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December 2014 Update from Stroud Against the Cuts: Bedroom Tax, NHS, Fire service, Free Education & more!

Saturday, 13 December 2014 13:48 administrator
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In this update:

 

1. Seasonal Social, organised by the Socialist Party

2. SATC press release on the effect of the bedroom tax

3. Fire and rescue workers industrial action continues

4. NHS strike for fair pay

5. Free Education, student protest, and police repression

6. ... and finally

 

1. Seasonal Social, organised by the Socialist Party


The Gloucestershire branch of the Socialist Party is holding a social in the Black Book Cafe on Wed 17 Dec from 7pm onwards. They say "We are "winding down" after a busy year of campaigning and would like to invite comrades, fellow campaigners and friends to join us for some food and to "catch up" with fellow activists. Food will be provided. Bring a bottle. Bring a friend."

Members of SATC who are not members of the Socialist Party (as well as those who are members of both) will be there, and you are invited!
 

2. Our campaigning on the bedroom tax is ongoing

 

Members of SATC are working with councillors to try to improve Stroud District Council's policies on the bedroom tax. Read about how tenants we are working with have been affected in our most recent press release here.

 

3. Fire and rescue workers industrial action continues

 

"On 9 December, FBU members in English fire and rescue services took further strike action to defend their pensions.  Once again, FBU members demonstrated immense strength, unity and determination and I would like to pass on the thanks of the Executive Council.", write Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the FBU. See below for more, and if you have not done so already, watch the SATC video explaining the dispute here.


"FBU officials and members have been extremely busy lobbying MPs to support early day motion (EDM) 454 which asks for the 2015 firefighters pension scheme regulations to be annulled. To date, 281 MPs have signed the EDM. This includes the Labour Leader, the Labour front bench, the majority of the opposition parties and 22 MPs from the government benches. [...] After even more lobbying, we have secured the debate and vote which will take place on Monday 15 December 2014.

We are under no illusion that it will be a tough task to overturn the government’s majority on this, but we all need to continue to lobby MPs to firstly make sure they turn up and secondly that they support the call for the regulations to be scrapped.

Around 3000 FBU members gathered in Aylesbury on 9 December to show their support for Buckinghamshire members who are being unduly victimised and for Ricky Mathews, who was singled out and sacked for taking part in strike action on 31 October 2014." (the text above has been edited for this email, read the full version here)


4. NHS strike for fair pay

SATC has also made a film about the recent NHS strike for "fair pay". NHS workers are in fact only asking that a 1% pay rise recommended by the independent pay review body be passed on to 60% of low paid workers (The 'rise' is a real terms pay cut, but is the first pay rise after years of pay freeze) .

 

Watch the film, which features the regional officer of the Royal College of Midwives, NHS workers, and local anti-cuts campaigners, here.

 

Also, SATC member Caroline Molloy was recently featured in a debate on competition in the NHS arranged by the Daily Express. You can watch Caroline up against Andrew Whaldenby of the Reform Think Tank here, and see an interview with her here.

 

It is also highly recommended you read Caroline Molloy's latest articles on the future of the NHS:

 

Is Devon the Canary in the NHS coalmine? "This week Devon has announced that smokers and obese people will be denied all routine operations, and deaf people get only one hearing aid. The end of the NHS is swimming into focus - unless we swim hard against the current."

 

  

5. Free Education, student protest, and police repression

 

In the past weeks there have been a number of student protests for Free Education.

 

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and the Student Assembly Against Austerity called a national demonstration for Free Education on 19th November. Supported by the Young Greens, but not the National Union of Students, the protest saw around 10,000 students march in London - the largest student demonstration since 2010. You can watch what happened via a 7 minute video here, which makes comparisons with the movement that has won free education in German.

 

Why do we need free education? In this video, Aaron Bastani from Novara Media provides 4 reasons.

 

On the day Osborne gave his Autumn Statement, students at around 20 universities occupied parts of their campuses. Read a summary report from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts here.

 

At one of the universities, students suffered violent police repression - you can read their most recent statement, which addresses the marketisation of higher education and the court injunction the university has taken out against protest, here.

