State of the working class

focus e15 campaing

This year’s Sunday Times Rich List revealed that there are now 134 billionaires in Britain. Fifteen years ago, there were only 21. At the same time – as capitalism sinks into its deepest crisis in a century – the mass of the working class is being forced into insecure, low-paid employment in the sixth richest country in the world.


● In-work poverty has reached a record high at 7.4 million workers, a million more than in 2010.

● 905,000 people were on zero-hours contracts in December 2016, a 13% year-on-year rise.

● 4.8 million people are now considered self-employed and the majority of them are in precarious work.

● 1.56 million people are unemployed.


● The GMB union says that the average real value of earnings for full time workers fell by 12.6% between April 2007 and April 2016. The Bank of England concedes that the 2010s is the first ‘lost decade’ in Britain since the 1860s.

● The IFS says average earnings will be no higher in 2022 than they were in 2007.

Benefits cuts

● Working age benefits have been frozen until 2020.

● 432,000 social housing tenants pay an average of £15.20 a week through the Bedroom Tax. Two thirds of them have a disability.

● Following its reduction at the end of 2016, nearly 70,000 families with 200,000 children are now hit by the Overall Benefit Cap and face homelessness.

● Britain has been the first country to face an inquiry by a United Nations committee for cuts that constitute ‘grave violations’ of disabled people’s rights.


● 13.5 million people live in poverty in the UK, up from 12 million a decade ago.

● Half of poor people in Britain are either themselves disabled or live with a disabled person.

Conditions and hours

● Strikes have been made unlawful unless 50% of those asked to strike vote in the ballot; in key public sectors, at least 40% have to support a strike for it to be lawful.

● The average working week in the UK is now 43.6 hours compared to the European average of 40.3. Almost four million employees are working at least 48 hours a week, 350,000 more than a decade ago.


● The number of private renters in poverty has doubled in the past decade to 4.3 million.

● The number of households accepted as homeless rose from 40,000 in 2010 to 60,000 in 2016. Evictions are at a record high.

● Rough sleeping has risen for six consecutive years, up by 16% in 2016.


● 3.7 million children live in poverty.

● Three million children face hunger over the school holidays.


● The number of hospital bed days taken up by patients being treated for malnutrition has almost trebled in the past 10 years.

● While mortality rates improved by more than 2% a year between 2000 and 2011, annual improvements have since been close to zero.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 257 May/June 2017 Election Special

Fighting ‘No DSS’

A recent investigation by the BBC found that just 2% of all rental properties listed on the website were available without a ‘no DSS’ clause. ‘No DSS’ is a dated term which refers to the old Department of Social Security, now replaced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP); it bars anyone claiming housing benefit from being able to even apply for a private rental. The BBC figure tallies with the experience of FRFI comrades in Manchester: we have found one private letting agent listing 57 of its 58 properties as ‘no housing benefit, no DSS’. The problem is not new: in 2012, the Manchester Evening News reported people claiming some form of benefit were excluded from four in five rentals in the region. The degree of exclusion is growing: membership surveys by the National Landlords Association reveal that the numbers willing to let properties to recipients of Universal Credit (UC) or Local Housing Allowance (LHA) has fallen from 46% in 2010 to 18% today.

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Reduced overall benefit cap: thousands face homelessness

68,000 families with 200,000 children have now been hit with the reduction in the Overall Benefit Cap (OBC) that was implemented over a three-month period to January 2017. These are among the poorest families in the country – yet on average they are having £58 a week taken away from them. The measure, which hits single parent families in particular, is one of the most punitive cuts in benefits implemented by the Tory government, and will inevitably lead to mounting rent arrears, court action, eviction and homelessness for thousands. Robert Clough reports.

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The market cannot ‘fix’ the housing crisis

No eviction

On 7 February shares in Britain’s biggest housebuilders soared as the government published its White Paper on housing; estate agent Savills saw a rise of 3.8%. The White Paper ensures that the drive for vast profits for multinational housing parasites will continue by intensifying the grab for public land, speeding up planning permission and throwing out planning regulations on quality and size. Key to the process will be the willingness of local councils to collaborate with private companies in delivering homes for market rent.

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Overall Benefit Cap reduction hits poorest in north London

cap rents not benefits

Responses by Camden and Islington councils to Freedom of information requests show that the reduced Overall Benefit Cap (OBC) is hammering the poorest sections of the working class. The measure, which limits the total benefits a family living in London can receive to £23,000 per annum, hits 885 families in the two borough, with over 2,500 children. Housing benefit is cut when a family’s benefits exceed this level to keep within the limit. For a single childless person living in London, the benefit cap is £15,410 per annum.

The figures show that in Islington, 309 single people without children living in private rented accommodation will receive an average deduction of £35.34 per week, an annual deduction of £1,837.68. This is because the Local Housing Allowance for a single bedroom self-contained flat is £260 per week, or £13,520 per annum, allowing a single person to retain only £1,890 each year from their Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance. Their only option is to move out of Islington – social cleansing of those out of work.

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