What have young people done to Osborne to deserve such contempt? | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian

I was going to write about the devastating impact that Osborne’s budget will have on young people but instead urge you to read Polly’s take on it all as she expresses far better exactly what I wanted to say.

Why are the young caught in the cross-hairs of this government? That will mystify future social historians. Most societies talk of them as “our future”, to be nurtured and encouraged, but in yesterday’s budget, yet again they were pursued in a special vendetta of dislike, bordering on disgust.

via What have young people done to Osborne to deserve such contempt? | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian.

What have young people done to Osborne to deserve such contempt? | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian

The end of free speech as we know it

It’s farewell to your centuries-old right to free speech today, after your Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs won their bid to get the Gagging Bill passed by the House of Lords. It won’t go back to the Commons because the Lords made no amendments.

While you, personally, will be allowed to continue complaining about anything you want, you will no longer have the ability to link up with others to protest government actions in any meaningful way as such action may breach Liberal Democrat and Tory government-imposed spending limits. Your personal complaints will be deemed unrepresentative of the people.

Read more here from Vox Political

How Ed Miliband can harness the rights tactics to bring in a wave of left-wing populism in 2014 – Comment – Voices – The Independent

Owen Jones

2014 has to be the year when left-wing populism flourishes – If you haven’t read this then please give up five minutes to do so.

via How Ed Miliband can harness the rights tactics to bring in a wave of left-wing populism in 2014 – Comment – Voices – The Independent.

Hands off Hall Green Library

Birmingham City Council are currently undertaking service reviews across a broad range of services that they currently provide. As a result, the Green Paper – Developing Successful and Inclusive Communities has been published and is open for consultation. This paper looks in particular at the future delivery model of library services and has ramifications for all community library services across Birmingham.

I believe that our library in Hall Green is at the very heart of our community, but this is under threat as councils are being put under indeterminable pressures as a result of the depth and frontloading of cuts being made to local authority budgets by the Tory-led Government.

Here in Hall Green, there is a very real risk to our Library, and the effect of such a closure would be felt across the whole Ward. There would be potential job losses. Any closing and reduction of access to libraries will remove or reduce Internet access for the many residents who do not have it at home, place more strain on already stretched school library services and impact on adult education. This just isn’t right.

I have set up the 4hglibrary campaign and hope that both residents from Hall Green Ward and others who believe in the very real benefits that libraries provide to join with me in this campaign. Please visit the website for more details of the campaign and information about how you can support it.


Those who know me will know that I am an active trade unionist and therefore I do not underestimate the huge task ahead of us. While we can campaign for libraries and advocate their place in society we must be aware that as they are part of a larger organisation, that being the local authority, this fight will need to be one that is sustained. Whilst we have a Tory led government in power, the public spending cuts will become yet deeper over the coming years and libraries among other services will face continued attacks and ultimate destruction.

We need a Labour Assembly Against Austerity

Only a progressive economic policy can succeed for Labour.

A progressive economic policy is also the best way to reach out to secure a broad coalition of support. Voters living standards have dramatically declined under this coalition government. Sticking with Tory spending limits in the next Parliament would ensure their further decline and cut Labour support.

That is why Next Generation Labour is calling for a Labour Assembly Against Austerity in October 2013.

We need a Labour Assembly Against Austerity.

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. 

The end of youth services as we know it?

The Department of Education have signalled their wish to renounce all responsibility it has for youth service policy and instead suggested that it becomes part of the local authority remit. This at a time when the government has ensured councils have little money. With Birmingham’s grant settlement being cut by £79m, Leader of the Council, Sir Albert Bore has warned that the bleak financial outlook for council funding means it will have to make £600m in cuts by 2017, all being made in the ‘controllable’ part of the budget, potentially reducing its services to core “priority” areas such as adult social care and child protection. Albert’s predicted “end of local government as we know it” is borne out in a whole host of controversial reductions and cuts to services not protected by ringfencing, with youth services again bearing the biggest brunt of these cuts.

The Statistical Release from the Department for Education states that in the 2011-2012 financial year “[Local Authorities] spent a total of £876.6million (gross) on services for young people, a reduction of £307.5million (26%) compared to 2010-11”

.In response the National Youth Agency have said that “Analysis of the data shows that cuts to grants to local authorities have meant that 90 per cent of local authorities in England (137 out of 152) have reported a decrease in total expenditure on services for young people. However the scale of this change in expenditure varies hugely, from a 95.2 per cent decrease to a 65.5 per cent increase. Teenage pregnancy services and substance misuse services have been the worst hit, seeing a cut of approximately 43 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.”

A handful of authorities have axed their entire youth budget and the picture will only get bleaker this year and next year. A generation of young people are being deprived of the chance to benefit from the support of youth workers and are being punished by the Government’s failure to address the causes of economic stagnation.

Cuts to youth services do not make the news, but images of young people rioting do. Research undertaken by many have all determined the same conclusion. Cuts to youth services really is a false economy, yet they have been more severely cut than any other public service.

The positive impacts of youth work include; improved engagement with school and education; a positive impact on the incidence of crime and anti-social behaviour amongst young people; improvement in the wider learning and social skills of young people and helps to keep young people safe. This can be supported by ample evidence. For example, in 2004 the Youth Affairs Unit at De Montfort University found that “The interviews and case studies [of 600 young people] provided qualitative evidence of tangible outcomes which young people and workers attributed to youth work, including for example, reengaging with education or reducing drug use..”

