Tag Archives: breakfast

Plaudits for Naga Munchetty after she demolishes Zahawi over help for the self-employed

A few facts about Nadhim Zahawi, the current UK business minister: these are from 2016 so it’s a few years since he voted to cut disability benefits but that cut is still in force. I wonder how warm his stables are today?

Naga Munchetty is carving herself a niche as the hard woman of BBC Breakfast.

This morning she made mincemeat out of Tory business minister and twit Nadhim Zahawi over the government’s lack of interest in supporting people who are self-employed:

The performance raised a huge amount of support for Ms Munchetty on the social media:

At this rate, the Tories won’t be able to use the BBC as a mouthpiece for their daft policies any more. Then where will they go?

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While Sunak offers pointless meal vouchers they can’t use, child malnutrition doubles in six months

The offers in Rishi Sunak’s summer statement were intended to distract you from this.

Of course child malnourishment has doubled in the last six months, because more children are in poverty – and were, even before the Covid-19 crisis hit the UK.

The number of households with hungry children has doubled during lockdown because children reliant on school breakfast clubs and lunches have been deprived of them.

And their parents – already too poor to afford to feed their children in normal circumstances – have been left to support their families on a fraction of their normal pay (if they’re lucky) or on Universal Credit.

But if they’re claiming UC, they’ve had to wait at least five weeks for their first payment – and possibly as long as 11 weeks.

They won’t be able to benefit from the Chancellor’s “meal deal” vouchers because their parents/guardians can’t afford half the price of eating out – which is necessary before the vouchers can be used.

And let’s remember that Boris Johnson wanted to end free school meals for deprived children during the summer holidays, only relenting after a high-profile footballer’s campaign won widespread public support.

The detail that makes this news horrifying, rather than merely appalling, is the fact that fewer than two-thirds of all hospital trusts have provided information.

It means the number of malnourished children in the UK may in fact have tripled – or worse.

What if any – or many – of them die?

Tory voters: did you really want that on your conscience when you voted your beloved Boris Johnson such a huge victory last year?

Almost 2,500 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition in the first six months of the year – double the number over the same period last year – prompting fresh concern that families are struggling to afford to feed themselves and that the pandemic has intensified the problem.

Freedom of information responses from almost 50 trusts in England, representing 150 hospitals, show that more than 11,500 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition since 2015.

Almost 1,000 under-16s with malnutrition were admitted as inpatients to Cambridge University hospitals NHS foundation trust alone, suggesting the affluent city has wide disparities in wealth.

Collectively the figures reveal 11,515 cases of hospital admissions of under-16s due to malnourishment. Fewer than two-thirds of all trusts responded, suggesting the real total figure is much higher.

Source: Cases of child malnutrition in England double in last six months | Society | The Guardian

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Coronavirus: Hotel housing for rough sleepers – but how do B&B users self-isolate?

Endangered: People who sleep on the streets are more likely to catch coronavirus, and more likely to have respiratory conditions that make them vulnerable to serious harm if they do catch it.

This may strike fools as foolish but the wise will understand.

People who live on the streets are as likely to catch the coronavirus as anybody – more so, as they have no way of isolating themselves and the virus can be airborne.

They are more likely to have underlying health conditions including respiratory diseases, which could make the effect of coronavirus on them far more serious.

And if they remain on the streets, they are equally likely to transmit the virus to many more people.

Soup kitchens and day centres have been closing with little or no warning.

So the Mayor of London’s office is to be applauded for booking rooms with the Intercontinental Hotels Group to ensure that homeless people have space to self-isolate.

The Big Issue has taken its vendors off the streets; supporters will be asked to provide funding online for the duration of the crisis.

But there are concerns over families who have been placed in temporary accommodation like bed & breakfast establishments by councils that could not find permanent homes for them.

That’s a fault of Tory governments, of course; council houses have been sold off without enough cash being provided for replacements to be built.

And Tory policies are likely to have put people in need of accommodation in the first place – because of the Bedroom Tax or wage depression, or other policies that clamp down on the vulnerable.

So again we see that Tory short-sightedness has endangered people.

Source: Coronavirus UK: Rough sleepers will be housed in central London hotels | Metro News

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BBC digs out Remembrance Day clip from 2016 to avoid showing up Boris Johnson. What happened to impartiality?

Now you see it: An image from yesterday’s commemoration service, at which Boris Johnson showed contempt for our Armed Forces by laying his wreath face-down.

Now you don’t: An image from the BBC’s coverage today, showing Mr Johnson laying a wreath in 2016.

Remember a few years ago, when Jeremy Corbyn laid a wreath at his first Remembrance Day as leader of the Labour Party? The BBC revelled in criticism of his behaviour (which was in fact impeccable) and his manner of dress.

Fast-forward to this year, and we all saw Boris Johnson looking scruffy and disshevelled, stepping out of line at the wrong time and laying the wreath upside-down.

That’s unless we watched BBC coverage of the event after it happened, of course.

Because the BBC decided to look for images of Mr Johnson at a previous Remembrance Day event – in 2016 – and use them instead, in what is a clear breach of reporting rules and election impartiality; this was an attempt to hide information that – properly – makes Mr Johnson look bad.

Why on Earth did anybody at the BBC think they would get away with it?

