Labour candidate calls for ‘County-Wide Fightback’ as cuts begin to bite

Richard Hampson Labour candidate for Bridgwater West
“Send a message to the Conservatives and their Lib Dem allies that their welfare policies are unacceptable” Richard Hampson, Labour candidate for Bridgwater West

This hasn’t been the best of weeks to be on the breadline, and it’s about to get worse. Today, the Coalition’s new budget comes into force. Approximately 13,000 millionaires will receive a £100,000 tax cut. For every one of those millionaires, 137 families will be hit by the new bedroom tax. In total, about 660,000 households with spare rooms, including some of the most disadvantaged in the country, will lose an average of £14 a week at a time when they are already struggling to weather the deepest recession in eighty years.

Earlier this week, 50 of the country’s most senior experts in social policy wrote an open letter to David Cameron. The professors’ message was stark – cancel your welfare cuts or cause the poorest tenth of households to lose 38% of their income, pushing 220,000 children into poverty. This was the same week church groups hit out at “the systematic misrepresentation of the poorest in society” by government and the media, housing federation chief David Orr described the bedroom tax as “one of these once-in-a-generation decisions that is wrong in every respect” and Labour estimated that the combined impact of Coalition cutbacks would cost the average family almost £900 a year.

And it was also the week that, here in Somerset, Bridgwater Town Council voted to support the establishment of the town’s first food bank since the 1930s. The bank will be run by volunteers from the Tressel Trust, and, like those recently established in nearby Highbridge and Taunton, will run on a referral system. GPs and Social Services offices can refer people they deem in sufficient need to the new bank –to be located in the former Enterprise Centre on Northgate – where they’ll receive vouchers they can exchange for food.

Candidate hit’s out at ‘Destructive social policy’

The Labour controlled Town Council has earmarked £1,500 to the bank, which is doing crucial work for the area’s most vulnerable at a time of real hardship for some. Labour’s Richard Hampson, standing for Bridgwater West in May’s County Council elections, has praised the individuals taking the time to help needy members of the community – but he has also hit out at the kind of destructive social policy that leaves it to unpaid volunteers to ensure the most needy have enough food to eat.

“Setting up a food bank in Bridgwater is another sign of the disastrous effects of this Conservative-led, Liberal DemoPrat supported government” said Richard. “While the efforts of many concerned and caring people in setting it up are to be highly commended, the fact that it is necessary in the 21st century is a damning indictment of this pathetic apology for a Government

“David Cameron talks about ‘the Big Society’. But actions speak louder than words. His ‘Big Society’ has amounted to little more than the poorest getting poorer through cuts in benefits and pay freezes and being left to flounder by a government that slashes vital state services while the richest enjoy tax cuts”.

The Cabinet of millionaires is doing a very good job of making everyone from average-earners to society’s poorest – everyone, in fact, except the wealthiest – pay for an economic crisis caused by an irresponsible elite. But Coalition policy isn’t just morally reprehensible – as has so often been the case since the Lib Dems jumped into bed with the Conservatives, their measures are downright impractical too: “The so-called ‘bedroom tax’ is another example. Trying to force people to move to smaller housing by making them pay for ‘spare’ bedrooms ignores the practicalities. Not only is there a shortage of small housing properties, but many people just can’t afford the cost of physically moving house.”

‘people are being made to suffer and suffer again’

“In many cases people are on benefits that have already been cut or raised below the rate of inflation – people already made to suffer are being made to suffer again. The Citizens Advice Bureau is already reporting a huge surge in their caseload, caused for the most part by people extremely worried about what government policy will do to their standard of living”.

Labour activists
“Vote Labour on May 2nd” -Labour activists out on the campaign trail

Cameron and co are profoundly detached from a society that’s really hurting as cuts begin to bite. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg won’t even be in the country when the government he created begins punishing hundreds of thousands whose only crime is to have a spare room. With a certain grim irony, Clegg will be holidaying at his parents’ luxury chalet in Switzerland (number of spare rooms: 19 at least).

“This savage attack on welfare – for that’s what it is – can only be described as disgraceful. The United Kingdom is one of the richest nations in the world, yet according to Clegg, Cameron and Osborne, we cannot afford to look after those who, for very good reasons, need our help”.

‘Galvanise the resistance with a county wide fightback’

But Richard doesn’t think the Con Dem’s economic disaster should make us give into despair. Instead, he says, we need galvanise the resistance. In Somerset, that means a county-wide fight-back against Tory and Liberal alike.

“Voting Labour on May 2nd will not only mean a greater and more effective voice on County Council, but will send a powerful message to the Conservatives and their Lib Dem allies that their welfare policies are unacceptable.”


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11 years ago

Spot on. I work in the homelessness sector and we are seeing a steady increase in need for our services, and mostly from ‘types’ of people we don’t usually see (i.e. they don’t have any underlying problems). They are just ordinary people who have had (often) a relationship breakdown or come to the end of a short, private tenancy and have no way of getting re-housed.
I just wish Labour nationally would get their act together and stop trying to be a slightly left wing Tory party. I wish they’d start fighting for the ordinary people of this land instead of just being a slightly less nasty party than the nasty party. We need a REAL left wing alternative to The Con-Dems.

Christine Coombe
Christine Coombe
11 years ago

Speciailist Housing/Legal/Debt Advisors are also being cut at Citizens advise due to the cuts from companies, local authority. and more people come in but few less important facilities. Volunteers are not specialists.

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