UK: A 3rd Millennium Malthus, Chancellor Osborne targets women & the poor to rescue the economy Print E-mail

 London ~ Friday October 22 210, page 38

The Tory 'big society' relies on women replacing welfare

Families with children will bear the brunt of privatisation and cuts – leaving carers with more unwaged work than ever
By Selma James

The welfare state was a legacy of the second world war. After the misery of the great depression and the slaughter that followed, people demanded change: the welfare of people, including working-class people, was to be central. Millions demanded socialism – and the welfare state was what we got. From 1951 to 1979 the Tories were cautious, some even embracing the civilising influence of "entitlement": every human being's right not to starve, at least in the UK.

The cuts announced by George Osborne yesterday aim once again to make market forces rather than human beings the absolute social and economic priority, throwing us back to the inter-war years of deprivation.

One crucial advance had been that universal family allowance (now child benefit) acknowledged mothers as vital workers who produced the human race. As soon as suffrage was won, feminist Eleanor Rathbone, from a Liverpool anti-slavery family, had worked tirelessly to establish that mothers and children were entitled to an income independent of what men earned – or didn't earn. It would recognise the needs of children and the work and financial autonomy of their carers. Family allowance would redress the gross injustice of the penniless mother who had been economically "disinherited". Mothers and children, though unwaged, were, after all, most of the population.

Rathbone fought for that income to be universal: a mother of any class was entitled to payment for caring work; it was a right, not a charity. But Rathbone expected that this would guarantee women's financial independence, and was deeply disappointed.

As women have had to focus on other routes to financial independence over the years, the basic work of the reproduction of the human race has plunged as a social priority. Some feminists did very well out of competing on the market in a man's world. Housework was what their mothers did; they were above that. Their careers could pay for the help of other (lower-waged) women as nannies and cleaners.

Rathbone, on the other hand, knew that: "a people accustomed to measure values in terms of money will persist, even against the evidence of their own eyes, in thinking meanly of any kind of service on which a low price is set and still more meanly of the kind of service which is given for nothing".

Thatcher's "There is no such thing as society" and her hatred for "the culture of entitlement" has determined social policy since 1979. As soon as he came in, Blair called single mothers "workless", and cut one-parent benefit. The job of raising children, it seems, was a time-waster. This framed the recent Welfare Reform Act, which abolished income support, the benefit that recognised mothers' unwaged work, and in crucial respects frames the present cuts. Harriet Harman presented the one-parent cut; Yvette Cooper welfare reform. With what credibility can they oppose Tory cuts?

It has been noted that families with children will bear the brunt of cuts, while the childless two-income family will not. It is the carer who will carry the heaviest load because she has the greater responsibility. And not only for children who will lose education and other allowances, but for relatives with disabilities and pensioner parents whose local services will either be directly cut or contracted out, to be done by workers paid slave wages not to care, but to meet targets.

Mothers had escaped dependence by taking jobs as teachers, librarians, and other public sector jobs. At the same time, 60.3% of the two million single parents had been forced out to jobs (up from 44.7% in 1997) – even breastfeeding mothers are having to submit to work-focused interviews. Indeed the number of stay-at-home mothers has reached an all-time low as families struggled to make ends meet. Most of these women will be sent home by the cuts. Now what?

Their fate and that of children is unrealistically disconnected, and in any case children's wellbeing is never a consideration. There is little concern for what children are eating (ask Jamie Oliver); or for how many leave school illiterate; or how many are forced to be carers for disabled parents or for siblings when parents are out at work. Nor is child poverty addressed as a tragic scandal, which is why the looming increased impoverishment is not the shock it should be.

Structural adjustment policies, that is, the privatisation and cuts which devastated the developing world in the 80s and 90s, were based on women taking on even more unwaged work or going without – even when it meant starvation. In much the same way, the "big society" plans to drive women to replace decimated services with unwaged work. Our work as carers is again counted on, but never counted.

