Give Brum a Fair Deal

London basks in economic boom, while Birmingham ‘punches below its weight’

Britain’s economic recovery is dominated by job creation in London, leaving cities like Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool struggling to keep up, a major economic study has found.

Ten times as many new jobs are being created in London than anywhere else and the capital remains a magnet for young adults who are leaving other English cities in their thousands to seek employment there.

However, the study by the Centre for Cities think tank rejects any suggestion that London’s economic growth should be artificially restrained and recommends instead that the Government help the economies of Birmingham and other English cities to grow by devolving powers and budgets.

Read more via The Chamberlain Files.

Tory rhetoric on poverty = Lies and Myths

The tough on poverty, tough on the causes of poverty rhetoric adopted by the Tory led government has successfully perpetuated untruths about those in poverty and despite being challenged by many on the Left has framed a perception of idleness for those claiming benefits.

The behaviour of our Tory led government is down right shameful, but in reality, any challenge to it is put down to the Left attacking the Right, and the government has continued to perpetuate these lies aided and abetted by its right wing press.

It is not just the voices of the Left that seem to have been ignored by our current government. Churches from all four nations of the UK, representing 1 million people published a major report in February that showed how evidence and statistics had been misused, misrepresented and manipulated to create myths that blamed and stigmatised the most vulnerable in our society.

The report, entitled ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty‘ confronted some of the most common myths told about people who are in poverty or in receipt of benefits, and highlights some of the most abused statistics.

13 million people including 3.6 million children live in poverty in the UK today. The report showed how evidence and statistics had been misused, misrepresented and manipulated to create myths that blame and stigmatise those most vulnerable in society. The report disputed many myths and figures quoted in programmes such as ‘Troubled Families’ which it stated “misused for political purposes and sells a story of dysfunctional, anti-social families costing the nation a fortune; a story which makes the existence of poverty far more acceptable to those who are not affected”. Despite the report being sent to every MP and MEP, the government has continued with its blame game.

In a letter sent yesterday to David Cameron, the coalition of churches ask that as prime minister and Leader of the Conservative Party, he ensures that the record is put straight, and that statistics are no longer manipulated in a way which stigmatises the poorest in our society. It asks him to ensure that government ministers cease to say untrue things about those in poverty.

The letter also cites three instances in April where government ministers made statements which were demonstrably untrue. The common thread between these statements was that, in support of the Government’s welfare reforms, benefit claimants were portrayed in a negative light. The letter gives a detailed explanation of the untruths and highlights a tiny proportion of the damaging, stigmatising and misleading news coverage prompted by the statements.

The coalition of churches and charities argue that this apparent pattern of misleading statements and occasional straightforward untruths cannot continue. Saying untrue things which unjustly present sick and disabled people as dishonest and lazy, cannot be acceptable if we are to live in a decent society. 

Our society is not broken…the system is. And blaming those who are victims of this broken system rather than attempting to mend it is shameful.

I was pleased to read Ed’s speech on welfare which recognised that the system needed reform but with a focus on the genuine cost of welfare rather than buying into government rhetoric. 

“If we are going to turn our economy around, protect our NHS, and build a stronger country, we will have to be laser-focused on how we spend every single pound. Social security spending, vital as it is, cannot be exempt from that discipline.

“So we will reduce the cost of failure in the social security system, including the cost of long-term worklessness and the cost of housing benefit.”

Ed also talked about putting decent values at the heart of the system and about controlling spending on social security and how these were not conflicting priorities. His reference to low pay, the need for a living wage, a need for investment in housing and a commitment to a compulsory youth job guarantee. 

Storify overview here.

As Mark Ferguson says, “Ed is getting tough on welfare spending, but he isn’t getting tough on those who struggle to survive on welfare thanks to persistent government failure”.

An admission of mistakes – yes but also a recognition that he’s going to have to make big changes to the British economy to right the structural wrongs that have left too many languishing in dole queues, stuck in poor quality and expensive housing and trapped in poverty. 

Homelessness rises as benefits are cut – coincidence? | Shelter blog

Just a few days after George Osborne’s budget for an ‘aspiration nation’, with its focus on home ownership, today’s homelessness statistics reveal the reality for people at the sharp end of Britain’s housing crisis.

Homelessness acceptances are up 10% since 2011 to 53,450 households, 64% of them accepted because they’re families with dependent children.

The number of households placed in B&B accommodation is up 26% to 4,000, including 1,690 families with children. The number of families stuck in B&Bs beyond the legal six-week limit has continued to rise year on year.

Every one of these families has experienced one of the most terrifying things any parent can face: being unable to provide your children with a home.

The yearly ‘prevention and relief’ statistics, also published today, show that a further 199,000 households were assisted by councils to stay in their homes, or move to another, outside of the homelessness legislation. It’s clear that local councils all over the country are struggling to cope with the number of people at risk of homelessness coming through their doors.

So the number of people asking for help has gone up and large numbers are being assisted. But the Government, and local councils, must get to grips with the underlying causes of this growing tragedy.

Over a fifth (21%) of homelessness acceptances were triggered by the loss of an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). This makes the private rented sector the leading cause of homelessness. Two years ago, just 14% of statutory homelessness cases were attributed to the loss of an AST
… Full Article here Homelessness rises as benefits are cut – coincidence? | Shelter blog.

