The new age of Dickens

by Daphne Liddle

LIVING standards for most people in Britain are plummeting, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics that show national well being is down 13.2 per cent compared to standards before the banking crisis of 2008 — and is continuing to fall.

That is bad news for those who consider themselves part of the “squeezed middle” but for some, who are now in the “totally crushed bottom”, the fall has been catastrophic.

We are being ground between cuts in income from wages, pensions and benefits while prices soar and more misery is on the way that will leave many people totally destitute.

The Trussell Trust, a charity that coordinates food banks reports rapidly increasing numbers of people relying on them because they are now too poor to feed their families.

And among them are young professionals, self employed businesspeople whose contracts have dried up and people in deep credit card debt. They now join people on benefits, the elderly and students for care parcels in boroughs across London.

More than 15,500 Londoners used 30 food banks in London last year, around 1,000 more than the previous year.

Volunteers reported that one woman “cried with joy” when a festive hamper was given to her because she feared having serve her family beans on toast on Christmas Day.

Fifteen new food banks will soon open within the M25, including Kensington & Chelsea and Richmond, many at church and Salvation Army halls. Most of the recipients are some of the capital’s poorest residents, many on the brink of starvation who skip meals just to feed their children.

The numbers dependent on this charity to survive are likely rocket soon due to a new Department of Work and Pensions “crackdown” on claimants accused of avoiding work. As from this week workers who quit their jobs or are sacked for any reason other than redundancy, or “fail to look for work” will face heavy sanctions.

People who leave a job voluntarily will lose all of their Jobseeker's Allowance for 13 weeks under the new regime. If it happens again within a year, they will lose their allowance for 26 weeks for a second failure and three years for a third and subsequent failure.

Those who refuse to actively seek employment or do not make themselves available for work face sanctions of four weeks without JSA for a first failure, rising to 13 weeks for second or subsequent failures within a year.

Benefits will also be cut for four weeks for failing to attend an adviser interview. Subsequent failures will see a 13-week penalty.

This will affect many people with disabilities who have been found fit for work through interviews with Atos. The changes have been introduced with almost no notice.

It will also give workers in rotten jobs and lousy bullying bosses the choice of putting up with abuse or facing starvation and homelessness — and the bullying bosses will know this and exploit it. We need our trade unions now as never before. Low income families are going be rocked by another bolt from the blue as Communities Minister Eric Pickles introduces cuts in council tax benefits.

Millions of families who do not have enough income to pay the tax will now have to, averaging around £300.

Up to 3.7 million under- 65s — a third of them single mothers — will lose council tax benefit from 6th April in what Labour is dubbing the Pickles Poll Tax.

On the same day the top rate of tax falls and 8,000 millionaires will get tax cuts of at least £40,000 each.

Currently council tax benefit is a national scheme, with £4.7 billion paid by the Government.

Pickles will pass responsibility to local authorities — but has cut the amount they get by 10 per cent. As pensioners are exempt from increases, councils must find 16 per cent from their remaining benefit claimants.

These changes will see hundreds of thousands more people, including children, thrown into absolute poverty and despair. We will see levels of hunger and hardship not seen in Britain for a century.

We have no choice but to get rid of this government — and to make sure that the Labour government which will replace it — the only viable option currently — knows it has to undo these cuts or face swift annihilation.

Funny how the historic Bolshevik slogan: “Bread, peace and land” suddenly seems very relevant.