Tag Archives: accommodation

Bolton cladding fire suggests Conservatives did NOTHING after Grenfell – other than blame firefighters

Tory response: This satirical image from Twitter reflects the public opinion of blame-shifting Tories.

Wasn’t there a warning that Grenfell Tower could happen all over again, if flammable cladding was not removed from the many other buildings across the UK that had it?

I think there was.

And were the residents at the Cube, student accommodation in Bolton assured that the cladding on that building was not the same as that used on Grenfell Tower?

I think they were:

Then, last night (November 15), this happened:

It seems clear that the cladding on the building was spreading the fire. And look at the way it was dripping, molten, to the ground outside:

According to¬†Skwawkbox, “BBC now stressing the cladding in the #BoltonFire wasn’t the same flammable cladding used on Grenfell Tower. Just some other flammable cladding, so that’s ok then…”

But¬†The Guardian has more useful information: “Students at the Cube had been visited by fire safety officers following the Grenfell Tower fire and assured that the building was not clad in the same material, the Bolton News reported.

“However, the planned cladding materials on one part of the facade included aluminium composite panels (ACM) or fibre cement panels, and high pressure laminated panels (HPL) fixed to timber battens on another, according to¬†drawings submitted¬†by RADM Architects to Bolton‚Äôs planning department in 2014. It is not yet clear which of these materials were used.

“ACM panels are filled with polyethylene, which, as at Grenfell, can be highly combustible or can contain a fire retardant to make them safer. HPL panels, made of compressed paper or wood fibre, also come with different combustibility ratings.”

It is all very well saying the cladding wasn’t the same as in Grenfell – but if it is still inflammable, then the students were in danger. They had a right to know this but it seems they weren’t told.

In this context, it is a miracle that only two people were injured.

And that miracle allows us to examine the political aspect of this – which is disastrous for the Conservatives.

Boris Johnson’s party had¬†more than two years to clear flammable cladding from all the buildings in the UK that were in danger. They didn’t.

Why not? Was it expensive?

In the light of their current splurge-spending plans, offered in a desperate bid to bribe the electorate away from Labour’s better, costed plans to revitalise the nation, that would be an insult of possibly criminal dimensions.

And it is clear that the failure to take action constitutes a danger to the lives of the many thousands of people living in cladded tower blocks across the UK.

Those people should consider this very carefully when placing their vote in the general election.

Labour’s John Healey has said: “If … reports are right that the cladding has contributed to this fire, then the Government has serious questions to answer.

‚ÄúAs figures released this week show, two and a half years after the Grenfell Tower fire, thousands of tower block residents are still living in homes with deadly cladding. This should shame the Conservatives and they must now act to make all buildings safe.‚ÄĚ

You can take that as a promise that a Labour government will take such action.

This Writer would like an inquiry into the issue of cladding, and the companies that have been responsible for it. Is it all flammable? Or is some of it safe? And can those responsible for covering buildings with life-endangering material be prosecuted for it?

Shouldn’t those in the Tory government who didn’t have it removed be prosecuted, also?

It is certain that the principle of collective responsibility applies –¬†everybody in the Conservative government must take the responsibility for allowing this danger to continue.

And everybody living in a cladded building should take responsibility for ending that danger – by voting the Conservatives out.

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Why are the Tories forcing children to grow up in squalor?

We should be grateful to Peter Stefanovic for raising this issue; the BBC wasn’t about to do so, when he posted this to Facebook on September 11:

Never mind the shockingly-low reporting standard at the BBC; that has been a national disgrace since before I interviewed for a job there, back in the 1990s.

The substantive issue is the low standard of rented accommodation demanded by Conservative MPs, many of whom are landlords.

We have discussed this before.

When will the Tories be properly held to account for this disgrace?

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A simple plan to get Labour back on track

Harriet Harman: Will the acting leader of the Labour Party listen to pleas from the grassroots to get Labour back on track?

Harriet Harman: Will the acting leader of the Labour Party listen to pleas from the grassroots to get Labour back on track?

