Not-so Universal Credit

Often said that Universal Credit is fine in theory, by which I think is meant making judgements outside of the total impartibility of the scheme which is years late and relies on too many things to be got right.  And of course a reminder that it is not “Universal” cos it doesn’t include Council Tax Support which people will lose if they don’t claim early enough.
The scheme is thought good in principle cos it combines 6 payments so ought to mean less money lost on administration.  But it relies on employers being able to report quickly and effectively, relies on clients having IT access and skills, and presumes there wasn’t an agenda to reduce the amount of money issued.  It  is also vulnerable to pratfalls associated with some firms paying out money early for Christmas.  
Trying to  help clients make claims and appeals too has become trickier with the loss of printed letters to work with.  
The roll-out has now happened in Nottingham and new claimants & claimants with new circumstances are now being transferred to Universal Credit – although not for claims involving 3 children or more.  
Meanwhile cuts are significantly affecting people with disabilities or disabled children.  
Then there’s the gap that comes with moving from payment as is needed yo payment a month later.  
The responsibility falling upon tenants to pay rent rather than money being paid directly to the landlord has also caused challenges and unwelcome changes.  Nottingham City Homes are working very hard and getting rent paid first.  But social housing agencies elsewhere are deciding. not to take people who are not run employment which given some of them used to be council house providers is just shocking, especially since we’ve just celebrated the end of World war 1 and homes for heroes.  Some private landlords have also given up offering homes, whilst the rent being demanded has gone up generally.  Since 2015, the benefit available for renting – local housing allowance – has been frozen, such that only 1 house within 5 miles of The Meadows, advertised by Right Move is available for within £50 more than the allowance.  
Meanwhile, if a claim for support in one of the six aspects goes wrong, it is the whole lump that is affected, not just one part.
So yeah, fine in principle, but in practice, a lot of people are going to get hurt.  
Universal Credit has been condemned by Michael Heseltine and John Major.  
We rehearsed the matter again at Nottingham City Council recently.
I’m not surprised the Labour Party has said they’ll abolish it.  

TO BE RE-REVIEWED.

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Fahrenheit 11/9

The most relevant political film ever is “The Wave“, and a sister version made in Germany.  Based on a true story, a sixth former in California asked how did German people ever become Nazis.  In later lessons, their teachers start to coach them in ways that ends up with them supporting despot ideas and sharing a wave sign for a zeig heil.

This in the end is the message of Michael More’s latest film, “Fahrenheit 11/9“.  But dialled to 11 through much of the film, ribalding “fake news” but with too many false endings, the film is too long.

Shelly Runyon (underhand Republican politician): “Take a magic marker, cross out the word “objectivity”. Your constituents want you for your opinions, your philosophy, for your subjectivity.”
from The Contender.

I’ve always been struck by this quote. It says loads.  Perhaps the filmmakers meant it as a condemnation, but I’m not sure.  I take it to mean energise people to vote for what you believe.  Just don’t take the quote to mean it’s OK to lie.

In this context, I take it as a reminder that Michael Moore makes editorials, not documentaries.  And I think his main conclusion is just wrong.

Anton Chigurh: “… If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?” – from No County for Old Men.

Cos at the end, he essentially says if the political system, many aspects of which he’s been celebrating for much of the previous 2 hours, brings us to Trump, of what use is it; and let’s get rid.  Another version of despotic exhortation.  I’m not putting him anywhere near Trump’s level, but it’s an uncharitable conclusion, which prompts me to say that I don’t accept his mea culpa at the outset for being soft on Trump when a tv programme asked him to.
And yet I do recommend going to see the movie.
(r:7.5; s:4; e:3; t:3)

