Families £891 worse off from April

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Chris Leslie MP reports
On Monday, a wide-ranging set of reductions to tax credits and benefits takes affect. Adding up all the cuts and tax changes since 2010, the typical family will be £891 worse off in the new tax year (£17 per week) starting from 1st April.
The contrast with the generous tax cut for those richest 1% earning over £150,000 per year – giving the typical millionaire a £100,000 tax cut from April – is appalling.
I think that the following list of cuts and reductions for low and middle income households from next week speaks for itself:
· The couple, lone parent and child elements of Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit will be uprated by less than the rate of price inflation from Monday. Maternity Allowance, Statutory Sick Pay, Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay will also have a real terms cut in this way – and Child Benefit will be frozen altogether at the same cash level.
· The ‘bedroom tax’, or as Ministers would prefer to call it – the ‘spare room subsidy’ – will hit thousands across Nottingham and the rest of the country from Monday. This reduction in housing support when there are so few alternative premises for people to ‘downsize’ into is going to be a very significant cut for those already on low incomes.
· Council Tax Benefit will cease under current rules from Monday, and is likely to mean new council tax demands (except for pensioners) because all local authorities have been told to draw up their own new ‘council tax support scheme’ but expenditure must be cut by 10%. This 10% cut will land on some of the least well off people in our community.
· From Monday, Community Care Grants and Social Fund Crisis Loans are being abolished, the budget is being slashed by more than a third, with this smaller sum instead given to local authorities to administer. Demand is rising for emergency financial assistance, such as help with basic living facilities, but the budget is being massively reduced.
· The changes beginning to take shape to Disability Living Allowance and the move to the ‘Personal Independence Payment’ (PIP) are concerning. While of course we need an independent assessment to judge eligibility, around 500,000 people will lose Personal Independence Payment by 2015/16 compared to what would have happened under DLA. The government is now trying to mould a benefit around its £1bn cuts target for 2015, rather than around meeting the needs of individual disabled people. That can’t be right.

Others are making the same kind of points – http://www.leftfootforward.org/2013/03/families-891-worse-off-from-april-new-figures-show/

Sam Webster in Lenton Abbey

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Sunny and surprisingly warm in Lenton Abbey this afternoon.
Sam was supported by Cllr Sally Longford, Lilian Greenwood MP and PCC Paddy Tipping.
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Rather oddly, the EDL were in the car park of the pub we were meeting at.
Much more pleasant was bumping into former Erewash MP Liz Blackman at a supermarket afterwards.
From the ridiculous to the sublime, via meeting the people and picking up casework.

Nottingham Post coverage was a bit mean on the photos. Hey ho.
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The state in our bedrooms in a new way

“I like you guys who want to reduce the size of government… make it just small enough so it can fit in our bedrooms.” — Josh Lyman, The West Wing.
One of my favourite politics quotes ever, targeted against conservatives. Often triggered by attacks on birth control, abortion and choice of lover.
But taking on a new dimension from April Fools Day.
Cos Monday sees Housing Benefit reduced for social tenants who can’t justify the use of rooms that might be bedrooms against new criteria set by the state.
(The Nottingham Post reported yesterday efforts by the City Council to declare a large number of properties as not applicable.)
And in trying to help people when talking on the doorstep, you find yourself asking quite intrusive questions about private lives e.g. ‘do you share the same bedroom these days?’ And the answers sometime, e.g. ‘my husband uses the smaller room these days cos he needs to be nearer the toilet during the night’. You’re only trying to help, but look where it takes you.
The benefits changes are largely aimed at those of working age, but nevertheless it seems two-thirds of the households to be affected will have disabled family members.
Repeated stories of Tory MPs challenging councils on the implementation of the changes they voted for, like they didn’t know what they’d voted for.
Complexity and expense in the implementation.
(And news that 3 out of 4 pilots for the forthcoming universal benefits arrangements are delayed already.)
Frank Field, a Labour MP, was taken on by the ConDems as their poverty tsar. He condemns the changes to housing benefit as ‘flawed’ and says scheme will eventually prove to be more expensive. So manipulative and intrusive, He says it is worthy of Stalin.
And reminders from Polly Toynbee of The Guardian about …

In his 2009 Hugo Young lecture, David Cameron spoke with apparent passion of the damage done by inequality: “We all know, in our hearts, that as long as there is deep poverty living systematically side by side with great riches, we all remain the poorer for it.”

