Bonanza for the rich, misery for the poor

‘Of particular concern is over a third of low-income families with children cutting back on food for their children – this is a last resort and … not something you choose.’ Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Going under and without, December 2022

Poverty and hunger stalk the land. By last November, already more than 10% of the population was regularly going without food. Nearly four million children are growing up in poverty. Thousands of households are unable to adequately heat their homes. For the poorest sections of the working class in Britain, these are desperate times indeed. Yet the number of billionaires living in Britain is at an all-time high, and by the end of 2021 there were 2.85 million millionaires resident in this country (Credit Suisse, 2022). That’s a figure roughly parallel with the number of food parcels distributed by the Trussell Trust food bank last year. The British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and his wife Akshata Murty have achieved near-billionaire status, with a combined wealth of £730m. Tory MP Jacob Rees Mogg is said to be worth £100m, as is, notoriously, the former Conservative Party chair Nadim Zahawi. The Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt are also worth millions. Is it any surprise then that the system is run entirely in the interests of the rich and their continuing ability to accrue profits, while the working class is forced into ever greater destitution?

 

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Savage cuts ahead as Labour councils swing the axe

Sign on door reads: 'Save our library, Brent council talk to us'

Councils up and down the country are gearing up for the most savage round of cuts to local services since the unleashing of austerity measures in 2010. A new report from Unison states that because of inflation, soaring energy bills and increased demand for services councils face a record £3.2bn funding gap for the financial year 2023/24 and that this is set to increase to £5.3bn in 2024/25. They plan to fill this gap with service cuts and council tax increases. This will be the 14th consecutive year of cuts since 2010. Some local authorities have presided over cuts totalling more than half a billion pounds. Services have already been cut to the bone, yet the next round of cuts councils vote on in March 2023 will be on an unprecedented scale.

 

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Struggle or starve: the Birkenhead uprising September 1932

A march organised by the NUWM in 1934

Ninety years ago, during September 1932, the working class of Birkenhead, across the River Mersey from Liverpool, rose up against a system which was driving tens of thousands of families into destitution. Over a period of a week, they fought the police in pitched battles as they pursued their basic demand for a 25% increase in the locally-determined level of the dole. In the end, they were victorious: the local Public Assistance Committee (PAC), a sub-committee of the council, had to capitulate. Across the country, similar battles were fought by the unemployed over the following weeks. Even in Belfast, for a very brief period, nationalist and loyalist workers came together to fight the dreaded Means Test which the National Government had introduced the previous year. ELLIE O’HARA and ROBERT CLOUGH report.

 

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Britain: poverty and hunger grip millions

Brighton RCG protest against the cost-of-living crisis

The Resolution Foundation predicts that by next year, more than a fifth of the population will be living in absolute poverty.* Real household disposable incomes are due to fall by 10% this year and next – the sharpest decline in living standards in more than a century. Food banks are now handing out one emergency parcel of provisions every 13 seconds. As food prices and energy prices soar, low wages and pitiful benefits mean the poorest households will no longer face a choice between eating or heating their homes this coming winter but rather be unable to do either adequately. Meanwhile, millions more people are being pushed into hardship and debt. This is a crisis that is increasingly intolerable for the mass of the working class and cannot fail to drive resistance in the coming period. MARK MONCADA

 

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Energy bill relief: Sunak's quick fix won't solve the cost-of-living crisis

Protest against cost-of-living crisis, Downing Street 2022

On 26 May 2022, in a dramatic U-turn, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £15bn package designed to offset the impact of soaring fuel prices, to be funded by a levy on energy companies. For weeks the government had resisted such a move. But under the pressure of Britain’s worst cost of living crisis in modern times, magnified by Ofgem’s announcement that average fuel bills would rise by a further £800 in October, it had no choice. As we saw during the coronavirus pandemic, in the midst of an economic crisis, capitalism will act to save itself – and hang the expense. MARK MONCADA and CAT WIENER report.

