It’ll never workfare

Since I did not comment on the announced measures to undercut the wages of council staff and treat the unemployed like criminals by the Tories sorry, I mean “New Labour”, let me reproduce the following from the Tribune:

Tories cheer Purnell as union calls welfare plan ‘worse than Thatcher’
by René Lavanchy

GOVERNMENT plans to abolish incapacity benefit and income support will stigmatise the unemployed and not help them back to work, unions warned this week.

Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell’s green paper on welfare reform, which he hopes will enable the Government to take one million people off incapacity benefitby using the private and voluntary sectors, has been warmly welcomed by business leaders and the Conservatives.

But the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents the Jobcentre Plus staff that would have to implement much of the plan, said the proposals were “draconian” and go “further than even Margaret Thatcher dared”, while the TUC warned that proposals to make benefit claimants do community work could threaten the jobs of those already in employment.

The green paper, which Mr Purnell promised MPs would “make sure a life on benefits is not an option”, fulfils the Government’s long-stated aim to accept the recommendations of welfare adviser David Freud, who says that private companies can be paid up to £61,000 a head to help people back into work.

It would require all those claiming jobseeker’s allowance for over a year to be handed over to an “outside provider” – a private or voluntary contractor – paid by results. After two years, claimants would have to perform full-time work, such as community service, while looking for a job.

Incapacity benefit claimants would be forced onto the jobseeker’s allowance if a medical examination found that they were ready to work. However, benefits for the most incapacitated would rise from £86 to £102.

The green paper also plans to progressively cut the maximum age for a child whose parent can claim income support, from 16 currently to seven by 2010.

The Conservatives have promised their support for the plans and told Mr Purnell – who denies that the Government “triangulates” to occupy Tory policy ground – that they proposed many similar measures in a green paper this year. Peter Lilley, Social Security Secretary under John Major, said: “I welcome him announcing policies that I originally enunciated ahead of the 1997 election”.

Responding to the paper, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber criticised the plans to make long-term claimants work: “Workfare policies do nothing to benefit wider society. The economy needs more people in real jobs with real wages to spend, boosting the economy and creating more jobs. And workers in low paid jobs could well be replaced by workfare claimants leading them to lose their jobs in turn.”

Kate Green, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “The green paper gives great attention to increasing individual responsibility but ignores the responsibilities of employers to open up access to decent jobs. Bad employers must now be the urgent target for welfare reform.”

Manchester road-pricing plans will be put to public vote

Road charging is a form of indirect taxation which hits working people the hardest. At a time of high inflation, plans to add to people’s cost of living won’t be well recieved.

I’m sure that a majority will reject the proposals, even if the local authorities spend millions of pounds of public money to campaign for their plans, and even if the wording of the referendum is such that people are encouraged to think that it’s all or nothing.

Let’s hope that the use of referenda will be extended in both local and national government across England. It’s not enough to vote in elections for legislators, we must also be able to vote on the legislation itself.

From the BBC website:

The people of Greater Manchester are to decide whether a congestion charge is to be introduced in the region.

The leaders of all 10 authorities met on Friday and unanimously agreed to a public referendum on the issue, likely to be held in December.

If seven out of the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs vote yes the scheme will go ahead.

Government funding for £2.8bn of public transport investment depends on the charge’s introduction in 2013.

Motorists would be charged for crossing the M60 and a second ring around the city centre at peak times.

The decision was reached by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) on Friday.

Residents of all 10 boroughs will vote yes or no to one question, it was confirmed, although the wording is yet to be agreed.

Lord Peter Smith, leader of AGMA said: “Today’s news is an important step forward for the people of Greater Manchester who now have an opportunity to vote on one of the most important decisions this city region has seen for decades.

“People will have their say on whether they want to say yes to a transformed public transport system in Greater Manchester including a congestion charge to ensure their region can continue to prosper.

“It is all or nothing.”

Although welcoming the poll, campaign group National Alliance Against Tolls (NAAT) said it had doubts about the fairness of the campaign.

“Any sort of vote is considerably better than the scheme being bulldozed through by the authorities,” said spokesman John McGoldrick.

Tram expansion

But he said the resulting vote was likely to be held under section 116 of the Local Government Act 2003, which he argued would not be a true referendum.

