North East Christians are calling for an end to “political short-termism” and urge the next Government to take issues like homelessness and food poverty seriously.
A new poll by Church Action on Poverty also reveals practising Christians are frustrated by church leaders’ failure to challenge politicians.
The poll, carried out by ComRes, highlights a deep dissatisfaction with Government among the region’s congregations.
- Eight in ten (82%) Christians would vote for a party with a positive long-term vision for society;
- Nine in ten (90%) think politicians are more interested in short-term political concerns;
- 74% believe churches and church leaders don’t talk enough in public about issues like food poverty, homelessness and tax avoidance;
- Four in five (85%) say that churches and church leaders do not effectively challenge politicians to communicate a long-term positive vision for society.
Minister Simon Lawton, of Newcastle’s Elim Pentecostal Church, said:
“I’m not at all surprised by the results of this survey. I would imagine that most people would agree with its findings.
“I believe people long for a society where compassion, justice and love and respect for your fellow man is central.
“Naturally we all have a part to play in this. The coming election is an opportunity for all of us, especially Christians, to host hustings and interview prospective candidates in order to make an informed decision.
“We can make a difference and we have a responsibility to make our vote count locally.”
The charity Churches Together is now calling on church-goers to challenge the region’s would-be MPs during hustings it will organise in the run-up to the General Election to coincide with its Vision 2020 of the Good Society report.
It comes ahead of Church Action on Poverty Sunday, this weekend as the charity calls for politicians to put forward a vision for a better society and to reject negative campaigning.
Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, said:
“As the Bible says ‘Without a vision, the people perish.’
“Christians are crying out for politicians to share a positive long-term vision for society – but politicians and political parties are currently failing to do so.
“But today’s poll is also a challenge to the churches to speak publicly about our own vision of a good society.
“By organising local hustings events, we can challenge those who want to represent us in Parliament to go beyond the usual political short-termism and engage in a positive debate about the kind of society they – and we – want to live in by the year 2020.”
Bob Fyffe, general secretary of Churches Together, added:
“The emphasis church-goers so often want is a shared vision of the Common Good. How do we build long-term sustainable communities where justice and compassion are at the centre of all that we do?
“It is having a vision for those who are on the margins and feel that there is no one there for them.
“How do we build local communities where people of faith and those of no faith can share common values and live in harmony, where everyone has a proper sense of belonging?
“Taking part in the democratic process is of fundamental importance to being a good citizen. The church hustings allow people to come together and make informed decisions which are central to their lives and prosperity.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 13 Feb 2015
> Northumberland Conservatives get increasingly weird…
Conservatives have called for a review of the use of a working men’s club as a polling station.
Tories are demanding the club at Bedlington, Northumberland, not be used in future, given they believe it has a “direct affiliation” to the Labour party.
They say supporters and others feel “uncomfortable” voting there given its apparent political leanings and that they “would not dream” of Conservative clubs in the county being used.
> So, Ok, my local polling station was a Church of England church hall… I’m not a Christian, should I complain about feeling uncomfortable using it ?
Of course not, because I don’t feel uncomfortable. I don’t feel anything – its just a space temporarily housing the polling station.
However, Labour accused them of “sour grapes” following their third place finish at the recent European elections in the region, and said parties have the chance to protest against polling station venues before votes are cast.
The club confirmed it is used by one Labour councillor to host surgeries, but insisted it has no affiliation with Labour and that is it politically neutral.
The authority which conducts elections in Northumberland said it hosts polls at a number of social clubs.
The calls for a review relate to the use of Bedlington Netherton Social Club and have been lodged with Northumberland County Council.
They have come from the Morpeth and Wanbseck Conservatives (MWC) acting on a complaint from a local resident.
MWC chairman Richard Wearmouth said he belived the Netherton site might – like other working men’s clubs – pay a subscription to the Labour party.
“It might have people less inclined to go in and vote, I do not know. In Bedlington there is more people voting Conservative in increasing numbers. We find that anything can disincentivise people to vote.”
> It might have people less inclined to go in and vote, I do not know. So he doesn’t know, he has no proof, but he’s still sounding off about it ?
In Bedlington there is more people voting Conservative – shouldn’t that read ‘there are more people…‘ ?
I blame Tory education cuts…
A spokesperson for the Labour group on Northumberland County Council said: “The county council makes a non political decision to designate polling stations and they follow electoral law when making that decision.
“Political parties generally have a right to highlight issues with polling stations before elections.”
A spokesman for the county council added: “The location was swapped from a mobile classroom at St Benet Biscop High School due to it not being accessible by wheelchair.
“Polling stations are chosen due to their location and accessibility. In Northumberland we use a wide variety of locations that include churches, pubs and a football club.
“The elections team is always happy to receive alternative suggestions on location, however this is the first complaint they are aware of after changing the location over three years ago.”
Ian Rosemurgey, secretary of the Netherton club, said Labour county councillor Terry Johnstone holds his surgery there once a month.
But he added: “We are politically neutral and we are affiliated to the CIU (Club and Institue Union), not Labour, Conservative or anything like that.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 16 June 2014
This article was written by Patrick Wintour and Patrick Butler, for The Guardian on Monday 3rd March 2014
Nearly 70,000 job seekers have had their benefits withdrawn unfairly, making them reliant on food banks, the right-of-centre thinktank Policy Exchange has said .
The intervention is the first by a respected rightwing voice claiming that something has gone wrong with the administration of benefits.
