new design for dealing with the more complex claims.

Universal Credit will simplify the benefits system, improve work incentives and reduce fraud and error. It will replace income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance; income-related Employment and Support Allowance; Income Support; Child Tax Credits; Working Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.

The Universal Credit project is being tested in 2 areas of the north-west, with another 2 starting later this month. The pathfinder trial is restricted to new claimants who are specially selected. Despite this narrowing of usage, it is understood that significant manual input by officials is required to verify accuracy and deal with other problems.

This assessment of the pathfinder is supported by the announcement that the next stage of development in October will be restricted to 6 additional job centres. The original project plan was for all new claims for out-of-work support to be treated as claims to universal credit from October 2013.

A potentially more serious aspect of the project is how the system interacts with Real Time Data System which includes information about earnings of claimants from HMRC. It appears that this element of the system design has been scrapped and it is now ‘back to the drawing board’. The official line about this re-think is that there is a need to explore enhancing the IT for Universal Credit working with the Government Digital Service.

The need for a re-think is unsurprising, because the universal credit system design was completed prior to the emergence of the Real Time Data System. Pressing on with the system design without knowing what the final integration requirements would be, involved many assumptions. This was a high risk strategy which proved unsustainable.

Re-writing this element of the system will take time and the trialing of in work claims cannot start until it is possible to use information from the Real Time Data System. Getting the IT system to perform effectively is only one of the major risks to the success of the project. The cultural transformation involving claimants moving to a digital service will be difficult to achieve. In a move to promote this transformation 20,000 Job centre Plus advisers will be involved in a training scheme and ten pilots will test how to best encourage claimants to progress in work.

6a00d8341d417153ef0133f5d6b4ef970b-550wi   Mr Smith’s plans to get everyone including the terminally ill and profoundly disabled working to make Cameron’s pipe dream of winning the ‘global race’ come true seem to be nothing more than pie in the sky. The tragedy is by pursuing their hopeless policies this government are causing misery and death.

The Cameron Whisperers: How Crosby Can Bend The PM’s Ear By Proxy

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I’ve lost count of the number of times David Cameron has been asked by journalists if his decisions about cigarette packaging and alcohol pricing were influenced by his election campaign guru, Lynton Crosby aka The Lizard of Oz. I’m probably more sick of hearing him deny it than he is of making these repeated denials.

There’s no denying that its an amazing coincidence that these particular policies have now been dropped when you consider how much they were banging on about them not that long ago. So what exactly is the Prime Minister saying when he denies that he’s been lobbied by the Lizard? Have you considered he might be telling the truth? The literal truth.

David-Cameron-Lynton-Crosby-460x288 Think about it. He said quite categorically that “Lynton Crosby has not lobbied me on anything”. So surely our next question should be “Then who else has been whispering your ear, Dave?” Lets not forget that the Lizard’s lobbying company has a London branch that goes by the name of Crosby Textor Fullbrook (CTF) and it was this outfit that was responsible for running Boris Johnson’s election campaign for London Mayor. And its now stuffed full of eager young Tories, most of whom worked within the government in some capacity or other until just before the Lizard was hired by Cameron. Now they work at CTF.

mark fullbrook But first of all lets meet Mark Fullbrook, co-founder and MD of the Lizard’s London office, Crosby Textor Fullbrook

Mark spent 10 years working for the British Conservative Party from 1983, where he began as a Party Agent, rising to become Head of Campaigning for the Party following the 1992 General Election. He was co-director of the Conservative Campaign for London Mayor in 2000 and has worked through all levels of the Conservative Party’s political roles.

His wife is Tory MP for South Ribble, Lorraine Fullbrook.

ctf  The lucky recipient of the football tickets referred to in this shot was Tory MP Helen Grant, according to online journal Political Scrapbook and clearly CTF were working for the donor, the infamous Michael Hintze, who bankrolled Liam Fox’s dubious mate Adam Werrity and once paid for a private jet for Fox to visit the States. Mark Fullbrook was the bearer of the gift on behalf of his client. I’m sure none of us are naive enough to think that Mr Hintze was paying to hire CTF Partners and dole out his bribes without expecting some return on his money. The real point here, though, is that Lynton Crosby himself was not personally involved in the lobbying process, just as Cameron says he wasn’t involved in lobbying him.  When Cameron says things like this he’s relying on our ignorance of the complexity of the lobbying process and our lack of understanding of the extent of the network of cronies that links Westminster to big business.

