Student Assembly Against Austerity: National Convention
"Austerity and all the hardship it causes has been sweeping this country since the Coalition Government came to power in 2010. Now we’re just months away from another General Election and the only ‘good’ that’s come from these unnecessary cuts is the movements that have come together to fight them and provide a platform for the ‘There is an alternative’ message. At the forefront of this movement has been The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, an initiative bringing together anti-austerity voices from across society, from trade unions and parties like the Green Party to grass roots campaigning groups."
So writes Sahaya James - one of the national organisers for the Student Assembly Against Austerity (SAAA), Co-Convener of South West Young Greens and a supporter of Stroud Against the Cuts. Please read the below article by her on the recent National Convention of the SAAA. If you are interested in local student activism please contact SATC via
or Sahaya directly via
"The student wing of the People’s Assembly, aptly named the Student Assembly Against Austerity (SAAA), was born in August 2013 and first assembled at a meeting in November of that year. Since then they have led the successful campaign against the sell-off of the student loan book and co-organised the 10,000 strong free education march on November 19th. In September last year they also launched the Student Manifesto 2015: fourteen democratically selected demands from the student movement made to politicians and political parties in the run-up to the General Election in May.
On Saturday 31st of January dozens of student activists from 22 campuses gathered at SOAS for the Student Assembly Against Austerity’s National Convention to decide and discuss an action plan for the student movement in the lead up to the General Election.
The Convention’s packed agenda was centred around some of the Student Manifesto’s key demands and opened with an inspiring panel entitled ‘No more austerity!’, which heard from a range of political figures such as Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Diane Abbot MP and activists such as Stand Up to Racism’s Sabby Dhalu, SUArts President Shelly Asquith and Christy McMorrow, who has been leading a campaign for free education at Sheffield Uni.
Following on from this the day was filled with a series of interactive workshops on:
- · Fighting austerity on campus: for affordable housing & stopping course closures
- · Hardest hit: fighting cuts, bigotry and inequality
- · No racist scapegoating
- · We have a right to resist - #CopsOffCampus
- · FE students and the fightback – bring back EMA and defend youth services
- · For an ethical education – fossil free, no to war
The day ended with a closing session on ‘Students and the General Election’ that gave everyone an opportunity to feedback from the workshops they had attended, vote on the Student Assembly’s Action Plan for the coming months and hear from a panel of incredible speakers, like comedian and activist Francesca Martinez, Stop the War Coalition’s Lindsey German, Green Party Deputy Leader Shahrar Ali, the People’s Assembly’s Sam Fairbairn, NUS National Executive Aaron Kiely and Jonas from the Mexican student movement, who gave an emotional account of how the Mexican state ‘disappeared’ 43 students.
A recurring theme for many of the speakers was the ways in which racism and xenophobia had entered mainstream politics throughout Europe along with the austerity policies so many governments have adopted. With the rise of UKIP in this country, the importance of the upcoming Stand up to Racism demo on March 21st was emphasised repeatedly.
The Convention was a massive success with the majority of attendees being new activists, many of whom were very excited to take what they had learned back to their campuses, with dozens signing up to hold their own Student Question Time event with the support of the SAAA."
Sahaya James is one of the national organisers for the Student Assembly Against Austerity, Co-Convener of South West Young Greens and a supporter of Stroud Against the Cuts. If you are interested in local student activism please contact SATC via
or Sahaya directly via
PRESS RELEASE: Anti-cuts group vows to keep campaigning despite bedroom tax appeal set-back
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 20 January 2015 22:27 )
PRESS RELEASE 20/01/2015 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ANTI-CUTS GROUP VOWS TO KEEP CAMPAIGNING DESPITE BEDROOM TAX APPEAL SET-BACK
Summary: Campaigners from Stroud Against the Cuts have expressed both disappointment and determination following a decision from a Judge at Cheltenham Social Entitlement Tribunal to uphold the imposition of the under occupancy charge or ‘bedroom tax’ on a tenant, Ms Maria Shelley, who had appealed on the grounds that the room was too small and used to store equipment related to her disabilities (1).
On Monday 12th January 2015, Judge A D Walker heard submissions by Stroud District Council and Ms Shelley – who was supported by James Beecher from Stroud Against the Cuts and Mark Polgrean-Smith from Marah – with regard to a “spare bedroom” at a house in Uplands. On Friday 16th January campaigners received the Judge’s decision to uphold “The Local Authority’s decision to reduce the eligible [housing benefit payable to meet] rent by 14%, £12.86 p/w […] as she is under occupying the property by one bedroom” (2).
Ms Shelley had argued that the room should not have counted as a spare bedroom as it measured only “a maximum of 67.7 square feet” (3). Ms Shelley’s submission added that the room had “never been used as a bedroom, being used instead for storage – including a wheelchair, a zimmer-frame, and crutches”.