A chorus of churches, charities and Labour has been warning the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, for months that the administration of benefit sanctions has become too punitive.
Duncan Smith has commissioned a limited independent review into the administration of sanctions, and this is likely to confirm problems in the way they are imposed, but not challenge their level.
Policy Exchange says almost a third of all people who break their job search conditions for the first time have their benefits taken away by mistake and face unnecessary hardship as a result.
Guy Miscampbell, the author of the Policy Exchange report, said: “It is clear that there are a significant number of people who have their benefit taken away from them unfairly. Four weeks without any money is driving people to desperate measures including a reliance on food banks”.
The report suggests: “With some 874,000 adverse decisions being made between October 2012 and September 2013, and over 146,000 of them being successfully appealed or reconsidered it is clear that the possibility of wrongly applied sanctions, and what their effects might be, is an important one. With some estimates suggesting that 43% of those referred to food banks are there due to benefit stoppage or being refused a crisis loan, it is clear that there is not currently an adequate safety net for those who are wrongly sanctioned”.
The report comes as a public health specialist, Professor Elizabeth Dowler of Warwick University, said that poverty–stricken families who cannot afford to buy sufficient food are overtaking unhealthy eating as the most pressing public health concern.
The claim is made in a BBC Panorama documentary broadcast on Monday evening, which found that over a third of local authorities in England and Wales were providing funding for food banks, despite government claims that charity food is not a part of the social security system. “Food banks are an inadequate plaster over a gaping wound,” Dowler said.
On Sunday, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, repeated his criticisms of the welfare system, saying that “some of the priests who are right there on the ground say it comes across as punitive”. He revealed that he was bringing a group of priests together to discuss the evidence, and welcomed the inquiry into food banks being chaired by the archbishop of Truro and Frank Field.
Policy Exchange suggests issuing first-time offenders, who may or may not have been fairly sanctioned, with a ‘yellow card’ in the form of a benefits card. It says this would be a more compassionate way of trying to help people back into work.
Benefits would be accessed via this card for a maximum of eight weeks. If the claimant continues to breach job search conditions, the card and benefits would be taken away. This system would provide a safety net, mitigating hardship while a sanction is appealed, forcing claimants to re-engage with Jobcentre staff and deterring non-compliance through the added inconvenience of daily sign on.
They would also be asked to sign on daily as part of a proposal to create a more compassionate but stricter sanctions regime.
It suggests that repeat offenders should be punished more seriously.
> So its still all sticks and no carrots…
The report also recommends more stringent penalties for people who consistently break the terms of their job search requirements. According to the research, between October 2012 and September 2013 there were 30,000 claimants on their third sanction or more for lower tier offences such as missing an interview with a Jobcentre adviser. Repeat offenders should have their benefits taken away for a longer period of time from 13 to 26 weeks for a third breach. For each offence, a further 13 weeks should be added.
Monday’s Panorama also uncovers evidence that a jobcentre appears to be explicitly alerting its staff to the financial savings to be made through “sanctioning” job seekers when they are judged to have broken benefit conditions.
A wall chart in a Grantham jobcentre explicitly sets out the cash savings available to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) through stopping the benefits of claimants, ranging from £227.20 a week for a four-week sanction to £3,728 for a sanction lasting one year.The DWP told Panorama: “This was an isolated incident and does not reflect our policy on sanctions.”
> And we don’t believe you.
In a way, its more comforting to believe that they do have targets…otherwise you’d be left with the impression that a large proportion of Jobcentre staff are vicious, sadistic bastards willing to wreck people’s lives on a whim.
Source – Welfare News Service, 03 Mar 2014
Newcastle City Council has announced that it will not proceed with its plan to completely withdraw free Sunday parking permits from churches in the city centre. Instead, worshippers will now be charged a nominal annual fee of £20, “to cover administration” while parking charges for everyone else will be raised substantially to bring in an estimated extra £500,000.
Churches had originally been told that the free parking scheme would end in March 2014 but since then the council has met with church leaders to negotiate the nominal fee.
Newcastle Council is making swinging cuts in all other areas of its services, including those for children and the elderly. Libraries, museums, art venues and leisure facilities are also being cut as the Council struggles to save £100 million.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “Although this privilege won’t make a huge amount of difference to the savings that Newcastle is being forced to make, it is still discrimination against every other motorist in the City who has to pay the full cost of parking.
“Many people consider their own Sunday morning activities – whether it is visiting relatives, going to the cinema or out for a meal – to be just as valid as going to church, but they have no alternative but to pay the new inflated costs of parking.
“Treating church-goers more favorably than everyone else is discrimination pure and simple”.
Source – National Secular Society 18 Feb 2014
Thanks to Nicola Jones for this … worrying times indeed!
A British citizen was held for days without charge in a London mental hospital under little-known laws which allow the police to arrest and detain anybody who voices criticism against politicians or celebrities.
The Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC) was quietly set up to identify individuals who they claim pose a direct threat to VIPs including the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Royal Family.
It was given sweeping powers to check more than 10,000 suspects’ files to identify mentally unstable potential “killers and stalkers” with a fixation against public figures.
The team’s psychiatrists and psychologists then have the power to order treatment – including forcibly detaining suspects in secure psychiatric units.
Using these powers, the unit can legally detain people for an indefinite period without trial, criminal charges or even evidence of a crime being committed and with very…
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