Archives for category: Poverty

Hippo says: “We can forget the divide between left and right or whatever other divide the ambitious politician might try to invent. The divide is between the old who enjoyed student grants, decent healthcare, access to the housing market, social mobility and a pension and the young who are offered none of the above”.

Plastic Hippo writes that the government, currently deciding to deny voting rights to millions of young citizens, “might appear a little harsh if not actually undemocratic”. He offers ‘overwhelming evidence of reckless irresponsibility’, describing its generation (‘millions of people in the UK aged between 50 and 65’), as:

 “a group of wanton hedonists who deserve to be disenfranchised on the grounds of poor taste alone without even considering the total lack of respect, gratitude or accountability that they exhibit. Embracing a lifestyle of binge drinking, drug-taking and promiscuity, it is obvious that for the good of the nation, anyone aged between 50 and 70 should not be allowed to vote or to stand in an election to public office . . .

“Born after the Second World War . . . these self-proclaimed baby-boomers are now in positions of power and influence and have managed to turn a post-war economic miracle into a decade of unnecessary austerity that benefits the rich at the expense of the poor . . .

“(and) have brought us to the brink of a third global conflict, encouraging hatred and division within and beyond nations”.

A generation flocking to hear Jeremy Corbyn who offers them hope of a better future

“In 2014 there were about one and a half million 16 to 17-year-olds in the UK and in the last three years that number has almost certainly increased . . . Denied Surestart Centres, sensible class sizes in primary schools, adequate learning resources in secondary school and barriers to tertiary education, it is little wonder that the current government refuses to allow a democratic voice to the young people who will inherit the mess (remember that golden excuse of the last seven years) left by a government that cut ESA and tripled university tuition fees. People under the age of 25 do not qualify for housing benefit and have no right to the national living wage”.

Their fate is in the hands of this ungrateful post-war generation – regardless of ‘overwhelming evidence of reckless irresponsibility’ – charged by Hippo with “blatant indolence, a woeful lack of awareness and an apathetic indifference worthy of sheep being driven to an abattoir . . .”.

Caveat: the writer reminds Hippo that thousands of that fortunate generation have regularly and vehemently condemned the political measures depriving the young of chances in life enjoyed by the post-war generation.

But they have been denied an effective voice by an electoral system, applauded as offering  ‘strong government’ which is willing and able to steamroller the hopes of the young and all on lower incomes or in bad health.

 

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An emboldened Conservative government would indeed be good news for ‘Strong and Stable’ funeral directors, as:

  • air pollution continues unabated,
  • the health service deteriorates,
  • the incidence of adult depression and mental illness in children grows apace
  • ‘moral fibre’ rots: latest indication:10,000 Britons signed up to one of the world’s largest paedophile internet networks
  • and others are debt-ridden due to the daily onslaught of consumerist advertising,
  • sedated by inane, often BBC-provided TV quiz shows
  • or led astray by a violent TV/online diet.

Tom Young says May’s ‘Strong and Stable Government’: (is) More Than a Tagline – indeed it is and a Conservative stabilisation unit would, in future, see an increasingly  heavy workload.

New claimants with a disability have just been hit by a £30 a week cut in benefits to save the government £1bn over four years even though their living costs are higher because of the need for assisted travel, hospital appointments, extra heating, etc., and they are likely to take far longer to find a job.

A Hall Green friend who intends to vote Labour writes of his issue with the Labour message: “it remains too rooted in struggle and injustice, and not enough in giving people a reason to vote if they don’t suffer or struggle”.

But many well-placed voters are deeply concerned when seeing others in difficulties. And a far larger swathe of the population is struggling than he seems to think:

  • graduates in formerly secure jobs are being made redundant,
  • people in their twenties and twenties now see no option but to live with their parents,
  • many people are suffering from urban air pollution and miserable traffic congestion,
  • education cuts will affect their children as the Public Accounts Committee has warned,
  • in some areas people in need of healthcare are affected by a declining NHS service.
  • mental illness, no doubt in part due to one of more of these factors, is rising rapidly in both children and adults.

Professor Prem Sikka sees the positive, constructive Labour message; U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn plans:

  • to raise corporation tax by more than a third over the next three years and plough the £6bn proceeds into schools and universities,
  • restore maintenance grants for the poorest students,
  • abolish university tuition fees
  • guarantee that five, six and seven-year olds will not be taught in classes of more than 30.
  • creating a National Education Service to equip Britain’s workers for the post-Brexit economy,
  • extend free adult education to allow workers to upgrade their skills,
  • raise the cap on NHS wages, and
  • to build up to a million new homes, many of them council houses.

