Monday, 29 June 2015

Greece Solidarity demo Mon 29 June, 6pm at Trafalgar Square

From Winvisible

The Greek Solidarity Campaign in London is calling an emergency demo in solidarity with the people of Greece this evening Monday 29 June at 6pm, Trafalgar Square https://www.facebook.com/GreeceSolidarityCampaign

They say: “As mass demonstrations continue in Athens, there will be an emergency solidarity protest in London, 6pm Trafalgar Square. Marina Prentoulis, Caroline Lucas MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Owen Jones will be speaking.”

For updates on the last few days and the Greek referendum that has now been called see their mailing here

Please circulate widely, thank you, we hope to see you there.

Global markets thriving on global warming and linked disasters

Naomi Klein wrote 'The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism' that was published in 2007. An analysis of that book can help us understand trends that accelerated in the UK dramatically from the 2010 General Election, and also gives a keen understanding of what gloval financial institutions are doing to the Greek economy. See M. Magazine Review: The Shock Doctrine.(1)

Naomi Klein's latest book looks at the links betwen global warming and disaster capitalism's lust for creating shortage. Red Pepper magazine review of 'This Changes Everything'.(2) And as it seems that to me that the increased warmer weather trends in the Meditteranean are toward the 40deg C tipping point that could lead to what some climate scientists call 'tipping point', I tought of looking up the current temperature in that land that is in economic crisis.

While I've not found that yet, I have found this report of Caribbean-wide drought.(3)

No doubt there are forces at work in the global financial institutions that use another country's debt crisis as a cue for the financial institutions to turn from 'creditors' to predators. They will probably be rubbing their hands with glee at what is going on in the Caribbean and they themselves will be drinking their gin with bottled tonic water.

And nationalist organisations around the world that are funded by financial institutions will say that a rise in immigration is a root problem rather than a consequence of ever worsening global warming.

Meanwhile, the ambient temperature in my South-facing one-roomed flat has recently reached 27deg C (80deg F) even at night, making it difficult for me to get to sleep and worsening my health.

Notes — all links below were accessed today


(1) http://www.naomiklein.org/reviews/ms-magazine-review-shock-doctrine

(2) http://www.redpepper.org.uk/change-or-be-changed/

(3) http://uk.weather.com/story/news/major-drought-hits-caribbean-20150629

Friday, 26 June 2015

Sat 27 June @ 2pm @ B&M Store, Willesden: Demonstrate against B&M Bargains workfare

This demonstration is one of a number nationwide against what Boycott Workfare calls "the DWP's pet exploiter" — B&M Bargains.(1)
Placard statement: B&M Bargains Workfare is a Bum Rap

Members of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group aim to attend the demo at
B&M Store
473 High Road
Willesden (Near Dollis Hill Tube)
NW10 2JH  (Postcode map)

Notes
(1) http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=4397

(2) http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?x=521776&y=184760&z=0&sv=NW10+2JH&st=2&pc=NW10+2JH&mapp=map.srf&searchp=ids.srf

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Fri 26 June: March against forced 'psychological therapy' pilot at Streatham Jobcentre

Fri 26 June, 1.30pm March on Streatham Jobcentre where UK’s first CBT therapy department is being set up. 350 Jobcentres will later “treat claimants’ negative attitude to work”. Meet at Streatham Memorial Gardens, Streatham High Road/Streatham Common North, SW16.

Electoral reform, wishful thinking and informed decision making

A guest post by Joan Grant, a member of KUWG expressing personal views. Internet search-term-friendly title by Dude Swheatie. Joan's original title appears below

Be careful what you wish for, or Nigel was right


I thought it was ironic that both Nigel Farage and Natalie Bennett were “pissed off” for want of a better word, by the election result. They made strange bed fellows calling for reform of the electoral system. One has to say that Farage had more to moan about than Bennett. UKIP got 4 million votes and yet just one MP. [Editor's note: The electoral system under which the UK currently operates as it has done for centuries is generally known as 'first past the post'.]

The Electoral Reform Societyi have produced a very interesting report which shows how many seats each party would have got had the election been held under a proportional representation scheme.(1) There are a number of different versions of PR. The report looked at them all. Their preferred system is the Single Transferrable Vote system.

Had the election been held under this system, the result would have been the hung parliament that all the polls predicted. The Tories would still be the biggest party but with 276 seats as opposed to the 331 they have got. Labour would be about the same but it only have 40 fewer seats rather than 99, which it is now.

The Lib Dem would have got 26 seats rather than a mere 8. That would have been fairly respectable and Nick Clegg might well have stayed on as party leader. The SNP would have done well, but not as well. They would have got 34 seats.
The Greens would have got 3 seats which better reflects the overall support that they got.

But it is UKIP who would have been the biggest winners. They would have got 54 seats. Yes, you read that right. 54 seats. I think it is fair to say that would have been a quite astonishing result. That would have been the earthquake that Nigel Farage keeps harping on about.

UKIP would have held the balance of power. There would have been a coalition. Nigel Farage would now be Deputy Prime Minister. There might be two or three UKIP ministers.
 
I am really not sure which is worse: an electoral system that does not properly reflect the votes cast or the thought of Nigel Farage as Deputy Prime Minister. Whichever way you cut it, Nigel Farage was right about the level of support for UKIP. Only time will tell if their support will rise or fall over the next few years.

Note


i The 2015 General Election, A voting system in Crisis by jess Garland and Chris Terry. May 2015 (Electoral Reform Society)

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Which? — Consumers Association — and punitive welfare reform

An open letter by Dude Swheatie of Kwug to Which? — Consumers Association

I post the below here because I believe the Terms & Conditions of use for the email contact form on your website rules out any content critical of yourselves.(1) (2)


As a Glasgow law professor has stated, benefit sanctions constitute Britain's secret penal system.(3)

Benefit sanctions are more widespread than fines from the cout system and applied without means-testing or even a fair trial or the cognisance of the person sanctioned, as that article reveals. Yet it seems to me that Which? website shares the Conservative Government's values rather than a Human Rights Act approach when it comes to the state benefits entitlements of poorer people. (4)

And I suggest that you also consider how Which?'s apparent disregard for the interests of poor people is perverting the course of British justice. Regarding the privatisation of British justice, I direct you to Ecologist article A 'poll tax' for English justice - subjecting the poor to 'trial by ordeal'.

Is the Consumers Association so geared to the privatisation of services that it does not care for those who are vulnerable enough economically to be desperate for information, advice and guidance that would help them assert their rights as citizens?

Notes

(1) http://www.which.co.uk/terms-and-conditions/user-generated-content/

(2) http://www.which.co.uk/about-which/contact-us/email/

(3) http://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/resources/benefit-sanctions-britains-secret-penal-system

(4) http://search.which.co.uk/search?w=%22welfare+reform%22&asug=&mainresult=mainresult%3Ayes&intcmp=GNH-Search

(5) http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2919243/a_poll_tax_for_english_justice_subjecting_the_poor_to_trial_by_ordeal.html

Monday, 22 June 2015

There's a hole in your logic, Dear Government

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Revd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty reports that the Government response to his most recent letter avoids reference to key terms used in his letter to them. DWP brushes letter to PM about impact on health of cuts, caps and council tax under the carpet of Universal Credit(1)

Revd Paul Nicolson writes:
The words “health” or “debt” or “nutrition” or “rent” or “maternal” or “sanctions” do not appear even once in the DWP’s letter to me of the 17th June. It does not cite even one example of independent evidence about the impact on the health of the employed and the unemployed who engage with the current or future systems of social security.

Well, the Government won the General Election, didn't they; so why should they give any reasonable answers to valid concerns of people who really try to help the most vulnerable people in society, eh? It holds the BBC by the purse strings, anyway, and the unemployed are 'the enemy within', aren't we? And of course this is the Government that wants to scrap the Human Rights Act and abolish Freedom of Information requests.

So, yes! While David Cameron really is taking from the poor to pay the rich with the collusion of all those who voted his Government in and those who devised Labour's 'austerity-lite' manifesto, avoiding the real issues concerned is the best defence of a Government that lies through its teeth when it says that it is determined to protect the most vulnerable in society.

It really does seem as though they know as much about loove as rapists or masturbation addicts.(2) (3)


Notes

(1) http://www.taxpayersagainstpoverty.org.uk/dwp-brushes-letter-to-pm-about-impact-on-health-of-cuts-caps-and-council-tax-under-the-carpet-of-universal-credit/


.(2) See also Expressions that defame us are too often parroted without examination
 http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/expressions-that-defame-us-are-too.html

(3) Benefits for people in work cost 6 times as much as for people out of work http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/benefits-for-people-in-work-cost-6x-as.html

Dude Swheatie of Kwug welcomes Kilburn Cllr John Duffy's Kilburn Calling blog

Dude Swheatie of Kwug welcomes Kilburn Cllr John Duffy's Kilburn Calling blog

While Brent Council officers are increasingly acting in the style of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four shape of how awful things can become, Cllr John Duffy (Labour) on Brent Council has launched a blog outpost named Kilburn Calling. (Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four that introduced the term 'Big Brother' was actually written back in 1948.)

Below is copy and paste of Dude Swheatie's comment responding to Cllr Duffy's blog piece
Kilburn councillor's attempt to represent residents thwarted by 'Big Brother' Brent officer action

Well said, Cllr Duffy!

The officers' attitude to South Kilburn residents reminds me of attituddes toward disabled peoples' empowerment within what has now become Jobcentre Plus within the Department for Work & Pensions [sic].

While on a period of 'Work Preparation' at Hendon College paid for by my [then Employment Service] Disability Employment Adviser in 1999 I asked my DEA for a copy of the Action Plan that I had agreed to so that I could be a truly active particpant in the programme, especially as the Action Plan would be relevant to the outcomes and review procedures. Her response was that all such paperwork involved was "confidential to the Employment Service and to the service provider. You can see a copy of the Action Plan in my presence, but cannot have a copy for yourself." Brilliant, especially as my disability involves short-term memory.

Disability charity Skill (National Bureau for Students with Disabilities in post-16 education) affirmed to me by emial that that practice was contrary to my information rights; and the College took such a different view of the matter from the Employment Service point of view that they sent me transcript notes based upon the Action Plan allowed participants and allowed participants to review the exit reports made of them and even propose amendments to the draft exit report.

That was 1999 and Skill closed in 2011 through starvation of funds. It seems to me that charities really need to be far more indepent from statutory funding to be enabled to continue informing, advising, guiding and speaking out for THEIR constituents. And we know what has happened to Government policy regarding disabled people since 2011, or at least I hope we do.

And re South Kilburn residents 'living on a building site' for nine years, and their having been told back in 1997 that things were going to get better for them, that has made them all the more vulnerable. Revd Dr Martin Luther King Jr warned of "the tranquilising drug of gradualism."

Monday, 15 June 2015

DCH and DPAC Tenants and Housing Summit, Report 2

Personal report by Joan Grant

The following report by Joan Grant looks at the event previously prospectively outlined on the Defend Council Housing (DCH) website, of which there is another report from Benefits Justice published in the previous blog post on Kilburn Unemployed blog.(1) (2)

Tenant and Housing Summit
Saturday 13th June 2015

In the morning there were a number of speakers. There was an inspiring talk by a woman from Greater Manchester Against the bedroom Tax, there was a woman from Unite and Paula from DPAC also did a speech. I arrived at the event at about 12 noon, so I missed a couple of speakers. I videod all the speakers that I heard. 
 
At 12.30 we broke into workshops. I attended the workshop on fighting estate demolitions. There were speakers from a number of campaigns: Sweets Way, West Hendon, Haringey, Walthamstow and possibly a couple of others. Again, I videod the speakers. 
 
We then had quite a lively discussion. Diane Abbott was at the workshop. 
 
All the campaigns are doing the same things. They are bringing residents of all tenures together to fight demolition and so called regeneration. They are having to fight mostly Labour Councils etc, though some Tory councils also have schemes. We need a body who can do that work on a pan London basis. Clearly Defend Council Housing does a lot of good work. 
 
There was a certain amount of wrangling in the workshop about whether the Labour Party are deliberately striking bad deals with developers or whether they are just incompetent.

The wrangles about the Labour Party got even more extreme in the plenary session. There will be actions taken to fight demolitions, the cuts and austerity more generally. We could easily spend the next 5 years marching. 
 
However, we know from past experience that marching alone does not work. I think we should set up a new single issue party. There are all sorts of single issues parties: parties to get us out of the EU, to promote Christian values, to defend internet security, to protect the environment and the health service etc. 
.
We need to take power at a local level. We need tenants on local councils. We need tenants in the room as members of the Council when negotiations are taking place with developers. You can win seats on a local council with just a few hundred votes. I think we need to be thinking more strategically. 
 
The Labour Party has taken its core vote for granted for far too long. It needs to get its act together on housing. It has just been wiped out in Scotland. It needs to know that it faces a similar fate in England if it continues to let us down on this issue.

Notes

(1) Tenants and Housing Summit e-leaflet accessed Monday 15 June: http://www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk/dch/resources/summit13june2015.pdf
(2) http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/defend-council-housings-tenants-and-housing-summit-report-1.html


Defend Council Housing's Tenants and Housing Summit, Report 1

The Tenants and Housing Summit organised by Defend Council Housing (DCH) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) took place on Saturday 13 June in Central London,
"to resist Government attacks on council housing, tenants and benefits. A 'summit' for all those fighting for rent control and the homes we need."(1) Its agenda and prospectus are/were set out in a leaflet appearing on the Defend Council Housing website.(2)

Benefits Justice's Report on the Summit, by Eileen and Kate

Notes on 13 June Tenants and Housing summit (organised by Defend Council Housing and Disabled People Against the Cuts in central London)
Around 120 people attended, from organisations incl. DCH, DPAC, Housing Justice, Radical Housing Network, Radical Assembly, TUSC, Trade Unionists for Housing, Young GMB, Unite Community, NUT, Bolton Against Bedroom Tax, Generation Rent and various London borough campaigns

Action plan agreed:
*a housing bloc on the Peoples Assembly London march 20 June: assemble 1 Poultry opposite Bank of England 12 noon
*25 July national day of local actions for housing and against benefit cuts and bedroom tax
*a campaign against the extension of Right-to-Buy to housing associations financed by open market sale of council homes
* A national London march for Housing and Homes (date to be agreed)
  • housing campaigns, hustings and lobbying aimed at Scottish, Welsh, London and other local elections 2016

Other actions
  • 16 and 22 June: lobbies of Hackney council (was going to fine rough sleepers £1000 - petition and protest made them drop it)
  • 16 June Trade Unionists for Housing: 6.30pm GMB HQ Young London - open meeting on housing
  • 16 June 6.30pm Radical Housing Network: ‘What would a rent strike look like?’, Brick Lane
  • 18 June meeting on housing Unite offices Holborn
  • DPAC: short March for London 20 June; meet 1.30pm opposite Downing St
  • 26 June DPAC campaign against introduction of psychological therapies into Job Centres march on Streatham Job Centre. Meet 1.30 Streatham Memorial Gardens SW16 (Pilot project to bring CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) into… Continue Reading Stop Forced Treatments 26th June 1.30 Streatham
  • 2 July Westminster Hall - Labour London mayor candidates hustings - challenge on housing
  • 10 October: People’s Assembly and Unite Community conference on housing
  • Bolton 1st Sat of every month: Wake-up Bolton (+ Wigan etc) - open mic events in city centres
Other
  • stopping evictions: use all legal means, bailiffs have limited power, peacefully refuse to leave; but law on landlord’s side so build anti-eviction networks (many already set up);
  • need broad national movement for homes, including private tenants’ union;
  • estate demolitions/loss of homes: lobby and negotiate with councils + direct action + confront developers + Waltham Forest Trades Council organised ballot of residents
  • new Right to Buy: serious attack than can be beaten.Statement being drawn up - paper and on-line petition - as focus for campaign; force Labour councils to resist selling valuable properties; organise with housing associations and tenants groups (leader of Southwark council has come out saying he wants to oppose it)
  • include refugees/migrants/asylum seekers in fight for homes;
  • Cambridge Trades Council - target letting agents for flash protest; build campaign to occupy empty properties
  • Southwark Benefit Justice: job centre protests linking up with PCS
  • homeless camp taking place in Manchester

Notes

(1) Defend Council Housing homepage accessed Monday 15 June. http://defendcouncilhousing.org.uk/dch/
(2) Tenants and Housing Summit 13 June e-leaflet, accessed Monday 15 June.  http://www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk/dch/resources/Benefitsworkshop13juneweb.pdf



Dying for DWP recognition as 'genuine' claimants?

By Argotina Schmirgle of Kwug

Originally published on 13 June on Benefit Tales blog as

Many people whose benefits have been stopped have serious health conditions, so of course more are dying, admits DWP

Yet again Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has blocked the publication of statistics showing how many people have died within six weeks of having their benefits stopped.
These figures were routinely published until 2012, when this government’s Welfare Reform Act  started to bite. Since then the DWP has steadfastly refused to publish new statistics, saying:
  1. They were too expensive to gather and: 
  2. That so many people requested the figures that the requests themselves were ‘vexatious’ and could therefore be ignored. 
Direct requests to the DWP from several MPs have had no more luck.

Now the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), an independent authority set up to uphold public information rights, has agreed that there is no reason not to publish the figures. And yet again the DWP is trying to wriggle out.

What struck me most in this article from the Huffington Post was this warning from the DWP:
“The DWP  warned it was irresponsible to suggest a causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim, and that mortality rates among people with serious health conditions are likely to be higher than those among the general population.”(1)

Well, The system of disability assessments was supposed to sort out who needs disability benefits. The DWP’s warning demonstrates that they don’t see people with serious health conditions who are more likely to die as being in need of benefits. And if they are being kicked off their benefits and then dying, that’s just fine as long as the Tories can dodge publishing the figures..

The DWP takes its orders from the Conservative Government. And David Cameron and his ministers appear to be completely at ease with the idea of stripping seriously ill people of their benefits and them subsequently dying. If those people die, well, they were more likely to die anyway.

I read over and over again in comments here and elsewhere on the net of people who have been thrown off disability benefits as ‘fit to work’, but cannot then get unemployment benefits because the Job Centre deems them ‘Unfit to work’. I’m personally trying to help 2 people in this exact situation right now. As a result of losing their sickness benefits and having no income, both have been hit by a spiral of depression which made it impossible to appeal against the decision in the one month time slot allowed by the DWP.

More than 18,000 people have signed a Change.org petition in under a week after the DWP appealed a decision to release the sensitive figures

I can’t leave this topic without mentioning the tireless campaigning to get these figures published.over several years by John Pring of the Disability News Service.(3) If the government is pushed into a corner it can’t wriggle out of and forced to release these figures, it will largely be thanks to John.

Notes

(1) Huffington Post: DWP Block Release of Figures on Number of People Dying After Benefits Stopped. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/06/11/statistics-refused-benefits-death_n_7561918.html
 (2) Change.org petition: Publish the statistics showing how many people have died after their benefits were stopped. https://www.change.org/p/hm-courts-and-tribunal-service-publish-stats-showing-how-many-people-have-died-after-their-benefits-stopped
(3) Disability News Service: http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Benefits for people in work cost 6x as much as for people out of work

A guest post by Joan Grant of KUWG expressing personal views 

Benefits for people in work cost 6 times as much as for people out of work

 
So, the Tories won and the election, worse still from out point of view, with an outright majority. We were told before the election that the Tories planned to make £12bn of welfare cuts. IDS refused to tell us what the Tories had in mind. Various ideas were floated and leaked to the press.