The substitution has sparked a wave of outrage which began with this tweet:

Here’s the actual footage used, from 2016, courtesy of another Twitter user:

Suggestions that there was an innocent explanation were batted aside…

… as was the BBC’s ridiculous claim that this was a “production error”:

Let’s have a few other comments. Here‘s Matt Bailey: “A production mistake… Where you mixed up yesterday’s VT with one from 2016 that you had to search for in the archives? Yes, that’s very plausible. Thank you for making it clear…..”

Author and scriptwriter Stephen Gallagher offered this: “Editorial policy of ‘Since what actually happened doesn’t make him look good, we’ll substitute something that didn’t but does’.”

And ex-BBC/Sky/Reuters/PA journo Julian Shea weighed in with: “‘Footage from less than 24 hours ago? Where am I expected to find that? What’s that you say, three years ago? Easy, it’s saved on my desktop.'”

The BBC’s claim to have made an innocent mistake is risible. As Evolve Politics notes:

“The BBC would have needed to search through their archives to find the 2016 footage – making the excuse that it was simply a “mistake” highly implausible.

“In addition to BBC Editors ‘mistakenly’ searching through their archives to use footage from 2016, they also appear to have overlooked the fact that the video also showed numerous politicians in attendance who have long since left their positions:

  • Theresa May – who is no longer PM
  • Angus Robertson – who is no longer the SNP Westminster leader
  • Tim Farron – who is no longer the Lib Dem leader
  • David Gauke – no longer a Cabinet Minister
  • Michael Fallon – no longer a Cabinet Minister
  • Amber Rudd – no longer a Cabinet Minister
  • Liam Fox – no longer a Cabinet Minister
  • Chris Grayling – no longer a Cabinet Minister

“Clearly an easy ‘mistake’ to make.”

It seems likely the BBC will be deluged with complaints like this:

The written complaint, sent to https://www.bbc.co.uk/contact/complaints/make-a-complaint/#/Complaint states: “I cannot accept that this was a ‘production mistake’ not least because it is clear in the 2016 footage that Theresa May and not Boris Johnson was the Prime Minister. Additionally, it surely takes some ‘skill’ to mix up footage from yesterday with footage from three years ago. I, and I know many others, can only conclude that your intention was to present the PM as more statesmanlike, more respectful, than yesterday’s performance showed him to be.

“Bias.”

As this is a clear breach of impartiality, I hope the same people complaining to the BBC are sending their complaints to Ofcom, which is still (as far as I know) conducting an inquiry into whether the BBC has breached its own rules on this.

This Writer missed the BBC Breakfast coverage. So I watched Politics Live in the hope of seeing an apology and explanation.

Did anybody else see one? I didn’t.

So I sent a tweet to the show’s editor, Rob Burley:

No response so far…

There is only one conclusion to be drawn here:

The BBC has outed itself as a propaganda arm of the Conservative Party. Its election coverage – and other news output – should therefore be avoided on the basis of prejudice, and should be reported to Ofcom.

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Council spending on accommodation for homeless families is now EIGHT TIMES more than 10 years ago

Do you remember the Tory housing revolution back in the 1980s? I do.

Margaret Thatcher told us she wanted the UK to be a “nation of home-owners”, and I’m sure she also told us it would be cheaper on the nation as councils would no longer have to build and maintain social housing.

Nearly 40 years on, what has happened?

The UK is a nation in thrall to private landlords whose prices are unaffordable to most people – especially after more than nine years of Tory wage depression and benefit cuts.

Result: Councils spent nearly £100 million providing bed-and-breakfast accommodation for homeless households (it is their statutory duty).

That money could have been spent on council services instead. Next time you get angry at your council for failing to provide, put the blame on Mrs Thatcher!

Provision of social housing has always been the cheapest option for dealing with poverty and homelessness.

It cuts crime – both by and against people who don’t have homes, meaning our police forces are less stretched.

It cuts strain on the health service – there is less violent crime against the homeless, and there is less likelihood of homeless people falling prey to disease.

And it provides income to local authorities that otherwise have to pay out increasing amounts to private landlords to put a metaphorical sticking-plaster over this wound on our society.

The Tory government response to this crisis (see below) is derisory; it wants councils to put themselves in debt in order to provide new housing, meaning they’ll be starved of even more cash.

There’s only one way to end the housing crisis – and that is regime change.

We need a radical change of government.

And we’ll get it soon, if enough people see past the anti-Corbyn propaganda and vote Labour.

Remember: Jeremy Corbyn is the only leader who said his ambition is “a home for everyone”.

Spending by councils on housing families in bed and breakfast accommodation has surged by 780 per cent in a decade, prompting renewed calls for urgent action to mitigate the housing crisis.

An analysis of official data by the Local Government Association (LGA) revealed cash-strapped local authorities had to spend £93.3m on B&Bs for homeless households last year, up from £10.6m in 2009-10.

Campaigners said families were “paying the ultimate price” for successive governments’ failure to build social homes, and urged ministers to adapt welfare reforms to protect families at risk of becoming homeless.

Councils only use bed and breakfasts as a last resort, but the continued loss of social housing was leaving many with no alternative in which to house homeless families, the LGA said.

There are currently 7,040 households in bed and breakfast accommodation – up from 2,450 a decade ago, an increase of 187 per cent.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Everyone should have somewhere safe to live and to support those most in need we have removed the borrowing cap, freeing up councils to double housing delivery to around 10,000 new social homes a year by 2021/22.

“We’ve also targeted funding to reduce the number of households in temporary accommodation and in two years we’ve helped councils to reduce the number of families in B&Bs for more than six weeks by 28 per cent.”

