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How parts of Britain are now poorer than POLAND with families in Wales and Cornwall among Europe's worst off

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Thousands march for homes and demand decent housing in London

by Dave Sewell

Published Sat 31 Jan 2015
Issue No. 2438

Thousands joined the March for Homes in London as the housing crisis deepens (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Up to 4,000 Londoners defied freezing rain today, Saturday, to march on City Hall in protest at the deepening housing crisis.

Around 2,000 assembled at Elephant and Castle in south London in the shadow of luxury private housing development Strata Tower and the building site for One the Elephant.

One the Elephant was originally supposed to include homes at “social rent”. But developers Lend Lease said they couldn’t afford the “poor doors” that would keep them segregated.

Local resident Poppy told Socialist Worker, “It’s hard to see where this is going to end. We’re going to end up with a capital city emptied of people because all the homes have gone to the super-rich.”

Tanya Murat from Southwark Defend Council Housing led the crowd in chants of “That’s not what affordable looks like”. Protesters marched past the rubble of the Heygate Estate where 3,000 council homes have been demolished, and the Aylesbury Estate that’s set to be next.

People leaned out of windows all along the route to clap and cheer as marchers chanted demanding rent control and more council housing.

Chris Kerridge from the Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations told marchers, "It's great that the Labour Party says it will get rid of the bedroom tax.

"But if it doesn't get rid of the right to buy that has seen us lose two million council homes then it'll be meaningless."

Marchers joined another 1,000 people marching from Shoreditch in east London. Focus E15 women, who led a series of high profile actions since being threatened with eviction two years ago, led that march.

East London marcher Sue told Socialist Worker, “Too many people’s lives are being disrupted. If things don’t change there’ll be a lot more protests like this, and on a much bigger scale.”

Dozens of organisations backed the march after Defend Council Housing and South London People’s Assembly called it. Labour MPs and councillors supported the march, along with campaigners from the Green Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

Marchers came from anti-demolition campaigns and trade union branches. Jan Nielsen from the National Union of Teachers union brought a banner reading, “London needs teachers, teachers can’t afford London”.

She told Socialist Worker, “There’s a recruitment crisis in schools, particularly in London. And part of that is because newly qualified teachers have to spend half their income on rent just for a shared house."

Housing worker Phoebe Watkins was part of a delegation from Camden Unison. She said, “A lot of London boroughs are putting up barriers to people getting on the council housing waiting list. People are being sent outside London away from their families.

"It’s like every borough is saying, ‘Don’t come here’.

“Millions of people are struggling and none of the main parties has anything to offer except looking after the rich. We need a bit of Greece and Spain on housing!”

Campaigners plan to follow up the march with a "Love Council Housing" day on 14 February, and a week of protests in the run-up to the mayor's budget on 23 February.

Edited by Steven Gaal
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Mother-of-four says housing benefit cap has left her cold and hungry (LINK)


A mother has told of the devastating impact the so-called 'bedroom tax' has had on her life.

Disabled mother-of-four Karen Millard, of Mulberry Gardens, Crouch End, says the cap on housing benefit means she is forced to give up the simple human comforts of warmth, food and family.

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Old people auctioned off to care homes on the internet: Anger over 'cattle markets for grannies' as councils accept lowest bids to save cash

  • At least a dozen local authorities are listing vulnerable people's details
  • Ages and care needs including medication sent to up to 100 care firms
  • They pick which people to bid for - and cheapest offer nearly always wins
  • Expert Ros Altmann: 'eBay-style' system 'awful' and 'just uncivilised'
  • Health group leader: 'It's an absolute disgrace - it's like a cattle market'

By Ruth Lythe and Claire Duffin For The Daily Mail

Published: 17:56 EST, 8 February 2015 | Updated: 06:42 EST, 9 February 2015

The elderly and disabled are being ‘put up for auction’ by local councils on ‘eBay-style’ websites, with care firms then bidding to offer them a bed.

At least a dozen local authorities are listing vulnerable people’s details – including their age and what care and medication they need – before inviting bids from care homes in the area.

The bidding is sometimes open for only a few hours, at other times it can last for two or three days. The cheapest offer often wins.


Cattle market: At least a dozen councils are listing vulnerable people’s details – including their age and what care and medication they need – on eBay-like software and inviting bids from local care homes (file photo)

Critics last night said the system was akin to ‘auctioning your granny’ and a ‘cattle market’, saying sensitive decisions about an elderly resident’s final years are being made by a computer programme that is only interested in costs.

It also means the patient or their family often does not see the care home, and that those running the home do not see the patient before they arrive.

