Winter Fuel Allowance error

I have had a resident contact me to let me know about the following error that had happened to him. I hope others will check their allowances.

I have been receiving Winter Fuel of £200 each year but this year it has been cut to £100 because there is someone else who is entitled living in the same house. You may recall from your visits that there is indeed someone else in this house but that the house has been divided in to separate flats. When I called the DWP to query what had happened I encountered several recorded announcements, bearing in mind that I was paying for the call, before finally getting a person to speak with.

It appears that the mistake had occurred because the DWP rely on a postcode checker to verify their information and as two separate households are not shown in that checker, the assumption was made that I was living with someone. I would presume that my neighbour has had her payment cut for the same reason but she has not checked the letter she received. Noticing that the cut had been made was purely chance because I normally just put the letter away without reading it too closely.

What annoys me is that the error was made not because of information received but because it was not checked by any other method first. One would think, wrongly, that there would be some kind of communication between different sections of the same Department. This is bad enough but I was told that the extra money would be sent but I would not get it before Christmas and possibly as late as 31st March next year! I am fortunate in not needing too badly this year but I wonder how many people would be that fortunate? I was told that I could write to my MP but if they knew how brilliant my MP is, I doubt that suggestion would have been made.

“Caring” Government at its finest!

Methinks the Chancellor really ain’t for u-turning

“I’ve had representations that these changes to tax credits should be phased in. I’ve listened to the concerns. I hear and understand them. And because I’ve been able to announce today an improvement in the public finances, the simplest thing to do is not to phase these changes in, but to avoid them altogether. Tax credits are being phased out anyway as we introduce universal credit. What that means is that the tax credit taper rate and thresholds remain unchanged.”
George Osborne Chancellor of the Exchequer

You could describe it as a u-turn, yet I am more inclined to call it a stay of execution. However you look at it, tax credits are going.

On the surface you could see some merit in an argument that says the state should not be in effect assisting companies in their under-paying of staff. However, tax credits make work affordable for many, and the consequence of unaffordable work is welfare. It may be that this is a false saving. Having said that, I suspect that many will continue in unaffordable work.

In the long run the Chancellor has changed nothing. Working families, many of them , will feel the pinch. Some, the few already subject to Universal Credit, may already be eyeing a prospect of reduced circumstances.

This may be a u-turn today, but the destination remains unchanged.

The malingering disabled (or so those that issue blue badges would have you believe)

Twice recently I have been contacted by Milton residents in respect of their blue disabled badges. These badges are issued to those whose disability means that they have to park near to home or where they are driving or being driven to.

Gentleman A has had his blue badge for eight years. This year, though, he was denied a renewal.

Lady B had had her badge for six years. Again, her re-assessment has meant that this lifeline to the outside world was removed.

Both Gentleman A and Lady B are elderly and, unless they defy all known medical science, are not getting better. The health conditions that saw them issued originally would have worsened rather than improved in the intervening years. This suggests one question: why are their blue badges no longer considered necessary?

The answer put simply is that goalposts have been moved. This must be part of an agenda, encouraged by a Conservative Government that sees society’s ills as being down to its most vulnerable members. Thus, those once considered to have disability are now considered fit – a no mean transformation.

Of course, no such transformation has actually taken place. Gentleman A and Lady B are as much in need of their blue badges as ever, more so considering that their conditions are worsened.

Those that change the assessment criteria must, one presumes, seem malingerers everywhere. It would also seem that the distribution of blue badges to people such as I have described is a sin against the more able, younger, and the fit.

Do not grow old and infirm is the clear message here – for a caring society is being replaced by one that treats such people with ill-disguised disdain.

Axe The Tax


Labour Candidate Julian Ware-Lane fights the Bedroom Tax

The local Labour Parliamentary Candidate has pledged to fight the unfair Bedroom Tax affecting hundreds of families in Southend West.

Julian Ware-Lane said:

“The Bedroom Tax will cost people £4,200 in Southend West if the Tories win again. At the moment, 178 people are paying, but many more will be caught if the Tories win again. Labour has pledged to abolish the Bedroom Tax and only a Labour government will do this.

Helen Goodman MP, Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform, said:

“The government has imposed the Bedroom Tax on families who are already hard pressed to make ends meet. There aren’t enough smaller properties for people to move so even the government’s own studies show that people are having to cut back on household essentials to pay it. Only a Labour government will abolish the Bedroom Tax.”

New figures show 670 pensioners in Southend West hit by 87p state pension rise

Cllr Julian Ware-Lane has called on David Cameron to be open and honest with pensioners after new figures showed 670 pensioners in Southend West are set to receive a rise in the state pension of 87p.

On 4th December 2014 the government announced the state pension would rise by £2.85 a week. But in the following days ministers were forced to admit up to 1.6 million pensioners would see a rise of just 87p in their state pension income.

Julian said, “The government promised the state pension would rise by £2.85 in April next year but 670 pensioners in Southend West will receive a rise of just 87p. David Cameron’s government have not been open and honest with pensioners in Southend West about the state pension, saying one thing and doing another. It’s time for the government to treat Southend West pensioners with respect and be upfront about the value of their pensions.”

Labour’s shadow pensions minister, Gregg McClymont, said, “1.6 million pensioners who have done the right thing, worked hard and saved for a pension have been let down by the government. It’s time for David Cameron to come clean with pensioners in Southend West and across the country about the future value of their state pension.”

Who is affected?

People who claim the Savings Credit element of pension credit, which is being reduced.

Rather than being fair to a group of pensioners who have saved all their life to enjoy a little extra security in retirement, David Cameron’s government has instead penalised these savers for their thriftiness.

