Rent strike: students are permanently penniless. When you see how much this year’s alumni have had to pay – for NOTHING – you’ll understand why they’re raging.
Those Tories really are selective about who they help with the costs of Covid-19, aren’t they?
I remember being a student. Most of the time, I hardly had two pennies to rub together. The rented accommodation available to us was – mostly – diabolical. And expensive.
One place was damp. It gave me bronchitis.
But at least I got to live in it!
Since the Covid crisis started, according to a survey, the
average student has so far paid £1,621 in rent for unrefunded empty rooms.
In total, according to advice website Save the Student,
university students have wasted nearly £1bn on empty rooms in flat shares and halls of residence that they have been unable to use because of coronavirus restrictions this academic year.
The website estimates rents are so high that they take up three-quarters of their maintenance loans at an average of £146 per week, so it’s no wonder that
Students’ anger with high rents… boiled over on UK campuses this term as students launched the largest rent strike in 40 years.
There has been a patchy response from universities, private halls of residence and landlords, with some refusing discounts while others have offered full rebates.
I have a lot of sympathy for the universities, and for the landlords – as well as for the students themselves.
It is unfair for the accommodation providers to foot the bill for thousands of empty rooms when the situation was thrust on them by the government – albeit admittedly in response to a nationwide pandemic.
It just happens to be even more unfair for them to demand that students pay the bill, rather than the government. This is loaned money, remember – they have to pay it back, plus interest, over a period of decades to come.
Businesses – especially the bigger ones – have received huge subsidies, and employees have had 80 per cent of their wages paid by a government “furlough” scheme. Why weren’t students added to that, at the very least?
The Guardian story tells us the government has provided students with £70 million in hardship funding, which seems to fall quite a long way short of what they’ve had to shell out.
Considering the billions given to Tory cronies and their – let’s be honest – fake firms for nonexistent or inadequate Covid-related services, this is an insult to the next generation of the UK’s movers and shakers.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Boris Johnson just doesn’t know when to stop telling untruths, does he?
It’s possible that he wasn’t aware he was being economical with the truth when he said Melton Mowbray pork pies are exported to other countries (they aren’t) when he tried to get Donald Trump to relax tariffs on goods being exported to the United States.
But it would be a very poor prime minister indeed who did not understand the terms of deals negotiated by his own government.
As This Site has previously stated, the subsidy that paid TV licence fees for people aged 75 and more was brought in by the New Labour government in 1999, when Gordon Brown promised to pay the BBC to provide the service.
Tory Chancellor George Osborne reversed that agreement in 2015 when he told the BBC the government would stop paying the subsidy by June 2020.
He did not say the BBC would be ordered to pay the subsidy instead of the Treasury; it was nothing to do with the BBC.
In fact, it is an act of kindness by the BBC to offer to continue paying for the licences of extremely poor pensioners – but this is based on a fatally-flawed premise, for reasons you’ll see below.
So in the following extract from the BBC’s own article, Mr Johnson is clearly lying:
The BBC should “cough up” and pay for TV licences for all over-75s, the prime minister has said.
It comes after the BBC announced in June that it would restrict the benefit to those in low-income households.
Speaking to reporters at the G7 summit, Boris Johnson said the BBC’s funding settlement had been conditional on it continuing to fund the free licences – something the corporation disputes.
Mr Johnson told reporters at the summit in Biarritz, southern France: “The BBC received a settlement that was conditional upon their paying for TV licences for the over-75s.
“They should cough up.”
Labour accused the PM of blaming the broadcaster for government policy.
The BBC previously said it would limit free licences to low-income households to prevent it having to close services such as BBC Two and Radio 5 Live.
As This Site stated previously (again): It’s a typical Tory tactic.
They starved councils of funding, forcing them to cut services to the public. Who got the blame? The local authority.
They privatised huge swathes of the National Health Service, meaning that public funds were diverted into the profits of private firms and services suffered while the Tories were claiming to be increasing funding massively. Who got the blame? The NHS.