Cos the episodes are interesting, often telling and at times very uplifting:
* that the Democrats have recently been losing winning hands; from a populace that is more to the left that you’d commonly understand;
* that Hillary Clinton hid from people in the 2016 campaign;
* that mainstream politics has created a new majority – of the uninterested and not voting;
* that the media loved the ratings boosts Trump’s appearances have given them;
* the extraordinary tragedy of polluted water supply to the city of Flint in Michigan; that Trump visited when the others didn’t; that Obama visited and upset people when they  were looking to him for salvation;
* the West Virginian Democrat making a strong showing cos of his direct style in an unwinnable district; (a showing that The Guardian reports has been harmed by professional advisors turning up to help him out, although I think the problem has been recognised);
* the student protests led by victims of a shooting in a Florida school, that saw teenagers organise massive rallies and actually trigger the downfall of a Maine state senator in a previously unchallenged seat;
* a new wave of women and BME candidates that are having an impact;
* a strike by West Virginian teachers, and other school staff, protesting against a more expensive health insurance that required. them to wear monitors, that grew from a few counties to all 55; and with it, an explanation of what being a “red neck” originally meant;
* how despotism took over the advanced and well-red Germany of the 1930’s;
* a tragic scene shot of a child separated from their parents in Nazi Germany.

Finally, again from The Contender –

Shelly Runyon: There’s a reason they call me honest Shell.
President Jackson Evans: Irony, Shelly.

Meadows Advice Group AGM 2018

The advisors have served more clients in 2017-18 than ever before and helped bring in more extra benefit than before.
902 clients.
£1,707,056.
This for an operating deficit of £966.
Been helping elsewhere, e.g. Clifton, too.


But it turns out that the extra benefit raised is cos DWP have been more awkward in accepting claims.  One of the daft things has been making venues for processing appeals more distant – at the end of a bus route in Strelley, and even in Leicester and Derby, instead of the previous venue in the city centre.  And being able to make the more difficult locations has sometimes been suggested as reasons as to why they don’t need the benefit.

The rock bottom benefits are to be frozen for another year – that’s 4 years at £73 a week.
Meanwhile, the Conservative government have announced that tax allowances and the tax threshold will be raised in a ways which gives most tax reductions to the better off.
20181029 153000 budget redistribution of tax cuts to the rich DqsbnOcWsAIREf-
There’s been some surprise that some Conservative MPs have only just realised that Universal Credit means people will lose out.
Meanwhile gratitude to the 3 Nottingham Labour MPs and Vernon Coaker MP for attending a CAB 2-hour briefing 11 days previous.  Concern was expressed that the disabled and children are the ones losing out most.

My concern remains how the poverty is not visible enough.  Health visitors and schools report the issues, but the public awareness and concern is muted.
Unemployment is down, except suspicion is that it’s the ability too claim that explains the reduction.  For instance, you are punished if you don’t answer phone calls, and DWP expect you to have a phone, and what’s the cost of that?

Meanwhile, people need help for money to get a bus ride for a job interview, or even money for new clothing, and organisations like the One Stop Shop ate Bridgeway Centre try to help with that.

I tried to explore whether Brexit and new less helpful trade deals threaten the kind of jobs low income families rely on.


Having brought down the mood of the meeting by exploring all the problems we face, I dud take the time to thank the advisors of Meadows Advice Group, and the volunteers on the board who serve most, those who are in most need.
TO BE REVIEWED.

Light a Candle – Go Vote

Having been following the mid-term election campaigns for some weeks, and then viewing the coverage of killing 11 Jews in a synagogue, and the mail bombs sent to leading Democrats, I worry that the United States is about to go into a deeper political darkness.
A friend we celebrated yesterday said rather than curse such a darkness, you should light a candle.  The best way to light a candle is to vote, and if an estimated 90 million people cast votes in the 2014 mid-term elections, let us hope an extra 10, 20 or even 30 million candles be lit on November 6th.

– –

Found it re-assuring to see Channel 4 tv’s Jon Snow had gone to Pittsburgh in the USA to cover the murder of 11 Jews in a synagogue.
Was disappointed to hear him ask the Mayor what could be done to get the temperature of exchange by the political classes in the USA brought down a notch.

