Posts Tagged ‘Cheshire’

Radio 4 Programme on Welsh 20th Century Decline

March 11, 2020

This might be of interest to Welsh readers of this blog, particularly as Mike’s a long-time resident of mid-Wales. Next Monday, 16th March 2020, Radio 4 are also broadcasting a programme on how Wales declined during the last century. The programme, Wales: A 20th-Century Tragedy?, is described thus in the blurb on page 131 of the Radio Times:

Simon Jenkins looks at the fortunes of Wales over the past century, asking how it might be possible to restore some glory to its valleys and mountains.

Rather more information is given in the short piece about the programme on the opposite page, 130, by Chris Gardner. This says

Simon Jenkins is passionate about Wales, the land of his father. His 2008 book Wales: Churches, Houses, Castles showcased the beauty and majesty of Welsh architecture, but the author and journalist is now worried for the nation’s future, citing among other factors the rise in the poverty index, while counties just over the border, such as Cheshire, have become richer. Examining Wale’s illustrious cultural, political, industrial and intellectual heritage over the last century, Jenkins uncovers historical reasons for this comparatively recent decline.

I think the major reason for this decline has been decline of the major Welsh industries during the last century – coal mining and iron working. There have been various history programmes on the Beeb that have shown that Swansea and Cardiff were major centres of the copper and iron industries from the 19th century onwards. I think Swansea was the world centre of copper production at one point, so that it was nicknamed ‘Copperopolis’. But this all gradually vanished due to competition from cheaper, foreign products. And this has continued into this century under the Tories, as we saw a few years ago with the proposed closure of one of the last surviving steelworks in the principality.

The country also hasn’t been helped by the fact that we haven’t had a Welsh prime minister, or one whose constituency was in Wales, for a long time. I seem to recall that Cardiff became the great city it is, housing Wales’ national museum, partly because Lloyd George wanted to turn it into a great national centre for Wales, like England and Scotland had London and Edinburgh respectively. The Labour PM, Jim Callaghan, attempted to do something for Wales, from what I recall, by diverting money that was earmarked to go to Bristol’s Portbury Docks to Cardiff. But his tenure of 10 Downing Street ended with Thatcher’s victory in 1979. And the Tories made it very plain that they weren’t going to help ailing industries, so that coal pits, and iron and steelworks up and down Britain were closed. This was partly because she wanted to destroy the coal industry so that a Tory government could no longer be overthrown by the miners, as Ted Heath’s had in the early ’70s.

I don’t know why Cheshire should have become more prosperous, unless it’s connected to the success of Liverpool FC. A friend of mine from that way told me that there’s a district in the county, which has become the country home of rich Liverpudlians, including footballers. Perhaps that’s part of the explanation.

If you want to listen to it, the programme’s on at 8.00 pm in the evening.

 

The Groaniad on how Sanctions Leave Claimants Hungry for Months

March 10, 2015

Last Tuesday, the Guardian published a piece, Food banks: benefit sanctions leave clients hungry for months , reporting the findings of a study into poverty in Cheshire, Cheshire Hunger, carried out by West Cheshire Foodbank, the Trussell Trust and the university of Chester. The report, by the paper’s Patrick Butler on his Cuts blog, begins

A new study finds that vulnerable people who fall foul of benefit rules can be plunged into reliance on food parcels for up to half a year

Benefit sanctions can plunge families into financial crisis, hunger, and dependency on food banks for up to half a year, far longer than the period for which they have had payments stopped, according to a new study.

The study, Cheshire Hunger looked in detail at the reasons why people had been given food bank vouchers and estimated the length of time they would be dependent on food aid.

It adds to a growing body of evidence directly linking welfare reforms with food bank use, and comes as a coalition of major churches call for an overhaul of the “inhumane” sanctions system.

Overall, it found problems with social security benefit payments accounted for nearly half (47%) of referrals. The bulk of these problems related to administrative delays, benefit sanctions and incapacity benefit stoppages.

The length of client crisis triggered by negative interactions with the benefits system typically ranged between seven and 28 days, but in extreme cases up to 26 weeks. Crisis is defined as the estimated period for which a food bank client would be reliant on food aid.

The piece gives the average number of weeks claimants could lose benefits due to a number of causes. They included administrative and other delays, sanctions, changes in benefit and stoppages of Employment Support Allowance. It notes that the largest cause of people needing emergency help for food, after benefit delays and sanctions was low incomes and debt. These resulted in many getting caught up in recurrent debt cycles because of the need to use expensive credit.

