Student Movement Sparks Back To Life In Fight For #FreeEducation

copper-paint

A copper gets a paint job in response to the violent police attack

In a further sign that resistance to austerity is sparking back to life, students from across the UK marched in central London yesterday demanding the right to free education.  This was the biggest student protest since the spiky demonstrations in 2010 when students smashed their way into the Tory Party headquarters.

As on previous protests, many students were not content to obediently march from A to B and then listen to politicians making boring and insincere speeches.  Instead, when the march arrived at Parliament Square many protesters tore down the fences surrounding the square.  These were erected after the recent Occupy protests and are intended to prevent any unofficial dissent against government policies outside the Houses of Parliament.  So far they havent worked very well.

As hundreds of people occupied the Square, a large group broke away heading towards the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills where they were viciously attacked by police.  This didn’t stop the Department, a local Starbucks and several coppers from being given an impromptu paint job as some demonstrators hurled makeshift paintbombs in resistance to the assault.  Further sit down protests, and minor scuffles continued outside Scotland Yard and the Tory HQ as small groups headed off in different directions occupying roads and bringing traffic chaos to the capital.

11 people were arrested, although all were released without charge*.  Many of those detained suffered injuries.  According to event organisers, the National Coalition Against Fees and Cuts (NCFAC) one person who had been refused medical treatment in custody had to be taken to hospital immediately after being released.  This is how the state now responds to even the most trivial civil disobedience.

There is no doubt that yesterday set the scene for the resurgence of a combative student movement in the run up to the next general election. And it’s not just students who should be pissed off.  Young people now face a terrifying future of shit wages or workfare, inadequate and insecure housing and the healthcare and pensions they will need as they grow older being stripped away.  Not one of the main political parties gives a fuck as an entire generation’s futures are demolished.  So when you hear media commentators complaining about violence at these protests because a copper got his hat kncked off or someone threw a bit of paint at a government building then remember who the real criminals are.

The NUS were also targetted on the morning of the demonstrations, with graffiti accusing them of being scabs for not supporting the march.  The unions pathetic excuse for this decision was concerns about health and safety as if some risk assessment is going to make a difference to a copper who’s decided to kick someone’s head in for not respecting their authority.

The last national student protest was organised by the NUS and featured a dispiriting march through the back streets of South London to a nondescript park in the pouring rain.  It was probably the most depressing political non-event in history.  The students who took action yesterday are better off without them.

More resistance is planned with a day of walk outs, occupations, protests and direct action called for on Wednesday December 3rd.  On the following Saturday 6th December local marches will take place throughout the UK.  Please help spread the word.

*Those arrested have been bailed to re-appear at police stations meaning they are not out of the woods yet.  Activist support group Green and Black Cross have called on anyone who witnessed an arrest, or police violence, to contact them at: gbclegal@riseup.net.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

The Bastards Want Our Homes: Join The New Era Estate Tenants And Let’s Show Them We Intend To Fight

new-eraTenants on the New Era Estate in Hackney have been threatened with the ultimate revenge eviction by shadowy property developers and investment firm  Westbrook Partners.

The New Era estate has provided homes at affordable rents to local people since the 1930s – although current rents of around £600 a month are hardly cheap for someone on a low income.  When the properties were bought by Westbrook earlier in the year rents were immediately hiked by 10%.  Then residents were informed that the company planned to bring rents up to the same levels as the local private sector, where even small flats can fetch well over £2000 a month.

Alongside Westbrook in this nasty attempt at social cleansing were Benyon Estates who also bought a small stake in the properties.  This company is owned by Tory Richard Benyon, believed to be the UK’s richest MP.  A series of bold and well supported protests recently led this company to sell their stake in the estate.  The response from Westbrook was immediate, with residents receiving notice from the local council that the company would no longer honour an agreement to freeze rents until 2016 and even suggested that the tenants could be evicted before Christmas.

The tenants have vowed to continue their fight, beginning with a twitterstorm tomorrow to help bring attention to the vile Westbrook Partners. This is a fight that needs to be won.  A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warned that millions more people are set to face poverty due to soaring rents.  In truth it’s happening already.  As wages and benefits shrink, rents continue to soar in many parts of the country.  That money ends up in the pockets of faceless greedy bastards like Westbrook Managing Principal Mark Donner.  It’s time to show the world who they are and hold them to account for their destruction of our homes and communities.