If ‘the sums don’t add up’, a standard Conservative knee-jerk reaction:

Withdraw subsidies from fossil fuel & nuclear companies and arms exporters, jettison HS2 and redirect investment to improving rail and waterway transport links.

Sikka rightly ends: People are our biggest asset and only they can build a nation. We have a choice: Tax cuts for the rich or investment in our future to enable people to realise their potential.

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ann-pettifor-talks-on-a-moral-economy-tickets-33229654792 or contact johnbnightingale@hushmail.com/07811 128831

Many people in Birmingham will remember the speaker -Ann Pettifor. She was a founder and leading spirit of the Jubilee 2000 debt campaign which in 1998 brought a human chain of 70,000 people onto the streets of this city in a great expression of human concern for the cancellation of the unjust and unpayable debts of developing countries.

After 2000 Ann joined the New Economics Foundation where she headed their research unit, and became involved in Prime Economics. She also set up Advocacy International, a UK-based consultancy which advises governments and international organisations and has helped secure debt relief for the governments of Guyana, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Among her publications are the books “The Coming First World Debt Crisis” (2006) and “The Production of Money” this year. She has been part of the Green New Deal Group and in 2015 was appointed to the British Labour Party’s Economic Advisory Committee.

 

 

 

 

The recent by-elections gave cover for the latest government announcement of emergency legislation inflicting further cuts on disabled people – ‘a good day to bury bad news’.

Two tribunals had ruled that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should expand the reach of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – which helps disabled people fund their living costs.

  • One ruling found that someone who needed support at home to take medication or monitor a health condition like diabetes would score the same on the benefits criteria as people who needed help with a demanding procedure such as kidney dialysis.
  • A second ruling said people who struggled to travel independently because of conditions such as anxiety scored the same as someone who was, for example, blind.

Ministers then swiftly revised the law to deny the increased benefit payments to more than 150,000 people.

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A Lib Dem work and pensions spokeswoman said it was outrageous that the government was using the ruling to make matters worse for disabled people: “What makes things even worse is that they have sneaked this announcement out under the cover of [Thursday’s] by-elections.”

From April, it is reported that new claimants will see a reduction of £29.05 in their entitlement, which will fall to £73.10 a week. This follows on from the cuts that the DWP tried to implement last year, which resulted in Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation.

Liz Sayce from Disability Rights UK said: “We’re not aware of one single disability employment or benefits expert who thinks this particular cut will be an incentive for disabled people to get a job.”

Unfortunately this logic, and a host of scathing comments seen in the Metro won’t pierce the thick skins of affluent legislators and further deprivation will hit the least fortunate in many sectors.

 

 

 

Kopfkino & Stirchley Baths

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Friday, 10 February 2017 from 19:30 to 22:30

Bournville Lane, Birmingham B30 2JT

0121 464 9072

Suggested donation £5. Pay what you will. Refreshments will be available.

I, Daniel Blake will be preceded by a short film, ‘To Be Home, Stirchley’ by Geoff Broadway

Proceeds from ticket sales will go to local charity SIFA Fireside. The venue is wheelchair friendly. Unfortunately the film does not have sign language or support for the hearing impaired at this time. There is parking, though this is limited whilst work is being done on the Friends Meeting House.

Please visit us by public transport where possible.

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This is a free screening so that it is accessible to all. If you can afford to pay, proceeds from ticket sales will go to local charity SIFA Fireside who improve health and inclusion for the homeless.

There is also a collection box year-round at Stirchley Baths for the B30 Foodbank. We encourage you to bring along donations.

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A Bournville resident draws attention to a research-based brief, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, an independent organisation working to inspire social change through research, policy and practice, which is summarised here.

Setting the scene:

“The West Midlands faces significant challenges to creating an inclusive economy: just under 600,000 people are income deprived and three in ten children are growing up in poverty. A significant minority of businesses report vacancies they cannot fill due to skills shortages – ranging from 18% in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership area to 28% in the Black Country (across England it is 22%). The challenge is not simply to get more people into work: in the UK today 55% of people experiencing poverty live in working households. Creating more and better jobs and connecting people in poverty to opportunities are at the heart of an inclusive growth agenda . . . The West Midlands mayoral area has a low employment rate and high unemployment . . . Ultimately, poverty is harmful to those who experience it, scarring their prospects, worsening mental and physical health and shortening lives. Healthy life expectancy is seven years shorter in Wolverhampton compared to Solihull for men, and nine years shorter for women.”

