No option but resistance / FRFI 236 Dec 2013/Jan 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 236 December 2013/January 2014

The ConDem coalition’s attack on state welfare is not working. Despite savage benefit cuts, the overall cost of state welfare has not fallen. However, the government’s response – a mixture of lies and threats to slash eligibility and benefit levels even further, especially those for disabled people – shows that austerity is not about economics, but politics. The coalition is determined to shift the balance of class forces decisively against the working class, and the absence of significant resistance only encourages it to intensify the onslaught. But where people do come together and challenge the cuts, victories can be won – collective, community-based organisation is the key to resistance. ROBERT CLOUGH reports.

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Newcastle Labour Council cuts: 8 million more reasons to break with Labour and build a new movement

On 6 November Newcastle City Council announced that it will be increasing the cut to public services of £100m over three years, passed in March this year, by a further £8m. In addition to library closures, the closure of leisure centres, the abolition of the city’s arts budget and the decimation of the city’s youth services, Newcastle residents will now have to face a 'review' – meaning cuts - ‘to Sure Start services sooner than originally planned’ and of ‘services for adults with learning disabilities to cut costs’. Those living in Kenton, a working-class area of Newcastle, will see their Customer Service Centre closed and replaced by ‘an information zone’, an unmanned computer kiosk and a phone. Once again, it is clear who is in the crosshair: the disabled, the poor and single-mothers.

Characteristically, Labour Council Leader Nick Forbes has offered nothing but excuses. In a statement on the council website, he stated that ‘due to yet more Government cuts we have to make further reductions in 2014/15. Despite a lot of hard work we have been unable to plug all of this gap through efficiencies and so we are left with no option but to make some more cuts.’ As we reported in FRFI 231, the ‘hard work’ to which Forbes refers amounts to nothing more than ‘lobbying central government’, all the while complaining that he is in ‘an impossible situation’. The reality is that not a single Labour councillor voted against the cuts budget in March.

In an article about the cuts published by The Evening Chronicle on 7 November, Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle Central, stated, ‘Countless studies have shown how important the early years are in helping a child reach their full potential regardless of background’. Despite this, Onwurah has made it very clear that she has no intention of challenging the council's decision. Like Forbes, she has abdicated any responsibility for the cuts, and is quoted as saying: ‘I have spoken to the council and I understand that it is additional cuts from the government that have changed the timing of the Sure Start review’.

This pattern will be familiar to Newcastle’s residents. The increased cuts to Newcastle’s budget come following repeated shirking of responsibility by the Labour-run council. Onwurah has spoken on anti-Bedroom Tax platforms and, in a council meeting on 2 October, Forbes claimed that he was ‘leading the anti-Bedroom Tax campaign in Newcastle’. This is an attempt to pose as an alternative, in reality offering nothing but empty rhetoric. The council continue to implement the bedroom tax, and to date not a single appeal has been heard in Newcastle. Whether it is the city’s spending budget or the Bedroom Tax, Labour councillors and MPs have shown time and time again that they will not resist austerity. The real alternative will have to come from those directly affected by the cuts. 

Fighting the bedroom tax in south London/FRFI 235 Oct/Nov 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013

Lambeth in south London has one of the highest numbers of inhabitants affected by the bedroom tax, around 4,600 or one in every six people. Just in Brixton, in the heart of Lambeth, there are 714 households affected, losing an average of £20 a week.

At a meeting at Lambeth Town Hall organised by Brixton Blog in September, Labour councillor Pete Robbins stressed that the council was ‘doing all we can’ to help people move ‘into work’ or into ‘more appropriate accommodation’ to avoid the bedroom tax. Yet it is the working poor who are amongst the most dependent on housing benefit – and Lambeth has the second-highest rate of benefits claimants of any council in London. As for ‘appropriate accommodation’, there are around 21,000 households on the waiting list for social housing in Lambeth; last year the council housed 325 applicants. There are a total of 13 one-bedroom flats available and around 1,500 households who need them.

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No to Newham’s social cleansing Defend the Focus E15 Mothers!/FRFI 235 Oct/Nov 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013

No to social cleansing! Keep us in London! are the demands of a militant group of young mothers and mothers-to-be in east London who face eviction from their homes in a mother and baby unit, part of a hostel for young people in Stratford.

Opened in 1996, the hostel, called Focus E15 Foyer, has 210 self-contained units for young people including 16 flats for young mothers. East Thames housing association runs five foyers in East London and Essex, housing about 600 young people in total, providing accommodation for people aged 16 to 24 at risk of being homeless. On the East Thames website, a foyer is described as ‘a place where young people can live and receive support to enable them to achieve their goals and move on to independent living’. The residents stay between six months and two years, access services to help them back into education or employment and ‘the aim is that we help them move on to independent living or back with their family’.

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Organise to fight the cuts!/FRFI 235 Oct/Nov 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013

While Labour Party supporters point to Ed Miliband’s announcements at the Labour Party conference that an incoming Labour government in 2015 will cap energy price rises, build 200,000 houses a year and scrap the bedroom tax as an indication of how the party has returned to its roots, the reality will be quite different. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, addressing the conference, once again spoke of the need for more cuts in state spending:

‘We won’t be able to reverse all the spending cuts and tax rises the Tories have pushed through. And we will have to govern with less money around. The next Labour government will have to make cuts too ... we will keep the benefits cap, but make sure it properly reflects local housing costs. We will have a cap on structural social security spending. And yes, over the long-term, as our population ages, there will need to be increases in the retirement age.’

ROBERT CLOUGH reports

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More Articles ...

  1. Axe the bedroom tax Can’t pay – won’t pay!/FRFI 235 Oct/Nov 2013
  2. Atos fails the test /FRFI 234 Aug/Sep 2013
  3. Benefit cuts - No refuge from violence /FRFI 234 Aug/Sep 2013
  4. Newcastle: Building resistance to the bedroom tax/FRFI 234 Aug/Sep 2013
  5. Overall benefit cap is social cleansing/FRFI 234 Aug/Sep 2013
  6. Tories dismantle welfare benefits - Labour promises the same
  7. Lessons of the Poll Tax/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013
  8. Fighting the Bedroom Tax in Newcastle: building resistance/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013
  9. Build resistance - Fight the cuts/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013
  10. Defend the Counihans! Fight evictions in Brent!/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013
  11. Attacking benefits and telling lies/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013
  12. Glasgow stands firm against ATOS/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013
  13. Fight library privatisation in Birmingham
  14. Wythenshawe opposes the bedroom tax /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013
  15. Glasgow: Police ratchet up repression /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013
  16. No ifs, no buts – PCS leaders collaborate with cuts /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013
  17. Newcastle: Labour attacks protesters /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013
  18. Camden: A London for the rich /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013
  19. Manchester: Labour cuts and growing resistance /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013
  20. Smash the Bedroom Tax - Cut the Bloated Bankers /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013
  21. Manchester: Taking on Labour and the SWP to smash the bedroom tax /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013
  22. National Health Service: catapulted into chaos /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013
  23. Campaigning with Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!/FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013
  24. Housing: haves and have-nots /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013
  25. Legal Aid cuts to match austerity