Around the country, other tenants affected by the bedroom tax have won appeals against it (4) where, for instance, their rooms are smaller than 70 sq ft – the minimum size suggested by The Housing Act 1985 for rooms used as bedrooms by an individual adult (5). SDC argued that a room can be counted as a bedroom if it is large enough to accommodate a single bed.
James Beecher, a volunteer co-ordinator of SATC said, ‘Of course we are disappointed that the judge has ruled that despite not being used as one, this small room “was a bedroom for the purposes of the legislation”. It is particularly frustrating given that Upper Tribunal Judges recently described the idea that “any room will be a bedroom for the purposes of the regulation if its floor space is big enough to accommodate a single bed” as “absurd” (6). However, we are confident that the work Marah, Cllr Caroline Molloy and I did with Maria has contributed to substantially improving her situation.'
He added: 'We are supporting another tenant whose “spare bedroom” is needed for his son to stay regularly to make an appeal and urge those affected by the bedroom tax to contact us on 07734 058789 or via
so we can discuss whether they might have a case, help them apply for council hardship money (Discretionary Housing Payment or DHP), or assist them in working with other local organisations.’ (7)
Green Cllr Caroline Molloy and one of SATC’s volunteer co-ordinators said: “I’m disappointed that Ms Shelley’s appeal to cancel the imposition of the bedroom tax was unsuccessful, but I would encourage tenants who feel their rooms aren’t “spare bedrooms” to approach us for help – as there has been considerable variation in Tribunal Judgements and there is other help available as well. I’m pleased Ms Shelley has found a new council home and her arrears have been written off, as a result of the good work SATC and Marah have been doing, and pressure that Green councillors have been applying from the outset. There is still much room for improvement in how the council manages this cruel and counterproductive tax. I continue to push for better help for tenants, including more compassionate, evidence-based and common-sense policies”.
Chris Moore, one of SATC’s volunteer co-ordinators said, ‘Maria’s case is an example of how disabled people are being disproportionately affected by cuts in housing benefit due to the Bedroom Tax, meaning rent arrears build up. SATC has consistently explained that disabled people and others should not have to go through this stressful process simply to be able to be suitably housed and no-one should face the threat of eviction (8). The lack of available suitable accommodation means people often have housing benefit cut through no fault of their own. SATC believes this unfair tax should be scrapped and will continue to support those affected. Campaigners in Scotland forced the government to effectively cancel the bedroom tax by paying to meet shortfalls in rent, and we will continue to apply pressure to kill the tax in the rest of the UK (9)’
Maria Shelley, “I’d like to say thank-you to James, Mark and Caroline for all their support I have had with the bedroom tax.”
Mark Polgrean-Smith, a client support worker at voluntary organisation Marah (10) which works with the marginalised in Stroud, said: “Our priority at Marah is the client, and we will continue to do everything we can to assist in any way”.
[Please click "Read More" for the notes for editors]
Press Release: CAMPAIGNERS WHO WON LOCAL NHS BATTLE ORGANISE CRISIS MEETING
PRESS RELEASE 10/02/2015 Stroud Against The Cuts
CAMPAIGNERS WHO WON LOCAL NHS BATTLE ORGANISE CRISIS MEETING
WHAT: “THE NHS IN CRISIS..? REBUILD THE NHS! Public Meeting”
WHEN: Monday 23rd February, 7.30-9.30pm (doors 7pm)
WHERE: The Old Town Hall, Stroud.
In 2011 and 2012, a determined Gloucestershire-wide campaign led by Stroud Against the Cuts successfully (1) used legal action (2), petitions (3) and protests (4) to force local NHS bosses to halt the transfer of local community hospitals and 3000 health and social care workers out of the NHS (5).
Earlier this year Gloucestershire’s A&E services declared a ‘major incident’ alongside A&E services elsewhere in the country (6). On Monday 23rd February, four members of the co-ordination group that organised the successful campaign to save Stroud Hospital and others from privatisation will speak at a meeting exploring the question “How we can rebuild the NHS?”
Members of the Stroud Against the Cuts co-ordination group Hannah Basson, Chris Moore, James Beecher and Cllr Caroline Molloy will address questions including “Is the NHS sustainable?”, “Is PFI bankrupting the NHS?”, “What’s wrong with privatisation?”, and “What demands should we make?”. Hannah Basson is an NHS health worker and Equalities Officer for the Gloucester Health branch of Unite the Union (she will be speaking in a personal capacity). Cllr Caroline Molloy represents the Stroud Central ward at the District Council for the Green Party. She is also editor of the OurNHS website (7), and a freelance writer. Chris Moore led the local anti-poll-tax non-payment campaign in the 1990s, and is a Trade Unionists and Socialists against Cuts (TUSC) candidate. James Beecher is Chair of Stroud Against the Cuts.