Mark Fullbrook is number one contender for the role of Cameron Whisperer.

Lets take a look at the recent additions to the staff of Crosby Textor Fullbrook.

canzini Here’s David Canzini who joined CFT in 2012.

David spent 20 years working for the Conservative Party starting out as a constituency agent. After a number of constituency and regional roles he became Head of Campaigns and Operations for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party where he led the devolution referendum campaign and the first set of Scottish Parliamentary elections. David moved to Conservative Central Office (latterly CCHQ) as Deputy Director of Field Operations (Target Seats) for the 2001 General Election. After two years in this role, he become Director of Party Campaigning, leading national campaigns, parliamentary by-elections and oversaw the target seat campaign for the 2005 General Election.

Not difficult to imagine that he might know David Cameron quite well, is it? So he’s Whisperer number two.

lomas Now meet Theo Lomas who’s worked at CFT since 2011. His background is interesting in the light of the concerns that have been raised about the Lizard’s involvement in the fracking business. Theo worked in Parliament as the senior adviser to the Parliamentary Private Secretary for the UK’s Energy Minister.  His responsibilities included: providing research and briefings, coordinating with senior figures in the Conservative Party and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, overseeing the Westminster Office, coordinating with the media and overseeing Parliamentary activities. Wonder if he swapped jobs with Guy Robinson who worked for CFT before moving across to Westminster to work for Owen Patterson?

Theo is definitely a strong contender for Cameron Whisperer.

horrell  Up next is Sophie Horrell who moved over from Westminster to CTF in 2011. Prior to this, she worked in communications at Parliamentary Liaison Services Ltd, the UK’s premier Conservative campaigns and communications consultancy providing communications services to a number of clients. This included working on a number of constituency based reports and grass roots campaigns for MP’s and Prospective Party Candidates.  Maybe Sophie doesn’t have enough status yet to whisper directly into the PM’s ear but she may well know a few people who do, so I reckon she’s a potential Cameron Whisperer, a kind of whisperer in waiting.

There are a couple of other candidates who joined CFT within the last two years from Boris Johnson’s mayoral campaign office.

lyon Sam Lyon joined in 2012 as a senior director. He joined from City Hall where he was Director of Communications and official spokesman to the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. He managed all the Mayor’s external affairs during the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic Games. Previous to this he was Media Director, spokesman and senior advisor to Boris Johnson during his successful 2012 Mayoral campaign. As a senior advisor he was certainly a Johnson Whisperer so he’s well versed in the techniques and has all the right connections.

knight And here we have Robin Knight who also joined CTF in 2012 ,just a month before Cameron announced he’d taken on the Lizard, having previously worked on Boris Johnson’s winning London Mayoral campaign.  His work focuses on research and consulting, developing detailed reports to inform and reinforce key arguments in line with campaign objectives. Like Sophie he’s a bit of a tyro as yet but none the less he’ll have useful connections within the Tory party so has a potential for whispering in all the right ears.

cartoon  As the next election looms closer the Lizard’s team of young hopefuls are going to be doing a lot of whispering and we’re going to see a lot more examples of his dog whistle politics and slick slogans. When a lobbying firm that champions the causes of powerful businesses is putting words into the mouths of ‘elected’ politicians and when Westminster has become one big revolving door between government and the board rooms of profit seekers surely its time for a complete radical change of how this country does government? As Cameron himself is fond of saying, “We can’t go on like this”.

