Weoley has a straight choice – protecting local services or the bedroom tax and savage cuts

Steve BootonUntil we get rid of the Tory Government in 2015, we have to stand together to fight unfair cuts and protect the vulnerable and young as best we can.

This Government has proved itself to be a Party of freeloading millionaires giving tax breaks to the rich while the least well off in our society are made to pay for the crisis created by their friends in the banking world.

People in Birmingham have been especially victimised. The average cutback in Birmingham is £149 per person, more than double compared to the national average of £74 in the rest of the country.

People in Weoley have suffered because of cuts in jobs, benefits and cruel legislation such as the Bedroom Tax that has made the lives of ordinary people, particularly the elderly and disabled, a misery.

It is typical of local Tory Councillors in Weoley to blame Birmingham City Council for the financial dilemma produced by their very own silver-spoon Cameron, who hasn’t got the first idea of what ordinary people’s lives are really like.

What we need to meet the economic crisis is not redundancies and cuts, it is jobs, training, affordable houses, strong local communities and businesses and proper apprenticeships for our young people.

For the last three years, I have been campaigning on behalf of the people of Weoley. I meet people every Saturday morning outside the Co-op on the Square. I have knocked doors and talked to those who work full time yet are forced to use foodbanks; to those struggling to pay rip-off fuel bills; to young people despairing about their future, and to young parents wondering what the future holds for their children.

With the help of our Labour MP, Richard Burden, I have worked to resolve hundreds of cases of unfairness and injustice. I’m proud to be a long-standing member of the Labour Party because Labour is the only Party that will fight for ordinary people’s rights to a living wage, future prospects, a secure and affordable home, and a decent quality of life for everybody.

When the present Tory Councillor was Chair of the Planning Committee, permission was granted for the building of the new Asda store that is now ripping the heart out of Weoley’s small businesses and community life. If I sat on the Planning Committee it would be to bring more houses and jobs to Weoley, not profit to greedy multinational companies!

The election on Thursday offers the people of Weoley a straight choice between a Labour candidate doing everything in his power to protect local services and a Tory candidate who is on record as supporting the Bedroom Tax and savage cuts to Birmingham’s budget.

 

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New Year, new pledge

4.79 million people in the UK are paid below the living wageEvery day, Steve and the team hear or read about the concerns of ordinary hard-working people in Weoley. From the bedroom tax, gas and electricity prices and wheelie bins to jobs, pensions and housing, Steve and the Weoley team are out in the community listening and responding to the difficulties caused by the Tory austerity agenda.

As campaigning got under way for the local elections in May this year, the Tories announce yet more welfare cuts, and the middle class face a ‘crisis of confidence’ over living standards, Ed Miliband has promised to freeze energy prices, address the prospects of young people in Britain and make work pay. Not only are ordinary people feeling let down by the Tories, but the foundations of British life have all been ‘undermined’, the Labour leader said.

Steve, Ghiyas and Robbie on the stall

Steve, Ghiyas and Robbie on the stall

Steve Booton, commenting on the outlook for Weoley, said: “We regularly go out to meet the people of Weoley. We visit their homes and we hold our stall on Saturday outside the Co-op on the Square.

“Last week, most of the residents we met in Lockwood Road and on the stall were concerned about the high cost of living, the unfair central government attacks on our city’s budget and the rip-off energy prices.

“We had lots of signatures added to our petition in support of Ed Miliband’s policy of freezing energy prices for two years.”

Come and see Steve and the Weoley Labour team

Steve and the team will be talking to voters throughout the ward over the coming months and they’re outside the Co-op on the Square most Saturdays between 12 and 1. Or you can contact us as follows:

  • call Steve on 07830 945754
  • come and sign our petition to freeze energy bills at our street stall on Saturday at 12 noon outside the Co-op on Weoley Castle Square
  • go to our Contact page to send an online message

Cold comfort for 30,000 victims of the cost of keeping warm

Today’s official statistics reveal that excess winter deaths rose by almost a third in 2012/13 compared with the previous winter, while the UK’s biggest energy giants enjoyed a huge surge in profits.

The charity Age UK describes the 31,100 winter deaths as ‘shameful’ and ‘preventable’ and wants the Coalition Government to take action on energy bills so that the most vulnerable can keep themselves warm in winter.

Energy firms profits

The UK’s biggest fuel suppliers made nearly £1.3 billion during 2012/13. That figure is nearly double their 2011 profits of £681 million

Source: energy regulator Ofgem

Steve Booton, Weoley Labour candidate, has been speaking to the residents of Weoley and week in, week out they have been telling him that they are bearing the brunt of the Tory-led Coalition cuts.

Steve said, “During our street canvass last Saturday, we spoke to a disabled women who cares for her mother. She has had her disability benefit stopped while she waits for yet another Atos assessment and may face a further reduction in benefit if she has to pay the Bedroom Tax.

“On top of this, the average energy bill rose by £168 in 2012. The public are already struggling and the Big Six energy companies are bleeding them dry.

“The Tory claim that ‘We’re all in this together’ has proven cold comfort for the tens of thousands of people who were last year’s victims of the rising cost of keeping warm.”

