Greedy private landlords are raking in billions of pounds of public money in housing benefits payments, new research shows.
Freedom of Information Requests by the GMB union reveal that private landlords received a staggering £9,296 billion in housing benefit in 2013/14.
GMB says this abuse of Britain’s welfare system has been allowed to go on for far too long. Millionaire landlords are exploiting low-income families in need of housing and who could otherwise be left homeless.
There are 4.2 million households living in private rented accommodation in Britain. 1.59 million of these (38%) pay part or all of their rent using housing benefit.
More people now rent privately than from councils and housing associations. The switch away from cheaper social housing to the more expensive private sector has resulted in an increase in private tenants claiming housing benefit.
The Conservatives have pledged to open up social housing to buy-to-let private landlords. This could reduce an already dwindling social housing stock and further increase the housing benefit bill.
GMB has named and shamed twenty private landlords abusing Britain’s welfare system. These include:
- Private landlord Mr Mohammed Taj was paid £3,219,858 of taxpayer’s money direct as housing benefits by Watford in 2013/14.
- Investing Solutions Ltd was paid £2,239,915 by Merton, Brent, Lambeth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing and Wandsworth councils.
- Thorney Bay Park Ltd was paid £1,924,226 by Castle Point council in 2013/14.
- Mr Alastair Kerr was paid £1,616,951 by Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham and Hounslow in 2013/14.
Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, said:
“This research lifts the lid on the mainly secret payments to landlords who are the real winners from Britain’s welfare system.
“We see taxpayers cash subsidising buy-to-let empires with £9.2 billion of hard earned taxpayer’s cash paid into private landlords’ bank accounts – much of it ending up in tax havens.
“The abuse of housing benefit by private landlords has gone on for too long.
“Millionaires take sackloads of cash for exploiting those in housing need or stuck on low pay. It’s incredible that the Tories want to extend this billions pound rip off.
“It’s time to close the offshore tax dodgers charter, cap rents and use the billions being sucked up by property speculator landlords to build affordable homes for people again.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 28 Apr 2015
With a general election looming ever larger on the political horizon, the main parties are now unveiling the policies they think will secure them victory.
The economy, immigration and benefits are among the battlegrounds which they will be fighting over in the next four months.
Another is the heavily unionised public sector which has undergone swingeing cuts since the Coalition Government came to office in May 2010 and historically has been the favoured whipping boy of the Tory party.
And so when David Cameron’s party revealed plans to make it harder to call strikes in certain “core” public services if it wins the general election, it came as no surprise.
A policy along those lines, after all, was floated last year by Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster general Francis Maude.
There was also no surprise in its backing by the employers organisations the CBI and the British Chamber of Commerce, or in its universal condemnation by members of the TUC.
Yet, while certain sections of the media need no invitation to attack the public sector, and its day of action last year caused discomfort and annoyance amongst the public – not least the sight of rubbish piling high in places like Newcastle – it is still a risky strategy.
For a start, it opens the Government up to accusations of hypocrisy and double standards.
After all, the present Coalition Government is made up of the Lib Dems and Tories who between them received 38% of the total number of the UK’s eligible voters – 18m out of 45.5m – and below the 40% threshold it wants to demand of the public sector it is targeting. The Tory share of this was 23%.
In her heyday , Margaret Thatcher won around 30% of the total available vote and, during the present parliament, the Tories voted down a Lib Dem motion to introduced an alternative voting scheme which arguably would have made parliament more representative of the people’s views.
Meanwhile, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny also got his calculator out to further hammer home the point. He said:
“Only 16 out of 650 elected Members of Parliament secured the support of 40% of those entitled to vote in their parliamentary constituency area election in 2010.
“Only 15 Tory MPs out of 303 secured that level of support. They had no hesitation in forming a government in 2010 without securing 40% support from the electorate.”
Another point is that, particularly in the North East, the public sector which employs many in the region, is not as hated as the Tories might think. So such a policy strategy could be a vote loser here.
