Posts Tagged ‘Housing Benefit’

Video of Corbyn’s Speech Describing Labour’s Proposed Reforms to the DWP

September 29, 2019

Mike put up a piece yesterday about a speech Corbyn had made in Iain Duncan Smith’s constituency of Chingford in which he outlined the Labour party’s reforms of the welfare state. Top of the list was to change the DWP back into the DSS and scrap the welfare to work tests. This was pretty much a provocation to Smith, who presided over the DWP under the Tories under relatively recently, and was directly responsible for the immense harm and the mass deaths of the poor, the sick and the disabled that came from the Tories’ welfare reforms. The Guardian has put up a video of the speech, or at least this part of it, on YouTube. It’s two minutes 20 seconds long. In it the Labour leader states that

They will change the DWP’s name back to Social Security to bring back real Social Security for people. But changing it’s name doesn’t mean anything on its own, so there are a number of things Labour will leading up to the scrapping of Universal Credit in its entirety.

Firstly, they will end the work capability tests that are so brutal to people in their lives.

They will end the bedroom tax because it is unfair, unjust and wrong.

They will raise ESA by £30 a week so that people have something reasonable to survive on.

They will raise carer’s allowance to the same level as Jobseekers’ Allowance in recognition that carers do an amazing job for the people they love, and shouldn’t be impoverished in doing so.

They will end the two child policy in benefit distribution.

They will pay Housing Benefit direct to landlords so that claimants don’t get in problems with housing debt or arrears.

They will end the sanctions system as a whole and replace it with 5,000 benefits advisors coming into the DWP.

He also outlined some great policies on education.

Labour would have a properly funded education system, so that head teachers won’t have to raise funds for their schools to make sure they are properly funded.

Family education will be brought back under the control of Local Education Authorities by a National Education Service.

He also calls for unity, saying that the Labour party has so much to do and so much to achieve, but they can only do it if they are united, and that they have to go out there to engage in that debate and that conversation with people in order to ask them to lend Labour their support so that they can deliver all those things.

All I can say about this is what we used to say in the playground as schoolchildren back in the ’70s and ’80s: Brill! This really is exactly what the country needs. And it’s really going to annoy and upset the Tories, the Lib Dems and the Blairites because it’s another outright attack on Thatcherism. It dares to say that the sanctions system and the welfare to work tests, so beloved of Chingford Petty Dictator, Iain Duncan Smith, are keeping people in poverty.

And it also dares to say that the privatisation of the British school and education system too is an abject failure. They’re really going to hate that, as if Labour brings schools back under national ownership or at least local authority control, how are all these wretched academy chains going to find their money, the money they give to the Tories? And before the Tories and right-wing press start raving about Communism here, Corbyn is only voicing a policy that Thatcher herself had to back to. She also wanted to take schools out of local authority control, and so set up what were ‘academies’ in all but name under Norman Fowler. There was only thing wrong with it, as Blackadder famously said. It was rubbish. The new academies didn’t work, and the scheme was quietly wound up. Until Blair took the idea out of the dustbin and relaunched it, and his wretched reforms were then carried on and expanded by Cameron and the Tories and Lib Dems in turn.

Academies don’t work, and it’s long past time this was recognised and the recognition given practical expression in the renationalisation of British education.

So how did Iain Duncan Smith react when Corbyn opened a frontal assault on his welfare reforms right on the nasty little creep’s doorstep? He appears to have commented on the Express’ ‘Comment Is Free’ site attacking it because it would be unfair to taxpayers!

He declared that

Corbyn’s plot to axe universal credit is cynical and would be devastating to the taxpayer. The fearmongering Labour have whipped up over Universal Credit is counterproductive. They refuse to accept the objective truth work is the best route out of poverty.

To which Corbyn replied

No, “cynical” and “devastating” is making sick and disabled people pay for the financial crash. Your policy pushed hundreds of thousands of people into poverty, made families lose their homes and denied benefits to the terminally ill. That’s your legacy. That’s what Labour will end. 

Mike comments on the Labour leader’s reply

I have been waiting years for a political leader to pin the deaths of the innocent on the former Work and Pensions Secretary. It was exhilarating to read this.

But he also points out it doesn’t go far enough. The Tories haven’t just killed disabled people, but also individuals, who could have led fit and productive lives if they hadn’t been thrown off benefits. Mike concludes

We need an undertaking from Labour to investigate the fate of everyone who suffered as a result of that man’s decision to pervert the benefit system into a punishment for being poor.

