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Tax Cuts For The Rich, Benefit Cuts For The Poor?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/09/2022 - 11:05pm in

Following news that benefits may rise with earnings, not inflation, Sian Norris and the Byline Intelligence Team asks: who will be hardest hit? And is this an inequality economy?

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The Government has mooted real-term cuts to welfare benefits to help meet the ongoing economic crisis that was exacerbated by the mini-budget announced a week ago. 

The Timesfront page on Friday 30 September led with the story that the Government was discussing raising benefits in-line with earnings, leading to a real-terms cut that would mean households already struggling to make ends meet risk falling deeper into poverty. A rise in-line with earnings would be 5%, while inflation hovers around 10%.

The Byline Intelligence Team has analysed who would be impacted by any decision to introduce a real-terms cut to the incomes of families currently claiming welfare. 

We found that low-income women and people in their 30s, living in traditionally “red wall” seats, would be hit hardest by a decision to increase Universal Credit against earnings, not inflation. 

Our analysis comes as the Government delivers big tax cuts to the rich, while potentially cutting benefits for the poorest families, as well as threatening more cuts to public services.

This represents a move by Liz Truss’ Government towards an inequality economy. 

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What Is The Plan?

Universal Credit is the welfare system pioneered by former Department for Work and Pensions Secretary Sir Iain Duncan-Smith. In 2018 it was criticised by the National Audit Office which concluded it could end up costing more than the benefit system it had replaced, could not prove it helped more claimants into work, and was unlikely to ever deliver value for money.

Benefits usually increase in April each year, based on the consumer price inflation of the previous September. This meant that in spring this year, benefits rose by 3.1% – in line with inflation six months earlier. However, by April 2022, inflation had already risen to 9%, before hitting 10.1% in July. It is currently at 9.9%. 

Johnson’s Government had promised to correct this imbalance before he was forced to resign over the summer. However, the new Government has made it clear that benefit freezes are on the table, although formal discussions are due to begin only once September’s inflation figures are received next month.

According to the Resolution Foundation, increasing benefits in-line with earnings instead of inflation would leave a low-income family with two children £1,000 per year off. This would follow the decision by former Chancellor Rishi Sunak in October last year to cut the Universal Credit £20 uplift, which cost 5.5 million households an average of £1,200. 

It also risks cancelling out the changes to the taper rate announced last year, which gave an additional £1,000 more per year to two million working families on Universal Credit.  

Iain Porter, Senior Policy Adviser at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “It is shocking to hear the Government suggesting that they may not do what Rishi Sunak promised and uprate benefits by inflation next April as usual. This will mean yet another devastating blow to the finances of people on the lowest incomes and will cause fear for millions who have spent the past months struggling to feed their families, cook hot food and heat their homes”.

Where The Cuts May Fall

More than 5.8 million people in England, Wales and Scotland claim Universal Credit, and just under half (40%) have jobs. The amount a household receives varies depending on income and whether the claimants have children. 

Of that 5.8 million, 46.7% are single people with no children, and 13.5% are a couple with children. Single parents make up 36.3% of claimants. Half of single parent households are in relative poverty, and 90% of those families are headed by single mothers. 

London has the highest number of individual Universal Credit claimants, at 771,665, and in April 2022, 16.5% of people on the benefit lived in the capital. Just over 12% of people on Universal Credit live in the North West, or 618,572 individuals

Proportionally the region with the most people on benefits is the North East, at 8.76%. This is based on the number of claimants (236,709) as a percentage of the regional population as estimated by Varbes (2,702,539).

The North West had the second highest percentage of claimants per population, at 8.39%. London is at 8.08% and the West Midlands at 7.9%. In Wales, 7.2% of the population claims Universal Credit, while in Scotland it is 7.1%. 

On an individual city or county council level, Birmingham City Council has the highest number of claimants, at 160,164, while Rutland has the lowest: 1,793.

This regional breakdown demonstrates that many of those who will be hardest hit by a decision to raise benefits in-line with earnings and not inflation are in former Red Wall seats – traditionally held by Labour but which voted Conservative for the first time in 2019 on a promise of getting Brexit done and “levelling up”. 

Women will also be disproportionately impacted by a real-term cut to benefits levels – they make up 55% of Universal Credit claimants. The majority of claimants are in their 30s.

Should the Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng pursue a plan to increase benefits in-line with earnings in order to balance the books, at a time when offering tax cuts and unlimited bankers’ bonuses to the richest in society, he will be sending a clear message that austerity is back, and risks increasing regional, gender and generational inequality.