Worse still, the Tories are using this as an opportunity to introduce means-testing for over-75s. They will demand to know how much money each household receives, in order to determine whether it should have a subsidised licence.
But the idea of means-testing by asking whether households are in receipt of pension credit is fatally flawed.
Many households don’t even know they qualify for the benefit because the Conservative government hasn’t bothered to tell them.
So let’s be honest.
Boris Johnson is lying about the fact that his Conservative government is forcing pensioners aged over 75 to pay the TV licence free – including those who should be exempt but don’t know it because his government hasn’t told them.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
With people like this in charge of banks – and then going on to important roles in Conservative-led governments, can either the banks or the government be trusted to do what’s right for UK citizens?
Banks and other financial organisations want the Conservative government to slash the cost of complying with new regulations, according to the Confederation of British Industry. Doesn’t your heart just bleed for them?
Thse are the organisations that sucked the UK into the global financial crisis and allowed the Conservatives to form a government after the 2010 election (they didn’t win it) with a false claim that Labour overspent.
Now they want the regulations that prevent them from causing another crisis to be eased.
Considering the banks’ record, it would be madness to do so. Let’s see how long it takes the Tories to comply.
According to The Guardian, “As the City recovers from the financial crisis, companies are lobbying for an end to criticism of the banking industry and an easing of rules designed to prevent another crisis.
“They argue the sector is a big employer and that the City’s position as a financial centre is important for the UK’s economy.”
Finance is indeed a big employer, here in the UK – but only because Conservative-led governments since 2010 have utterly failed to build up any other industry while continuing to pander to the banks.
Meanwhile, the taxpayer has been supporting banks heavily, with 4.21 per cent of government spending – that’s £41 billion per year – being supplied to these very profitable institutions for no very good reason.
And they’re complaining about the cost of regulations!
It gets better. The regulations against which they are complaining include:
The ring-fence required by 2019 to separate retail and investment banking, so that bad investments cannot affect the safety of depositors’ money.
The introduction of criminal liability for senior executives whose reckless behaviour causes their company to fail.
That’s right – bank bosses are angry that the government is actually trying to stop them from penalising ordinary account holders for their gambling losses, and upset that they might have to pay a debt to society if their decisions harm the viability of their firms.
Clearly these bankers have not learned their lesson and want to inflict further debt upon the taxpayer while making off like the bandits they are.
According to The Guardian, “HSBC has taken the lead for the banks by threatening to leave the UK if it decides the cost of remaining is too great. Britain’s biggest bank listed ringfencing and the [bank] levy, which HSBC says affects it disproportionately, as important considerations.”
It is important to note that the survey was compiled with accounting firm PwC, which has been singled out by HM Revenue and Customs as having created hugely lucrative schemes to help companies and the hugely wealthy to avoid paying their taxes.
Shouldn’t the government’s response be: “F*** off, then – but pay your back taxes first”?
The last thing the government should do is give in to these demands, and taxpayers across the country should write in to George Osborne, warning him against any such move.
There is no reason to trust the banks with any more responsibility than the bare minimum. They simply haven’t earned our trust back yet.
If the banks want more freedom, they should be told to bloody well earn it.
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 everyone – free. That means noprivateinvolvement. 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 notuitionfees 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 cliché). 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.
The late Brian McArdle is one of the many, many people who have died because of policies inflicted on the UK by a corrupt government.
It seems some people still don’t understand the threat posed to them by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who are currently running the UK into the ground.
Yesterday (Saturday) a commenter suggested that it might be a good idea to put up with another four years of the current catastrophe, in the hope that voters will be so sick of the situation by the end of it that they’ll support a properly Socialist government.
That is an attitude born from naivete and a failure to understand the changes wrought by the self-serving wretches we foolishly allowed into government in 2010.
Firstly, if a Tory or Tory-led government is voted back into office next year, the Fixed Term Parliament Act means we’re saddled with them until 2020 – that’s five and a half more years.