And then we need to see prosecutions. In the words of Kipling, nothing is ever settled until it is settled right.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/29/weve-waited-years-for-someone-to-say-this-but-will-iain-duncan-smith-face-justice/

Absolutely right. Iain Duncan Smith and the Tories are directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands, no matter how they blusher, obfuscate and lie about it. And it’s interesting to see that the first point the Gentleman Ranker tries to make in his wretched attempt at a refutation is that replacing the welfare reforms would be harmful to the taxpayer. Once again, we see the Tories worried about their rich donors actually having to pay a bit more tax, rather than tens of thousands die in misery and poverty.

His second point is that work is the best way out of poverty. This little gem is also discredited. It comes from a piece of research written by a doctor sponsored by the American insurance fraudster, Unum. As Katie S. Jones and Disabled People Against Cuts have shown with copious documentation, this is completely false and utterly bogus scientifically. But the Tories cling to it because it justifies their attitude towards the poor. It provided the basis for Smith’s article in one of the papers which began, I believe, with a justification of that infamous phrase above the Nazi concentration camps, ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ – ‘Work Makes You Free’. That paragraph mysteriously disappeared after people started noticing it. Smith has been challenged on the scientific validity of the statement, and when he has, he’s retreated into saying that he knows or feels it to be correct, without citing any supporting evidence.

Which tells you everything you need to know about how spurious the real science is behind IDS’ vile, murderous policies.

He and the rest of the Tories, who continue to implement and support this horror – the sanctions system and work capabilities tests – need to be charged and put into the dock to face the consequences for their actions.

 

 

 

Corbyn Attacks Tories For Using Food Banks as Photo Opportunity

December 6, 2018

Here’s another great little video from RT where Corbyn once again savages May and the Tory party for causing nothing but despair and poverty for millions of working Brits. In this one, of just over a half a minute, Corbyn takes them to task for cynically using food banks as photo ops. He says

The Trussel Trust has also pointed out foodbanks face record demand this December. I just gently say to her and the MPs behind her foodbanks are not just an opportunity for Conservative MPs, who themselves, all of whom supported the cuts in benefit that have led to the poverty in this country.

Corbyn’s again absolutely right. It’s disgusting, hypocritical and disgraceful that the Tories are exploiting foodbanks in this manner.

Mike put up an article about this earlier this week, showing Dominic Raab, Claire Perry, Ross Thomson and Stephen Crabb posing at foodbanks and alongside Tesco workers, who were supposed to be contributing some of the produce at their stores to the banks. He also included the comments of the peeps on Twitter, including comedian David Schneider, neurologist Prof. Ray Tallis, Claire Hepworth OBE, Charlotte Hughes, the author of the Poor Side of Life blog, teenage corbynista Hasan Patel and many, many others, all of whom tore into the Tories. James Colwell tweeted about Perry’s voting record, reminding the world that she

consistently voted against raising benefits, almost always voted for reducing housing benefit, & generally voted against spending to create jobs for young people. She is one of the reasons foodbanks are needed.

These are the people, who have left over a quarter of a million people needing to use foodbanks to stop themselves starving to death through their insistence on low wages and benefit cuts and sanctions, the work capability tests and the introduction of alterations to the way benefits are paid, so that people have to wait even longer for them.

All of this is to create a cowed, obedient workforce will put up with any form of exploitation in order to keep their jobs, and give massive tax breaks to the rich.

As for the Tories posing in the foodbanks, Steve Perry pointed out that all the tweets about them were following a script. And the Labour whips immediately smelt a very large, odoriferous rat. The tweets and photos came at the same time as May was applauding a batch of new Tory candidates ready to fight the next election. The Labour whips put two and two together and concluded that they made four: the Tories were preparing for a possible general election if May’s Brexit deal goes sour.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/02/hypocritical-tories-try-gaslighting-us-with-foodbank-photocalls-but-is-something-more-serious-behind-it/

Now today we have the spectacle of the Beeb and the rest of the media castigating Corbyn for concentrating on the poverty the Tories had created at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, rather than Brexit. He dropped the ball on this one, they chorus. Those repeating this nonsense included Laura Kuenssberg and the Macclesfield Goebbels, Nick Robinson. This provoked the retort from the Labour supporters on Twitter, including Mike, that Corbyn had done very well. If Corbyn had asked May about Brexit, she would have used it as an excuse to get out of debate with him about it later, arguing that she had already discussed the matter. But he didn’t, and she can’t. And the peeps on Twitter applauded Corbyn for concentrating on poverty and bitterly criticized May for laughing about the poverty she had caused in parliament. Mike on his blog quoted Clare Hepworth, who said

Jeremy Corbyn was ABSOLUTELY right to major on the Alston report and the JRM report – there are FIVE days of #Brexit.
It was OBSCENE to witness the PM and the Tories LAUGHING at the mention of poverty, deprivation & low wages !!
The pundits on #PoliticsLive didn’t mention that !