The cuts are premised on the absurd assumption that market forces are beyond human control. What happened to the free time that technology, for which we suffered unemployment and displacement, was to enable? We reject the prevailing ethos that parents spending time, and society spending resources, on caring is an unaffordable luxury, but obscene salaries, bonuses and weapons are not. Will we have to fight this out as they're doing in France?
Selma James is founder of the International Wages for Housework Campaign and author of The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community
~ London ~ Saturday 23 October 2010, page 1

Cuts will hit women twice as hard as men, Commons research shows

Yvette Cooper says findings illustrate 'biggest reversal of women's opportunities and economic independence' since WW1
By Allegra Stratton, political correspondent

Yvette Cooper, who says that cutting childcare and working tax credit will limit women's career prospects. (Sarah Lee for the Guardian)

Measures announced in the comprehensive spending review will hit women twice as hard as men, according to research by the House of Commons library.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow foreign secretary and shadow minister for equalities, who commissioned the research, said tonight that the changes represent the biggest reversal in opportunities for women since the end of the first world war

Of the £8.5bn being raised by cutting direct contributions to individuals, £5.7bn – two thirds – is coming from women, while £2.7bn is being raised from men, the Commons library says.

In June's emergency budget £5.8bn was raised from women and £2.2bn from men.

That means that of the total £16bn being brought back into the exchequer by the coalition through direct tax benefit changes, £11bn will come from women.

Cooper shows that 70% of tax credits including childcare, working tax credits and other support is paid to mothers, as is 94% of child benefit. Some 60% of housing benefit, also due to be cut, is paid to women. According to the Daycare Trust, the spending review amounts to a £1,500-a-year cut in help with childcare costs.

Cooper compares the review to the period after the first world war when women who had been working had to stop because of the return of men from the front.

"Cutting back measures like childcare and working tax credit, when women still earn much less than men, will mean women have more limited career prospects.

"Women live on lower incomes yet they have chosen to take the majority from women," she said.

"You have to go back in history to find anything comparative. Not since the end of the first world war have we seen such a complete reversal of women's opportunities and economic independence. We haven't seen an attempt to turn the clock back like this for very many generations."

Under the 2006 Equality Act, the government has a legal duty to give "due regard" to the impact on women of all its policies and to mitigate any changes that look likely to adversely affect women.

Over the summer the Treasury admitted it had not done a gender impact assessment on its June emergency budget. The women's rights group the Fawcett Society will get a date for a "permission hearing" in the next few weeks when its lawyers and the Treasury's lawyers will decide with a high court judge whether the issue should be adjudicated through a judicial review.

Although the government made sure to do an impact assessment this time round, it only highlighted that its proposed changes to employment support allowance could disproportionately hit men. The research by the House of Commons library takes this into account.

Cooper described the Treasury's impact assessment as "pathetic". She said: "It shows they have learned nothing from the Fawcett judicial review process and from the shocking evidence we found at the time of the emergency budget. Instead of trying to mitigate the effects [of June's budget], they have made it worse.

"George Osborne clearly doesn't understand the importance to women of having some income paid directly to them – Beveridge got that 60 years ago. He got it when he introduced the family allowance paid directly to women. Why on earth are ministers so blind to this now?

"At the time of the emergency budget some people suggested the government had just screwed up and didn't realise the impact of their measures on women – this time it's clear it's deliberate."

Cooper argues that 300,000 women's jobs in the public sector will go, with 65% of public sector jobs done by women. Women will also be more heavily affected by increases in public sector pension contributions.
 London ~ Sunday 24 October 2010, page 1

Councils plan for exodus of poor families from London

• Benefit cuts force officials to book up B&B accommodation
• More than 200,000 may leave capital in 'social cleansing'

Jon Cruddas: 'It is tantamount to cleansing the poor out of rich areas – a brutal and shocking piece of social engineering.' (Richard Saker /Rex Features)

Ministers were accused last night of deliberately driving poor people out of wealthy inner cities as London councils revealed they were preparing a mass exodus of low-income families from the capital because of coalition benefit cuts.

Representatives of London boroughs told a meeting of MPs last week that councils have already block-booked bed and breakfasts and other private accommodation outside the capital – from Hastings, on the south coast, to Reading to the west and Luton to the north – to house those who will be priced out of the London market.

Councils in the capital are warning that 82,000 families – more than 200,000 people – face losing their homes because private landlords, enjoying a healthy rental market buoyed by young professionals who cannot afford to buy, will not cut their rents to the level of caps imposed by ministers.