“These polls are not subject to any rules and it means that the authorities can continue to spend millions on their promotion campaign,” added Mr McGoldrick.

Transport bosses said the investment would be split across 30 different public transport schemes across Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs.

They have pledged to have at least 80% of the improvements in place before the charge is introduced in 2013.

These will include the Metrolink extension to Ashton-under-Lyne, Manchester Airport, Rochdale town centre and Oldham town centre.

Extra trains and buses and improved stations have also been promised.

A consultation on the scheme is currently taking place and feedback from the public will shape the final package that will be put to a vote, AGMA said.

New Labour declared dead again

I can’t find the words to describe the situation of the dead arising to declare they’ll go on living. This might be helpful:

AFTER the Labour party defeat at Glasgow East, one of the safest Labour seats in the country, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown has stated that he will not be changing the policies of the Labour Party, it will continue to hand billions to the bankers and cut everybody else’s wages.

Quite succinct, dontcha think?

At Lenin’s Tomb, there’s a terse explanation of why Labour lost:

They gave in to the City and the rich on tax evasion, declared a freeze on public spending, advertised for bids on the privatised delivery of welfare, and announced a ‘revolutionary’ shake-up of benefits for the unemployed and incapacitated that will treat both like criminals.

Tony Woodley, leader of the country’s biggest union, Unite, has called for a purge of the Tory entryists that call themselves “New Labour”:

Just three words from Gordon Brown could transform Labour’s prospects even now: “Blairism is dead.” Already I can hear the objections from remaining defenders of the faith – drop the Blairism that won Labour three elections?

Alas, each victory at the polls was won with 2m fewer voters than the one before. We have run out of road there – and the Tories have had a makeover. But there is a more profound reason why we cannot look to 1997 for lessons. The world has changed. The Blairite “all things to all people but more things to rich people” approach could get by when the world economy was booming. Trickledown theory only works when it’s raining money.

Alas, Gordon thinks that rainclouds will gather within two years, so it’s not going to be easy to reason with him – and besides, he’s made amends with the Blairites.

I look forward to seeing Woodley’s name at the bottom of the People Before Profit Charter alongside those of union leaders Jeremy Dear
(National Union of Journalists), Brian Caton (Prison Officers Association), and Joe Marino (Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union)…

Inflation and recession are now tightening their grip on the economy with every day that passes. Working people face rapidly increasing prices, especially for food and fuel; government led pay restraint; rising unemployment and a disastrous housing crisis.

At the same time the super-rich continue to enjoy huge profits, salaries and bonuses – yet pay less tax than under the Tories.

The desperation felt by many is having equally serious political effects: the resurgence of the Tories and an increase in anti-immigrant and fascist arguments.

We need a coordinated response to these threats. As part of this response please add your name to this Charter and then move support for the Charter at your trade union, party or campaign organisation.

  1. Wage increases no lower than the rate of inflation as given by the Retail Price Index. No to the government’s 2 percent pay limit.
  2. Increase tax on big companies. Introduce a windfall tax on corporation superprofits, especially those of the oil companies.
  3. Repeal the Tory anti-union laws. Support the Trade Union Freedom Bill.
  4. Unsold houses and flats should be taken over by local councils to ease the housing crisis. No house repossessions. For an emergency programme of council house building.
  5. Stop the privatisation of public services. Free and equal health and education services available to all.
  6. End the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and use the money to expand public services. Stop the erosion of civil liberties.
  7. Abolish tax on fuel and energy for old people and the poor. Re-establish the link between wages and pensions.
  8. No to racism. No to the British National Party. No scapegoating of immigrants.
  9. Reintroduce grants and abolish tuition fees for students.
  10. Increase the minimum wage to £8.00 an hour.

Many workers and trade unionists are now engaged in strikes and protests to defend their pay, jobs and services. We pledge ourselves to support their action and to support the campaigns that are dedicated to protecting working people, including:

  • Unite Against Fascism
  • Public Services not Private Profit
  • Defend Council Housing
  • Stop the War Coalition
  • Keep Our NHS Public

Please return to: People Before Profit Charter, BM 6035, London WC1N 3XX or email your name and details to peoplebeforeprofitcharter@googlemail.com

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