Last week we went along to attend and support a local anti-cuts meeting organised by Edinburgh East Save Our Services. There was a good turnout of around 30-40 people, angry about the cuts already being implemented and the many more that are planned.
The panel organised for the meeting included Andrew Burns, the Leader of City of Edinburgh Council. He first gave a long, off-topic speech about the coalition he’s part of and, basically, how we can rest assured that the council administration is looking out for our needs. More interesting, is the grilling he got from those in room in the question and answer session later on (you can listen to it here). He was challenged to guarantee that the council will not evict people because of the new Bedroom Tax, and was asked how much how much his salary was and whether he had any spare bedrooms of his own.
Of course, he wouldn’t commit that the council won’t evict people. Instead he insisted that the council would never do so ‘unjustifiably’. What did that mean? He mentioned something about having to evict people because of ‘anti-social behaviour’, which has nothing to do with the Bedroom Tax. It was then suggested that those concerned should make a petition and send it to the council asking that it takes a stand against evicting people because of the new tax.
We don’t have faith in petitions. Collective direct action and community organising are our strongest weapons against the Bedroom Tax and anything else austerity throws at us. We need a mass campaign against evictions, prepared to face bailiffs like people did during the anti-Poll Tax campaign. Because we’re stronger together, different groups need to work together on this, like what’s already happening in Liverpool.
We’re having a discussion on ‘Community organising and solidarity networks’, from 7pm, February 13th in the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh. Come and join us and let’s get our act together!
Another of the speakers at last week’s meetings was Bill Scott from Inclusion Scotland. He gave a review of some of what’s happening in terms of benefits cuts in Scotland and what this will mean. We thought this was so helpful that we wanted to share some of his main points below. You can also listen to his talk here.
Around 80% of cuts are still to come.
What is happening to the welfare state at the moment aren’t cuts, it’s a wholesale assault to dismantle the welfare state.
The incoming coalition government announced £18 billion worth of cuts to the welfare and benefits budget in 2010.
They added to that, last week, by £3.7 billion in terms of restricting of increases of benefits for working age people to one per cent for each of the next three years.
As inflation will be higher than that, year on year, that amounts to a real term cut in the living standards of everyone that relies on housing benefit, jobseekers allowance, employment and support allowance, income support etc. It’s a massive cut.
Of all those cuts that are taking place, over half are falling on disabled people and their families. Households containing a disabled person.
Of the £18 billion worth of cuts, £9 billion are falling on disabled people and their families.
The only people in society who are going to suffer worse than a disabled person is a woman. Women are even more affected by the level of cuts that are going on, because women are carers, disabled people, lone parents etc.
Cuts in Scotland
What does that mean in Scotland? £2.5 billion worth of cuts to benefits of Scottish people.
But the cuts last week add another £400 million. We’re now looking at nearly £3 billion in total in cuts to the living standards of people in Scotland.
And that has an effect on the economy. People on benefits tend to spend just about every penny they get in the local economy, in shops, on the buses, in local services. That being taken out of the local economy will cost jobs.
So we’re talking about 60-70,000 jobs being lost in Scotland as a consequence of the welfare reforms that are underway.
Combined cuts to benefits and local authority services
When it comes to the combined effect of cuts to benefits and local authority services (etc.) we don’t have the figures yet for Scotland. In England, the cuts to local authorities are going to be more intense than in Scotland but they still give us an idea:
People in poverty, one in five (20%) of the population are going to have 40% of the cuts.
Disabled people, just 8% of the working age population are going to bear 29% of the cuts – nearly a third.
People with the severest disabilities, who are never likely to work, 2% of the entire population, are going to have 15% of all the cuts that are being made to local authority services and benefits happening to them.
Attacking those less able to organise?
This is a massive assault on the poor and disabled and those unable to fight back for themselves, and I believe to be deliberately targeted because of their isolation, because they’re unable to get out on the streets.
For those in poverty they’re going to lose, on average, £2,195 a year. Five times the impact as those on average earnings.