One council has boasted of reducing care costs by almost a fifth using the system.

The auction-style process allows councils to circulate anonymised details of individuals to a large number of suppliers who then bid in an online auction for the contract.

As many as 100 providers can bid before the software produces a shortlist of the most favourable bids. Shortlisted bidders are then told where they are ranked in the process.

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Online: The system uses a software called SProc.Net, which has been devised by Matrix SCM, a company based in Milton Keynes which last year said it was in talks with 30 other councils

If they are in second position, they can adjust their bid – either by lowering the price or offering extra care services – so that they can move up to first.

Councils say quality is the first consideration, but figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request show 92 per cent of care packages commissioned on the system over a six-month period were awarded to the bidder with the lowest price, BBC 5 Live revealed.


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Government adviser Ros Altmann: 'These eBay-style sites highlight the funding crisis for care'

Ros Altmann, a Government adviser and independent expert on care for the elderly, said: ‘These eBay-style sites highlight the funding crisis for elderly care. It is awful. The idea of bidding for a person is just uncivilised. These are not parcels, they are people.’

Janet Morrison, chief executive of the charity Independent Age, said: ‘Do we really want to treat older people as a “product” to be bought and sold this way? We are concerned that older people’s needs will lose out to price as the main reason for selecting a home.’

At least 12 councils use the auction-style systems. They include Kent County Council, Devon County Council, Southend Borough Council and Birmingham City Council. Dozens more are expected to follow suit.

Care companies bidding to offer a place have to state what services they can provide and at what cost before a computer system decides which company is the winner of the ‘contract’. Councils say the winning home is not forced upon patients, and that it is not always the cheapest bid that wins, with quality of care being the main consideration.

Birmingham has been using an online auction system since 2012 and says it has reduced its spending on care by almost a fifth.

It uses a software called SProc.Net, which has been devised by Matrix SCM, a company based in Milton Keynes which last year said it was in talks with 30 other councils.

Radio 5 Live also found that in some cases in Birmingham elderly people were being sent to homes which won the online auction despite being ‘zero-rated’ by the council on its own 0-100 scale of care quality – where scores under 60 are ‘poor’.

Les Latchman, chairman of the Birmingham Care Consortium, which represents care homes in Birmingham and commissioned the FOI request, said the system was forcing providers to offer lower and lower prices to secure the contract.


Speaking out: Emma Knight said her brother James, who had learning difficulties, was one persona affected

‘This reverse tendering is something that compromises quality and undermines ethical practice,’ he said. ‘If you are going to keep lowering the price, something has got to give.’

Mike Gimson, chairman of Moundsley Healthcare Group, said: ‘It’s an absolute disgrace what is going on in Birmingham. It is more like Hereford cattle market than it is a caring service for the elderly.’

A Birmingham council spokesman said: ‘The well-being of all our service users is paramount and we only award care packages to providers who are able to demonstrate that they can meet the needs of individuals.’

Another critic of the system is Emma Knight, whose brother James, 46, has learning difficulties and had lived in the same care home in Exeter for 28 years. When it closed, Devon County Council circulated his details by emails to care homes which were then invited to bid to offer him a place.

The details on the email included information about his ‘mood and well-being’ and medication. His family say other information which could easily identify him was also included.

Miss Knight, 44, of Ottery St Mary, said: ‘We had no idea his details were being shared. This sort of tendering should be stopped.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2945079/Old-people-auctioned-care-homes-internet-Anger-cattle-markets-grannies-councils-accept-lowest-bids-save-cash.html#ixzz3RHpPTBpW

Edited by Steven Gaal
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Britain's zero hours economy exposed: Extra 100,000 people relying on jobs without ANY guarantee of work to make ends meet (LINK)

The number of ‘zero hour contract’ jobs has soared by 400,000 in just six months – with many people having to take on more than one to make ends meet, new figures have revealed.

There were 1.8million jobs without any guarantee of work in August last year – up from 1.4million in January.

The number of people whose main job was a zero-hours contract has also soared to 697,000 in the quarter to December, up from 586,000 in the same period in 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics.

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and on the other side of the castle moat ........


Britain’s Elite Still Enjoying a Tax Break 100 Years Old. (LINK)

They are among the British moneyed elite: the head of the nation’s largest bank, a billionaire hedge fund manager and the owner of some of London’s most luxurious nightclubs.

Edited by Steven Gaal
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and on the other side of the castle moat ........

