Homelessness increasing as banks theaten repossession – even if you’re paying the mortgage!

The News Line reports that the recession is driving up homelessness:

Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people, yesterday warned of a potential surge in homelessness in 2009 as it opened the doors of Crisis Christmas to hundreds of homeless people.

Following official figures showing record unemployment levels, a YouGov survey on behalf of Crisis has revealed that 41% of adults in Britain know somebody who has lost their job due to the economic downturn.

Unemployment is hitting home with almost one in ten (9%) of people with a mortgage or rent repayment already struggling to pay the rent or mortgage.

In addition, a third of those surveyed (32.4%) believed they would lose their home within three months of losing their main form of income – leading to fears of a surge in homelessness in the New Year.

The survey also reveals that the poorest are the most vulnerable to the impact of the economic downturn, with more than three times as many people with lower incomes struggling to pay the rent and mortgage compared to more affluent groups in Britain.

Poorer people are also more concerned about losing their jobs and homes.

The findings were announced on the day that Crisis is opening nine temporary centres across London to hundreds of people who are already homeless and vulnerably housed.

The centres provide vital companionship, hot meals and shelter as well as services including housing, job advice, health checks, training and further education opportunities.

Leslie Morphy, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: ‘These figures are a stark warning for 2009.

‘Today we open the doors of Crisis Christmas to hundreds of homeless people in London – some of the most vulnerable and deprived people in our society.

‘The economic downturn is hitting the poorest the hardest.

‘Many are struggling to keep their homes.

‘The situation is only made worse by pressure on jobs, with unemployment levels set to reach two million by the end of the year.

‘Our fear is that as the recession bites in the New Year we are going to see more people in the same situation as those relying on our Christmas centres today, whilst those already at the bottom of the pile are going to be further away from the help and support they need to put their lives back together.’

Even if you are in employment and can afford to pay the mortgage, you could still be repossessed, as The Times reports:

Homeowners who have not missed a single mortgage payment could still be threatened with repossession by lenders who use an emergency clause to demand that the entire loan is repaid at short notice.

Peter and Marian Addyman, who live in St Leonards, East Sussex, received a letter this month from NatWest – part of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is majority-owned by the Government – insisting that they repay a £226,000 mortgage within 30 days or face repossession.

The couple, who have never failed to make a mortgage repayment, bought their new-build five-bedroom property for £250,000 in 2004. When their initial mortgage deal expired at the beginning of the year, they took out an interest-only tracker loan at 0.04 per cent above the Bank of England base rate.

Their local MP, Michael Foster, who has twice written to the bank to request an explanation, said of the mortgage: “The bank are obviously not making any money out of it but they agreed it.”

The Council of Mortgage Lenders said that the clause allowing lenders to demand that a mortgage be repaid at short notice existed in the small print of almost every mortgage in Britain, although it was meant to cover only exceptional circumstances. This month a judge supported the right of lenders to repossess properties at will under a law dating back to 1925.

Since the government owns a majority of RBS, ministers should get involved to ensure this doesn’t set a precedent for the banks. It must be tempting for banks to recapitalise via repossession, thus avoiding total nationalisation and concerted regulation.

Back to the News Line for what to do about the homelessness crisis:

In the next year a million people will lose their jobs, and hundreds of thousands of them will be unable to make their mortgage or rent payments. They will end up on the streets.

What is required is an emergency plan to house the homeless.

Under the Labour government, Labour Councils are actually demolishing council estates and selling the land to developers for speculative building aimed at the very rich.

It has reached the stage where almost the entire housing stock has been sold off, and where council tenants are being threatened with eviction by councils in Camberwell and other places, because they will not leave their council homes.

The sales of council estates, or their demolition by councils must be halted at once.

Likewise, all empty properties must be requisitioned and taken over to house the homeless.

As well there must be a programme of public works to build a million new council homes, both to house the homeless and to provide hundreds of thousands of young workers with jobs and the opportunity to learn trades and master skills at trade union rates of pay.

This is the way forward to begin to solve the housing crisis.

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Corrupt solicitors and strike-breakers united to scam sick miners

The Morning Star reports that

SOLICITORS James Beresford and Douglas Smith were found guilty of misconduct on Thursday by the solicitors’ disciplinary tribunal in London over compensation payouts for sick miners.

The pair made millions from personal injury claims for miners under the government’s coal health compensation scheme.

