Before anyone dismisses this as just another of #IDS ‘fag-packet’ ideas, read Joe Halewood’s take below: and to quote his closing point “ please stop calling this the ‘daftest policy’ you have ever heard. Stop saying you are speechless at this etc, and grow a set of balls and tell IDS and this government (and the next government and the one after that) to go f**k themselves and to start dealing on your terms.”
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The president of a transport union with roots in the Labour Party will contest a North seat for the Greens.
Peter Pinkney, the highest ranking layperson of the RMT Union, will campaign against Ed Miliband’s party in Redcar, claiming: “The party of the left is now the Green Party.”
The union boss also brands Labour “a sort of reddish Conservative Party” and accuses MPs of betraying working people.
The dramatic political move by the ex-TUC General Council member threatens to derail Labour’s campaign in one of its top target seats.
The RMT boss also revealed the union has donated £7,000 to Caroline Lucas, the country’s only Green MP, after the Greens were supportive of plans to renationalise the railways.
Mr Pinkney said:
“Labour is no longer the working class party. They have betrayed us time and time again. They should remember that it was the unions who formed the ‘party of labour’ not deny our links.
“The radical Labour Party of 1945 is long gone. No longer do they champion nationalisation, social housing, the NHS, education etc, they are a sort of reddish Conservative Party.
“In my opinion the party of the left is now the Green Party.”
Labour hit back last night, saying a vote for the Green Party is a vote for the Tories.
> This is the kind of stupid comment that makes me even less likely to vote Labour.
It’d obviously be a vote against Labour, Tories and Lib Dems… because we have no belief in any of them anymore.
The move underlines a deepening fracture in the relationship between Labour and the RMT.
Predecessors to the RMT were among the unions which founded Labour back in 1899. But after 105 years of history the RMT was disaffiliated by Labour in 2004, after the union rejected an ultimatum to stop supporting the Scottish Socialist Party.
Former General Secretary Bob Crow publicly slammed Labour, which was then led by Tony Blair, for a failure to support members.
The deadlock continued until the 2012 Durham Miners’ Gala, when the then Deputy Chairman of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, seemed to offer the RMT an olive branch.
He said: “We need the RMT and the FBU back inside the Labour Party – a house divided cannot stand.”
But Mr Pinkney said three months after Bob Crow died the union voted to sever ties with Labour permanently – and today rules out any future affiliation.
“That is not going to happen,” he said.
“It was a unanimous decision to disaffiliate with Labour and our members would never want to go back.
“If Ed Miliband is [more supportive of unions] then he is doing a strange impression of it. He might say that he is to his paymasters at Unite and GMB, who make hefty donations, but our members will not affiliate to Labour or any other party ever again.
“The press calling him ‘Red Ed’ is a joke. A minimum of 75% of people want to see the railways renationalised. He has never once said he would take the railways back into public hands – not even East Coast.”
Labour has named Redcar in its top 100 seats to win in May and has high hopes for candidate Anna Turley.
Vera Baird lost the seat to Lib Dem Ian Swales in 2010 in what was the highest swing against Labour in the wake of the closure of the Teesside Steelworks.
A poll by Lord Ashcroft in September put Labour on 44%, Lib Dems on 18%, Ukip on 23%, the Tories on 12% and the Greens on just 2%.
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “The choice in front of Redcar people in May is between a Tory or a Labour government.
“For all those passionate about the green agenda only Labour has the record and plans to deliver a green government.
“A vote for the Green Party is a vote for David Cameron to carry on hitting the people of Teesside.”
> Well, don’t they have a sense of entitlement ? Only us or them can be in power – its our right. Two sides of the same coin.
The Saltburn-born rail union boss, who is calling for capitalism to be replaced, said he was inspired by the election of the left wing Syriza in Greece.
He said: “We need to look after our elderly, build social housing, repeal anti-trade union laws, scrap bedroom tax, renationalise railways and utilities (and any profit reinvested), but most of all we should give the young hope.
“We are definitely handing on worse conditions than we inherited. My generation should hang our heads in shame for letting this happen. Instead of complaining about young being on streets, and using drugs, we should be asking why.