If the Labour Party is to regain the confidence it has lost, it needs to re-state its identity with a core message of purpose – one that not only encapsulates what Labour is about, but also what it opposes.

That is what was missing from Labour’s general election campaign, and is as much a reason for Ed Miliband’s defeat as the Conservative campaign, which was not based on objective facts but on political spin.

In a nutshell, it is time to remind the voters and the public that Labour is the enabling party. This creates a clear contrast with the Conservatives – the party of restriction.

So, for example, with the National Health Service, Labour should support a service available to everyonefree. That means no private involvement. With the Tory privatisation in full swing, funds are being restricted and so are services. The NHS is now a postcode lottery, with care allocated on the basis of profitability. That’s not good enough; the privateers must be told to jog on.

Education must also be available to everybody, up to the level each person can achieve (or wants to). Again, this means there should be no charge for state-provided services. A state school system has no place for privately-owned ‘academies’ or ‘free schools’. These are Tory devices; the private sector will, by its nature, restrict access in order to extract a profit. It also means no tuition fees for students in further/higher education.

Labour should be helping anyone who wants to start a business, by ensuring there are as few obstacles in the way as possible; it must be the enabling party. That means, for example, a graded taxation system, with lower business rates and taxes for start-ups, progressing to a higher rate for medium-sized enterprises, and a highest rate for multinationals – who should be taxed on all takings made in the UK; no excuses.

Another part of the enabling agenda must be ensuring that people can pay a minimum price for things we cannot live without: Accommodation, services, utilities.

There is now an appalling shortage of appropriate housing for many people – mostly because the Tories sold off so many council houses and did not replace them. This is why the Tories were able to impose the Bedroom Tax on so many innocent people – a restrictive idea, intended to push people out of some areas and into others; shifting Labour voters out of¬†places the Tories didn’t think they should have to share with the riff-raff, you see – a gerrymandering tactic to make those constituencies easier to win in elections. The solution is simple: Build council houses again.

When the utility companies – gas, water and electricity suppliers – were privatised, we were all promised that household bills would be kept down by more efficient private-sector business models and private investment. That has not happened. Instead, consumers have been held to ransom by a small cabal of corporations who have been able to charge rip-off prices. Remember the electricity price scandal of 2013? Who told those firms to quit their restrictive practices and cut bills? Labour. The enabling party. The fear of a Labour government imposing new rules in the consumer’s favour helped hold the greedy private bosses in check for a while, but now we have a Conservative government. How long do you think it will be before prices soar? This Writer reckons they’ll take the first opportunity. Even now, after Labour managed to secure price cuts, the poorest families still have to choose between heating and eating during the winter (the phrase has been used so often it is now a modern clich√©). This must not be allowed to continue and the solution is clear: Re-nationalise. There are even two bonus factors in such a plan: Firstly, as many of these utilities are owned – or part-owned – by firms or governments based abroad, it will ensure that our bills pay people in the UK rather than boosting foreign economies at the expense of our own and, secondly, takings will help the UK Treasury balance the books.

There is at least one other privatised service that could also be re-nationalised: The railway system. Prices have rocketed while government subsidies have also soared, since the system was turned over to private hands in the early 1990s. This is madness; it is a huge drain on resources and must not be allowed to continue. We should re-nationalise and follow the example of Northern Ireland, where the service was never privatised and where any profit is ploughed into improvements, not profit.

Then there is our grocery bill, which keeps escalating. This is a particularly thorny subject as, for example, farmers are being ripped off by supermarkets over the price of milk, but the same corporations will happily send apples to the other side of the world and back, just to have them polished. It’s time to straighten out that system as well – although it will take a while.

So this is how Labour should frame its arguments from now on: Labour enables; the Tories restrict.

It should be stressed that the themes raised above are just starting-points which occurred to This Writer while considering the issue last night. The above is not an exhaustive list. Undoubtedly there are many more.

Your comments are invited.

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Benefit cap: Maximum deprivation, minimum result?

Source: OBR, Economic and Fiscal Outlook, December 2014 *  Incapacity Benefit includes Employment and Support Allowance, severe disablement allowance, income support and incapacity benefit.

