Stockton’s Tory MP James Wharton has become embroiled in a row with organisers of a clothes bank – outside his constituency.
Mr Wharton, MP for Stockton South, said there was “more than a hint of party politics” about the launch of the County Durham Socialist Clothes Bank “six months before an election”.
> There’s “more than a hint of party politics” behind the need for such ventures too. It stems from political decisions made by the Tory party.
I don’t think people who need to use it will be doing so as a political gesture… they do so because they have no other choice.
“This is as much about making statements about politics as it is about doing good things,” he told a local TV news station.
“I welcome one, I’m not convinced about the other.”
But his comments have landed him in trouble with the Durham Unite Community, whose members coordinate the clothes bank.
Unite Community is a non-industrial section of the Unite union “created to empower people outside the labour market to use the trade union values of solidarity and collective action to improve their own and others’ situations”.
Members said Mr Wharton had “shamed himself” with his comments.
Said a spokesperson:
“To seek to undermine the huge amount of voluntary effort spent by our members getting the clothes bank up and running in order to score cheap political points is unacceptable.
“Helping out fellow human beings in times of need, as our members are doing through the clothes bank, is something that politicians of all parties should be applauding rather than cynically trying to denigrate their efforts in the way James Wharton MP has done.”
Mr Wharton said he did “support all well intended community efforts”, but said he wondered why “they also need to issue highly political press releases to go with them”.
> Because it is a political issue ?
He hit back: “There are six months to go until the election and sadly it appears the unions are going to be fighting a particularly nasty and personal campaign.
> And the Tories wont, of course. They’ll just be happy to be judged on their humanitarian record…
“Hijacking good causes to launch their attacks is particularly shameful.
> More shameful than being the architects of the situation that necessitates things like food and clothes banks ?
“All I can ask is that if any of the left wing unions issue statements about me which concern or worry anyone in Stockton South then people who read them consider contacting me for the truth before drawing conclusions.”
> firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to ask him anything…
I think the story was summed up neatly by a comment by Guy S :
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
AN MP who came under fire for labelling football fans “scumbag hooligans” on Twitter has defended his comments.
Thousands of Sunderland fans gathered in Covent Garden last night ahead of Sunday’s Capital One Cup final clash.
Tory MP Robert Halfon sparked fury when he posted a picture of litter in the streets on Twitter and wrote: “Went to London for dinner. Wish I hadn’t. Scumbag football hooligans turn Covent Garden into a disgusting Cesspit.”
The member for Harlow in Essex soon found himself at the centre of an online firestorm and facing criticism from his own party.
Sunderland Conservative councillor Lee Martin wrote: “Nice to see @halfon4harlowMP has labelled the 5000 Sunderland fans in Covent Garden last night scumbags and hooligans. Idiot.”
But Mr Halfon denied his attack has been aimed exclusively at Sunderland fans.
“My tweet was to do specifically with the state of the area I saw and walked on, which was much broken glass and huge amounts of dropped litter in the roads. Why is it wrong of me to point that out?
“I asked a police officer who told me that there were six clubs in the area. In no way was I, or did I, identify one club over another, in fact I was not sure who had actually done it other than it was people associated with football.
“I specifically did not attack fans from any club but was referring only to those who had left the broken glass. It is wrong to say I have mentioned or described any fan’s from any club in the manner described.
“I also make clear the distinction between genuine fans of which there are many, and have every right to enjoy themselves, and hooligans who throw and smash glass all over the road. As a football fan myself I have huge admiration for most British clubs.
“That was the context of my tweet, which inevitably has been twisted or misunderstood as attacking a particular group of fans, or particular club, which was far from the case.”
Other Twitter users questioned whether Mr Halfon would have been similarly critical of the mess left behind after other events.
The Times football writer Tony Barrett posed a picture of the debris left after New Year’s Eve celebrations, with the question: “London after New Years Eve – “scumbag New Year revellers” or just not enough bins?”
And freelance writer Daniel Storey posted a link to details of the clean-up operation after the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, with the comment: “30 tonnes of rubbish on streets after diamond jubilee. Scumbag jubilee hooligans?”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 03 Mar 2014
A Tory MP worth £110million is raking in £625,000 a year from his hard-up tenants’ housing benefit – despite blasting the “something for nothing” welfare state.