If you have any issues you would like us to help you with or you want to meet Steve and the Weoley Labour team, you can contact us as follows:

  • call Steve on 07830 945754
  • come and sign our petition to freeze energy bills at our street stall on Saturday at 12 noon outside the Co-op on Weoley Castle Square
  • go to our Contact page to send an online message

Labour reveals local councils unable to help 96% of people affected by bedroom tax

Hot on the heels of Weoley’s bedroom tax meeting last month, the Labour Party has revealed that 13,557 Birmingham households are affected by the tax but there are just 368 suitable properties they could downsize to.

Birmingham MPs Jack Dromey and Richard Burden join Weoley's Steve Booton to discuss the hated bedroom tax

Birmingham MPs Jack Dromey and Richard Burden join Weoley’s Steve Booton to discuss the hated bedroom tax

More than 96% of people hit by the tax have nowhere to move to, forcing already vulnerable people to food banks and loan sharks. There is now a serious danger it could end up costing Britain more than it saves as tenants are forced into homelessness or the expensive private rented sector.

Steve Booton, Weoley candidate, said: “The bedroom tax must be scrapped and more affordable homes built for people to rent; creating jobs, giving young people training opportunities, and putting money back into the economy to get this country on its feet again.

“Week after week, we meet people on our street stall who are victims of the Tory bedroom tax. They can’t move because there aren’t the properties available to meet their needs, yet they’re being made to pay for a crisis they have not created. The local Tory councillors might talk about Labour shedding crocodile tears, but those tears are feeling increasingly real: research shows that the disabled are among the most victimised under this unfair and unjust tax.”

Housing shortfall for those affected by bedroom tax

Housing shortfall for those affected by bedroom tax*

Steve invited Shadow Housing Minister Jack Dromey MP and Northfield MP Richard Burden to speak to local Weoley residents about the hated bedroom tax in July. Jack Dromey, also a Birmingham MP, told residents that the tax was not based on sound economics but built on an inhuman narrative of ‘them and us’.

He said: “We’ve had a housing crisis for 30 years. We don’t need people now to be forced into expensive private sector houses that will increase the housing benefits bill further. What is driving the increase in benefits are high rents coupled with in-work benefits paid to people on low wages.”

Richard Burden said: “The truth is there aren’t enough smaller homes for families to move to – at least not at a price that people can afford. Many now can’t afford to stay in their home but can’t afford to move.”

* Fellow Birmingham MP Liam Byrne made the Freedom of Information requests that show that local councils are unable to help 96% of tenants affected by the bedroom tax due to a major shortage of available housing.

In 26 local authority areas, 99,079 households have seen their benefits cut due to having a spare room in their home. These new figures reveal that there are just 3,803 one and two-bedrooms homes for them to move to.

Wiping away Weoley’s ‘crocodile tears’ – when your home is not your own

While nearly half a million people are calling on Iain Duncan Smith to put his money where his mouth is, 430 of the poorest families in Weoley will be forced to pay higher rent or move home.

The bedroom tax will cause untold damage to our communities in Weoley, where families who receive housing benefit and live in council or housing association homes with a ‘spare’ bedroom will have to pay around £600 more a year or risk being forced to move home.

The Northfield Constituency, made up of Weoley, Kings Norton, Longbridge and Northfield wards, is one of the worst hit areas in Birmingham with around 1,400 properties affected. Over the past few months, Steve Booton, Weoley Labour Party spokesperson, and Richard Burden, MP for Northfield, have been inundated with requests for help from local residents deeply concerned that they will not be able to afford the extra charges on surplus bedrooms.

Steve Booton said: “What worries us in the Weoley Labour Party is that this policy will force already poor people into further financial hardship if they decide to stay put or it will displace entire communities if they decide they have to find an alternative property.”

Richard Burden said: “We’re finding countless situations where the bedroom tax will hit soldiers and pensioners and two thirds of the families affected are home to someone with a disability. If families are made homeless or pushed into expensive private rented accommodation, the taxpayer could actually be left with a higher bill.”

Crocodile tears

In a recent Birmingham City Council webcast, Conservative Cllr Peter Douglas Osborn was seen to publicly back the bedroom tax. Mr Douglas Osborn, by doing this, shows a complete disregard for some of the most vulnerable families in his own Weoley ward.

Cllr Douglas Osborn faced criticism from fellow committee members when he warned against shedding crocodile tears for tenants who face a ‘downgrade’ once the kids leave home and said that the term bedroom tax was ‘long on emotion and very short on fact.’

Steve Booton said: “It’s typical of Cllr Douglas Osborn to back this unjust policy when everyone knows there are not enough of the right-sized properties for people to move into. After all, the Tories are now known as the party of the rich.

“We met a woman on our street stall on Saturday who has been trying to move for years. She now faces an extra £28 a week rent. She and many others will see their benefits reduced further by changes to council tax payments and legal aid is now also outside the grasp of ordinary people.

“So whether it’s pushing people into private rented accommodation via the bedroom tax, punishing the vulnerable with welfare cuts or asset-stripping the NHS, Douglas Osborn and his Tory friends are out to make sure the rich make a profit while the poor pay more.”


Northfield District Committee meeting, live streamed on Friday 22 March 2013 at 2pm