Source: OBR, Economic and Fiscal Outlook, December 2014
* Incapacity Benefit includes Employment and Support Allowance, severe disablement allowance, income support and incapacity benefit.

The¬†benefit cap has so far saved around ¬£100m a year,¬†according to the¬†Institute for Fiscal Studies – just 0.1 per cent of the total ¬£215 billion benefits bill if we don’t count the budget for pensioners, the Daily Mirror tells us.

The cap affects 27,000 families Р1% of working age households, a figure revealed yesterday in a report published by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Those who have been hit have lost at least ¬£46 per week, but only half the total lost that minimum amount; the rest lost much more than this. Overall the mean loss was ¬£70 per week or ¬£3,640 per year –¬†around one-eighth of their total income prior to the cap. That means the DWP has bitten a huge chunk out of many household incomes.

However, this claimed saving does not take into account the many costs that could be associated with the cap. Vox Political stated last year that the cap was¬†expected to save just ¬£110m a year, meaning that it has not saved as much as the government hoped, “barely a rounding error in the ¬£201bn benefits bill” – and you’ll notice that the bill has increased by ¬£14 billion in the meantime.

VP continued: “But even these savings could be wiped out due to the cost to local authorities of homelessness and housing families in temporary accommodation. As a leaked letter from Eric Pickles‚Äôs office to David Cameron stated, the measure ‚Äúdoes not take account of the additional costs to local authorities (through homelessness and temporary accommodation). In fact we think it is likely that the policy as it stands will generate a net cost. In addition Local Authorities will have to calculate and administer reduced Housing Benefit to keep within the cap and this will mean both demands on resource and difficult handling locally‚ÄĚ.

So, taking these other costs into account, how much has the benefit cap saved now?

130715benefitcap

The Mirror article then gets into a more difficult area: The number of people who have moved into work as a result of the cap.

It reports: ‚Äú’About 2,000 families who were claiming benefits in May 2013 had someone [who] moved into paid work¬†twelve months later in response to the cap’, the IFS said.

“This can be accounted for by improvements in the labour market, as the FT also notes, but statisticians at the Department for Work and Pensions also found evidence that the cap itself had an impact.

“In particular, 20 per cent¬†of families whose benefits were capped in May 2013 found work within a year.”

But 20 per cent of 27,000 is 5,400 – not 2,000. The IFS figure suggests 7.4 per cent.

What about the bold claims made by the DWP in July last year, that at first 8,000 and then 12,000 people had moved into work after being warned about the cap? As those figures clearly conflict with the new data, are we now to conclude that they were a blatant lie? If so, who committed it – civil servants or Iain Duncan Smith, the secretary of state?

Either way, the Mirror‘s verdict – that “there have been very limited fiscal benefits” – can only be taken as an extremely mild response to the figures.

If the Tories win the General Election next May, they have promised to cap benefits still further Рfrom the current £26,000-per-year-per-family to £23,000.

Perhaps their slogan should be: “More austerity – less prosperity”.

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The first of the new workhouses?

141128workhouse-lancashiretelegraph

The new workhouse: A former bus depot in Blackburn is set to be changed into a Victorian-style workhouse, providing accommodation for up to 10 homeless people in return for work.

Following a discussion on Twitter yesterday evening, the following article from the Lancashire Telegraph was pointed out. Is this building in Blackburn the first of the Coalition government’s new workhouses?

THE semi-derelict former Transdev/Lancashire United bus depot in Blackburn town centre could be brought back into life as a charity and recycling centre, writes Bill Jacobs.

Up 10 otherwise homeless people would live at the site under supervision.

The garage in Manner Sutton Street in Eanam closed in 2011.

It was bought by Blackburn with Darwen Council and now the borough is poised to sell it to a Lancashire-based charity which helps ‘marginalised people back into stable, independent living’.

The charity’s associated social enterprise will run the site as a recycling centre for items such as metal, scrap cars, tyres, plastics, TVs and redundant household items for sale.