Richard Benyon – Britain’s richest MP – runs his vast property empire from a mansion on his sprawling country pile.
But last night he was accused of cashing in off the back of the very handouts his party pledged to slash – as it emerged a string of other Tories were doing the same.
Just last month the MP, 53, said: “The average household spends £3,000 per year on the welfare state. This figure had been rising inexorably and unaffordably.”
Mr Benyon has also attacked the Labour Party over payments and said: “Labour want benefits to go up more than the earnings of people in work. It isn’t fair and we will not let them bring back their something for nothing culture.”
He is a director of the Englefield Estate Trust Corporation Limited, which owns most of the land and property linked to his family.
It got £625,964 in housing benefit from West Berkshire council last year, more than any other private landlord in the area.
Eileen Short, of Defend Council Housing, fumed: “How dare Richard Benyon lecture us about ‘something for nothing’ when he is living off the poorest and milking taxpayers all the way to the bank?
“It’s not tenants who gain from housing benefit, but some of the richest people in Britain. They get richer at our expense – and blame us while they’re at it.”
Mr Benyon is likely to pull in thousands of pounds more from properties in other areas, too, as his firm owns 20,000 acres of land from Hampshire to Scotland and 300 houses in Hackney, East London.
His office refused to comment on the figures or confirm whether Englefield got more housing benefit from other councils. Buy-to-let landlords and property tycoons like him will bank a total of £9.2billion in housing benefit this year.
It costs more than £23 a week, or 29% more in housing benefit, for a council to house a tenant with a private landlord than with a housing association or social not-for-profit landlord, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.
Mrs Short added: “It’s time we stopped greedy private landlords living off housing benefit. Instead of subsidising them, we ought to cut rents not benefits, and invest in housing that’s really affordable. Let’s get these people off our backs.”
Our investigation, with the GMB union, comes after it was revealed yesterday that UKIP’s housing spokesman Andrew Charalambous was making a fortune off migrant tenants on welfare – despite leader Nigel Farage calling for a ban on foreigners claiming the cash.
The millionaire pocketed £745,351 in housing benefit from occupants, who he admitted included immigrants.
Our probe also uncovered a number of other Tories and donors who also bagged cash through housing benefit tenants last year –
Baron Iliffe’s firm got £195,072 from West Berkshire council. His estate is worth an estimated £245million. He and his wife have donated £50,000 to the Tories.
Peer Lord Cavendish benefitted from £106,938 in housing welfare last year from Barrow council in Cumbria through his shareholding in Holker Estates.
The Earl of Cadogan, who has given £23,000 to the Tories, has received £116,400 in benefits from Kensington and Chelsea.
And MP Richard Drax’s 7,000-acre Morden Estate got £13,830 from Purbeck council, South Dorset, last year. A Morden spokesman said: “We don’t comment on these things.”
On top of Mr Benyon’s haul from tenants, his family farms have also received more than £2million in EU subsidies since 2000.
Once a year the multi-millionaire – whose great great grandad was PM Lord Salisbury – hands out food to poor families as part of a 16th century tradition. He recently came under fire for scrapping plans to dredge the Somerset Levels. He was also criticised for claiming poor families wasted too much food.
Our investigation is based on Freedom of Information Act requests made by the GMB union, which has many members who rely on social housing. There are 1.8 million households on the waiting list for council homes. Despite Government pledges to tackle the welfare bill, the annual cost hit £24billion this year.
The DWP said: “Housing benefit provides a meaningful safety net for people, whether they live in social housing or in private rental properties, and it’s sensible that both of these options are available to people.”
Source – Daily Mirror, 24 Feb 2014
Former Tory MP Edwina Currie, has once again caused fury after criticising the work of food banks, arguing that they end up making people poorer and put local shops out of business.
Writing for The Spectator’s Coffee House blog, she claims that the Trussell Trust is “having a field day”, as they do they not own a “single food bank” preferring to “merely advise” other organisations – the Trussell Trust operates over 400 food banks nationwide – citing the “170 per cent increase in people using food banks” in the previous 12 months.
Edwina Currie argues that “anyone with their wits about them can grasp” that the more food banks there are supplying free food, the more “takers” they will have queuing at the door.