Source: Council spending on B&Bs for homeless families up 780% in a decade, figures show | The Independent

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Straight-talking politics: Grant torpedos McVey’s taunt at UC claimants

Mad McVey: The fact that she thinks she can get away with such insolence is evidence of an unsound mind.

This is shaping up to be the summer of straight-talking. Maybe it’s the sunshine but people are coming out with exactly what they think of the Tories.

Hugh Grant delivered a pearl earlier this week when he said the current Westminster administration was

The most f**k awful government in the history of f**k awful governments.

He was responding to a tweet in which Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey appeared to taunt benefit claimants by advertising a fast food breakfast outlet that charges more per meal than people on Universal Credit can afford to spend in a week.

Her comment was taken up by the author of the Life of a Universal Credit sufferer blog, who wrote:

Now Esther isn’t known for compassion or discreet but, after the news of the past few weeks that Universal Credit is driving more and more people to foodbanks, her tweet really was just plain callous.

She’s bragging about “the big breakfast” that the Cha Bar in Knutsford sell. The cost of that particular meal is a staggering £8.50 but for just £1 you can add an glass of orange juice too!

My entire fortnightly food budget is about £10.50 (click here to see)and, many others on Universal Credit are in the same situation. How she has the gall to flaunt so openly I do not know.

Damning evidence, there.

So you can see why Mr Grant got straight to the point, and why we’re all so happy to see Ms McVey impaled on it – if only metaphorically.

Source: Hugh Grant tore the government and the DWP apart in one brutal line | The Canary


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Divisions in Coalition as MPs demand independent inquiry on poverty

130617childpoverty

Calls for a ‘commission of inquiry’ into the impact of the government’s changes to social security entitlements on poverty have won overwhelming support from Parliament.

The motion by Labour’s Michael Meacher was passed with a massive majority of 123 votes; only two people – David Nuttall and Jacob Rees-Mogg – voted against it.

The debate enjoyed cross-party support, having been secured by Mr Meacher with Sir Peter Bottomley (Conservative) and John Hemming (Liberal Democrat).

Introducing the motion, Mr Meacher said: “It is clear that something terrible is happening across the face of Britain. We are seeing the return of absolute poverty, which has not existed in this country since the Victorian age more than a century ago. Absolute poverty is when people do not have the money to pay for even their most basic needs.”

He said the evidence was all around:

  • There are at least 345 food banks and, according to the Trussell Trust, emergency food aid was given to 350,000 households for at least three days in the last year.
  • The Red Cross is setting up centres to help the destitute, just as it does in developing countries.
  • Even in prosperous areas like London, more than a quarter of the population is living in poverty.
  • According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, for the first time, the number of people in working families who are living in poverty, at 6.7 million, is greater than the number of people in workless and retired families who are living in poverty, at 6.3 million.
  • Child poverty will rise from 2.5 million to 3.2 million during this Parliament, around 24 per cent of children in the UK. By 2020, if the rise is not stopped, it will increase to four million – around 30 per cent of children in the UK.
  • The use of sanctions depriving people of all their benefits for several weeks at a time, had increased by 126 per cent since 2010 and 120 disabled people who had been receiving jobseeker’s allowance had been given a three-year fixed duration sanction in the previous year.
  • There are now more than 2,000 families who have been placed in emergency bed-and-breakfast accommodation after losing their homes.
  • The per cent rise in the overall homelessness figures last year included nearly 9,000 families with children, which is the equivalent of one family losing their home every 15 minutes.
  • A third of families spent less than £20 a week on food and that the average spend on food per person per day was precisely £2.10. That is a third less than those families were able to afford three months before that.
  • The proportion of households that had to make debt repayments of more than £40 a week had doubled and the average level of debt was £2,250.
  • A third of families had council tax debt.
  • 2.7 million people had lost out through the Government’s changes to council tax benefit – many of them disabled people, veterans and some of the most vulnerable in our communities.
  • Households were having to spend 16 per cent more on gas and electricity.
  • There are 2.5 million people who have been unemployed for the best part of two years, and there were 562,000 vacancies when the debate took place (Monday), so four out of five of those who are unemployed simply cannot get a job whatever they do.
  • Cuts to local authorities mean many home care visits are limited to 15 minutes.
  • The 10 per cent of local authorities that are the most deprived in the country face cuts six times higher than those faced by the 10 per cent that are the most affluent.
  • 60 per cent of benefit cuts fall on those who are in work.

Mr Meacher said the biggest cause of absolute poverty was the huge rise in sanctioning, often for trivial reasons such as turning up five minutes late for a job interview or the Work Programme:

  • A dyslexic person lost his Jobseekers Allowance because his condition meant that in one fortnightly period he applied for nine jobs, not 10. He was trying to pay his way and already had work, but it provided only an extremely low income.
  • The jobcentre didn’t record that a claimant had informed them that he was in hospital when he was due to attend an appointment and he was sanctioned.
  • A claimant went to a job interview instead of signing on at the jobcentre because the appointments clashed – and was sanctioned.
  • A claimant had to look after their mother who was severely disabled and very ill – and was sanctioned.
  • A Job Centre sent the letter informing a claimant of an interview to their previous address, despite having been told about the move. The claimant was sanctioned.
  • A claimant was refused a job because she was in a women’s refuge, fleeing domestic violence and in the process of relocating, but I was still sanctioned.