And she was one of very many.

They also ripped into Kuenssberg, Robinson and Co. for being part of a complacent media elite, sealed inside the Westminster bubble, who have no idea what it’s like to be genuinely poor.

They also connected this to the four Tory MPs posing at food banks this weekend. Tory Fibs and Another Angry Voice applauded Corbyn attacking May for the Tories exploiting them to promote themselves. Clive Lewis said of them

.@jeremycorbyn: “Foodbanks are not just for photo opportunities!” #PMQs > 14 million people are in poverty in the UK. That’s one in five people. It’s not just @UKLabour saying it – even the @UN has said that the Tories are in a “state of denial” about poverty in this country

As for May’s response, and in particular her comment about ‘making difficult decisions’, Lisa Nandy and Mike had their answers to this pathetic, timeworn excuse.

Lisa Nandy tweeted

Theresa May says the Tories had to take “difficult decisions” on benefits. They cut taxes for the richest and cut benefits for the poorest. That isn’t “difficult”, it’s immoral #PMQs

And Mike posted these two tweets

.@theresa_may is going over the usual arrogant nonsense about benefits. People are NOT better-off, and the govt is NOT saving money. We heard about her #ContemptOfParliament yesterday – now we are seeing her contempt for the people she is supposed to serve. #PMQs #PoliticsLive

.@theresa_may has no defence against claims by .@jeremycorbyn about mistreatment of the poor. All she can do is attack .@UKLabour because she cannot defend herself. We’ve heard this before and she’s coming across as a silly, braying old Scrooge. #PMQs #PoliticsLive

But if the Tories are secretly preparing for another general election, and the Tory photographs at foodbanks were part of that, as the Labour whips suspected, then Corbyn was absolutely right to remind Britain of the grinding poverty they had created.

Disability campaigner Paula Peters also tweeted asking people to remember the suffering and death done by the Tories and their benefit cuts. She tweeted

While everyone is concentrating on Brexit, spare some thought for disabled ppl losing PIP, social care, ESA, claimants sanctioned, facing eviction, going hungry. Many are dying & having human rights violated. Christmas isn’t happening for many. Rise up! #GTTO

Mike concluded his article with the statement:

It seems Mrs May has scored enough own goals herself to make such an uprising – at the ballot box – a distinct possibility.

Let us hope we all have a chance to demonstrate our opinion of her, and the privations she has inflicted on us, in the very near future.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/06/pmqs-drama-corbyn-outplays-may-and-her-poodle-press-by-highlighting-poverty/

Any such chance won’t come too soon!

SPEye Joe Shows that Tax Credit Cuts Will Increase Welfare Bill

November 3, 2015

Joe’s argument is that at the moment, there’s £24 billion of welfare benefits going unclaimed, a large chunk of which is Housing Benefit. This will have to be paid as part of the government’s Universal Credit, and people facing cuts in their tax credits will automatically turn to looking at what other benefits they can claim instead.

He describes the Tories’ calculations as like those made on the back of fag packets, or the harebrained schemes concocted by Top Cat. The article begins:

Will the tax credit cut of £4bn cost up to £20bn per year more?

Yes as households will now by consequence claim what they are entitled to in other unclaimed benefits and the tax credit (TC) policy will end up costing much more in overall welfare cost.

The policy is so back of a fag packet that it may as well have been developed by TC himself above – though of Top Cat and Benny the Ball I couldn’t say for definite which one is Osborne and which one is IDS. Cameron, however, is clearly Officer Dibble waving the truncheon of financial privilege as he will surely do soon!

Once again we find the Conservatives zeal on “welfare” resulting in a policy that is ill-conceived and ends up costing more: Just like the combined HB reforms of bedroom tax, benefit cap, LHA and SAR caps which collectively cost £1 billion more per year according to the IFS; the same think tank whose report into Tax Credits now has to be considered by the Conservatives.

The tax credit household is surely the definition of the “hardworking family” that politicians love to state and in taking away tax credits which give an incentive to work the system now provides a disincentive to take up work. So by way of consequence will tax credit households now seek to claim the minimum £24 billion per year that goes unclaimed in welfare to compensate for the tax credit cuts?

