If people re-associate with
the world of work, suddenly they come alive again. Work will overcome
depression and stress a lot more than people sitting at home watching
daytime television. - David Blunkett, Secretary of State,
Department of Work & Pensions.
While sitting down to a morning of Trisha
might not help you out of your depression, SchNEWS reckons that
neither will doing a shit McJob. According to Blunkett the welfare
benefits system in the UK is crackers. But in the worlds
fourth largest economy, the thing thats crackers is that the
sick and disabled can be made to live on as little as £57.65
per week. Neo Labour thinks that such a large wad of cash only helps
to encourage people to sit on their arses; after all in a country
where the average wage is £431, it must be a doddle to get
by on less than sixty quid a week. Now the plan is to take away
a third of a claimants Incapacity Benefit as a sanction if
they dont attend work focused interviews.
Neo Labour knows all about nicking poor peoples
money. Almost as soon as it took power it axed single parent child
benefit and then launched the Benefits Integrity Project
which managed to take away Disability Living Allowance from amputees
and the blind. Next went the Severe Disability Allowance worth at
least £46 per week for 10,000 of the most disabled people
in the country. This time the target is Incapacity Benefit, which
is claimed by 2.6m people in the UK and costs the government £7bn
a year. Thats one quarter of the UK defence budget - about
the amount Britain spent on the war in Iraq by January 2005.
Ministers say that they are unhappy at the
big increase in claimants, even though the number of people on Incapacity
Benefit has actually fallen by over 100,000 since 1997! The vast
majority of claims are made by men living in former areas of heavy
industry: the real increase in claimants came in the 1980s as the
Tories used Incapacity benefit to hide the real unemployment figures
and disguise the cost of their restructuring programme.
What this has lead to is large pool of potential
labour which doesnt come under the threat of all the sanctions
associated with Job Seekers Allowance. Welfare to work
US style is to be rolled out for all. The sick and disabled are
now to be expected to look for work or face sanctions which could
cost up to £30 a week for not attending work focused
interviews. The policy is designed to push one and all into
low-paid, boring repetitive and casualised jobs. If you refuse to
give in to the delights of minimum wage boredom, you face living
on sod all a week. Blunkett meanwhile, earns more than that in 30
minutes. Tony Blair set out the policy when he told a news conference
that, those who play by the rules get the help, those who
dont play by the rules should start playing by the rules.
So far Blair has failed to indicate whether this policy extends
to international law and corporate tax dodgers.
Blunkett complains that many parts of Britain
have lost the work ethic that existed in working-class estates
in which I grew up in northern Sheffield. But maybe the work
ethic, as Blunkett narrowly understands it, has gone because the
works gone. In the UK there are just 628,000 job vacancies
at any one time, not even enough for the 800,000 people on Jobseekers
Allowance, yet alone the other 2.6m people on Incapacity Benefit
and nowhere near enough for the total of 8m people who do not work.
Blunkett of all people should consider himself lucky that the welfare
state was there to help him: a recent report by the Royal National
Institute of the Blind found that over 90% of companies say that
employing blind and partially-sighted people would be difficult
FOR WHOSE BENEFIT?
So whats the incentive to get off benefit?
A road to riches and personal fulfilment? Past experience suggests
otherwise. Many are trapped in a cycle of unemployment and low paid
temp work. If youre single, you get to keep just a fiver of
your Jobseekers Allowance if you go into low paid work. A 16 hour
minimum wage job gets you £80 a week, losing you £52
of JSA - so youre basically working for less than £2
an hour. For every £1 you earn your Housing Benefit goes down
by 60p and your council tax benefit by 80p. In other words to make
work worthwhile you need to earn hundreds of pounds per week. That's
without the soul destroying impact of your boring jobs...
With his £133,997 salary, David Blunkett
clearly understands the plight of the poor. MPs about to vote for
benefit cuts have awarded themselves another 3% increase in pay.
And on behalf of their colleagues in big business, ministers have
just created a new tax cut for self-invested personal pensions.