The report also notes that there are few, if any safeguards for vulnerable people. It also records that the number of people referred to foodbanks increased by 14% in the period May-November compared to the previous year.

The report adds further details corroborating the findings of the Trussell Trust relating the government’s benefit reforms to the rise in foodbank use. It also indicates that the period in which claimants went hungry went beyond the three days’ worth of food provided by the foodbanks.

The article’s at http://www.theguardian.com/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog/2015/mar/02/food-banks-benefit-sanctions-leave-clients-hungry-for-months. Go and read it, if you haven’t already.

The article demonstrates the increasing length of time the victims of IDS’ benefits reforms are kept hungry. It’s also good that it’s attempting to provide further evidence to rebut the Coalition’s claims that there is no connection between foodbank use and their reforms. We have seen time and again this falsehood trotted out by government spokesman, including Edwina Currie. As for the lack of safeguards, this was explicitly denied by Esther McLie when she was asked about a case involving a person with serious mental health problems. This is further evidence against both these self-serving lies by the Tories to deny their responsibility for the growing hunger and deprivation in Britain.

Private Eye on the Dodgy Foundations of the Troubled Families Programme

February 17, 2015

I also found this article in the 27th July – 9th August edition of Private Eye criticising the government’s Troubled Families Programme. This was an initiative to tackle the problem families that feature so much in Tory propaganda and the pages of the Daily Mail. They’re the type of neighbours for whom ASBOs were invented, and whom Gordon Brown famously declared to be ‘feckless’.

The problem is, as the Eye reveals, there simply aren’t that many of them to require the massive amounts the government wishes to spend on the programme. Coupled with the fact that the contractor hired to carry out the programme is G4S, with its superb reputation for quality. Here’s the story:

The government’s Troubled Families Programme is itself troubled after coming under sustained attack from critics who argue that it’s simply blaming people who are poor rather than tackling anti-social behaviour.

Ever since it was launched by the unlikely figure of community secretary Eric Pickles, experts have criticised the foundations of its claim that there are 120,000 “troubled families” whose behaviour costs the country£9bn. They point out that the 120,000 statistic is based on an estimate of families with multiple disadvantages, not antisocial behaviour, and that nobody can come up with figures to justify the £9bn stated.

Just as well, then, that extra help is at hand. Under a £200m outreach service run in conjunction with councils and companies delivering the Work Programme, six firms will be staking their own money on their ability to turn troubled lives around under the government’s second big payment-by-results project.

Troubled families and local authorities in Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Warrington are especially fortunate to have assistance from a company that specialises in managing and co-ordinating the provision of services “to support workless people into meaningful, progressive employment”. Step forward, fresh from its triumph at the Olympics, G4S.

From this is appears that the Troubled Families Programme has been launched not because there is an actual need for the programme, but to satisfy the ideological and propagandistic needs of the Tories. As well as provide a nice little earner for the welfare-to-work companies.

Tory unemployment policy is based on the principle of ‘less eligibility’. Poverty isn’t due to economics and poor circumstances. It’s due to laziness and poor character of the unemployed themselves. Hence all the stories in the Daily Mail about problem families, and areas of high unemployment riddled with crime and plagued by drugs. The criminality and drug problems in those areas aren’t due to lack of job opportunities and poverty. No, they are the results of the immoral character of the people themselves, who prefer the squalor and misery of their lives to one of honest and respectable toil. and if people like them don’t exist, or exist in much smaller numbers, then it also casts doubt on Tory welfare policies as a whole. Without them, there is much less justification for harassing the disabled and ordinary unemployed. In order to keep up this façade that unemployment is all down to the anti-social bad attitude of the unemployed themselves, the government needs to be able to point to a large number of such ‘problem families’. And these clearly are invented through exaggerated and massaged statistics when they don’t exist. Hence the inflated statistics.

It also shows just how much of a scam the welfare-to-work industry is as well. I’ve posted a series of blogs on the repeated scandals of the welfare-to-work firms overcharging the government, to its marked indifference and even, it has been alleged, support and connivance. Private Eye has argued that the economics involved in government outsourcing means that these firms are only commercially viable through such fraud. It would appear from this that the Tories know this too, and so are desperate to give work to the private contractors in order to maintain the profitable illusion that private enterprise really is more efficient than government bureaucracy.

Quite apart from the fact that these companies may also be able to offer lucrative directorships in their turn, when the terms in power of certain MPs come to an end.