The tribunal found eight out of 11 allegations against them proven. Chairman David Leverton said that Mr Beresford’s “attitude allowed himself and Mr Smith to put commercial goals before his clients’ best interests.”

The pair had also been accused of not giving adequate advice and entering into contingency fee deals against their clients’ best interests.

Which is putting it mildly!

The Times goes into greater detail:

Mr Beresford, 58, has banked more than £30 million from his firm’s work on the claims and was named last year as Britain’s highest-earning solicitor. Between 2004 and 2006, he grew richer at a rate of £37,000 per day.

The money bought him a £1.8 million private jet, Aston Martins, a Ferrari and extensive improvements to his home near Wetherby, West Yorkshire.

He and Mr Smith, 51, agreed to a “dubious” secret deal in 2002 under which they paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to a company owned by an employee of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM). The two men were found guilty of nine charges of misconduct involving numerous breaches of the Solicitors’ Practice Rules. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal ruled that they entered into a sham arrangement with the UDM, failed to act in the best interests of their clients, failed to give adequate advice and improperly released confidential information.

In thousands of cases they sliced money from damages to claimants. Some deductions were kept as a success fee; others went to the UDM.

Beresfords’ financial relationship with the union was revealed by The Times in 2005 and is linked to a criminal inquiry that the Serious Fraud Office has been pursuing for the past three years.

The role of strike-breaking scab union the UDM is very interesting. Better known of late for its leadership’s fleecing of members, with the two most senior leaders earning six-figure sums, it was formed during the Great Miners Strike and its leaders appeared at the Tory party conference to the applause of those set on destroying the UK’s collieries.

Bloggers come under legal attack from litigious Tory

Using the law! (Apologies for the title of this post.)

Johanna Kaschke was a member of the Labour party and in the running to be the party’s candidate to run against George Galloway at the next election.

But, she jumped ship to join Respect, Galloway’s party.

Hence much comment by Labour bloggers – and then, legal action by Ms Kaschke.

Johanna Kaschke is now a true-blue Tory, convinced that the Brown administration is ushering a new Communist era for Britain. I’m not kidding.

Blogger Alex Hilton is now facing legal action by Ms Kaschke, he writes:

Comrades,As you may know, I sold Labourhome in July, though I still run it and with no interference from the new owner.

However, last year, someone started a defamation action against me over a Labourhome article and the expenses are bourne by me, they were not transferred to Progressive Media, the new owner.

So far this legal case has cost me £4,022 and it is still on-going. This is my plea to Labourhome readers for contributions towards my legal costs.

 

I can’t tell you too much about the case because I don’t want to annoy the court. But this is what I am comfortable telling you. 

  1. An active Labourhome user wrote a piece about the past of a Labour member who had defected to Respect. That person has since joined the Conservative Party.
  2. The Labourhome user is also being sued by this particular Tory, who is a litigant in person and has no lawyer.
  3. The offended person contact me about the piece, which I immediately deleted. I offered the front and centre spot on Labourhome to the offended person for their right of reply or to write something else of their own choice. My offer was declined.
  4. Because of my actions, my lawyer says I have an absolute defence under Section One of the Defamation Act. I also have other defence strategies available, one of which is the possibility that the article was not defamatory, thought this is still being explored.
  5. Because the complainant is a litigant in person, this case has been more complicated than normal and I have actually received a total of four writs before it got tidied up into one action. This is partly why this defence is so expensive.
  6. Despite the likelihood that I will probably win this case, I do not have a strong prospect of recouping my costs, at least in a reasonable timescale. I don’t have the five-figure sum the complainant wants as a settlement. 

I would be very very grateful if readers would consider donating any sum towards my legal costs. I built Labourhome two and a half years ago as an open forum for Labour supporters because I believed it was needed. I’m in court because of the freedom of this forum and I can tell you the whole situation is pretty depressing.Any contribution will be gratefully received. If you don’t have any money but would like to help, please email a link to this plea for help to others who might be able to help.

Thank you so much,

Alex Hilton
07985 384 859
alexhilton@gmail.com

Though I don’t agree with Alex all that much (certainly not when he’s calling Jon Cruddas “the Labour politician most reminiscent of Oswald Mosley” – obviously he’s mistaken him with Phil Woolas!) but he needs to be defended from this vexatious legal action. Another Labour blogger, David Osler, is also facing legal action from Ms Kaschke.

I’m saying nothing – and that’s a bad thing.

