Tag Archives: cuts

The Bedroom Tax Is A Tax, No Matter What The Tories Say

Like many people, I’ve always thought the Tories were monumentally stupid. Many of them have the most expensive education money can buy and yet they trot out the most absurd and intellectually-enfeebled statements with nary a thought. A couple of years ago, David Cameron appeared on the David Letterman Show and couldn’t even tell his interlocutor what the Magna Carta was.

He went to Eton and Oxford, for chrissakes. But let’s be blunt: the offspring of this country’s wealthy and powerful don’t have to do well at school because they don’t need to. They know that they will land a plum job no matter how brain dead they are. Cameron is but one example. Osborne is another.

The Tories’ solution for dealing with the housing crisis was indicative of, not only their ignorance of the gravity of the situation, but also of their mindless cruelty towards those without the means to fight back. The so-called Spare Room Subsidy, which is more accurately termed “The Bedroom Tax”, is an example of this cruelty. However the term “Spare Room Subsidy” itself is indicative of their ignorance. Since when was a charge for something considered a ‘subsidy’?

The Oxford English Dictionary describes a subsidy as:

A sum of money granted by the state or a public body to help an industry or business keep the price of a commodity or service low.

An example of this would be

a farm subsidy

Does the Bedroom Tax sound like a “subsidy” to you? No, it doesn’t sound like one to me either.

I’ve had Tories seize on a Tweet that I wrote a few months ago in which I provided the dictionary definition of a subsidy. Yesterday, this numpty even linked to his blog in an attempt to prove me wrong. He even tried to support his claim by repeating the lie that council housing is “subsidized”. If they aren’t trotting out wilfully ignorant statements, then they’re peddling myths. Council housing is not “subsidized”. The majority of council housing stock was built decades ago and the rents paid to local authorities have paid for the building of these properties many times over. Council rents bring in millions of pounds for local authorities. This evidence is completely ignored by the Tories who whine and complain that people are paying below the inflated market rents charged by their rentier brethren. They won’t be happy till we’re all (apart from them) living in abject squalor in shanty towns, which they will bulldoze because they’re “an eyesore”.

The person who replied to my Tweet claims, according to his Twitter profile, that he’s socially liberal and economically conservative. Oh, how I laughed. His complaint against the phrase ‘Bedroom Tax’ rests entirely on this weak premise:

Amazingly the left call this system a “tax”, which it definitely isn’t. There can only be two possible reasons that they are doing this. The first is because, as they have proven repeatedly, they don’t understand economics. The second is because they could possibly be lying again and trying to mislead the British public for political reasons, which is strange when it is their idea.

This fool believes himself to be intellectually superior to everyone else, yet he displays a distinct lack of critical thinking and is quite keen to recirculate the Tories’ myths and lies. But he claims the left (whoever they are) “don’t understand economics”. It’s quite clear to me and many others, that the Tories are utterly clueless when it comes to economics. Have a look at Osborne’s Autumn Statement if you don’t believe me.

To top off his arrogance, the numpty tells us:

Abusers will be muted. Tedious fools also.

The word generally used on Twitter is “blocked” and I blocked this idiot.

The first Tory who took issue with my Tweet even quoted part of the definition for the word ‘tax’.

A compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government on workers’income and businessprofits, or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions:

But what about protection racketeers who refer to the charges they impose on people as a ‘tax’, are they going to tell them to stop using the word and use the word ‘subsidy’ instead? The word ‘tax’ is not limited to money paid to a state, it is used to describe any kind of deduction or a drain on one’s powers.

The Free Dictionary says:

Tax (tæks)

n

1. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) a compulsory financial contributionimposed by a government to raise revenue, levied on the income or property ofpersons or organizations, on the production costs or sales prices of goods andservices, etc
2. a heavy demand on something; strain: a tax on our resources.

vb (tr)

3. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) to levy a tax on (persons, companies,etc, or their incomes, etc)
4. to make heavy demands on; strain: to tax one’s intellect.
5. to accuse, charge, or blame: he was taxed with the crime.
6. (Law) to determine (the amount legally chargeable or allowable to a party to alegal action), as by examining the solicitor’s bill of costs: to tax costs.
7. to steal
You will notice that I have put point 7 in bold. Britain or, rather, HMP United Kingdom has some of the most regressive taxes in the world and these amount to little more than theft and/or the abuse of power. The Poll Tax or Community Charge was but one example of the kinds of regressive taxes imposed on people by the Tories because they’re seen as ‘fair’.
If Tories and right-wing numpties want to play games with semantics, then they will have to do much better than dispute definitions by using such narrow terms.
The Tories: ignorance is strength.

10 Comments

Filed under ConDem Budget 2010, Conservative Party, economic illiteracy, Economics

Open Letter to the Public (from a firefighter)

I had to reblog this open letter from an anonymous firefighter. As regular readers may be aware, this government is making ordinary people pay for the bankster’s greed and incompetence. When it took office in 2010, the Tory-led government scapegoated public sector workers as well as the unemployed and the disabled for the economic crisis. Not content with that it started attacking firefighters and anyone else who wasn’t a so-called ‘wealth-creator’.

Here is part of the letter.

Dear Citizen of the United Kingdom,

It is with a heavy heart that I feel I have to write to you. I am a Firefighter and I feel it’s my duty to explain to you why I have chosen to take Industrial Action. This I’m afraid is the only option I have left. I have spent my working life serving you. I have seen and done things that nobody should ever have to, but I do it and live with the scars because I am Firefighter, it’s what I do. I am there when you need me the most, willing to lay my life on the line to help you and your family in your darkest hour.  I am not a hero, in fact I resent that title. I am a human being just like you, only a human who has dedicated their life to train and train and train again for any situation. Who has fought through heat and smoke to be there when you need me the most. Who has studied for hours numerous cars to know the best way to cut you free. Who has swum in icy lakes to save you from drowning.  This is to name but a few.  I don’t do it for thanks, I don’t do it for praise, I don’t do it for money,  I do it because I am a Firefighter. It’s what I do. The only thing I ask, which I never thought I’d have to, is to be treated fairly and with respect.

The current Government have decided that since the financial crisis, people like me will have to pay for it. People who are easy targets.  This not only includes nurses, teachers, police, ambulance staff and other essential  services, but people who rely on benefits through no fault of their own to survive. We continue to be penalised while the real crooks get away with it. The Government have decided my future and I must accept whatever decision they seem fit.  No negotiation, no looking at any evidence provided, just dictating what I must concede to.  This I can not do.  It is not in my nature to lie down and accept what is unfair and unjust.  I am a Firefighter, the clue is in my title, I will fight for what I feel is right just as much as I would fight for you or your family’s life.

You can read the rest of this letter by clicking on this link.

Please support our firefighters in their struggle.

3 Comments

Filed under Cuts, Government & politics

Gidiot and the Spending Review

Have you noticed the way the mainstream media has dropped the word “cuts” from its vocabulary and has begun to use words like “efficiency” instead? In this light, perhaps today’s government spending review should also be renamed. Maybe “list of forthcoming cuts” would be more appropriate. If you can think of an appropriate euphemism, feel free to drop me a line.

This morning as I’m listening the Today programme on Radio 4 (it’s enough to make you want to throw the radio out of the window sometimes), Justin Webb was telling us how Osborne (Gidiot to you and me) was preparing to spend more money on intelligence. Not his intelligence, though Lord knows he needs it, but the intelligence services or, more specifically, the secret state with it agents provocateurs and spies. Apparently, money for schools and hospitals will not be affected. Really? Somehow, given the rush to privatize the NHS and roll out more freak free schools, I find that hard to believe.

So rather than announce really meaningful spending plans, this government plans to spend more money on the instrument of repression than on the nation’s health and well-being. Morons like Osborne would defend these plans claiming “it’s necessary to keep the nation safe”. The thing is, we aren’t safe with this government and never will be. Nor would we be safe under a Labour government headed by Mr Ed, who’s pledged to remain loyal and true to the Tory regime of cuts and privatizations.