Government Green Paper, Every Child Matters, 2003, paragraph 1.6, page 14 found that a child with a conduct disorder at age 10 will cost the public purse around £70,000 by age 28, a cost estimated to be up to ten times more than a child with no behavioural problems. Youth work and other positive interventions can help to avoid this.

In ‘Tired of Hanging Around’, the Audit Commission  argued that “Preventative projects are cost-effective. A young person in the criminal justice system costs the taxpayer over £200,000 by the age of 16, but one given support to stay out costs less than £50,000”. It costs around £35,000 per year to keep one young person in a Young Offender Institution compared to an annual average of £3,800 for secondary education and approximately £9,000 for the average resettlement package per young person after custody. None of this even begins to take into account the scarring impact the experiences of the criminal justice system has on the young person, their future prospects, and the detrimental impact on the wider local community.

A coalition of youth sector organisations and trade unions, Choose Youth argue that youth services need a national legislative and political commitment to creating a quality universal service for all young people aged 13-21. This should be protected in statute by dedicated ring fenced funding.

Labour has pledged to provide a statutory footing for youth services in its 2015 manifesto and is currently working on its youth policy. It cannot come to soon. Without a statutory base, the future for youth services is bleak. Youth services will continue to bear the brunt of the cuts as it is the easiest option. As Patrick Butler suggests, it’s a Big Society future for youth services which will be dependent on the ability, goodwill and resources of local people and the decreasing budgets of community chest.

This Tory led government is sticking two fingers up to our young people and treating them with utter contempt, relinquishing all responsibility for youth policy and effectively turning their backs on them. Our young people deserve so much more.



Ross McKibbin · Anything but Benevolent: Who benefits? · LRB 25 April 2013

Ross McKibbin presents a must read view of the Tory led government’s hostility to the welfare state and its relentless ideological stereotyping, perpetuated by the right wing press, but that underlines the electoral interest of the Tory Party.

Anything but Benevolent: Who Benefits?

“It seems appropriate that just as the ‘reformed’ welfare state is ushered in, Margaret Thatcher should be ushered out. Appropriate too, that she, whose policies generated so much homelessness, should end her days in the Ritz. There used to be a genre of Labour autobiography with titles like ‘From Crowscaring to Westminster’, ‘From Workshop to War Cabinet’, which expressed something admirable about their subjects. ‘From Grantham to the Ritz’ isn’t quite that. The procession of Tory grandees on TV reminding us how Thatcher saved the economy, rescued the country from the anarchy of the 1970s, restored our faith in Britain etc made depressing viewing since almost none of those things is true, while the acres of newsprint devoted to her career tell us much more about ourselves than they do about her.”  Read more here.

Wake up and smell the roses

David Cameron stands by his welfare reforms and refuses to accept any criticism of them despite a Financial Times analysis clearly showing that cuts are hitting poor people in the north far more than those in southern Conservative heartlands.

The research undertaken by the Financial Times shows that a raft of benefit changes, many of which came into effect on April 1st, and will have an annual impact of £607 per working age adult in Birmingham where 54.8% of neighbourhoods are among the poorest 20% in Britain. The average for local authorities in Great Britain is 15.1%.

Cameron refuses to ‘wake up and smell the roses’ and continues to insist that the coalition was right to tackle welfare dependency and denied the reforms would deepen regional economic divisions. He continues to peddle the scrounger v striver rhetoric, knowing that he is tapping into the insecurities that many are now facing and turning communities on each other.

Indeed, this is exactly what the facists did in the 1930’s, scapegoating particular groups for all of society’s problems. The video clip “Oswald Mosley and the Blackshirts” (Oswald Mosley and British Union of Fascists footage / BUF tribute) is a frightening portrayal of just how seductive the promises of fascism can be. Thousands of people turned up to the Olympia event, and thousands took to the street, organised in a military style, donned in uniform, marching for fascism. It was Mosley’s copycat scapegoating of Jews for societies problems that became the building blocks for his movement across London and the East End in 1936. Another video clip demonstrates the clear determination of the anti fascist demonstrators to ensure that Mosley and his supporters did not march down Cable Street. Scenes of violence between the demonstrators, the police and members of the BUF, albeit quite horrific, again show the united determination, by so many, to oppose fascism.

In Britain today, there are nearly as many workers unemployed as in the 1930s and many people, experiencing poverty and living difficult lives. There are over one million young people unemployed. The media remind us on a daily basis of the fear of a triple dip recession. Many ordinary working people are losing faith in politicians.

We have a coalition government, led by the Tories overseeing an economic recovery plan of austerity measures, involving cuts to public spending and welfare which is failing.

Behind the rhetoric being spun by the government, the one thing that is clear is that although Cameron is playing a dangerous game, but he needs to turn neighbour against neighbour, quite simply because he needs the votes. The newly-introduced £26,000 benefits cap for households is supported by more than three-quarters of voters of all three main parties, according to a poll when the policy was announced by the government last year.

We know that the Tories will not relent and will continue to peddle their right wing ideology, pushing more people into poverty in their quest to look tough on welfare and we must use the ensuing debate about how that policy is now being implemented to further highlight the unfairness of these policies. But we must remain mindful that amidst all of this political point scoring, how easy it might be for fascism to take a foothold once again in our society, particularly at a time of such great economic crisis, with so many living such wretched lives and many who might easily be seduced by the promise of something ‘different’.