Fuel poverty could kill 20,000 this winter

Research that suggests thousands more pensioners will needlessly die this year because of the huge hikes in energy bills by the privatised gas and electricity companies…

Fuel poverty will kill thousands of pensioners this winter
Published: Wednesday, 22 October 2008, 11:57AM
By Dr Stirling Howieson

If the recent hikes in the real cost of fuel cannot be reversed before winter sets in, the impact on the elderly fuel poor will result in an additional 20,000 excess deaths.

This is on top of the 23,900 excess winter deaths registered during the winter of 2006/07.

The UK has one of the highest excess winter deaths rates in the world.

Put simply the elderly fuel poor are dying prematurely because they live in cold damp homes.

Sleeping in cold bedrooms will cause this group to die prematurely from heart attacks, stroke and respiratory infections.

The work undertaken in this field by a variety of university research teams has produced clear conclusions.

These deaths are essentially preventable if the elderly can be kept warm during the winter.

Although insulating the housing stock is the only long term and cost effective solution, a short term palliative can be found by re-directing the current winter fuel payment allowance exclusively towards the elderly fuel poor.

The government must act now if these deaths are to be prevented. If they do not they should be held to account for what amounts to nothing less than gross negligence and manslaughter.

Dr Stirling Howieson is the director of the Centre for Environmental Design and Research. He has spent the last 25 years researching the impact of the built environment on public health.

ITV also reports on yesterday’s pensions protest:

Pensioners and trade unions have joined forces to call for the basic state pension to be increased above the poverty level.

More than 1,000 protesters of all ages are lobbying Parliament to urge MPs to pay single pensioners at least £151 a week.

They also want the state pension to be increased immediately in line with earnings or prices, depending on which is higher, and for it to be paid universally to all existing pensioners, rather than being based on National Insurance contributions as is currently the case.

The campaign is organised by the National Pensioners Convention and 15 trade unions to mark the centenary of the introduction of the state pension.

The groups believe it is the first time that both working age and retired people have joined forces to call for a higher pension for both now and in the future.

NPC general secretary Joe Harris said: “After 100 years of the state pension it’s a national disgrace that at least 2.5 million older people are still living below the official poverty line, and millions more are struggling to meet the rising costs of living.

“Pensioners – both now and in the future – need dignity and security in retirement that only a decent state pension can provide.

“The Government should use the huge £46 billion surplus in the National Insurance Fund and give everyone a pension that takes them out of poverty.”

Beating the blacklist, constructively

… and the anti-union laws.

It’s possible:

Victory against the blacklist
By Steve Kelly (London Construction Unite)
Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The blacklist in construction is back with a vengeance. It is a well known fact that the blacklist has been used against construction workers for many years especially since the Shrewsbury strike in 1972.

It was always difficult to prove, but in 2006 a case involving three Manchester electricians who were sacked from a job at the Royal Infirmary Hospital in Manchester (having been elected by the workers on that site as their shop stewards and safety rep), was heard at industrial tribunal brought by the T&GWU, now Unite, for unfair dismissal. Evidence was bought to the tribunal by an ex-employee of a well known electrical contractor called Haden. Alan Wainwright swore on oath that indeed a blacklist was most definitely in operation and there was a list of 500 electricians who had worked on the Jubilee Line extension, Pizers (in Kent), and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden .

These sites were all organised by electricians in the past with elected shop stewards and safety reps .Any action taken on those sites would have been unofficial action which annoys firms as well as union bureaucrats. In construction that’s always been the case, and will continue to be so, due to the nature of the industry. Strike while the IRON IS HOT so to speak. The three electricians in Manchester eventually won the tribunal for unfair dismissal, sacked for organising in a trade union.

Two of the workers recently got work after bravely demonstrating outside the site every day since May 2006. A third worker, Steve Acheson, was still struggling to find work up to 3 weeks ago. Steve was offered a job at the Fiddlers Ferry power station in Warrington. Three weeks ago he was told he could start along with 20 others. Two hours later Steve was told by the company on site they only needed 19 workers .Seems like they realised who Steve was (steward from MRI).

The workers on site immediately said they would walk off the job unless Steve was employed. It was obvious to them the blacklist was being used against Steve. Unite full time officers were called in for talks with the company to avert a walkout by the men. After 4 weeks Steve had still not be offered a job on the site. On the 14th August the workers on site told the union that if Steve was not on the job by Monday 18th August they would not go into work and picket lines would be set up for Monday morning.