Gill Hale, regional secretary of Unison in the North East, said:
“They are the anti-public sector party – you only have to see what they are doing to the NHS and what they have already done to local government.
“Industrial action is taken as a last resort, and when we’ve had to take it we’ve had very good public support. I don’t think it will be a vote winner.”
Meanwhile comments by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable, in which he denounced the plans as “brutal” and “ill-conceived”, echo those of Ms Hale.
He said the Conservative proposals were “entirely ideologically-led and a brutal attempt to strangle the basic rights of working people in this country”.
Mr Cable added that a 40% threshold would be “odd”, when MPs do not have to overcome such a high hurdle to be elected.
Under the plans, a strike affecting health, transport, fire services or schools would need the backing of 40% of eligible union members.
Currently, a strike is valid if backed by a simple majority of those balloted.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC says the Conservatives’ proposals would have “profound implications” for civil liberties.
They would also end a ban on using agency staff to cover for striking workers, impose a three-month time limit after a ballot for action to take place and curbs on picketing.
The package of measures will feature in the party’s manifesto for May’s general election.
In explaining the plan, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said a planned London bus strike set to take place on Tuesday had only been voted for by 16% of people entitled to take part in the ballot, and called the walk-out “ridiculous”.
“I think before a strike is allowed to go ahead it must havemuch more support from the union members and cannot be called by politicised union leaders,” he said.
But Ms O’Grady said that participation in strike ballots and other types of vote should be improved by introducing online voting, in “safe and secure balloting”.
At the moment, strikes can only be called based on the results of a postal ballot – which “don’t do the job”, Ms O’Grady added.
She said the government “continues to oppose this proposition”, although Mr McLoughlin replied he would be willing to talk “in more detail” about such proposals.
However, his partner in the Coalition Government, Mr Cable, goes further.
He said: “If there is to be trade union reform, it should be to allow electronic voting in ballots which would improve the turnout and legitimacy of polls.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the Conservative Party’s proposed changes would have a “chilling” effect, and added the way to “resolve disputes was through negotiations – not to intimidate and silence by legislation”.
Ministers have repeatedly clashed with trade unions over pay – with a 1% cap on increases in the public sector – as well as changes to pensions and retirement ages.
It was during the day of action last summer when hundreds of thousands of public sector workers took part in a day of strike action across the UK, that Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “time to legislate”.
But Ms Hale added:
“We already have some of the most draconian laws in Europe regarding industrial action. There are so many obstacles we have to get over.”
However, Mr McLoughlin said:
“It is wrong that politicised union leaders can hold the country to ransom with demands that only a small percentage of their members voted for. That causes misery to millions of people; and it costs our economy too.”
He said the changes, which would be introduced in the first session of a Conservative-led Parliament, would “increase the legitimacy” of strike action held by unions.
“It is only fair that the rights of unions are balanced with the rights of hard-working taxpayers who rely on key public services.”
CBI deputy director general Katja Hall commented:
“Strikes should always be the result of a clear, positive decision by those balloted. The introduction of a threshold is an important – but fair – step to rebalance the interests of employers, employees, the public and the rights of trade unions.”
However, the TUC has previously said imposing a minimum turnout would leave unions with “about as much power as Oliver Twist”.
Labour criticised those plans as “desperate stuff”.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said the proposed measures would make it virtually impossible for anyone in the public sector to go on strike and would shift the balance completely in favour of the government and employers, and away from dedicated public servants.
He said: “The UK already has tough laws on strikes – there is no need to make them stricter still.”
But John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “In the eyes of businesses large and small, these proposals have merit, as they would help ensure essential services and the freedom to work in the event of strike action.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 12 Jan 2015
Unemployment in the North East has increased by 5,000 in the quarter to May, official figures have revealed.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), a total of 129,000 people were unemployed in the region between March and May.