Secondly, changes to the electoral system have been introduced which mean that far fewer people are likely to have registered to vote by the time that 2020 election rolls around – and those who are still able to do so will be far more likely to vote for the Conservatives than for any other organisation.
Thirdly, the Tories tried to gerrymander Parliamentary constituencies – during the current term of office – in order to ensure they would be far more likely to win any future election, by reducing the number of MPs to 600 and altering constituency borders to make a majority of people in the new constituencies more likely to vote for them. The only reason this failed is because the Tories’ little yellow partners, the Liberal Democrats, refused to support the change after the Tories stabbed them in the back over their bid to introduce proportional representation. They will try again, if elected back into office next year.
Fourthly, the mainstream media is owned by strongly right-wing, Tory-supporting concerns who feed the general public highly biased ‘news’ items that are intended to prejudice ordinary people against the organisations that gave them the welfare state, the NHS and the human/working rights that make their lives tolerable at the moment. The plan has always been to mislead people into relinquishing those hard-won pillars of the modern UK by supporting the Conservative Party and its plans to abolish them in favour of a private system that will rob them and leave them powerless to prevent further predations.
Fifthly, the Conservative Party has no intention of allowing anyone to consider the possibility of an alternative government as it has spent the last four and a half years turning the British government into a gravy train, creating more wealth for the Conservative Party. The aim has always been to use the deficit and the national debt as excuses to cut services and sell their provision to private companies – who then charge the public higher prices for those services and pay the Conservative Party large donations as thanks for services rendered. The claim that this will lessen the national deficit and debt is a lie – with less money passing through the system, it is more likely that the debt will increase, providing the Tories with an excuse to sell off even more of the hard-won infrastructure of our society.
Finally, the new – corrupt – system that the Tories have created (with or without the collusion of the Liberal Democrats) relies on the creation of an underclass for people to hate, on whom the blame can be placed for the perceived failure of the system to work in the way the Tories have been claiming it would. The chosen scapegoats are the unemployed and the disabled – people who are unable to work in Tory donors’ sweatshops, for varying reasons. The Tories have used their friends in the mainstream media to whip up hysteria against these so-called ‘lazy scroungers’, unhindered by any relationship with the facts; subsidies to the City (London’s financial district) far outstrip payments made to the unemployed, incapacitated or disabled, despite the fact that the City is a profit-making entity that doesn’t need taxpayers’ help and the amount of fraud in the benefit system – the number of people who don’t deserve taxpayer support – stands at less than one per cent. And wasn’t it the bankers who caused our financial woes in the first place? This has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people, whose only fault was needing the help that they, and their fellow citizens, had funded with their taxes in the past. The government is refusing to release figures on the number of deaths and Iain Duncan Smith recently denied that any had taken place.
Just one such death should be enough to send the Conservatives out of government forever. Here are 71*:
Terry McGarvey, 48. Dangerously ill from polycytheamia, Terry asked for an ambulance to be called during his Work Capability Assessment. He knew that he wasn’t well enough to attend his WCA but feared that his benefits would be stopped if he did not.
He died the following day.
Elaine Lowe, 53. Suffering from COPD and fearful of losing her benefits. In desperation, Elaine chose to commit suicide.
The late Mark Wood.
Mark Wood, 44. Found fit for work by Atos, against his Doctors advice and assertions that he had complex mental health problems. Starved to death after benefits stopped, weighing only 5st 8lb when he died.
‘Stewardship’: This memorial is to Paul Reekie, the Scottish poet and writer who took his own life in 2010. Letters left on his table stated that his Housing Benefit and Incapacity Benefit had been stopped. The poet’s death led to the creation of the Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights.
Paul Reekie, 48, the Leith based Poet and Author. Suffered from severe depression. Committed suicide after DWP stopped his benefits due to an Atos ‘fit for work’ decision.
Leanne Chambers, 30. Suffered depression for many years which took a turn for the worst when she was called in for a WCA. Leanne committed suicide soon after.
