Defend the Counihans! Fight evictions in Brent!

The Counihan-Sanchez family from Kilburn is continuing to resist attempts by Brent Labour council to make them homeless for a second time. The Counihan-Sanchez Housing Campaign (CSHC) is supporting the family and continuing to fight all evictions and cuts in Brent. The family of seven was made homeless by Brent after they declared £18 a week income from a plot of land in Ireland. Since April 2012, the family has been in shoddy accommodation in Ealing which costs Brent council £500 per week.

 

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Attacking benefits and telling lies

Overall benefit cap

The overall benefit cap comes into force in July 2013: it sets the total benefits that a family can receive at £500 per week and £350 for a single person. The government’s argument is that benefit levels should not exceed the average wage. In reality, its purpose is to cleanse high-rent areas, particularly in London, of the poor. Initial government estimates were that 56,000 families would be hit; it has now reduced that number to 40,000. Yet the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has sent out letters to 88,840 families saying they will be affected. 47% live in London, and overall 46% live in social housing.

The government has calculated that such families will lose on average £93 per week and this will be through a cut in local housing allowance or housing benefit. These families will be unable to pay rent and will therefore rapidly build up arrears and face eviction. Even taking the lowest figures for affected households, the number of people facing eviction within a matter of months will be 100,000 in London alone, 70% of them children as it will be larger families who are hit hardest.

 

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Glasgow stands firm against ATOS

On 27 April, Iain Hodge, an unemployed father of one, committed suicide in his flat in East Kilbride in South Lanarkshire. Despite suffering from a life threatening blood condition, and despite being signed off as unfit to work by his GP, he had not received any money from the Department of Work & Pensions for 10 weeks. He was one of the 73 people who die each week after ATOS finds them capable of work.

Glasgow Against ATOS has continued to take the streets, organising protests, pickets, direct actions and meetings to demand justice for the victims of ATOS and welfare cuts, and demonstrate that solidarity and organisation can provide an alternative to despair. On Friday 31 May, up to 40 activists, including FRFI supporters, held a vigil outside the ATOS testing centre on Cadogan Street, Glasgow, with the photographs and names of some of those who have lost their lives as a result of the cuts placed on the wall outside. In response, police waded in and demanded that they be removed as they were on private property and then in a display of contempt, proceeded to rip down the pictures of the dead.

 

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Fight library privatisation in Birmingham

On 3 September the new £188m Library of Birmingham is due to open. Its arrives in the wake of £2.1m worth of cuts to community libraries issued by Birmingham’s Labour council in 2012-13, which have seen opening hours shortened by 9.5% and a 37% cut to paid library staff - with volunteers expected to make up for the shortfall. Yet before its gates have even opened, the Labour city council has made plans to privatise the running of the new library.

 

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Wythenshawe opposes the bedroom tax

Labour Manchester City Council has once again voted a multi-million pound Wythenshawe in Manchester was once the biggest council housing estate in Europe. Under Labour, those council houses remaining after ‘Right to buy’ were handed over to two housing associations, Parkway Green and Willow Park. Parkway Green has told tenants deemed to be ‘under-occupying’ their homes that ‘you will have to pay Parkway Green the difference to make up your rent or your home could be at risk.’ FRFI organised a Smash the Bedroom Tax meeting in the estate on 28 February out of which came Wythenshawe Smash the Cuts. Sam Knowles explains why she decided to get involved:

 

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Glasgow: Police ratchet up repression

Glasgow Against Atos (GAA) has been stepping up its campaign for scrapping both the Work Capability Assessment and the Department of Work and Pensions’ contracts with Atos. Such has been its success that the Scottish Daily Mail has ‘exposed’ the GAA as a violent left-wing conspiracy! As the campaign has developed so the Strathclyde Police has increased its monitoring and harassment. On 22 February, over 50 cops were involved in trying to close down a protest against Atos, arresting two campaigners, both members of FRFI, one for using a megaphone, and the other for allegedly trying to liberate a prisoner from custody. Both were released following protest phone calls to the police station where they were being held and were given bail conditions banning them from protests in Glasgow city centre.

 

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No ifs, no buts – PCS leaders collaborate with cuts

FRFI has consistently argued that the opportunist left’s reliance on the trade unions to fight the onslaught on the working class is a bankrupt strategy. In the case of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, it has become downright reactionary. The PCS, which organises within both the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Atos, refuses to side with disabled people to confront the notorious Work Capability Assessments (WCA). Both the Socialist Party (SP) and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), which are very influential in the PCS, have opposed direct action against the DWP and Atos by those fighting the WCA tests, and have tried to destroy the reputation of one of the leading disabled activists in Wales, Liza van Zyl.

 

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Newcastle: Labour attacks protesters

On 6 March Labour-run Newcastle City Council passed a devastating package of £100 million cuts over the next three years. Every Labour councillor supported it. Council leader Nick Forbes, as ever, blamed the ‘unfair’ government and complained that he passed the cuts ‘with a heavy heart and much soul searching’. Forced to respond to calls by campaigners to set a budget based on the needs of the city’s population rather than follow government dictates, Forbes said the council would be regarded as a ‘civic basket case’ if it did so.