The controversy follows comment last week by Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, who said the unemployed should "get on the bus" and look for work. Another unnamed minister said the benefit changes would usher in a phenomenon similar to the Highland Clearances in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when landlords evicted thousands of tenants from their homes in the north of Scotland.

In a sign that housing benefit cuts are fast becoming the most sensitive political issue for the coalition, Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP for Dagenham, last night accused the government of deliberate social engineering.

"It is an exercise in social and economic cleansing," he said, claiming that families would be thrown into turmoil, with children having to move school and those in work having to travel long distances to their jobs. "It is tantamount to cleansing the poor out of rich areas – a brutal and shocking piece of social engineering," Cruddas added.

The National Housing Federation's chief executive, David Orr, described the housing benefit cuts as "truly shocking". He said: "Unless ministers urgently reconsider these punitive cuts, we could see more people sleeping rough than at any stage during the last 30 years."

The issue is fuelling tension inside the coalition. Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, said last night he would table amendments to change housing benefit rules. He said: "I would fully expect to be one of those putting forward proposals for changes in the housing benefit rules, particularly for London."

Under a clampdown on housing benefit, the chancellor, George Osborne, announced that housing benefit will be capped from April next year at £400 a week for a four-bedroom house, £340 for a three-bedroom property, £290 for two bedrooms and £250 for a one-bedroom property. In addition, from October 2011 payments will be capped at 30% of average local rents.

At a meeting of the Commons work and pensions select committee last Wednesday, the day Osborne announced £81bn of cuts in the spending review, MPs were told by London council chiefs that the housing benefit cuts could have devastating results.

Nigel Minto, head of sustainable communities at London Councils, who works closely with the capital's housing directors, told the committee that since June London councils had been "procuring bed and breakfast accommodation" in outer London and beyond. The committee was told similar problems would occur in other cities with high-priced property such as Brighton and Oxford.

Jeremy Swain, chief executive of the homelessness charity Thames Reach, said he was particularly worried about the impact on numbers sleeping rough in London. "We have reduced rough sleeping dramatically and we have a target of zero rough sleeping in London by 2012. For the first time I'm thinking that we will not achieve that," he said.

Karen Buck, shadow minister for work and pensions, said: "The sheer scale and extremity of the coalition proposals means almost a million households are affected across the country."

In today's Observer, Labour leader Ed Miliband says last week's spending review took Britain back to the 80s. "This was the week that took the compassion out of David Cameron's claim to compassionate Conservatism," he writes, accusing the Tories of displaying "arrogant ideological swagger".

But last night Cameron insisted the cuts were tough but fair. "Departments have to make savings. I don't underestimate how difficult this will be. But we are doing what we are doing because it is the right thing to do – right by our economy, right for our country."

A DWP spokesperson said: "The current way that it [housing benefit] is administered is unfair. It's not right that some families on benefits have been able to live in homes that most working families could not afford. However, we are absolutely committed to supporting the most vulnerable families and have tripled our discretionary housing payments to provide a safety net for those who need it."


 London ~ Sunday 24 October 2010, page 27

No country for poor people?

The chancellor has cut the welfare budget by £18bn. It is designed to incentivise people back to work. But will it also change forever what it means to be poor in Britain?

By Anushka Asthana and Toby Helm

Chancellor George Osborne is congratulated after his speech in the Commons. (Reuters Tv/Reuters)

Peter John, the Labour leader of Southwark council, leads the way into the middle of the Aylesbury estate. "This is where Tony Blair gave his first major speech in 1997," he says, raising his hand towards the grim, concrete blocks looming over him.

"There will be no forgotten people in the Britain I want to build," declared Blair to residents of the notorious south London housing block. Thirteen years on, there are signs of progress but poverty still scars the landscape.

Now a new set of politicians insist that they can transform lives here. Just over two miles from the Aylesbury estate, up the Walworth road, is Parliament. It was there, at 12.30pm on Wednesday, that George Osborne delivered his comprehensive spending review, laying out where the axe would fall.

The chancellor confirmed one key strategic decision in his drive to eliminate the budget deficit. In taking £11bn out of welfare in June, he had made it clear that this was a price he was prepared to pay to protect hospitals and schools. Last week, he took out a further £7bn.

