Tag Archives: county council

Vote for Mike in the local elections!

Vox Political’s Mike Sivier is standing as a Labour Party candidate for Powys County Council’s Llanbadarn Fawr ward – and there’s more to him than a nice smile [Image: Mike Sivier].

The people of Llanbadarn Fawr ward, in Powys, will have the chance to vote for This Writer as their representative in the forthcoming county council elections.

That’s right – I have put myself forward as a Labour Party candidate in the election on May 4.

As readers of my blog Vox Political will know, I provide a strong voice for what I think is right. Powys – and the people of Llanbadarn Fawr – need a strong voice to represent the real needs of the community.

These are times of hard choices, with funding cuts from the Conservative Government in Westminster forcing difficult decisions on councillors.

But I am pledging to:

  • Protect quality social care, provided according to need;
  • Protect education and the future of our children;
  • Create opportunities for young people to live and thrive in the county;
  • Bring cheaper, cleaner energy to all our homes;
  • Protect county council functions including waste and recycling services.

But why read about it when you can watch me explain on a short video? Take a look:

If you’re in Llanbadarn Fawr, in Powys, please consider voting for me.

If you know somebody who lives there, please share this article, and the video, with them.

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Housing association speaks out over Bedroom Tax


It seems the chief executive of a local housing association has taken issue with yr obdt srvt over the Bedroom Tax.

Shane Perkins, of Mid Wales Housing, wrote to the Powys-based County Times after I used that paper to expose an illegal action by the county council’s ruling group, aimed at preventing discussing of a motion for the council to adopt a ‘no-eviction’ policy.

The motion asked the council not to evict tenants who fail to pay their rent because of the Bedroom Tax. Councillors who are also private landlords were forbidden from speaking or voting on the motion as they stand to benefit if social housing tenants are forced to seek accommodation with them as a result of the vindictive policy, and this meant 30 councillors had to leave the chamber.

Members of the ruling group, realising there was a real possibility of the motion being carried, then claimed that any councillors who are social housing tenants should also be barred from taking part – a move that is against the law (to the best of my knowledge). My understanding is that a ‘general dispensation’ allows councillors who are council tenants to take part in debates on, and vote on, matters relating to council housing.

Mr Perkins, writing in the paper’s December 20 edition, suggests that it is almost impossible to establish whether or not a tenant has fallen into rent arrears solely as a consequence of the “pernicious” (his word) Bedroom Tax, and claims that the motion was “a meaningless ‘political’ statement”.

He makes the point that it may be possible to apply the policy where the tenant has never previously been in rent arrears, but this would be unfair on other tenants who are similarly affected now but had fallen into arrears for other reasons in the past. He asks why tenants who struggle to meet their rent payments should not receive a financial subsidy or reward for being a good and conscientious tenant; and also points out that the cumulative effect of other regressive changes to benefits is also likely to affect the rent payments of vulnerable people and, to be consistent, Labour’s motion should encompass them also.

He says all social landlords, including the council, will seek to advise and support tenants who are in financial difficulty, but “in the final analysis, if a tenant fails to pay their rent, the ultimate sanction has got to be eviction.

“To do otherwise would be irresponsible, as ultimately the cost of one tenant not paying their rent is borne by all those tenants that do pay, and spiralling arrears will ultimately affect the viability of the council’s housing, which will serve none of its tenants.”

It would be easy to pick holes in his arguments. The whole point of government policy is to make sure that nobody gets a penny more than the Conservative-led Coalition decides they should have – and this government wants to drive people into poverty – so there will be no rewards for hard work. The Labour Party, and non-political groups, has campaigned ceaselessly to force the government into assessing the cumulative impact of its changes to the benefit system, but the government has refused all such calls, knowing as it does that such research would reveal the monstrous truth about its attack on the poorest in society.

If Mr Perkins is really interested, then he should encourage his own MP to support the call for such an assessment in the debate on the ‘WoW’ Petition, due to take place in the House of Commons in the New Year. I helped write that document, which calls for (among other things) “a cumulative impact assessment of welfare reform”. Labour is supporting the motion. I would suggest, therefore, that any criticism of Labour for making a “meaningless ‘political’ statement” is unfounded.

