Tag Archives: Autumn Statement

Not All Terrorists Carry Guns, But The Deaths From Osborne’s Cuts Will Be Just As Real

osborne-littleIt is hard to conceive how a Chancellor can look at people surviving on just a few pounds a day and decide it is them who must have their incomes cut to pay for a financial crisis caused by the rich.  What kind of fucking human being would do that?

These are people who may be struggling with a serious health condition, newly unemployed steel workers, the precariously self-employed or those on the lowest pay. These are to be the likely victims of the latest round of economic terrorism that George Osborne is set to inflict in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement.

Be in no doubt, this is terrorism.  Millions of people are now living in a state of stark and permanent panic as reckless Tory cuts strike randomly, demolishing lives, putting homes at risk, endangering health and tragically driving some to suicide. The callous assessments for disability benefits alone have led to 590 people taking their own lives researchers recently revealed in a report that should have brought this Government down.  Yet it was greeted with little more than a murmour.  The UK establishment, in all its guises, cares no more about the lives of the poor than the Isis death cultists cared about those they mercilessly gunned down in Paris last week.  A welfare state that destroys lives whilst masquerading as a safety net is the perfect weapon of class warfare.  The victims kill themselves, or disappear without trace under the burden of desperate poverty.

Such is the carefully constructed poverty trap that there is now almost no chance of escape.  There are just under 2 million people in the UK who are unemployed, and a further two million who don’t have a job and want one but do not meet the strict criteria of official unemployment.  Add to that a couple of million sick and disabled people or lone parents who are now being ordered to endlessly search for jobs. There are just 740,000 vacancies according to the Office for National Statistics.  If every one of those was filled tomorrow there would still be millions looking for work.

Not that finding a job will help the poorest as housing costs soar and in-work benefits are demolished.  Only if you can climb to the ranks of the so-called squeezed middle will you perhaps be able to grab some quality of existence, and even if you get there you’d better not get sick, become disabled or lose your job.  And you won’t ever get there.  Try walking into a Jobcentre and saying you’d like to re-train as a plumber or take an IT course that will actually get you a job rather than just teach you how to turn on a fucking computer.  When they’ve stopped laughing they will point you in the direction of a private training company, who want thousands of pounds, and for which there are no students loans available.  Even then, if you manage to raise the money, the Jobcentre may order you to leave to attend full time workfare instead.

Those who have had benefits sanctioned for missing a meeting, or failing to attend workfare, now survive on around £41 a week – and only then if they qualify for Hardship Payments. Those under 25 who are looking for work will fare little better with a weekly income barely over £50 whilst the older unemployed receive just £73.10.  Some of these claimants will be paying the Bedroom Tax, as well as Council Tax out of that sum.  Others will be frantically trying to make up rent payments to cover Housing Benefit shortfalls as private rents soar and benefits intended to pay them are capped and frozen.

Any further cuts to Housing Benefits will be devastating and could plunge some into a negative income as unavoidable costs like rent, water and Council Tax leave them with no money at all, just a steadily increasing debt.  This will include the working poor who have little more to live on than those on the dole, making a mockery of Iain Duncan Smith’s claims that his reforms are making work pay.  Whether Osborne cuts Tax Credits, Housing Benefits, or child benefits this week will make little difference to those affected.  Their lives are earmarked for economic destruction however the Chancellor chooses to cut.

In the face of such an onslaught we have no choice but to fight back.  There is no slack in the social security system left at all – in fact there never was any to begin with.  Street homelessnes is already at record levels and the full impact of the last round of cuts has not yet been truly felt.  Gideon Osborne is playing a dangerous game that could leave millions with nothing left to lose and no futures to plan for.  The rich may sleep comfortably in their mansions tonight.  But there will be consequences, there must be, because one death was too many and we cannot allow this to continue.