It was expected, but the welfare passage of his speech still brought gasps from the opposition. The intake of breath was particularly sharp when he announced plans to limit the employment support allowance to one year. Then there was the £26,000 cap on benefits for a workless family and a further housing benefit shock: the age cap under which tenants can claim for only a single room in a shared house, rather than their own flat, will rise from 25 to 35. That came on top of earlier housing benefit changes that critics had slammed as "draconian".

A small part of the money raised, £2bn, will be channelled back into welfare and used to finance Iain Duncan Smith's policy priority: a universal credit to replace all working-age benefits and tax credits.

For Osborne, there was a single aim. "It will always pay to work. Those who get work will be better off than those that don't," he announced to cheers from Conservative and Lib Dem MPs. The measures were tough, he said, but fair.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies disagreed. The next day it found that, with the exception of the richest 2% of the population, the tax and benefit components of the plan were "regressive", hitting the poorest hardest. Osborne was accused of pitting the working classes against the most vulnerable and demonising the unemployed. But polls suggested substantial support for the assault on benefits. Focus groups had told the chancellor they wanted welfare not cut but shredded. In Southwark and across the country, a tough new settlement with benefit recipients is about to be enforced, and the arguments have only just begun.

"Parasites," mutters a man standing outside a community church in Bermondsey, one of the poorer boroughs in Southwark. He is furious after reading a newspaper story about a family of 12 receiving £95,000 a year in benefits.

"It causes resentment among hard-working people," adds Pat Hickson, a smart, 70-year-old woman. She welcomes the crackdown on welfare. "Of course there are genuine cases but it is the benefit cheats that I'm talking about." She talks of plasma televisions, nice cars and breakfast brought to the doors of those on benefits.

Others disagree. Inside the church, half a dozen working mothers chat as their children scurry around. "I see the argument for supporting people into work," says Katherine Beatham, 32, a charity worker. "But this idea that there is a mass of people out there who don't want to work because they are too lazy is a lie. They are playing on people's fears." She worries that London will become like Paris, with the poorest forced to the outskirts.

"This is a borough of contrasts," says Peter John. "Between those areas that have been regenerated and those that have not. Between the rich and the poor. Between [ethnic] communities."

Unemployment here is 9.9%, well above the national average. There are 30,210 working-age residents, 14.4%, who claim out-of-work benefits. More than 40,000 receive housing benefit or council tax benefit. Almost four in 10 children were living in poverty in 2007. A similar number are being brought up by single parents.

Few here will be immune from the cuts. In Southwark, Cynthia O'Callaghan, 34, scowls when she is asked about them. The teaching assistant and mother of three is most worried about losing childcare support. But soon the subject drifts back to welfare and the unemployed.

Paul Brown, 51, a church leader, says he fears the country is returning to a culture of the 1980s. "Sweeping statements about people getting rich on benefits – I don't know anyone rich on benefits."

Certainly not Anthony Johnston. At Southwark Reach, a branch of the homeless charity Thames Reach, Johnston, 46, explains how he lives on benefits. He had worked at the Natural History Museum for 23 years as a housekeeper. Then his mother died and he had a breakdown. He attempted suicide several times and at one point did not leave his house for 21 days, surviving on water.

Johnston is on employment support allowance and is going on courses with the help of the charity. He says people look down on him for not working. "I live on £90 a week – we get a £10 bonus at Christmas." Sometimes, after paying utility bills and for transport to his courses, he is down to £8 by Wednesday and has to stretch it over four days.

Phil Lansdowne, who is on incapacity benefit, agrees that it is hard. He says he would rather work for £200 a week, and lose £100 in tax, than be on benefits as he is now. The question for both men is whether the government's reforms will help them back into work. If not, they could soon find themselves surviving on even less than they do now.

Some critics say the problem is the assumption that people are not working because they don't want to. In fact, many are suffering with mental or physical illness or simply can't find work. Jeremy Swain, Thames Reach chief executive, says he understands the need for a "revolution" in welfare and believes Duncan Smith can do good things. But Wednesday's speech make the life of charities like his harder, he says, with some of the reforms "bowling him over".