As for the difference between tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax who have never been in arrears before, and those affected by it who have – this should be something a social landlord can track, especially if they are actively seeking to “advise and support” tenants. This support should include examination of a tenants income and outgoings, before and after the Tax was imposed.

The simple fact is that Mr Perkins would move offending tenants into smaller houses if he had any, but he doesn’t. He would not be talking about eviction if he did. He never built them and we must conclude that he never saw the need. Perhaps he believed that the welfare state would continue to support his tenants.

William Beveridge, the architect of that system, in the report that bears his name, said the British government should fight what he called the “giant evils” of society, including Want.

How could Beveridge know that, 70 years later, the British government would be actively increasing Want, wherever it could. That is what the Bedroom Tax, and the benefit cap, and all the other cuts brought in by this spiteful Conservative-led Coalition are about.

These measures are crimes against the citizens of this country – citizens who have paid into the State, generation after generation since the 1940s, believing that it would look after them if the spectre of Want cast its shadow at their door.

Mr Perkins describes the changes as “pernicious”, but if he allows a single tenant to be evicted then he will be a willing accomplice.

That is what he is saying when he tells us he is prepared to use this “final sanction”.

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Do you want your children to starve?

Well? Do you want your kids to starve?

The Guardian has reported that budget cuts are forcing the closure of breakfast clubs in primary schools across the country – despite increased demand. The research, by Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, shows 40 per cent of councils are cutting back.

This means vulnerable children will be going to school hungry and will therefore be unable to concentrate in lessons.

Think about the consequences of this. If they can’t concentrate because of hunger, they’re likely to misbehave – and this could set a precedent for the rest of their lives. Malnourishment leads to misbehaviour, leading to what? Crime, perhaps?

At the very least, the inability to concentrate means their grades will drop and their academic careers will fail – in some cases, before they have had a chance to get going.

Who knows how many will develop health problems associated with malnutrition?

This will happen, not because they are “bad kids” or because they are “academically sub-normal”, but because they come from poor families. The rich, meanwhile, will streak ahead in the race for The Good Life.

The Guardian reports that Essex County Council said it had 219 breakfast clubs in schools last year, but 169 this year. In Surrey, 2,870 children were being given breakfast last year but only 1,200 in 2012. That’s creating 1,670 potential problem children.

All this is happening in the country with the seventh largest economy in the world.

A Department for Education spokesman acknowledged the importance of the service, but said it was up to schools how they spent the funds they were given. The “pupil premium”, aimed at the most disadvantaged children, would be doubled, the DFE said, but not until 2014-15 – in time to buy your votes at the 2015 election, perhaps?

Until then, do you really want your kids to starve?

The benefits system is failing thousands of people every week, forcing more and more of them to seek help from Britain’s growing number of food banks. “Breadline Britain”, under the Tory-led Coalition, is now a literal expression. Previously it was just metaphorical.

The Trussell Trust, which runs the UK’s biggest food bank, in Coventry, is opening new food banks at the rate of three per week.

Almost half the people who go to food banks are there because of benefit changes. the Department for Work and Pensions does not work fast enough to arrange benefits for when claimants need them, leaving poor people in crisis for weeks, or months, at a time. Then the debts start racking up.

Sanctions, imposed as temporary punishments by the new benefits regime, are also adding to the queue at the food banks. Since 2010, the number of people getting their Jobseeker’s Allowance suspended has spiked, and we all know that the disability tests introduced for Employment and Support Allowance (and soon to come in for Disability Living Allowance) are causing hardship and – in fact – death for Britain’s most vulnerable people.

Sanction or disallowance of benefits happened to 167,000 people in the three months up to February 2012.

What do people do for money when the State fails them and they can’t get work? They fall into the debt trap.

High-interest, doorstep lending to poor people is Britain’s latest – perhaps only – boom industry. In other words, the government’s sick benefits regime is forcing the poor into debt to organisations that will take away everything they have left, in order to make up payments on a loan whose interest rate they probably made up on the spot.

And when they’ve taken everything, what do you do then?

Do you really want your kids to starve?