 

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Councils cut deep as cost of living crisis bites

FRFI Glasgow comrades protest against fuel poverty

The Conservative Spring Statement, delivered by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on 23 March, continues the onslaught on the living standards of the poorest sections of the working class. Raising the National Insurance threshold from £9,600 to £12,600; cutting fuel duty by 5p a litre for 12 months and the distant promise to reduce income tax rate by one percentage point to 19% in 2024 will offset just one sixth of the tax rises introduced since Sunak became chancellor and do nothing to offset the devastating cost of living crisis for the poor. The Spring Statement came as the Office for Budget Responsibility announced that the situation is set to get a lot worse. Inflation is predicted to hit a 40-year high of 8.7% in the fourth quarter of 2022 and because this is increasing faster than wages and net taxes are due to rise in April, the OBR stated, ‘real livings standards are set to fall by 2.2% in 2022-23 – their largest financial year fall on record.’ The IFS predicts that the impact on public sector workers will equate to a pay cut of £1,800 for that year.

 

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Fight poverty: 'worst it's ever been'

Newcastle comrades protest against the cost of living crisis, February 2022

The standard of living for much of the working class is being reduced to long-term destitution, stripping people of hope, of dignity, of the very day-to-day means of survival. This acute penury is termed the ‘cost of living crisis’. It is a crisis thrust upon the poor by the rich in their efforts to ring-fence profits in the face of the deepening economic crisis of capitalism. It leaves the poorest sections of the working class facing a daily struggle to find the means to stave off hunger and fend off the cold. MARK MONCADA reports.

 

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Furlough scrapped and Universal Credit slashed

Queue at a Job Centre Plus

The furlough scheme introduced at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020 ends completely on 1 October 2021.  By the end of August, at least 1.6 million people were still furloughed, with tens of thousands facing the prospect of redundancy when the scheme is withdrawn. Almost simultaneously, on 6 October, the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit payments is also due to be removed – the biggest benefit cut since the Second World War. Both measures were introduced near the beginning of the first lockdown in an attempt to avoid social upheaval. Now, this two-pronged attack will force thousands more working class households into poverty.

 

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Who wants to be a millionaire? World wealth surges under Covid 19

The Covid-19 pandemic left capitalism reeling: supply chain failures; global market indexes falling by one third; millions of job losses and billions of lost labour hours; resources diverted into healthcare and vaccine development. According to World Bank figures, the world economy shrank by 3.6% in 2020. Yet, Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report 2021 reveals that from 2020-2021, global wealth grew by 7.4%, and the number of USD millionaires across the world increased by 5 million. The annual growth rate of global wealth for the last year was only slightly below average compared to the years 2000-2020, the average wealth per adult increasing by 6.0% to a record high of $79,952. And ‘despite being among the worst-affected countries, with an average GDP loss of 7.1%, [Belgium, Canada, Singapore and the United Kingdom] achieved unusually high wealth gains averaging 7.7%’. How did wealth increase, despite economic activity grinding to a halt?

 

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A perfect storm on the horizon for the poor

South London RCG march against cuts (photo: FRFI)

During the coronavirus pandemic, central banks around the world injected nine trillion dollars into the global economy in a desperate attempt to keep it afloat. Yet it is clear little, if any, of those eyewatering sums went to help the working class worldwide, who have borne the brunt of the crisis and will continue to pay its costs for decades to come. On the contrary, the pandemic has served to accelerate the division between rich and poor; this trend, an inevitable consequence of capitalism in crisis that has been in evidence since the 1970s, now exists on an obscene scale. Most of the financial stimulus went, as the Financial Times puts it, ‘into financial markets, and from there into the net worth of the ultra-rich. The total wealth of billionaires worldwide rose by $5tn to $13tn in 12 months, the most dramatic surge ever registered’ (Financial Times, 14 May 2021). The number of billionaires also increased vastly, now numbering more than 2,700 – the highest number in history – with those billionaires involved in health care doing particularly well. Meanwhile, the poor got poorer. Globally, workers lost $3.7 trillion in earnings during the pandemic. By the end of this year there will be an estimated 750 million people living in extreme poverty – up 150 million on the previous year. The division is clear both between rich and poor countries, and between the ruling class and the poorest sections of the working class within countries.

 

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The British state culls disabled people

A new study, published on 13 June and using data from the ONS, has shown that people with self-reported disabilities were much more likely to die from coronavirus than non-disabled people. This is even after taking into account factors such as underlying health conditions, poverty and whether they lived in a care home. Working-age disabled women with higher support needs were found to have been about 90% more likely to die from coronavirus than non-disabled women of the same age. Between 24 January 2020 and 28 February 2021, 58% of those who died from Covid-19 in England were disabled (about 61,000 of the 105,213 deaths registered). During the first wave in Wales almost 70% of Covid deaths were of disabled people and the National Records for Scotland reported that almost six in 10 Covid-19 deaths (58%) between March 2020 and January 2021 were of disabled people. Disability campaigners say that even these figures underestimate the actual number. EMILY McMILLAN reports.