“Many people across the UK will agree it is morally indefensible that the Prime Minister would choose to give tax cuts to the richest funded on the backs of the poorest in our society,” said Porter. “Those who will lose out if the Government continues down this track include people with low earnings, families with children, carers and people who are sick or disabled”. 

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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Direct questions without fear or favour…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/09/2022 - 7:52pm in

After a lengthy silence Truss, yesterday, actually kept her appointments with local radio (just be aware the link takes you to a full hour of her every reply!) The summary below is probably the worst of a bad lot (no wonder @Parody_PM said that she had cancelled the rest of the day’s appointments because she’d... Read more

The price for the delusions of ‘Britannia Unchained’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 29/09/2022 - 5:59am in

I liked this FT article on how Truss learns the hard way that Britain isn’t America. It also partly sums up how I recoil when Labour MP’s proudly display their American (often academic) experience. For Britain is not America. Particularly and most of all when Britain has separated itself from the market on its doorstep,... Read more

Bank of England to recommence Quantitative Easing:

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/09/2022 - 8:49pm in

This is what today’s somewhat circumlocutory Bank of England statement says: What I cannot work out is how exactly this affects mortgages. Much damage has already been done but will it prevent the ’emergency action’ so called which saw a big interest rate rise pencilled in for November? Why not bite the bullet and create... Read more

Truss Conservative government is a ‘doomsday cult’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/09/2022 - 3:58am in

Is the remarkable comment of a UBS economist. (Personally, I don’t know what he means but it is quite surprising that he felt able to say it.) What interests me more is that he added that: Modern Monetary Theory has been taken into a corner by the bond markets and beaten up . Regrettably I... Read more

Conservative MP Blaming ‘Islamist Extremists’ for Leicester Violence Funded by Organisations Tied to Hindutva Militants

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/09/2022 - 2:50am in

Bob Blackman, who is the executive secretary of the influential 1922 Committee, has had a number of visits to India hosted by pro-RSS groups

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A Conservative MP who has written to the Home Secretary blaming “Islamist extremists” for the recent violence between Muslims and Hindus in cities such as Leicester has funding ties to far-right Hindutva followers supportive of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as the BJP's parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – a Hindu nationalist paramilitary volunteer network linked to anti-Muslim violence in India.

Bob Blackman – who represents Harrow East and is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus – has received more than £20,200 from groups directly linked to these organisations.

Recent weeks have seen more than 500 young Hindu and Muslim men clashing with each other and police in Leicester, resulting in 20 arrests and 25 police being officers injured. After visiting local community leaders and police, Suella Braverman vowed that “disorder and thuggery” would face “the full force of the law” and pledged to "restore safety and harmony".

However, in his letter to Braverman last Friday, Blackman – who is also the executive secretary of the Conservative Party’s influential 1922 Committee – portrayed the unrest as a case of violence instigated solely by Muslims.

He referred to “appalling attacks on Hindus in Leicester, Birmingham and elsewhere in the UK” – rather than acknowledging attacks by both Hindu and Muslim extremists in the clashes.

Analysis by Byline Times of donations received by Blackman, recorded in the parliamentary register of interests, shows his long-standing ties with far-right Hindu nationalist organisations – some of which have been directly linked to anti-Muslim violence. He received the donations between 2016 and 2019, mostly to fund visits to India hosted by pro-RSS groups.

Under the leadership of BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi since 2014, widespread concerns have been raised about the persecution of religious minorities – Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others – in India, the world's largest democracy.

As the political wing of the RSS, the BJP is a far-right nationalist political movement associated with ‘Hindutva’ ideology. This promotes a purist strain of Hindu nationalism, positing Indian national culture and identity as inseparable from the Hindu religion. The RSS calls for an exclusively Hindu nation state of India.

Gujarat Riot Connection

In February 2019, Blackman received £1,800 from the pro-BJP International Siddhashram Shakti Centre in Harrow to fund a trip to Mumbai, India.

The year before, he received £11,300 from the Indian-branch of the Centre to visit Ahmedabad and Delhi to “meet with political figures in India”.

The International Siddhashram Shakti Centre was founded by Shri Rajrajeshwar Guruji, who has close ties with senior BJP officials including the late Lalubhai Parekh, vice-president of the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) and Kuldeep Shekhawat, OFBJP president. Byline Times contacted the Centre for comment.

