Thursday, 12 December 2013

Bedroom tax could be a 'perverse disincentive to work,' MPs warned

Speaking to a select committee of MPs, a housing association chief executive warned that people in part-time work are punished disproportionately by the policy and many could be better off unemployed. 

Under the policy, people considered to be underoccupying social homes face reductions to their benefits of up to 25% of their total rent.

Those only receiving partial housing benefit because they are in part-time work are penalised the same amount as those who receive housing benefit that covers their full rent amount. 

The bedroom tax could therefore be a "perverse disincentive to work," said Carol Matthews.

Monday, 9 December 2013

UK's first 'social supermarket' opens to help fight food poverty

Community Shop in Goldthorpe gives local shoppers access to surplus food from supermarkets for up to 70% lessBritain's first "social supermarket" opens its doors on Monday, offering shoppers on the verge of food poverty the chance to buy food and drink for up to 70% less than normal high-street prices. 

If successful, the Community Shop, in Goldthorpe, near Barnsley, south Yorkshire, which is backed by large retailers and supermarkets, could be replicated elsewhere in Britain.

Membership of the pilot store – in Goldthorpe, an area of social deprivation – will be restricted to people living in a specific local postcode area who also get welfare support.

Individuals who shop at Community Shop will not only get access to cheaper food, but will also be offered programmes of wider social and financial support, such as debt advice, cookery skills and home budgeting.

MPs to quiz Iain Duncan Smith over Universal Credit delays

Problems surrounding the implementation of a central pillar of government changes to the welfare system are to be examined by MPs. 

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith will be asked to explain why the new Universal Credit will not be paid to about 700,000 people until after a planned 2017 deadline.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said ministers had "been forced to admit that they have completely missed their targets and Universal Credit will not now be rolled out before the election".

"David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith repeatedly promised to deliver their flagship policy, Universal Credit, on time and within budget," she said. "That claim, and the credibility they staked on it, now lie in tatters."

The poorest pay the price for austerity: Workers face biggest fall in living standards since Victorian era

The number of public sector workers on low wages doubles to more than one million, with women and part-time staff disproportionately affected by squeeze on incomes

The biggest drop in living standards since the Victorian age is seeing low and middle earners suffering an unprecedented squeeze on their incomes as austerity measures continue to bite, with women and part-time workers disproportionately affected, research reveals today.

More than five million people are officially classified as low paid and an increasing number of public sector workers are struggling to make ends meet, according to the New Economics Foundation (NEF) think-tank.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Food poverty in UK has reached level of 'public health emergency', warn experts

The Government may be covering up the extent to which austerity and welfare cuts are adding to the problem 

Hunger in Britain has reached the level of a “public health emergency” and the Government may be covering up the extent to which austerity and welfare cuts are adding to the problem, leading experts have said. 

In a letter to the British Medical Journal, a group of doctors and senior academics from the Medical Research Council and two leading universities said that the effect of Government policies on vulnerable people’s ability to afford food needed to be “urgently” monitored.

A surge in the number of people requiring emergency food aid, a decrease in the amount of calories consumed by British families, and a doubling of the number of malnutrition cases seen at English hospitals represent “all the signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognised until it is too late to take preventative action,” they write.

Despite mounting evidence for a growing food poverty crisis in the UK, ministers maintain there is “no robust evidence” of a link between sweeping welfare reforms and a rise in the use of food banks.

However, publication of research into the phenomenon, commissioned by the Government itself, has been delayed, amid speculation that the findings may prove embarrassing for ministers.

More than 50,000 people in have signed a petition calling for Parliament to hold a debate on the causes of food poverty in the UK. The petition was launched on Monday by the writer and former food bank user Jack Monroe.

In her appeal on the website, Ms Monroe called on supporters to “make politicians confront what is happening.”

 “I don’t think this is acceptable in the seventh richest country in the world – and I’d really like to know the reasons why it’s happening so we can stop it…” she said. “

We need to stop turning a blind eye.” The petition has been backed by the Unite union and the national food bank charity the Trussell Trust.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Autumn Statement 2013: Britain can no longer afford welfare state, warns Osborne

George Osborne will set out more details on his planned cap on welfare spending in the Autumn Statement on Thursday 


The Chancellor will use his Autumn Statement on Thursday to set out more details of a new cap on welfare spending after the next general election.

 It is an attempt to put permanent limits on around £100 billion a year of spending on items such as Housing Benefit and some unemployment payments.

 Mr Osborne yesterday hinted that, even after the current austerity programme, more fundamental changes will be needed to give Britain an “affordable state”.

“The cost of welfare is one of the things that makes the public finances unsustainable,” he said, adding: “We need an affordable state.”

The Broken of Britain Daily

Read it here

Fuel poverty: Ministers 'shifting goal posts'

A committee of MPs has accused ministers of "shifting the goal posts" to reduce the number of households in England classed as in fuel poverty. 

The definition of fuel poverty would be changed by amendments to the Energy Bill so that 2.4 million were classed as fuel poor rather than 3.2 million.

The cross-party committee's report said families were currently classed as fuel poor if they spent more than 10% of income on fuel "to maintain an adequate level of warmth".

Under the new definition, families would only be deemed to be in hardship if they had "above average fuel costs" leaving them with "a residual income below the official poverty line".

Further profits drop expected from Tesco

Tesco boss Philip Clarke's turnaround plans will be under fresh scrutiny on Wednesday when the supermarket is expected to reveal a fall in UK sales. 


Some major investors have already reportedly raised concerns over the chain's management team following a dire set of first half figures.

