The People’s Assembly 2013

The peoples assembly 2013 – an account by Natasha Allen
Why Austerity is a Concern to us All

Over 4000 people, united against austerity joined together at Westminster Hall on Saturday for a day of discussions and ideas on how we can involve more people in our fight against planned poverty, oops sorry, austerity.

Illustration by Stew - ART

I attended a talk on how we can get the message out about what our government is doing to us with these so called austerity measures and what we can do about it. We need to get people to come together, the cuts affect us all and we have to protect our children and our grandchildren from the consequences of these cuts. We need to “give up on the differences and look towards what we agree on”, we are part of a community who are meant to care about each other, we are all suffering so we need to come together and fight for change, when did people stop caring? What’s happened to community spirit? We should be looking out for each other and loving our neighbours, not just walking on by without a thought for anyone else. Have people made a conscious decision to be selfish?

I thought I would get the answer on how to bring us all together at the People’s Assembly, but then I realised there isn’t one. I believe the only answer is with the people; all coming together to fight against austerity that we know is only affecting the vulnerable, weak, poor and disabled. Its way past the point of ignorance now, everyone knows what is going on. It all comes down to whether you care. If you don’t care – why not? Are you that important that you will never need to use the NHS, the schools, the roads etc and obviously your bin never needs emptying!

Another discussion I attended was about immigration and how the media portrays Muslims. It has been said that if immigration continues we would need to build 17 more cities which is just an example of the rubbish that gets said. The left has been far too quiet on immigration and the bile being spouted. Immigration control is class based and only about money. If you’re not rich enough, you can’t come in, only the brightest and the best are welcome. If you get married outside of the EU you have to pay £18,600 for your spouse to enter the UK. Theresa May has now put a price tag on love!! Immigrants are treated as victims who have no rights.

There are 2.5 million Muslims living in the UK, they are peaceful people who want to live in the wider communities and be a part of society, but the media don’t want to see the good, and it’s caused a backlash against the Muslim community. The police call hate crime against Muslims anti-social behaviour, which has caused mistrust in the community and against the police. Muslims are living in fear and don’t want to go out on the streets, this can’t be right. Its 2013 and we all have a right to go about our daily lives in peace without any fear of being attacked. There are a small minority who cause trouble, as there are everywhere, but to blame all Muslims for the actions of a few is the same as blaming all white British people for the actions of the EDL. Don’t judge people, go and see for yourself.

History proves that when we are in a recession you will see a rise in racism. In WW1 when Germany had an economic collapse there was a rise in Nazi’s. We should not be surprised, it is no coincidence, it is just a classic way of dividing and weakening the working class. There is nothing to be gained about conceding to myths, all it does is feeds the likes of UKIP. Immigrants haven’t caused low wages, it’s the predatory employers who have. Without successive immigrants there would be no NHS, they take far less out of the system than they put in.

We will not let racism and fascism divide us, and we stand out and oppose any racist and fascist groups. WE are the majority and we oppose any attempts to demonise and destroy us. Islamophobia is the cause of the right wing groups and we must stand united against them. We are not going to ignore the EDL coming to our town, when Muslims are under attack we all are. We remain united against Islamophobia and racism, it’s not welcome in our town!

Protests are really good fun, we are a family friendly group at bpacc.co.uk who protest peacefully. We use a lot of creativity and humour in our demonstrations and it’s a great day out for a very important cause. You really feel like you are doing something for the good, you know that you’re making a difference and you are representing the people that are unable to protest for themselves. Someone has to help them, I know I can’t sit and watch and do nothing, to me it’s morally wrong and I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing how much people are suffering everywhere. The time for doing nothing is over, it’s time for action!

See you on the streets.

Chancellor’s spending plans are toxic

Another Spending Review, yet more bad news for public services, the people who work in them and benefit claimants. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘This is a toxic mix of bad economics, nasty politics and dishonest presentation.

‘The last thing our struggling economy needs is further cuts to spending to try to close a deficit made worse by the Chancellor’s earlier cuts. When the medicine is not working and side effects are choking the patient you need a change in treatment not more of the same.