For the latest news follow the New Era campaign @newera4all

Please sign and share the petition calling for the residents to be able to stay in their homes: https://www.change.org/p/new-era-should-not-become-the-end-of-an-era

Join the twitterstorm tomorrow (Weds 19th Nov between 1 and 6pm) which will target those involved in the estate’s current management – namely: @RealDonnor  @knightfrank  @onlywillneale  @KF_JRPhillips  @StephenJClifton @Nick_Braybrook  @KFResDev

Please help spread the word.  You can also find the tenants on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/neweraestatetenants

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Court Cases, Chaos and Soaring Debt As Council Tax Reform Unravels

cant-pay wont payThe shambolic postcode lottery which has emerged after reforms to Council Tax Benefit is creating chaos for Local Authorities and driving some people into desperate poverty.

Prior to the non-election of this government most people on out of work benefits were not required to pay council tax.  This was because they didn’t have any money.  This system functioned reasonably well and ensured that sick, disabled or unemployed people were not simply paying back half of their meagre benefits to local government.

Despite this the Tories decided to tear up the rulebook and hand over the powers for helping the poorest pay their council tax to local authorities giving them free reign to charge whatever they chose.  And to ensure maximum carnage, the amount of money made available for the new Council Tax Suppot scheme was cut by 10%.

Sadly many councils approached this chance to attack their most marginalised residents with barely disguised glee.  Some, like Tendring Borough Council, launched a ludicrous local people only scheme, with those new to the area facing full council tax bills even if they didn’t have a penny to their name.  Others, like Leeds City Council, are flirting with the idea of some form of forced workfare or jobsearch sessions for people struggling to pay their council tax.  This would presumably be in addition to the 35 hours a week mandated ‘work related activity’ that unemployed people must now carry out as a condition of their main benefits.

Elsewhere local councils dithered, often with such badly explained changes that many people only found out they were now eligible to pay some of their Council Tax when a court summons arrived.  Ths has led to mass court hearings with hundreds of people in some areas facing costly legal action often over just a couple of pounds a week.  Citizens Advice reported in May this year that council tax arrears are now the most common debt problem reported to them.  Unsuprisingly the cost of taking all these people to court has soared with the latest statistics showing a record £233 million was spent chasing council tax debt in 2013/14 – a rise of over £20 million in just one year.

These have not been the only court casess that some local authorities have found themselves emroiled in.  An important court judgement against Sandwell Council earlier in the year ruled that their policy that people should have lived in the area for two years before receiving a council tax reduction was illegal on six seperate grounds.  This has forced the previously mentioned Tendring Council to also change their local people only rule – and already they are attempting to shift the cost onto their poorest residents by slashing Council Tax Support even further.

Last month Haringey Council were also hit with a court ruling that they had failed to consult properly on reforms to Council Tax Benefit.  The council were found to have misled residents by claiming that they had no choice but to force people on beneifts to pay some council tax.   They weren’t the only ones who attempted this devious approach either.  Many more local authorities could now find that their Council Tax Support policies are unlawful due to bungled, or more correctly biased consultations.

Like so many of this Government’s policies, changes to council tax benefit have only hit the poorest and most voiceless people in the country.  If this was being happening to the latte-slurping middle classes we would never fucking hear about anything else.  Millionaire comedians would be crying in the newspapers about how hard done by they are.  Yet whilst the well off are promised income tax cuts, people living on just a few pounds a week are being plunged into council tax debt.  Arrears have risen by 20% since the reforms were introduced.  The massive growth in benefit sanctions have meant that many unemployed people now have no income at all – but they are still eligible to pay council tax.  Nobody even really knows how many thousands of people are currently being dragged through the courts for non-payment and who could even face prison as a punishment for their poverty.

It is not just those on out of work benefits who have been hit hard by the changes.  Many of the lowest paid are now also eligible to pay some, or more council tax than they were previously.  The poorer you are, the more of your money this Government wants.  And they do not care how much chaos they inflict to get it.