In political terms attacking the low paid -the epitome of political rhetoric in the “hardworking family” – was always mindblowingly stupid and perhaps only serves to show how untouchable the Conservatives believe they are in their megalomania on welfare issues; or conversely, it exposes just how little scrutiny and opposition their welfare policies have had to date!

Now benefit claimants having access to unclaimed benefit money is what should happen. But with this government, I’m not so sure. The reason why most of this money is unclaimed is probably because the government has made it very difficult for anyone to find out what is available and just what they are entitled to. It’s an old tactic going all the way back to Thatcher and Major. Cuts would be made, information on benefits either withheld or otherwise difficult to acquire, and then at an election, lo! and behold! The government starts telling people how much benefit money is going unclaimed, and then starts boasting about how its committed to supporting the poor. Despite having done everything in its power to cut benefits over the previous four or five years.

I’ve reblogged Mike’s article about 300,000 people suddenly being sanctioned without warning, because the letters they were supposed to receive informing them of their sanction and how to appeal against it had not been sent out, due to an ‘administrative error’. How very convenient! I expect something similar will happen to information about what other benefits are available to cash-strapped claimants very soon.

As for Top Cat, I used to love that cartoon when I was a lad. Yeah, it was sort of a junior version of Sergeant Bilko with anthropomorphised cats, but it was funny, and cheered up many tea-time for children back in the ’70s. Unlike the Tories, who would like to put them back up chimneys as sweeps, where they belong, in line with their policy of bringing back Victorian values. So far, these seem to be hypocrisy, mass poverty, starvation, and rickets.

Boycott Workfare Announce Welfare Action Gathering May 30th

March 19, 2015

The campaigning group Boycott Workfare are organising a Welfare Action Gathering at the London Welsh Centre, on Saturday May 30th from 10.30 to 5.30. The day is intended to be a networking and mutual support event, in which protesters and activists can learn from each other how to organise and resist the government’s attacks on the welfare state and the poor, the sick and the unemployed.

Their page on it is entitled Welfare Action Gathering – 30th May. They state

Faced with policies that are pushing ever more people into precarity and poverty, thousands of us have been coming together to support each other. We are pushing back workfare, standing up to sanctions, challenging the work capability assessment and fighting insecure, unaffordable housing.

If you are concerned about:
◦Job centres being places of intimidation and sanctions,
◦Private providers bullying claimants on ‘welfare-to-work’ schemes,
◦35 hour jobsearch under Universal Credit,
◦ESA assessments putting sick and disabled people in fear of destitution,
◦Welfare rights for young people being abolished and replaced with unpaid work,
◦Workfare being required to be eligible for social housing,
◦Housing benefit being part of sanctions under Universal Credit,
◦Claimants in work being sanctioned under Universal Credit too…

…then do something about it and come to the Welfare Action Gathering to hear from other people organising across the UK! Learn about our rights and share ideas and tactics!

This isn’t a day for speakers from the front. Party political representatives aren’t invited. It’s a day for people at the grassroots to get together and work out how we can support each other, defend our rights and continue successfully to campaign against workfare and sanctions.

Organised by Boycott Workfare with Haringey Solidarity Group. Workshops and contributions from other groups are very welcome!

Go to http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=4243, for details of how to register, help with transport costs, access information, a list of similar workshops, and information on their Facebook event. They are also interested in talking to anyone, who is keen on holding a similar event near them.

Vox Political on the DWP Forcing Claimants to Pay to Appeal

February 22, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has a piece on Iain Duncan Smith’s latest ruse to deny the poor and disabled the benefits to which they are entitled. The Guardian has received information leaked from the DWP that RTU intends to make claimants pay for appealing against wrong decisions. The Groaniad notes that only 0;7 per cent of benefits are wrongly awarded. However, 58 per cent of the DWP decisions appealed against by claimants are overturned.

This isn’t about saving fairness. This is simply about making government savings by taking away the people’s ability to challenge wrongful decisions by the government.

Mike’s article is How can the unemployed PAY for appeals against refusal of benefit? It’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/22/how-can-the-unemployed-pay-for-appeals-against-refusal-of-benefit/ and begins

It’s the latest election-losing plan from the Conservative Party.

Leaked documents from the Department for Work and Pensions have revealed plans to charge benefit claimants whose claims have been stopped, if they want to appeal against the decision to an independent judge.

These are people who – by definition – have no money.

