Monthly Archives: June 2013

Osborne’s Spending Review – PCS Midlands Shows Government The Red Card

DWP Ravenhurst

DWP Ravenhurst

In his spending review last week, the chancellor announced further massive cuts to the public sector and the civil service on top of the £81bn which will be cut from public spending by 2014. We have already seen a two-year pay freeze and pay cap of 1% and increased pension contributions. More than 70,000 civil service jobs have been cut, the value of pensions reduced and terms and conditions threatened.

The government has refused to talk to us, and we are demanding real negotiations.

The new spending round will cut a further £11.5 billion in 2015/16 and include:

  • Saving a further £5bn from central government
  • Ending progression pay in civil service by 2016
  • 1% cap on public sector pay continued until April 2016
  • Budget cuts of 10% for justice, Defra, Treasury and Cabinet Office and Communities; 9.5% in DWP; 9% for transport; 8% in Foreign Office and department for energy and climate change; 7% in culture; 6% for Home Office and department for business innovation and skills; 5% in Revenue and Customs
  • 2% further cuts for devolved administrations
  • Cuts in defence civilians and allowances
  • 144,000 further job cuts in the public sector.
  • A cap on benefit payments, more cuts and restrictions

27 June protest day – stop the cuts

DWP Five Ways

DWP Five Ways

Highways Agency

Highways Agency

These cuts will have a devastating effect on you, your family and the services we provide. We organised a day of protest against these cuts – to pay, jobs and terms and conditions as part of our national campaign.

On 27 June, at every workplace and in our city centres, members protested to stop the cuts, and keep the pressure on ministers for real negotiations.

Gambling Commission

Gambling Commission

Courts

Courts

The cuts don’t work – there is an alternative

Despite the huge cuts to the public sector both the debt and the deficit are increasing. The economy has flatlined, leading to lower tax revenues and high benefit bills. Read about PCS’ alternative

PCS Midlands shows the government the red card

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Osborne’s Spending Review: Cap Benefits, Cut Benefits, Restrict Benefits

Osborne and Cameron laughing during the mini-budget, dec 2012George Osborne set out his spending review on Wednesday, detailing spending plans for 2015/6, and social security is once again in the sights of his scissors. He plans to cap total benefits payments, so if more people need to claim social security, the amount paid to each will go down. He is also planning to increase the amount of time before you are able to claim benefits after losing a job to 7 days. More conditionality on jobseekers will restrict benefits further and create even more traps for sanctions which can mean up to 3 years without jobseeker’s allowance.

Labour offer no alternative, agreeing with all these cuts to benefits and saying they will stick to Osborne’s spending plan, which covers the period after the next general election, meaning that on economic policies there really is no difference at all between the main 3 parties. Any vote hoping for an end to austerity must go to parties to the left of Labour.

The benefit cap will not include pensions, but will include pensioner age benefits such as the winter fuel allowance and housing benefit. The total amount that will be allowable to be paid in one year has not been announced yet. If the government exceeds this amount they have to explain themselves to parliament so there is a get out clause, but assuming they intend to actually stick to the cap the reality is that if more people need to claim benefits then the amount everyone gets paid will be reduced.

Snow in April 2013Think about what this means. Claimants – which includes people in part time and low paid jobs, disabled people, carers, unemployed people, single parents with young children, and pensioners – will not know from one month to the next how much money they will get. Benefits are already falling in real terms and are often a struggle to live on even before you get sanctioned or something breaks or winter lasts forever and it snows in April so you have to spend more money on heating than is believable.

Now you might suddenly find you get less next month. Why? Because more people have become unemployed, or disabled, or retired… totally out of your control, nothing to do with you and through no fault of your own you will have less money this month than last.

This also affects housing benefit. So what happens when rent rises? Your benefit won’t go up, because it’s capped. Suddenly you’ll have to make up the difference or find somewhere cheaper. But if you’re renting int he private sector you’re already restricted to the cheapest 30% of the market, and if you’re under 35 to a shared house only, so there’s not much cheaper to move to. If you’re in social housing you might already be in arrears because of the Bedroom Tax and now find your benefits are cut further.