Apologies for the dead link that was wrongly sent out to email subscibers about this post yesterday.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Here We Fucking Go! A String Of Victories Shows That When We Fight Back We Can Win

we-are-winningThe bastards are dropping like flies.  A string of victories have been won this week as people at the sharp end of austerity have shown that we don’t need giant trade unions or insincere political parties to do politics for us.

In East London, property developers Redrow have announced they are selling their £46.75m stake in 1 Commercial Street, the luxury tower block in East London.  This building has been the target of an 18 week campaign against the ‘poor doors’ which force people in the so-called affordable properties to use a different entrance to those living in the posh flats.  Rowdy weekly demonstrations have brought chaos to this busy part of London and enjoyed huge local support.  The protests are set to continue with a victory celebration next Wednesday 19th November from 6pm.

Meanwhile in Hackney the tenants on the New Era estate have driven the vile Benyon family to sell their investment in the estate where residents have been threatened with huge rent hikes.  This decision followed a lively protest when hundreds of people marched on the Benyon Estate offices and served a mock eviction on the company which is co-owned by Tory MP Richard Benyon – believed to be Britain’s richest elected politician.  Suddenly London’s property market is not looking like such a lucrative investment as everywhere people are starting to organise against soaring rents, gentrification, social segregation and evictions.*

A stunning triumph against workfare has also taken place in Liverpool where the city’s branch of the IWW Union had called a demonstration against the use of workfare by council sub-contractors Bulky Bobs.  Not only did the threat of this protest cause the organisation to pull out of unpaid work and agree to sign the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement, but they have also issued one of the strongest statements yet against Jobcentre workfare schemes.  Quoted on the Liverpool IWW website, Bulky Bobs say: “We are happy to support Liverpool IWW in their efforts to persuade the DWP to scrap Workfare and would urge any other business involved in the scheme to withdraw at once.”

Resistance to forced work has been strong in Liverpool, with regular protests being held and volunteer agencies in the city condemning workfare. Liverpool Council have also pledged to boycott George Osborne’s Help To Work scheme which forces claimants to work for six months without pay or face losing meagre benefits.  Liverpool could soon become the first workfare free city, which would be pretty fucking funny given that Merseyside contains the constituency of Employment Minister Esther McVey.

There was a further victory against workfare in Motherwell after LAMH Recycling also announced they would be ending their involvement with the scheme.  This social enterprise hit the headlines after local unemployed man John McArthur had his benefits stopped for refusing to work without pay at the organisation where he had previously been a paid employee.  John had held weekly protests outside the company leading to them finally withdrawing from forced labour.  Following the announcment McArthur took to twitter to thank the “extraordinary kindness of people whom I have never met but who have contacted me offering assistance. They keep alive the true spirit of charity, i.e caritas (love), and giving without seeking a fee (or free labour)”.

Finally a resurgent Class War, who also instigated the Poor Doors protests, chased Iain Duncan Smith across his leafy Chingford constituency yesterday.  Unfortunately they didn’t manage to catch the bastard but they did discover that the only way he could get people to attend his self-publicising jobs fair was to threaten to take their benefits away if they didn’t show up.  Pitiful.

At times it feels like the onslaught of shit is relentless.  But these events show that when we fight back we can win.  Don’t wait for political parties, the TUC or the growing band of celebrity lefties to tell you what to do.  Find a weak spot, organise, and kick it till it fucking breaks.

*UPDATE: 16/11/14 The tenants are reporting on twitter that Westbrook Partners who now control the estate are now threatening them with eviction.  Follow the campaign @newera4all for the latest news.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Workfare Is Replacing Paid Jobs And The Tax Payer Is Funding It: Just Ask @BulkyBobsLtd

bulky-bobs-truckUPDATE: 14/11/14 Bulky Bobs say they are pulling out of workfare!  Top work to Liverpool IWW – a proper union.

A protest is planned in Liverpool outside the premises of waste collection firm Bulky Bobs after it was revealed that the so-called social enterprise are using workfare.

Bulky Bobs have a contract with Liverpool City Council to collect large items of household waste.  This is the kind of work which was once carried out by local authorities but is now outsourced to the private and voluntary sectors.  Bulky Bobs drive round in vans proudly emblazoned with the council’s logo.  But according to the Liverpool branch of the IWW Union, many of the people doing this work are not getting paid:

“[...] there is one paid manager in the store (who used to work for the company that is now LearnDirect which is one of the major ‘providers’) and the rest of the staff are on workfare or ‘volunteers’. Likewise, the connected company FRC (Furniture Resource Centre) has a warehouse on Brunswick Dock which runs on workfare, as do its vans which collect and deliver to Bulky Bobs.”

