Michael Meacher MP Rotating Header Image

Youth Unemployment at Record High

Unemployment jumped in the final three months of 2010 by 44,000 to 2.5 Million, a jobless rare of 7.9%

Youth unemployment rate is now 20.5% following a rise of 66,000 in the last quarter of the year making almost 1 MILLION young people out of work.  THE HIGHEST FIGURE SINCE RECORDS BEGAN.

 

Michael Meacher MP said,

 This is a disgrace and a tragedy for a generation of young people.  Youth unemployment is a loss for the whole community not just the young.  This Government is failing miserably to get youth unemployment under control, in fact, their actions of slashing spending across the Public Sector is increasing the problem significantly.

Unless rapid action is taken on this issue it will lead to disaffection among young people and will ultimately lead to a rise in anti-social behaviour and crime.  The vast majority of young people want to work, to contribute to society and have some control over their own lives.  At the moment they are finding this very difficult because they are being denied their right to work.

Young people have been targeted by this Con/Dem Government by the withdrawal of Education Support Grant, most benefits and rising tuition fees along with most central training projects being cut. There is also the knock on to the economy, unemployed people of whatever age cost the country money, how will young people ever be able to save for their old age, which is what this Government want people to do, if they are not earning money.  It just does not make sense.  Let’s hope that this Government see that their actions are harmful not only to young people but to our society as a whole and change their course.”

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

Further details available from Peter Dean

0161 626 5779 or 07887658896

Broken Promises on Sure Start

 The Right Honourable Michael Meacher MP is calling on Oldham Council to prioritise services for children, young people and their families in the face of David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s failure to honour their election promises to defend Sure Start Children’s Centres.

Oldham will see £2,109,480 cut from Sure Start Budgets. This will mean 22 REDUNDANCIES for staff providing health advice in Sure Start Children’s Centres as well as other job losses and major reductions in service.

Mr Meacher is also concerned that the Chancellor, George Osborne has removed the ring-fencing of monies that prevented hard strapped councils from taking money away from Sure Start schemes and using the money to plug gaps in other areas.

Despite promises from David Cameron before the General Election and from the Chancellor since the election Sure Start is facing cuts across the country.  George Osborne, claimed that the dedicated grant for Sure Start would be ‘frozen’ for the next few years but, the new Early Intervention Grant which replaces is has been cut by £1.4 billion up to April 2013.

Michael Meacher said,

 “First, Education Maintenance Allowance was scrapped, then University fees were tripled and now David Cameron and Nick Clegg have broken another election promise to protect Sure Start.  I am concerned that this decision will make life harder for the next generation of children to get on in life.  Of course, services need to be more efficient but cuts that go too far, too fast could mean poorer services, not more efficient services.

Sure Start proved real help to thousands of children and their parents across Oldham and it is a tragedy that these services are being cut. Before the election David Cameron accused Labour of ‘scare mongering’ when we pointed out that his plans would damage Sure Start, now, the Con/Dem Government are forcing councils to do their dirty work for them. 

Sure Start is one of the biggest success stories of the last decade. Across the country there are more than 3,500 centres providing support to 2.7 million children and their families, so it is devastating that the Government sees them as and ‘easy target’.  This is just the latest in a long line of broken promises and cuts from both sides of the coalition.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. Speaking in The Independent on May 5th 2010 David Cameron said “Yes we back Sure Start.  It’s a disgrace that Gordon Brown has been trying to frighten people about this.  He’s the Prime Minister of this country but he’s been scaring people about something that really matters.  Not only do we back Sure Start, but we will improve it.”
  2. In the same article Nick Clegg said “Sure Start is a really important programme that has made a real difference to millions of parents.  Difficult decisions are going to have to be made in public spending but Sure Start is one of the best things the last Government has done and I want all of these centres to stay open.”
  3. Research by the Daycare Trust and 4 Children found that 7% of Children’s Centre Managers expected their centres to close within a year – equivalent to 250 across the country which would affect an estimated 60,000 families. 

Communities left in chaos as government stop housing market renewal

8 Dec 2010

The Government have withdrawn all new funding for housing market renewal (HMR), leaving hundreds of people living in appalling conditions, surrounded by boarded up houses, suffering rodent infestation, anti-social behaviour and dumped rubbish. Also many thousands of residents are living in communities that have derelict land and derelict buildings making their neighbourhoods dysfunctional, unhealthy and devalued.