Mr Meacher also quoted what he called a classic: “I didn’t do enough to find work in between finding work and starting the job.”

The latest DWP figures suggest that more than one million people have been sanctioned in the past 15 months and deprived of all benefit and all income. “Given that the penalties are out of all proportion to the triviality of many of the infringements, and given that, as I have said, four out of five people cannot get a job whatever they do, the use of sanctioning on this scale, with the result of utter destitution, is — one struggles for words — brutalising and profoundly unjust,” said Mr Meacher.

Other reasons for the rise in absolute poverty included:

  • Delays in benefit payments.
  • The fact that it is impossible for many poor and vulnerable people to comply with new rules – for example a jobseeker who asked to downsize to a smaller flat who was told he must pay two weeks’ full rent upfront before getting housing benefit. He does not have the funds to do so and is stuck in a situation where his benefits will not cover his outgoings due to the Bedroom Tax.
  • The Bedroom Tax, which applies to around 667,000 households, and two-thirds of those affected are disabled. More than 90 per cent of those affected do not have smaller social housing to move into.
  • The Benefit Cap, imposed on a further 33,000 households.
  • Mistakes by the authorities; up to 40,000 working-age tenants in social housing may have been improperly subjected to the Bedroom Tax because of DWP error (although Iain Duncan Smith claims a maximum of 5,000).

Mr Meacher said: “The Chancellor’s policy of keeping 2.5 million people unemployed makes it impossible for them to find work, even if there were employers who would be willing to take them, and the 40 per cent success rate of appeals shows how unfair the whole process is.”

Responding to a comment from David TC Davies (Conservative) that those who are not looking for work must realise there will be consequences, particularly when a million people have been able to come to the UK from eastern Europe and find work, Mr Meacher said, “Those who come to this country are more likely to be employed and take out less in benefits than many of the indigenous population.”

He asked: “Is all this brutality towards the poor really necessary? Is there any justification in intensifying the misery, as the Chancellor clearly intends, by winding up the social fund and, particularly, by imposing another £25 billion of cuts in the next Parliament, half of that from working-age benefits?

“After £80 billion of public spending cuts, with about £23 billion of cuts in this Parliament so far, the deficit has been reduced only at a glacial pace, from £118 billion in 2011 to £115 billion in 2012 and £111 billion in 2013. Frankly, the Chancellor is like one of those first world war generals who urged his men forward, over the top, in order to recover 300 yards of bombed-out ground, but lost 20,000 men in the process. How can it be justified to carry on imposing abject and unnecessary destitution on such a huge scale when the benefits in terms of deficit reduction are so small as to be almost derisory?”

Suggested alternatives to the punitive austerity programme of cuts came thick and fast during the debate. Challenged to explain what Labour’s Front Bench meant by saying they would be tougher on welfare than the Tories, Mr Meacher said: “As the shadow Chancellor has made clear on many occasions, is that we need public investment. We need to get jobs and growth. That is the alternative way: public investment in jobs, industry, infrastructure and exports to grow the real economy, not the financial froth, because that would cut the deficit far faster than the Chancellor’s beloved austerity.”

He asked: “How about the ultra-rich — Britain’s 1,000 richest citizens — contributing just a bit? Their current remuneration — I am talking about a fraction of the top 1 per cent — is £86,000 a week, which is 185 times the average wage. They received a windfall of more than £2,000 a week from the five per cent cut in the higher rate of income tax, and their wealth was recently estimated by The Sunday Times at nearly half a trillion pounds. Let us remember that we are talking about 1,000 people. Their asset gains since the 2009 crash have been calculated by the same source at about £190 billion.

“These persons, loaded with the riches of Midas, might perhaps be prevailed upon to contribute a minute fraction of their wealth in an acute national emergency, when one-sixth of the workforce earns less than the living wage and when one million people who cannot get a job are being deprived of all income by sanctioning and thereby being left utterly destitute.

“Charging the ultra-rich’s asset gains since 2009 to capital gains tax would raise more than the £25 billion that the Chancellor purports to need. I submit that it would introduce some semblance of democracy and social justice in this country if the Chancellor paid attention to this debate and thought deeply about what he is doing to our country and its people.”

Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley, Lab) suggested that the Government might save a lot more if its members “showed the same energy and enthusiasm for getting those who evade their taxes and run to tax havens as they do for going after the poor, the sick and people on the dole”.

Against this, David TC Davies offered insults and distortions of the facts, quoting the Daily Mail as though it provided an accurate account of current events: “Members of the shadow Cabinet might need a boxing referee to sort out their disputes at the moment, as we read today in the Daily Mail.”

He said: “We took office with a deficit of £160 billion and a debt that was rising rapidly to £1 trillion. That was after years of overspending in good times, as well as in bad, by Labour, a cheap money supply and lax banking regulation under the former Government.” Labour’s spending, up until the financial crisis, was always less than that of the previous Conservative administration; Gordon Brown and Tony Blair both ran a lower deficit than John Major and Margaret Thatcher, and at one point actually achieved a surplus, which is something that the Conservatives had not managed in the previous 18 years. While Mr Davies here complained about the “lax banking regulation”, Conservatives supported it at the time and in fact demanded more DE-regulation, which would have made the financial crisis worse when it happened.

“We had disastrous economic decisions, such as that to sell gold at a fraction of its real rate,” said Mr Davies. Yes – the UK lost around £9 billion. But compare that with the disastrous economic decision by George Osborne to impose more than £80 billion worth of cuts to achieve a £7 billion cut in the national deficit. The UK has lost £73 billion there, over a three-year period.