The money raised from the recycling operation will help provide the homeless and others on the margins of society with training, education, work experience and employment.

It will also provide accommodation for up to 10 workers who would otherwise be homeless or itinerant.

Read the rest of the article on the Lancashire Telegraph‘s site.

The dictionary definition of ‘workhouse’ is “a place where those unable to support themselves were offered accommodation and employment”. It is always defined in historical terms, as something that no longer exists.

But doesn’t that description fit the proposed new use of the Blackburn bus depot?

We live in dark times.

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It’s time to kill off claims that Labour started the Bedroom Tax

Homeless: The Bedroom Tax has forced the eviction of an ever-growing number of social tenants. How many people have been evicted because of Local Housing Allowance?

Homeless: The Bedroom Tax has forced the eviction of an ever-growing number of social tenants. How many people have been evicted because of Local Housing Allowance?

It seems every debate on the brutal Tory Bedroom Tax has lately been overshadowed by some ill-informed commentator claiming that the Labour Party cannot oppose the measure because it imposed its own version of the same thing on the private rented sector, years ago.

Such a claim was made on the Vox Political Facebook page yesterday (Thursday) and Yr Obdt Srvt promised to seek out the facts.

Thanks to today’s debate on the Affordable Housing Bill, there was no need to look very far.

As mentioned in the debate, Labour imposed the Local Housing Allowance in order to stop private tenants from abusing the Housing Benefit system by moving into accommodation that was larger than they could afford – remember, private rented accommodation is more expensive than social housing – and forcing the taxpayer to fund the difference.

Labour’s measure was imposed only on people moving into privately rented accommodation after the LHA law was enacted.

So, for example, a single person might choose to take a place with two bedrooms. Before LHA was brought in, they could claim housing benefit on the property and rely on the taxpayer to stump up for the extra space. LHA means they get the money required for what they need Рand they have to pay for the extra space. This is fair because moving into the larger property was their choice.

As with ordinary housing benefit, if a tenant’s circumstances change for the better, the amount of benefit payable is reduced. Why should a private tenant expect preferential treatment?

It seems that private landlords, who have been charging more than they should, have been angered by the imposition of the LHA and have chosen to wage a propaganda war against it, claiming that it is the Bedroom Tax by another name. Note that they are not against the Bedroom Tax, because it drives social housing tenants to the private sector.

Compare that with the Bedroom Tax. The Tories have imposed a charge on people who are¬†living in social housing that was allocated to them on the basis of their need and the accommodation that was available; it is not the tenants’ fault if the only available accommodation was larger than they needed (more appropriate dwellings had probably been sold off under a previous Tory government’s ‘Right To Buy’ scheme).

The Conservative Bedroom Tax was imposed retrospectively – that is, it affected people who were already sitting tenants rather than those moving into accommodation. It was not intended to combat abuse of the system but was simply a way of robbing social tenants of help that they needed.

And the Bedroom Tax was imposed in the knowledge that the amount of alternative accommodation available to social tenants who needed to downsize in order to avoid the charge was only a fraction of what was needed. These people were trapped by this cruel legislation and driven into debt – in stark contrast to the Labour legislation which only affected people choosing to move into accommodation that was larger than they needed.

There is a huge difference between the Local Housing Allowance and the Bedroom Tax.

Any claims that they are similar must be rooted either in stupidity or in politically-motivated malice.

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Government should face corporate manslaughter charge after suicide verdict on Stephanie Bottrill

Victim of government persecution: A coroner has agreed that government pressure drove Stephanie Bottrill to suicide.

Victim of government persecution: A coroner has agreed that government pressure drove Stephanie Bottrill to suicide.

It’s official – stress and pressure caused by the Bedroom Tax pushed grandmother Stephanie Bottrill into taking her own life.

Zafar Siddique, coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, said he was “satisfied she intended to take her own life” after hearing evidence that Mrs Bottrill had blamed the government’s Bedroom Tax policy for pushing her to suicide in a note she left at her Meriden Drive, Kingshurst, home before walking across the M6 motorway into a collision with a lorry early on May 4, 2013.