 

Students are making some links with larger protest movements that are arising in response to racist, violent, and repressive policing. On December 9th, a protest in London saw hundreds of people stage a 'die in' in Westfield shopping centre, in solidarity with the family of Eric Garner and in memory of people killed by the police in the UK. The London Campaign Against Police and State Violence have issued a joint statement with NUS Black Students and London Black Revolutionaries here.

 

7. And Finally...

 

Disabled People Against Cuts have produced a series of alternative Christmas Carols:

 

Here's a sample - I'm sure you can pick up the tune!

 

Oh little mouth of Iain Duncan Smith
How much we hear you lie
You say whatever comes into your head
It makes us jeer and cry.
But for all our anger and suffering
We know the truth will shine
One day your cruelty will end
And that will be divine!

 

Last Updated ( Saturday, 13 December 2014 14:34 )
 

Strike for Fair Pay in the NHS - 24th November 2014

Monday, 24 November 2014 22:27 administrator
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Below is a short excerpt of a film we are making on the NHS strike that took place on the 24th November 2014. Before the film, here is a statement from Hannah Basson
Equalities Officer, Gloucester Health Branch, Unite the Union and one of Stroud Against the Cuts' volunteer coordinators:

"I am supporting all the striking NHS workers today. Preventing their pay rises after years of real-term reductions is not 'unaffordable', as the Health Secretary states. The NHS has been giving the Treasury £billions for the last few years in underspend money. This is not about a deficit either - the deficit is no longer falling. This is about preparing my colleagues for the transition in to further privatisation. The postal workers took industrial action to defend their terms and then the Royal Mail was privatised and now the Royal Mail is requesting the tax payer bail them out in order to keep up rural services. Circle took over the publicly-owned Hinchingbrooke Hospital then also asked for a tax-funded bail out to continue doing what the NHS had been doing before. Enough is enough. The public owns these services and the public and the staff should not be lining the pockets of private companies. Good staff deserve good wages."

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 26 November 2014 12:49 )
 

Support fire and rescue workers! Defend our services! Solidarity with the Fire Brigades Union!

Tuesday, 04 November 2014 19:26 administrator
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The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) took strike action from 6pm on October 31st 2014 till 6pm on November 4th 2014. In the youtube video playlist below, members of the FBU and supporters in Stroud discuss why the strike took place, why they took part in or supported the action, and how people can find out more or show solidarity with the union in their dispute with the government.
For more information see: http://www.fbu.org.uk
 

 

Bedroom Tax tenants in hardship refused assistance money from Stroud District Council

Friday, 21 November 2014 18:48 administrator
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Press Release 21/11/2014                                                                  Stroud Against the Cuts

Contact: James Beecher via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 07734 058789

BEDROOM TAX TENANTS IN HARDSHIP REFUSED ASSISTANCE MONEY FROM SDC

Stroud District Council has refused to pass on central government money given to it order to help those in hardship to housing tenants, including one who faces eviction and another who has only been eating once a day.

 

 

Author Maria Shelley, who has been unable to meet rent payments since her housing benefit was reduced in April 2013 due to the introduction of the Under Occupancy Charge or ‘bedroom tax’. As a result she has built up £846.39 of arrears (as of 6th November 2014), and has received a letter from SDC warning of “legal proceedings” that may “leave you with a poor credit rating”, “Prevent you moving home via Gloucestershire Homeseeker and Homeswapper” and “lead to your eviction”. Maria Shelley is appealing against SDCs decision to cut her housing benefit on the grounds that the ‘bedroom’ is too small and is used for reasonable alternative use (3, 5).

The council has recommended that any tenants unable to meet rent payments because of a cut to housing benefit apply for hardship

 

payments known as ‘Discretionary Housing Payment’ (DHP). Indeed, this recommendation was made in a letter to Ms Shelley just two days before she was informed that despite her disability and arrears she would not be eligible for a hardship payment. Another tenant, a domestic violence survivor, has been refused DHP despite the fact that she has been forced into an overdraft and using food banks in order to continue to pay rent (1). Last year SDC returned a substantial sum of money to central government, responding to criticism of this by saying: “We cannot force people to claim discretionary housing payments if they don’t want to and are legally obliged to return any unspent sums to the government.” (2)

Maria Shelley said:

 

“I feel very upset that in some places I might be eligible to get DHP but here in Stroud they’re not taking my health into account – instead the fact I receive disability benefits counts against me and they’re taking the risk of exacerbating my illness. I would have liked the letters from my Doctor to have been given more consideration by SDC because of the impact of stress on my body, and my Doctor is very angry and disappointed that they have ignored her professional opinion. They just don’t seem to get it.”