“Redcar and Cleveland has seen a massive decline in my lifetime. We need proper investment, and not just paper over cracks. I believe the Greens are only large party (as surely they can now claim to be) that wants to put things right.
“I am a left wing socialist, but I am pragmatic. I have seen what Syriza have done, and we can learn from that.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 07 Feb 2015
The Green Party has committed to building 500,000 social rented homes by 2020 to tackle the current housing crisis, it has been announced today.
‘Urgent action is required to address the housing crisis that sees 1.8million people on waiting lists for social housing, while ‘ghost mansions’ lie empty’, say the Greens.
Just 5% of Government expenditure is spent on building more affordable homes, which the Greens have described as a ‘disgrace’.
According to the Greens, 30,000 social homes have been lost to Right To Buy since 2010 – with only a few replacements.
The Greens in Government would build 500,000 social rented homes by gradually increasing the housing budget from £1.5bn to £6n by 2017. This would be paid for by reforming landlord tax allowances, scrapping buy-to-let mortgage interest relief and removing local authority borrowing caps.
The Green Party’s Manifesto will include policies to address the housing crisis, including policies to bring empty homes back into use, a better deal for private tenants, ending Right To Buy, and action on rent levels.
Natalie Bennett, Green Party Leader, said:
“We need to move away from regarding houses as primarily financial assets and go back to regarding them as homes. This policy is an important step in that direction.
“Landlords have been receiving massive public subsidies through tax breaks and housing benefits, and this is contributing to the rising, unsustainable level of inequality in our society.
“They do not deliver enough of social and economic benefit to the rest of society to justify their favourable tax treatment: it isn’t in the interests of our common good to continue this bias towards the wealthy at the cost of those struggling to survive with high rents and often low-quality housing.”
Tom Chance, PPC for Lewisham West and Penge and Green Party Housing Spokesperson, said:
“Social housing has provided decent, affordable homes for millions of people over the past 150 years.
“After 40 years of sales, demolitions and budget cuts, the Green Party will put social housing back at the heart of housing policy.”
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, added:
“In my Brighton constituency the cost of buying a home is 44% higher than the average. That’s pushing my constituents into debt, into poor quality rented housing, and into homelessness.
“There’s no silver bullet that will magic away years of failure by successive governments to invest in ending the housing crisis, but increasing the supply of sustainably built social housing, as we are announcing today, will start to make a real difference for tenants, homeowners, and anyone wanting to buy a home.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 05 Feb 2015
It was only yesterday that we wrote about Cameron’s social engineering policy and the disgraceful way low income families and people on benefits were being targeted in the name of profit.
Today, Westminster Council has revealed what they describe as the government’s ‘insane’ new vacant building credit scheme which could cost the council up to £1 billion in housing payments.
As usual, it is the super-rich investors who benefit from the changes at the expense of the poor and vulnerable in our society. People trying to make a better life for themselves struggling against an ever unequal and oppressive government.
The following is from The Guardian
Housing developers in the UK could gain hundreds of millions of pounds in windfall profits under a new policy that lets them reduce contributions to building affordable housing or even avoid paying altogether, a council has claimed.
Since December, the government has exempted anyone…
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New research published today debunks the myth that social housing residents are characterised by high levels of benefits dependency.
The latest Real London Lives research report, commissioned by the University of York, reveals that rather than being blighted by long-term unemployment and low aspiration, there is a strong commitment to work among social housing tenants, despite difficult circumstances and personal vulnerability.
Two-thirds of residents in social housing who can reasonably be expected to work do, however three-quarters were only ‘holding steady’ financially, due to low wages and a shortage of working hours.
Much like the experiences of other workers, jobs taken by social housing residents do not necessarily guarantee financial security and don’t always offer a steady wage.
Social housing tenancy is supporting people through many of the challenges they face in life, protecting and strengthening the family unit and insulating vulnerable people who may otherwise become homeless.
Social housing provides tenants with the opportunity to achieve independence from benefits, says the report.