From next April, high-earners will be able to cash in on an effective
40% discount on second homes. Higher-rate taxpayers
will be able to set the cost of these properties against their tax
bills. In future, a higher-rate taxpayer buying a £100,000
property through the scheme would receive a £23,000 refund
personally and a further £28,000 refund into the pension fund,
making a total rebate of £51,000. Thats 17 times the
cost of one, annual, Incapacity Benefit claim.
There are not enough homes to go round as
it is without making it even more profitable to buy a second house.
Less houses means higher prices. Higher prices means larger rents.
Larger rents means more money being spent on Housing Benefit and
that means more spending on welfare benefits. The fact that these
benefits go straight from the tax payer into the pockets of already
rich landlords doesnt seem to bother ministers in the slightest.
Theyre much more concerned with lazy people in wheelchairs
watching Richard and Judy. After all, if theyre too bone idle
to have a little place in the country, then frankly who cares?
A staggering £4.5bn of benefits each
year go unclaimed by those who are entitled to them. Meanwhile,
government mistakes in the administration of benefits cost £1bn
a year. But rather than put cash into a benefit take-up campaign
for Britains poorest, ministers are to chuck more resources
at anti-fraud measures, including the potential use of lie detectors
to verify that claimants arent telling porkies.
By forcing people into low paid work and then
topping up poverty wages with tax credits and other
benefits, labour costs can be kept to a minimum. Each
year the government spends millions of pounds giving people extra
money because their wages are not enough to keep them out of poverty.
Without this extra cash people would refuse to work for such low
pay and employers would have to increase wages until people thought
the jobs were worth doing for the money on offer. The government
gives big business this hefty subsidy from tax payers money,
yet it chooses to attack the most vulnerable in society rather than
end its support of big business. Cutting disability benefits is,
according to ministers, the best way to liberate people to
make the most of their lives Do
you want fries with that?
CRAP ARREST OF THE WEEK
For coming back from a demo...
Eight animal rights activists found themselves detained in Ramsgate
under Schedule 7 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act when they came
back from an anti fur demo in Germany. They were held and questioned
by plain clothed police for four and half hours before being released.
One of those questioned told SchNEWS Most of what they asked
related to the SHAC campaign although the six million dollar question
from the police was What do you understand by the words 'direct
action'? They probably told the coppers something about how
the only viable means for an oppressed global
proletariat to free itself from the neo-liberal imperialist boot
on its neck, officer. Needless to say this fishing expedition
ended with all eight being released without charge.
Seige of the ALMO
For those of us whove had to rent crap accommodation from
scumbag landlords, the idea of renting a house from your local council
at about a third of the cost sounds like a good idea. But it now
seems even the idea of a decent, cheap place to live is not safe
from the Neo Labour privatisation machine. Council tenants are being
offered the chance to transfer their houses over to Housing Associations
or an ALMO (Arms Length Management Organisations) and
pay more rent to line the pockets of private shareholders. Most
council tenants for some reason arent finding this offer very
The government admits that 12 million homes in the social sector
are not up to scratch and have given councils until 2010 to get
things sorted, but like any greedy landlord they wont stump
up the few million needed to mend all the leaky roofs and broken
doors. So, they are trying to offload the responsibility onto the
private sector: council tenants across the country have been balloted
to persuade them to transfer to housing associations or ALMOs.
Tenants whove been offered the choice though have generally
rejected ALMOs and transfers to associations and voted to keep their
housing stock with the council. Housing association tenants have
less security in their housing they are only given assured
tenancies, rather than the secure tenancy that
comes with council homes - 'assured' means less rights and tenants
are more easily evicted if behind on rent. For the privilege they
have to pay 20% more than council tenants, with a big chunk going
into the pockets of shareholders and directors. Chief executives
have seen their salaries increase by almost three and half times
the rate of inflation, with average pay over £90,000, although
thats nothing compared to David Bennett of Sanctuary Housing,
who in 2002 took home a paltry £215,000 paycheck.