 

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Camden: A London for the rich

Camden’s Labour council has told 761 households they will have to leave their homes after changes to housing benefit. According to the council, the ConDem benefit cap will mean a maximum of £175 housing benefit per week for three-children families. 2,816 adults and children have been told they can no longer afford to live in Camden – or anywhere in South East England. Councillors are already planning for the removal of the poor, to towns up to 200 miles away. Other Labour-run London councils are making similar plans. Louis Brehony reports.

 

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Manchester: Labour cuts and growing resistance

Labour Manchester City Council has once again voted a multi-million pound programme of cutbacks upon some of the poorest communities in Britain. As ever, Labour councillors opposed the ConDem cuts with words, but not with their votes on 8 March. At a time when working class people are starting to challenge the bedroom tax, the council is slashing £3.4m from the ‘supporting people’ budget for accommodation centres, hostels and rehousing support groups. We have a fight on our hands.

 

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Smash the Bedroom Tax - Cut the Bloated Bankers

From 1 April, the ConDem coalition assault on the working class reaches a new pitch. This month sees the introduction of the bedroom tax and massive cuts in council tax benefit. Benefits will be uprated by a miserable 1%, a cut of 2-3% in real terms. The Welfare Reform Act comes into effect, cutting disability benefits by 20% and imposing a ceiling on the benefits any family can receive. The Health and Social Care Act comes into effect, catapulting the NHS into chaos. On top of this a third round of council cuts will slash services for the poorest and put tens of thousands out of a job. Robert Clough reports.

 

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Manchester: Taking on Labour and the SWP to smash the bedroom tax

Along with hundreds of people, FRFI supporters attended the 16 March protest against the bedroom tax in Piccadilly Gardens organised by the Labour left. Through Facebook the organisers had warned anyone who didn’t want a ‘peaceful’ protest to ‘stay away’ – clearly they didn’t want the defiant, working class tactics that beat the Poll Tax.

On the day, they gave fine speeches through their sound system about how the tax should be axed along with other ‘Tory cuts’, but would not condemn the £80m cuts Man­chester Labour council had agreed a few days earlier. They refused to allow other campaigners to speak because ‘this is not an open mic’.

 

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National Health Service: catapulted into chaos

From 1 April, the NHS will be catapulted into chaos as the Health and Social Care Act comes into force. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed his contempt for those labouring in the face of massive cuts when he declared: ‘Too many hospitals are coasting along, settling for meeting minimum standards.’ No longer will he be responsible for the delivery of health services, and nor will anyone else under the new and immensely convoluted arrangements. 211 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) will be responsible only for buying health care, spending £64.7bn of the NHS budget of £95.6bn for 2013/14. Foundation Trusts and other organisations, many of them privately run, will be responsible only for what they are contracted to do. The Clinical Commissioning Board exists only to support commissioning and to buy specialist services. Monitor exists only to enforce competition. The Care Quality Commission has no teeth and is grossly understaffed: it is a myth that it can do anything about quality. No one is in charge. There is no nationalised health service anymore. Instead there will be chaos.

 

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Campaigning with Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

FRFI supporters are active in campaigns against state violence and racism and in defence of working class living standards, as part of the struggle to build a new working class movement that can resist the attacks of the ruling class on every front. Exposing the bankruptcy of the Labour Party and its followers is a crucial part of the battle against the opportunists who always, and in the end, defend the ruling class. See also pages 2/3/4 of this issue of FRFI.

Justice 4 Grainger

On 3 March the Justice4Grainger Campaign marked the anniversary of the shooting dead of Anthony Grainger by the Greater Manchester Police with a ‘speak out’ in Manchester city centre. Other families who have suffered deaths at the hands of the police attended and spoke about their experiences, including Janet Alder, whose brother Christopher died in police custody in 1998, Carole Duggan, the aunt of Mark Duggan who was shot dead by the police in London in August 2011, and Ann Michael, whose son Jacob was killed by the police in Leigh in August 2011. Charles Chinweizu spoke for FRFI, putting Anthony’s death in the context of more than 30 people shot and killed by the police in England and Wales since 2000, with no police officers facing trial for these deaths. 

 

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Housing: haves and have-nots

The ruling class justification for the bedroom tax is that it is the ‘under-occupation’ of homes by some families that leaves thousands of others in overcrowded accommodation. This divide and rule tactic is a cover-up for the real problem – the decimation of council housing stock through ‘right to buy’ programmes and the end of any council house building programme. The bedroom tax will be a further nail in the coffin as it ends secure tenancies and enables the full privatisation of all forms of social housing. Barnaby Mitchel reports.

 

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Legal Aid cuts to match austerity

Cuts to Legal Aid provision, taking effect at the beginning of April, will seal the poverty trap for the poorest sections of the working class in Britain. Communities already facing the brunt of the government’s attack on living standards, in particular those who rely on welfare benefits to survive with dignity, will now be unable to seek legal advice, help or representation to challenge the unfair and worsening conditions they are forced to suffer.

 

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