By Sarah Pine at LabourList
A Conservative disability campaigner has quit his role in disgust for the Tories’ cuts to disability benefits following George Osborne’s Budget.
The former NHS worker left a message for the party on the Conservative Disability Group site, saying “the website is closed due to disability cuts and the resignation because of these of webmaster Graeme Ellis”.
Ellis has said the cuts were “destroying lives” in an interview with the Mirror.
“I’m appalled by what’s happened and wanted to make a very public statement. I’ve been a Conservative voter since I could vote. But as a lifelong Conservative I could no longer agree with what the government’s doing.”
The Conservative Budget cut £4.4billion from Personal Independence Payments, money used to help with costs of having a long-term disability. This follows the cuts to Employment and Support allowance, which removes £30 a week from sick or disabled people.
These cuts were combined with tax breaks for the rich, with a decrease in Capital Gains Tax, a reduction in the number of people who pay the higher rate of income tax and top-ups for those with spare cash to save.
A spokesperson for the Conservatives dismissed the news, saying “The Conservative Disability Group has not deactivated its website. The owner of the domain, who is no longer a member of the Group, has deactivated it without any instruction to do so.”
Ellis’ decision was quickly highlighted to Labour MPs. MP Cat Smith wrote on Twitter: “too many disability cuts for Conservative Disability Group webmaster Graeme Ellis who has quit in style”.
In response to acting Leader Harriet Harman’s support for Osborne’s attack on poor families (also backed by leadership candidate Liz Kendall), Shiraz calls on readers to sign up to Corbyn’s petition against cuts to working families tax credits.
The Tory budget means taking child tax credits off working families.
If you back my call that Labour should be opposing this plan, you can join the thousands who’ve added their names since last night and sign my petition.
It’s a policy that hits working families with more than two children.
Yesterday we heard Labour might not vote against this policy. From my campaign, we immediately said no – we must oppose this.
It is now said our position on this is to wait until we have a new leader.
I don’t want us to spend the summer waiting to oppose this policy. We must oppose it now.
This matter goes to the heart of our choice on the future of our economy, and how we oppose the Conservative Party.
If we want to get the benefit bill down, let’s invest in secure jobs and affordable homes, not squeeze those trying to make ends meet.
To win, we must set out a clear alternative to the cuts and austerity of the Conservatives.
If you want Labour to stand for a modern Britain, join our movement.
Sign the petition against the child tax credit cut and please ask your friends to join you.
Jeremy Corbyn MP
This is an absolute fucking disgrace:
Michael Hinton, a mentally ill man from Accrington was being evicted from his home of 33 years for £500 worth of bedroom tax arrears, when he tried climbing onto the roof to escape the bailiffs. He has now been jailed for criminal damage to the tiles.
This case, though particularly shocking in its blatant injustice, is just one of the more newsworthy cases of the misery and homelessness imposed by the full weight of bailiffs, police, courts and councils’ pursuit of people who can’t pay the Bedroom Tax..
Mr Hinton had every right to resist eviction and socialists and the union movement should offer practical solidarity to all of those resisting, as well as campaigning for Michael’s immediate release.
The Labour Party has promised to repeal the bedroom tax, which is a positive step, but we need Labour councils to adopt a no evictions, no implementation policy and for housing associations to stop evictions over these arrears.
The incident happened on June 4. Mr Hilton has since pleaded guilty to committing criminal damage and has been remanded in custody. Mr Hilton has been in Forest Bank prison in Salford since June 5. He will be sentenced at Burnley Crown Court on October 9.
A protest in his support took place outside the court on Monday and another is expected at the court on October 9.
More background detail here.
H/t: Dave K
A surprisingly fair and sympathetic piece by Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, who appeared on Channel 5’s The Big Benefits Row last night. The standard health warning about re-blogs here at Shiraz (ie don’t assume we agree with all of it) applies:
Katie Hopkins, Matthew Wright and Spectator reader White Dee
My night with White Dee — and Channel 5’s Big Benefits Row
What do you get if you mix the Jeremy Kyle show with Question Time? Channel 5 tried to find out this evening in a one-off debate about benefits and I was one of the 25 – yes, 25 – guests they asked along. Matthew Wright tried to keep the order, and the debate ranged (or, rather, raged) from the morality of benefits for immigrants to high MTR rates for welfare. It was more of a verbal explosion than a debate – you’d have working single mums screaming (“give me a job, innit!”) at benefit-dependent single mum. Edwina Currie baiting the lefties, with visible enjoyment. Even a mini protest (“every mum’s a working mum”) and Katie Hopkins who, with her ‘you’re all evil scroungers’ act, wound up the audience perfectly. And Jack Monroe, of the austerity recipe fame, who was admonished for using the f-word. It was kind of political panto.
Even Peter Stringfellow was present- in his capacity as a pensioner on benefits. He was very keen to touch the hem of Rachel Johnson, there as she’d recently spent a week living on £1 a day and has (as she put it) “friends with benefits”. The ex-Guardian journalist, Sarfraz Manzoor, was there to heckle Katie Hopkins and just when you though the evening couldn’t get more bizarre, up pops Terry Christian (ex-The Word) to stick the knife into Ms Hopkins as well. Margot James, a Tory MP and member of the 10 Downing St policy group, was watching all this, open-mouthed, from the front row.
