Fight the Cuts


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‘Cuts have hit the poorest places most’

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‘Cuts have hit the poorest places most’

by a staff reporter

Posted: 20 Mar 2015 @ 12:32


Budget gap: Newcastle city council was one of the  ​case-studies for the research

THE poorest people in the most deprived areas in England have been hit hardest by government cuts since the last election, research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) shows.

Its report Cost of the Cuts analysed local-government expenditure and discovered that the poorest English authorities had seen reductions of more than £220 per head, compared with cuts of less than £40 per head in the least-deprived areas.

Services such as housing and planning were found to have been the most drastically affected. Social-care spending in poor areas has been cut by £65 per head, whereas in wealthier areas it has risen by £28 a head. Back in 2010-11, the most deprived councils had an extra 45 per cent of expenditure per head to cope with additional needs. By 2014/15, this had been reduced to 17 per cent.

The report said that local councils had tried to minimise the cuts faced by the poorest, but it was an impossible task.

The report said: “The reality is that the poorest places and the poorest people are being the hardest hit, with those least able to cope with service withdrawal bearing the brunt of service reduction.”

It recommends that the next government reduce the scale and pace of the cuts, shifting its agenda from short-term savings to longer-term reform. If not, then local authorities will be unable to fulfil their statutory duties and deliver “critical services” to their most vulnerable citizens, it warns.

As well as analysing local-authority spending, researchers also looked at four different local authorities in detail – one in Scotland, and three in England. They found that the pace of cuts in Scotland had been much slower than in England, giving the local authorities more time to invest in preventative measures to help people cope with the cuts.

More here

So, George, how exactly will you cut the welfare bill?

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Housing benefit and pensions are likely to keep rising, as will tax credits. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies says, it’s time we knew where the cuts will fall

A protest outside the Department for Work and Pensions in London, calling for an end to benefit sanctions. The independent Office for Budget Responsibility has warned the Tories’ squeeze on real spending in the next parliament would be tougher than anything seen over the past five years.
A protest outside the Department for Work and Pensions in London, calling for an end to benefit sanctions. The independent Office for Budget Responsibility has warned the Tories’ squeeze on real spending in the next parliament would be tougher than anything seen over the past five years. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Any challenge from the Institute for Fiscal Studies is a hard one for George Osborne to dodge.

The tax-and-spending watchdog wants him to explain how he plans to cut welfare spending in the next parliament.

The coalition has failed in the last five years to reduce the welfare bill. And welfare cuts form a centrepiece of the Tories’ plans for the next five years.

Paul Johnson, the IFS’s director, said that without welfare cuts, the impact on Whitehall spending during 2016-17 and 2017-18 would be “twice the size of any year’s cuts over this parliament”.

The Office for Budget Responsibility had already made its views plain. It said the squeeze on real spending between 2016 and 2018 would be tougher than anything seen over the past five years.

The implications of failure for Osborne would be huge. If the £12bn welfare cuts and hoped-for £5bn of anti-tax avoidance measures fail to materialise, any hope of a reprieve for local government, transport spending or the defence budget would be dashed.

Looking back over the last five years it is easy to see why welfare has proved a hard nut to crack. A cut in tax credit entitlements has done little more than put a brake on their inexorable rise. Housing benefit has proved equally stubborn. And pensions, which make up about half the welfare bill, have increased, handing pensioners an extra £4.6bn by 2014-15, according to the IFS.

There is a possibility wages are about to take off, making workers better off and giving the next government an easier time when it proposes further restrictions on tax credits. The cost of jobseeker’s allowance could also come down further should employment carry on climbing, (though it accounts for only a tiny fraction of welfare spending).

That still leaves housing benefit, which is likely to rise in line with escalating rents, and David Cameron’s promise to maintain all pensioner benefits without any means testing. And pensioners are in line for an inflation-busting rise of 2.5% in the state pension next month.

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Taming corporate power: the key political issue of our age

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Taming corporate power: the key political issue of our age

Big business and its lobbyists have taken control of our politics. But there is an alternative. In the first of a new series, here’s how we can take on the fat cats

Illustration by Nicola Jennings
Illustration by Nicola Jennings

Does this sometimes feel like a country under enemy occupation? Do you wonder why the demands of so much of the electorate seldom translate into policy? Why parties of the left seem incapable of offering effective opposition to market fundamentalism, let alone proposing coherent alternatives? Do you wonder why those who want a kind and decent and just world, in which both human beings and other living creatures are protected, so often appear to be opposed by the entire political establishment?