‘Many services will be hard hit. Worst of all is a new attack on some of the most vulnerable in our society through the seven day wait and other conditions for social security payments. The Chancellor may think attacks on welfare go down well with voters, but these will lead to parents not having enough cash to feed their children.

‘And for all the talk of new investment, the truth is that the overall capital spend in 2015 will be exactly the same as the Chancellor forecast in his Budget earlier this year.’

Public service pay and jobs squeeze goes on

The Chancellor announced ‘further reductions in the number of people working in the public sector’ – a cut of 144,000 jobs. Looking at the small print of the OBR’s March 2013 report (p79), this appears to be a confirmation of the OBR projection made back at the time of the Budget. So, as they predicted, an average of 36,000 public service jobs a quarter (395 a day) will still be being cut in 2015-16 as a result of government policies, on track with their estimate of a total of 1 million job cuts from the beginning of 2011 to the start of 2018.

He also confirmed another Budget announcement, that there would be a further year’s 1 per cent cap on pay increases in the public sector, following the two or three year 1 per cent cap and two or three year freeze (depending on where you work). What this means in practice, of course, is living standards falling further and further as real terms pay cuts bite. TUC research published earlier this week showed the impact this had had on households, pushing 180,000 children with a parent in the public sector into poverty.

Seven days wait for family and housing benefits for unemployed claimants

Full information on what the new ‘seven day waiting period’ for unemployed claimants will mean is not yet available. But from what’s available so far it doesn’t look good for people who lose their jobs, or their families. The CSR policy costings document specifies that the policy will:

Introduce seven waiting days in Universal Credit for new claimants that have not had a Universal Credit claim in the past six months, where at least one person in the household is subject to conditionality. This costing assumes a 2015-16 start date for the measure.

The measure is forecast to save around £250 million a year, and is calculated on the basis that:

From April 2015 new awards of Universal Credit in each month for claimants who would be subject to conditionality are reduced by the average amount of Universal Credit claimed per claimant per week.

UC claimants ‘who will be subject to conditionality’ includes a very large group of claimants currently on Jobseeker’s Allowance and could even be taken to mean that those on Income Support (a benefit claimed primarily by lone parents with very young children), or those subject to the benefit cap, are included. Today’s announcement that lone parents will have to start preparing for work once their children are three underlines this point. People in these groups face conditions, just not to actively apply for jobs. More details on which conditionality regime this new policy will apply to is needed before we can rule certain groups out of this new process. We do know that at least those claiming Employment and Support Allowance and contributory JSA will not be affected.

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It is also not just unemployed claimants who are affected, those ‘not earning as much as the government expects them to’ will also see their income fall. This means people earning less than the NMW at 35 hours a week (or whatever their specific rule is – requirements will be less for those who are only required to seek part-time work). Households who are working, but see their income fall, will now have to wait a week to claim UC even if they remain in work with reduced hours during this period.

But the most worrying point is that Universal Credit will bring together all cash benefits into a single payment – so a delay in UC can also mean a delay in benefits currently classified as child and working tax credits, housing benefit, council tax benefits and many more. This policy sounds as if it will do far more than simply affect access to £71.70 of JSA for unemployed claimants (hard as that would be by itself) – it looks as if it is also their rent, their bills and their children’s food costs which won’t be met.

The Macroeconomics of the CSR

James Plunkett, director of policy and development at the Resolution Foundation, stated the £11.5bn of cuts for 2015/16 have been pencilled in for sometime and today was more about getting the detail than the direction of travel. James also noted:

The Chancellor needs a further £13bn in both 2016-17 and 2017-18 on top of today’s cuts in order to meet his deficit targets.

In other words, under the current fiscal framework, there is a lot more pain to come.

So the bigger questions today should be about that fiscal framework. It has utterly failed. The triple A rating has been lost, austerity has been extended from 4 years to at least 8, debt/GDP will still be rising at the end of this Parliament and the fiscal rules have either been broken (falling debt/GDP) or proved meaningless (the rolling structural deficit target).