The research also lays to rest the myth that migrants gain access to social housing easily. Contrary to common public perception, migrants have ‘no advantage in the allocation of housing’, say researchers. Indeed, the report found that access to social housing is anything but easy for all groups of applicants.
Research also reveals how the government’s controversial ‘bedroom tax’ housing policy is not incentivising tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit to downsize to a smaller property. 50% of residents who did wish to downsize to a smaller property said it wasn’t because of ‘bedroom tax’, but more to do with the home itself. Those who chose to stay put and accept the hit on their benefits did so because of a long-standing emotional attachment to their home.
Mark Rogers, CEO of Circle Housing and Deputy Chair of the g15, said:
“The lazy stereotypes about social housing residents are simply wrong. There are people in professional careers, people working part-time, people on zero hours contracts, some holding down two jobs, others in training, and some with no real prospect of employment due to physical or mental health problems.
“This research shows there are no easy answers for policy makers. Social housing residents are not ‘shirkers’, but a diverse, complex mix of ordinary households trying to get by and thrive in the best way they can.
“Together, we must use this evidence to make informed policy decisions and have a collective responsibility to ensure that the voices of this diverse community of Londoners are heard.”
The report aims to achieve better understanding into the lives of Londoners living in social housing and their ‘financial resilience’ in the wake of welfare reform and a changing labour market.
Researchers surveyed 1,648 working-age social housing residents of the g15 group of housing associations.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 19 Nov 2014
David Cameron’s pledge to cut the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 if the Conservatives win the next election could force housing associations to turn away families in need of social housing.
Mick Sweeney, chief executive of One Housing Group, which operates in London and the southeast, said associations may be forced to abandon plans to build much-needed new homes as result of the change. They may also have to turn away certain tenants, he added.
“We’re going to look at their income and we’re going to have to say, if they’re wholly benefit-dependent and they can’t afford even the sub-market or social rents that we’re charging, [then] we can’t house you,” he said.
“What happens to those families? There are lots of unintended consequences to this.”
Elizabeth Austerberry, chief executive of Moat, which also houses tenants across the southeast of England, said that rent was the biggest source of steady income for associations. Rental streams are already placed under threat by the introduction of universal credit.
“If the benefit cap goes down to £23,000, it will make certain types of home extremely vulnerable,” she said.
Between 40-50% of Moat’s residents are benefit dependent, Austerberry explained, adding that for some housing associations this figure is as high as 80%.
“For an association like that it [the reduction of the cap] will make it extremely difficult for them to generate new housing, particularly if they haven’t got a strong housing market. I suspect it will make it extremely difficult for us to build three-bedroom homes, and maybe two-bedroom homes in most of our areas.
“If we’re not going to be able to collect rent from people, then where is the money going to come from? That again will push us further towards the open market.”
Housing associations have increasingly pursued commercial projects to generate income since the government cut grant funding for new social homes by 60% in 2010. But securing finance for such operations is challenging if investors notice a risk to an association’s main income stream, Sweeney said.
“If the banks get nervous then they won’t lend us money. And if they won’t lend us money then we can’t build new homes.”
Richard Blakeway, director of housing for the mayor of London, said that housing associations have no choice but to raise money through commercial projects.
“There needs to be an acceptance that the landscape has changed. Some housing associations have responded brilliantly, others are still quite cautious. They need to stop thinking that there is going to be a significant change in terms of capital subsidy in relation to affordable housing, because I can’t see that happening.”
Uncertainty could not be cited as a reason for avoiding commercial initiatives, he added.
“The funding settlement that exists now will last until the end of the decade, and then the rent settlement goes into the middle of the next decade.”
Conference delegate David Hancock, representing Hyde Housing Group, questioned how associations could succeed in a commercial market under current regulation rules.
“We have to carry out commercial activity to meet our social objectives, but we’re regulated by a regulator which is principally driven by protecting public assets. At some point that has to give,” he said.
Sweeney agreed, stating that although the coalition’s decision to abolish the Audit Commission and the Tenant Services Authority was welcome, change to the regulation of the housing sector was still needed. The Homes and Communities Agency “needs to be put back in its box,” he said.