How are they supposed to pay?

The answer is, of course, they’re not. This is a plan to push people off of benefit altogether. They’re not expected to find the money to pay for an appeal; they are expected to go away. Then the DWP can enjoy the JSA benefit saving and shortly after – when the claimant loses his or her home, due to failure to keep up rent/mortgage payments, the DWP can enjoy the Housing Benefit saving as well.

What vile pervert could devise a plan that corrupts the benefit system in such a way?

The answer is, of course, the same one who has been corrupting it since he took over in 2010 – Iain Duncan Smith.

Of course, all this is going on just when we’re supposed to be celebrating 800 years of Magna Carta. Which contains the stipulation that the monarch should not sell, delay or deny justice.

And that is exactly what this proposed new piece of legislation does.

It’s highly ironic that the Beeb are calling their season of films on democracy, shown as part of the celebration, the ‘Taking Liberties’ season.

The Bulgarian Peasant Party’s Solution to the Housing Problem

June 1, 2014

Last week I blogged on the several contemporary issues, which were similar to those tackled by the Bulgarian peasants’ party, BANU, nearly a hundred years ago. These were a local village power company, which was run as a co-operative by the whole community. It was thus similar to the idea of the Utopian British Socialist, Thomas Spence, for the communal ownership of land by the individual parishes, and also to the idea of the Bulgarian peasants’ party for the transformation of Bulgarian agricultural society through the formation of peasant cooperatives. I also remarked on the way the Bulgarians had also set up a policy of allowing the banks to provide loans on reasonable rates to credit cooperatives as a way of driving out the moneylenders. This is a problem that now besets British society, through the return of loan sharks and payday loan companies, like Wonga, that offer extortionate rates, because of wage freezes and cuts to welfare benefits.

Bulgaria, like modern Britain, also suffered from a housing crisis, made worse by the influx of thousands of refugees displaced by the First World War. They attempted to solve it through a mixture of policies, one of which was similar to the Bedroom Tax. They laid down the maximum amount of space that a family could occupy in a property, so that there would be more space available for the homeless. They also set about building cooperatively owned tenement blocks. R.J. Crampton describes these policies in A Short History of Modern Bulgaria (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1987) 90).

The principle of maximum holding was applied to urban as well as rural property. The post-war refugee invasion had placed severe strains upon the already hard-pressed housing resources of Bulgaria’s towns, particularly Sofia. According to Agrarian legislation no family was to occupy more than two rooms and a kitchen, with an extra room for every two children over fourteen. Office space was also subject to restriction, and in the case of both domestic and office accommodation commissioners acting on behalf of the ministry of the interior had extensive powers to enforce the new and widely resented regulations. A second and more popular response to the housing shortage, and one much in conformity with Agrarian philosophy, was to encourage the building of new apartment blocks cooperatively financed and thereafter owned by their inhabitants. This reform survived the fall of the Stamboliiski regime and cooperative building continued through the inter-war period.

The German radical Socialist party, the USPD, also had a similar policy in the same period, for the same reasons: to solve the shortage of housing caused by the First World War.

What’s needed isn’t the Bedroom Tax, which is really an excuse to cut Housing Benefit by pretending to withdraw a subsidy that never in fact existed, if tenants of supposedly under-occupied properties don’t move out to suitable homes, which also don’t existed. What is needed to solve the problem is simply building more social and genuinely affordable housing, which the Conservative actively seem to oppose. When the ‘right to buy’ legislation was passed, councils were forbidden from building more council houses, and ‘affordable’ properties are only pegged at 80 per cent of the market worth, which means that in many parts of the London houses are well out of the price range of the very poorest, who need them. It’s possible that cooperation schemes, like those enacted by the Bulgarians, might be part of the solution.

Something like the Bulgarians’ legislation limiting the maximum amount of space families can occupy could also be applied to private housing. The Bulgarian policy was based on the view that you should only possess what you can actually work yourself. Thus there was a maximum amount of land allowed to be cultivated by peasant farmers. Large landowners were forced to sell the excess land to the smaller peasants, so that each peasant farmer had just enough for his needs and those of wider Bulgarian society.

The great French anarchist, P.-J. Proudhon, had a similar view. Much of his Mutualist anarchist system was based on his experience of peasant society in the Jura, where he grew up. While he didn’t set the maximum amount of space people could occupy in their houses, he did recommend that people should lawfully own only what they could actually practically use themselves. Thus, landlords, who held multiple properties, which they rented out, should have all but the property they themselves lived in expropriated and given to the people, who needed them.