The coroner also heard evidence from Dr Bindu Nair, who saw the former postal worker the day before her death after Mrs Bottrill’s daughter-in-law, concerned for her safety, made an appointment.

Dr Nair said Mrs Bottrill had “expressed unhappiness at being pushed by the housing department to make a decision, in half an hour, in reference to being made to move into a smaller property”.

He added that Ms Bottrill was “happy to move but it was the way in which she was forced to make a decision” which had caused her “considerable anxiety and stress”.

Unmentioned in the report is the fact that Mrs Bottrill was found to be exempt from the Bedroom Tax (also called the State Under-Occupation Charge) under the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2006, because she had been living at her address since before January 1996.

The implications for the government are enormous.

A British court has accepted that a government policy pushed a UK citizen into ending her life.

Organisations including government departments are guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which their activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death, and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.

An organisation is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach.

The pressure placed on Mrs Bottrill, according to the evidence of her own doctor, caused “considerable anxiety and stress” that contributed to her decision to commit suicide.

It seems clear that the Department for Work and Pensions – as the organisation responsible for both the Bedroom Tax and the pressure placed on Mrs Bottrill by housing officers – must now face criminal charges under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

As far as this blog is concerned, responsibility for this woman’s death lies firmly with Iain Duncan Smith.

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Dire day for Tories – so why were the pundits hammering Labour?

[Image: BBC]

[Image: BBC]

Own up: How many of you stayed up into the wee hours to watch TV coverage of the local council elections?

If you did, you would have witnessed a curious phenomenon. As the Conservative Party lost seat after seat (at the time of writing they have lost 113 seats altogether) and Labour won seat after seat (currently 125 seats better-off), the pundits sitting around David Dimbleby on BBC1 started telling us this put Labour in the poor position!

This, we were told, was because UKIP’s performance heralded the arrival of “four-party politics” – but does anybody believe that? UKIP won protest votes against the UK Coalition government’s policies at a time when elections to the European Parliament were also taking place. Anti-immigration feelings have been stirred up and people have been led to believe – wrongly – that a vote for UKIP will cut off the flow.

In fact, UKIP did damage Labour in areas like Swindon, where they took working-class votes and enabled the Conservatives to hold that council with a slightly increased majority.

But the ‘Purple Peril’ did far more damage to the Conservatives, with Essex Man and Woman voting very strongly for it.

What does this mean, translated to the Westminster Parliament?

The answer is, it’s difficult to judge. Turnout was only around 36 per cent – half the number who take part in a general election – because faith in democracy is so low. This means any predictions are more likely to be wrong than right.

But if the results are replicated, then the Conservative Party will lose seats to UKIP and it is possible that Labour will become the majority party in a Hung Parliament, and then…

… UKIP will do a coalition deal with the Conservatives because Nigel Farage wants a taste of power, and we’ll end up with five more years of David Cameron.

We know they’re already talking about it because Michael Gove has denied it.

To avoid this, Labour will have to consolidate its gains and show that it can make a real difference where it wins.

A good start would be to cut the harmful social policies in Hammersmith and Fulham, which Labour took from the Tories last night. H&F was once dubbed David Cameron’s favourite council. Why? Well, a recent Guardian article showed that the council was selling off its housing stock at an increasingly accelerated rate, while forcing homeless people into temporary accommodation outside the borough. Ending this wrong-headed nonsense would be a good start.

The new Labour administration could re-examine the planned closure of Sulivan Primary School in Fulham, which won an award from London Mayor Boris Johnson at the end of last year after it “succeeded against the odds in improving pupils’ aspirations and achievements”. According to The Guardian (again), campaigners fighting to save Sulivan say it has been targeted because there are plans to turn the site into a new Free School, part of Michael Gove’s silly pet project that has been haemorrhaging money.

And Labour could halt the Earls Court Project redevelopment scheme, which will knock down elderly residents homes – buildings which are perfectly sound – in order to replace them with “impossibly expensive” flats.