Sources:

Public service pay and jobs squeeze goes onAlice HoodTouchstone Blog Copyright © 2013 Trades Union Congress

Seven days wait for family and housing benefits for unemployed claimantsNicola SmithTouchstone Blog Copyright © 2013 Trades Union Congress

The Macroeconomics of the CSR
Duncan WeldonTouchstone Blog Copyright © 2013 Trades Union Congress

Child Poverty Action Group Monthly News and Views – June 2013

Shown below is the “News from CPAG – Child Poverty Action Group e-newsletter, a monthly round-up of our news and views”. If you would like to subscribe to CPAG news, please click here.

Latest child poverty statistics

The newly-released annual statistics for 2011/12 showed no change to relative poverty, but 300,000 more children in absolute poverty. The relative poverty statistics also showed that two-thirds of the children below the relative poverty line are now from families in work. Read more on the statistics

Alison Garnham’s blog: ‘We are leaving our children utterly exposed’

Child poverty costs UK £29 billion a year

New research commissioned by CPAG has estimated the cost of child poverty to the UK. It is currently £29 billion a year – or £1,098 for each household – but would rise to £35 billion if Institute of Fiscal Studies projections on the impact of the government’s cuts prove to be correct.

Read Alison Garnham’s blog on this research.

Public backs more action on child poverty

A new poll shows more than 8 out of 10 people believe that tackling poverty should be a priority for government. And two-thirds of people believe the current government is not doing enough. This backing for action on poverty came from supporters of all the main parties. The poll is published by the End Child Poverty coalition, hosted at CPAG. Find out more

Help monitor the impact of benefit changes in London

We are looking for help to monitor the real impacts of welfare reform, particularly housing benefit. If you advise London families please use our quick and easy to use online tool to provide information on how the benefit changes are affecting your clients. Individuals can also use it to tell us about their own experience. We will publish a report this autumn as part of our Trust for London-funded project, and will let you know when it’s available on our website.

Welfare rights conference 2013: Surviving Welfare Reform

Under two weeks to claim your early bird discount, offer closes on Monday 1 July. Places booking fast, book now to avoid disappointment.

  • The Northern Conference in Manchester on Thursday 5 September.
  • The Southern Conference in London on Wednesday 11 September.
  • Further information and booking

Exhibition space: if you are interested in exhibiting your work, products and services at our conference, contact Naomi Jessop – njessop@cpag.org.uk.

Last-minute places available: Virgin London Triathlon and the British 10K

Test your endurance and champion the work of CPAG by signing up for one of these two fantastic events today. Limited spaces are available and all support will be provided by the London Legal Support Trust. To find out more email natalia@llst.org.uk, stating that you’d like to run, ride or swim (or all three!) for CPAG. The British 10K is on Sunday 14 July and the Virgin London Triathlon is Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 July.

Meanwhile, cycle fever has officially hit CPAG! Housing specialist Keepmoat have organised a fantastic Doncaster to Manchester Cycle Challenge in support of us. And Simon Veit-Wilson and friends will be taking on the Pashley & Chopper C2C Challenge. Please support all our cyclists generously!

Film news

Remember the story last month about the new CPAG film? It’s in the editing suite right now so expect to see something exciting in our next e-news! Or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to see it as soon as it’s released.

Meanwhile if you want to be a cinema ‘angel’, the new documentary based on The Spirit Level is accepting pre-orders to fund the UK leg of the filming. Find out more.

We welcome any comments on this newsletter – send your feedback to Liz Dawson – ldawson@cpag.org.uk

With best wishes from everyone at CPAG.

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The People’s Assembly: Draft statement and proposed action plan

The declaration below represents the beginning of a democratic process leading towards a second People’s Assembly in early 2014. This declaration represents the views of all those who initially called for the People’s Assembly. We hope it will be endorsed by the People’s Assembly on 22nd June. It will then be open to the local People’s Assembly’s, union bodies and campaign groups who support the People’s Assembly to suggest amendments, additions, or deletions. These will then all be discussed and decided upon at the recall People’s Assembly in 2014.

The plans for action are simply the most obvious rallying points for a national anti-cuts movement for the remainder of 2013. They are not intended to supersede local or sectional action by existing campaigns or trade unions. They are intended to be focus national, collective action by the whole anti-austerity movement.