But the star of the evening, for my money, was White Dee. She was then, as she is in Benefits Street, calm, articulate and funny – and making more sense than the rest of the guests put together. When the show closed, everyone came to to her asking for autographs and taking selfies. She kindly said that she was a Spectator reader (all the best people are) and that she liked our coverage of the Benefits Street debate.
I’m not sure what was learned this evening, given the variety of angles the topic was approached from – and the brave attempt to mix the Jerry Springer-style fights with the likes of myself jabbering on about marginal tax withdrawal rates (see below). But one thing’s for sure: after years of being an incredibly dull policy area, welfare reform is now one of the hottest topics in Britain. It is capable of breaking out of the normal confines of Westminster debate, and into a wider realm where wilder beasts roam and many more millions pay attention. And where poll after poll (including one taken for the show) makes clear that the public still backs reforms – still, that is, on the side of the government.
PS Here’s the point I was trying to make. White Dee doesn’t work because if she found part-time work and wanted to increase her hours, she’d find herself trapped in a system that would, in effect, tax her at 100 per cent for the work that she does. There is so much poverty in Britain because we have destroyed the economic function of work for the low-paid. Below is the Marginal Deduction Rate (i.e., benefits withdrawn, as a percentage of money earned) for someone in White Dee’s situation (i.e., a lone mother with two children).
The EU Commission’s report (Impact of mobile EU citizens on national social security systems) leaves no room for doubt: the Tories’ campaign against so-called “benefits tourism” is based upon a pack of lies.
The report finds that “mobile EU citizens are less likely [ie than the national average] to receive disability and unemployment benefits in most countries studied.” In the UK, EU migrants account for just 4% of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants while representing more than 5% of those in employment.
EU spokesman Jonathan Todd told BBC Two’s Daily Politics, “the vast majority of migrants go to the UK to work, and they actually contribute more to the welfare system than they take out, purely because they tend to be younger than the average population, and of working age. The more EU migrants you have, the better off your welfare system is.”
The report also contradicts the claim, published in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph that “600,000 unemployed migrants are living in Britain…at a cost of £1.5 billion to the NHS alone”. The 600,000 figure turns out not to refer to those who are unemployed but to those who are “economically inactive”, including pensioners, students, school children and the disabled. Of this total, those out of work and claiming Jobseekers Allowance amount to just 28%. In addition, the figures published in the study show that EU migrants are less likely than their UK counterparts to be economically inactive or unemployed. Thirty per cent of migrants are “non-active” compared to 43% of British citizens, while 7.5% are out of work, compared to 7.9% of UK nationals (the unemployment rate at the time the study was conducted).
Here’s the statement from László Andor, the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion:
The study makes clear that the majority of mobile EU citizens move to another Member State to work and puts into perspective the dimension of the so called benefit tourism which is neither widespread nor systematic. The Commission remains committed to ensuring that EU citizens that would like to work in another EU country can do so without facing discrimination or obstacles.
Downing Street responded by issuing a statement saying there is “widespread and understandable” concern about “benefit tourism”: in other words, never mind the facts, just pander to prejudice.
NB: In writing the above, I made extensive use of this report on the New Statesman website – JD
Following a scathing report on UK housing conditions (and, in particular, the bedroom tax) from UN special rapporteur Raquel Rolnick, Tory Chairman Grant Shapps appeared on the BBC Today programme not to respond to her points, but to rant about her being “a woman from Brazil” and to demand “an apology and investigation into how this came about” from the UN.
Ms Rolnick, a member of the Brazilian Workers Party, had said of the Bedroom Tax, “I was very shocked to hear how people really feel abused in their human rights by this decision and why — being so vulnerable — they should pay the cost of the economic downturn, which was brought about by the financial crisis. People in testimonies were crying, saying ‘I have nowhere to go’, I will commit suicide’.”
Ms Rolnick is a former urban planning minister. Grant Shapps is…what, exactly?
Well, a shyster, liar and charlatan for a start.
The photo above shows him posing as “Michael Green”, a “multi-million dollar web marketer” at an internet conference in Las Vegas in 2004.
Between 2004 and 2009 he ran a website called MichaelGreen-Consulting.com (part of a company he owned called How To Corp) giving get-rich-quick advice until blocked by Google for breaching its rules on copyright infringement. In his early years as an opposition MP, he also charged clients £183 an hour for advice on how to make money from the web and tips on beating the recession. When he unsuccessfully ran for Parliament in 1997, in the South London seat of Southwark and Bermondsey, his election leaflets described him as ‘a Londoner by birth’. When he stood successfully in Welwyn Hatfield in 2005, his literature stated that he was ‘born in Hertfordshire’.
In 2008 Shapps transferred his share in How To Corp to his wife and claimed he had “no [further] involvement” with it. Since he entered Parliament in 2010, all How To Corp’s websites have disappeared, removing all traces of “Michael Green” and his business activities.