The region’s unemployment rate was 9.6% and saw a rise of 4.0% during the period.
Nationwide, the new Cabinet was given good news with the latest figures showing record employment and another huge fall in the numbers out of work.
> Except in the North East…
More than 30 million people are in work, an increase of almost one million over the past year, the best figures since records began in 1971. Unemployment fell by 121,000 in the quarter to May, to 2.12 million, the lowest since the end of 2009.
> Except in the North East…
The number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance fell by 36,300 in June to 1.04 million, the 20th consecutive monthly fall and the lowest total since 2008.
Economic inactivity, covering those looking after a relative, on long-term sick leave, or no longer looking for work, was 67,000 lower at just under 8.8 million, the lowest figure for more than a decade.
Just over 78% of men and 68% of women are in work, giving an employment rate of 73.1%.
Other figures from the ONS showed that more than 4.5 million people were self-employed, the highest since records began in 1992, after an increase of 404,000 over the past year.
Average earnings increased by 0.3% in the year to May, 0.5% down on the previous month, giving average weekly pay of £478. The 0.3% rise was the lowest since 2009, while excluding bonuses, the figure was 0.7%, the lowest since records began in 2001.
Long-term and youth unemployment have both continued to fall. The number of jobless 16-to-24-year-olds fell by 64,000 over the latest quarter to 817,000, including 283,000 full-time students looking for part-time work.
There was also a drop in the number of people in a part-time job wanting full-time work – down by 61,000 to 1.3 million.
Job vacancies were up by 30,000 to 648,000, an increase of more than 100,000 on a year ago, but 48,000 fewer than the pre-recession peak at the start of 2008.
Employment Minister Esther McVey said: “An important milestone has been reached in our country’s recovery. With one of the highest employment rates ever, it’s clear that the Government’s long-term economic plan to help businesses create jobs and get people working again is the right one.
> Except in the North East…
“With an employment rate which has never been higher, record women in work and more young people in jobs, the resilience of the country during the downturn is being rewarded. We know there is more to do, and the best way to do so is to go on delivering a plan that’s creating growth and jobs.”
> Except in the North East…
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Today’s figures show more people have the security of a job than ever before. Full employment is a key aim of our long-term economic plan.”
> Except in the North East…
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “More people up and down the country are finding jobs as we build a stronger, more balanced economy. And today we have the highest employment rate on record, which shows that this Government has created the right conditions for growth.
> Except in the North East…
“We have made the tough decisions to reduce our deficit – lifting around three million people out of tax so they keep more of what they earn, healing the scar of the north-south divide through the Regional Growth Fund, and giving young people a helping hand by boosting apprenticeships.”
> Except in the North East…
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: “The fall in unemployment is welcome. However, it is time to drill down into the details of what types of jobs are being created and where.
“This is because large swathes of the country and a great number of workers have seen little or no benefit from this recovery.
“Much of the growth is due to demographic factors, and the increase in population means GDP per head is still well below 2007 levels. This is the root cause of average earnings being down 13.8% in real terms since then.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 16 July 2014
Zero hours contracts were picked apart by union leaders as part of a round of speeches at the most popular Durham Miners’ Gala since the 1960s.
The historic event, which is now in its 130th year, attracted thousands of people to its Big Meeting event on Saturday and was blessed with fine, sunny weather.
Long-time Labour MP Dennis Skinner warned corporations of using the controversial zero hours arrangements and took aim at Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, for employing people on that basis through his company Sports Direct.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers also spoke, as well as GMB general secretary Paul Kenny and Prison Officers’ Association general secretary Steve Gillan.
Thousands of people lined the streets of Durham as banners from former mining communities were carried past accompanied by the sound of more than 50 brass bands.
The Chopwell Lodge banner with its striking imagery of Karl Marx and former Russian leader Vladimir Lenin caught people’s attention as usual, while several new banners joined the procession this year.