Such cant.
Huge tax reductions for the rich on Monday. With no questions about whether they need to sleep in different rooms or nearer a toilet. Just given it, along with a scheme to encourage them to buy property, without an equivalent increase in stock. Just when we actually need people o spend money. Not save it or export it.
How did our understanding of economics go back ninety years?
Or our understanding of social policy go back to the potato famine?
Smearing those in need. Such misdirection.
Overlooking modern labour market trends of companies using agencies to employ people via agencies and somehow paying out less than minimum wage.
Huge cuts in Corporation tax for organisations already sitting on over £700,000 million of reserves.
And no demand in return.

Boots announce investment and job losses

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20130328-030039 PM.jpgThe Nottingham Post have plastered news of 200 job losses all over Nottingham via its front page and its posters, despite an editorial that says it’s part of an investment programme that secures the other local 1,000 manufacturing jobs at Boots’ Beeston Rylands site.
Read about it at the Nottingham Post site.

Loss of Arctic ice is causing late cold weather

20130327-072526 PM.jpgPeople are complaining long and hard about the late snow and cold winds.
Where has spring gone?
Normally, we hesitate to tie abnormal weather to climate change.
The reasons are obvious. There are so many weather records – hottest, coldest, windiest, stillest, driest, wettest, brightest, dullest, multiplied by duration (year, seasons and months), multiplied by location (planet, continent, nation, region) – that how could some record not be broken every year.
So the assertion by scientists that the current cold snap is down to climate change, cos the 80% reduction of Arctic ice in 30 years has changed the prevailing jet streams, is stark.
20130327-072551 PM.jpgThe loss of Arctic ice is down to the increase in the average temperature of the planet.
The tragedy of it is, is that if we’d got on with embracing the change needed – travelling less each day, living nearer to work, insulating our homes, local generation of heat and so on, we could have been embracing a nicer way of life.
As it is, the prediction is that April this year will be cold.
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Action for Rail Beeching Protest

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An Action for Rail campaign day today, marking the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Beeching Report.
Joined Notts County Councillor Jim Creamer and 2 of his RMT colleagues at the Station Street entrance to Nottingham Midland station, to deliver leaflets.
And who should happen to turn up to catch his train but The Lord Mayor, Cllr Leon Unczur.
The leaflet makes a simple point.
We’re paying higher fares to make bigger profits.
Indeed one passenger wondered why East Midlands Train needs the subsidy it gets to make the profits it gives to its share-holders; they’d seen BBC news report on Monday of the taxpayer stumping up £110m to keep East Midlands Trains in profit.

Beeching Axe drawn 50 years ago today

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The Nottingham Post runs quite a feature today on the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Beeching Report (press graphic to read more)
Some years back, rail enthusiasts of all opinions from Nottingham and around were called together to try Dr. Beeching (at the Galleries of Justice) for his report. Considered points were presented and contemplated, then we in the audience all happily found Beeching guilty.

But Nottingham has suffered through the loss of stations and loss of track corridor.
To some extent, the tram network is re-establishing dedicated route for railed mass transit.
But we miss the routes from the south that could have offered relief for the Nottingham to Trent Junction corridor.

Announcements yesterday on new franchises for West Coast Main Line and East Coast Main Line were disappointing – franchising is broken, yet the Gov’t persists – but the Gov’t included some sweeteners.
Broxtowe Cllr Steve Barber reports –

It’s 50 years since Beeching. This was particularly felt in Ilkeston where there were 3 stations all shut. The time to get to Nottingham in 1903 was 16 minutes by Midland Railway. The time in 2013; 50 minutes on a good day by bus. That’s why we’re re-opening one of the stations, £1m was voted by the Greater Nottingham Joint Planning Advisory Board (he’s chair) which attracted another £1m from Derbyshire County Council and £3.5m from Network Rail. The service starts in April 2014.

Although the Gov’t announced the budget for opening Ilkeston yesterday, I’m advised that it’s not quite clear that its opening has been agreed.

David Miliband, F.A.B.

20130327-012028 AM.jpgSo farewell David Miliband, former Foreign Secretary, who leaves Parliament today to lead a global charity, called the International Rescue Committee.
Did they not know what International Rescue means to the children of the mid-sixties!
But for me, David Miliband brings memories of other events –
– on leaving climate change to lead on local government, taking the opportunity to tell a Local Government Association conference about climate change, and commanding an audience chock full of Tories;
– picking up on a quick briefing from me so as to celebrate Nottingham’s political lead on tackling and mitigating climate change within British local government, before the premiere showing of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” at BAFTA;
– the best conference speech I ever saw, in 2010.
He’ll know what he got right and, especially in 2010, got wrong.
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Meanwhile, one last thank you to him for taking the time out to support me in South Derbyshire.