Britain's divided decade: the rich are 64% richer than before the recession, while the poor are 57% poorer (LINK)

The gap between richest and poorest has dramatically widened in the past decade as wealthy households paid off their debts and piled up savings following the financial crisis, a report warns today.

By contrast, the worst-off families are far less financially secure than before the recession triggered by the near- collapse of several major banks. They have an average of less than a week’s pay set aside and are more often in the red.




Universal Credit 'adviser' told not to tell claimants about cash fund for clothes and bus fares (LINK)

A reporter posing as a Universal Credit adviser trainee was told not to tell claimants about a vital cash fund for clothes, bus fares or other expenses to help them into work.

The undercover journalist spent seven weeks working at the Department for Work and Pensions' (DWP) Bolton Universal Credit contact centre.

He was told by trainers not to bring up same-day advance payments for those struggling to make ends meet while they wait five weeks for the their first Universal Credit payment. These are among a number of extra changes benefits claimants can ask for - find out the full range here.

The reporter, working for Channel 4 Dispatches programme, was also told not to tell claimants about the Flexible Support Fund unless they specifically asked about it.

Edited by Steven Gaal
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Poverty and Social Inequality in the U.K.: British Government Targets Low Income Families and Young People

Global Research, October 04, 2013

The recent Conservative Party Conference in Manchester has seen the Tories putting forward harmful proposals targeting lower income families and young people. It is a continuation of aggression against the average Briton that began as soon as the ruling coalition of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats came to power, with such notorious policies such as the Bedroom Tax, the tripling of tuition fees, and the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance.

Disabled and mentally ill people are subjected to humiliating evaluations by Atos, the government contractor who is tasked, it seems, with getting people off welfare by any means possible. Suicides have skyrocketed as a result, as people who can barely survive as it is are told they are able to work, and have their financial support stopped.

The Tory leadership, however, seem to think that they need to do more to make the lives of the working class in Britain harder. After many months of a steady demonization campaign in the right wing media portraying those struggling to find work and/or receiving financial aid from the state as parasites bleeding Britain dry, the Conservatives clearly felt it was time to really put the boot in, claiming a desire to tackle the alleged ‘something for nothing’ culture that all poor people apparently subscribe to. No mention, of course, of the ‘something for nothing’ culture that the Tory Party’s friends in the banking sector have enjoyed.

Those under the age of twenty-five will no longer be entitled to Jobseekers Allowance and Housing Benefit should the Conservatives win the 2015 General Election, according to David Cameron. Such policies will be disastrous for young Brits, and may lead to mass homelessness as young people struggle to find work and are left with nothing, not even a roof over their heads. Any idea that said young adults can simply stay with their parents until they are twenty-five is impractical. Care leavers are released from the system aged eighteen. Some young adults leave home early to escape abusive households. And if a young adult leaves home after school, somehow finds a job, and then loses said job before they reach twenty-five, they may find that moving back in with their parents is not an option, as their parents may have had to downsize their home due to the Bedroom Tax.

And if young people are not earning, then the Tories say they should be learning. And you can see how enthusiastic they are for people to learn, what with the aforementioned tripling of tuition fees. But then, any exploitative ruling class knows that an educated working class is dangerous to them, so it is not surprising to see the poor being scared off by such outrageous fees. One suspects it is also the reason the ConDem coalition gutted the British movie industry by abolishing the UK Film Council in 2010. Better for British film makers to concentrate on big-budget patriotic drivel and romcom fluff than films that make people think.

Generally, people who have struggled to find work and have been getting by on Jobseekers Allowance have been highlighted by the Tories as especially undesirable, regardless of their age. It has been suggested that those on JSA do one of three things to justify their benefits – work for ‘free’, spend thirty-five hours a week in a branch of Jobcentre Plus searching for jobs while being watched over by staff, or join training courses presumably aimed at making attendees more employable.

The third option is a laughable gimmick. It does not matter how much training someone does to spruce up one’s CV if there are not enough jobs to go around. It is simple mathematics – if there are three million people unemployed and only five hundred thousand jobs available, then the majority will not be able to find work. And where have the jobs gone? Britain used to be an industrial powerhouse. What happened? Why, neoliberalism happened, of course. Far better for the shareholders if the jobs are shipped overseas to be worked by people in third world countries who won’t ask for anywhere near as much money as workers in Britain would.

Then there’s the first option. Most JSA recipients receive less than the national minimum wage. If they are forced to work for corporations for less than minimum wage, it will undermine those currently working on minimum wage, and may in fact lead to greater unemployment as corporations make those current workers redundant in an effort to improve the bottom line. One could be forgiven for suspecting that this is something that appeals greatly to the sociopathic neoliberals of the Tory Party.