In Sunderland, housing stock was sold off to Sunderland Housing
Group (SHG) for a mere £6,273 per property. City Council Housing
Director Peter Walls masterminded the scheme, then promptly left
and became Chief Executive of... Sunderland Housing Group for double
his previous salary! SHG have made a tidy profit by selling off
many homes and have only built 100 new social housing
homes - instead preferring to invest heavily in luxury flats.
Despite mass propaganda campaigns - the government having exclusive
access to the addresses of the electorate, unlimited public resources
to promote their case, and the ability to deny their opponents access
to public meeting spaces - council tenants have not been fooled.
Tenants in 92 councils have voted to keep housing in council hands.
Recently Tony Blairs constituency of Sedgfield voted against
transfer. Despite spending £250,000 on propaganda, Exeter
council have dropped privatisation proposals. Southwark council
recently formally withdrew its privatisation proposals in the face
of a united campaign involving tenants and council workers.
SchNEWS guesses that youve got to spend money to save it.
At least thats one possible explanation why the government
has been criticised by the National Audit Office for spending an
average £1,300 to transfer each home to new housing associations.
But according to Defend Council Housing, theres plenty of
cash around to pay councils to maintain their properties. Each year
the treasury siphons off £1.5bn from the Housing Revenue Account
to use for other purposes (fancy another war anyone?). The money
is there, but the ideology of the market is preventing it from being
used for the benefit of local residents its a kind
of tax on council tenants.
Despite the success of many campaigns, council homes are still
falling into private sector hands; some tenants have brought their
property under right-to-buy schemes (with a massive discount) and
then after three years sold for a handsome sum to a private landlords
who then rent out the place for whatever they can get away with!
Its pretty clear that private landlords are crap at helping
people find decent homes and a three-bed ex-council flat on a run-down
estate in the east end of London can now cost £1,200 per month.
According to Shelter, one million children are living in unfit homes,
93,000 people are living in temporary housing and hundreds of thousands
are either homeless or living in overcrowded homes. With a shortage
of social housing the campaign to save council housing
is crucial especially at a time when the government is giving
tax breaks to the rich to invest in the buy-to-let-it-out-for-as-much-as-you-can-screw-people-for
* Defend Council Housing 020 79879989 www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk/dch
SchNEWS TRAINING DAY
Live in the Brighton area? Want to get involved? We are having
another training day on Wed 26th October 12 noon onwards. Please
get in touch to book your place.
SchNEWS IN BRIEF
- The G8 Deal Exposed - Did Bush, Blair and Bob Make Poverty
History? What came of the promises made? Indymedia Film Night
Monday 17th plus speakers from from Corporate Watch and the African
Liberation Support Campaign Network. 7pm, Inn On The Green, 3
Thorpe Close, London W10.
- Theres a Dissent Gathering happening in Sheffield
this weekend (15-16th) www.
- Brightons collectively owned social centre has
an open day this Saturday (15th) - if you want to find out how
the place runs, or are interested in volunteering get along to
The Cowley Club, 12 London Road, 11am-4pm 01273 696104 www.cowleyclub.org.uk
- The Remember Saro-Wiwa Season; A 10th anniversary season
of public art, film, music, dance, poetry and debate 21 October
- 10 November 020 7357 0055 www.remembersarowiwa.com
- The Norwich No N25 Campaign is fighting the Northern
Distribution Road, which will trash environmentally sensitive
areas, increase traffic, separate village communities and assist
airport expansion of Stanstead. The council have overstated the
economic benefits while under-pricing the road - using
2000 figures for materials instead of up-to-date ones! Theyve
arranged a protest for the East of England Plan Enquiry at Ely
on 1st November. www.norwichn25.org
- Dont forget the Anarchist Bookfair - speakers,
films, talks - and of course millions of books - happening next
Saturday (22nd) The Resource Centre, 356 Holloway Road, London
N7. 10am-6pm Free/Donation www.anarchistbookfair.org
- Vigil for the 'Death Of Democracy' - to fight housing development
in ancient woodland at Titnore Woods near Worthing. Meet
at 2pm Sat 29th October at Northbrook College roundabout, junction
of Titnore Lane and A259 near Goring Stn. www.protectourwoodland.fsnet.co.uk
Earth Liberation activist Chris McIntosh has entered a plea
bargain with the US authorities over the arson of a Seattle McDonalds.
