We know the 10% cut in the central government council tax grant to local authorities is to be used to finance the railways (Earl Attlee Hansard 16 July 2012 : Column GC13) and have heard rumours that cuts in welfare will be used to finance wind farms. The party conferences precede the report stage of the Local Government Finance Bill in the House of Lords; it is a looming disaster for our poorest fellow citizens.
The localisation of council tax benefits, the 10% cut in central government grants and the problems related to blending a national universal credit with a localised council tax are expected to both increase the taxation paid by the working poor and reduce the benefits paid to unemployed people.
JOBCENTRES ISSUE VOUCHERS FOR FOOD BANKS WITH NO FOOD.
Until we have affordable housing, and adequate minimum incomes in work and unemployment, the poverty, and poverty related debt, of working age adults and their children is set to get ever worse. The GPs surgeries are experiencing ever longer queues.
Here is a report about food poverty in Tottenham followed by a letter published by The Guardian yesterday.
TOTTENHAM RESIDENTS’ INCOMES ARE STOPPED; THEY ARE FORCED INTO HOPELESS DEBT, AND JOBCENTRES ISSUE VOUCHERS FOR FOOD BANKS WITH NO FOOD.
Yesterday, 16th May, I was at a meeting at Somerford Grove Adventure Playground and learnt that the food bank in Tottenham is in crisis.
To run efficiently they need a large central store and several distribution points.
They were evicted from their large store in Laurence Road.
So now the increasing demand is falling on the Somerford Grove Adventure Playground; they do not have the volunteers, the space the food, or the money to cope. People are going hungry.
The Tottenham Jobcentres are creating false hopes by issuing food vouchers which cannot supply food to callers with vouchers,
leading to distressing scenes with people weeping and hungry.
Some benefit claimants also have no electricity so cannot cook, turn the lights on or keep warm. They inevitably have Utility, rent arrears and other unmanageable debts.
The impact of sanctions, bedroom tax, housing benefit cap, and £500 overall benefit cap is already creating a food desert in Tottenham. The enforcement of council tax by Haringey Council will make it even worse.
The plan is to set up an efficient central food store in Tottenham, where the vast majority of the poorest households are to be found in the Haringey Borough.
As you know food banks do not end poverty, hunger, or poverty related debt, they only feed people for three days; but we are all forced to run them by the government when incomes are cut so low they cannot buy necessities or pay the rent and council tax..
Letter in The Guardian 16 May 2013.
HELP FROM CHARITIES BECOMING A LOTTERY
Randeep Ramesh (Society, 15 May) highlights the conflict for charities between campaigning against the outrageous injustice of the government’s policy of imposing caps, cuts and council tax on poverty incomes and also being paid by the same government to deliver the policy. He describes the vulnerability of charities’ government funding when Tory ministers, “scarred by battles with campaigners”, start a “bout of creative destruction”. The political activities of charities are also limited by the charity commissioners, who might take exception to trustees engaging in mass civil disobedience against such damaging oppression of the poorest citizens.
The effect is to weaken the already vulnerable position of the poorest individuals and families, for whom none of the parliamentary parties makes a convincing stand. The poorest are a minority and rarely vote. All of which calls for enough decent people, who understand the injustice being done, to fund politically independent lobbying organisations, which are not charities, whose sole purpose is the eradication of income poverty, the introduction of fair taxes and the provision of decent and affordable housing.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
STEPHANIE BOTTRILL’S SUICIDE
Rev Paul Nicolson – 0208 3765455 – 07961 177889
The government was warned repeatedly, while they reformed the benefit system,
“The debts you are creating will hurt decent people”.
Debt and its enforcement are known to create mental health problems which include nervous breakdown, unbearable stress, an inability to cope, drowning the sorrows in drink and/or drugs and suicide.
The new benefit system has been put together by the mad hatter’s tea party at the DWP.
They give inadequate benefits with one hand and then take them back with four other hands, leaving people unable to buy food and keep warm.
• the bedroom tax,
• housing benefit cap,
• The £500 overall benefit cap,
• the council tax ,
The firsts three create unmanageable debt in rent arrears by cutting housing benefit and then, on top of that, council tax arrears are inevitable. Adult benefits are so low at £71.60 a week people cannot afford to pay.