 

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Blackburn with Darwen: covid austerity

Electronic billboard in Blackburn reads 'No one should go hungry' (photo: blackburnbid.co.uk)

Blackburn with Darwin Council (BwD) has lost about £148 million in government grants since 2010, about 48% of spending power, and is one of the worst affected in the country. The proposed cuts this year attack children and the elderly. School uniform grants will be scrapped; up to five children’s centres will be closed and opening hours of libraries, swimming pools and gyms will be reduced and charges increased. At present 5,325 families qualify for school uniform grants of between £24 and £56 per pupil. BwD has the sixth highest level of child poverty in the UK with more than 8,000 children going hungry, 30% of all children. Nearly 17% qualify for free school meals. 2.4% of 4–5-year-olds and 1.5% of 10–11-year-olds are underweight.

 

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Councils face financial disaster

Newcastle comrades protest against planned Labour council cuts, February 2021

The government has pursued a scorched earth policy in its war on the poor. A sustained, unbridled and vicious attack on local services has left them cut to the bone, enabled by the compliance of predominantly Labour councils. The ideological offensive on the public sector that followed the financial crash of 2008/09 laid the groundwork for the last 11 years of council cuts. This has left councils on the brink of collapse with many facing bankruptcy and many more years of cutbacks to come.

 

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Pandemic Britain: fight your way to the front!

Woman with placard, 'You sleep, we work, you get rich, we get poorer'

‘This virus is the great equaliser’, Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo once claimed about coronavirus, as did the pop star Madonna. But the opposite is true. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation warns that in Britain, ‘Four in ten workers on the minimum wage face a high or very high risk of losing their jobs, compared with 1% of workers paid more than £41,500 a year.’ The youth, the poorest and oppressed sections of the working class – women and ethnic minorities – receive third-rate relief and are forced to keep working or get the sack, while better off layers, whom the ruling class is counting on for political support, are riding out the pandemic in business class. WILL HARNEY reports.

 

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Working class children – a meal ticket for the rich

Protest demanding free school meals

The capitalist state’s response to the pandemic is pushing Britain’s poorest children closer to the brink of starvation. Millions of pounds are being thrown at private companies while millions of children are thrown to the wolves. As thick as thieves, politicians and company executives are in it together, defending a system where private companies tuck into government contracts while food is stolen from the mouths of hungry children.

In England, the families of 1.4 million children – 17.3% of all state school pupils – claimed for free school meals in January 2020. The Food Foundation estimates a further 900,000 children in England have sought free school meals since the start of the pandemic. However, two in five children living under the poverty line in Britain are not eligible for free school meals. This includes 1.7 million children in families in low-paid work. The Child Poverty Action Group estimates a further 100,000 schoolchildren are not covered by universal infant free school meals because their families’ immigration status leaves them with no recourse to public funds.

This is the context in which the government has seen fit to wage an ideological war against the public provision of free school meals, turning children into a meal ticket for private companies. During the first lockdown, it outsourced the provision of food vouchers for more than one million children eligible for free school meals to private company Edenred for £234m despite what the National Audit Office called the company’s ‘limited evidence of capability’, without bothering to put the contract out for tender. Edenred were ‘woefully unprepared’, leaving parents waiting for two weeks for vouchers only to find supermarkets would not accept them. 

The government then refused to extend the food voucher scheme over the summer holidays. It was forced into a U-turn  following a relentless campaign by the footballer Marcus Rashford, but by October was up to its old callous tricks, with 321 Conservative MPs voting against providing free school meals to Britain’s poorest children over the October half-term and Christmas holidays. Once again, in the face of a renewed popular campaign spearheaded by Rashford, it was forced to concede an extension of support to the poorest pupils although – once again – children in many low-income working families were excluded from the provisions. In a further vicious twist, the Department for Education has instructed schools not to provide free school meals in the February 2021 half-term, instead saying councils should provide support through the Covid winter grant scheme, even though it was intended to provide additional help on top of free school meals.