Numbers affected in south Essex :-

Southend West 670
Rochford and Southend East 850
Castle Point 910
South Basildon and East Thurrock 690
Basildon and Billericay 650
Rayleigh and Wickford 750
Thurrock 760
Brentwood and Ongar 570

How Essex MPs voted on the Opposition Day vote on the bedroom tax

In case you were wondering how our local Members of Parliament voted on the Opposition Day vote on the bedroom tax :-

Basildon and Billericay John Baron No
Braintree Brooks Newmark No
Brentwood and Ongar Eric Pickles No
Castle Point Rebecca Harris No
Chelmsford Simon Burns No
Colchester Bob Russell No
Harlow Robert Halfon No
Harwich and North Essex Bernard Jenkin No
Rayleigh and Wickford Mark Francois No
Rochford and Southend East James Duddridge Absent
Saffron Walden Alan Haselhurst No
South Basildon and East Thurrock Stephen Metcalfe No
Southend West David Amess No
Thurrock Jackie Doyle-Price No
Witham Priti Patel No

Only one Conservative MP (Andrew Percy) and no Liberal Democrats voted for the Labour motion (Let’s scrap the Bedroom Tax by Christmas).

I think it is pretty clear where the Conservatives stand, and that the Liberal Democrats are backing them all the way.

Essex Parliamentary Constituencies – August 2014 Spare Room Subsidy Indicators

Here is the data showing the numbers subject to the Bedroom Tax in Essex for August for all eighteen Parliamentary constituencies in the glorious county of Essex. I have ordered them with those having the highest numbers at the top.

Constituency Reduction applied No reduction applied Not applicable – private rented
Thurrock 898 5868 3612
Basildon and Billericay 765 4869 1529
South Basildon and East Thurrock 740 4625 2254
Harlow 728 6386 1852
Rochford and Southend East 574 5197 6547
Colchester 567 5276 3207
Braintree 418 3624 1686
Chelmsford 401 4237 1545
Witham 358 2989 1270
Epping Forest 342 3746 1551
Clacton 293 2439 6251
Saffron Walden 284 2999 1049
Brentwood and Ongar 260 2975 1193
Maldon 236 2271 1507
Harwich and North Essex 227 2179 2511
Southend West 178 1920 3874
Castle Point 161 1406 2938
Rayleigh and Wickford 128 1709 1519

Whilst Southend West is towards the bottom of this list, 178 households who have had their Housing Benefit reduced because they are considered under-occupied is 178 too many in my opinion.

(The numbers are for Housing Benefit Claimants)

Let’s scrap the Bedroom Tax by Christmas

Parliamentary Candidate Julian Ware-Lane is urging MPs from all parties to back Labour’s attempt to scrap the Bedroom Tax by Christmas. Labour has forced a debate and vote in parliament on Wednesday 17th December on the Bedroom Tax.

Since the Bedroom Tax was introduced around half a million low-income households have been forced to find, on average an extra £700 a year. In Southend West 178 people have been hit by the Bedroom Tax.

Cllr Julian Ware-Lane said: ‘This winter 178 people in Southend West will struggle to make ends meet, many relying on food banks to survive because of the Bedroom Tax David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s government introduced in April 2013. The Bedroom Tax is wasting people’s money, time and talents, it’s another example of Tory Welfare Waste.

‘This Wednesday Labour is forcing a vote to scrap this failing policy once and for all. I urge MPs from all parties to do the right thing and back Labour’s attempt to scrap this cruel and unfair tax.”

Rachel Reeves said: “Around half a million people have been hit by the Bedroom Tax, forcing many into debt and to rely on food banks. It’s a cruel, unfair and costly tax with two thirds of those affected are disabled. Let’s scrap the Bedroom Tax and get rid of this failing policy which is leading to more Tory Welfare Waste.”

1. Latest DWP figures on number of people hit by the Bedroom Tax:
NORTH EAST – 36,126
NORTH WEST – 74,031
EASTERN – 30,036
LONDON – 48,247
SOUTH EAST – 32,232
SOUTH WEST – 24,896
WALES – 31,217
SCOTLAND – 70,291
TOTAL – 471,887


2. Two thirds of households affected by the bedroom tax cannot find the money to pay their rents, according to new research from the National Housing Federation. Source:

3. Housing benefit set to rise by £1billion over four year in March 2014 Budget (pg 132)
Figures contained in the Budget have shown the housing benefit bill will continue rising not falling, with an increase of £1billion forecast over the next four years.

Press release: Labour’s Julian Ware-Lane welcomes blow to hated bedroom tax

Labour MPs have won a victory in Parliament against the coalition’s Bedroom Tax. Andrew George’s private member’s bill, backed by Labour MPs, could be the first step to ending the misery inflicted on the poor and vulnerable.

In the East of England region, over 30,000 people have been impacted by the Bedroom Tax, but in too many cases there simply aren’t smaller houses for tenants to move into. In other cases the disabled face being forced from adapted homes into unsuitable accommodation.

Julian Ware-Lane, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Southend West, said: “I have seen first-hand the misery the Bedroom Tax has caused, often forcing very ill people into making very difficult choices. It is an unfair policy that causes misery to thousands of people. This vote will not abolish the Bedroom Tax, but it is a step in the right direction and a glimmer of hope for many.”

“The Liberal Democrats voted with Labour on this occasion. However, the Bedroom Tax exists because the Liberal Democrats backed the Conservatives when it was passed into law. Only by electing a Labour Government next year can we guarantee that the Bedroom Tax is repealed.”