As ever Class War are taking te fight direct to the pampered elite calling for a picket of George Osborne’s family business to coincide with his speech on Wednesday.  Meet outside Osborne & Little, 204 King’s Road, Chelsea, SW3 from 12-2pm on Wednesday 25th November. Spread the word.

Apologies for the extended absence.  Back to normal now hopefully.

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Young People To Face Workfare In Supermarkets Or 780 Hours Forced Community Work Osborne Announces

jesus-workfare-salvationFor a long time now anti-workfare campaigners have warned that so-called ‘voluntary’ unpaid work on Jobcentre schemes is often forced labour in disguise. Such is the toxic environment in Jobcentres that those who refuse to take part in ‘voluntary’ workfare can simply be sent on a mandatory scheme instead.

Now George Osborne has let the cat out of the bag and in his speech yesterday signalled his intention to enshrine this vile practice in government policy.  Starting as early as April next year in some cases, almost all unpaid work schemes will now be mandatory for the young.

Osborne will force all those out of work for six months and between the ages of 18 and 21 into Traineeships or Work Experience.  Those who refuse will be sent on a Community Work Placement  – 780 hours unpaid work – or face losing benefits completely.  This is a huge turn around for a Government that in early 2012 were falling over themselves trying to persuade people that unpaid Work Experience – for major employers such as ASDA and Poundland – was voluntary.

Osborne’s speech yesterday made a laughing stock of companies like Tesco and charities like Barnardo’s who have insisted that Work Experience schemes are not workfare.  Even if you bought that, they are now, or will be as soon as Osborne gets his way.

Traineeships involve up to six months unpaid work in ‘preparation’ for becoming an Apprentice. Greedy employers including Subway and Learn Direct have flocked to sign up for this chance to recruit unpaid workers from Jobcentres.  Up until now Traineeships have been officially voluntary.  Now young people are to be forced to work without pay to swell the profits of supermarkets and other High Street names.

Appalling it is the so-called voluntary sector who will provide the teeth to Osborne’s plans.  Already some charities – such as Groundwork and The Conservation Volunteers are salivating at the prospect of being paid to force people to work for free on Community Work Placements.  You read that right.  Charities are to be bribed with tax payer’s money to provide the forced labour placements that Osborne’s plans are backed with.  And some of them, like The Salvation Army, will be only too happy to take their thirty pieces of silver and throw away any semblance of principles or decency.

Anti-workfare protests will take place in Edinburgh, Lewisham, Sheffield, Glasgow, Wood Green (Sunday 8th December 2pm outside Wood Green High Road Marks & Spencer), Reading and Islington this weekend.  There’s still time to join in online as well.  Please help spread the word about all events and spread the message now that next year’s massive extension of workfare will be stopped.

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How to Create Mass Homelessness the George Osborne Way

Cardboard2This week’s move by George Osborne to cap benefit rises below inflation at 1% is the final deadly touch in a toxic series of measures likely to lead to unprecedented homelessness in the UK.

The Chancellor’s decision came in the same week that Crisis released a report warning that street homelessness has risen by a shocking 23% in just one year.  Every other measure of homelessness has also soared recently with the numbers of homeless families in temporary accommodation up by 44%

These steep rises in numbers of those without a home have come before the impact of coalition cuts to Housing Benefits have largely been felt.

There will be a considerable lag before people made homeless end up either on the streets or presenting as homeless with local councils.  Many local authorities will not even accept a homelessness application until someone has been formally evicted from their home.  This means many of those affected by the last year’s Housing Benefit cap will be waiting to be evicted before they can get help from the council – and no doubt building up significant debts whilst they wait.

The Housing Benefit cap was implemented depending on when claimants made their initial claim for the benefit, meaning some people will only have seen benefits slashed in the last couple of months.  It is likely that virtually none of the recorded rises in homelessness seen so far are due to the vicious cuts to housing benefits, but simply the predictable consequences of a fucked economy.