A nation dispossessed

In his speech at the Tory Conference last month, Cameron referred to the need to create an ‘aspiration nation’. This would be achieved by declaring war against the great evils of ‘unfairness and injustice’ with the aim of addressing poverty and stimulating economic recovery. Cameron’s ‘aspiration nation’ would be built upon ‘hard work, strong families and taking responsibility.’  Cameron argues that an aspiration nation will be driven by individual ambition – the “doers, the risk-takers…”

But it is really enough to aspire?

New research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) suggests that a lot of people find themselves unwillingly out of work. They aspire to work but cannot get employment. Underemployment also has major affects on aspiration. There are six million people who aspire to work more but are currently underemployed.

Cameron’s notion of aspiration is nothing new, it has long existed within our society, within our communities. But those hopes and aspirations and perhaps expectations of getting a secure job at a fair wage are becoming decreasingly fewer. The hopes of our young people are being stripped by the reality of reducing funding for higher education and a lack of employment prospects. Those claiming housing benefit are vilified as ‘a cause of great injustice’ when in fact, 93 percent of new claimants seeking housing benefit are in employment.

A society based on aspiration needs to be one that has opportunity. It is not aspiration or responsibility that is lacking…the rare element in this is opportunity.

If work is the only route out of poverty, what about those hard-working people who cannot make work pay? Under austerity, the economy is not creating the jobs that are needed nationwide. But those who find themselves unable to get work are portrayed as willing accomplices in work shy Britain or as a result of individual ‘poor choices’. Within this blaming game, responsibility is individualised thus absolving the government of any fault. It fails to portray the reality of the government’s failure to deliver just what it promised – the economic recovery. It also fails to take account of the deep-rooted structural problems within our economy that continue to create inequalities.

If Cameron and his fellow Tories get their way, within five years the UK will have a smaller public sector than any major developed nation. Its public services agenda will have fundamentally transformed the nature of the welfare state, shrinking it in a way that reduces these structures of support, resulting in the Government failing to fulfil its own responsibilities.

David Cameron’s mission to create a society of aspiration through the reduction of welfare dependency will fail unless he realises that the alternative to his idea of a more minimal state is not an over-burdensome bureaucracy.

What this government is doing to the economy, to public services and to people on benefits or in care is a disgrace. If you cut people’s pay, cut benefits, and cut the investment that creates jobs, you will not get growth. Without growth, you will not close the deficit.

£25 billion lost to the UK Treasury due to tax avoidance in 2008. £81 billion to be cut from the public sector over four years. (TUC/Tax Justice Network)

This Tory led government knows that that their model of austerity is not working and will not work but they will not be seen to be admitting defeat or to be making another U turn. Instead, they have unleashed an ideological attack against the public sector’s great civilising institutions of our society, and will privatise what remains. Under the pretence of dealing with a financial crisis, they will cut and sell off whatever they can to the highest bidder.

After Osborne’s benefit cuts, which the Institute for Fiscal Studies says are almost without international precedent, he plans to take yet another £10bn from those with the least. Disability benefits are also next on the list for attack, as are worse cuts to the poorest households, while he eases top taxes for the people like himself and the other millionaires in Cameron’s cabinet.

When found travelling in first class rather than in standard class this week, Osborne chose to spend more than two and a half times what most unemployed people have to live on for a whole week, in order to upgrade his train ticket to London.

Nothing appears to have caused both Cameron or Osborne to divert from their great enterprise – to build a model of austerity to wither the state and harrow the ground where it once stood.

#Oct20 saw hundreds of thousands of men and women who have lost employment, communities who have lost local services and young people who have had their dreams and aspirations taken away from them marched on the streets in London, Belfast and Glasgow for “A Future That Works” and to protest against the Tory driven policy of austerity.

A real show of solidarity and of collective action….but unfortunately the message is most likely to fall on deaf ears.

Cameron wishes for a nation of inspiration but has only achieved in creating a nation dispossessed.

Marching against austerity

Why I will be marching against austerity

This Tory led government has attacked jobs, pensions and pay and has been complicit in the privatisation of public services. It has launched an all out attack on those entitled to welfare and has demonised all who claim it. This great economic plan, the governments strategy to bring down the deficit, has done no more than worsened rather than improved the economy and has devastated the lives of ‘ordinary’ people by making the UK a brutal and uncaring place in which to live.

This Tory led government has turned its back on a whole generation of young people, with more than a million young people unemployed. The disgraceful actions of Maria Miller and the closure of the 27 Remploy factories demonstrates the little regard this government has for the disabled, stripped of their work and of their dignity with benefits being cut. This government seems to have little regard for the 1% and has pitched the public sector against the private sector in a race to the bottom.

With unemployment rising while living standards are falling, increased energy bills, increased travel costs and the almost nationwide emergence of foodbanks, high levels of job insecurity and an army of exploited, unemployed people providing free labour to big companies and other organisations as part of the government’s ‘Workfare’ programme.

Austerity, and the ideology that underpins it under a Tory led government says public services can be slashed, inequality doesn’t matter and the market always knows best. This is unfair, unwanted and self defeating. The impact of these ill-advised and poorly thought out governmental policies are not being recognised for what they truly are and left relatively unchallenged are having a devastating effect on working people and their families with working people being forced to pay the price for a crisis they did not create. Enough is enough.