“It’s growing, it’s trying to extend its remit, its trying to second guess what our business plans are. I hope a conservative government would put regulation on a proper footing, and that is not interfering with building homes.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 01 Oct 2014
New research shows that the number of households in the North East affected by the bedroom tax has fallen by just 12 per cent during the last year, with seven out of eight affected households unable to avoid a cut in rent support.
The research, sourced under the Freedom of Information Act by TUC-backed campaign site False Economy, reveals that the number of households subject to the bedroom tax has actually risen by 5.8% across Northumberland – and barely fallen in most other parts of the region.
The research suggests that the vast majority of tenants hit have been unable to respond to the cut in their housing budget by moving to a smaller home, earning their way out of housing benefit or taking in a lodger as the government expected.
As rent arrears grow and the widely predicted shortage of vacant one-bedroom properties becomes more apparent, thousands of low-income households have had no choice but to try to absorb a significant cut in their income. Ministers will claim that the figures could improve over four or five years – but by then many tenants will have been buried under a mountain of unpayable debts, says False Economy.
The figures show the change in councils’ bedroom tax caseload –comparing the number of households who were subject to a reduction in their housing benefit when the tax was introduced last April to the numbers affected in February and March 2014. Some local authorities report an increase in their bedroom tax caseload, while most show only modest reductions.
If the bedroom tax had achieved its stated objective of significantly cutting both the under-occupation and the overcrowding of social housing, the caseload reduction would be significantly greater, says False Economy.
The research’s key findings include: Middlesborough Council is the only local authority in the North East whose bedroom tax caseload has fallen by more than a quarter. It has fallen by less than 10 per cent in Darlington and Sunderland, and actually risen in Northumberland.
Across Britain the number of households affected by the bedroom tax has fallen by 15 per cent.
A False Economy spokesperson said: “The bedroom tax has failed on each of the government’s stated objectives – just as so many warned it would.
“But the bedroom tax was never about make making housing allocation fairer or cutting the welfare bill. It was about putting social housing further out of the reach of those who need it, and driving families into a debt spiral that traps them in squalid overpriced private tenancies and jobs that don’t pay.”
Northern TUC Regional Secretary Beth Farhat said: “The bedroom tax is one of the most spiteful and unfair measures introduced by this government. It shows just how out of touch with ordinary people and the real world ministers are.
“Ministers seem not to know about the nationwide shortage of single bedroom social homes nor are they aware of any of the many valid reasons why tenants need more space than the government says they do.
“And the bedroom tax hasn’t stopped the housing benefit bill from going up. This is because wages have stagnated for the working poor and rents have increased as the decades long failure to build enough homes bites.”
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 05 April 2014
> This is posted as an example partly of the state of affairs regarding unemployment on Wearside (empty trading estates) and the lack of joined-up thinking on planning (no new social housing for those being forced by the Bedroom Tax to downsize).
The council could at the very least demand a percentage of one-bedroomed social housing as part of the development. We seem to have plenty of unaffordable “affordable” housing already.
140 new family homes could be created on the site of a Sunderland industrial park.
Developers are hoping to get planning permission from Sunderland City Council for 140 two, three and four-bedroom homes where Phoenix Tower business park, just off Wessington Way, currently stands.
Bosses said today the houses, in Southwick, will go towards meeting the “crippling” shortage of quality homes on Wearside.
The site has been unused since Stag Furniture closed eight years ago.
Jason Whitfield, senior planner at planning agent England and Lyle, which has submitted the application, said: “This development will provide high quality, affordable family housing in Sunderland.
“The site is highly sustainable and offers access to shops, services and facilities, as well has having excellent transport links. There has been no demand for the site for industrial or commercial uses since the closure of Stag Furniture in 2006. In the meantime the character of the area has changed with Sainsbury’s locating next door.”
A consultation into the plans finishes on Tuesday, April 15.