HMR was a 15 year project that would have achieved investment from the government of £500m and attracted external investment of around £2 billion during its life and was intended to work in 19 neighbourhoods in Oldham to improve housing, living conditions, and bring about radical change in resident’s lives in the Borough.

After seven years the Government have abandoned the scheme and thrown local resident’s lives into chaos.

Without resources to finish what has been started, some areas will be left largely unoccupied and boarded up with a number of owner-occupying residents left isolated and potentially vulnerable. Michael Meacher MP said ‘

This is a disaster for Oldham and in particular Werneth and Derker, where HMR investment is part way complete, leaving the rest of the area derelict for what could be years. This cut back is totally irresponsible without an exit strategy; whole communities will be living in dereliction and squalor. I will be making representations to the Government and supporting an adjournment debate in Parliament. As well as writing to Oldham Council demanding any resources left in this year HMR programme is devoted to stabilising the areas of derelict homes.’

HMR was to bring about transformational change building up to 12, 000 new homes, changing the infrastructure of areas, refurbishing thousands of homes and demolishing derelict and little used industrial and commercial properties.

Cllr Fida Hussain said

I am outraged that this government can leave whole areas abandoned and derelict with so many people living in these areas. I have been approached by many of my constituents who are heartbroken and in despair at this government’s actions.’

First Choice Homes Oldham stock transfer

11 March 2010

I feel I must express my concerns regarding the proposed stock transfer of Oldham Council housing stock to First Choice Homes Oldham.  This proposal is about selling 11,900 homes to a private organisation.

I am most concerned about the haste of the council and First Choice Homes Oldham in completing this sale, the biased consultation process and the lack of information in relation to the risks involved to tenants.

Tenants will shortly be voting to decide if the transfer goes ahead, I would ask them to reject and take account of the following issues, which I feel have not been fully considered:-

  • The Housing Minister in giving approval for the Council to go ahead with the consultation advised that the new Government proposal on self-financing of Council Housing by local Councils should be fully explained to tenants so they can make informed decisions.  I see no real evidence of this in any of the documents provided by First Choice Homes Oldham
  • The self-financing proposals mean that staying as council tenants would not put tenants at any disadvantage in relation to home improvements or tenancy issues. Clearly in the present consultation this option has not been adequately explored.
  • Tenants are only receiving one set of proposals with no competition or choice being given from either other housing providers, or other arrangements such as the self-financing option
  • The proposal relies on very significant borrowing from private sector finance and bankers who will control the purse strings of First Choice Homes.
  • First Choice Homes Oldham has no expertise or experience of acting independently as a housing association.
  • Housing associations, which First Choice Homes aspires to become, have a       track record over the last ten years of amalgamations and take overs.  This results in them becoming extremely large regional and national organisations with no local offices.  In Oldham we have seen SELHAL, West Pennine, Portico and AKSA disappear
  • Within the offer document FCHO claim they will become a registered charity, I have spoken to the Charity Commission who tell me that charitable status was taken away from almost all housing associations some years ago.  Only a few remain who provide exclusive properties and services for the disabled and at risk groups, so tenants need more information on this
  • Currently VAT relief is available for council services related to FCHO, such as heating, but this will not be the case if the transfer goes ahead.  For example in future tenants will pay 17% VAT on district and group heating schemes instead of the 5% they currently pay, resulting in a weekly rise in cost to them of between £1 and £1.50.  I don’t think this has been explained
  • Also cleaning, concierge and other services will be charged at the highest VAT rate.
  • Although the Council will have a contract with First Choice Homes Oldham, this can be overridden by the Housing and Community Agency who control housing associations.
  • It is also important to be aware that local councillors and MP’s will no longer have any control whatsoever of any housing in Oldham.
  • With regard to the improvements promised in the FCHO offer document of new kitchens and bathrooms, these proposals would only provide improvements to 45% (around 5,500) properties and I want to know what happens to the remaining 55% of homes.
  • I feel the information sent to tenants, costing around £1 million has been akin to indoctrination and has failed to spell out any other options.
  • In order for the proposal to go ahead the Government has to agree to write off £214 million worth of debt and has still not given an assurance that this is going to be done.

Housing benefits cuts will hit the poorest hardest

Friday 24th September 2010

Michael Meacher MP speaking today said: ‘I was shocked to discover the impact of the Government’s cuts to Housing Benefits in Oldham. These cuts will fall hardest on the severely disabled, who will lose an average £676 per year and some of the poorest pensioners who will lose £572 per year.’

The Tory/Lib Dem Government also continue to refuse to say what impact there will be on the homeless.