Organisers from the Durham Miners’ Association said it was the most well attended year since the 1960s, despite ongoing financial worries for future galas.
The organisation faces legal bills of £2.2m following a failed six-year compensation battle for its members through the courts.
While £60,000 was found to run this year’s event through a fundraising drive, association chairman Dave Hopper has previously said there may be difficulties beyond 2015.
However he told the crowd: “Don’t worry. We will be back next year and probably the year after.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 14 July 2014
Labour Party leaders and union chiefs who did not support the miners’ strike in the 1980s helped weaken the movement, a miners’ leader says.
Thousands of people will flock to Durham City on Saturday (July 12) for the 130th Durham Miners’ Gala, which marks 30 years since the start of the bitter dispute.
In his programme notes, Dave Hopper, general secretary of Gala organisers the Durham Miners’Association, says declassified documents reveal that the Thatcher Government was determined “to butcher the coalfields and smash the National Union of Mineworkers.”
He praises politicians and unions who supported the strike.
But he continues:“At the same time, these revelations should shame those trade unions and Labour Party leaders who did not support our strike.
“Those who refused to come to our aid bear a huge responsibility, not just for our defeat, but for weakening the whole trade union movement.
“They will be remembered in the former coalfield of Britain just as we remember those so-called leaders who betrayed the 1926 General Strike.
“The refusal of New Labour, during 13 years of government, to repeal the anti-trade union legislation, which was used to defeat us, only compounds their shame.”
Five new banners will be on display at the Gala – Fenhall Drift Mine, Lanchester; St Hilda Colliery, South Shields; New Brancepeth Colliery, County Durham; a UNITE Community Membership Banner and West Rainton Primary School’s Adventure Pit banner.
The parade through the city to the racecourse will start at about 8.30am.
There will be a funfair, various stalls and entertainment, including folk singer Benny Graham, on the field throughout the day.
Speeches will be made between 12.15pm and 2.30pm.
The speakers are Bolsover Labour MP Dennis Skinner, Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, Prison Officers Association general secretary Steve Gillan, NUT general secretary Christine Blower, and Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF.
Mr Hopper says Labour leader Ed Miliband was “sounded out” about attending the Gala, but nothing had been heard from him.
The blessing of banners service in Durham Cathedral starts at 3pm.
Delegations from Germany, Ukraine and Ireland are expected to attend.
Details, including events marking the strike anniversary, are at http://www.durhamminers.org
Source – Durham Times, 10 July 2014
The 130th Durham Miners’Gala will be tinged with sadness following the deaths of two leading figures of the Labour movement.
The event, on Saturday, July 12, is set to draw thousands of people to the city centre to watch the parade of banners and brass bands.
Tony Benn and Bob Crow, who died within days of each other in March, were popular speakers who appeared several times at the Big Meeting.
Mr Benn, the former veteran Labour MP who renounced his hereditary peerage, spoke at 20 Galas and also attended when he was not one of the speakers.
Mr Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, delivered a call from the platform at last year’s Gala for unions to form a new political party to fight for their interests.
Labour leader Ed Milliband once declined a Gala invitation because he didn’t want to share the platform with a “militant’’union leader.
Dave Hopper, secretary of the Durham Miners Association, which organises the event, said: “We will be saying goodbye to those comrades.
“Gresford (the miners’ hymn that is always played at the Gala) this year will have a special significance because we have had a number of funerals of good comrades.”
The 82-year-old former miner, who is renowned for his wit and entertaining speaking style, last addressed the event in 2011.
The line-up is completed by GMB general secretary Paul Kenny and Gala first timers Mick Whelan, general secretary of the rail union ASLEF, Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, and Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.
Mr Hopper added: “We have a delegation of miners coming from the Ukraine and we are hoping one of them will say a few words about the very troubled and dangerous situation in that country.”
For details of the Gala and events in the run-up to it visit http://www.durhamminers.org
Source – Durham Times, 02 July 2014