I believe a similar policy could be usefully implemented today. Perhaps we need the ‘right to buy’ principle extended to all the private tenants, now forced to rent homes at exorbitant rents because of the way available housing was bought up by people seeking to rent them out later in the housing boom of the 1990s. I also believe that there are many under-occupied private homes, with considerable space going without tenants, in certain parts of London, such as Knightsbridge, Kensington and Westminster.

And possibly Chipping Norton. I can’t see how Dave Cameron, whose government is responsible for the Bedroom Tax, and who has said repeatedly that ‘We’re all in it together’, would possibly object to having to share his home with a couple of crusties.

The Tory Architectural Future: 19th Century Pittville in Cheltenham

April 7, 2014

Pitiville Gates Pic

Pittville Gates in Cheltenham, c. 1845

A number of left-wing bloggers, particularly Johnny Void, have attacked the Coalition’s welfare reforms for the social cleansing they effecting in London and other cities around the country. The massive rises in rents and property prices in London, coupled with the cap on Housing Benefit is forcing poorer residents out of the expensive, middle and upper class districts, leading to ever greater social segregation. The Void’s most recent post, The Rich Will Destroy London, Just Like Everything Else, at http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/the-rich-will-destroy-london/, which I’ve reblogged, describes this process. The obscene result of this is that luxury houses now lie empty in Chelsea, waiting for wealthy purchasers, while a few miles down the road are homeless people forced to live on the streets. The so-called ‘affordable homes’ are in reality no such thing. They are classed as affordable only because their cost is pegged at 80 per cent of the market value. This effectively puts them beyond the reach of many at London prices.

Social Segregation in Boris Johnson’s London

Even when housing is built for those on more modest incomes, they are expected to keep out of sight of their social superiors. One block of flats, which was aimed at attracting wealthy purchasers from the Far East, had different entrances for the rich and the lower orders respectively, so that the upper class residents would not have to suffer the indignity of mixing with their social inferiors. If you want to know where this kind of social attitude leads, go to the Pittville suburb of Cheltenham.

Pittville and the Architecture of Social Hierarchy

This was started in 1825 by Joseph Pitt, the local lay rector and MP. At its centre was the Pump Room, modelled on the Temple of Ilussis in Athens in the middle of a park laid out with impressive vistas and stone bridges. Below this was the residential area. Pitt originally intended the new suburb to have 600 houses, but the building work was delayed for several years. This was laid out with a garden area running down its centre. Either side of this were a complex of beautifully designed Georgian terraces, crescents and individual villas, along with squares named after the Dukes of Wellington and Clarence.

It was designed to be an upmarket residential area for the genteel elite, who came to Cheltenham and the other spa towns to take the waters. Not only does the architecture reflect the tastes and demands of the respectable Georgian middle and upper classes, but so does the very layout of the streets. The main streets are broad, designed so that the wealthy could move about freely, and see and be seen by their peers, just like other wealthy citizens of towns across Britain and Europe.

And these main streets were strictly for the White rich. Tradesmen and the lower orders, including Blacks and Asians, were required by law to keep to the narrow lanes running behind the houses, so that they could continue to serve their masters and mistresses, without actually being seen on the street with them. The law banning non-Whites from Cheltenham’s streets continued for over a century until the 1950s.

Tory London Taking on Social Segregation of 19th Century Suburbs like Pittville

Cheltenham is a beautiful town with a multi-racial population, and Pittville is a particularly pleasant area. I don’t believe it’s any more racist than anywhere else in the UK, and probably much less than some. When I was at College there in the 1980s, the Student Union passed a motion making the Union a ‘no platform’ for ‘racists and Fascists’, though there was a faction in the Tory party back then which wanted to make ‘racial nationalism’ – the ideology of the National Front their official stance as well. With so much of the elite, upper class developments in Britain’s cities like London aimed at the international market, there probably won’t be a revival of that type of official racist segregation. What is emerging is a return to the class hierarchies of residential areas, where the poor are expected to remain distant, invisible servants of their social superiors. Boris Johnson’s London, with its poor increasingly priced out and pushed to the margins in this respect increasingly resembles Cheltenham’s 19th century Pittville.