Karen Sherlock, 44. Multiple health issues. Found fit for work by Atos and denied benefits. Fought a long battle to get placed into the support group of ESA. Karen died the following month of a heart attack.
Carl Payne, 42. Fears of losing his lifeline benefits due to welfare reform led this Father of two to take his own life.
Tim Salter, 53. Blind and suffering from Agoraphobia. Tim hanged himself after Atos found him fit for work and stopped his benefits.
Edward Jacques, 47 years old and suffering from HIV and Hepatitis C. Edward had a history of severe depression and self-harm. He took a fatal overdose after Atos found him fit for work and stopped his benefits.
Linda Wootton, 49 years old. A double heart and lung transplant patient. Died just nine days after the government found her fit for work, their refusal letter arriving as she lay desperately ill in her hospital bed.
Steven Cawthra, 55. His benefits stopped by the DWP and with rising debts, he saw suicide as the only way out of a desperate situation
Elenore Tatton, 39 years old. Died just weeks after the government found her fit for work.
John Walker, 57, saddled with debt because of the bedroom tax, John took his own life.
Brian McArdle, 57 years old. Suffered a fatal heart attack the day after his disability benefits were stopped.
Stephen Hill, 53. Died of a heart attack one month after being found fit for work, even though he was waiting for major heart surgery.
Jacqueline Harris, 53. A former Nurse who could hardly walk was found fit for work by Atos and her benefits withdrawn. in desperation, she took her own life.
David Barr, 28. Suffering from severe mental difficulties. Threw himself from a bridge after being found fit for work by Atos and failing his appeal.
David Groves, 56. Died of a heart attack the night before taking his work capability assessment. His widow claimed that it was the stress that killed him.
Nicholas Peter Barker, 51. Shot himself after being told his benefits were being stopped. He was unable to work after a brain haemorrhage left him paralysed down one side.
Mark and Helen Mullins, 48 and 59 years old. Forced to live on £57.50 a week and make 12 mile trips each week to get free vegetables to make soup. Mark and Helen both committed suicide.
Richard Sanderson, 44. Unable to find a job and with his housing benefit cut forcing him to move, but with nowhere to go. Richard committed suicide.
Martin Rust, 36 years old. A schizophrenic man who killed himself two months after the government found him fit to work.
Craig Monk, 43. A vulnerable gentleman and a partial amputee who slipped so far into poverty that he hanged himself.
Colin Traynor, 29, and suffering from epilepsy was stripped of his benefits. He appealed. Five weeks after his death his family found he had won his appeal.
Elaine Christian, 57 years old. Worried about her work capability assessment, she was subsequently found at Holderness drain, drowned and with ten self inflicted wrist wounds.
Christelle and Kayjah Pardoe, 32 years and 5 month old. Pregnant, her benefits stopped, Christelle, clutching her baby son jumped from a third floor balcony.
Mark Scott, 46. His DLA and housing benefit stopped and sinking into deep depression, Mark died six weeks later.
Cecilia Burns, 51. Found fit for work while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She died just a few weeks after she won her appeal against the Atos decision.
Chris Cann, 57 years old. Found dead in his home just months after being told he had to undergo a medical assessment to prove he could not work.
Peter Hodgson, 49. Called to JCP to see if he was suitable for volunteer work. Peter had suffered a stroke, a brain haemorrhage and had a fused leg. His appointment letter arrived a few days after he took his own life.
Paul Willcoxsin, 33 years old. Suffered with mental health problems and worried about government cuts. Paul committed suicide by hanging himself.
Victim of government persecution: A coroner has agreed that government pressure drove Stephanie Bottrill to suicide.
Stephanie Bottrill, 53. After paying £80 a month for bedroom tax, Stephanie could not afford heating in the winter, and lived on tinned custard. In desperation, she chose to walk in front of a lorry.
Larry Newman suffered from a degenerative lung condition, his weight dropping from 10 to 7 stone. Atos awarded him zero points, he died just three months after submitting his appeal.
