Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2366

Councils are pushing vulnerable people to the brink

Hundreds of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our community descended on Sheffield Magistrates Court two weeks ago.

They were summoned by Sheffield City Council for the “crime” of being poor and unable to pay their council tax. 

Sheffield City Council has burdened its citizens with a bill of 23 percent of the council tax. 

Many of the people at the court live on as little as £50 a week. And many have already been hit with benefit cuts and the bedroom tax. Sheffield City Council should hang its head in shame. 

One man dismissed himself from Northern General Hospital. He said to me, “I was so frightened the council was going to evict me I took the drip out and came down to court. I had to explain why I couldn’t pay.”

A woman in her wheelchair was in tears. She said, “I’m tired of fighting. I’ve fought all my life. I’ve had enough. I simply can’t pay.”

Sheffield Benefit Justice Campaign did a great job ensuring people got the right to explain to a magistrate why they couldn’t pay. They offered advice and support both inside and outside the court.

But with the Tory attacks pressing on, how long will it be before we have suicides by desperate people in this city?

Gareth LaneSheffield

I finally managed to rent my own home this year at the age of 41. Because I could not afford the week’s rent of £85, I claimed housing and council tax benefit on a two bedroom flat.

 I am now being investigated for benefit fraud as details of some savings I had were discovered by the local authority. 

The result will be a hefty fine and a criminal record. 

I have had bipolar disorder for 22 years and lost my last job as a result. 

It’s not just Atos that is attacking the disabled and long term sick, it’s local authorities too.

Sean AlexanderHolyhead

Tories want to divide us over NHS crisis

Last week I was in the union office when I received a phone call from a very distressed nurse.

She was very upset as she told me how she had been spat at on the bus when was on her way to work.

The man who attacked her was very abusive because she was in her nurse’s uniform. He said he was disgusted with nurses and hated all NHS workers.

I firmly believe this was a direct response to the right wing attacks on nurses and NHS staff we’ve seen recently.  I hold David Cameron responsible.

The nurse was so distressed she couldn’t face her shift that day. She said she couldn’t understand it at all. 

In her 22 years as a nurse helping others, she had never experienced such a level of hatred.

“I used to be respected,” she told me, “But now I feel unable to wear my work clothes in public anymore.”

This is just another tactic of Tories attempting  to divide and rule. I urge everyone to come to Manchester to demonstrate at the Tory party conference on Sunday 29 September.

Suzy FranklinPlymouth

Secrecy has always been at the heart of war 

Next year the Tories and co will be celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the First World War.

Millions died while most of the elite safely sheltered in castles out of the range of guns and gas. 

They got away with sending millions to their deaths by keeping the real motivations for war secret from the people. 

Secrecy is necessary for the survival of the rulers of any age to ensure their preservation as exploiters of people.

Today, there’s a modern parallel. The same sort of secrecy is behind the hysteria about Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.

Whistleblowers are made out to be traitors for showing that politicians knew that Iraqi civilian deaths were thousands more than officially acknowledged. 

Obama and Cameron are the modern Romanovs, and deserve another 1917.

Nigel CowardWest London

Trouble at the mill

The TV series The Mill shows the reality of life in the “satanic mills” as Sarah Creagh pointed out.

Young women and girls worked 14-hour days. They also faced sexual abuse by overseers. 

The series was filmed at Quarry Bank Mill, where the boy’s apprentice house still stands today. But what happened to the girls’ apprentice house? 

During the 1842 general strike, girls aged 12-14 walked 20 miles to spread the strike.

After a march to Greg’s Mill in Styal by Stockport strikers, the young women then burned down the apprentice house. It is an inspirational story of working class womens’ resistance.

Mark KrantzManchester

Cancer cells were sold

Henrietta Lacks’ contribution to medical science is finally to be formally recognised. 

She was a young black woman from Virginia who died of cancer in 1951. Her cells have been invaluable to scientists wanting to know more about diseases.

Her cells, called “HeLa”, were taken without consent. 

The recognition doesn’t change the fact her genetic material was taken while people in the biomedical industry made money. 

Jenny AdamsAyrshire

We must fight state racism

I was hoping that Unite Against Fascism (UAF) would call a demonstration at one of the stations where the Border Agency has been harassing people. 

In some cases they arrested so-called “illegal immigrants”. We cannot let such state organised racism go without challenge.

Merilyn MoosNorth London

Beating paltry pay starts now

I admire the brothers and sisters in Unison for their stand against the paltry 1 percent pay offer for local government workers in Scotland.

But I’m wondering why we did not fight the same offer in England.

Unison has said it will not accept a similar offer next year. 

But it’s unlikely this threat will be taken seriously by employers after the union’s failure to act over this year’s settlement.

The time for action is always now!

Richard PriceGloucester

Bosses are not very charitable

Recently my attention was drawn to obscene levels of pay enjoyed by many leaders of Britain’s favourite charities.

For example, Oxfam chief executive Barbara Stocking is paid £105,000 a year. And the head of the British Red Cross is paid a whopping £184,000.

Most of these charities are run by volunteers. They should withdraw their labour straight away.

Colin BakerPontllanfraith, Wales

Atos under investigation

Public spending watchdogs are planning to investigate Atos.

Lord Alton claims Atos has been given a “license to print public money” and “astronomical sums were involved”.

The Tories have fuelled hate crime by demonising the sick. 

Now it seems the real agenda was to pour public money into private companies.

P CouchPlymouth


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Article information

Tue 13 Aug 2013, 16:11 BST
Issue No. 2366
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