A letter from Miss Shelley’s doctor to SDC’s Housing Department dated 21st July 2014 said: “I am not knowledgeable in regards to the legalities of the bedroom tax but I have to say that Miss Shelley is in a vulnerable unstable state of health. If taken to court or forced to move, a mental and physical breakdown may occur and may well need a second bedroom then for carers/family to come and look after the patient”

 

Vanessa d’Esterre: “I am trapped in the house I was abused in and I want to move, but I have found that most one- and two-Bedroomed HA properties exceeds the rent of the three-bedroomed house I currently live in. I suffer from PTSD and acute Anxiety and Depression as a direct result of my Domestic Violence & Abuse experiences, but although I need a Safe House and a Safe Location to live in, I have been told that I can only apply to a Council if I have close relatives living in the area. I have not been considered for several Council properties that I felt were in a safe location to bid on, because of the sheer level of community need in the Emergency Banding and the lack of one bedroomed properties in

 

and around the County. Renting privately is unrealistic – it’s unobtainable and unaffordable. Stroud District Council’s answer to this is that I could live in Bed & Breakfast. If SDC are advising women that this is a Safe option to Refuge Spaces that do not exist, then I feel that they are either ignorant of Domestic Violence Abuse issues, paying lip service to safeguarding the vulnerable, or so severely underfunded due to central government funding cuts that they cannot function properly. 

I have recently been refused Discretionary Housing Payment. Because of the lack of guidance and because I am so distressed I omitted some expenditure on my form. In order to meet other costs I have no landline Telephone, Broadband or Television and I also go without heating and mostly eat only once a day.  These sacrifices essentially impact on my mental and physical disabilities and prevent me from moving forward and going back to my career. I will be asking SDC to Review my DHP.”

James Beecher,

 

one of SATC’s volunteer co-ordinators said: “The way tenants are being treated is heart-breaking. I’m disgusted by the way people in obvious hardship are being forced through frankly bizarre bureaucratic hurdles in order to access money intended for them which the council is saying they can’t give away. It’s not that there’s a shortage of people applying, it’s that the council is acting like Scrooge – except with no benefit to its own budget. We’ll continue to campaign for more sensible policies with a serious sense of urgency as tenants face a bleak Christmas” (4).

 

Notes for editors:

1.       A letter from Vanessa d’Esterre previously published in the Stroud News and Journal: http://www.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/lettersextra/11510011.print/

2.       “Eighteen tenants hit by bedroom tax at risk of eviction – campaigners claim” – Stroud News and Journal story http://www.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/11492022.Eighteen_tenants_hit_by__bedroom_tax__at_risk_of_eviction__campaigners_claim/?ref=mr

3.       Further coverage in the Stroud News and Journal of Stroud Against the Cuts campaign for tenants to appeal against imposition of the bedroom tax http://www.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/11518174.___Bedroom_tax____protest_hits_Stroud/

4.       Report in Stroud Life on Stroud Against the Cuts’ 2013 attempts to persuade Stroud District Council to adopt a formal ‘no bedroom tax evictions’ policy and other policies to aid tenants: http://www.stroudlife.co.uk/Bedroom-tax-evictions-debate-Stroud-District/story-20241697-detail/story.html

5.       Stroud Against the Cuts’ webpage on “How to appeal against the cut to housing benefit (the under occupancy charge or bedroom tax” http://stroudagainstcuts.co.uk/fightback/disability/41-disability-cuts/174-how-to-appeal-against-a-reduction-in-your-housing-benefit-bedroom-tax.html

 

Last Updated ( Friday, 21 November 2014 19:09 )
 

How to appeal against a reduction in your housing benefit (bedroom tax)

Monday, 22 September 2014 14:13 administrator
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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.

Need help?

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 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 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.

 

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 October 2014 12:09 )
 


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