Cameron in 2008:”In the 5th richest country in the world homelessness is a DISGRACE!” 2013: Why is he INCREASING homelessness for a mere 2% saving on the HB bill?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRI56wE7JWQ

snakeoil553 Way back in 2008 when David Cameron was concerned with making the Tories seem worthy of voting for he said a lot of things which he thought we’d all like to hear in order to convince us of this. Most of it turned out to be merely PR and rhetoric, as we’ve come to realise, some of us very painfully indeed. His promise to be the ‘greenest government ever’ turned out to be an empty one with the recent failure to include clear renewables targets in the Energy Bill along with rolling over for the powerful fracking lobby (who had a lot of help from George Osborne’s father-in-law). His much repeated fervent assertion that there would be ‘no top down reform of the NHS’, no privatisation in their ‘safe hands’. Well, we all know now that ‘promise’ wasn’t worth the paper it was written on; in fact even as he was telling that bare faced lie the private health care moguls and their pet MPs and Lords must have been laughing up their Saville Row sleeves.

shapps_1778088cBut I wonder how many people remember what is now exposed to be the equally callous Tory rhetoric, delivered from the very comfortable,  self-righteous moral high ground of Cameron’s Big Society platform on the subject of homelessness, with his side-kick Grant Shapps, the then Shadow Housing Minister and self-appointed, very temporary rough sleeper?

Watch the sickening You Tube video above and you’ll get the picture. Filmed at the launch of the Conservative Homelessness Foundation in 2008, Cameron was gushing forth about how committed his party was to the cause of wiping out homelessness which he described indignantly as a ‘disgrace’ in the fifth richest country in the world. In front of a charity sector audience he continued to preach to the effect that all right thinking Tories of conscience like him believed the ‘good society’ was just as precious to their hearts as the economy.

hungryBefore you start wondering if this is the same Cameron as the one we’ve come to know and despise today let me reassure you by telling you that after he said all that and a lot of flattering stuff about how third sector i.e. charities like them did so much good and should really be the first sector, he went on to turn reality upside down by confidently asserting that eradicating poverty was not so much about government spending money but much more about ‘understanding their personal and emotional condition’. On Planet Cameron, it seems, lack of money is just a symptom of poverty whereas the ‘real cause’ is stuff like family breakdown and drug and alcohol abuse. {This essentialist nonsense, by the way, was wholeheartedly embraced by Iain Duncan- Smith after his ‘Damascene moment’ in Glasgow in 2004, who got it from that infamous right wing American ‘sociologist’ Charles Murray who visited Britain in John Major’s day and blamed all our social problems on a ‘dadless underclass’}

By adopting this ‘progressive’ approach  it seems that the Tory homelessness saviour Grant Shapps, back in 2008, was  claiming he would end rough sleeping by 2012! (He also insisted back then that he firmly believed housing benefit should be paid directly to landlords). Either IDS(S) was keeping his cunning plan for housing benefit theft under his hat at that point or these well-heeled idiots truly believed the unbelievable crap that poverty and homelessness were just mere symptoms of dysfunctional behaviour. Maybe there’s something in the rich diet of multi-millionaires that destroys the ability to think rationally…Anyway, whatever the reason, Mr Shapps was on a mission. He briefly befriended a few rough sleepers and spent the odd night on the streets in a sleeping bag (on expenses, of course) and made up his own cunning plan. After the 2010 election, on 16th June of that year he was quoted by the Independent as saying,

“This coalition government will not stick our heads in the sand and ignore the true picture of the number of those facing life on the streets.”

But what was the real picture of homelessness in 2008 after eleven years of a New Labour government? Was it the ‘disgrace’ Cameron and Shapps were claiming it to be?

homelessnessAs you can see from this graph from the Office for National Statistics, as far as statutory homelessness was concerned -that’s those people and families who can be defined as homeless according to the legal definition and are therefore ‘accepted’ by a LA as being owed a duty to be housed – during the early years of New Labour numbers rose from an already high point of over 25,000 when they came into office, peaking around 2003/2004 at almost 35,000 and then rapidly declined until by 2010 when the Coalition took over they were down to around 10,000. Labour have been constantly vilified by the Tories when they’ve stood up and opposed the bedroom tax and cap on housing benefit. Cameron and Osborne have frequently ridiculed them for recklessly spending more on housing benefit when in office. What this graph dramatically shows is that spending on housing benefit PREVENTS homelessness.