And Mr Davies said: “Worst of all and most seriously, we had a welfare system that allowed people to get into a trap of welfare dependency, leaving them on the dole for many years, but at the same time filling the consequent gap in employment by allowing mass and uncontrolled immigration into this country, which completely undercut British workers.” The first assertion is simply untrue; the second is a legacy of previous Conservative administrations that agreed to the free movement of EU member citizens, meaning that, when the eastern European countries joined in 2004, citizens migrated to the UK in the hope of a better life. Labour has admitted it should have negotiated for a delay in free movement until the economies of those countries had improved, making such migration less likely, but the situation was created before Labour took office.

Challenged on the Coalition’s record, Mr Davies fell back on the Tories’ current trick question, which is to counter any criticism by asking: “Is he suggesting that we are not doing enough to pay down the national debt? Is he suggesting that we should cut further and faster? If so, and if we had the support of other Opposition Members, that is exactly what the Government could do and, indeed, possibly should do. I look forward to seeing that support for getting the deficit down.” This disingenuous nonsense was batted away by Labour’s Hugh Bayley, who said “investing in the economy, creating jobs and thereby getting people off welfare and into work” was the way forward.

Mr Davies’ Conservative colleague Jeremy Lefroy took a different view, agreeing that increasing numbers of people are finding it impossible to make ends meet, and that job creation and apprenticeships were a better way out of poverty than changing the social security system alone. He agreed that sanctions were applied to his constituents “in a rather arbitrary manner”. He spoke against George Osborne’s suggested plan to remove housing benefits from people aged under 25, saying this “would have a drastic impact on young people who need to live away from home and who have no support from their families”. He spoke in favour of councils increasing their housing stock. And he admitted that disabled people faced severe problems when unfairly transferred from ESA to JSA: “A lady in my constituency says, ‘I am simply not fit for work, but by signing on for JSA I have to say that I am available and fit for work.’ She does not want to tell a lie.”

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool Walton, Labour) spoke powerfully about the effect of being on benefits: “Lots of people in my city are on benefits for the very first time. Far from being in clover — it beggars belief what we read in the right-wing press — they are struggling to make ends meet, and the problem that thousands of Liverpudlians are facing is new to them. For many, the idea that they might miss a rent payment is totally alien. They have not done that in the past 20 years, but since May 2010, their individual household incomes have been on such a downward trajectory that they now find themselves in rent arrears, seeking advice on debt management and unable to afford the daily cost of travel, food and energy. Figures suggest that 40 per cent of the adult population in Liverpool are struggling with serious debt problems.”

And he said poverty had health implications, too: “David Taylor-Robinson of the University of Liverpool and his fellow academics have highlighted the doubling of malnutrition-related hospital admissions nationally since 2008.”

John Hemming (Birmingham Yardley, LD) raised concerns about “the interrelationship between the welfare cap and victims of domestic violence, and whether there are situations that need more attention. I believe that people can get discretionary housing payment to leave a violent home, but it is important that we ensure that there is a route out of domestic violence for women. I am worried about that issue, just as I am about some wrongful sanctioning that I have seen. That does not help at all, because it undermines the whole process.” He also called for “a substantial increase in the minimum wage, because as the economy is improving the Government should look at that, rather than maintain things as they are”.

The vote gave huge endorsement to the call for an independent inquiry into poverty under the Coalition.

But with an election just 15 months away, how long will we have to wait for it to report?

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Coalition policy success: 80,000 children homeless for Christmas

shame

Tory politicians don’t care and Liberal Democrats don’t have any power – that’s why 80,000 children are being housed in temporary accommodation, alongside drug users and enduring threats of violence, as reported by Shelter today.

The government’s own figures show 2,090 families living in bed and breakfasts – an increase of eight per cent on 2012 and the largest number in 10 years, according to The Guardian. Of these, 760 have been living in B&Bs longer than the legal six-week limit – a 10 per cent increase on last year.

More than 43,000 other homeless households with children are in other emergency accommodation – usually privately-rented short-term flats, which are expensive. This is an increase of nine per cent on last year.

To put this into context, a Labour government commitment to halve the number of families in this kind of emergency accommodation meant the total fell between 2005 and 2010 – but it has been rising again since June 2011.

This is a human disaster created by the Coalition government.

Most families interviewed by the charity said they felt unsafe, with one child directly threatened by a man after an argument over a shared bathroom. Almost half said their children had witnessed incidents such as sexual offences, drug use and dealing.

One mother of three said: “One of the reasons we left was one of the residents trying to sell us crack cocaine.”

Most of the 25 families Shelter interviewed lived in one room; half said the children were sharing beds with parents or siblings and the family was sharing kitchen facilities with others. All but three said it was hard to find a safe place for their children to play. Three families had no cooking facilities and one reported sharing a cooker and fridge with 22 other people.

More than half had to share a bathroom or toilet with strangers, with 10 families sharing with seven or more other people; two-thirds had no table to eat on, and schoolchildren were finding it hard to do homework.

And their health is suffering: “It’s so hard to give him a balanced diet as it’s impossible to make proper meals here, let alone a Christmas dinner. He’s getting really pale and is so tired all the time. He gets so scared but it’s difficult when I’m scared myself. This is no place for a child to live,” said a mother in a Hounslow B&B.