The new rules for those under 35 – which mean that Housing Benefit will only pay for a room in a shared house – are likely to have now come into force for most claimants.  Once again there will be a lag before many affected are picked up in the homelessness figures.  Younger people make up one of the largest groups of ‘hidden homeless’, generally those sleeping on friend’s sofas or squatting.  For some this temporary support is enough, but for others it can be the start of a decline which ultimately leads to the streets.

Squatting recently became illegal in even abandoned ‘residential’ properties, so this vital lifeline has been cut short.

Next April the overall benefit cap of £500 a week is introduced – no matter where someone lives or the size of their families.  This will make much of the South East of England unaffordable for those on benefits with children.  If this wasn’t enough the Bedroom Tax, to be introduced at the same time, will see housing benefits cut for people who have a spare room for a carer, or happen to have children who have just left home.

For those hit by this measure, the path to finally losing homes will be long and drawn out.  Claimants living on just £70 a week unemployment benefit could find themselves paying £10, 20 or even more each week towards their rent.  Few will be able to manage without falling into arrears.

Many people are already paying a significant amount towards rent out of meagre benefits after the Government down-rated Housing Benefit payments to the bottom 30% of the housing market.  Just three out of ten properties in any local area are now affordable to those on benefits. Previously Housing Benefit would cover the bottom 50% of rents in the market, so some claimants are stuck in properties which housing benefits won’t pay for and are desperately trying to cover the shortfall themselves.

It is impossible to predict how many people may find themselves homeless over the next two or three years due to the Government’s cuts.   The Government themselves estimate 50,000 families will be affected by next year’s benefit cap alone.  According to the Children’s Society this could mean 80,000 more homeless children from next April.

It will not just be those on benefits affected by the changes.  Housing Benefit is an in work benefit and an increasing number of claimants have full time jobs.  The so called fall in unemployment has really just been a rise in workfare, sanctions and part time work.  Economic conditions alone would be enough to trigger a housing crisis in an increasingly unaffordable rental market combined with sky-high unemployment.

But the Government aren’t content to stop there.  George Osborne’s latest cuts will ensure that the mass exodus into hostels and B&Bs or onto the streets, is now enshrined within the welfare system.  Housing Benefit will no longer be pegged to the local rental market, or even inflation as had been first announced in 2010.  Despite rocketing rents in some parts of the UK,  Housing Benefit will now only rise at a rate of 1% a year.

To place this in context, it has been estimated that London rents soared by 32% in the last three years.  A property which cost £200 a week in 2009 now costs on average £264.  Under Osborne’s new measures,the amount of Housing Benefit available for that property would have risen by just £6.  Even outside of London rents have risen 7% over three years, so someone in a £150 a week property would need to find an extra £6 a week out of their benefits.

This is £6 a week is on top of the shortfall many people already face due to the cuts and before the benefit cap/bedroom tax have been introduced.  Crisis estimate the average shortfall facing many Housing Benefit claimants is £23 a week.  When Universal Credit is introduced, those on benefits or low incomes may also lose some  Council Tax benefit .  In the worst case scenario, people on Job Seekers Allowance could find themselves paying out almost half of their £70 a week in rent and Council Tax.

Half a million benefit sanctions were handed out last year, which leave  claimants forced to live on £42 a week ‘Hardship Payments’ – and only then if they qualify.  When Universal Credit is introduced the number of sanctioned claims is expected to rise.   Rent payments are usually still covered during a sanction, but housing benefit often needs to be re-applied for.  This can take considerable time and lead to arrears and even eviction.  As Housing Benefits increasingly don’t pay the rent, claimants living on £42 a week, could see the bulk of it swallowed up by trying to keep a roof over their heads.

And even those paltry benefit rates are to face a cut in real terms, along with in work benefits such as Working and Child Tax Credits.

It is scandalous that so much of the benefits bill ends up in the pocket of grasping landlords.  It is a tragedy just how much social housing provision has been eroded by successive governments. But Housing Benefit is the most vital and life-saving part of the benefits system – keeping a roof over the heads of low paid, sick, disabled, unemployed or retired people alike along with millions of children.