Now, in the third lockdown imposed in January 2021, the government has pushed schools to opt for giving food parcels over vouchers in order to hand money over to private companies instead of to families. The Chartwells food parcel scandal exemplifies this. Since 4 January, children eligible for free school meals have had to be fed at home rather than at school. But the government has consistently argued that working class parents cannot be trusted with being given money directly in the form of vouchers because, the ruling class claims, it will be spent on ‘booze and fags’ or, in the words of Conservative MP Ben Bradley, handed over ‘direct to a crack den and a brothel’. But behind this hysterical ideological vitriol lies a cool economic calculation: it is used to justify handing over public cash to privatised school meal providers such as Chartwells. In now infamous pictures shared on social media, it was made clear that Chartwells was creaming off profits as they provided barely £5 worth of snacks, scraps of vegetables and tins of beans in place of the £30 worth of food intended to last a child for ten days. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of working class parents are going hungry to ensure their children have food on the table.

Chartwells is owned by the British company Compass Group, the world’s biggest catering firm and the biggest school meals caterer in Britain. Its chairman Paul Walsh was a donor to the Conservative Party. While Compass’s earnings have taken a hit from the pandemic – income before tax fell by 85% in the year to 30 September 2020 to £210m – CEO Dominic Blakemore (salary £1.2m) expects profitability to be restored by next year, mainly on the back of lucrative contracts in school catering. In the meantime, it has been bailed out by its friends, with the Bank of England handing the company £600m from its Covid-19 corporate financing facility. 

Clearly, it does not matter how ill equipped companies are to fulfil a contract, nor how many times they utterly fail in provision: they are the monopolies that the government cannot allow to fail in shoring up British capitalism, so they will continue to be awarded contract after lucrative contract. 

It is estimated that the number of children in poverty in Britain will rise to 5.2 million by 2022, while analysts expect Compass Group’s pre-tax ‘earnings’ to recover fully by 2023 to more than £1.6bn. These contradictions between private profit and public deprivation lie at the heart of the current crisis. This is capitalism writ large. We have to fight it.

Mark Moncada

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 280 February/March 2021

 

No place at the table for Britain's poor

Woman carries child with face mask

A man who…cannot get subsistence from his parents on whom he has a just demand, and if the society do not want his labour, has no claim of right to the smallest portion of food, and, in fact, has no business to be where he is. At nature’s mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him.’ (Reverend Thomas Malthus, 1798)

The vote on 21 October 2020 by 321 Conservative MPs to deny free school meals to Britain’s poorest children during the half-term and Christmas holidays tells you all you need to know about the viciousness of the ruling class, its indifference to the needs of ordinary people and its visceral contempt for the poor, at a time when at least 4.5 million children are living in poverty and more than a third of all households in Britain which include a child are struggling to put food on the table. 

 

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Council cuts, poverty and pandemic in the North East

Elswick, Newcastle

'Residents living in the most deprived areas of England and Wales are dying at double the rate of those in the most affluent postcodes.' Office for National Statistics.

By the end of May, the North East had the highest rate of coronavirus infection of any region in England. The four highest rates are in Sunderland (487 out of every 100,000 testing positive) followed by Gateshead, South Tyneside and Middlesbrough fourth. Newcastle is 32nd out of 150, with 342.8 testing positive per 100,000 to date.

 

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Universal Credit kills

Protest against cuts to ESA

When Phillip Herron took his own life in July of last year, he had less than £5 in his bank account. Herron, a single father of three children, had been waiting weeks for a response to his Universal Credit (UC) application at the time. One of his last acts was to upload a photo of himself crying as he sat in his car and in his suicide note he wrote that he believed his family would be better off without him. He had been quietly battling a large amount of debt and slipped further into arrears as he waited for weeks for his first UC payment.

 

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Food bank Britain

A food bank in Hull (photo: Gary Calton)

Image: food bank in Hull (photo: Gary Calton)

A report released in November 2019 by the Trussell Trust presents the most extensive research ever into hunger and food bank usage in Britain. State of Hunger lists irrefutable fact after fact and hard-hitting statement after statement which shine a light on the harrowing reality facing millions of working class people in this country as their conditions of life drastically deteriorate.