Paul Turner, 52 years old. After suffering a heart attack, he was ordered to find a job in February. In April Paul died from ischaemic heart disease.
Christopher Charles Harkness, 39. After finding out that the funding for his care home was being withdrawn, this man who suffered with mental health issues, took his own life.
Sandra Louise Moon, 57. Suffering from a degenerative back condition, depression and increasingly worried about losing her incapacity benefit. Sandra committed suicide by taking an overdose.
Lee Robinson, 39 years old. Took his own life after his housing benefit and council tax were taken away from him.
David Coupe, 57. A Cancer sufferer found fit for work by Atos in 2012. David lost his sight, then his hearing, then his mobility, and then his life.
Michael McNicholas, 34. Severely depressed and a recovering alcoholic. Michael committed suicide after being called in for a Work Capability Assessment by Atos.
Victor Cuff, 59 and suffering from severe depression. Victor hanged himself after the DWP stopped his benefits.
Charles Barden, 74. Charles committed suicide by hanging due to fears that the Bedroom Tax would leave him destitute and unable to cope.
Ian Caress, 43. Suffered multiple health issues and deteriorating eyesight. Ian was found fit for work by Atos, he died ten months later having lost so much weight that his family said that he resembled a concentration camp victim.
Iain Hodge, 30. Suffered from the life threatening illness, Hughes Syndrome. Found fit for work by Atos and benefits stopped, Iain took his own life.
Wayne Grew, 37. Severely depressed due to government cuts and the fear of losing his job, Wayne committed suicide by hanging.
Kevin Bennett, 40. Kevin a sufferer of schizophrenia and mental illness became so depressed after his JSA was stopped that he became a virtual recluse. Kevin was found dead in his flat several months later.
David Elwyn Hughs Harries, 48. A disabled man who could no longer cope after his parents died, could find no help from the government via benefits. David took an overdose as a way out of his solitude.
Denis Jones, 58. A disabled man crushed by the pressures of government cuts, in particular the Bedroom Tax, and unable to survive by himself. Denis was found dead in his flat.
Shaun Pilkington, 58. Unable to cope any more, Shaun shot himself dead after receiving a letter from the DWP informing him that his ESA was being stopped.
Paul ?, 51. Died in a freezing cold flat after his ESA was stopped. Paul appealed the decision and won on the day that he lost his battle to live.
Chris MaGuire, 61. Deeply depressed and incapable of work, Chris was summonsed by Atos for a Work Capability Assessment and deemed fit for work. On appeal, a judge overturned the Atos decision and ordered them to leave him alone for at least a year, which they did not do. In desperation, Chris took his own life, unable to cope anymore.
Peter Duut, a Dutch national with terminal cancer living in the UK for many years found that he was not entitled to benefits unless he was active in the labour market. Peter died leaving his wife destitute, and unable to pay for his funeral.
George Scollen, age unknown. Took his own life after the government closed the Remploy factory he had worked in for 40 years.
Julian Little, 47. Wheelchair bound and suffering from kidney failure, Julian faced the harsh restrictions of the Bedroom Tax and the loss of his essential dialysis room. He died shortly after being ordered to downgrade.
Miss DE, Early 50’s. Suffering from mental illness, this lady committed suicide less than a month after an Atos assessor gave her zero points and declared her fit for work.
Robert Barlow, 47. Suffering from a brain tumour, a heart defect and awaiting a transplant, Robert was deemed fit for work by Atos and his benefits were withdrawn. He died penniless less than two years later.
Carl Joseph Foster-Brown, 58. As a direct consequence of the wholly unjustifiable actions of the Job centre and DWP, this man took his own life.
Martin Hadfield, 20 years old. Disillusioned with the lack of jobs available in this country but too proud to claim benefits. Utterly demoralised, Martin took his own life by hanging himself.
Annette Francis, 30. A mum-of-one suffering from severe mental illness, found dead after her disability benefits were ceased.