FRC Ltd, who own Bulky Bobs, say in this report (pdf), that they made 11 posts redundant in 2012/13, including operational staff. In a clear indication of workfare being used to replace paid jobs, in the same document they admit forcing people to work for no wages on the Mandatory Work Activity scheme.  Even more appallingly, they say they are receiving tax-payers money to go with their free forced workers.

FRC-workfareOf course they don’t admit this on their barely functioning shit website where they lie that placements are voluntary:

frc-workfare1

The IWW will be holding a protest outside Bulky Bob’s shop on London Road, Liverpool on Saturday 22nd November at 11am and have called on people to join them.  Please help by sharing the facebook page and in the meantime everone’s piling in on twitter

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Millionaires Threaten Protest March If They Have To Pay A Little Bit Of Tax

griff-fuck

Following the cringe-making intervention of a hasbeen comedian, now posh twats are threatening a protest over any future mansion tax calling it a ‘humanitarian’ issue.

An article in the Ham and High newspaper reveals that Hampstead millionaires may even be planning a march against the proposed tax – although for now they have settled on a petition to the Labour Party.

One dismayed toff, art dealer James Butterwick, claims he may even have to close his – by invitation only – art gallery where he stores his collection of “museum quality paintings with flawless provenance.”  Is your heart bleeding?  Mine fucking isn’t.

Of course Butterwick is most worried about his dear old mam who lives in a house worth a mere £4 million and can’t afford to pay any more tax*.  Yet according to Butterworth’s linkedin page, his family could afford to send him to Eton College.

Hundreds of thousands of households are currently under threat of losing their home since the introduction of the Bedoom Tax.  Just down the road from Hampstead, young mothers are being socially cleansed from the capital due to the Benefit Cap, soaring rents and the desperate shortage of social housing.  The response from the rich has been to openly mock or turn their backs.  Yet now they expect us all to take their whining seriously just because someone has suggested they actually make a fair contribution towards the public services they depend on.  This is the real something for nothing culture.  They want the hospitals, the police, their bins emptying and the tree-lined streets.  But they don’t want to fucking pay for it.  That’s why they only pay a tiny fraction of their wealth in Council Tax compared to the rest of us.

Labour’s proposed mansion tax doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.  It is true it affects more people in London, but that’s because London has lots of rich people.  And London has a lot more poor people and many of them don’t have a home at all.  There are no Hampstead millionaires planning a protest march about that.

If you’ve heard enough from the arrogant rich join the Poor Doors demo tomorrow (Wednesday 12th November, 6pm 1 Commercial St, E1) which could see the biggest and most boisterous turn out yet after last week’s vindictive arrests.  Then on November 22nd head to Fitzroy Square to tell Griff Rhys Jones to fuck off if he doesn’t want to pay a little bit of tax on one of his mansions.  Class War will be announcing the details of their own Mansion Tax policy at this event.  Let’s make the rich feel uncomfortable for a change.

*It is hard to believe that anyone living in a £2 million pound house is actually that poor.  There is an easy solution however to the so-called problem of older people who have low incomes  but are living in houses that have increased sharply in value.  The handful judged to be in genuine need could pay the tax in the form of equity on their houses, to be recovered from their estates when they die.  Then they’d have nothing to complain about.  Alternatively they could take in a lodger or try and work a few more hours, the advice given by the government to people facing the Bedroom Tax.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Take The Class War To Iain Duncan Smith’s Front Door … It’s Time For The Reckoning

ids-reckoning

Iain Duncan Smith is hosting a Jobs Fair at Chingford Assembly Hall, Station Road, Chingford, E4 this Friday November 14th.  Class War will be welcoming him from 10am and are planing to make a day of it.  Speakers including the future Chingford MP Marina Pepper, – the local Class War candidate – along with John McArdle from the Black Triangle campaign are expected to speak at noon.  Expect vengeance.  Please spread the word and help make this big.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid