Archive for the ‘bedroom tax’ Category

10,600 and counting . . . the hardest hit.

December 10, 2013

In the UK, the Freedom of Information Act allows people to ask questions of public bodies. One such question put to the government by anti-disability discrimination campaigners, asked between January and November 2011, how many people have died after being assessed by ATOS as being ‘fit for work’ in a six week period since their assessment?

In 2010, there were just 310 deaths of people on health-related benefits. The answer supplied by the DWP to the FOI request was 10,600 deaths. This graphically illustrates the stress and financial impact that disabled people are suffering from as a result of government outsourcing and a target-driven culture that does not meet people’s needs, but only seeks to cut costs, in this case even at the cost of human life.

Northamptonshire Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) highlighted this fact on a banner on a protest this week at Leicester Clocktower. Leicester Socialist Party members joined the protest, along with campaigners from Leicester Occupy movement, and faith groups. We heard of some of the tragic details of those who had died, including a disabled couple who had committed suicide, as they were destitute. They were found together in their home with no electricity, food or heating. See more here –

We call for an end to ATOS assessments. We call for democratic decision making and the involvement of disabled people themselves. We call for decent benefits to allow disabled people to lead as independent a life as possible. All outsourced services should be brought back under the remit of a democratically-controlled, publicly- funded NHS. The ideal of universal healthcare is rapidly being demolished under the present Government’s Health and Social Care Act, while New Labour introduced the ‘reforms’ – Foundation Trusts, PFI and outsourcing, which made these attacks on our healthcare system possible in the first place.

We are campaigning for Leicester Council to refuse to implement the discriminatory and unfair bedroom tax, which affects disabled people disproportionately – around two thirds of the tenants affected by this tax are disabled – they often need a spare room due for a carer or for equipment due to their disability.

“You can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens”.

“From each according to their means, to each according to their needs”.

You can read some of my poetry in my book ‘Little Red Poetry’. All proceeds go to build a new party for ordinary people, against cuts and privatisation. Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Busk For Socialism

November 26, 2013

open mic2

No to the bedroom tax

June 30, 2013

Notes from Tommy Sheridan’s speech at the National Shop Stewards Network Conference, Saturday 29th June 2013.

Tommy had been to 73 meetings all over Scotland, where 80 local anti-bedroom tax capaigns have been set up. Affiliations from union branches and trades councils had been built – it was necessary to put demands on the official movement. The Scottish Trades Council is hosting a conference against the bedroom tax. The anti-bedroom tax movement is growing.

Tommy said he was not personally affected, but he was personally offended by the bedroom tax. “You stand with me, I’ll stand with you” – is the motto of the movement.

He gave the example of a couple in Inverness – one was suffering from multiple sclerosis, and had to be confined to a wheelchair as a result. Her husband gave up his job to be a full-time carer, saving the state £10,000s a year. She has a special bed, which she needs for pain relief, so they have to sleep in separate rooms. They are now being asked to pay £60 a month from their benefits in bedroom tax. 2,000 families affected in Inverness – the number of council homes available is 164.

Likewise, an amputee has an elderly mother who is 78 and suffers from Alzheimers, so had to move to a care home. They are now deemed to be under-occupying, and are being asked for £60 a month. 5,300 families affected in South Lanarkshir. Number of homes available – 40.

Housing benefit is means tested, therefore it is the poor who are suffering the most from this tax. 660,000 people affected across the UK; 2/3 of these families have a disabled person in the household.

The penalty for non-payment is not prison, but is eviction. We need civil disobedience, we need to form human walls to stop people being evicted. It is scandalous that 500,000 people in the UK, the 7th richest country in the world, rely on food banks, while the income of the top 1,000 people is £400 billion – a rise of £35bn. This is obscene. In the words of the great Irish socialist Jim Larkin, “The powerful appear powerful because we are on our knees. Let us rise up.”

I would just add that we also need to campaign for massive investment in affordable council housing to meet our needs. This would also provide jobs for the thousands of building workers who have been made unemployed by the property crash. Otherwise, more and more families will find themselves on the streets in breadline Britain. It is no use just blaming the Tories and waiting for a Labour government. Labour have made it clear that they will not reverse the cuts made by the ConDem coalition. We need to build an alternative party, to stand up for ordinary people and not the rich. I support TUSC in its attempt to do just that.


You can help support the Socialist Party by buying a short book of my poems, ‘Little Red Poetry’: Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Patiently explain . . . thoughts on the local election results

May 5, 2013

If you want to see what Britain will be like in a few years’ time, if the trend of the Con-Dem’s planned spending cuts, continued wholesale privatisation of our NHS and further erosion of our living standards is not overthrown by mass strike action on the part of the labour movement, then look at Greece.

With wages stagnating, and workers simply not being given the money to enable us to buy back what we make, the economy will continue to bottom-out, or go into another nose-dive into recession. Without any jobs being created for young people, without the prospect of a decent, free education, then it is not surprising if people look to blame each other for their situation, rather than the real culprits – the super-rich who made money speculating on loans which people could not afford to pay back (the reason for the financial crisis in 2008), and tax avoidance by large companies to the tune of £120 billion a year. Combined with the constant coverage of UKIP in the media, and the usual barrage of anti-immigrant propaganda in the right wing press, the rise in vote for UKIP in the local elections last Thursday is not surprising, as this was an easy way for voters to voice their discontent with the government. Labour hardly benefited at all, and the Lib Dems face political oblivion.

However, when the 147 newly-elected UKIP councillors are actually put to the test, voters will inevitably find an odious, corrupt party of the establishment, with racist undertones. This will hopefully in turn be rejected, just as the BNP have been wiped out in these elections. The question then is, where are protest votes going to be channelled? Without a mass, left-wing opposition, this could develop into far-right, neo-fascist sympathies, as has happened to some extent in Greece with a rise in support for Golden Dawn, an openly neo-Nazi party.

A major difference between Greece and the UK, apart from the savage depth of the cuts – leading to malnutrition amongst children, for example – there is a party called Syriza, which has opposed austerity measures. It has been the vessel into which much of the intense anger against the main parties has poured (particularly PASOK, their equivalent of New Labour). Syriza is now jointly in the lead with New Democracy, the Conservative party of government (both on 20% in the opinion polls). Rewind back a few years, before the cuts impacted on Greek society, when PASOK was the main opposition – then Syriza’s vote could be counted in terms of 5-6%.

I support TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. Like Syriza, it is the beginning, I think, of something much bigger, as the cuts continue to bite. What direction and character such a mass party of the working class will have is yet to be determined. One thing is clear – all the other parties, from the Greens on the soft-left, to New Labour on the centre-right, to Tories on the right wing, to UKIP on the far-right – they all stand for cuts. Only TUSC is opposed to all cuts in services, for a decent, living minimum wage for all, to investing in and renationalising our NHS and rebuilding a comprehensive, publicly funded education system, free for all, from nursery to University. Another similar vision is Ken Loach’s Left Unity project, and I hope that the two can work together to provide an alternative to cuts.

Visit TUSC’s website for the election results.
TUSC’s election results 2013
These elections were held under difficult circumstances for the hard-left. There has been the usual lack of coverage of our campaign, and Labour were much more visible in opposition to the Tories. However, our 120 candidates achieved some remarkable results in this context. As cuts start to bite even further, the need for a co-ordinated, left-wing challenge to the austerity agenda is ever greater.

Having completed writing this, I am just off now to canvass for TUSC in a by-election in Abbey Ward, Leicester, where the political landscape is somewhat different, with 52 Labour councillors and just two others – 1 Lib Dem and 1 Tory in the council. Yet the lack of opposition to cuts is still overwhelming. Labour are carrying through the bedroom tax, axing homeless places and council-funded care homes. If a TUSC councillor were to be elected, this would be a massive step forward for the people of the city. We are standing to provide, in a small way at this stage, opposition to the mantra that the poor, the disabled, those on benefits must pay for the economic crisis.

Just as has happened in Greece and throughout Southern Europe, opposition to cuts will definitely grow. We urgently need a mass party of the left to be there for ordinary people. The choice is between socialism or barbarism.

Update – Election results Abbey Ward by-election 9th May
Labour (Vijay Riyait) 1190 elected 47.9% (+0.9%)
Conservatives (Dipak Joshi) 562 22.6% (+9%)
Independent (Terry McGreal) 352 14.8% – this was a NIMBYist campaign against traveller sites
Lib Dem Focus Team (John Taylor) 212 8.6% (In 2011, the Lib Dems and Liberals got a combined total of 602 votes)
TUSC (Tessa Warrington) 165 6.65%

This result gives us a good base, in an area of Leicester where we have not stood before, to build real opposition to cuts and to the bedroom tax.

Fight the Bedroom Tax

April 22, 2013

Don’t ignore the harsh facts
Fight the bedroom tax.
Just the latest of all-too many attacks
On parents, who are in debt to the max.
On the unemployed, so beloved of Sun hacks
Spreading smear stories. That smacks
Of hypocrisy. Yet the rag still sells stacks.

We must answer their pernicious lies
Campaign and counter this cruel cut. Cries
Against a policy of folly which flies
In the face of compassion, humanity. Tries
To rob us of our dignity, and demonise
The poor as scroungers, who parasitise.
Why should this come as any surprise?

All the main parties stand up for the rich
And Labour is only too keen to ditch
Its principles and even launch witch
Hunts against the few – fighters who refuse to pitch
In, to raise an acquiscent hand to vote for cuts. They are the all-too slight glitch
In New Labour’s cowardly submission. The itch
They cannot scratch. The corpse of Clem Attlee gives a final twitch.

We can’t waste time, in a futile attempt to resuscitate
Ghosts of Old Labour – it is all too late.
Given the scale of the attacks, which will decimate
All that is left of the welfare state.
Start afresh, rebuild, don’t hesitate
Or succumb, despite our perilous state.
Past gains were not handed to us on a plate.

Support TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) if you too believe that Labour have sold out and cannot be reclaimed – we need to build an alternative urgently for the working class.


You can help support the Socialist Party by buying a short book of my poems, ‘Little Red Poetry’: Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.