Father and young child beggingCapping the total amount paid out in social security does not make sense. It is not the kind of spending you can exactly plan. The effect of it is both unfair and cruel. It is extremely difficult to live not knowing what your budget is. And whatever level the cap is set at, it will no doubt represent an immediate cut in benefits, and over time be pushed downwards to cut benefits even more. So expect more debt, more homelessness, more hunger and foodbank users and more suicides.

It should be noted that the NHS is largely budgeted in a similar way, and if the benefit cap happens and is accepted, we should expect a cap on the NHS budget next.

For unemployed people the story gets worse. If you lose your job you will not be able to claim benefits for the first seven days of being unemployed. This is a gift for loan sharks like Wonga. Labour MP Simon Danzcuk reminded us that there is no point in Labour when stating his support for this on twitter, claiming it was fine because you only needed to save a weeks wages. Not too hard to save money when you are on £65k/year plus expenses and subsidised food and whatever other jobs you fancy doing for companies and lobbyists. Try it on a part time job paying minimum wage with housing benefit not quite paying your rent and tax credits and child benefit not covering the cost of your 5 year old child. Hell, just try it as a single person in a full time job on minimum wage. Another out of touch MP.

jcp-signOsborne said that people should be spending their first week of unemployment looking for work not signing on, but then he says that people will be required to go to the job centre every week, so apparently after the first seven days, signing on is exactly what you should be doing more of. Quite how the already overworked job centres will cope, or whether we’ll see some of the failing Work Programme companies brought in the the job centres directly is yet to be decided. What is clear is that increased visits to the job centre will bring more opportunities for sanctions and general harrasment of unemployed people. The Work Programme has people going in more often, sometimes even more than weekly, and this produces worse results than just the standard fortnightly job centre visit. Perhaps we should think about what this tells us, and wonder if less frequent visits to the job centre would be a good thing. It would after all leave more time for actually looking for work or volunteering rather than some time being looked down on by JCP staff.

Some extra conditionality too – anyone whose English is not good enough will be forced to go on an ESOL course, never mind that such courses are oversubscribed already. Oddly the Tories cut funding for ESOL a couple of years ago, but now they seem to think it’s such a great thing that people should be forced to do it. It’s not clear if more funding will be released for ESOL courses, or if the Tories expect people to magic them out of thin air in order to be able to claim benefits.

All in all this is not just bad news for all claimants, it is also unfair and fundamentally wrong way of thinking about how things like social security and the NHS need to be paid for in order for them to be able to do what they do – which is provide insurance in terms of both the essentials of life and medical aid when needed. Think about how private insurance companies operate, and how eager they are to find ways to get out of paying, how expensive it is. Look at the future for the insurance services provided for by tax.

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Massive Early Years underspend in Birmingham

There was a significant underspend of £8m on early years services for children under five including Children’s Centres in 2012-13. This was the largest single underspend within the Outturn report discussed at yesterday’s cabinet meeting.

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Austerity Isn’t Working But Osborne Will Extend It Until 2020

austerity isnt working poster as imageOn Wednesday 26th June, George Osborne will announce he wants to continue the failing austerity agenda, with the spending review setting budgets from 2015 – 2020. Nationally, Labour have already said they will follow these plans if they win in 2015 so change come only come from outside of parliament. Expect more cuts as Osborne desperately tries to defy economic history by trying to expand the economy through contractionary measures. Join us for a demonstration calling for an alternative economic strategy:

5pm
Wednesday 26th June

Outside Waterstones, High St/Bullring

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An Inspiring People’s Assembly

A report on the People’s Assembly from Communities Against The Cuts

communitiesagainstthecuts

Over four thousand people registered for this gathering of anti-cuts activists in London, and, judging from the packed overspill rooms and extra marquees, most of them must have turned up. It was good to see a varying age profile and a high representation of women. It was also good to be part of a huge and inspiring event that detailed the onslaught on public services and jobs and discussed ways of fighting back.

