Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/672/12114
News in brief
Tata Steel, the world's biggest steelmaker, is to slash another 1,500 jobs at plants in Scunthorpe and Teesside. This latest blow to jobs in the north east is on top of the 2,000 axed in 2009.
Then, thousands of steelworkers and their families marched to demand action by the Labour government which, apart from a vague promise of funds for retraining, did nothing to stop the job losses - such as renationalisation. In the previous year Tata Steel had reported a nearly £3 billion profit.
This time Tata says the cuts are due to falling demand and blamed the threat of carbon taxes aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, many suspect that the real reason is that its European operations make less profit than its plants elsewhere in the world where labour costs are lower.
Chancellor George Osborne breathed a sigh of relief following a 36,000 fall in the total unemployed. However, this miserably small decline means that the UK's unemployment rate remains at nearly 8% officially and the claimant count actually increased in April by 12,400.
Moreover, the number of workers in full-time employment fell by 1.4% in the first three months of the year compared with the same period in 2009, while those in part-time jobs rose by 5%. Youth unemployment continues to hover just below the one million mark at 935,000.
With the economy flatlining over the last six months and public spending cuts only now beginning to bite, unemployment could easily breach the three million mark in the next 12-18 months.
The average monthly rent in London is set to break through the £1,000 mark - a new record. Last month the average London rent was £998, a rise of 8% in a year. At current interest rates, a £1,000 monthly rent is the equivalent of a £180,000 repayment mortgage. But first-time buyers have been effectively frozen out of the property market by the banks and other mortgage lenders.
The government's cap on housing allowance will affect one million people nationally with an average loss of £22 a week in London. One-third of these claimants are people in regular employment.
And changes to extend the shared accommodation rate to 25-34 year olds will see an average cut in housing benefit of £47 a week, as their benefits will only cover the cost of a room in a shared house, instead of a self-contained flat.
New social housing tenants will also see rents rise if landlords charge the 80% of market rents recommended by the government.
Many people now face the prospect of being pushed out of many high rent areas or entire cities. Those who do avoid eviction (an estimated 82,000 in London alone face eviction) could end up in overcrowded accommodation as more people are forced to share flats.
In The Socialist 25 May 2011:
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