 

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UNIVERSAL CREDIT – a new Poor Law

RCG street stall against Universal Credit

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 268 February/March 2019

Universal Credit (UC) is a new system of benefit payment which is being rolled out to millions of claimants at the same time as cuts in welfare payments are taking place. 75% of benefit cuts set out in the 2016 Budget have yet to take place, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. UC will drastically cut payments to single parents, carers and the disabled in particular. Job Centre workers are now called ‘job coaches’ because UC is designed to move all unemployed claimants into work. It is supposed to save the Treasury £7bn a year.

Susan Davidson and Leo Latour report.

 

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Universal Credit: Tories stumble but Labour flounders

Universal Credit: a mechanism to slash benefits by the back door

On 5 November 2018, Esther McVey (then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) announced a swathe of amendments to Universal Credit (UC). UC is the government’s flagship welfare reform programme, and is a mechanism to slash benefits by the back door. The amendments, which will only affect those already on pre-existing benefits who are expected to ‘migrate’ to UC, include:

  • a two-week extension of old-style benefits after UC has been applied for (theoretically cutting waiting times between payments);
  • a three-month ‘grace period’ be­tween being notified that you have to apply for UC and your old benefits being stopped;
  • a reduction in the rate at which emergency loans for people be­tween payments can be clawed back, and a longer period in which to pay back debt to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP);
  • the extension of two programmes which allow self-employed workers to earn over the minimum wage without their benefits being cut.

 

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Precarious work: a hidden labour reserve

Low-paid women workers on strike in Glasgow in October

The British government have flaunted high official employment figures, suggesting this is good news for workers, and the Autumn Budget was full of promises for ‘hard working families’ and ‘strivers’. But an overwhelming proportion of ‘jobs’ that have been created since the 2007/2008 financial crisis have been precarious, and this is extending to increasingly broad sections of the working class. This both contributes to poverty – around 60% of those in poverty today are in a family where at least one person works – and represents a hidden labour reserve, which shifts the balance of forces against the working class and puts downward pressure on wages. Tom Vickers reports.

 

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IWGB foster carers fight for recognition as workers

On 1 August 2017 in a landmark case an employment tribunal in Scotland ruled that a married couple working as foster carers were not self-employed or volunteers but employees of Glasgow City Council, and that foster carers were therefore entitled to workers’ rights. This victory has been a huge achievement for the Foster Care Workers’ Branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), and part of the union’s general struggle for the rights of casual and other marginalised workers. However, many foster carers are still denied many of the rights that this ruling is supposed to secure.

 

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Newcastle: Save Elswick Pool!

FRFI supporters and members of Parents Against Cuts in Newcastle have been working with other local people to defend Elswick swimming pool, the latest victim of savage cuts being implemented by the Labour Council.

In the last five years £151m has been cut from Newcastle council’s budget. Public services in the city have been slashed including libraries, play and youth services, rubbish collection, leisure facilities and Sure Start. Another £40m is to be cut this year and an expected £90m over the following two years. Not a single Labour councillor has voted against any of the cuts budgets, not even David Stockdale, cabinet member for leisure facilities, who recently led the North East campaign to elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party

 

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Queen's speech: Trouble ahead - Fight austerity

‘My government will legislate in the interests of everyone in our country. It will adopt a one-nation approach, helping working people get on, supporting aspiration, giving new opportunities to the most disadvantaged and bringing different parts of our country together.’ The Queen’s speech, 27 May 2015

Like a ventriloquist’s dummy and in the fashion now familiar – describing everything as the opposite of what it actually is – the Queen announced the Conservatives’ plans for the next Parliament. With an absolute but small majority of 12, Prime Minister Cameron took the opportunity to outline what the Financial Times referred to as ‘a blue collar agenda’ ‘inspired by Margaret Thatcher and aimed at working class voters’, explicitly ‘Red Tories, Blue Collar Conservatives or White Van Man’. CAROL BRICKLEY reports.

Cameron’s ‘one nation’, however, should be strictly understood to include only his, mainly English, Tory voters, a welter of UKIP supporters who hate Europe and immigrants and could be won back to voting Conservative, and the majority of the Labour Party and their supporters who have moved rightwards at breathtaking speed following the election result. Harriet Harman, now temporary leader of the Labour Party, was quick to announce Labour’s ‘sympathetic’ support for much of the Tory programme. As the Financial Times reported: ‘“We got lucky,” said one well-connected Conservative MP. “But by the time we’ve finished, there won’t be any ground left for Labour to occupy”.’