The government was warned repeatedly about the relationship between debt and mental health problems during the passage of the Welfare Reform and Local Government Finance Bills.
But they persisted in creating unmanageable debts, reducing the benefit incomes which are meant to pay them off and allowing rents to increase.
WELFARE REFORM BILL
I sent the following case to Ministers at the DWP, DCLG and MOJ together with 30 other cases of debt related suicide.
“Local Government Ombudsman reports the case of Mr “Watson”, a single, semi-literate adult living alone in Southwark.
Jobcentre Plus mistakenly cancelled his JSA so Southwark cancelled his housing and council tax benefits creating arrears in both accounts. On the 12th January 2001 CSL, Southwark’s out sourced agent collecting council tax, sends Mr Watson a summons for unpaid council tax of £235.10, plus costs, for a hearing on 9th February 2001. The summons contains the following threats, in bold type and highlighted. Thousands are dispatched daily:
“If a liability order is granted the council will be able to take one or more of the following actions:
- Instruct bailiffs to take your goods to settle your debt – this can include your car.
- You will be liable to pay the bailiffs costs which could substantially increase the debt.
- Instruct your employer to deduct payments from your salary or wages.
- Deduct money straight from your jobseekers allowance or income support.
- Make you bankrupt.
- Make a charging order against your home.
- Have you committed to prison”.
His sister-in-law calls on him. His body is hanging in his flat. The police found the summons with him, paper littered with rough calculations and a note:
“Dear …. I at to do this I am in so much in Detr good By for ever Love……”
Threats of eviction for rent arrears were not far off. JSA was £53.05 a week after rent and council tax. (Now £71.60 and worth less than in 2001). (The Joseph Rowntree Foundation minimum income standard for healthy living, after rent and council tax, is £144 a week for a single adult).”
I also drew their attention to the Government Office for Science Foresight Report “Mental Capital and Wellbeing” which links debts to mental health problems.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists met Lord Freud on the subject on the 12th January 2012.
The 12th January 2012 I organised a seminar which Lord Ramsbotham had arranged for Lord Freud (Minister for Welfare Reform) on Sanctions, Penalties and Overpayments. It was attended by Royal College of Psychiatrists, Liberty, CAB, CSAN, Community Links and Homeless Links. I asked them to prepare a three minute presentation. Lord McKenzie (Labour) and Lord Kirkwood (Lib Dem) also attended.
The 19th January 2012. I was invited to meet officials at the Cabinet Office about financial hardship. This followed meetings with officials at the DWP, DCLG and MOJ to discuss the Zacchaeus 2000 description of financial hardship.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE BILL – introducing the new poll tax.
1. Lord Harries placed the Zacchaeus 2000 description of financial hardship on record.
Hansard 24 July 2012: Column GC271.
Seventhly, as the noble Baroness Meacher pointed out, there are some very heart-rending cases of people running into huge debts because of mental health problems, or of such problems occurring because of all sorts of misunderstanding about the debt. The Royal College of Psychiatrists reports that 50% of people in debt have mental health problems. The figure is 50%, so, to put it the other way round, 25% of people with a diagnosed mental health condition are in debt. Those are startling figures.
2. Baroness Meacher moves an amendment for Zacchaeus 2000 to protect individuals and families in financial need from having their essential belongings, and even their homes, seized by bailiffs executing a warrant for the repayment of debts.
24 July 2012: Column GC267.
Baroness Meacher. Just imagine what would happen if you lost a piece of your rent and you had to take it-perhaps £8 a week-out of your £54. I cannot imagine living on £54 a week for housing benefit and all the other bits and pieces you get. As for the idea that you then lose a bit of that as well because you are in the wrong flat and have to move, what about the costs of moving and all the rest of it? It is unthinkable that these people will be able to cope at all.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
Trustee Zacchaeus 2000
I AM REFUSING TO PAY MY COUNCIL TAX IN SUPPORT OF THE MANY PEOPLE IN THE UK SUFFERING UNDER THE CATASTROPHIC AND VERY UNFAIR BENEFIT CUTS AND CAPS, WHO ARE ALSO CHARGED A COUNCIL TAX THEY CANNOT PAY.