images (14)What the graph doesn’t include though is those people who are not ‘accepted’ as statutorily homeless, many of whom are forced to live on the streets in all weathers and often resort to begging to keep body and soul together. And here I must concede one point in Grant Shapps’ favour for it was down to him that local authorities now at least attempt to count how many people are sleeping rough on their streets. And he did set up some initiatives to try to help get them off the streets and into hostels by enlisting the help of a number of charities such as Shelter, Crisis, St Mungo’s and Broadway mainly in London, along  with regional charities such as Riverside in the Manchester area and the Whitechapel Centre in Merseyside. This is funded by the Homelessness Transition fund, a £20 million pot of government money.

images (13)A further £3.5 million a year was earmarked for Shapps’ No Second Night Out plan to further ensure rough sleepers got access to overnight hostel accommodation. Then there’s the £1.7 million announced just this year and dubbed ‘Gold Standard’ by Shapps’ successor, Mark Prisk, to be spent on training  staff working in all kinds of services from police and libraries to community nursing who might come into contact with rough sleepers. This follows on from a similar scheme launched by Shapps called ‘Making Every Contact Count’ in which such staff were encouraged to advise the homeless on ‘lifestyle changes’ among other things. £18.5 million a year goes to LAs to ‘develop ways to prevent homelessness’, which is a bit vague and £10.8 million a year has been put into a scheme that provides supported(financial) access to rented accommodation which is better but sounds like housing benefit by another name. When you add to all this the £30 million a year being given to LAs to use as discretionary payments to tenants struggling to pay their rent after cuts to housing benefits, it seems the government are having to throw an awful lot of money,around £456.2 million in fact, at problem they’re determined to make worse by clinging to their holier than thou ideology.

images (10)Despite Shapps’ best efforts to stem the tide, homelessness is well and truly on the rise again EVERYWHERE in the country and has been since the Coalition austerity programme for the poor first began. For example, statistics published by ONS in February show that between 2010 and 2011 homelessness increased by 114% in Manchester, 150% in Great Yarmouth and a massive 300% in Southampton. And that was before the bedroom tax and the cap on housing benefits kicked in. And by some strange quirk of irony the latest rough sleeper count in London carried out in autumn 2012 revealed that almost 25% of rough sleepers in the capital were in the borough of Westminster. Slap bang on the government’s doorstep.

sinclair(Howard Sinclair, CEO of Broadway)

Right from the start leaders of the charities co-opted into helping the government roll out its battle against rough sleeping were warning that the planned cuts in welfare were only going to make matters worse.  On 2nd November 2010 Howard Sinclair, CEO of  homeless charity Broadway, Stephen Robertson from The Big Issue , Jenny Edwards from Homeless Link and many others, wrote to Lord Freud over the proposal to extend the Shared Room Rate to people up to 35 years old. They said

“We have previously had a number of conversations with you concerning the
forthcoming Housing Benefit cuts. As some of the country’s leading organisations
tackling homelessness or representing organisations that provide housing and
support services to homeless people, we were therefore very shocked that, on top of
all the cuts to Housing Benefit in the Budget, the spending review announced that the
Shared Room Rate is now going to be extended from age 25 to 35.
The SRR currently causes considerable problems for young people, with many
unable to secure or sustain affordable accommodation and left facing shortfalls,
arrears and homelessness. A survey of schemes helping people find private rented
accommodation found the low level of the Shared Room Rate was their biggest
policy concern.In many areas of the country, this type of shared accommodation simply doesn’t exist. Even where it does, claimants already struggle to find an affordable property,
with DWP’s most recent figures showing 70% face a shortfall of an average of £27
per week. For vulnerable people who have been homeless, are leaving supported
accommodation, care or prison, even if a property is available and affordable, sharing
is often inappropriate and can be particularly detrimental to people’s well being,
undermine their recovery and undo the progress they have made.”

images (15)Time wore on, the housing benefits cuts got closer to being a reality, levels of homelessness were already creeping up and these guys got even more concerned. Many involved charities, such as Riverside in Manchester and the Whitechapel Centre in Liverpool were reporting twice as many clients as expected and noticed that a large number of these were ‘non-stereotypical rough sleepers’. In 2012 Howard Sinclair became more critical. Calling the bedroom tax and HB caps an ‘ideologically driven move’ by the government and Universal Credit  ‘very likely to lead to a cut in benefits’ he summarised his criticisms.