 

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Public sector cuts and health inequality

End Child Poverty britaing

In March 2015 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) published a report which details how between 2010 and 2015 the poorest communities in England shouldered the biggest burden of the public sector austerity cuts.

Overall, local authorities have seen their spending power reduced by 27% in real terms. Planning and ‘supporting people’ services have seen cuts of 45%. Behind these figures lies inequality between the most and least deprived areas.  On the one hand social care spending (this combines children and adult services) has risen in real terms in the least deprived areas to the tune of £28 per head.  Conversely, social care spending has fallen by £65 per head in the more deprived areas.   Respectively, these figures represent an 8% rise and a 14% fall.  The most deprived all-purpose authorities – those authorities which provide the full set of local authority services - saw cuts of £220 per head.    In contrast, the least deprived all-purpose authorities saw cuts of £40 per head.  Newcastle, with 37% of its population within the most deprived 10% of areas in England, experienced a 22% cut in funding.  On the other hand, Milton Keynes, with 11% of its population within the most deprived 20% of areas, experienced a 13% cut.  The result of the faster rate of cuts for the more deprived authorities has been a convergence in the overall spending per head between the most and least deprived authorities.  The differential was 45% in 2010/11.  It was 17% in 2014/15.

 

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Five years of capitulation

Five years of austerity since the 2010 general election have been met with little resistance. The devastating cuts to housing, benefits and services have for the most part gone unanswered. Where resistance has emerged, it has been outside the established trade unions and those sections of the left that are allied to the Labour Party. Calls by Len McCluskey, the General Secretary of the Unite union, in September 2011 for a ‘campaign of resistance’ including ‘civil disobedience’ to protect jobs and pensions have proved to be hot air. There has been no real resistance to job losses in local authorities or elsewhere. Tom Vincent reports.

 

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Newcastle Labour leader attacks RCG for fighting to save Sure Start

In Newcastle Parents Against Cuts continues to campaign against planned cuts of £4.67 million to the city’s Sure Start children’s centres, including the loss of 28 full-time jobs. The RCG has been part of the campaign since the beginning. The council repeatedly delayed releasing details of the proposed cuts, but the information available suggests a reduction from universal provision to services targeted by postcode at those amongst the ‘30% most deprived children in the country’. The council claims that the poorest families living outside these areas will still be able to access Sure Start, but beyond referrals by Sure Start staff of parents who already use the service it is not clear how this will be implemented. In the longer term, the shift to a ‘targeted’ service paves the way for further cuts, by which time there will be fewer people directly affected and therefore less chance of opposition. There are already reports of a two-tier system operating in the Newbiggin Hall area of the city.

 

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Benefit sanctions mean starvation

(Banner produced by Andrew Cooper https://andrewcooper-unseen.org)

At the close of 2014 a number of reports on the extent of malnutrition and the staggering rise in the use of food banks were released showing the brutal reality of 21st-century Britain. Already by April 2014 the numbers using Trussell Trust food banks had risen by 163% since April 2013. Ruling class parties – Tory, Liberal and Labour alike – pass sentences of starvation and death on the poor and vulnerable through benefit and service cuts and low wages. Charity is encouraged as eligibility for state welfare is reduced and levels cut. Prime Minister Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ is no more than a return to Victorian values. Dominic Mulgrew reports.

 

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Focus E15 campaign: Social housing not social cleansing

The Focus E15 campaign, which with the support of the RCG and other organisations fought a successful campaign to prevent young mothers being forced out of Newham last year, continues to play a leading role against social cleansing in London. Whether it is the increasing numbers of individuals approaching the campaign for help with housing issues, or acting in solidarity with the growing number of campaigns for social housing and against gentrification springing up across the capital, Focus E15 has shown that it is possible to fight back – and win.

 

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Atos ditches the WCA: Maximus is the new target

From March, US multinational Maximus will take over the running of the hated Work Capability Assessment (WCA), in a contract worth around £500m over three and a half years. The WCA is a punitive measure used to strip disabled people of their benefits by declaring them 'fit to work'. Atos, the French multinational that has delivered the WCA since it was introduced by Labour in 2007, announced in March 2014 that it was buying itself out of its contract early. Atos’s withdrawal follows years of determined campaigning by activists across Britain and is an important demonstration that uncompromising direct action gets results. However, the WCA itself remains unchanged, and the track record of Atos’s successor shows that the struggle is far from over.

 

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