“This shouldn’t be happening in 21st century Britain,” said Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, who described the charity’s findings as “shocking” and the conditions forced on families as “shameful”.

He said: “No child should be homeless, let alone 80,000. But tragically, with more people struggling to make ends meet and homelessness on the rise, we’re bracing ourselves for an increase in demand from families who desperately need our help.”

Housing minister Kris Hopkins couldn’t care less. “We’ve given councils nearly £1bn to tackle homelessness and to support people affected by the welfare reforms,” he sniffed.

“I am very clear that they should be fully able to meet their legal responsibility to house families in suitable accommodation.”

Let us be very clear on this: the problem is not that Tories like Hopkins don’t understand. This is exactly the result that they wanted; they just won’t acknowledge it because it is electorally damaging.

Look at the policies that created this problem: The bedroom tax; the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’, otherwise known as the Council Tax reduction scheme; the benefit cap that so many people in this country seem to support without understanding any of its implications.

Vox Political reported back in January what they would mean: “There will be a rise in rent and mortgage arrears… affordable housing will be less available and landlords less able or willing to rent to tenants on benefits… Private sector rental may become less attractive to landlords if tenants aren’t paying the rent. This will lead to a growth in homelessness. Councils have statutory duties and may see an increasing burden.”

But increases to the Discretionary Housing Payment fund have been entirely insignificant compared with the extra burden councils have faced. They received £150 million between them; Durham County Council had £883,000 and spent it all within eight weeks.

We have seen the start of the social cleansing predicted by this blog back in August 2012, when we noted that at least one council would use these measures to “clear out the poor and set up shop as a desirable residence for the rich”.

The housing bubble created by George Osborne with his ‘Help To Buy’ scheme will accelerate this process.

So don’t let a Tory tell you it’s nothing to do with them. They wanted this. In fact, 80,000 homeless children at Christmas is probably not enough for them.

Reasons to be fearful for a warm Summer’s day

Hero of the week: Peter Hain put the record straight about the cause of the UK's current economic woes (bankers) and the Conservatives' attitude to bank regulation (they wanted less of it before the crash). At long last, the facts came out on a national media outlet!

Hero of the week: Peter Hain put the record straight about the cause of the UK’s current economic woes (bankers) and the Conservatives’ attitude to bank regulation (they wanted less of it before the crash). At long last, the facts came out on a national media outlet!

There are a lot of potential topics for discussion but yr obdt srvt (that’s me) is very short of time on this sunny Sunday, so today’s article is going to have to be a quick run through of Things You Need to Know.

First up, following yesterday’s feature on how the Tories are blaming the civil service for the problems they have been creating, here are a couple more examples: The Guardian tells us that housing ministers are ordering councils to help families stay in their homes, rather than re-housing them in expensive bed & breakfasts for longer than the maximum period. Apparently this breaks the law. Minister Mark Prisk said he had created a £2 million fund to help councils currently breaking the rules.

Nice one. Shame it won’t scratch the surface of the £2 billion that has been spent by UK councils on temp accommodation since 2009 – that’s an average of £500 million per year; 250 times the puny amount Mr Prisk is offering, to alleviate problems his government has created with (for example) the Bedroom Tax.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph tells us that Jeremy Hunt has ordered the NHS to find a solution to the crisis in Accident & Emergency departments – that he and other Tory ministers have created – by next April.

These are further examples of the current Conservative ‘Create a Crisis and Blame Someone Else’ strategy we saw outlined in yesterday’s Vox Political article.

The BBC and many others have reported that Tim Yeo has joined the growing ranks of Tory MPs involved in ‘lobbying’ scandals, alongside Patrick Mercer from last week. Unlike Mercer, the allegation does not involve taking money to raise an issue (paid advocacy) – instead it is alleged that he coached an organisation, telling representatives what to say to the Commons’ Energy and Climate Change committee. It’s still corruption, and it’s staggering that these people are being allowed to continue as MPs while investigations go on, and possibly even afterwards, if they are found guilty. Should we really have people who have been proven to be dishonest, helping to make decisions on the future of our country?

Should we, Mr Cameron? Mr Shapps? Mr… Smith? Mr Hunt?

As some of us predicted long ago, Iain (Duncan) Smith’s benefit cuts (you mustn’t call them ‘reforms’ – that only encourages him) have led to a 40 per cent rise in the number of people seeking help from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

It’s just a shame that funding for the CAB (much of it from the government or statutory authorities) is declining, isn’t it? It’s almost as if somebody planned it that way, to make it even harder for poor people to get any justice. (I write as the vice-chair of a Welsh CAB so, believe me, I know my facts).

On the subject of justice, did anyone hear John Finnemore on The Now Show, laying into inJustice Secretary Chris Grayling’s ‘reform’ (there’s that word again) of the Legal Aid system that will make it impossible for anyone in that system to get justice, unless – you guessed it – they’re rich.

“Legal Aid will have a financial eligibility threshold. To be fair, this doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world,” he said. “And I can be confident about that, because right there next to it – as if deliberately placed there for purposes of comparison – are two of the worst ideas in the world.

“One – defendants will no longer have the right to choose their own lawyer; two – legal aid contracts will be awarded on the basis of price-competitive tender, i.e. who’s cheapest, to private companies – like Tesco and Eddie Stobart. You know, the lorry guy.

“You might almost wonder whether this might affect the quality of the representation in some way but Chris Grayling, Minister of Justice and dispenser of none, assures us it will not… Even though everywhere else, the government is obsessed with getting us to choose… when it comes to poor people who’ve been arrested, suddenly Daddy knows best.