This is personal decision for which I am entirely responsible; it is taken without the prior knowledge of the Church of England, the members of Taxpayers Against Poverty or of the NGOs with which I am associated
My council tax is £1332 for 2013/14 for Band C. I receive 25% reduction for single occupancy of £330.52 reducing it to £991.54, which I can afford. I have paid one instalment of council tax of £100 on the 1st April and cancelled my direct debit for £99 a month from the 1st May. I have one spare bedroom but I am not liable for the bedroom tax.
I am willing to pay the relevant increase to Band C of the average of £4 a week on Band D which would keep the 100% council tax benefit for 26,000 benefit claimants, but Haringey councillors have not provided that option.
In the Borough of Haringey, where I live, there are 26,000 people receiving benefits who have not paid council tax before, to whom demands for 20% of it been delivered by the council.
- Many cannot pay it.
- Prices of food, fuel, clothes,transport and other necessities are escalating but the benefit incomes, which are expected to pay the tax, have been cut by moving the uprating from the RPI to the slower rising CPI, and will be cut further by the 1% freeze in increases for the next three years.
- Before the cuts the single adult unemployment benefit now £71.60 a week was half the government’s poverty threshold and 42% of the Rowntree minimum income standard; children’s benefits, also reducing in value, are added to it.
- Haringey council will enforce the tax against a majority of claimants who cannot pay it. They will be forced to go without food, fuel, clothing and other essential expenditure.
- The council will apply to the magistrates for a liability order adding £70 to the tenants arrears and then send in the bailiffs adding up to or over £400.
- The bailiff has no right to break in so doors should be kept shut.
- People who definitely cannot pay will also be threatened with prison and bankruptcy
- Some are struggling with rent arrears due to the bedroom tax, the housing benefit cap and the £500 overall benefit cap.
- Inevitable trips to food banks will add to the malnutrition of women before and during pregnancy; so adding to the risk of low birth weight and the life time mental and physical illness of their babies; some food banks cannot keep up with demand.
- The social fund has been abolished and the councils cannot cope with the growing demand for urgent help.
- Mentally and physically disabled people have had their benefits cut because they have been wrongly described as fit for work by ATOS.
- 700,000 people in the UK have had their benefits stopped for two weeks to six months by a sanction.
- Joseph Rowntree researchers have found no evidence of a ‘culture of worklessness. “Families remained committed to the value of work and would have preferred to be in jobs rather than have ‘the miserable existence’ of a life on benefits”; and yet this government decides it necessary to starve people into work.
- Refusal to pay the council tax is not a crime.
It will be said that by not paying my tax I am are making it more difficult for the council to pay the benefits; I am paying income tax and VAT, but that should be said to;
- A government that cuts the top rate of tax by 5%
- The traitors to the British people who avoid taxes by parking their cash in tax free overseas accounts,
- Amazon, Google and all the other international companies with no sense of loyalty to the people of any nation who avoid paying billions in taxes to all nations.
- UK governments who for over thirty years have failed to provide a policy for affordable housing of all tenures.
- The property speculators who flee their own dodgy economies to buy homes in a UK market in short supply and leave them empty; forcing rents above the caps.
- Local authorities who do nothing to reduce the cost to the NHS alone of £600m pa due to the illnesses contracted by people living in substandard housing, and which to “society as a whole” is almost three times as much, (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health estimate). There are fully justified fears that benefit cuts and the debts they create could worsen mental and physical health.
- To landlords, landowners and property speculators whose wealth increases in tax free billions simply because they own land; such as the Duke of Westminster..
- And above all to the extreme free market addicts in government who see the unmanageable debt, misery, illness, hunger, fuel poverty and homelessness created by the government’s austerity policy as acceptable collateral damage on the journey to a free market heaven that will never be reached.
Rev Paul Nicolson
93 Campbell Road,
London N17 0BF
A VIEW OF THE FUNERAL FROM TRAFALGAR SQUARE.
I went to Trafalgar Square yesterday to watch the hearse go by and with the intention of speaking to journalists who would inevitably be looking for reaction from the crowd. There were no cheers in Trafalgar Square. The Telegraph and Mirror live blogs carried my comments (shown below) but only the Mirror in this morning’s paper.