The Centre’s Harrow branch recently hosted Vijay Rupani, chief BJP minister of Gujarat from 2016 to 2021. In 2019, Rupani declared that “Muslims have 150 countries to go to, Hindus have only India”. In 2020, Rupani justified the role of his predecessor as Gujarat's chief minister, Modi, in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

It is widely recognised that, as chief minister of the state, Modi 'allowed' the anti-Muslim riots to take place, which resulted in the killings of an estimated 1,000 Muslims. At least 20,000 Muslim homes were destroyed and at least 150,000 people were displaced. Modi’s role in the riots led the UK's Labour Government to institute a diplomatic boycott against him – which was ended by the Conservative-led Government in 2012 to boost bilateral “trade and investment”.

In February 2017, Blackman also received £4,000 from the Indian High Commission in London – which formally represents Modi's Government in the UK – to fund his trip to New Delhi, aimed at developing “understanding of Indian policy aims” and to “meet key decision-makers in the Indian Government”.

Pro-RSS Connections

Blackman also travelled to India in March 2016, a trip partly-funded by a pro-RSS NGO. The Art of Living Foundation’s UK and Bangalore branches, along with several other donors, together gave Blackman more than £1,100 for flights, meals and accommodation to visit Delhi.

Although the Art of Living Foundation operates as an educational and humanitarian organisation promoting yoga meditation across 156 countries, its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was accused in 2014 of leveraging the charity’s funds for electoral purposes in support of Modi and the BJP.

Shankar is a long-time Modi apologist who has vehemently defended Modi’s role in the Gujarat riots. He is also an old RSS cadre who had attended RSS programmes for many years. Shankar had also reportedly supported the idea of building a Hindu temple over the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, India, which had been demolished in 1992 by a Hindutva mob.

Shanka has denied supporting the BJP but has admitted his involvement in the RSS.

Blackman received another £2,000 donation for travel to India in April 2016, from the UK branch of the RSS-affiliated charity Sewa International – the international welfare wing of the RSS which provides a formal charitable structure for its volunteer members. It is directly linked to anti-Muslim violence.

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Blackman visited Sewa projects in India to “meet with trustees, volunteers and political figures”, according to the register of interests.

Back in August 2002, the late Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn resigned from his role as a patron of Sewa International after discovering that it operates as “a front for controversial militant Hindu organisations” which harbours a “racist and anti-Muslim agenda”. He added at the time, according to Birmingham’s Sunday Mercury newspaper: “I very much regret ever having been part of this racist organisation.”

According to the UK-based human rights network, Awaaz South Asia Watch, Sewa International’s “main purpose is to raise funds for and support a distinct family of organisations associated with the extremist RSS”.

Lord Patel’s resignation was prompted after reports emerged that officials in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh had banned Sewa Bharti, a charity partly-funded by Sewa International’s Leicester entity. The officials cited intelligence reports showing that Sewa Bharti had planned to “stir racial hatred” in Ayodhya. Sewa International was also providing funds to build Hindu temples in Gujarat.

The pro-RSS stance of the Sewa network of charities has been well-documented by journalist Pieter Friedrich.

Sewa International has denied all allegations.

Bob Blackman MP, the Conservative Party and the International Siddhashram Shakti Centre have been contacted for comment.

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From Greece fear to Greece fact:

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/09/2022 - 9:59pm in

The Conservatives, when campaigning to take over from the last Labour administration suggested that further Labour government would make the British economy ‘like Greece’. In fact the Conservatives themselves have done the job instead: Quite remarkable ineptitude when Britain has its own currency and Greece does not…... Read more

Italy: Fascism or conservatism?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/09/2022 - 9:45pm in

Although the original poster is probably not someone I would wish to follow, I thought the actual video clip he pointed out was interesting. The mainstream media tells us that the next Italian PM is a fascist. Yet she sounds not unlike a member of the UK’s current Conservative government on a bit of an... Read more

‘Ministers Can Make it Mean Anything they Want it To’: The Realities of Citizenship-Stripping in the UK

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/09/2022 - 9:14pm in

Faima Bakar speaks to experts about the Government’s removal of citizenship without notice and its disproportionate impact on British Muslims

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When the citizenship of Shamima Begum – the woman who left the UK and joined ISIS aged just 15 – was revoked in 2019, it scared British Muslims. For all of the Home Office’s insistence that this kind of measure would only be levelled at those who commit grave crimes, British Muslims knew that this was a signal that their right to citizenship could be dismantled for a lot less.