Ian Jordan, 60. His benefits slashed after Atos and the DWP declared Ian, a sufferer of Barratt’s Oesophagus, fit for work, caused him to run up massive debts in order to survive. Ian was found dead in his flat after taking an overdose.
Janet McCall, 53. Terminally ill with pulmonary fibrosis and declared ‘Fit for Work’ by Atos and the DWP, this lady died 5 months after her benefits were stopped.
Stuart Holley, 23. A man driven to suicide by the DWP’s incessant pressure and threat of sanctions for not being able to find a job.
Graham Shawcross, 63. A sufferer of the debilitating disease, Addison’s. Died of a heart attack due to the stress of an Atos ‘Fit for Work’ decision.
David Clapson, 59 years old. A diabetic ex-soldier deprived of the means to survive by the DWP and the governments harsh welfare reforms, David died all but penniless, starving and alone, his electricity run out.
Chris Smith, 59. Declared ‘Fit for Work’ by Atos as he lay dying of Cancer in his hospital bed.
Nathan Hartwell, 36, died of heart failure after an 18-month battle with the Department for Works and Pensions.
Michael Connolly, 60. A Father of One, increasingly worried about finances after his benefits were cut. Committed suicide by taking 13 times the fatal dose of prescription medicine on the 30th October – His Birthday.
Jan Mandeville, 52, A lady suffering from Fibromyalgia, driven to the point of mental and physical breakdown by this governments welfare reforms. Jan was found dead in her home after battling the DWP for ESA and DLA.
Trevor Drakard, 50 years old. A shy and reserved, severe epileptic who suffered regular and terrifying fits almost his entire life, hounded to suicide by the DWP who threatened to stop his life-line benefits.
Death of a severely disabled Dorset resident, unnamed, who took her own life while battling the bedroom tax.
This blog used to quote, with monotonous regularity, the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller on what happened in Nazi Germany:
“First they came for the socialists,
“and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
“Then they came for the trade unionists,
“and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
“Then they came for the Jews,
“and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
“Then they came for me,
“and there was no one left to speak for me.”
In today’s United Kingdom, an extra two lines may be added (perhaps to replace the lines about the Jews):
“Then they came for the unemployed and the disabled,
“and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t unemployed or disabled.”
This is the country where you live.
These crimes are taking place here and now – except they’re not called crimes because, when you have a criminal government, it changes the law to ensure that any such damning definitions are removed.
And you want to excuse the government that has inflicted all this harm? You want to let it continue, because the alternative isn’t Socialist enough for you? Or because you’ve decided the system is corrupt and you don’t want to support it with your vote?
People are dying now.
At the last count, those in just one of the groups threatened by this government were dying at a rate of more than 200 per week.
And you want to let this continue.
What will you do when they come to take everything away from you, and there’s nobody left who could help?
Postscript: The saddest fact of all is that many people won’t bother to read this article because it’s “a bit long”.
*VP has been contacted on Twitter by people who were keen to point out that some of the deaths listed above took place while the Labour Party was in power. They are missing the point. Evidence exists that states Labour was dismayed at the effect its benefit changes had caused, and would have altered the system to prevent further deaths if elected in 2010. That didn’t happen; we ended up with the Coalition instead – and the Coalition has intensified the pressure on vulnerable individuals. It is therefore on the Coalition that blame should currently be targeted – the administration that has demonstrated no remorse for what it is doing and, if reports of plans to reduce ESA payments are true, intends to worsen the situation considerably in the future. Any attempt to divert attention onto Labour’s past can only distract from what the Coalition is doing now.
We all owe a debt of thanks to Richard Murphy, over at Tax Research UK. He has broken down the information in George Osborne’s misleading ‘annual tax statement’ into its component parts and then put a new version together, under categories that more accurately describe the spending concerned.
Then he turned the information into a handy pie chart – similar to Osborne’s but with one major change:
This version is accurate.
