Labour’s new Poor Law

Labour’s draconian Welfare Reform Bill became law on 12 November 2009. The Act scraps entitlement to benefits based on need, forcing those aged 16-24 and people who have been unemployed for two years or more onto a workfare scheme. If you are not able to find employment you will be forced to work for 30 hours and take part in ‘work-related activity’ for 10 hours a week, all at the equivalent of £1.60 an hour for six months. Labour classes this as ‘intense work experience’ to ‘improve employability’. Work-related activity can include compiling CVs, doing countless job searches, attending work-focused interviews and being made to work in the worst, often temporary, jobs with bad pay and conditions. This is despite the fact that there were only 428,000 job vacancies during the three months to October 2009 whilst unemployment stood at 2.47 million by the end of September 2009. Failure to comply with the workfare regime can lead to benefit sanctions, tipping people who already have to struggle to survive on Jobseeker’s Allowance (£50.90 per week if you are under 24 or £64.30 per week if you are over) into destitution.

These workfare schemes will be piloted in Greater Manchester, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk from October 2010 and will be run by private companies. One such company is Action 4 Employment (A4E), whose owner Emma Harrison is worth £55m (Sunday Times Rich List). A4E already runs similar contracts; one, aimed at getting people back to work under the ‘Benefit Busters’ programme, is worth £700 million over five years. This has helped A4E become worth £145m, a value which Harrison expects to reach £500m by 2014.


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Report on increasing inequality in Britain

Further graphic evidence of Labour’s prosecution of the interests of the rich against the poor was revealed in a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation released on 17 June which showed how inequality had grown over the 20 years from 1980 to 2000. The proportion of ‘non-poor, non-wealthy’ households fell from 66.1% in 1980 to 55.7% by 1990, and to 50.4% by 2000. Those defined as either ‘core’ or ‘breadline poor’ increased from 17.1% to 21.3% in 1990 and then to 27% by 2000. Those defined as ‘wealthy’ increased from 16.8% to 22.6%. Between 1990 and 2000 the proportion of ‘exclusively wealthy’ rose from 3.5% to 5.6%. This is consistent with the fact that the wealthiest 1% increased their share of national wealth from 20% to 23% between 1996 and 2002, whilst that of the poorest 50 % shrank from 7% to 5%. This trend has continued.


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Housing: Labour sets racist agenda

As the economic crisis intensifies, the Labour government is stoking the fires of racism. In a sinister echo of his call for ‘British jobs for British workers’, on 29 June  Prime Minister Gordon Brown demanded ‘British homes for British families’. BARNABY MITCHELL reports.

The Labour Party’s relaunch document, Building Britain’s Future, says the government will ‘change the current rules for allocating council and other social housing, enabling local authorities to give more priority to local people and those who have spent a long time on a waiting list’, fuelling the lie that ‘local [ie white] people’ are being forced out of social rented housing by migrants, asylum seekers and others. In reality, local authority waiting lists already prioritise people with a local connection. Brown’s announcement is a piece of classic Labour demagoguery, pandering to racist concerns about immigration that was seized on with glee by sections of the media: Writing in the Daily Mail on 30 June, Andrew Green, chair of the racist think tank Migration Watch, claimed that ‘white working class people were indeed being leapfrogged by new arrivals with large families’. On 2 July, the Daily Express ranted about the ‘socialists’’ long-held discrimination in housing against ‘the indigenous population’.


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Poverty and inequality in Blair's Britain


FRFI 147 February / March 1999

New Labour, proclaims Blair, is directing a 'middle class revolution' to transform Britain. Labour's 10-year programme to tackle poverty and social exclusion will result in 'an expanded middle class, with ladders of opportunity for those of all backgrounds'. This ever-expanding middle class will 'include millions of people who traditionally see themselves as working class', laying the foundations for a new centre-left consensus that will keep New Labour governments in power for many years. Such is the propaganda. The social and economic reality, however, is very different, as DAVID YAFFE shows below.


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Poverty, inequality and unemployment

FRFI 172 April / May 2003

Last year the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone commissioned a special report on poverty in the city. The results, which came out in November show that while inner London has the highest per capita income in the European Union together with the most millionaires and the most expensive properties, the flipside of this typical capitalist coin is that inequalities are so great that London is also the child poverty capital of Britain.

Child poverty is defined as children in households living on less than 50% of the national mean average income before housing costs. In 2001/2002 the threshold weekly income was £280.50 for a couple with two children and £205.50 for a lone parent with two children; for a single person the poverty line was £117 and for a couple with no children it was £192.


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