Chris now faces 10 years inside. He was originally threatened with
30 years. Please send urgent letters of support to Christopher McIntosh
30512-013, FDC Seatac Federal Detention Center, P.O. BOX 13900,
Seattle, WA 98198, USA. Chris has also been on hunger strike to
protest at lack of adequate vegan food, but came off it after threats
of force feeding. See www.spiritoffreedom.org.uk
for updates on Chris and other current Earth/Animal Liberation Prisoners.
While the government is moaning on about scroungers and cheats
and reckon that working in dead end jobs for £5 an hour is
enough to live on, they dont seem so keen on chasing the rich
for their taxes.
Its not just top media tycoon Rupert Murdoch who pays virtually
no tax thanks to his use offshore tax havens: Neo Labour donor and
third richest man in the world, Lakshmi Mittal, worth £13bn,
owns a £57m London home next to Kensington Palace but by claiming
the UK isnt his primary residence, pays bugger all tax, and
also avoids capital gains tax on UK assets by holding them in a
foreign company or trust. The business empire of retail billionaire
Philip Green is mostly held in the name of his wife, Tina, who is
resident in Monaco. Taveta Investments, the vehicle used to acquire
Arcadia in 2002, paid out a hefty £460m to its owner last
year; Green, who spends much of his time in Britain, would have
been landed with a £150m tax bill if he officially owned Taveta
but as it's held by the missus, a minuscule amount of tax is due.
What these super rich are doing is perfectly legal you see
they can afford to employ accountants to move their money about
in clever ways to avoid tax. The rest of us see our wages taxed
at source and the closest we get to tax avoidance is a day trip
to France to stock up on booze and fags.
It is reckoned that the worlds super rich are hiding $11.5
trillion in tax havens around the world (10 times Britains
GDP). The annual income that these assets earn is $860bn and taxable
income from this could exceed $255bn. And that doesnt include
the trillions held in overseas accounts for multinational corporations;
offshore companies of this type are springing up at the rate of
about 150,000 a year. Whereas in the 1970s there were just 25 tax
havens, now there are at least 63, about half of them British protectorates
or former colonies. Tax avoidance in Britain alone is estimated
to cost the Treasury between £25bn and £85bn a year.
The rich stashing away cash is nothing new, but the gulf between
the haves and the rest of us just gets wider and wider. This
is one of the defining crises of our times, reckons John Christensen
of the Tax Justice Network, One of the most fundamental changes
in our society in recent years is how money and the rich have become
more mobile. This has resulted in the wealthy becoming less inclined
to associate with normal society and feeling no obligation to pay
George Gelber, head of public policy at Catholic aid agency Cafod,
says: The people who use tax havens are free-riders on the
taxes paid by working people round the world. They pay little or
nothing for public goods such as the rule of law and security, which
have to be paid for by the taxes of much less well-off people.
For more on the rich dodging their taxes: www.taxjustice.net
According to the Dole Office, having a conscience means you are
restricting your ability to work and deserve dole sanctions. One
jobseeker from Darwen, Lancashire, was told that refusing to work
in the offices of a meat-packing and leather goods factory because
he was a vegan was unreasonable.
Ordered to apply for two positions advertised in the Job Centre,
he declared the whole truth about his green beliefs and attitudes
in his CV. The company made a complaint to the Job Centre
for sending an overqualified person for a job paying minimum wage,
and someone with his 'whacky' beliefs!
SchNEWS warns all readers that work won't liberate you, but
direct action just might... Honest.
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