I take issue with the following phrase in the Bishops of London’s address at the funeral yesterday; “Life is a struggle to make the right choices and to achieve liberation from dependence, whether material or psychological. This genuine independence is the essential pre-condition for living in an other-centred way, beyond ourselves. The word Margaret Thatcher used at St Lawrence Jewry was “interdependence” “.
Life is certainly a struggle for the people I have met for over 20 years. They have no money. They have no choice but to depend on the rest of us, beg, borrow or steal. None has fallen into the moral hazard of benefit dependency; they all prefer work. Because of laws enforcing the poll tax introduced by the Thatcher government, over 1000 vulnerable and impoverished benefit claimants, charged 20% of it, had no choice but to go to prison when they could not pay. Only to find that the decision of the magistrates was unlawful when challenged on judicial review. 1000s more suffered the indignity and stress of enforcement by bailiffs.
Now they cannot chose an affordable home because the Thatcher government deregulated lending, abolished rent controls and allowed the free flow on money in and out of the UK. No government to the present day has curbed the international free market in property in the UK forcing rents and prices of homes out of the range of families and individuals with the lowest to middle incomes, but to the immense profit of speculators and landlords.
Now councils tell homeless tenants which town to live in when any of the three current caps on housing benefit hit their inadequate incomes with rent arrears and eviction. It is too often a home with a leaky roof. Many councils are also hitting tenants with 8.5% to 30% of council tax. Prison or bailiffs remain possible for non payment.
Daily Telegraph live blog.
9.52am The Rev Paul Nicolson, a retired Anglican priest, was one of the first onlookers to gather at Trafalgar Square, Ed Malnick reports.
Arriving shortly before 9am, Nicolson said he felt it was the duty of priests to “grieve for both sides”.
Mr Nicolson, 80, from Tottenham, north London, who founded a campaigning group called Taxpayers Against Poverty, said as a parish priest he dealt with people who “could not cope” with the poll tax in the 1990s. He said: “Clergy support grieving families. I am sure the clergy will have been looking after the Thatcher family – that is quite right too.”
“But there is an awful lot of grief on the other side as a result of the policies to which she inspired and which many other people implemented. Under Tony Blair the Labour Party fell for it hook, line and sinker.
“I remember more than a thousand people being unlawfully imprisoned for not paying their tax and over the years there has been a great amount of grief created by arrears and bailiffs.
“It is all the fault of an extreme free market philosophy which treats as collateral damage the grief and pain it creates.”
As a priest in Henley-on-Thames in the 1980s Mr Nicolson refused to pay poll tax, believing it was “unjust” for the poor.
“It caused a great stir and ultimately they got their tax through the Church Commissioners,” he said.
Daily Mirror live blog.
Among those who gathered early to line the route was The Reverend Paul Nicolson, 80, founder of Taxpayers Against Poverty.
He remembers well the agony caused by the Poll Tax, and was one of many who refused to pay it.
He said: “It caused quite a stir in Henley-on-Thames. I know because I have been working for over 20 years with people who can’t afford their council tax the grief that causes.
“I know the grief eviction causes. Over 1000 people were put into prison for non payment of poll tax. It was mostly mothers who suffered.
“They eventually took me to magistrates court and the church took it from my pay.”
He added: “The clergy always support grieving families and of course her children are going through a very difficult time.
“But there is another side to the story. The poll tax was a gross injustice to the poor.”
1000 MOTHERS MARCH FOR JUSTICE DEMANDS FAIR POLICIES.
Responsible department: Cabinet Office
1000 mothers, their families and friends marching for justice in Tottenham on the 13th April 2013 call on Parliament to condemn;
1. the persistent attacks by government and parts of the media on claimants of benefits,
2. the creation of unmanageable debt and deprivation by capping, cutting and taxing benefits.
We demand policies which will;
1. encourage and support the work in families of raising the next generation.
2. provide affordable housing and rent controls,
4. a living wage,
5. benefits are linked to the increasing prices of food, fuel, clothes transport and other necessities,
6. full rights and benefits for disabled people,
7. taxation policies which charge a fair share of taxation to people with high incomes, very valuable property and large sums parked in overseas tax free accounts