As does, no doubt, the second option. Jobcentres are, allegedly, there to help the unemployed to find work. Turning them into holding pens for the unemployed would no doubt mean lucrative contracts to private security firms such as G4S and Serco, who will be charged with overseeing the undesirables. And obviously, holding someone in a building for thirty-five hours a week will not somehow create extra jobs. You cannot apply for something that isn’t there. Do not be surprised if, should these proposals become reality, violence because commonplace at Jobcentres as frustration and hopelessness set in. The atmosphere inside Jobcentres are often tense on a quiet day, and it’s not just from the clients. The staff are overworked and are constantly made to jump through bureaucratic hoops as their superiors try to find new ways to deliver the impossible, or, one could be forgiven for suspecting, to try and find an excuse to stop peoples’ benefits.

So what happens if you’re young and out of work? Work for less than a living wage in one of the most expensive countries on the planet? Take on the crippling debt of the tuition fees? Join the military and go fight resource wars? The Tories claim these sadistic policies will encourage entrepreneurship. They may be more accurate than they realise. People may turn to crime to get by. But if you’re a shareholder in G4S or Serco, this is a good thing. A Prison Industrial Complex similar to that in the United States is there to be built, with slave labour courtesy of the new wave of convicts ensuring maximum profits. But whichever path you take it results in massive profits for corporations and their tame, millionaire front men in the British Government.

Understandably, reaction to these new proposals has been scathing. Parents fear for their children’s future. Young people, already struggling, feel persecuted. Poor people expect to be squeezed even harder. Many accuse the Tories of being out of touch. However, the political Elites of Britain certainly appear to know how angry they are making people. And they do not care. There is money to be made, people to exploit and abuse, resources to seize.

To protect themselves, they encourage police brutality, holding lacklustre inquiries into deaths of civilians at the hands of police officers. They arm officers with tasers, allowing people to be tortured by the constabulary. British citizens should thankful that British police do not, as a rule, carry firearms, or Britons could be subject to the kind of wanton murderous violence that American police officers visit daily upon US citizens. And let us not forget, it was such police barbarity, arrogance, and unaccountability that led to poor and marginalised people tearing large swathes of British cities to pieces in 2011.

During his speech at the Tory Party conference, Cameron hailed social workers, saying they do ‘an important job’. If the young and the poor find that due to the actions of the ConDem coalition that they are left with nothing to lose, they may become like the proverbial cornered fox, and the political Elites of Britain may find that they will need far more than social workers to protect them. Fortunate for them then, that private security contractors will be there to pick up the contracts to save them, as will elements of the police who are fond of wading into pitched street battles with their fellow serfs. Divide and conquer.

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and on the other side of the castle moat ........


Former British Gas boss criticised for 'lavish' windfalls put in charge of pay at HSBC (link)

A former British Gas boss criticised for his ‘lavish’ windfalls has been put in charge of pay at HSBC, writes Peter Campbell.

Sam Laidlaw, who sits on the bank’s board, received up to £5m a year at energy giant Centrica.

But he is now being put in charge of setting pay levels at the embattled banking giant following a major boardroom reshuffle.

Critics said the decision beggars belief and reinforces images of a ‘cosy club’ of executives who set rewards packages for each other.

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Hookers and Blow Economy: 1 in 20 students in UK worked in sex trade to fund living cost (link)


One in 20 students in the UK have worked in the sex industry while studying at the university to make ends meet, according to a new survey that shows more number of them are secretly turning to the profession. Men were more likely to be involved than women, and the sex work ranged from prostitution and escorting to stripping and internet work, the Student Sex Work Project report said.


Rule Britannia (With lyric annotations)

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Renting your way to poverty: welcome to the future of housing
www.telegraph.co.uk › Finance › Property
The Daily Telegraph
12 hours ago - In the UK stricter tests have been introduced to try to prevent banks and building societies lending as recklessly as they did before. There have been repeated ...



Poverty | Society | The Guardian
The Guardian
7 hours ago - Fast food takeaway shops grow more rapidly in deprived areas of UK. Study finds ... Brain development in children could be affected by poverty, study shows.
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Harsh austerity measures causing hunger, rise in dependency on food banks


 Breaking News  04/09/2015  ECONOMIC

(SOTT) Harsh austerity measures including slashed welfare payments and dwindling public services have caused the rapid spread of food banks across Britain, new academic research suggests.

The analysis, published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal, was led by a team of academics from Oxford University.