The People’s Assembly, meeting in Westminster Central Hall, declares:

We face a choice that will shape our society for decades to come. It is a choice faced by ordinary people in every part of the globe.

We can defend education, health and welfare provision funded from general taxation and available to all, or we can surrender the gains that have improved the lives of millions of people for over more than 50 years.

We do not accept that government’s austerity programme is necessary. The banks and the major corporations should be taxed at a rate which can provide the necessary resources. Austerity does not work: it is a failure in its own terms resulting in neither deficit reduction nor growth. It is not just: the government takes money from the pockets of those who did not cause the crisis and rewards those who did. It is immoral: our children face a bleaker future if our services and living standards are devastated. It is undemocratic: at the last election a majority voted against the return of a Tory government. The Con-Dem coalition has delivered us into the grip of the Tories’ whose political project is the destruction of a universal welfare state.

We therefore choose to resist. We refuse to be divided against ourselves by stories of those on ‘golden pensions’, or of ‘scroungers’, or the ‘undeserving poor’. We do not blame our neighbours, whatever race or religion they maybe. We are not joining the race to the bottom. We stand with the movement of resistance across Europe.

We are clear in our minds that our stand will require us to defend the people’s right to protest, and so we support the right of unions and campaigns to organise and take such action as their members democratically decide is necessary.

We stand with all those who have made the case against the government so far: in the student movement, in the unions, in the many campaigns to defend services, the NHS, and in the Coalition of Resistance, the People’s Charter, UK Uncut, the environmental movement and the Occupy movement.

We do not seek to replace any organisations fighting cuts. All are necessary. But we do believe that a single united national movement is required to challenge more effectively a nationally led government austerity programme.

We have a plain and simple goal: to make government abandon its austerity programme. If it will not it must be replaced with one that will.

We will concentrate on action not words. We aim to provide the maximum solidarity for unions and other organisations and others taking action. We support every and all effective forms action and aim to build a united national movement of resistance.

Our case is clear. The government’s austerity programme does not work; it is unjust, immoral and undemocratic. Alternatives exist. Debts can be dropped. Privatisation can be reversed and common ownership embraced. A living wage can begin to combat poverty. Strong trade unions can help redistribute profit. The vast wealth held by corporations and the trillions held by the super rich in tax havens can be tapped. Green technology, alternatives to the arms industries, a rebuilt infrastructure including growth in manufacturing are all desperately needed. We are fighting for an alternative future for this generation and for those that come after us.

Proposed actions:

  • The People’s Assembly will support every genuine movement and action taken against any and all of the cuts. We support all current industrial actions by the unions. We encourage and will help to organise the maximum solidarity action with the PCS and teaching union members taking strike action the week after the People’s Assembly, as well as with other action by unions planned for the autumn.
  • Peoples Assemblies against the cuts should be organised in towns and cities across our nations, bringing all those fighting the cuts together into a broad democratic alliance on a local basis.
  • The national and the local Assemblies, in partnership with Trades Unions, Trades Councils, campaigning and community groups, can unite our movement and strengthen our campaigns. Local Assemblies will help us to organise a recalled National Assembly to review our work in the early spring of 2014.
  • We will work together with leading experts and campaigners both here and abroad, and friendly think tanks, to develop rapidly key policies and an alternative programme for a new anti-austerity government. We will continue to welcome support from all who fight the cuts.
  • We will call a national day of civil disobedience and direct action against austerity.
  • We will call a day of co-ordinated local demonstrations in the early autumn.
  • We will work with the trade unions and others to call a national demonstration in November.

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Child Poverty Action Group Monthly News and Views

Shown below is the “News from CPAG – Child Poverty Action Group e-newsletter, a monthly round-up of our news and views”. If you would like to subscribe to CPAG news, please click here.

IFS: major surge in child poverty by 2020

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has predicted that relative child poverty will go up by a staggering 1.1 million children in the current decade, almost entirely due to tax and benefit changes introduced by the coalition government. Our response calling for a complete rethink of government strategy on child poverty was widely quoted by the media including the Daily Mirror, Evening Standard and Guardian.

Alison Garnham has blogged on why we must not abandon the child poverty targets and why making progress on poverty requires us to rethink public spending across the whole of government so that we get the fundamentals right – a fairer society and a stronger economy.

Universal Credit – will it work?

Our *new report published with the TUC looks at whether universal credit can deliver its objectives, and in particular whether it can ‘make work pay’. For a summary of the report findings see Alison Garnham’s blog for Liberal Democrat Voice.

Many thanks to the Orp Foundation for supporting our Universal Credit work programme.

Welfare rights conference 2013: Surviving Welfare Reform

We are now hosting our annual Welfare Rights Conference in both the north and south of the country. We hope this will give more people the opportunity to attend, keeping travel and accommodation costs to a minimum.

  • The Northern Conference in Manchester on Thursday 5 September.
  • The Southern Conference in London on Wednesday 11 September.
  • Further information and booking

Special offer – book your place before 1 July for an early bird discount.

Exhibition space: if you are interested in exhibiting your work, products and services at our conference, contact Naomi Jessop (njessop@cpag.org.uk).

Training note: our Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment courses across the UK are selling fast, book your place now to avoid disappointment! Visit our website to find dates in Norwich, Plymouth, York, Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester and Cardiff.

Conference: Tackling child poverty in your local authority

On Thursday 18 July, CPAG is hosting a free conference in Birmingham, supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, exploring ways local authorities and their partners can creatively work to meet their commitments under the Child Poverty Act despite facing significant financial challenges.

Topics to be addressed on the day have emerged from discussions with local authorities and will include workshops on Universal Credit, Social Fund schemes, and including the voices of children and young people in child poverty strategies.

Further information and booking

A new partnership with the Chartered Institute of Housing

We are delighted to be the chosen charity for CIH’s Presidential Appeal. It’s a welcome opportunity for us to partner with a great organisation with shared goals.

For anyone going to the Housing 2013 conference in June, come and see us on the CPAG exhibition stand!

See a full list of our other upcoming events.

CPAG: the movie

We are the lucky winners of a VoiceOver video donated by politics.co.uk. See their inside view of filming a CPAG campaign video on location. We’ll let you know when the final video is launched!

The latest Understanding Society report indicates that while the public endorses the importance of reducing child poverty, there is also a hardening of attitudes towards the welfare state and benefit claimants. Our new campaign video aims to counter the common stereotypes.

Do you know a great campaigner?

Are you speaking out and taking action on issues that matter? Or does this sound like someone you know? Apply or nominate now for an SMK Campaigner Award, which equips people to become more effective campaigners. It’s free to apply. For more information, or to apply or nominate, please visit: the Sheila McKechnie Foundation. Applications close at 1pm on 10 June 2013.

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UK 24th out of 33 in global race for economic growth

The UK is experiencing a slower economic recovery than 23 of the 33 advanced economies monitored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), according to new analysis published by the TUC on 9th May.

The research, which comes as the IMF begins its two week visit to Britain today, says UK income per head – economic growth that takes account of population change – will not return to its pre-crash level until 2017.

By contrast, income per head in Germany and the US will be over 10 per cent higher a decade on from the financial crisis, while South Asian economies are set to have growth of over 20 per cent.

The TUC says the figures, which are based on the IMF’s latest GDP forecasts, reveal that the UK risks enduring a ‘lost decade of growth’, while many of its economic rivals forge ahead.

With the Chancellor identifying an economic ‘global race’ as the defining challenge for the government, the TUC report shows how George Osborne’s own strategy is causing the UK to fall behind its competitors.

The study also reveals how the UK is emerging from recession at a slower rate than at any time in its recent history.

In 1985, UK income per head was six per cent higher than it was before the 1980 crash. In 1995, UK income per head was seven per cent higher than it was before the 1990 recession. UK income per head is today still six per cent below its 2008 level.

The Chancellor cannot blame Europe for the UK’s economic woes, as the vast majority of the Eurozone’s countries are performing better, says the TUC.

George Osborne faces further embarrassment this week when he hosts a meeting of the G7 finance ministers on Friday. Only Italy are experiencing a slower recovery than the UK among G7 countries.