If Only You Could Do This To The Bedroom Tax

March 16, 2014

saint-simon pic

The 19th century French Utopian Socialist, Claude-Henri Saint-Simon, admired the way the English were so devoted to their rights as free citizens, that they had no fear of resisting corrupt and domineering government officials. As an example of this attitude, he describes the way the English purchaser of the Hotel de Noialles firmly resisted the attempts of the French authorities to confiscate it. It was during Napoleon’s reign, and emigres were not allowed to hold property in France. However, the English proprietor stated that he was quite within his rights, and would continue to hold it, armed and barricaded by himself and his servants if necessary, until the government had passed legislation saying that he couldn’t. Saint-Simon describes the situation thus:

In France everyone says that the laws alone should be obeyed, but no one thinks of putting up the slightest resistance to the most insignificant representative of authority who has committed an illegal act. We have not yet acquired that spirit of independence which is characteristic of the English. To us, independence is simply a principle; to the English it is action and they carry it wherever they go; in every country they are ready to resist anything which does not emanate from the law. Among many examples which can be cited of this, we are content to recount the following anecdote which took place in France very recently:

An Englishman’s Home is his Castle, even in Napoleon’s France

‘Shortly after 20 March, an Englishman bought the Hotel de Noailles. When Bonaparte came to power, because the Englishman had only paid a deposit, the administration began to put into effect the imperial decree concerning the possession of emigres and to eject the buyer.

‘On receiving the order to vacate the premises, which was brought to him by a bailiff, the Englishman replied only that this was his home, that the civil act which gave him the right of ownership could only be annulled by another civil act; this was the law.

‘The next day another bailiff presented himself and received the same reply as the first, ending with these words:

‘”Say to those who sent you that I will not leave here except by virtue of a court hearing; that I demand a court hearing. They say that you are free in France; I shall soon know if you are. I shall do what in the same circumstances I would do in England: the home of a citizen is inviolable; my house will be barricaded, my people armed and we shall fire upon anyone who approaches, as you have done, Sir, to commit violence against me in the name of any authority which is not based upon law.

‘And, in fact, the house was barricade, the doors barred, the servants armed. The incident became known; it was brought before the Conseil d’Etat. The Englishman was left in peace in his house.

‘What Frenchman would have dared to show such resolution?’

Ghitza Ionescu, The Political Thought of Saint-Simon (Oxford: OUP 1976) 113, n.1.

The bedroom tax similarly has no, or very little, legal basis. There never was a subsidy in Housing Benefit to people in homes with more than one room, as the Tories have claimed when formulating the cut. Similarly, many of the people, who have been hit with the Bedroom Tax, including those who have died of starvation or taken their own lives as a result, have been found to be exempt under the law. Some authorities have nevertheless stated that they will continue to administer the tax, however. Unfortunately, the tax is administered through cutting the Housing Benefit, rather than collecting it from the person affected, so you can’t barricade yourself in the property with a group of stalwart friends, family or servants. And the situation also seems to have changed, so that it is the French, who resist corrupt and domineering authority following the traditions of the Revolution rather than the English. I am not recommending the use of violence or force here. I just would like there to be a bit more awareness over this side of la Manche of our rights, and that there was a way of mobilising more people against the Bedroom Tax and the other wretched welfare reforms, so that you could physically defend their victims from them as intolerable violations of our rights as freeborn Brits.

Another Angry Voice on the Tories’ Housing Benefit Hypocrisy.

February 26, 2014

Richard Benyon Housing Benefit Something for Nothing

The irate Yorkshireman over at Another Angry Voice has put up yet another excellent article, this time attacking the Richard Benyon, the Tory MP for Newbury, for his hypocritical stance towards cutting Housing Benefit for the poor, while profiting from it himself as an aristocratic landlord. It begins

If you ever needed another example of the vile hypocrisy of the Tories, you should check out some of the stuff that Richard Benyon, the Tory MP for Newbury, has said about benefits and the welfare system.

He repeatedly uses the term “something for nothing” to slam benefits recipients, yet he himself is a much bigger benefit recipient than any unemployed person, or member of the ever increasing demographic working poor.

What he fails to mention every time he rants about the size of the welfare state, is that he is one of the very biggest beneficiaries of the welfare system, as his company (Englefield Estate Trust Corporation Limited) raked in £625,964 in housing benefit from West Berkshire council last year. It is likely that his company receives much more from other councils too, given that it holds land and property all over the United Kingdom.

What people fail to realise about housing benefit is that when it is paid out to help poor families cover the cost of private rents, the idle rentier class (like Richard Benyon) are the beneficiaries, not the tenants themselves. The DWP themselves admit that it costs well over £1,000 extra per year in housing benefit for every tenant that is housed in private accomodation, rather than social housing.