"Everyone agrees that if someone is on benefits as a lifestyle choice then that is unacceptable. But more than 70% of the 8,000 people we work with each year want get into work," he says. He speaks of one man who is putting in job applications twice a week and has been to many interviews unsuccessfully but is now likely to lose 10% of his housing benefit.

Yet he is not surprised that people wanted welfare targeted. "People have looked down on those out of work for a long time. So when you ask them what to cut – police? They say no. Schools? No. NHS? No. The armed services? No – but welfare, who is going to lobby for that?"

Douglas Alexander, the shadow work and pensions secretary, says he supports change to the system but says the coalition's plans are "cuts", not "reform". He attacks the rhetoric about "scroungers" and claims it will mask the way the cuts will hit hard-working families.

Those low-income working families are being hit hard too, according to research released today by the Resolution Foundation. The organisation researches what it calls the real "squeezed middle", working families with a household income of between £15,000 and £30,000.

The study models the impact of negative and positive reforms, including changes to child tax credits, the loss of the education maintenance allowance and the increase in the personal tax allowance to £7,475. It compares the position of families in 2012, given the June budget and spending review, to what they would have faced under Labour's March budget. The result is that a couple with a combined income of £25,656 with two children aged five and three lose around £760 a year; a single mother on an income of £20,645 with three children, including one who is 17, loses £1,800 a year; while a couple in their early 20s with a pre-tax income of £18,289 gain £320 a year.

"Just at the time that the government is gaining plaudits for seeking to get rid of the 'poverty trap' for those escaping welfare, there is a real risk that a new 'aspiration trap' is being set for people struggling to reach a middle income," says Gavin Kelly, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation." It is a trap that is as likely to turn hard-pressed lower-income families against their "workshy" neighbours as against the government.

According to many experts, the "welfare revolution" begun by Osborne in last week's review has its roots in the US – in Wisconsin, where tough rules and time-limited benefits make the state of worklessness utterly miserable. Advocates say the decision to target benefits did not just drive down the number of claimants; it rewired the American psyche.

"People in the UK still think it is normal to go onto welfare. In the US they don't. In the US it is a last resort," says Professor Lawrence Mead, an American academic who was one of the main influences behind the US "workfare" reforms. In June, Mead was invited to Downing street to meet Steve Hilton, David Cameron's chief strategist. Treasury officials and civil servants from the Department for Work and Pensions also attended

"They wanted to know how you do it on the ground," says Mead. "They wanted me to talk about Wisconsin and New York. They really wanted to know how to do it." The core objective, he says, is to change people's mindset so that they do not see welfare as a viable alternative. That is because benefits have been driven so low. In Texas, the average monthly benefit is around £46 per person.

Perhaps it is because of Mead that Osborne began to say this autumn that people should no longer be able to choose benefits as a "lifestyle choice".

For their part, ministers insist that the support will remain for those at the bottom. Writing today on, Chris Grayling, minister for employment, promises "unconditional" support for those who can't work.

But fears remain that plans to "make work pay" will inevitably hit the poorest hardest. A US-style welfare system, they say, risks creating a US-style underclass. Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, sums it up: "Threatening destitution does not work. What it does is frighten people who are already frightened. A society in which destitution is the threatened alternative to community support is not one that any of us wish to live in."

Changes affecting the non-working poor

A £26,000-a-year cap on the benefits an out-of-work family can receive

Extending the age under which people can only claim for the cost of a single room from 25 to 35

Reducing housing benefit by 10% after a year on jobseeker's allowance

Changes affecting the working poor

Significant reductions in the childcare element of the working tax credit

Households on incomes from around £22,000 to £58,000 lose all or part of the family element of the child tax credit, worth up to £545 a year

Elimination of education maintenance allowance will hit those with a household income under £30,810 with a 16 to 18-year-old in full time education

(Analysis by the Resolution Foundation)
 London ~ Saturday 23 October 2010, page 29

Patients lying in corridors will expose George Osborne's botch of the NHS

Don't be fooled that the health service's tiny budget increase leaves it in clover. History suggests a volcano ready to erupt

By Polly Toynbee

So the NHS is safe. It has been spared the axe, just as David Cameron promised before the election. Cauterising the health service as a suppurating issue for Conservatives was essential to win public trust. Cameron did it by standing on "Save Our Hospital" picket lines while talking movingly of how well the NHS had cared for his seriously ill son. This was medicine to cure public fear of voting Conservative.

