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From The Socialist newspaper, 11 December 2013

Them & Us

Universal fiasco

Universal Credit (UC), the brainchild of work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, is in meltdown even before its launch.

The 2 billion project, with its 'simplified monthly payments' to replace five existing benefit schemes and 'save millions of pounds', is so behind schedule and full of IT glitches that it won't be paid to an estimated 700,000 claimants after a planned 2017 deadline.

Make no mistake, UC isn't designed to "simplify" an archaic benefits system, it is designed by the Con-Dems with tougher eligibility criteria to cut further social welfare at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

Already, under the government's pilot scheme, benefit claimants are having to borrow money from family and payday loan sharks in order to survive through the month.

Austere times

Remember 'Big Dave' Cameron's "we'll all in it together" rallying cry as his government pushed through the biggest austerity programme in living memory? Yes, we're all still laughing, cynically!

But, apparently, some people have taken the message to heart, including Princess Michael of Kent. The "Pushy Princess" has cut back by not eating out in restaurants. "That's too extravagant".

Instead, "we invite people here [Kensington Palace]. I cook. Well, if I'm giving a dinner party I get help". Luckily, her bijou palace pad only costs her 70 a month in rent, so that should cut down the housing benefit claim.

And forget about taking the luxury limo for a spin, it's public transport for now on. "I love easyJet", says the frugal aristo. "It's the only direct route to Biarritz". And yet, some people continue to knock the royalty...

Struggling to survive

Food on the table or heat the home? Increasingly for many low-income households it's less food to eat.

A Real Life Reform survey found that such households in October were spending a miniscule 2.10 a day, per person, (down from 3.27 in July) on groceries as many had run out of cash after paying essential items such as rocketing energy bills.

Increasing numbers of people are also relying on food banks to feed themselves each week. And, as this column pointed out in the last issue, personal debt has soared as people are forced to use rip-off credit cards and payday loans to buy essentials.

Housing lockout

According to the National Housing Federation the number of working people claiming housing benefit has soared by 109% since the 2009 recession.

The Federation also points out that half of people's disposable income is paid out in rent and that this figure will rise to a staggering 57% in ten years' time.

Moreover, by 2020 house prices will have risen by an unaffordable 35% 'locking out home ownership forever', it added.

So who's benefitting? The NHF says that the government's 24 billion expenditure on housing benefit is simply going to line the pockets of private landlords rather than into building new houses.

It also points out that in England alone 240,000 new homes are needed each year but that between 2009 and 2013 house building fell by 10% to 107,000.

What we saw

2013 Scrooge award?

One of the most famous Christmas stories is 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens, in which Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly banker who pays poverty wages, is shown the true spirit of Christmas by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

Poor Bob Cratchit, his bookkeeper, has to beg Scrooge to be allowed Christmas Day off work.

But even Dickens didn't foresee the real ghost of Christmas future. This advert can be seen on the underground for the Dickens museum in London:

"A Very Dickensian Christmas

Join us in 2013 for the most Dickensian Christmas London can offer!

Open Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day"

Paula Mitchell

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In The Socialist 11 December 2013:

International socialist news and analysis

After Mandela: The struggle must continue

Cameron 'kowtows' to Chinese dictatorship

Socialist Students

Cops Off Campus: NUS must call a national demonstration now!

Socialist Party news and analysis

Osborne's budget statement - work 'til you drop or fight back!

Reactions to the Autumn Statement

Fight for our NHS: Public health, not private profit

Struggling workers say 'fight poverty pay'!

Austerity and the new working poor

Them & Us

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Floods: "Daddy, there's water on the floor"

Swansea councillors: which side are you on?

Why I've donated to the Socialist Party Christmas appeal

Obituary: Joel Lane, 1963-2013

Message to our readers and contributors

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Building TUSC in byelections


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