So who would you trust and believe on the bedroom tax (or anything, come to that): the UN’s special rapporteur on housing, with five years’ experience of carrying out housing investigations in places as varied as the US, Croatia, Argentina, Israel, Rwanda, Palestine, Kazakhstan, Indonesia and Algeria… or a fly-by-night spiv from Watford who once used a false name to sell get-rich-quick schemes?
From Leigh Day & Co:
Lawyers vow to fight on after losing part of their battle on overturning the Government’s ‘Bedroom Tax’
Lawyers representing adults and children with disabilities who are challenging the Government’s ‘Bedroom Tax’ have vowed to fight on after today losing part of their High Court battle to halt the controversial new housing benefit regulations that came into force on 1st April this year.
Since 1 April 2013, persons deemed to have 1 spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14% and persons deemed to have 2, or more, spare bedrooms have had their housing benefit reduced by 25%. The claimants all argued that these new Housing Benefit rules discriminate against people with disabilities.
The Court accepted that they are discriminatory, but decided that the discrimination was justified and therefore lawful – apart from in cases of disabled children unable to share a bedroom because of their disabilities.
Disabled Children and Bedroom Sharing
The Court found that the Secretary of State has been aware that the law must be changed to provide for disabled children since May 2012, and they were highly critical of his failure to make Regulations to provide for them. Lord Justice Laws said that the current state of affairs “cannot be allowed to continue”.
The Government must now make Regulations “very speedily” to show that there should be “no deduction of housing benefit where an extra bedroom is required for children who are unable to share because of their disabilities.”
The Wider Group
However the Court held that discrimination against adults with disabilities, even those in the same situation to children with disabilities who could not share a room, was justified. Lawyers for adults with disabilities today said that they believe this cannot be right.
They should be entitled to full Housing Benefit for the accommodation they actually need.
Lawyers for adults with disabilities today confirmed that they intend to appeal the ruling, arguing that the discriminatory impact of the measure on people with disabilities cannot be justified and is unlawful.
Disabled children and their families also intend to appeal as they are now left in a position where they do not know whether in fact they are entitled to full housing benefit to meet the costs of the homes that they need.
This is because the Government has declined to confirm that the new Regulations, which the Court says must be made, will cover their situations, or to provide a date by which the new Regulations will be made.
Since the new housing legislation was introduced it has had a devastating effect on many people across the country. Charities, Social Landlords and Advice Agencies have spoken out about the plight of people with disabilities who have been affected by the measure.
3 law firms are representing the Claimants: Hopkin Murray Beskine, Leigh Day and Public Law Solicitors.
Richard Stein from the Human Rights team at Leigh Day said:
“This is a most disappointing result. We will be seeking an urgent appeal to the Court of Appeal. Many people with disabilities including our clients may lose their homes unless the law is changed. Their lives are already difficult enough without the fear of losing their accommodation which has been provided specifically to meet their exceptional needs.”
The Guardian identifies some “puzzling anomalies” in the judgement.
From The Mirror website:
Ten days ago Stephanie Bottrill sat in the redbrick terrace house which had been home for 18 years to write notes to her loved ones, the Sunday People reports.
She ripped the pages from a spiral-bound notebook and placed them neatly in little brown envelopes.
There was one for her son. Another for her daughter. Her mother. Friends. And a very special one for the year-old grandson she doted on.
Then in the early hours of last Saturday Stephanie, 53, left her home for the last time, leaving her cat Joey behind as the front-door clicked shut.
She crossed her road in Meriden Drive, Solihull, to drop one of her letters and her house keys through a neighbour’s letterbox. Then she walked 15 minutes through the sleeping estate to Junction 4 of the M6.
And at 6.15am she walked straight into the path of a northbound lorry and was killed instantly. Stephanie Bottrill had become the first known suicide victim of the hated Bedroom Tax.
In the letter to her son, Steven, 27, she had written: “Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.”
Read the full article, from the Mirror, here
As a general rule, it’s the political right who object to attempts to explain crime by reference to the social, economic or political context in which it occurs. This is, they say, to make excuses and to let evil people off the hook. Individuals must be accountable for their actions and distractions like poverty and unemployment should not enter into the equation.
This petition has now reached over 200,000 signatures:
This petition calls for Iain Duncan Smith, the current Work and Pensions Secretary, to prove his claim of being able to live on £7.57 a day, or £53 a week.
On Monday’s Today Programme David Bennett, a market trader, said that after his housing benefit had been cut, he lives on £53 per week. The next interviewee was Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who was defending the changes. The interviewer then asked him if he could live on this amount. He replied: “If I had to, I would.”
This petition calls on Iain Duncan Smith to live on this budget for at least one year. This would help realise the conservative party`s current mantra that “We are all in this together”.
This would mean a 97% reduction in his current income, which is £1,581.02 a week or £225 a day after tax* [Source: The Telegraph]
It’s not, perhaps, the most sophisticated response to the Tories’ across-the-board attack on welfare claimants (whilst simultaneously cutting the income tax on the earning £150,000 or more). But it’s bloody effective.
You never know, it might even embarrass Iain Duncan Smith to give it a try…but it would have to be for a year (as the petition demands) for it to be meaningful.