Lead story

Stop the cruel sanctions

by Daphne Liddle

NICK BOLES the Tory Minister for Business, last week called on his own government to review the “inhuman inflexibility” of the current system of using sanctions — the cutting off of benefits — to punish claimants for the slightest failing of the bureaucratic tasks placed on them by the Department of Work and Pensions.

Sanctions can cut people’s only source of income for between a month and three years. They are usually applied to people who fail to keep an appointment for whatever reason.

Sometimes they fail to turn up because they did not get the letter — this happens a lot to homeless people who have no address. One single mother was sanctioned for staying at the cot-side of her desperately ill new-born baby in hospital.

Others have been sanctioned for attending the funeral of a close family member. One man was sanctioned because he had a heart attack during a Work Capability Assessment interview because he did not complete the interview.

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Russian reactionary killed in Moscow

by our European Affairs correspondent

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin has vowed to personally oversee the investigation into the assassination of a prominent member of the right-wing opposition gunned down in Moscow on the eve of a mass rally against the government.

Boris Nemtsov was shot dead last Friday night while walking across a bridge in central Moscow with his girlfriend, a 23-year-old Ukrainian model.

Nemtsov was a major player in the Yeltsin regime but his pro-American stance soon put him at loggerheads with the Putin leadership. In recent years he had tried, with little success, to build a number of reactionary fronts to challenge Putin. He was a frequent visitor to the United States, where he would often meet with Senator John McCain, a leading member of the American war-lobby. In recent months he had taken the lead in opposing Crimea’s return to the Russian Federation and Russia’s support for the anti-fascist struggle in Ukraine.

Though the imperialist media have been quick to blame Putin for the death of one of their stooges it’s highly unlikely that the intelligence services would carry out a demonstrative murder right in front of the Kremlin when so many other low-profile options, like fatal “accidents”, are available to them.

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Economical with the truth

CHANCELLOR George Osborne was beaming all over the morning news bulletins on Wednesday, claiming that “average incomes are now back to pre-crisis levels”, according to a new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). He did admit there were some exceptions, for example young working families, but claimed pensioners were now, on average, a whole 1.8 per cent better off than “before the recession”. And he claimed that a fall in unemployment had helped to bring about this happy situation and that wealthier households had borne the brunt of the hard times.

But in January there was another report from the IFS which showed that household incomes have been reduced by £1,127 a year on average as a result of tax and benefit changes made by this Government, with low income households losing the most as a proportion of their income.

That report said: “Tax and benefit changes introduced by the coalition have reduced household incomes by £1,127 a year or 3.3 per cent on average. Low-income households with children lose the most as a percentage of their income from changes implemented by the coalition.

“For middle and higher income families with children... loss of tax credits and child benefit has more than offset the effect of income tax cuts.”

Read the full editorial here >> [ Economical with the truth ]