> After all, that’s the world as it appears to Tory MPs (even ex- ones). Grab anything that’s going – expenses anyone ? Here, take as much as you can carry…
In addition, she claims that as the use of food banks is equated to a rise in poverty, “well-meaning groups” are using the data as a stick to “beat the government” with. However, in their bid to “do something to help” they “may be perpetuating the problems that brought people to their doorstep in the first place”.
> Presumably by “ perpetuating the problems that brought people to their doorstep in the first place” she means by helping people to stay alive. If they were allowed to starve to death, they wouldn’t need food, would they ?
In her opinion there are three categories of people who use food banks:
1. People with long-term issues, such as addiction, alcoholism and mental illness
This category will struggle whether there was prosperity or recession she says, adding that services for them are frequently atrocious, with long waiting lists . Rather than acknowledge that it may be NHS funding that is the problem, she blames Councils saying she “despairs” when they divert money from health programmes to food banks, adding that it is a “dereliction of duty”. Using Manchester as an example, she say’s the £240,000 they have spent on food banks would be better spent on addiction clinics.
2. People with short-term problems, such as debt, or late benefit payments
Mrs Currie argues that despite food bank operators claiming it is for “emergencies only”, they continually help the “same faces” coming to claim their “free tin of soup”. She cites how Canada made the same claim “over 25 years ago” and that there is now a lot of “soul-searching about their role in maintaining people in a hand-to-mouth existence instead of confronting failure and helping them change course”.
> Perhaps those “same faces” are people who’ve been given long term sanctions as a reult of government policy ?
3. People who are not poor
Once more, Mrs Currie claims “benefits can be substantial”, arguing that this category of people make a deliberate choice to stay on benefits in order to get the “free food”.
> Really ? These will presumably be the same people who have wide-screen TV’s, foreign holidays and keep the pub trade going almost single-handidly. Strangely, I’ve never actually met one of them in real life…I’d love to find out their secrets 🙂 File under : urban myth, I think.
For Mrs Currie, the Government should “tackle this perverse incentive”. However this is easier said than done as the “kindly” food bank operators rarely have resources to visit their users homes. She believes – like herself – they would be “incensed” at the “well-fed dogs, the obligatory wide-screen TVs (aha !), the satellite dishes, the manicures and mobiles – and the car parked outside” adding “Desperate? No, not all of them”.
> So she’s advocating a means test ? No free food until you’ve sold everything you own.
For her, food banks and the free food they give, are supporting a “black economy” and pauperising those they seek to help, comparing their actions with that of giving money to ‘homeless’ beggars on the streets of London; saying it encourages “more of what it seeks to relieve”. Furthermore, she continues by saying food banks are having a “pernicious effect” on the local economy. She claims the reason why some Liverpool streets – where she grew up – have betting shops and pawnbrokers only, is because there is no need for a food store “if enough local residents can get their groceries for nothing. Adding that the absence or indeed closure of a food store “affects everyone, including those who don’t qualify for the food bank”.
These latest controversial comments come just one week after Trussell Trust Foodbank Network manager for Northern England – Anne Danks, “condemned” Mrs Currie’s claims that families were using food banks as they spent their cash on “tattoos and big screen televisions instead of food”.
She added: “Edwina Currie’s comments are just a ridiculous stereotyping of people who come to the food bank and of the people who live in poverty, and things like the Benefits Street programme reinforce the attitude of people like Edwina Currie who actually have no idea of what food banks do. It’s my job to help people realise food banks are not places used by ‘wasters’ and ‘scroungers’. The reality is our users are simply people who don’t earn enough because food and fuel prices have skyrocketed.”
Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South, Rob Flello said he was ‘incensed’ following a comment by Edwina Currie that she could not see how emergency food aid would provide a long-term solution.
Rob Flello said: “Mrs Currie’s remarks are outrageous. I find it astonishing that a former health minister who claims to have her finger on the pulse should express such ill-informed views that are completely divorced from reality”.
He added: “I invite Mrs Currie to spend a day with me in the Potteries talking to people who run and use food banks. Only then may she realise how out of touch she really is.”
> Another attempt to put the blame for poverty squarely on the poor, unemployment on the unemployed, disability on the disabled… it’s amazing that anyone still falls for this nonsense.
Source – Welfare News Service 29 Jan 2014