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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War on the poor

The bedroom tax is just one part of the wholesale attack on benefits that is being ratcheted up from the beginning of April. The council tax benefit cut will affect at least 670,000 working-age recipients in both social and private accommodation including an estimated 162,000 low-paid workers. They will have to find between £100 and £250 per year. This will be on top of any bedroom tax for which they may be liable, or on top of any rent they have to pay because of last year’s cuts in local housing allowance for those in private rented accommodation.

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Social cleansing in Camden – Feb 2013

Camden council has announced plans to contact 761 working class households to tell them that they can no longer afford to live in their homes. The Condem government's benefits cap will affect 2,816 adults and children who depend on housing benefits in Camden. And the Labour Council’s response? ‘Get out!’

The cap in housing benefits of £175 for a family means that they will no longer be able to afford to live in Camden or anywhere else in the south east. For 2 and 3-bedroom homes in Camden the local housing allowances are £300 and £340 a week but average private rent is £445; Camden has the fourth highest rents in the country. The households affected have an average of three children and would need to find an average of £91 each per week to pay their rent. 900 children could be forced out of their schools and their education disrupted. Labour is conniving in the expulsion of the poorest people in the borough and Bradford, Birmingham and Leicester have been suggested as possible places to move them to. Meanwhile, 56 councillors share £807,473 in allowances per year (April 2010 – March 2011) – 14,400 per councillor.

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Pissing on the poor: Labour cuts in Manchester

Writing on Twitter recently, the Labour leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese, said anti-cuts campaigners ‘want us to piss in the wind’. He was replying to a post asking Labour to take a stand against ConDem cuts. For residents of Greater Manchester, already the victims of Leese's council cuts programme, the only surprise here is that anyone has illusions in his anti-working class party.

Since 2010 Manchester Labour council has implemented £170m in public service cuts. 2,000 council jobs have disappeared. Whole departments dealing with issues as serious as dementia, children's centres and community groups have gone as have tens of millions of pounds of grants to charities and organisations supporting a range of vulnerable people, from women suffering domestic abuse to people with drug and alcohol addictions. Labour councillors have voted unanimously for this, including councillor Julie Reed who has now opportunistically joined the Save Levenshulme Baths campaign.

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