Here it is:
Let’s just compare it with Osborne’s…
The most interesting to Vox Political is the perception gap between Mr Murphy’s calculation of the total proportion of tax spent on unemployment benefits – 0.67 per cent – and Osborne’s ‘Welfare’ heading, which constitutes 24 per cent of spending.
Talk to most people about ‘Welfare’ and they’ll think you mean unemployment benefits – so the Osborne chart will make them think that government spending on the unemployed is no less than 36 times as much as is in fact the case.
When a government minister exaggerates the facts by that much, he might as well come out and admit that he’s lying to the people.
Mr Murphy wrote: “This is the statement George Osborne would not want you to see because it makes clear that subsidies, allowances and reliefs extend right across the UK economy. And they do not, by any means, appear to go to those who necessarily need them most. The view he has presented on this issue has been partial, to say the least, and frankly deeply misleading at best.”
He wrote: “Add together the cost of subsidies to banks, the subsidy to pensions and the subsidy to savings (call them together the subsidy to the City of London) and they cost £103.4bn a year – more than the cost of education in the UK.
“It’s also no wonder house prices are so distorted when the implicit tax subsidy for home ownership is £12.6 billion a year.”
He also pointed out that unemployment benefits cost only half the amount used to subsidise personal savings and investments.
For full details of Mr Murphy’s calculations, visit his article on the Tax Research UK site.
Mr Murphy tweeted yesterday: “Almost every commentator now agrees that Osborne is going to spend a fortune sending out tax statements that are wrong. Why not cancel now?”
He won’t unless he’s forced to; he has a political agenda to follow.
That is why Vox Political launched a petition to achieve just that.
If you haven’t already, please visit the petition on the Change.org website, sign it, and share it with your friends.
While you’re at it, feel free to share the infographic, created to support the petition:
“Perhaps they’ll be quite good at it,” I speculated.
Thanks in no small part to blogs like Vox Political, Atos is now infamous as the company that cocked up the assessment of claims for incapacity and disability benefits. It is possible that tens of thousands of people have died as a result.
It can be no surprise, then, that the announcement of this latest contract has had people up in arms.
But consider this: The Atos work capability assessment was pilloried because it was a tick-box system that required people to provide simple “yes” or “no” answers to quite complicated questions about their physical and mental health. Start explaining how your condition varies and your assessor would invariably have some kind of mental breakdown, as demonstrated in the number of successful appeals against bad decisions.
Isn’t a simple, tick-box, “yes” or “no” system all that is needed to make the childcare subsidy work?
Ask yourself: What sort of questions would the government need to ask, beyond a couple’s personal details, before handing out the cash?
“Delete as applicable: Are both parents in work? YES NO”
“Is the aggregate income of both parents greater than £300,000 per year? YES NO”
That’s about it.
There would be a need to check applicants’ employment and childcare details with the relevant organisations, but that isn’t particularly onerous. A school pupil on work experience could manage it.
The next question that occurred was: How much will Atos be paid to manage this system?
The work capability assessment fiasco cost the taxpayer more than £100 million each year. If a similar amount is being paid for this scheme, it would be the most lucrative period of work experience ever.
At this point, I discovered that Atos will not be involved in eligibility testing. The company will be involved only in making payments to claimants.
I’m not willing to blame Atos for this decision; we can lay it at the door of the Coalition government. Faced with a choice between giving Atos a contract for something it can do or asking it to manage something it can’t – and with a 50/50 chance of getting it right – ministers have blundered.
But there is good news!
Apparently the assessment contract has been awarded to a consortium of school pupils.
They’ll be doing it as part of their work experience.
Vox Political is unlikely to get any kind of government contract at all.
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How many more underhanded ways can our underhanded Coalition government find to sneak crippling damage to public services in by the back door?
A particularly vile method has just been uncovered here in my own county of Powys, involving the collusion of councillors who are supposed to be independent (but you will see that their political colours are more blue than anything else).