“The bargain-basement Eddie Stobart Legal Aid lawyers will be paid a flat fee, regardless of results and, best of all, regardless of whether the client pleads guilty – which is quick and cheap – or not guilty, which is not. Yes, Chris Grayling has actually created a system where privately-run Legal Aid firms have a direct financial incentive to persuade their clients to plead guilty, while simultaneously being under enormous pressure to slash costs to the bone in order to put in a tender low enough to keep the contract.

“Meanwhile, the career crims… tend to trust their regular solicitor and take their advice if they suggest they’d be better-off pleading guilty, but they’re certainly not going to take that advice from Eddie McTesco in his ‘My First Lawyer’ costume. So they’re going to start pleading not guilty to everything.

“Well done, Mr Grayling, you’ve pulled off the double – innocent people encouraged to plead guilty; guilty people to plead not guilty. What a merry, madcap world of misrule you have created, Mr Grayling, you absolute tit!”

Finally, still on the radio, did everyone hear Peter Hain on Any Questions, putting the record straight on the reasons for the economic crisis and the facts about bank regulation – two subjects about which the Conservatives have been hugely vocal in their lies for many years.

He was talking about the announcements last week by Labour’s leaders, on their future plans for welfare. He’s critical (which is a relief), but he said it would not be right to make promises about things that Labour can’t deliver.

“We can’t deliver because this economic policy of the Tory-Lib Dem government is failing on a spectacular scale,” he said. “They’re doing all these things, all these cuts, in order to bring borrowing down, the deficit down, debt down.

“What’s happening? Borrowing is £245 billion higher than they said it would be in 2010 when they began this cuts programme. The national debt is £309 billion higher – and the deficit is £78 billion higher.

“It’s because cutting and cutting and cutting is a way to putting people out of work, destroying businesses, they don’t pay taxes, you don’t get government revenues and everybody goes on benefit – that’s why this is a spectacular catastrophe and we’re going to have to rescue the country from that, and we’ve got to do it responsibly and honestly.”

Hear, hear.

Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, went on the attack with the usual rubbish about Labour overspending but didn’t get very far before Hain put him straight: “It was the banks that destroyed the economy, not the Labour government – it was the international banking system!”

Uproarious applause from the studio audience in Machynlleth (just up the road from me) where the broadcast was taking place. They – like most of the British population – had clearly been waiting years for someone to come out with that simple fact on a national media outlet: The banks caused the current economic situation, not Labour.

Let’s just repeat it: The banks caused the current economic situation, not Labour.

Anyone suggesting otherwise is just plain wrong.

Paterson riposted weakly, “Because Gordon Brown didn’t regulate them”. But Hain had his answer for that ready, as well.

“You wanted lighter regulation. Come on, remember – you wanted lighter regulation!”

And that was also true.

Paterson went further into idiocy by prattling about breaking the national credit card – the kind of stuff that we all now know is nonsense and that has been disproved irrefutably on this blog and in many other places – and about the private sector creating 1.25 million new jobs, which we know it hasn’t done, for example, because 200,000 were education jobs that the government redefined from public to private, probably in order to create another made-up statistic.

In other words, the Conservatives have no arguments for what they’re doing. No arguments about the economy. No arguments about the cuts they have been making.

I’ve met Peter Hain a couple of times, and I’ve had a few differences of opinion with him – but in this instance he was right on the button and far more effective in putting forward an argument for supporting Labour than anything Ed Miliband said in his “we’re supporting Tory policies because we think pretending to be Tories will win us votes” speech last week.

It was one of the worst speeches a Labour leader could have made, but if it prompts more Labour representatives, like Peter Hain, to stand up for the party and present a proper case for opposition to this hateful, incompetent, evil shower – the Coalition – then it might do some good in spite of itself.

Smith v Jones over benefits, the disabled and the truth about homelessness

Finger-wagging rant: One tweeter commented, “You just KNOW IDS wanted to call Owen Jones a pleb back there…”

Iain Duncan Smith probably went home last night feeling satisfied that he had done his job well, putting forward his case for benefit cuts that will push thousands – maybe hundreds of thousands – of people out of their homes, on the BBC’s Question Time. After all, he had the last word, didn’t he?

Perhaps he didn’t count on the absolute twatting he received from the inhabitants of the social media.

Those who had seen the show wasted no time in putting forward their opinions about the clash between Smith and socialist “braying jackal” Owen Jones. Here’s what happened and what they said.

The question that sparked the clash was about whether the Work and Pensions Secretary’s plan to cap benefits would push large families out of their homes in London.

Yvette Cooper, also on this week’s panel, said the full consequences of the benefit cap and other measures being pushed through by the government were pushing up homelessness. “We’ve seen a 50 per cent increase in the number of families – families with children – living in bed and breakfast accommodation… That costs us a huge amount more… It’s a mix of the housing benefit changes but also the benefit cap – the way they have been introduced.”

Then Owen Jones stepped into the ring: “The reason this whole debate has become so toxic is a cynical demonisation campaign of people on benefits by the government,” he said. It’s as if he has been reading this blog.

“What they have tried to do is redirect people’s justifiable anger over ever-declining living standards from those at the top who’ve caused this crisis to people’s neighbours down the street. The working poor against the unemployed over benefits. Non-disabled people against disabled people. Private sector workers against public sector workers over pensions.” Absolutely correct, as pointed out and reiterated here many times in the past.