Compared with every other department, the NHS should be in clover. As promised, the headline for health was a "real" increase every year for four years, to the hissing indignation of many in the cabinet. Authentic Tory priorities were sabotaged to save the NHS pain, sending empty Mary Celeste aircraft carriers to sail the seven seas, sacking 18,000 police, and leaving prisons to turn away criminals: no wonder cabinet teeth are grinding. But at least, they assume, the reward will be a grateful NHS with no trouble from shroud-waving nurses and doctors.

How wrong they are and how sadly shocked they will be. Waiting lists are starting to rise and will soar through a cold winter as old people get flu and slip and break hips. Bed-blockers – old people who should be moved into community care – are already filling more beds, delaying other operations as even more cash-strapped local authorities avoid taking them back. The £1bn that councils have been given from the NHS to take them in is not ring-fenced, so it may be spent on even more pressing priorities, such as the growing number of multiply-disabled young people needing round-the-clock care, thanks to the heroic efforts of intensive care paediatricians.

Accident and emergency waiting times are already rising. Not long now until local papers and TV stations start parading trolley-loads of patients waiting in corridors for admission. Tory MPs will be perplexed by sacked nurses complaining loudly in their constituencies, when they thought the NHS was safe in their hands. Nor will they understand why more local hospital units are closing than were originally threatened, when they thought they promised to keep them open. The government is about to discover how little trouble it takes for the NHS to create lethal headlines, compared with deadlier but silent cuts in benefits, children in care, Sure Start or other unseen brutalities.

This government has no memory, no gut understanding of how public services work, and an ideology that fills the space where caution should be. They should listen to the one man who does know. Ken Clarke, the common sense minister with a memory who has done virtually every job round the cabinet table, could warn them exactly what will happen to the NHS next – because he has been there before and had to pick up the pieces.

This week the NHS was given the least possible increase to obey the letter, if not the spirit, of the Cameron pledge – 0.1% a year for four years. Actually, according to Professor John Appleby of the King's Fund, it's only 0.084%, rounded up to look neater. Even that sum is cut once the £1bn purloined from the NHS for local authorities for social care is added in, plus a walloping £20bn "efficiency" cut in managers.

Every time the NHS has dipped to an increase of below 2% above ordinary inflation, it has hit a wall. It happened under Margaret Thatcher in the late 80s when a winter flu bout precipitated a crisis. Funding had dropped to 1% – over 10 times more than George Osborne's settlement, and only for one year. That led to a lot of money being poured in and Ken Clarke's major internal market reorganisation.

A similar crisis struck during Tony Blair's premiership when the NHS increase dipped to 1% for a year in 1998-1999. You may remember poor Mavis Skeet, who hit the headlines when her throat cancer became inoperable after her surgery was cancelled four times in five weeks, due partly to another flu outbreak. A treasure chest of money and incessant reorganisation flowed from Labour rapidly thereafter, leaving almost no waiting lists and very much higher patient expectations.

What the NHS faces now doesn't begin to compare with either of those episodes. "There has never been a period of four years of no rise. It's unprecedented," says Professor Appleby. Throughout its history the NHS has had an average 4% increase above ordinary inflation, because medical and pharmaceutical costs rise faster and the population ages every year. Tremors are felt already because Labour this year cut the NHS from a 7% to 0.7% increase – a plunge off a cliff. Follow that with four zero years and see what mayhem follows.

Baby boomers are entering retirement – 2012 is their peak retiring year – a growing pressure. The birth rate is rising, with maternity units under dangerous strain. True, after many fat years there is £1bn of surplus across the NHS – but that is just enough to cover the redundancy cost of sacked managers, and only then if the new GP consortia don't sack most primary care trust (PCT) staff as they take over. True, the two-year pay freeze for NHS staff eases pressure, but at the end of that GPs will have had four years and consultants three years of no rises: the NHS can't fall too far behind when private-sector pay will have risen 3% a year, every year. Talk to anyone who has been through previous NHS crises and they see it building up already.