In this way, British Muslims have been reduced to second-class status, according to a new report by the the Institute of Race Relations think tank, which has found that citizenship-stripping powers introduced since 2002 have enshrined a lesser form of citizenship in the UK, mainly affecting Muslims.

Under clause 10 of the controversial Nationality and Borders Act, the Home Office has powers to remove citizenship without notifying subjects where it’s “reasonably practicable” to do so, in the interests of national security, diplomatic relations or in the public interest. How can people appeal the decision if they’re not even made aware of it?

As being made stateless is illegal, the Government can argue that subjects with a dual-citizenship – mostly ethnic minorities – can apply to their native countries, regardless of whether they have a cultural connection with them or not. Begum, for example, had never been to Bangladesh. For the Institute's vice-chair Frances Webber, this means that ethnic Britons’ citizenship is disposable and contingent. 

“What is very worrying is how quickly something as fundamental as citizenship – described as ‘the right to have rights’ – can be seriously damaged by governments driven by the logic of deportation and exclusion,” Webber says. “The criterion for the deprivation is the same as for deportation: that it is ‘conducive to the public good’ – even if the person was born in the UK and knows no other country. It is such a vague criterion that ministers can make it mean anything they want it to.”

Citizenship-stripping isn’t a new practice and has grown exponentially in the past two decades after it was used against Muslim preacher Abu Hamza in 2003. Before Hamza, no removal of citizenship had been authorised in the 30 years prior but since then there have been at least 217 removals of citizenship, with 104 removals in 2017 following the collapse of ISIS in Syria.

Those who support the Act question whether this predominantly affects Muslims but, as Webber points out, this group is far more likely to be impacted as the Government is highly suspicious of them.

“Most of those who have had their British citizenship revoked are Muslims of south Asian heritage, who have also been the subject of a fairly unrelenting political and media onslaught since the millennium about ‘self-segregation’, lack of ‘British values’, ‘backward’ religion, support for ‘terrorism’ or ‘extremism’, as well as the Prevent programme, the Trojan Horse scandal," she says.

"This onslaught, culminating in the enshrining in law of a second-class citizenship contingent on ‘good behaviour’, has emboldened the far-right and led to a situation where there are now nearly 100,000 race or religion-motivated hate crimes every year in Britain.”

Islamophobia has been on the rise for the past few decades. After Boris Johnson’s comments likening Muslim women to "letter boxes" and "bank robbers", hate crimes grew by 375%, while terror attacks with a Muslim perpetrator receive 357% more coverage despite more white people being arrested for terrorism. Schools in Birmingham and Slough, meanwhile, have been told to train Muslim students to spy on one another, according to Prevent Watch; and the Government’s prevarication over the definition of Islamophobia hasn’t helped.

At the Whim of the Home Secretary

Once the Government has a subject in its clutches for potential citizenship-stripping, it’s near impossible to shake the threat. Even appealing to the courts is likely to be futile, as witnessed when Begum’s plea for citizenship restoration was denied by the Supreme Court. What makes appeals tricky and likely to be unsuccessful is the premise of ‘public interest’.

Dr Reuven Ziegler, an associate professor at the University of Reading, says that British citizenship is precious, costly, and precarious. "The stripping can be due to interest of national security, in the interest of the relationship between the UK with another country, and the public interest," he says. "But what is considered within these interests has been determined by the Home Secretary – they can deem everything to be in the public interest because they define what is.” 

While some would argue that people like Begum deserve this level of punishment, given her association with ISIS, Dr Ziegler says that, even when laws are broken, everyone should have a right to a fair trial and the problem should not be exported to another country.

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“In such circumstances, we shouldn’t let someone become some other country’s problem,” he says, “which essentially replicates the practices of the 18th Century where the UK would send people to penal colonies.

“If someone is a national security threat, will they no longer be a threat in another country? Plus, this creates a form of inequality because a person with dual-citizenship will receive additional punishment where those from a solely UK background will not. And in terms of the sort of thing that would trigger it, it’s less likely to be by white supremacist terrorism.”

The strength of public anger around the Nationality and Borders Act saw more than 300,000 people sign a parliamentary petition against the policy, while thousands contacted their MPs.

Frances Webber believes “we need a sustained campaign, drawing in large numbers of the estimated six million dual-nationals in the UK who could be affected, to reverse the changes to citizenship to put all British citizens, whether they have access to another citizenship or not, on the same secure footing”.

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