If so, you have encountered corporate power – the corrupting influence that prevents parties from connecting with the public, distorts spending and tax decisions, and limits the scope of democracy. It helps explain the otherwise inexplicable: the creeping privatisation of health and education, hated by the vast majority of voters; the private finance initiative, which has left public services with unpayable debts; the replacement of the civil service with companies distinguished only by incompetence; the failure to re-regulate the banks and collect tax; the war on the natural world; the scrapping of the safeguards that protect us from exploitation; above all, the severe limitation of political choice in a nation crying out for alternatives.

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Defend our Unions: The “Tale of Bob in Barnet”

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Published on Apr 15, 2014

The cartoons included in this video were drawn by cartoonist Tim Sanders with lyrics from a UNISON supporter.

The “Tale of Bob in Barnet” provides an insight into the challenges facing Barnet UNISON and our members.
For the past six years our Barnet UNISON has been engaged in an ideological struggle with our employer over service delivery models. First it was called Future Shape, then EasyCouncil and then One Barnet, and it is now being rebranded as the “Commissioning Council.”

Our branch is responsible for almost 3,000 members. In the past the majority of members would have been employed by Barnet Council but there have been major transformations in the last two decades which has seen staff transfer to other public bodies such as Barnet College and Barnet Homes or to the private sector such as Capita & NSL to name a few. In the last two years we have seen over 33 council services outsourced under the One Barnet Programme. This has presented significant challenges to our branch and more importantly to those staff who transferred to a new employer.

I have to report that for the majority of those transferring it has meant a significant change to their terms & conditions and, sadly, in the case of the Capita CSG contract 130 redundancies (although we are still hoping this number will reduce). What is key for any member facing a cut to pay or redundancy is that they have their union to support and represent them either in formal consultation or 1:1 meetings.

Our branch negotiated an agreement which ensured the branch was still able to represent our members; this was included in all of the outsourced One Barnet contracts. Unfortunately I have to report that the Council has deliberately targeted the Trade Unions by removing Facility Time funding at the Council budget meeting on 4 March 2014.

To view details on the cut to our Facility Time click on our Petition…

The latest position is that the Facility Time pot has been removed and we are waiting for a meeting to discuss how we are going to be able to represent our members working in Barnet Council and their Service Delivery partners.

#DWP: Housing benefit will be sanctioned

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DWP: Housing benefit will be sanctioned               From INSIDE HOUSING 27 February 2014

 Part-time workers judged to be doing too little to find full-time work face having their benefit for housing costs sanctioned by the government for the first time under universal credit.

Under the present system housing benefit is paid direct to landlords and sanctions can only be applied to out-of-work benefits, such as jobseeker’s allowance or employment support allowance.

Landlords, already concerned by the prospect of universal credit being paid directly to tenants, have been lobbying the government to exempt the housing element of the single payment from sanctions in all circumstances.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed to Inside Housing that under the government’s flagship welfare reform, where a tenant is working less than 35 hours a week at minimum wage and is not eligible for JSA or ESA, the housing element can be sanctioned instead.

Landlords are concerned that by extending ‘in-work conditionality’ to the housing element, if the DWP deems claimants to not be doing enough to find full-time employment and applies sanctions, rent arrears could increase.

Sue Ramsden, head of policy for neighbourhoods at the National Housing Federation, said that until now, it has been unclear whether the DWP would allow housing costs to be exempt. ‘We are pressing for DWP staff to have regard for the need for an alternative payment arrangement to be put in place at the same time that the sanction is imposed,’ she said.

Sam Lister, policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said there was concern about the effect of sanctions on arrears at a time when the housing benefit caseload for in-work claimants continued to rise, but much depended on how the policy was implemented. He added: ‘It will depend on the instructions given to DWP administrators about how strictly the sanctions are implemented in the case of part-time workers who are in receipt of benefit as a contribution to housing costs.’

No research has been carried out on the impact sanctions could have on arrears. More than 1 million people are currently in work but reliant on housing benefit to meet their housing costs, up from 691,000 in 2010.

A DWP spokesperson said: ‘It is only right that people claiming benefits should be aware that not sticking to the rules can have a consequence. Any reductions to benefits as a result of a sanction are applied to the universal credit benefit as a whole rather than a particular element of it.’

Read the full article here