Tesco's interim profits tumbled by almost a quarter to £1.39bn after underlying sales declines in the UK and every one of its overseas markets.

Lets keep this up!! Take your money away from the big chains and buy local produce.  More people are waking up!

This is one weapon we have against big business, LETS USE IT!!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

5 benefit changes the government don't want you to know about

Threats to take away children from families is a new low for the coalition government's war on benefit claimants.

It used to be that when politicians wanted to bury bad news they’d orchestrate its release to time with a distracting event. Seeing Iain Duncan Smith publicly criticized for wasting at least £140 million of public money over Universal Credit at the start of this month, it struck me how we’ve slowly reached another level. “Unmitigated disaster”? “Alarmingly weak”?

These words were used to describe Universal Credit but could easily have been levelled at a number of largely unreported changes to the benefit system. Nowadays, bad news is buried by even worse news. The sheer volume of inefficient and unethical changes to social security this Government has enacted means some of it doesn’t even get noticed. Which, for a set of politicians hacking at vulnerable people’s support systems, is worryingly convenient.

So, here’s five benefit changes the government doesn’t want you to know about.

1. Disabled people denied a key benefit have had their right to appeal reduced   

2. Long-term sick people are having their benefits sanctioned ... for being sick 

3. 50,000 disabled people are being cut out of work 

4. There’s now a one-year limit on hundreds of thousands of people’s sickness benefit 

5. Eviction letters are now including veiled threats to remove people’s children 

Empty threats concerning people’s children may be a new low. Then again, against the recent actions of this Government – be it imposing sanctions on the disabled or removing the benefits of the sick – ‘a new low’ seems to come weekly.     

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Britain’s homelessness crisis evident in record number of calls to Shelter

Charity has received 175,000 inquiries in the past 12 months, up 10 per cent in the previous year. Emily Dugan reports


The scale of the nation's homelessness crisis is laid bare in figures published exclusively in The Independent today which show that the numbers calling the housing charity Shelter for help is at an all-time high of almost 175,000 calls in the last year, up 10 per cent on the previous year.

Visits to the advice pages of the charity’s website are also up more than 20 per cent, with almost 400,000 people seeking help online.

The latest Government figures show statutory homelessness is up 6 per cent, while the number of households living in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs is at 56,0000, up 9 per cent on last year.

Some 80,000 children are expected to spend Christmas without a proper home.

Helpline staff believe the impact of welfare reforms – including the benefit cap, the ‘bedroom tax’ and increasingly punitive benefit sanctions – could be one the reasons behind the marked rise in calls for help. The continued fallout from the recession, the rise of the cost of living and an apparent increase in rogue landlords as the rental market grows have also contributed.

Friday, 15 November 2013

It's business that really rules us now

Lobbying is the least of it: corporate interests have captured the entire democratic process. No wonder so many have given up on politics

It's the reason for the collapse of democratic choice. It's the source of our growing disillusionment with politics. It's the great unmentionable. Corporate power. The media will scarcely whisper its name. It is howlingly absent from parliamentary debates. Until we name it and confront it, politics is a waste of time.

The political role of business corporations is generally interpreted as that of lobbyists, seeking to influence government policy. In reality they belong on the inside. They are part of the nexus of power that creates policy. They face no significant resistance, from either government or opposition, as their interests have now been woven into the fabric of all three main political parties in Britain.

On Monday, for instance, the Guardian revealed that the government's subsidy system for gas-burning power stations is being designed by an executive from the Dublin-based company ESB International, who has been seconded into the Department of Energy. What does ESB do? Oh, it builds gas-burning power stations.

On the same day we learned that a government minister, Nick Boles, has privately assured the gambling company Ladbrokes that it needn't worry about attempts by local authorities to stop the spread of betting shops. His new law will prevent councils from taking action.

Last week we discovered that G4S's contract to run immigration removal centres will be expanded, even though all further business with the state was supposed to be frozen while allegations of fraud were investigated.

Now opposition MPs stare mutely as their powers are given away to a system of offshore arbitration panels run by corporate lawyers.

Since Blair, parliament operates much as Congress in the United States does: the lefthand glove puppet argues with the righthand glove puppet, but neither side will turn around to face the corporate capital that controls almost all our politics.

This is why the assertion that parliamentary democracy has been reduced to a self-important farce has resonated so widely over the past fortnight.

So I don't blame people for giving up on politics. I haven't given up yet, but I find it ever harder to explain why.

When a state-corporate nexus of power has bypassed democracy and made a mockery of the voting process, when an unreformed political funding system ensures that parties can be bought and sold, when politicians of the three main parties stand and watch as public services are divvied up by a grubby cabal of privateers, what is left of this system that inspires us to participate?

UK child poverty survey reveals cold facts about freezing homes

The reality for a growing number of children in poor families in Britain is cold, damp houses and not enough to eat, a new survey by a leading children’s charity reveals, as living standards decline for most people across the country.

“This is a damning incitement of how children feel about their chances of their future and the opportunities they will have in life,’ Hersfield told RT.

“For millions of children up and down the country, poverty is a grinding reality – and it is getting worse. Many families are facing stark and unacceptable choices, like heat or eat. 

This is disgraceful in any country, especially in one of the world’s richest,” Matthew Reed, the chief executive for the Children’s Society, said in a statement. Children’s Centers in crisis

A separate survey published on Tuesday by another charity, 4Children, shows that an increasing number of families are using the services offered by children’s centers, despite the fact that many are being starved of cash due to local government funding cuts.