Peoples Assembly 008

The first plenary heard Owen Jones call for civil disobedience. Frances O’Grady, the first woman TUC General Secretary described how “they are waging class warfare on us” and “the TUC will back unions on strike”.  Mark Steel ridiculed the idea that the poor were to blame for the crisis and that they should pay for it, in his inimitable style. Stephen Morrison Burke spoke a defiant and rousing poem.

There were fifteen workshops during the day. The…

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Protest George Osborne’s Spending Review – June 26th

austerity isnt working poster as imageThere will be a demonstration held on Wednesday 26th June as Osborne sets out his spending review with spending plans from 2015-2020 which will continue his failing austerity agenda. Join us to call for an alternative economic strategy.

5pm
Wednesday 26th June

Waterstones, High St/Bullring

Supported by Birmingham Trades Union Council, Birmingham Against the Cuts, Communities against the Cuts, Birmingham Benefits Justice Campaign, UNISON Birmingham Branch, NUT Birmingham Association
As part of solidarity with the North West NUT/NASUWT strike on the 27th June the Bham NUT is supporting the protest with banners, placards and speakers.

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The Adult and Communities Green Paper at a glance

feb 26th front for facebookBirmingham City Council announced it’s Green Paper on Adult social care services this week. It’s intention is to pave the way to make further budget cuts to care services, additional to the cuts already budgeted for.

The Green paper is a prelude to the formal budget setting for 2014-15 which will start in the Autumn.

Current cuts are insufficient

These services are already committed to saving £46m between 2013/14 and 2016/17, before any further savings proposals identified by the Service Review are considered.

However, these savings don’t go nearly far enough to meet the financial challenge posed.

Future cuts proposed

We believe this can provide total savings of around £37m next year rising to over £75m per year by 2016-17.

The key objectives in redesigning services proposed are:

Reduce reliance on residential and nursing care.

Improve access to support services to enable people to live in their own homes in their community.

Promotion of choice through greater use of individual budgets.

Improved planning and support to young people with additional needs becoming adults.

Increase use of care in the community.

Service re-design

The key to achieving this will be working together and joining up our services:

Consistency between children’s services and adult services – to ensure a “whole life” approach and a more seamless transition from one service to the next
Integrating and aligning our services with the NHS. This has been progressing for some years, but this year will mark the start of a major leap forward towards a joined up approach
Radically changing the way we deliver specialist care services, such as day centres and home care
Working more closely with local communities and recognising the role that we all play in supporting our neighbours, friends and relatives.

Initial proposals

This will mean better planning for very frail people already in care homes, so that increasing needs at the end of life can be met in the care home, not by transfer to hospital. The Plan will pave the way for better multi agency working for people outside hospital.

We are considering establishing a social enterprise to enable specialist care services to trade outside the council. There are potential gains from this operating model and could save the council around £2.5m in three years.

We are considering ceasing council owned residential provision for short breaks for people with disabilities and their carers and replacing it with individual budgets.

Comment

Who can argue with better joined up support services allowing people to live in their own homes?

The Green Paper is great on vision but has very little detail in of how the additional £75m cuts will be made. Specifically how will services be improved while simultaneously being cut, remembering that there is growing need for services due to demographic changes.

The Green paper proposals represents a further move away from directly provided services by the Council towards a greater reliance on commissioning and individual budgets. This is a direct threat to jobs.

The greater use of mutual support for people in their community is code for increasing the exploitation of the unpaid labour of largely women carer’s.

The Green Paper is intended to prepare and softening local public opinion to accept massive cuts in the years ahead. Adult social care services need to be a priority for anti-cuts campaigning.

(all text in italics is a direct quotet from the Green Paper)

The Green paper can be accessed here: http://birminghamnewsroom.com/2013/06/the-future-for-adults-and-community-services/

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