On one level, as if journalists and news media aren’t also a significant part of the problem.
On another level, cos the actual challenge is to equip people so that they don’t reward people who tempt them with messages of hate.
On another level, cos not all in the political spectrum are casting problems to an equal extent.

Cos the Alt-Right have triggered the anti-Semitic murders in the synagogue on Squirrel Hill.
Cos the Alt-Right have triggered the mail bombs to notable Democrat supporters.
Cos the Alt-Right were responsible for the death of a civil rights activist in Charlottesville last year.

Cos Donald Trump is culpable.
Cos when people are murdered in a synagogue in a hate crime, the response is not to suggest a degree of culpability cos they hadn’t employed a security guard.
Cos the first response to hate bombs being sent to opponents is not to say that you’ll tone down your language, but to say agents of justice will identify and try those responsible.
Cos the first response to Charlottesville should have been to condemn the anti-Semitism (remember “the Jews will not replace us”).
To paraphrase the movie “The Contender”, “culpable, but not responsible”.

A further challenge to the politics of the United States (and to all of us – cos they are that important) is is demagoguery and Nationalism.
– I don’t agree with those who call Trump a s fascist, but many pf the tests set out for fascism are ticked by Trump.
– Trump redefining the Republican Party as a Nationalist party, on top of the previous phase of what’s called Neo-Liberalism (but I see as globalism being used to give more to the very rich) rather than a conservative party grounded in the public health provision and the common endeavour of the two world wars.  (A phenomenon we’re seeing in the UK with the British Conservative party.)

So what should the common endeavour be?
Promoting a free society, where people are able to organise as they wish to win mandates to become the government of the country, principal authority or any other local authority.
A democracy – all responsible adults having a vote is very radical – underpinned by a full electoral register and proper elections.
Judicial systems and community safety.
Rights and responsibilities, that come with citizenship, for all irrespective against class, gender, race, sexual identity.
Full employment in proper jobs, and tackling all the other giant evils – with social security, housing for all, free education and free health at the point of use.
Tackling the opportunities and challenges that come with globalisation, people living longer, climate change and peak oil.
Proper conduct in public life, including being accountable for what you publish in social media (see Nolan principles below.
Audit systems and freedom of information to enable better debate and better journalism, especially over the ambitions and use of public assets and resource.
Politics overseeing how we organise and live, but not replacing it – everything is not political.
7_NOLAN_PRINCIPLES

Is the above only supportable by democratic Socialists?  Well, Socialism would go further – “no unjustifiable inequalities”, test what we do against deprivation, and greater emphasis on industrial democracy, public ownership and co-operation.

We don’t need a fresh constitution either – although “love, life and the pursuit of happiness” carries a certain zing (More fully”… in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity …“)
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TO BE REVIEWED.
P.S. Not sure calling Donald Trump a Fascist is particularly helpful.
The Washington Post has done a check and think Trump falls short.
I think more a demagogue.

Cycle route enhanced

China opened the world’s longest sea-crossing bridge and tunnel, linking the financial centre of Hong Kong, the gambling hub of Macau and western reaches of the Pearl River Delta at the heart of southern China’s economic boom, at a cost of GBP11,790,000,000.

20181023 River Leen cycle route improvements phases 4 and 5 aa0613h
Meanwhile, works on stage 5 of River Leen Cycle Route project, improving the connection of the former Toll Bridge to Birdcage Walk, has been completed; a couple of snagging works on stage 4 using Birdcage Walk are outstanding (2 lampposts on Rennie Hogg Road).

More positive feedback has been received about the use of the road facility for kiddies learning to cycle on Victoria Embankment.

Nottingham Green Festival 2018

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A simple stall with leaflets focussing on green achievements in Nottingham – bio-fuel buses, energy investment homes, better and accredited public parks, Robin Hood Energy – all by Labour.  With visits from Paddy Tipping (Police Commissioner) and Leonie (former Parliamentary Candidate in Sherwood), as well as colleagues Glyn and John.Some city centre casework, and a big thumbs up from a Clifton North resident who’s saving £12 a month and more having switched to Robin Hood Energy.