Since the Tories came to power and launched their economically illiterate austerity experiment, the size of the already bloated housing benefit bill has grown dramatically to £24 billion in 2013, as hundreds of thousands of families (mainly the working poor) have been driven into such poverty that they have become entitled to help with the cost of their rent. The number of working poor families reliant upon housing benefit has soared 104% between 2009 and 2013. The beneficiaries of this soaring housing benefit bill are not the tenants themselves, but private landlords like Richard Benyon.

Here’s a direct quote from Richard Benyon’s website:

“The Government is reforming Labour’s ‘something for nothing’ welfare culture, by capping the amount one household can get in benefits”

He also gives his recommendations for how the situation could be improved, one of which is the obvious policy of building more social housing.

The article is at http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/richard-benyon-housing-benefit-hypocrisy.html.

The Types of People Sleeping Rough according to Labour 1998 Report

February 22, 2014

This is a response to Mike’s blog piece reporting the eviction of two of his friends in the Welsh town in which he lives, which I’ve already reblogged from Vox Political. 16 years ago in 1998 New Labour attempted to tackle the problem of homelessness and other social problems through their Social Exclusion Unit. This produced a report identifying the types of people forced to sleep rough. In his foreword, Blair stated that

It is a source of shame for all of us, that there are still about 2,000 people out on the streets around England every night and 10,000 sleep rough over the course of a year.

That number has almost certainly increased since then. One of the homeless charities, according to Private Eye, has said that this Christmas (2013), about 60,000 children would be homeless due to government cuts. These would not be sleeping rough, but housed in Bed and Breakfast after their families were evicted from their homes. Even if these children still have some kind of roof over their head, this is still very definitely not unacceptable. If the situation was shameful in the last years of the 1990s, the government’s attitudes seems positively shameless in the way they have massively exacerbated the problem.

The report gave the following information

Chapter 1: Who Sleeps Rough?

1.6 The information we have tells us that:

* There are very few rough sleepers aged under 18;
* around 25 per cent are between 18 and 25;
* six per cent are over 60; and
* around 90 per cent are male.

1.9 The single most common reason given for the first episode of rough sleeping is relationship breakdown, either with parents or partner:
* research by Centrepoint with homeless young people across the country found that 86 per cent had been forced to leave home rather than choosing to…
1.10 Older homeless people also identify family crisis as key with the main factor being widowhood and marital breakdown, as well as eviction, redundancy and mental illness…
1.11 A disproportionate number of rough sleepers have experience of some kind of institutional life.
1.12 Between a quarter and a third of rough sleepers have been looked after by local authorities as children.
1.13 Unlike other young people leaving home, many care leavers lack any sort of on-going parental support which can act as a back up when a first attempt at independent living goes wrong …
1.14 Around half of rough sleepers have been in prison or a remand centre … Those who have been in prison typically experience serious problems obtaining both housing and jobs, frequently exacerbated by the problems of relationship breakdown, drugs etc ….
1.16 Repeated studies have found that between a quarter and one fifth of all rough sleepers have been in the services …
1.17 Some 30-50 per cent of rough sleepers suffer from mental health problems. The great majority (88 per cent) of those with mental health problems became ill before they became homeless.
1.18 Research does not support the widespread belief that the closure of long-term psychiatric hospitals has resulted in former patients sleeping rough…
1.19 As many as 50 per cent of rough sleepers have a serious alcohol problem and some 20 per cent misuse drugs…
1.20 Rough sleepers are disproportionately likely to have missed school…
1.21 Generally, single people will only get assistance under the homelessness legislation if they are unintentionally homeless and in priority need…
1.22 Researchers … agree that a number of changes in social security policy … in the late 1980s were closely associated with a squeeze on the ability of single people on low incomes to gain access to suitable housing…

From Rough Sleeping Report by the Social Exclusion Unit, CM4008, July 1998, pp. 1, 4-6, 16, in Margaret Jone and Rodney Lowe, From Beveridge to Blair: The First Fifty Years of Britain’s Welfare State 1948-98 (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2002) 189-91.

Mike’s friends have not been institutionalised, nor, as far as I know, do they have mental health or drug problems. They are ‘strivers’, similar to those made homeless according to paragraph 1.22: Researchers … agree that a number of changes in social security policy … in the late 1980s were closely associated with a squeeze on the ability of single people on low incomes to gain access to suitable housing….

And with the bedroom tax and caps on Housing Benefit now in place, there are going to be many more of them. All so the Tories’ friends in the housing sector can get richer.