Friday, 14 December 2012



In response to the Chancellors Autumn Statement West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock was quoted as stating that it was ‘fair to hold down increases’ on benefits and that ‘Those going out to work are the people who pay for benefits’

 Perhaps Mr Hancock has not yet found the time to review the excellent Joseph Rowntree report ‘Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion’ This report revealed the extent of in work poverty and impact of an under employed work force. The report identifies that 6.1 million people in poverty are in working households. Excluding pensioners, in-work poverty now outstrips workless poverty at 5.1 million households.


Low income households will suffer a double disadvantage because of income related and housing benefit changes. Planned changes to disability benefit could mean additional hardship for disabled people. Additionally House of Commons library research shows further inequalities in that out of the total £16bn George Osborne is raising in direct tax, credit, benefit, pay and pension changes, £12bn is being paid for by women.

What is happening is far from fair and the growth of families dependent on Food Banks in West Suffolk should be a warning to all of us who care about those made most vulnerable by our society. Mr Hancock’s comments are disappointing in that they endorse this governments continued onslaught and demonisation of those who are unable to work or perhaps live a decent life without needing some additional help.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


I was impressed with the level of coverage your paper gave to the Autumn statement delivered by George Osborne (Thursday 6 December) but wanted to comment on additional impacts.

It is perhaps no surprise as for the first time in 16 years there is no female minister at the Treasury (or several other departments) that the House of Commons library research shows that 81 per cent of the key additional direct tax, tax credit, and benefit changes announced yesterday will come from women (£867 million of the £1.065 billion raised) The earlier increases in public sector pension contributions, cuts to attendance allowance and social care hit women harder too. Research shows that out of the total £16bn George Osborne is raising in direct tax, credit, benefit, pay and pension changes, £12bn is being paid by women.

Child tax credits and child benefit will be cut even further in real terms. This on top of the previously announced real cuts in Working Tax Credits and childcare. Appallingly Maternity pay is also being raided. £180 will be taken from the pockets of new mums by 2015/16. Taking away real choice.


There are other factors at work here in Suffolk. We know that more women than men work in Public Sector and Health Care, and we are seeing pension rights eroded.  Women already receive very modest pensions, due to their lower pay and broken employment records. According to UNISON research the median pension for women who have worked in the NHS for example is just £3,500 a year (£67 a week)


We are seeing privatisation of many of our public services such as NHS Community Health Care to SERCO and care homes to Care UK. We know privatisation inevitably means that redundancies and erosion of terms and conditions swiftly follow. This combined with the announcements yesterday means increased inequality and poverty for women in Suffolk.

The slow plod of women’s equality is in real danger of grinding to a halt.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Whose pound is it anyway?

In a relatively small article in this weeks East Anglian Daily Times the people of Suffolk were told of the imminent sale of more of Suffolk County Councils services. This time it is the turn of our hard working public sector personnel who keep our roads well lit and free from ice and snow, amongst other things. Known as the Highways Department the 'deal' could hit £500 million over a 10 year period. This figure was not mentioned in the paper.

Some 200 staff will be transferred to Balfour Beatty. Yes thats right. The firm who lost a High Court injunction earlier this year having threatened to sack all staff who refused to sign up to new lesser terms and conditions.

In Suffolk too we have seen significant redundancies announced just a month after SERCO were given our Community Health Care services to run. SERCO also have a chequered background when it comes to workers rights,  having lost a similar High Court injunction. Our Council Care Homes have just been sold to the private firm Care UK. G4S have a foot in the door of our police service through the provision of medical services as part of the new custody facilities.

This week also saw an Early Day Motion (No 773) put forward by Grahame Morris Labour MP for Easington, Chair of LabourLeft and a member of the House of Commons health select committee. Mr Morris is rightly concerned about the role of lobbying firms and their influence; the procurement model that favours private firms; the lucrative contracts given to previous government health advisers; the unfair advantage given to private firms and the ability of private firms not to comply with FOI requests eroding transparency and accountability to the public.

Seems to me that here in Suffolk the sell off of public services is happening at pace with little public debate.

These are our services are they not? Paid for by our taxes are they not?

I've written to my MP Tim Yeo asking him to support the EDM - why don't you write to yours?