Advantages of a more inclusive West Midlands economy

For inclusive growth, the quality of jobs created and the skills and capabilities of local residents to take them up is every bit as important as the number of jobs. More jobs with decent pay and prospects, bring economic benefits: each time an out-of-work benefit claimant moves into a job paying the voluntary Living Wage (which is set with regard to the cost of essentials) the local economy is boosted by £14,400 on average.

Inclusive growth that helps to deliver lower poverty would also release resources that could be put to more productive use. An estimated £1 in every £5 spent on public services is linked to poverty, with the costs falling heavily on the health service, education and the police and criminal justice system.  

Education and skills are vital for people to make the most of economic opportunities, but children from low-income backgrounds achieve worse results at every stage of their education compared to those from better-off homes. This deprives businesses of talent. It also reduces people’s earnings potential, reduces the tax take and increases the risk that poverty will be passed from one generation to the next. JRF’s team could with advantage read Hatcher on the relationship between schools and the labour market

JRF has examined the relationship between deprived areas and local labour markets

In the West Midlands mayoral area the proportion of working age adults who are economically inactive (not looking for work because they are studying, looking after family, disabled or sick – 30%) is eight percentage points higher than the national average, and higher than other areas electing mayors.

The vast majority of deprived areas are geographically well connected to local job opportunities particularly in Birmingham, where 99% of deprived neighbourhoods either contain more jobs than working age people or are well connected to other areas with many jobs. This analysis suggests that the primary challenges are barriers to work such as lack of skills, caring responsibilities, health and disability are, rather than access issues such as transport.

An agenda requiring use of the Mayor’s soft power

Inclusive growth is an agenda, not a new policy initiative – and it is an agenda that will require strong leadership from the Mayor, involving:

  • raising ambition,
  • shaping strategy,
  • inspiring action,
  • marshalling resources,
  • drawing in collaborators from the public, private and voluntary and community sectors,
  • holding central government to account for actions that impact on poverty and prosperity in the West Midlands Mayoral area
  • and continuing to fight for the devolution of powers and resources to enable the Mayor to solve poverty.

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The Mayor will have some powers over employment support for people with significant barriers to work (the Work and Health Programme, above, due to be launched in 2017), and more significant powers in relation to adult skills and training. This is an area where the Mayor can make a difference.

The Mayor should help to champion a direct role for citizens too. An inclusive growth strategy must draw on the ideas and direct experience of local people, communities and voluntary and community sector organisations. Inclusive growth is not just the job of the Mayor, but the whole city region – its businesses, employers, institutions, service providers and communities.

To read the 13 page briefing, click here

To discuss in more detail, please contact info@jrf.org.uk

There will be an international conference sharing innovative policies and practice on Tuesday 24 January 2017 – 09:30 to 16:30. Central London, UK – Read more here.

 

 

 

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In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, gave additional taxpayer ­subsidies to the biggest builders – Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey, Barratt and Berkeley Group – who have missed affordable housing targets while watching profits soar. He announced a grant of £1.4bn into the affordable homes programme and £1.7bn for developers building on public sector land. But two-thirds of this pot is said to be old money re-packaged from three pre-existing funds, including the build-to-rent fund set up by George Osborne in 2012.

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The ‘big four’, who are all in the Home Builders Federation say that house building is a high risk business” and affordable housing targets are financially unviable. But the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) found than they plan to pay out £6.6bn in extra shareholders’ dividends by 2021.

Eight directors working for major housebuilders together earned £230m in the past five years. Two chief executives, Tony Pidgley and Rob Perrins, of Berkeley, have taken £141m in pay and share sales since 2011. They have shares totalling £440m.

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Meanwhile the country’s housing crisis escalates. The BIJ investigation highlights that as industry profits have ‘gone through the roof’, government statistics released in September show the number of households living in temporary accommodation in England increased 45% in the last six years to 73,120. Despite this, the number of affordable homes for rent or sale built fell to a 24-year low this year.

The big four built 50,000 houses in 2016, but have 450,000 empty building plots – ‘land banks’. The prices of their ‘aspirational’ housing have risen five times more than average wages in the last five years and the four biggest firms together made more than £2bn in pre-tax profits last year. Low supply and high demand has enabled housebuilders to charge substantial prices for the houses they sell – in some cases making an average profit of £127,000 per house according to the Bureau’s analysis.