Recent TUC analyses of the ‘global race’ – available at www.touchstoneblog.org.uk/tag/global-race – have found that the UK is lagging behind most of its G7 competitors on exports, wage growth and manufacturing too.

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George Osborne must heed the IMF’s recent call for the UK to ease off austerity and follow the example of the US by investing in jobs and infrastructure, says the TUC.

The TUC wants to see a large jobs and infrastructure stimulus, including a jobs guarantee and an extensive house building programme to get growth and confidence back into the economy.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘We truly are experiencing a lost decade for growth.

‘While other countries are already seeing a rise in economic output, the UK won’t return to its pre-crash level for another four years.

‘The Chancellor’s commitment to self-defeating austerity has prolonged people’s suffering and put the brakes on our economic recovery – so much so that escaping a triple-recession is considered by some to be a cause for celebration.

‘Even George Osborne’s favourite economic institution, the IMF, is calling on him to change course. Without a fresh approach we will continue to trail our economic rivals and bring up the rear in the global economic race.

‘He should start learning from countries like the US whose ambitious programme of investment in jobs is helping to turn its economy around.’

TUC Campaign Plan 2013: Five steps towards a future that works

TUC campaign to make case for radical economic reform
A jobs guarantee for young people, spreading the living wage across the public and private sectors, putting communities not profits at the heart of public services, and creating a stronger voice for workers in the management of companies are among the TUC’s five key campaign priorities in the run up to the general election, according to its campaign plan published on May 1st.

‘A Future That Works’ sets out five key priorities that will drive the work of the TUC over the next two years. The plan has been agreed by the General Council, which represents the TUC’s 53 affiliated unions who between them have almost six million members.

The campaign for jobs, growth and a new economy will mobilise resistance to austerity, with a series of events across the UK this summer, and will also provide a platform for advocates of pro-growth policies and new economic ideas. This will include an event with former US labour secretary and fierce critic of UK austerity, Robert Reich, who will deliver a lecture at the TUC on 21 May.

The TUC will work with and champion public and private sector employers who reach living wage agreements, as part of its campaign for fair pay and a living wage. The TUC itself became a living wage employer earlier this year.

Opposing the outsourcing and privatisation of public services will be the focus of good services and decent welfare. As well as the Save Our NHS campaign and the Action for Rail campaign to put the rail system back into public ownership, the TUC also plans to support parents and education unions against future attempts to allow state schools to be run for profit.

Having helped see off some of the government’s attacks on employment rights in the Beecroft report, the TUC will continue to press for respect and a voice at work for UK employees. The TUC aims to campaign to retain rights to paid holidays, a proper lunch break and reasonable hours at work that are under threat as the government attempts to repatriate powers back from the EU.

Finally, the TUC’s strong unions programme will train of a new generation of union reps to take the TUC campaign messages to non-unionised workers and workplaces and give a voice to a new generation of young employees.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘Margaret Thatcher’s legacy of deregulated capitalism and the cult of finance crashed dramatically in 2008. But the government is still peddling the same old busted model.

‘The government’s failed austerity drive means it could take another ten painful years just to get back to where we were before the recession.

‘Not only will the TUC and unions continue to be the backbone of Britain’s anti-austerity movement but we will also lead the call for new economic ideas.

‘We will champion and work with those who are helping to create a fairer economy – from paying a living wage to giving staff a bigger say in how their company is run.

‘As well as a decent wage, people deserve decent public services. Having overseen the fragmentation of the NHS, ministers now want to introduce the profit motive into Britain’s schools. The TUC will fight this privatisation drive, which we know the public doesn’t support.

‘The TUC is not alone in wanting radical economic and social change. That’s why we’ll be calling on communities and campaign groups nationwide to join our campaign for a new economic settlement that involves and works for the whole country.

‘The next election is likely to be fought over the economy and our living standards crisis. We want to see decent jobs, fair pay, good services and a stronger voice at work at the heart of the plan to deal with these big economic challenges.’

TUC Campaign Plan 2013: Five steps towards a future that works

TUC Campaign Plan 2013: Five steps towards a future that works

Download the plan (pdf format 5.2MB)