Nigel Edwards, head of the NHS Confederation, visited a north London A&E yesterday: "Even at 10am it was heaving, absolutely heaving," with three men lying on the floor. He says: "The demand is relentless, with the ambulance service and A&E under growing pressure." These are not frivolous visitors but "more frail people living longer with multiple conditions and frequent relapses". Debts in some hospitals and PCTs will rise: he points to the imminent closure of A&E and maternity at Queen Mary's hospital, Sidcup – where debts and cuts led to safety concerns for lack of staff– as just one example of what's on the way.

Now add to that the biggest upheaval of an NHS reorganisation ever attempted, costing £3bn at least, while staff take their eye off the day-to-day to cope with fundamental change. Mostly reluctant or indifferent GPs are expected to spend £80bn a year well, while the best managers shed from PCTs depart. The NHS is full of good people doing everything they can to avert a crisis, but here is a volcano ready to erupt exactly where the cabinet least expects it.
 London ~ Sunday, 24 October 2010

Cuts could cost billions for voluntary sector

Government spending cuts could cost voluntary organisations billions of pounds, it was claimed today.

Dame Suzi Leather, the chair of the Charity Commission, said cutting funding to charities that were providing key public services would be short sighted.

She told BBC One's Politics Show that the move could undermine Prime Minister David Cameron's Big Society project.

Many of the 160,000 organisations the Commission oversees provide key services for councils and rely on local authorities for funding, the BBC reported.

Dame Suzi warned that a cut in the amount of money going to children's services could mean more young people from deprived backgrounds ending up in police stations and the criminal justice system, presenting the taxpayer with an even bigger bill.

She feared up to £5bn could be cut from charities which would "pull the rug" from under Mr Cameron's Big Society idea.

The BBC said it had received a statement from the Cabinet Office which said it recognised the cuts would be challenging for some voluntary organisations, and it would work quickly to start a £100m short-term fund to help charities with funding shortfalls.

Dame Suzi told the programme: "If you cut the charities, you are cutting our ability to help each other, you are cutting what structures our neighbourliness.

"That is what Big Society is all about, so you are pulling the rug from under that."

 London ~ Thursday October 7 2010, page 8

'Conservative child benefit cut will cripple us,' says stay-at-home mother

Rachel Devine – whose partner earns just over the £44,000 tax threshold – attacks scrapping of £130-a-month payment
By Rachel Williams
Rachel Devine: 'Can you imagine getting married because the Tories were offering you something (Neil Hall/INS/Neil Hal)l

When she heard George Osborne announcing the end of child benefit for families with an earner in the 40% tax band, Rachel Devine, a stay-at-home mother with two daughters under five, went straight to her intricate household budget spreadsheet.

How would she and her partner, relying only on the earnings that tip him over the £44,000 higher tax threshold, cope with the loss of £130 a month? "I've looked and looked and looked, and it's just not there. It will cripple us."

Were she and her partner married, the benefit blow might eventually be softened by promised tax breaks. This, she feels, is a doubly unfair blow. "The idea of being forced to make life decisions based on the morals of who's running the country is repellent," she says.

"It's social engineering and the way they've done it feels like pathetic PR spin.

"I completely love my partner. I'm completely committed and I think he's the most wonderful man in the world. But we don't need or want to get married."

Devine, 41, is still poring over her books. She and her partner, a university lecturer, have just moved into a new home in Surrey – an ex-local authority property – to be closer to his work. It is an ex-local authority property that is not grand, she says, but there is no weighting in the cuts to account for the hyperinflation of house prices in such areas. Devine fears they could even lose the house eventually.

"It's the fact that David Cameron keeps banging on about it being fair that gets me," she said. "I think it's right that the wealthiest families shouldn't get child benefit, but the cut should be tapered or taxed.

"We run a tight ship with every penny allocated and watched. This money was crucial, and it wasn't for luxuries. It covered things like shoes and birthday presents for the children.

"We are the supposed high earners that can 'afford' to do without these benefits who are sniffing cuts of reduced meat in the supermarket and going to charity shops and boot sales for clothes and toys.

"Now we will be staring at going into the red every month while still working just as hard."

Nonetheless, she remains unmoved by the offer of a matrimonial tax break. "Can you imagine what it would be like getting married because the Tories were offering you something?"