“Housing benefit is not going into the pockets of tenants, it’s lining the pockets of wealthy landlords charging extortionate rents,” he said, going on to utter something indistinct because others were talking over him. The impression I got was that he was saying successive governments, New Labour included, didn’t build council housing.

He went on to point out a statistic that the Tories have worked very hard to bury: “Most new claimants of housing benefit are in work; they don’t have enough money to pay extortionate rents.” Again, factually correct – and one must ask why employers do not pay enough. Why do they ask the government to subsidise the workforce?

“If we built housing in this country, we’d bring down the welfare bill, stimulate the economy, and create jobs.”

Having scored his first few points, Mr Jones went for the knockout blow. Although blocked in his first attempt to mention the disabled, he tried again: “There is a point that has to be made about the treatment of disabled people in this country, and there are two names I want to give Iain… Brian McArdle, 57 years old, paralysed down one side, blind in one eye; he couldn’t speak. He died one day after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos. Another example – Karen Sherlock.”

For those who don’t know, Karen Sherlock was a desperately ill woman, suffering from kidney failure, whose Employment and Support Allowance was cut off by Iain Duncan Smith’s minions. She died on June 8 this year, apparently of a heart attack, after an operation was cancelled. Read her story here.

This is where IDS lost it. Irately wagging his finger in Mr Jones’s general direction, he barked: “We’ve heard a lot from you. I didn’t hear you screaming about two and a half million people who were parked, nobody saw them, for over 10 years, not working, no hope, no aspiration. We are changing their lives; I’m proud of doing that. Getting them off-benefit is what we’re going to do.”

What he didn’t say was, “We’re changing their lives for the better.” As for getting them off-benefit – that’s a threat, if there are no jobs for them to take (and there aren’t – or at least, not enough).

And that was the end of the programme. Owen Jones later commented that, as chairman David Dimbleby was finishing up, “a protestor yelled about Atos and left – not sure that will come across because it descended into total chaos.” It didn’t, but it would be interesting to know what their point was.

Jamie Laverty made a point about it: “Woman shouting about Atos on BBCQT – how symbolic. The BBC fails to listen to the people whilst giving the Tories a soapbox.”

Then came the verdict. Nathaniel Tapley saw through the Secretary of State straight away: “IDS thinks it’s unreasonable for anyone to receive more than £35,000 pa from the state. And claimed £98,000 in expenses last year.” Hypocritical? I think I’ve written a blog about that…

‘The UK today’ tweeted: “Only the wealthy moan about benefits for the poor but don’t complain about the bankers and shareholders who created the present problem.”

Mark Ferguson of LabourList tried sticking to the thrust of the question: “Shockingly, London MP IDS seems totally ignorant about the impact of his own government’s housing benefit cap in the capital. Astonishing.

“Build more houses, lower the cost of renting, save money on benefits. It’s not f*cking rocket science is it?”

To Iain Duncan Smith, it is. He’s a Tory, Mark! You’re suggesting they lay out money on public works. They don’t do that! Their plan is to hold money back, and use it to say they’ve balanced the books a bit more. Pointless and utterly unworkable in the long-term, but it is what it is.

Jenny Landreth made the point that’s been on everyone’s mind about housing benefit: “Do benefit claimants profit from their rent being paid? No. Landlords do. They are the reason the rents are high. HELLO?” Exactly right. Perhaps it’s time to change its title to one that is more appropriate, like Landlord’s Benefit?

John McDonnell MP applauded Mr Jones: “Well done for getting the tragedy of Mr McArdle and barbarity of Atos on the record. We must never forget or forgive this cruelty.”

Finally, there came the comments on the cabinet member himself.

Zoe Williams, Guardian columnist, tweeted: “‘we’ve heard a lot from you’ IDS says to Owen jones. Only narrowly avoids adding ‘oik’.”

Matthew Walker added: “IDS has finger wagging rant at Owen Jones – he just needed to finish with ‘you need a damn good thrashing, lad’ and it would have been perfect.”

Simplem+ths: “All that remained was for IDS to say ‘shut it you fu#@ing pleb best you learn your [email protected]#ing place'”.

And the amusingly-named ‘Jeremy Twunt’ concluded: “You just know IDS wanted to call Owen Jones a pleb back there…”

Isobel Waby went for the jugular: “Iain Duncan Smith is an insult to the British people. How dare he undermine the British people, insulting our sick, disabled, unemployed kids?

“He should be sacked NOW… MPs’ inhumanity to the less fortunate.”

And Gracie Samuels made the most telling point: “The lying bastard he’s killing people, BBCQT, and we were not allowed to discuss it.”

But Diana Foster put viewers’ fear into words when she tweeted: “Disability hatecrime up, IDS gets final say – giving impression he’s whiter than white and no disabled people are affected by reform. Disgusting.”

Well, if Mr Smith (I never call him ‘Duncan Smith’ because that kind of attempt at a double-barrelled name is nothing other than pretentious) is reading this, I wonder if he’ll still be putting that appearance in the ‘plus’ column. The net result, according to the public is that he is ignorant, cruel, an insult to the British people, inhuman, a lying bastard and disgusting. Wag your finger at that, Iain!

Since IDS got the last word on television, let’s give the last word here to Owen Jones: “Blimey, thanks everyone. But what a a shame that stating the bleeding obvious on telly is such a revolutionary act.”

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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