It is not our fault the housing market is so fucked and that rents are unaffordable.  Whilst the pampered middle classes gushed about their property prices in the house market boom and buy to let landlords pushed up rents to new heights a social time-bomb was being created which housing benefit ended up paying for.

The victims of rampant property speculation and soaring rents are now to be punished again as Housing Benefits are stripped away.  For every latte slurping Tarquin’s property portfolio, there is now a family of homeless children whose lives have been destroyed before they have barely even begun.

The Great Benefit Cap Bullshit

gideon-osborneGeorge Osborne today once again raised the example of working people getting up in the morning whilst their neighbours laze around on benefits as an excuse for yet another raid on welfare spending.

And once again, despite his rhetoric, he used this attack on unemployed and disabled people as an attack on benefit claimants and low income workers alike. The 1% annual freeze on Tax Credits will largely wipe out any gains for low income workers due to raising the personal tax threshold.  If that doesn’t finish them off, then yet more real term cuts to Housing Benefits will further impoverish those who earn least.

Next year the £500 a week benefit caps will be introduced. From now on Cameron has announced that no benefit claimant will receive more than the equivalent family on the average household income. What he doesn’t say is that they don’t already.  Families on average incomes are also benefit claimants as a quick check on the numbers soon reveals.

Using the Government’s own benefit calculator, take typical striver Bob, a fictional person who works as a photocopier sales rep and earns £35,000 a year – the average household income.  Like good tories, Bob’s wife stays at home to look after their three year old child and two older children.  Bob and his wife, Bobbette, live in a private rented three bedroom flat in Lewisham which costs £300 a week, which is cheap for the area. They have no significant health problems and are not disabled.

Bob takes home around £506 a week in wages. So far he’s already beating the skivers down the road. But Bob and Bobbette are also entitled to significant benefit payments, receiving Child Tax Credit of £16.33 a week, Child Benefit of £47.10,  and £187.90 Housing Benefit a week. This boosts Bob and Bobbette’s income to £758.39 a week, or £458.39 a week after rent. They are not rich, but they have a livable income.

Now let’s say Bob gets made redundant. The family can claim £111.45 in Job Seekers Allowance but lose all of their Tax Credits and most importantly Bob’s wages. This leaves the family with £641 a week to live on, or £341 after rent (including Council Tax Benefit which reduces the amount they receive in their hands to 323.82). Tory voting Bob and Bobbette are horrified to learn that they are actually £117.49 a week worse off on benefits than they were in work (and have defected to UKIP in protest).

Should Bob or Bobbette be lucky enough to be diagnosed with a terminal illness and qualify for Employment Support Allowance then they will receive just over £40 a week extra, which still places them significantly worse off than they were in work.

When the benefit cap is introduced next April Bob and Bobbette’s household income will be reduced to just £500 a week, leaving £200 a week for a family of five after rent is paid. Out of this they may now have to pay some Council Tax.  As they already live in a cheap flat, in one of the cheapest parts of London, they are unable to move to cut their rent;  everywhere else is more expensive.  They are the lucky ones.  Most people elsewhere in the capital will have higher rents to pay.  Larger families will suffer most, and could be left with just £100 weekly per family – that’s if they are able to find a property for the maximum available Housing Benefit of £400 a week.

The benefit cap is based on a bare faced lie that those on out of work benefits are receiving more in total than equivalent working families.  It’s only in London where families approach anything like £500 a week on benefits, and even then the bulk of that goes straight into the pockets of grasping landlords.

Both working and non working low income families alike will be poorer due to Osborne’s benefit and Tax Credits freeze.  But from next April many unemployed, unwell or disabled parents of average sized families will no longer be able to afford to feed their children.  And all because of a lie whipped up by Tory politicians in an attempt to blame the poor for the problems caused by the rich.

*UPDATE: Figures amended slightly from earlier cos I fucked them up