The Coalition government has cut back its Aggregate External Grant to local authorities for next year – its subsidy to councils – by many millions of pounds. This means that councils need to cut huge sums of money from their budgets if they are to balance their books. In Powys, the total that must go is £20 million – around one-eleventh of the total budget.
The council launched a public consultation, asking residents for their views on which services should be cut and giving (in the broadest possible terms) examples of areas that could be changed. The total amount to be saved if constituents agreed to all the cuts was £16 million, with the rest to be taken from reserves – so there was no way to balance the books without making all the cuts listed in the document.
Hardly anybody was made aware of the survey in advance, and many have complained that they only found out about it after it had ended.
One of the “possible” cuts listed was to the Citizens Advice Bureau in Powys. The consultation document said all funding to advice services (£93,500 to the CAB, £36,500 to independent centres) would be cut, with alternative funding found from other budgets. This proved untrue.
As a trustee of the Powys CAB, I was told this week that the county council has no other budget that could be used, and that the intention is to cut the money no matter what the public consultation shows.
This means citizens advice services in Powys would be wiped out from the beginning of April.
You might think that’s not the end of the world. After all, who takes advantage of the services provided by this charity anyway – a few people with benefit problems and a few more who are in debt?
Wrong! Thousands of people go to Citizens Advice every year – and the numbers are increasing exponentially because of Tory and Liberal Democrat “savings” that were inflicted without consideration of the true cost on real people in our communities.
Not only will those seeking help with benefit entitlement and debt have nowhere to go, but those seeking advice because they are unemployed, have been unfairly dismissed, have housing concerns and the full range of advice that CAB provides through its proven quality advice will also have to struggle on their own.
There is a proven benefit to individuals’ health through the provision of advice; that’s why advice in Powys is provided through a number of GP surgeries. But that too will end, putting a greater burden on the National Health Service here in Wales (which is already under attack from the Tories in Westminster).
CAB brings millions of pounds into the county through ensuring benefit entitlement; there is also a considerable sum gained through renegotiated debts – the total comes to more than £11 million per year. This money benefits everyone in the Powys economy as it has been shown that it is generally spent locally – so there is a fiscal multiplier that can be added to it, meaning the total boost to the Powys economy could be as much as £20 million.
That’s the same amount as the county council wants to take out of the economy by cutting its budget. The total loss may therefore be said to be almost £40 million, just because a cut of less than £100,000 has been included in the council’s plans – 1/200 of the total amount of cuts.
If there is a similar knock-on effect attached to all the other cuts, the effect will be devastating.
You may think that it would be easy to seek advice elsewhere, but the nearest alternative bureaux are around 100 miles from the centre of Powys, in any direction – and they are already overburdened with their own clients.
You might think that councillors should be able to provide the necessary advice (especially considering they want to cut off the current source). Could you provide the kind of specialist expertise necessary to deal with difficult legal issues? No? Then you should not expect your councillors to manage it – they are lay people like yourself; they don’t have any training in these matters.
A petition has been launched to stop the county council from withdrawing its funding. If you are a Powys resident, I strongly urge you to sign it and ask your friends to sign as well. If you can’t be bothered, just ask yourself who will help you when the Coalition turns the screw again and you are the victim of its attack.
If you are not a Powys resident, consider this to be a warning. Is your own council planning to cut services? Will it launch a public consultation on what will go? And will that be as much a sham as the survey in Powys seems to have been?
Above all, remember: This would not be happening if not for the Coalition government’s crippling programme of austerity-driven cuts which have had almost no effect in reducing the national deficit, even though we are told that is what it is for.
With its AEG, the government controls councils’ spending. Your local authorities are being used as puppets by the Westminster government, who can then wash their hands of the whole affair by saying the decisions were made elsewhere. And for what?
The deficit has dropped by a total of seven billion pounds – from £118 billion to £111 billion – in the time George Osborne has been Chancellor of the Exchequer.
You are suffering all the pain for absolutely no gain at all.
Why are you putting up with it?
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