Source – Sunderland Echo 03 April 2014
This article was written by Patrick Butler, social policy editor, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 26th March 2014
Low income families hit by welfare reforms are running up personal debt at the rate of £52 a week to cope with the rising cost of living, with many saying they have no idea if they will be able to pay it back, according to the latest instalment of a poverty research project.
The project found that the average household debt stood at just under £3,000, up by 29% since October, equivalent to £670. Families were typically spending £34 a week repaying debts, from an average income among those surveyed of £176 a week.
Almost half of the participants in the survey, all of whom have been affected by welfare reforms such as the bedroom tax, report that they have no money left to live on each week once rent, food and bills are paid for.
The findings emerged in the third of six planned reports by a group of housing associations, which are tracking how families living in social housing in the north-west of England are coping with cuts to their income as a result of welfare changes and recession. The Real Life Reform project examines in detail the finances, views and behaviours of a group of up to 100 households.
Andy Williams, director of neighbourhood services at Liverpool Housing Trust and chair of the Real Life Reform steering group, said: “Householders are falling into more debt, including some taking money from loan sharks, and it’s a real concern that people are having to borrow to cope with the cost of everyday living.
“In our first report in September, people said they’d resist falling further into debt, yet just six months later this picture has emerged.
“Nearly eight out of 10 people in the study owe money. With an underlying average debt of £2,943, some may never pay this off given that they have, on average, as little as £3 left at the end of each day for food.”
The survey found that the number of households in debt was up four percentage points since the autumn. Over half of families said they did not know how long it would take them to repay the debt or that they would never be able to repay it. Nearly one in seven households had debts that would take more than four years to pay back.
One participant told the project: “I have just taken out a new loan from a loan shark for Christmas. It will never go down but it just about keeps my head above water.”
The report said that poorer families were increasingly reliant on debt to make ends meet. “The consequences of weekly repayments, which have more than doubled since the start of this study, alongside increasing costs in all areas, is really placing financial strain and hardship on our households.”
Household food spending by Real Life Reform participants, which had dipped to an average £2.10 a day in October rose to £3.08 in January, an increase attributed to bigger-than-usual grocery shopping bills over the Christmas holidays.
Fuel spending had gone up by 8% since the last survey was carried out in October while household fuel bills had risen by an additional £7 a week since the summer. Participants were spending an average of £141 a month on energy, compared with the UK average of £106, in part because many were on expensive payments meters charging 27p per kilowatt hour compared to 17p for those not on meters.
Source – Welfare News Service, 26 March 2014
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith MP, has been accused of being a coward after making a quick escape via the back door of a Jobcentre, rather than confront a group of protesters waiting for him outside.
Iain Duncan Smith was visiting a Jobcentre in Bath to see how a trial of his flagship Universal Credit welfare reform, which rolls a number of state benefits into one single monthly payment, was performing in the city.
Around 26 protesters had gathered in front of the Jobcentre hoping to confront the Tory MP after a local council report suggested that coalition welfare cuts were fuelling a housing crisis in the city.
According to the report, Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms had resulted in a surge in social housing waiting lists and an increase in eviction notices being issued against local tenants.
Rather than meet with protesters to answer their concerns, who had formed a human barricade in front of the building to block his car, Iain Duncan Smith decided to wait for his car to be moved to the rear of the building before slipping out of the back door and making a sharp getaway.
George Aylett, a student who had taken the day off to confront Iain Duncan Smith, told the Western Daily Press:
“He ducked down in the back of his car – how pathetic.
“He can’t even be bothered to come out here and hear what we have to say – we don’t want to hurt him, [we just want] him to understand that people are suffering because of his policies.
“He’s being a coward. He’s pathetic. He’s meant to be representing us – yet he won’t even come to hear what we have to say.”
“He obviously doesn’t care. He can’t claim to care about us if he does this.”
Jackie Hunt-Phillips, 44, added: ”If he’s so proud of his policies then why isn’t he walking through the front entrance with pride? If I had done something I was proud of I would walk high with pride, I’d tell everyone what I’d done. He’s obviously ashamed of what he has done – that’s why he is too scared to come and talk to us.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 08 March 2014