Disabled people, on average, will lose £4,400 a year. And those with the most severe disabilities stand to lose £8,800 per annum. Nineteen times that those on average earnings will lose.
All in this together?
We’re attacking the most vulnerable people in our society.
The impact on Scottish disabled people is greater than the rest of the UK, because we have more people with impairments.
Partially a legacy of heavy industry, of long-term unemployment, and partially because we have, for example, the highest multiple sclerosis rate in the world (genetic and environmental).
Work capability assessment
Everyone who is in receipt of what used to be called the incapacity benefit has to undergo a work capability assessment.
People are being deprived of their benefits who are still unfit for work.
Sheffield University estimates that because of the work assessments and because of the, now, twelve month limit on contributory employment and support allowance:
100,000 Scottish disabled people are going to lose their entitlement to employment and support allowance.
Around 60,000 of those will have no other partner to rely because they’ll have a partner in work
When they lose, say, £90 a week, if they’ve got a partner even in part-time work they get nothing to replace it.
Disability living allowance (DLA).
The government intends to reduce the DLA budget by 20%.
That cut will fall on working age disabled people because those over the retirement age will be protected.
That pushes up the number who will lose their entitlement entirely from 20% to 30% (one in three) likely to lose all of their entitlement.
But we expect many more who will lose it in assessment.
Higher rate mobility allowance.
48% of all of those who currently get higher rate mobility allowance losing their entitlement.
£50 a week for those households.
One in three use their higher rate mobility allowance to lease a car or scooter from the mobility scheme and they will no longer be able to pay for them any longer. They will be repossessed.
That’s 16,000 people in Scotland who are going to lose their cars and scooters.
What that means to the lives of those people is unimaginable.
People will be stranded in their homes, unable to access shops and services and see friends and family.
Those in rural areas will be worse off.
Over 3,000 will lose higher rate mobility.
Another 3,000 will lose lower rate mobility.
And over 4, 500 will lose lower rate care because there is no lower rate care in the new Personal Independence Allowance.
The Bedroom Tax
One of the most pernicious attacks, since the Poll Tax, on people living in poverty.
At least 95,000 (possibly now over 100,000) households will be affected by the bedroom tax.
They will lose between £11 and £13 a week with one extra bedroom, and over £20 a week if they’ve got two extra bedrooms. This is over and above what the UK government deems they should be living in.
Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, local authorities do not have single bedroom properties they can put people in. It’s not a matter of people moving from larger accommodation to smaller accommodation – it doesn’t exist.
Out of the 95,000 households affected, 2 out of 3 contain a disabled person.
The government did an equality impact assessment and found this out but went ahead anyway.
This means people living in adapted houses that completely suits their needs will be forced to move to unadapted houses to retain their housing benefit at the full rate.
Cuts that end up costing more!
And that will cost local authorities millions in making new adaptions etc.
The Scottish government did an estimate, they think about 8,000 people will be able to move out of the 95,000.
Of the rest, they expect half to go into arrears. I think that’s a very optimistic estimate.
And of the half to go into arrears they expect 1 in 4 of those to be evicted. That’s 11,000 households being evicted.
And the cost to local authorities to make this saving, of about £400-500 a year in housing benefit, the cost for every single one of those households is between £15-20,000 in putting them up in temporary accommodation and the support services they’d need to receive if they’re homeless.
They’re imposing massive costs on local authorities.
Homeless people, of course, tend to have much worse health and to use NHS services more, putting a massive strain on the NHS.
This is more than 11,000 people, this is 11,000 households with on average 2.2 people per household. This is the government making a decision that those social housing cannot have a spare bedroom, but those who are making the cuts, like Lord Freud, have mansions with countless spare bedrooms.
The banks got a bailout of £7-800 billion.
If all of those companies who are avoiding paying taxes paid them there would need to be no cuts, no austerity.
If we end up evicting tens of thousands of people there will be many deaths and we will be responsible.
We need to organise to stop this.