The Guardian (yet again) states: “To the Tories of H&F, though, such things are of no value if there’s more money to be made from tearing them up, clearing them out, knocking them down… The council and its friends do not see what they are doing as wrecking. They see themselves as grand creators. They see those they would push aside not as citizens to be considered but non-believers, blockages, impediments; as inefficiencies that have to be squeezed out.”

Labour would score hugely if it took a stand against this merciless money-driven destruction of a neighbourhood that belongs to ordinary people. Elderly people, in fact. Not only are they vulnerable; they are also voters.

So let Hammersmith & Fulham become the example Labour holds up to the nation: “This is what we can do across the country, if you only give us the chance!”

One thing’s for sure – whatever Labour does there, The Guardian will be watching!

Results are still incoming from the council elections, so undoubtedly the ‘expert’ opinions will change before the end – and then we have the European election results to come on Sunday.

A quick anecdote about that: Yesterday evening Yr Obdt Srvt was at a meeting on a completely different subject (a local festival here in Mid Wales – I’m the organising committee’s secretary). Afterwards I was chatting with a friend about the election when a young man approached us in search of the nearest polling station.

My friend passed on the directions and the man thanked us and started on his way. “Don’t vote UKIP!” shouted my friend.

“I won’t!” was the response.

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Osborne promising full employment – is this an April Fool?

Bottom of the class: If you believe George Osborne's talk about jobs and benefits, you must have been educated at one of Michael Gove's 'free schools'. [Image: Gaianeconomics]

Bottom of the class: If you believe George Osborne’s talk about jobs and benefits, you must have been educated at one of Michael Gove’s ‘free schools’. [Image: Gaianeconomics]

The answer has to be in the affirmative. Conservatives can’t promise full employment because it simply isn’t part of their philosophy.

As this blog has stated many times, Tories need a discontented underclass fermenting away beneath the lowest-paid members of the working class, in order to create the level of fear necessary to keep wages down.

The argument is that a person will not ask for a pay rise if they know their boss will turn around and say, “There are hundreds out there who will work for less than you – pick up your cards on the way out!”

For a more easy-access disproval of Osborne’s claim, we only have to look a little further into his speech – from the part where he said: “For it‚Äôs no good creating jobs ‚Äď if we‚Äôre also paying people to stay on welfare.”

Hang on! When did our great Social Security system change from being a safety net to help get people back into work to “paying people to stay on welfare”?

Oh yes, that’s right – when we had an unelected Conservative government foisted on us. Tories pay people to stay on welfare because they need that fermenting underclass. The aim is always not to pay enough (as you will see).

The next few lines contain unfounded claims and opinions. See for yourself:

“We inherited a welfare system that didn‚Äôt work.” According to whom?

“There was not enough help for those looking for a job ‚Äď people were just parked on benefits.” But there isn’t enough help now. Come to that, there aren’t enough jobs. Where are all the jobs, George?

“Frankly, there was not enough pressure to get a job ‚Äď some people could just sign on and get almost as much money staying at home as going out to work.” How many people, George? Five? Six? You make it seem as though more than a million jobseekers were sitting at home and drawing as much money in social security as at work. That would be a lie, George.

“That‚Äôs not fair to them ‚Äď because they get trapped in poverty and their aspirations are squashed.” Whereas Conservative policy means what? Oh yes – they get trapped in poverty and their aspirations are squashed.

“It‚Äôs certainly not fair to taxpayers like you, who get up, go out to work, pay your taxes and pay for those benefits.” Tory divide-and-rule.¬†You are different to them, because¬†you have a job. If you are low-paid, it is because¬†they are sucking down your tax money to pay for their extravagant lifestyles (I think we’ve all quite thoroughly killed that particular myth, haven’t we? It doesn’t exist outside the Tory political mind).