Before the election, the Tories announced that they would be freezing benefits for working age people for 2 years. That saves £1bn. They have now announced plans to reduce the Benefit Cap from £26,000 to £23,000. This does not apply to any claimants who receive Working Tax Credits or a disability benefit. This change will save about £100m a year, half a billion over the five years of a Parliament. Half a billion is not insignificant but it is a drop in the ocean set against a deficit which was £90bn last year. And our total national debt is roughly £1.5tn. 

Reducing the cap is likely to lead to more evictions as people can no longer afford their rent, especially in London and the South East. Policy advice from civil servants to the Government, states that this measure will plunge another 40,000 children into poverty. 

Tories continue to hammer away at claimants who are not in work, as they know that plays well to their base. I believe that the public are not aware of the relatively small sums of public money that we are talking about. 
 
Its an easy mistake to make. You would assume that getting more people into work would mean that the nation saves money. But you would be wrong. Tax credits for people in work, cost 6 times as much as job seekers allowance pad to those out of work.
 
A graphic can make the point more starkly than words. Job Seekers Allowance (for those out of work) costs about £5bn a year (shown in purple). However, tax credits (for those in work) cost £28bn (light blue). Tax credits in my humble opinion were one of Labour’s worst ideas. They subsidise low pay at tax payers expense. Employers large and small pay workers the minimum wage safe in the knowledge that the workers’ pay will be topped up by tax credits. 

 
Government Spending on Means Tested Welfare Benefits in Billions
Source: DWP Benefits Expenditure tables and OBR Economic and Fiscal Outloo
I am someone who thinks that we as a nation do need to tackle our debts/ Given how much tax credits cost, one might have thought that they were a good place to start. I fail to see how it makes any sense, economic or otherwise for low pay to be subsidised like this.
 
I wonder if one of the reasons why people have become disillusioned with Labour is that it has not done enough to support low paid workers effectively. Labour’s policy going into the election of wanting a minimum wage by 2020 was a really damp squib. The minimum wage will be that amount by 2020 anyway. The minimum wage needs to be £10 in London and £8 elsewhere as of now. The Living Wage is already £9.15. Labour seems out of touch with reality on the ground.

Osborne will be introducing a budget in July, so we will find out then what further cuts he plans to make. AHe will also be taking away Housing Benefit from young people. This measure will also cause hardship and save very little money. All the experts say that it will be hard to make further cuts, without doing something “radical.” Iain Duncan Smith apparently wants to overhaul Child Benefit which costs £12bn but Cameron won't let him.

What we do know is that pensioners will not be have to make a contribution. Their benefits remain protected. It is also becoming clear that Labour will support the reduction of the Benefit Cap. Labour think they lost the election because they were too left wing. They are now is now falling over themselves to show that they can take “tough” decisions. Rachel Reeves is quoted as saying “Labour supports a benefit cap to ensure people are always better off in work than on benefits and we will support a reduction in the cap to £23,000 to ensure this principle is met.” Andy Burnham made similar comments which were reported in the Mirror on Saturday 30th May. The SNP which has a clear anti austerity stance, will be opposing this measure. 

This is likely to be the depressing shape of things to come for the next 18 months or so, until the Tories split over Europe.

Joan Grant


Editor's Note

The one alteration I have made repeatedly for consistency and 'house style' in the submitted blogpiece has been to change the abbreviations for billions and trillions. Joan has used B for billions; I have used bn; and whereas Joan has spelled out the word 'trillions' in full, I have used the abbreviation tn.
£1bn = £1,000,000,000
£1tn = £1,000,000,000,000

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