How much the country gets in tax from these individuals and companies is called into question by Private Eye. Following a Freedom of Information request it was revealed – in great detail – that of £600m lent to five large property developers in the past three years under build-to-rent, a total of £167m – more than a quarter of all loans – went directly to companies with British names, based in the tax havens of Jersey and Guernsey, where, it comments, ‘any gains made are likely to escape tax’.

18 other blogs on the important subject of housing may be seen here: https://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/housing-18-blogs/.

 

 

 

 

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James Cox of Redbrick (via the Brummie) rightly says that “It would be fair and accurate to say that there is currently a wave of anti-establishment feeling in Western politics” and as – Stahl & Hansen explain – that is a reaction to the actions of the mainstream of the political class who have squandered people’s trust, by not having their best interests at heart

jc-standingCox uses the term Populism, an easy label, widely applied, often referring to those of all ages who are newly enthused, because ‘ordinary’ people, such as those in the picture above, for the first time for decades can see a glimmer of hope on the political horizon after decades of government by a self-seeking minority.

Perhaps a few fringe advisers do, as Cox asserts without giving his source(s), believe that election prospects can best be furthered by ‘utilising Corbyn’s image as an ‘unpolished conviction politician’ fighting for the little guy against big business and vested interests’ – and perhaps not.

Cox adds that Corbyn is not the man to lead this change of message and refers to ‘his performances’ and reaction to pressure from hostile journalists.

jc-2-housing-coverI refer him and all readers to JC’s confident performance and clear messages in recent PMQs and urge them to see this interview with a determinedly hostile journalist, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg – not the clearest example seen, but clear enough.

Mr Cox is also referred to the Media Lens analysis on this and other subjects – always well worth reading.

And as Mr Cox thinks Corbyn lacks a message and clear purpose he is recommended to study a series of six accessible reports (cover of Housing Policy report left) following this link: https://watershed2015.wordpress.com/articles-addresses-worth-reading/reports-economy-housing-rural-renewal-environmental-protection/

 

 

 

Many who are aware of the impending cuts to housing benefit (aka ‘reform the funding of supported housing’) and fearing these will lead to even more evictions are contributing to the government consultation, which closes on 13th February 2017.

Two off-beat non-political strategies have recently been reported:

A proposal by Peter Cave, a Londoner, in the FT:

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“Look down, late at night or early in the morning, as you wander within major towns and cities — and not just in the south-east — and you will see numerous people sleeping on the streets. They have hit unlucky. Look up at the large blocks of apartments; many are unoccupied, owned by those who have hit lucky in wealth and who treat property as investments.

“Here is a straight and frank solution. Initiate legislation, as an emergency, to allow the homeless to live in those empty apartments.

“The wealthy property owners and their friends in government would magically suddenly find the funds to build some good social housing for the homeless — and, indeed, for those suffering life in grim and expensive private rentals”.

Ajay Munot of Aurangabad acts

The Deccan Herald has reported that instead of holding a hugely lavish traditional wedding for his daughter, Mr Ajay Munot of Aurangabad decided to spend the money on helping the poorly-housed in his region.

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He constructed 90 terraced houses on two acres of land and selected residents using three criteria: they needed to be poor, live in a slum and not suffer from an addiction.

Meanwhile in Britain, evictions continue to rise.

 

 

 

 

Smirks all round – and, as usual, blame the system’s victims

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Philip Hammond in his autumn statement

“The productivity gap is well known, but shocking nonetheless,” Hammond said on Wednesday. “It takes a German worker four days to produce what we make in five, which means, in turn, that too many British workers work longer hours for lower pay than their counterparts.”

For obvious reasons he fails to mention the causes of higher productivity in Germany:

  • their industrial democracy, recently spurned by Theresa May
  • better education
  • better healthcare
  • better housing and
  • efficient transport

And of course no admission is made of the condition of productive workers on whatever type of British ‘shop floor’:

-the huge income disparity between them and the parasites who are highly paid for directing – and misdirecting – them,

-the corporate political nexus which has allowed the wealthiest to escape due tax payment

-and the poorer social services, education, healthcare, housing and transport provision.

Many will expect most of Mr Hammond’s investment fund for housing, infrastructure and innovation projects to find its way into the pockets of the usual suspects – corporate beneficiaries.

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Radical change is needed – and advocated by many, including Steve Schofield, in a new website,  to address these “grotesque inequalities”.