“Next Monday is when we do more to encourage people without jobs to find them… Benefits will only go up by 1 per cent ‚Äď so they don‚Äôt go up faster than most people‚Äôs pay rises, as used to be the case.” This means people on benefits will start to become much worse-off than they are already. Jobseekers’ allowance used to be pegged at around one-sixth of average pay but will now drop to a far lower proportion, because the Tories lied to you when they said benefit rises were far greater than pay rises. One per cent of Jobseekers’ Allowance at a weekly rate of ¬£71 is 70p; one per cent of the average weekly wage in April 2013, which was ¬£517 per week, is ¬£5.17. You see the difference? Oh, and one more thing: Where are all the jobs, George?

“When I took this job, some people were getting huge payouts ‚Äď receiving ¬£50,000, ¬£60,000 even up to ¬£100,000 in benefits. More than most people could get by working.” How many people, George? Five? Six? One, perhaps?

“So we‚Äôve capped benefits, so that a family out of work can‚Äôt get more in benefits than the average working family.” I’m not actually opposed to ensuring that people on benefits can’t take home more than people in work. However, while accurate, this line is disingenuous. George has ensured that a family out of work takes home at least ¬£5,000 less, per year, than an average working family because of the way he and his Tory friends rigged the system. He’s lying to you.

“And we are bringing in a new Universal Credit to make sure work always pays.” He means “pays more than benefits”. He¬†doesn’t mean “pays a living wage”. Spot the difference?

Now here comes some more oppression, based on a really big lie.

“From this month we‚Äôre also making big changes to how people go about claiming benefits. We all understand that some people need more help than others to find work.” What work? Where are all the jobs, George?

“So starting this month we‚Äôll make half of all people on unemployment benefits sign on every week ‚Äď and people who stay on benefits for a long time will have to go to the job centre every day so they can get constant help and encouragement.” Help and encouragement, is it, George? Have you witnessed the kind of “help and encouragement” they get at the job centre? DWP employees should face harassment charges for the disgraceful way they treat their fellow citizens.

“We‚Äôre going to require people to look for work for a week first before they get their unemployment benefit. From now on the deal is this: look for work first; then claim the dole. Not the other way around.” Why? In order to drive people into grinding poverty as early as possible? Forcing people to wait until they claim means they could be without money for food,¬†accommodation and utilities for up to a month, while the system processes them. This is not fair. It is cruel and demeaning – especially when Tory George knows there’s no work to be had.

“When people turn up at the job centre they‚Äôll be expected to have a CV ready and to have started looking on our new jobs website.” This is the Universal Jobmatch website that is habitually used by criminals for identity theft, or to offer jobs in the sex industry. It’s so bad that the government itself is planning to ditch it when the contract with its provider runs out in two years’ time. Why would anybody in their right mind use that?

And now here’s the clincher:

“We will ask many of the long term unemployed to do community work in return for their benefits – whether it is making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, or working for a local charity.”

In other words, they will ensure that fewer jobs are available by making jobseekers do the work for nothing. Brilliant idea, George – you are wrecking our economy.

“All of this is bringing back the principles that our welfare state was originally based on ‚Äď something for something, not something for nothing.” A lie, couched in truth. The Welfare State is based on the principle that people on hard times were able to take advantage of benefits because, when in work, they paid into the system via taxes and National Insurance. That’s the “something for something”. It is¬†not based on the idea that jobseekers have to take jobs off the market by doing them for free. That’s just plain silly.

In fact, George, you are just plain silly.

So, returning to the question in our headline, it’s clear to see the answer.

If anyone here is an April Fool, it’s George Osborne.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Evictions begin as government starts grabbing your homes

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It is easy to get caught up in headlines and forget that the Coalition’s benefit reforms mean people you know will lose their homes.

You know what happens then? PEOPLE YOU KNOW START LOSING THEIR HOMES.

Vox Political was warning the world about this back in 2012 – nearly two years ago –¬†saying the bedroom tax would put people on the streets while homes go empty and warning about the ‘Poll Tax revival plan to take away your home’. It gives me no pleasure at all to report that I was right.

This week I heard about two cases in my Mid Wales town. You may think that isn’t many, but this is a town with a population of less than 5,000 – and I haven’t heard about every case.