The other trades assured the electricians of their full support. Steve Acheson was given a job on the site within a couple of hours. This shows how, if workers unite and stick together and defend their fellow workers, the blacklist can be defeated. This kind of action may be necessary in the future – most likely on the Olympic project in Stratford, which is rumoured to need 9,000 workers when it is in full swing.

The main lesson here is all construction workers should join a union and take unofficial where necessary, especially when told not to by trade union officials. They would say we are breaking the law. Rank and file trade unionists have been doing that since 1834!

Unity is strength!

The workers united can never be defeated!

Gordon Brown? Lock ‘im up!

Mark Thomas explains in Red Pepper:

Such is the state of democracy in Britain that you could be forgiven for thinking that there are two types of MPs: those who have been in prison and those who should be. There are many reasons to sling the blighters behind bars, not least of which is the fact that they are an MP, crime enough in most folk’s books. However, there is now an even more compelling legal and moral reason to call in the police to deal with our honourable members. Put simply – we have them bang to rights. They have broken the law and there is a way we might get these elected miscreants in the dock. This is how we can do it.

MPs have a curious habit of passing laws and then believing they don’t really apply to them. No more so than the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, sometimes referred to as the ‘Brian Haw law’ as it was framed specifically to kick out the veteran peace protestor Haw from Parliament Square. Socpa, as it’s fondly known, requires us to get permission from the police should we wish to demonstrate in an area of London that spans from Tate Britain to the Mall and over Westminster Bridge to the South Bank of the Thames.

This is the law that Maya Evans was arrested under for reading out the names of the Iraqi and British war dead at the Cenotaph. She did not have permission and was convicted of taking part in an illegal demonstration.

But this is just the start of the Kafkaesque madness of this law. One person with one banner counts as a demonstration and must get permission from the police six days in advance of holding said banner. I have had to apply for, and have been given permission, to wear a red nose on Red Nose Day in Parliament Square as this is classed as a demonstration. I have got permission to stand holding a small banner saying ‘Support the Poppy Appeal’, as this too is deemed to be a demonstration.

This law is not just idiotic, it is totemic. Nowhere is the relationship of the citizen to the state so clearly defined as here. We have to account for ourselves to the state, while the state becomes less accountable to us. This is not the way things work in democracy.

However, MPs who rushed this law through parliament with little heed to what it really meant could now find themselves on the receiving end of it. On 29 August 2007, when Gordon Brown, along with Ken Livingstone and Nelson Mandela, unveiled the Mandela statue in Parliament Square, they took part in a political demonstration. They celebrated the life of a man who ran the armed wing of the ANC, dedicated his life to the collapse of apartheid and made political speeches.

Did they have permission from the police under Socpa? No. They have broken the law.

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas spoke about the need to redesign the Union Jack flag to include the Welsh dragon on 6 November 2008. He was then photographed holding said flag in Parliament Square. Did he have permission under Socpa? I think not. And if I need the police to say I can wear a red nose, then he needs them to say he can wave a politically contentious flag.

As there is no definition of what constitutes a demonstration you have to turn to the Oxford English Dictionary, which states a demo can be ‘an expression of opinion’. Thus each time an MP speaks to the TV cameras on College Green they could be breaking the very law they blithely rushed through parliament. They are, after all, expressing an opinion, vocally and intended for public consumption, in an area where they need to write to the police six days in advance for permission.

Just before Christmas my lawyers wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions asking them to investigate MPs, including the prime minister, for breaches of Socpa. The DPP insisted that the police should judge if there was a case to answer and the matter is now in the hands of D/Supt Peter Newman of Westminster South Division.

Will the police bring charges against Mr Brown and Mr Lucas and a host of other offenders? I doubt it, which is why I am preparing a legal fund to challenge any decision not to prosecute.

Here is how you can help dear reader. You can buy a badge – I put Gordon Brown in the dock – online at http://www.markthomasinfo.com for £2. All monies not used in the legal case will go to Index on Censorship.

You can also go to http://www.shopanmp.com and report any MPs you see on the news giving interviews on College Green or Parliament Square, so we can constantly update D/Supt Newman with a list of fresh offenders. If luck is with us, Jack Straw won’t be picking a shit-kicking fight with prison officers over no strike agreements – they could be locking his cell door if he is not too careful.

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.”