The study, “Austerity, sanctions, and the rise of food banks in the UK,” noted that increasing numbers of doctors in Britain are witnessing their patients turn to food banks to survive. Its authors concluded that the idea put forward by the Conservative-led government that this trend is the result of supply, not demand, was false.

The study’s authors analyzed data from the Trussell Trust, a leading NGO that coordinates food banks across the UK.

The government has long refused to admit to a link between its austerity policies and a dramatic explosion in food banks across the state. However, the Oxford University report shows otherwise.

The study detailed a concrete link between demand for food parcels and the government’s austerity measures. It found demand for emergency food aid is highest in areas where poverty occurs in parallel with reductions in social welfare payments. It also revealed that emergency food assistance is most common in regions where high levels of unemployment exist.

When the coalition government came to power in 2010, the Trussell Trust food banks were active in 29 local council areas throughout Britain, according to the report. By 2013/14, however, this number had risen to 251.

Over the same period, the Trussell Trust’s rate of emergency food aid distribution had tripled, the Oxford University study said.

While soup kitchens have long been present in the UK, the rapid spread of food banks is a recent phenomenon.

This new trend has been sharply criticized by the UK’s Faculty of Public Health, which warned Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014 that Britain’s welfare system was “increasingly failing to provide a robust last line of defense against hunger.”

The Oxford University research, published Wednesday, uncovered stark fluctuations between different regions. While less than 0.1 percent of people based in Lichfield, Staffordshire, required emergency food parcels, this figure soared to 8 percent in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Some of these variations stemmed from the length of time a particular food bank had been established, the research found. Nevertheless, the report said higher levels of emergency food distribution were “significantly associated” with austerity policies and welfare cuts.

The report found high rates of food parcel use were particularly evident where benefits sanctions had been enforced on jobless claimants who had their payments terminated for at least a month as a result of not meeting local job center regulations.

The report’s authors called upon the government to introduce a strategic framework to tackle food insecurity in the UK, which includes “monitoring and addressing the root social and economic drivers of this problem.”

The driving force behind rising numbers of people turning to emergency food aid has been a matter of debate since the coalition government came to power.

Conservative politicians suggest the trend is not symptomatic of growing food insecurity, but is a direct result of food charities broadening their operations. Those who espouse this view say more people are merely helping themselves to free food.

Food charities have dismissed this argument, however, warning that it ignores the grueling impact of austerity. They argue emergency food parcels are offered to UK residents who are plagued by financial hardship and food insecurity.

In late 2014, a joint report by the Trussell Trust, the Church of England, Oxfam and the Child Poverty Action Group revealed that those who use food banks are more likely to be single adults or single parents, live in rented accommodation, suffer unemployment and have borne the brunt of some sort of benefits sanction.

An official report by Britain’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs also expressed concerns about the rise of food insecurity.

Against a backdrop of mounting criticism, a cross-party parliamentary probe into hunger and food poverty was conducted in 2014. The inquiry’s report, released in December, found that financial hardship, austerity and government-driven sanctions may explain the rising use of food banks. The study also found a greater degree of clarity is required on how food insecurity is defined in Britain, and a system that monitors such trends is paramount.

Alex Zatman, a spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions, told RT on Thursday that the Oxford University study was not representative of the true picture on the ground.

He argued that the government spends £94 billion a year on working-age benefits and offers diverse advice and assistance for those in need of extra support.

“The vast majority of benefits are processed on time with improvements being made year on year and the number of sanctions has actually gone down,” Zatman said in emailed comments.

“There are now record numbers of people in work in the UK and a majority of the rise in employment has been in managerial and professional occupations,” he added.

British economist and anti-austerity campaigner Michael Burke told RT that the study’s findings are “deeply disturbing.”

The research offers “conclusive proof of the negative effects of cuts to social security and the effects on the most vulnerable,” he said.

Burke rejected the government’s argument that Britain has seen a rise in the number of people claiming food parcels because they are more readily available.

He said that food insecurity was increasing as a result of austerity cuts and the rise of low-paid work, which in turn has increased the number of working people plagued by poverty.

Burke dismissed the DWP suggestion that there are now record numbers of people in gainful employment as”meaningless.”

“The population continues to grow and there needs to be higher new levels in employment just to keep pace,” he said.

Burke also rejected the DWP’s claim that much of Britain’s newly created jobs are in managerial and professional occupations.

“The government’s boasts about the quality of new jobs are misplaced. The new jobs are skewed toward low productivity and low-skilled service sector jobs,” he said.


Rule Britannia (With lyric annotations)

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