Whatever Gidiot announces today at the dispatch box, you can be certain that he will use the worn-out phrase “hard-working families”. Gidiot… it’s a great name for him.

Leave a comment

Filed under Conservative Party, Cuts, Government & politics

Nightmare on King Street (Part 9)

I've come for yer books! Where are they?

I wrote in this blog about how the once proud Hammersmith Library has had its reference section sliced from its body. Since then, I have received information about the fate of the rest of the borough’s libraries. Contrary to what the Tories tell us, there have been library closures but that’s not all. In a part of London where green spaces are few and far between, the few parks that exists in the borough are being privatized (the neighbouring borough of Kensington & Chelsea has already done this). We have already had stories about how people who train or coach others in the parks are to be charged. Within days of taking power, the Tories announced that they would introduce regular polo matches to Hurlingham Park, most of which belongs to a private concern.  Polo does not have popular appeal and by “popular”, I mean “of the people”. It is a sport that is played by royalty, the well-to-do and their hangers-on. By introducing polo to Hurlingham Park, the Tories were signalling their intention to engage in a class war against those people who did not own their own homes and were paid less than £100,000 per annum. This was a sign; a sign that only those who can afford their own personal libraries, should be the ones with access to books. Everyone else would just have to lump it.

Some libraries, like Wormholt, have laready been closed and sold off to the ARK academy, which is owned by Tory donor and former party treasurer, Lord Fink.  Others like Sands End and Baron’s Court have been redesignated as “multi-purpose” buildings in which the range of books has been dramatically reduced.  Many books, including the impressive reference collection that was once housed at Hammersmith Library, have either been moved to Fulham or Westminster, while others have simply been sold off or thrown away. Yes, these philistines are more than happy to throw away books.

The new Shepherds Bush Library is pretty much lacking in books and resembles, as one person put it, “a Jobcentre without jobs”. Rather revealingly, the new library also boasts a Ben and Jerry ice cream machine. While that may seem like a nice touch (Hammersmith Library has a Walls Ice Cream machine), Ben and Jerry is owned by Unilever, whose CEO chairs Andrew Lansley’s Public Health Commission. Yes, the CEO of a company that produces fatty foods, is in charge of a health commission. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Besides, food does not belong in a library.

On top of all of this, I am told that the council has stopped employing qualified librarians and the Dewey Decimal system has been abolished. So if you need some information on the location of a book, then you won’t get it from the people behind the counter, who are only there to serve and process. Indeed the council intends to introduce self check-out machines, which will obviate the need for humans.

Here’s what the Tory group’s website has to say,

Library users are now being asked for their thoughts on what improvements should be carried out. In addition to making more space available for public use and buying new books, the council is keen to hear what users think about:

  • Fitting self-service terminals to reduce queues and customer waiting
  • Installing Wi-Fi
  • Hosting more events for teenagers and children
  • Holding more author events
  • Setting up music listening posts

You can view their consultation questionnaire here. I have had a quick look at it and it seems to me that the questions are somewhat skewed towards the Tories’ desired outcome. I noticed that the option “Better choice of books” appears at Q.4  and at Q.10,  it is rephrased as “Good range of stock”.  Nowhere Towers has also noticed Q.11 which asks “What would you like us to consider as part of the refurbishment”?   The options given are “cafe/restaurant facility” and “meeting room hire”. Be in no doubt that, while the Tories can’t sell off Hammersmith Central Library (there is a convenant on the building), they are doing all they can to diminish its role as a library and convert it into an Internet cafe.

Here’s what the council website says,

Why we are consulting

The council will be revamping Hammersmith Library as it continues to roll out the “More than a library!” brand and to preserve the original features of this beautiful building.

Dating from 1905, Hammersmith Library is a Grade II listed building which has seen minor changes to the internal layout in the 1950s and early 1990s. Since the 1990s, no major redecoration, replacement of floor coverings or updating of shelving has taken place.

Major works are required to the roof, the leaded windows, the heating and electrical systems in order to meet current standards, environmental concerns and the needs of a 21st century library service.

The council hopes to improve access to all areas of the library, restore and enhance original features, make more space available for public use and provide new library stock.

“New library stock”, sounds a deliberately vague. It doesn’t necessarily indicate that they will be buying new books either. “New stock” could mean anything. Indeed, as I have already indicated, the reference books have been sent to Westminster and Fulham, the latter of which is the local Tories’ power base.

When I was younger, I spent a great deal of my spare time in public libraries. The way things are going in this borough and elsewhere, younger generations will have no libraries to go to. I once read a comment left on Torygraph blogs by a rabid right-winger who claimed that “if you can’t afford books, why should we (the rich) pay for them”? I get the feeling this person didn’t pay much attention to 19th century history, because if he did, he would know that many of the country’s libraries were created by bequests from wealthy benefactors like Sir Henry Tate and Andrew  Carnegie.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hammersmith & Fulham Tories, London

Hammersmith & Fulham Council: a personal story

The strap should read "putting rich residents first"

I never had any trouble with Hammersmith & Fulham Council when it was Labour-controlled. When the Tories took control in 2006, it signalled the beginning of attacks on the borough’s poor, the low-waged, the homeless, the disabled and children.  Within two years, I would become embroiled in a very long battle with the council. And it is a battle that is far from over.

In 2008, after a period of unemployment, I signed off the dole and took a job as a cycling instructor for Kingston Council. I duly informed the council of my change in circumstances. The council stopped my Housing Benefit (HB) but not my Council Tax Benefit (CTB).  Normally, when HB is stopped, CTB is also stopped; the two benefits always work together. But at Tory-controlled Hammersmith & Fulham, incompetence and maladministration have been developed into art forms. I asked the council what it was playing at and why they didn’t stop the CTB. They could not provide me with an answer and sent me a massive bill for CTB arrears instead. There was no apology. Nothing. Just pay up or else.

I began my PhD in September 2009. I had a job and so didn’t need to claim any benefits. However in February 2010 I was made redundant.  In desperation I suspended my studies (which I am entitled to do) and claimed Jobseekers Allowance, HB and CTB (which I am also entitled to do).  I was paid HB but, by December 2010, the Council decided that I was not entitled to HB and sent me a bill for £944.  I even provided them with a letter from my university that informed them of my suspension of studies. It was ignored. The Jobcentre had no problem with my suspension and appeared to know the law better than the Council, who took it upon themselves to move the goalposts. The council has acted illegally by not only sending me this bill but referring the matter to their bailiffs.

But that’s not all.

As a full-time student (I have recently changed my status to part-time because of ongoing financial difficulties) I am entitled to a Council Tax exemption. In 2009 and 2010 I provided the Council with certificates of exemption. In 2009, they took a incredibly long time to process the certificate and subsequently helped themselves to a year’s worth of council tax from my account (that’s theft). After cancelling the direct debit in January, they decided to help themselves to more money later the following year (again, that’s theft),  thus making me overdrawn without prior authorization. The Council did not apologize nor did it reimburse me for the bank’s charges. Instead it told me that the money would be used to reduce my CTB arrears. It wasn’t. They tried to claim that they had “technical difficulties” but refused to elucidate what those “technical difficulties” were.

The Tories at H&F council claim that the authority is heavily in debt and needs to make cuts. But it would also seem that they have advised their HB and CTB teams to refuse benefits to people or find ways to claw back the monies paid by fabricating a lack of entitlement. There is also the element of sheer incompetence: the council are slow to reply to correspondence and frequently (possibly deliberately) misplace or lose documents that are sent to them by Recorded Delivery. I am still waiting for a reply to an email that I sent to the council last week that questioned their cavalier attitude to benefits claimants and the extra-legal methods they employ  to claw back those benefits.

The Council expects me to give up and pay up but they underestimate my resolve. I have been consulting with the Citizens Advice Bureau at the Royal Courts of Justice (the local Citizens Advice Bureau is just as useless as the Council) with a view to taking legal action against them and I will press for the maximum in compensation.