“A huge area of concern for the vulnerably housed is the proposal to merge HB into the Universal Credit .The Government has acknowledged that the new relief scheme for Council Tax should be retained by local authorities at a reduced level of subsidy support BUT…It is difficult therefore to understand why it is pressing ahead with a central Housing Credit in the Universal Credit. Paying claimants Housing Credit so they can then pay their landlord will bring financial difficulties for both claimants and landlords. The social rented sector tends to house more financially vulnerable people than the private sector and many benefit recipients already struggle to meet their household bills. The concern is that it will lead to an increase in evictions meaning that local authorities will see a rise in homelessness and increased expenditure. The proposed total benefit caps (£500 p/w for a family household) do not take into account the high cost of accommodation in cities, particularly London. Families with children looking for property would have to supplement their rent support very significantly using basic amounts they are currently entitled to for personal support It is understood that reductions in benefit to households that under-occupy their homes will apply to tenants of working age and by 2012 this will be anyone under 65.  The Government’s impact assessment anticipates that this change will affect 670,000 tenants nationally and approximately 32% of all working age Housing Benefit claimants living in social rented housing. It will also lead to pressure on local authorities to provide alternative smaller units into which secure tenants can downsize.”

http://doc.housing.org.uk.s3.amazonaws.com/Presentations/Howard%20Sinclair.pdf

images (16)Throughout the many Coalition housing policy documents I’ve looked at whilst researching this topic one particular issue crops up repeatedly, that of the private sector. One of the most recent document I could find is entitled  ‘Homelessness in England. Standard Note: SN/SP/1164’, last updated on 12 June 2013 in which a ‘key challenge’ is identified as

“To develop a suitable private rented sector offer for all client groups, including advice and support to both client and landlord” (my emphasis)

This idea is woven through everything the pre-election Tories were putting out and is integral to everything the Coalition have written since.Its obvious from this that the LibDems have had no influence over housing policy. What’s more worrying is that I can find no mention anywhere of a similar ‘key’ challenge to build more social housing. But if the real reason for the cuts in HB are the stated ones this flies in the face of evidence and common sense because the biggest costs of housing benefits come from the private rented sector and this cost has been rising steadily alongside rent increases in this sector, as this chart shows :-

 

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The National Landlords Association surveyed 455 private landlords currently letting to HB claimants and found that:-

  • 58% plan to cut the amount of properties they let to tenants on benefits
  • 90% said they could not afford to reduce rent to absorb the cuts to LHA.
  • There is an average of 4.4 tenants vying for each property across the UK.
  • The average number of properties available to let per branch fallen by 29%.
  • Research from lender Paragon shows that 41% of landlords plan to raise rents, with 55% planning to keep rents at 2010 levels, and just 4% planning to cut rents

Another recent report from Homeless links found  that the attitudes of private sector landlords could be putting benefit claimants at a severe disadvantage. From their much larger sample of 55,537 properties, less than 1% had landlords that explicitly stated they were happy to rent to benefit claimants.

The Housing Benefit bill,prior to the cuts, was indeed large at £23 billion. However, to put this in proportion it was 11% of total government spending, nothing like as much as the 52% spent on pensions, for instance, but quite a bit more than the 3% spent on JSA.  According to the Public Accounts Select Committee the figures for predicted savings are vague and haven’t taken into account the potentially large admin costs. Neither do they seem to have accounted for the huge amount being spent to attempt to mitigate the effects on rent arrears and homelessness that I mentioned above, a figure that I estimated would be at least £456 million up to 2015. The lowest estimated saving is £465 million which is just 2% of the £23 billion previous bill.

polyp_cartoon_Corporate_Thumb  WHEN ALL THE EVIDENCE SHOWS THAT SPENDING ON HOUSING BENEFIT CAN REDUCE HOMELESSNESS IS IT REALLY WORTH CAUSING SO MUCH MISERY AND DEPRIVATION FOR A MERE TWO PERCENT?

OR IS THIS CLASS TYRANNY ?