Benefits justice day of action

BenefitsJustice

Where housing benefit really goes

A press release from GMB union last week stated: HUGE PAYMENTS FOR HOUSING BENEFIT IN EAST OF ENGLAND SHOWS LANDLORDS ARE THE REAL WINNERS FROM BRITAIN’S WELFARE SYSTEM. Amongst the statistics that accompanied this release were the following, directly relevant to everyone in south Essex:

• Regis Direct Plc – £725,000 from Southend, £24,000 from Rochford. Donated £7,900 to Conservatives in 2008.
• Thorney Bay Park Ltd – £1.45m from Castle Point. Donated £3,000 to conservatives in 2001.
• Horwood, PACE plc – £596,000 from Southend, £12,500 from Rochford
• Martin & Co – Letting Agents, £3.1m from 20 districts nationally. £484,000 from Southend and £19,000 from Rochford
• Hopson Property Management Ltd – £761,000 from Southend
• The Letting Shop – £136,000 from Colchester and £29,000 from Chelmsford
• Northwood – National lettings Agency getting over £2.3m nationally. £251,000 from Milton Keynes, £162,000 from Chelmsford

I oppose the housing benefit cap because, whatever the intentions, its actual consequence is to drive the poor out of expensive areas. The effects of this are being felt in Southend as Londoners seek to escape over-priced and unaffordable accommodation costs.

Tenants do not get housing benefit – it goes straight to landlords. Despite what some of the headlines may imply, no-one on welfare is being made rich by housing benefit. There are those who are coining it in – the landlords. I think there is a problem here, and the solution is not the cap. The solution lies ultimately in the need for affordable housing, which can only be met with a vigorous house-building program.

There are 16,439 private rented households in Southend-on-Sea. 10,282 (62.5%) are in receipt of housing benefits.

The bedroom tax effect in Southend, so far

Following on from last week’s informative ‘axe the bedroom tax’ public meeting, organised by Southend Against the Cuts, I made some inquiries as to what the situation was locally.

There have been no evictions to date owing to the bedroom tax .
The number of tenants who have moved on a voluntary basis due to the bedroom tax is currently 59.

The zero evictions number is good news indeed. Quite how voluntary the moves by the fifty-nine were is anybody’s guess.

Public meeting: axe the bedroom tax

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Stand up to racism and fascism

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Save Priory and Delaware Residential Homes leaflet

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svPr2

Connecting. Homelessness, made with love, campaign organising, the bedroom tax

Me with India Witham

Me with India Witham

On Wednesday I went to my first meeting at The Forum, this was for #connectingmilton. This was organised by the Milton Community Partnership and was an opportunity for various people and groups in Milton to get together.

There was music laid on, and I did not initially notice that this was being provided by my long-standing friends Graham Burnett and Wayne Avrili (who, amongst other things, are members of The Stripey Zebras). It was good to catch up with them, and to jam with them too.

I had a long chat with someone who had spent many years on the streets. It was really interesting to hear firsthand about life for the homeless. Amongst the stories was that they had subsisted on wild rabbit for three months (just rabbit, no vegetables, no bulky carbohydrates, no drink). It was a fascinating and thought-provoking conversation. Homelessness is definitely on the rise in the town; I am told that there are between fifty and a hundred rough sleepers. As the winter nears and the weather turns one cannot but wonder how the homeless will deal with it. It certainly makes you think that being able to sleep somewhere warm and dry is a real treat for some people – and this is taken for granted by most. I mentioned to my once homeless conversationalist the number of long-term empty properties in the borough; they responded with the idea of the council purchasing a number and allowing these to be done-up and lived in by the homeless – an idea worthy of further consideration. One thing was evident from our chat and that was the good work being done by many of the churches and charities in the town – real life-savers for some of the most desperate in the community.

The Milton Ward Community First Panel have up to £2500 match funding available to fund a project in the ward. So, if you have an idea about a project to address one of local priorities get in touch. The MCP are also holding an Ideas Fair on Sunday, 8th December (3-5pm). There is £50 available for each person to develop their idea.

Last night I paid a visit to the opening launch of India Witham’s new shop: Made With Love. Fizz and nibbles were advertised – I stuck to orange juice and just a few of the nibbles. I had a quick chat with a couple of people there, and I hope that this venture is a success.

My stay at Made With Love was brief because I was had to leave to chair a Labour campaigns meeting at our headquarters in Sutton Road. I found this very useful, and I hope that my stewardship of the campaigning this year bears fruit come next May’s elections. We are cautiously optimistic.

Earlier in the week I managed to get to a Southend Against The Cuts organising meeting – albeit that I was late and it was nearly finished by the time I had negotiated the traffic. The one thing I can report is that there will be a public meeting on the Bedroom Tax in the near future.

Save our local libraries

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Southend People’s Assembly Against Austerity

Kate Hudson addresses the meeting

Kate Hudson addresses the meeting

Last night I went to the Southend People’s Assembly Against Austerity meeting at the Leigh Community Centre. Although the meeting was about the cuts in general, it covered the library cuts in some detail.

Chaired by Des Freedman of the Coalition of Resistance, the audience of about 80 listened to three speakers (a fourth, Francesca Martinez, could not make it). First up was Julian Esposito (who saw fit to adorn the meeting with vote Green Party posters). He gave a teacher’s perspective on the cuts. To be honest his speech did ramble a bit.

Julian was followed by Peter Passingham, a Unison official, local librarian, and organiser for Stand up for Southend Libraries. His speech spoke at length about the library service in Southend and the effects of the cuts.

Kate Hudson from CND and the Coalition of Resistance spoke about austerity, the cuts, the rolling back of the welfare state, and the People’s Assembly. Kate wants a strong anti-cuts message from the Labour Party, who she believes will win the next General Election.

I announced my presence, and thought I was the only councillor present. I was not; Cllr Mark Bromfield from Leigh Town Council also spoke in the question and answer section that followed the main speakers.

Southend Against The Cuts AGM 2013

Nick Bradley addresses the meeting

Nick Bradley addresses the meeting

At last night’s Southend Against The Cuts AGM the three officers were re-elected. Thus, Tim Sneller remains as Chair, Julian Esposito was re-elected as Secretary, and I will see my third year as Treasurer. Prior to the elections I presented my annual report, a story of fairly low amounts in and out and a general need to raise some funds to finance campaigning. Any donations can be sent to me (email warelane@gmail.com if you wish to contribute).

The very brief business of the AGM was followed by the public meeting.

The first speaker was Mick Patrick from Defend Council Housing. He spoke about the benefit cuts, changes to DLA and the ATOS testing regime, council tax benefit, the bedroom tax and universal credit. He also spoke about the benefits justice campaign which he is also part of.

Nick Bradley, a regional organiser with UNISON, spoke on the destruction of the NHS by the Coalition Government. He also touched on the dismantling of the welfare state that is going on, and spoke about the Health and Social Care Act.

The good sized audience then had an opportunity to debate the issues touched on by the two speakers, as well as throwing in a few new points. Everyone was encouraged to get involved in the Southend Echo blood test campaign. It was also noted that the PCS is planning a day of action on budget day (March 20th).

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