The first involves a family that has been living in the same council house for more than 30 years. Sadly the head of the household recently had a stroke and has been forced to move into a care home. In the past, the tenancy would have been handed down to the next generation of the family – two sons, one of whom has a family of his own. The other is a friend of mine, of excellent character. By day he works very hard at his job; after hours, he is a member of a popular local band (along with his brother, as it happens). They are what this government would call “strivers”.

But they are being penalised because they have been told to vacate the only home they have had. Not only that, they are being asked to stump up a small fortune in backdated rent (as their father has been paying for his care, not the house) and another small fortune to dispose of carpets they cannot take with them, which the council does not want.

When I spoke to my friend yesterday, he told me that the council simply does not want him or his brother as tenants because “it is easier to process a large family who are on benefits”. I queried this, and it seems likely that this is to do with the forthcoming Universal Credit system, and with the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (also known as the Pickles Poll Tax); it is easier to handle Universal Credit and council tax claims if the authorities have foreknowledge of a household’s income.

We both agreed that there is a serious drawback to this thinking.

Large families do not want to move into vacant social accommodation because they fear what the government – national and local – will do to them if their circumstances change. Children grow up; adults move out – and that will make them vulnerable to the Bedroom Tax. Suddenly their benefits won’t be enough to pay the rent and they, in turn, will be turfed out onto the streets. They know it is a trap; they will try to avoid it.

My friend agreed. “That house is going to stay empty for a very long time,” he said.

This is madness. Here are two people who are perfectly willing and able to pay the council’s rent, on time, for as long as they need the property but, because of the Welfare Reform Act and the Localism Act, the council is treating them abominably and the house will end up providing no income at all.

If you think that’s bad, though, just wait until you learn about my¬†other¬†friend!

He is an older gentleman who has been disabled for many years. He had been living in a small, two-bedroomed house that had been adapted to accommodate his needs. We know precisely how much these adaptations cost to install at current rates: £5,000.

I believe he needed the extra bedroom to accommodate carer needs but I could be mistaken.

Along came the Bedroom Tax and suddenly he did not have enough income to cover the cost of living there. The council (or social landlord, I have to admit I’m not sure) sent him an eviction notice. He appealed.

Guess what? His appeal was set to be decided after the date he was ordered to be out of his home.

So he had to go. He was lucky enough to find another place to live, and all the equipment he needs to accommodate his disability moved along with him Рat a cost of £5,000.

Then he received the judgement on his appeal: He was exempt from paying the Bedroom Tax; he should never have been forced to move.

Is this British justice?

This country was once the envy of the world because we were far more enlightened than any other nation in our policies of social justice and inclusion. Not any more! Now we are regressing into a new dark age in which the squalid Shylocks infesting Westminster manipulate local authorities into performing grubby property grabs for them.

Is the ‘Bulldog Spirit’ that made us famous for standing our ground during the Blitz now being turned to hounding the poor out of their homes?

Are you willing to put up with this?

In Iceland, they marched to their Parliament and set up camp outside until the government gave up and agreed to the demands of the people. Here, an unmandated government rides roughshod over democracy while you sit at home watching The X Factor, Coronation Street and the Winter Olympics.

Nothing will change until you change it – but you know this already. The simple fact is that, if you are reading this article, you probably sympathise with the sentiments it is expressing and are already active in opposing the heinous crimes being committed against our people.

There are not enough of you. People who need to read these words are being allowed to live in ignorance, lulled into inactivity by the right-wing mass media.

It’s time to put an end to that. There can be no excuse for ignorance and inaction while people are being made homeless. Think of someone you know who needs to be shown the truth and make them read this article. Ask them what they think of it and explain the facts of what is happening around them.

Then tell them to pass it on to someone they know.

Spread the word – don’t keep it to yourself. And don’t sit on your thumbs and expect somebody else to do your bit for you. If you don’t act, why should anybody else? What’s the point of me writing these articles if you can’t be bothered to do anything about it? Are you going to wait until someone tells you they want¬†your home?

Then it will be too late.

I’ll know if you succeed because it will be reflected in the number of times this article is viewed. I’ll report the results of this experiment next week.

Don’t let yourself down.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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