James Beecher said: “We’re enormously proud that a campaign in Stroud was able to successfully resist the privatisation of local community health services, but since that victory in 2012, local non-emergency ambulance services have been handed to a private company, and around the country services are being forced out to tender and taken over by private companies thanks to the Health and Social Care Act – just the latest form of marketization and privatisation of our NHS. At the same time, health and social care services have seen their budgets cut, and workers have seen not only their pay decline dramatically in real terms, but – as in the case of District Nurses – experienced changes in their conditions of work that have led many to consider leaving the service. Morale in the NHS is at a low ebb and workers deserve better. We know we can resist, and win, so we’ve organised this meeting to provide people with information about what is happening and discuss the demands we should be making, and share lessons from our successful campaign” Stroud Against the Cuts have organised a further meeting, on austerity and the UK economy since the financial crisis, on Monday 23rd March, also at 7.30-9.30pm at the Old Town Hall.
Notes for editors:
1. See the press release from the time “Landmark triumph for people power”. Covered in the Stroud News & Journal.
2. See the press release from the time, “Gloucestershire People Power on Show Again”. Covered in Stroud Life and The Citizen.
3. A petition of 6,530 signatures was collected in favour of keeping community health services public, and the formal ‘engagement’ exercise showed 96% of the public and 91% of staff who voted wanted services to remain in the NHS rather than enter a ‘social enterprise’.
4. Several protests were held, including two of over 500 people in Stroud. Videos of many of the protests are available on the SATC website.
5. The original plan was to transfer the following services to a ‘social enterprise’: the hospitals at Stroud, Berkeley, Cirencester, Dilke, Fairford, Lydney, Bourton (Moore Cottage), Moreton, Tewkesbury, the Health Clinics at Beeches Green Stroud, Stonehouse Health Clinic, Sandpits Clinic Dursley, Cinderford Health Centre, Coleford Health Centre, Lydney Health Centre, Hesters Way Healthy Living Centre, Hotts Health Centre Newent, Lydbrook Health Centre, Symn Lane Clinic (Wotton-under-Edge). All District Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Specialist Nursing, Out of hours medical and nursing services, Pharmacy, Sexual Health and Chlamydia screening, Podiatry, Dental services, Wheelchair services, Musculo-skeletal services, Telehealth and Specialist Domiciliary care were also to be transferred
6. “A major incident [was] declared for two hospitals in Gloucestershire, due to high demand in A&E departments”, on 4th January, see the BBC News story. The major incident status was lifted on the 14th January, see the ITV News story.
7. Read a recent article by Cllr Molloy, “The billions of wasted NHS cash no-one wants to mention”.
How to appeal against a reduction in your housing benefit (bedroom tax)
Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 October 2014 12:09 )
Help for people hit by the bedroom tax
Are you a council or Housing Association tenant? Has your Housing Benefit been reduced because of the bedroom tax (under-occupancy charge)?
About 400 people in Stroud have been affected since April last year, losing up to a quarter of HB.
There’s a chance that you may be able to get your bedroom tax rent arrears wiped, reduced and/or capped, but to have the best chance, you need to act now (before mid October).
Act now - you’ve nothing to lose
Submit an official appeal on the 2-page form ‘GL24’ NOW (http://bit.ly/1wh6SrG) and give it to the council.
We can help you get hold of the forms and fill them in. We will be arranging drop-in sessions at The Exchange, Brick Row, Stroud GL5 (dates & times to be confirmed). Or email
, or call Cllr Caroline Molloy on 07931 302507.
Want to do it yourself?
It must be on this official form (even if you’ve already written). Reasons you can use in an appeal include:
· The room is too small to count as a bedroom
· I do not use the room as a bedroom, but for another purpose
· I need the room because someone in my household has disability / health issues, because I have my kids or carer staying part-time, because I have experienced domestic violence.
Use these expert websites suggested wording on how to fill in each section of the form:
http://bit.ly/1owIiOk (NOTE - in Section 4, put in April 2014 as the date, not March 2013)
http://bit.ly/1tBiXpN (See p3 and 4 and pick the arguments that apply to your own situation)
There’s no guarantee of success, but tenants across the country have successfully overturned their bedroom tax using these arguments. If the council doesn’t agree your case, the next step is to go to a tribunal hearing. If that happens, the tribunal will pay your expenses and we will ensure you have someone to go with you. Judges have been sympathetic to tenants. There’s no charge for this, so you’ve nothing to lose by trying.
What else can you do?
In addition, you could ask the council for the application form for ‘Discretionary Housing Payment’ to make up the shortfall. So far, not enough people in Stroud have claimed this money. If you applied but were rejected, write to the council asking them to ‘reconsider the decision’- and let us know (using the contact details above).
What else are we doing?
The bedroom tax is a government policy. But Stroud Against the Cuts are working with Green Councillor Caroline Molloy to push Stroud Council to change their policy so that people falling into rent arrears due to the bedroom tax are not at risk of losing their homes. If you appeal it may help our wider campaigning against the bedroom tax.