Furthermore, it is my view that H&F council wants to remove all social housing tenants and benefit claimants from the borough, which they have recently labelled “The Borough of Opportunity”. It’s a borough of opportunity but not for those who are on incomes of less than £100,000 per annum or those who live on council estates or who are disabled or homeless.

H&F council has appeared in Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs column 13 times and I often wonder how many other people in the borough have had similar experiences to me. If you have been a victim of H&F council’s incompetence or maladministration, then I want to hear from you. You can contact me at buddyhell@hotmail.com

UPDATE 19/4/12 @1422

Recently I have sent a number of letters to the Council by Recorded Delivery (or Signed For). The Council denies ever having received the letters, even though I have proof that they were delivered. I suspect foul play and I am determined to get to the bottom of this matter.

I also notice that H&F Tories claim that “Residents satisfaction with the council climbs again”. They justify this by citing a recent residents survey that they conducted. It’s funny, but I don’t recall being asked for my opinion. I also suspect that the survey was worded in such a way as to favour a particular, flattering outcome for the Council, which is actually one of the most complained about councils in the country. I will quote a snippet from the blog here.

Residents’ satisfaction with local council services has risen again so it now rivals some of the traditionally best regarded councils in the country.

75% of respondents in a recent ‘Tri-borough’ survey, which polled around 500 people over the phone, said they were satisfied with Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council’s performance. This compares to 77% of residents in Westminster and 85% of residents in Kensington and Chelsea – which have both historically been two of the most well thought of council’s in the UK.

In a separate H&F poll, known as the annual residents’ survey (2011), 62% of respondents said they were satisfied with the council’s performance – up 2% on 2010.

The Dear Leader was jubilant,

“These latest survey results bring us closer still to our two neighbouring boroughs putting us in a small band of elite UK councils with residents’ satisfaction of 75% or above.

“We are the only council in the country that is consistently cutting council tax, reducing debt and boosting residents’ satisfaction while protecting front-line services.”

He added,

“Our residents are overwhelmingly telling us that we are on the right track and, while there is more to do, we are proud to be leading the way in delivering more for less in the age of austerity.”

Which residents are these, I wonder?

4 Comments

Filed under Hammersmith & Fulham, Hammersmith & Fulham Tories, London

My Tory Party conference preview

The Tory Party rally conference opens today in Manchester  in the middle of the biggest economic crisis in a generation. We can expect the following things to be said over the course of the rally conference:

  1. We hate human rights
  2. We hate Europe
  3. Give the British people a say as to whether ‘we’ should remain in the EU
  4. The last government created the current economic mess
  5. The deficit is unprecedented because Labour overspent in its last years
  6. The nation’s credit card is ‘maxed out’
  7. We want to cut red tape (in other words we want to ditch Health & Safety legislation and other forms of workplace protection because we don’t care about people)
  8. Kill the poor (I made that one up but the sentiment exists)
  9. Strikes are wrong and the government should further limit a worker’s right to withdraw their labour
  10. Public sector workers enjoy ‘gold-plated’ pensions, which are ‘unsustainable’
  11. We are a compassionate party
  12. Or NHS ‘reforms’ will deliver (greater profits to our chums in the healthcare industry)
They will deliberately ignore the fact that:
  1. Capitalism is in crisis (no change there)
  2. Neoliberalism is a busted flush
  3. Their love of budget cuts will make matters worse
  4. They don’t have a real recovery plan and their ‘strategy’ is designed to ensure that the rich hold onto power at the expense of the vast majority of the electorate
That’s pretty much it, really.

Leave a comment

Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics

Christmas lights? In the summer?

For many months I’ve noticed this tree at the north end of Fulham Palace Road, near the flyover. It’s been lit up like this since last Christmas. Here is the tree as it is during the day. You need to look very closely to see the lights. Here’s an image of the tree at night. It’s very nice but how much does it cost to have the lights on all day, every day?

Hammersmith & Fulham Council loves to tell us how it’s saving money. It cuts community centres and youth clubs but is quite happy to pour money down the drain by illuminating this tree. It’s very pretty but it’s a waste of money. I may have to submit a Freedom of Information request to find out exactly how much money has been spent on lighting up this tree.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hammersmith & Fulham, London