In Oldham, in private rented accommodation over 4000 disabled, pensioners and families will receive reduction in Housing Benefits of between £6 and £25 per week, when figures are published for the socially rented sector these reductions should effect a further 8000 homes.

Michael Meacher MP went on to say ‘It is simply outrageous that, as a number of independent studies have shown, the poorest families will lose five times as much as the richest. This shows that the Tory/ Lib Dem claims about ‘fairness’ are completely false and that far from being ‘all in it together’ their cuts are hitting the poorest hardest.’

The Coalition Government has made much of the people who are receiving payments of over £1000 a week – but across the whole country there are fewer than 100 people in this category and they are all in special needs accommodation – the Coalition have cynically used this as a smokescreen to attack the living standards of the most vulnerable people in our community.

40 MPs call for Labour election campaign based on radical policies

Over 40 Labour MPs have called for Labour’s election campaign to be based on a radical redistributive programme, based on public investment in housing, public services and de-carbonisation and requiring banks to pursue social objectives and support manufacturing.

Michael Meacher MP said: “Labour can win if it is prepared to be radical. Policies aimed at jobs, homes and redistribution will resound with Labour voters whose loyalties have been strained. And floating voters have supported higher taxes for the highly paid and also want to see bailed-out banks repay the community. ”

“Ed Milliband has invited submissions on what the Manifesto should include. Like dozens of CLPs, I urge him to focus on these principles, and break for good with the market fundamentalism of the last 30 years.”

The statement (attached, with list of supporting MPs) has also been supported by dozens of Constituency parties and trade unionists, as well as organisations including Compass and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy.

Cross-party delegation of senior MPs to urge Home Secretary not to extradite Gary McKinnon

A delegation of senior MPs is to meet with the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, tomorrow to ask him to prevent the extradition of Gary McKinnon who has Aspergers Syndrome and faces extradition to the US to face charges of hacking into US military computer systems.

Michael Meacher, who sought the meeting, together with David Davis and Chris Huhne, are due to meet the Home Secretary at noon on Wednesday 9th September.

Alan Johnson has previously said that there was nothing legally he could now do to prevent the extradition. However, based on leading counsel’s opinion, Michael Meacher said:

“Not only has the Home Secretary got the power but he has the duty to intervene in an extradition case even after the court process has ended if there is a real risk of a human rights breach should extradition proceed. Gary’s medical condition is such that medical experts have concluded there is a grave risk to Mr McKinnon’s health if he is extradited to the US. There is no reason why he cannot face charges in the UK for an act which took place in the UK.”

Royal Bank Of Scotland And Other Banks: The Unnecessary £1 Trillion Cost Of Government Policy

In the run-up to the Commons debate on the economy this Wednesday, in which he intends to speak, Michael Meacher is seeking to take a delegation for an early meeting with Alistair Darling to press for an alternative policy in the current financial/economic crisis. He said:

“It’s not just the contortions the Government has got into to avoid making it clear that it has nationalised RBS, it’s the colossal and unnecessary cost that has been incurred. The Government has always insisted that it had to save the financial system from total collapse in order to preserve the real economy from recession/depression by restoring lending to businesses back to the pre-crunch levels of 2007. What has actually happened however is that unimaginably stupendous sums of taxpayers’ money have been spent on recapitalising the banks and insuring them against their ill-acquired mountains of toxic assets, yet lending to businesses and homeowners has hardly increased at all.

The policy has been eye-wateringly costly, yet it has not even achieved its one main objective. What is bitterly ironic is not only that a different strategy could have (and still could now) achieve the main objective in full, but it could do so at a tiny fraction of the cost. So why hasn’t that happened? There is just one thing blocking it, but that one thing is the biggest inhibitor in the entire neo-liberal lexicon: the horror of nationalisation.

How much money has been spent avoiding it is truly prodigious. The Government spent £26bn trying to avoid the nationalisation of Northern Rock, but then having spent a sum almost equivalent to the entire MOD budget was forced to acquiesce in the inevitable. It then a year later, in September 2008, spent £42bn bailing out Bradford and Bingley. Then a week later it made available £300bn for a credit guarantee scheme, plus £200bn for a special liquidity scheme and £37bn for a bank recapitalisation plan. The banks took it all with relish, and used it to consolidate their own balance sheets, but increased their lending very little. So the Government went further. In January this year they offered £55bn to protect the banks against corporate debt, and then last month they made available a further £500bn for an asset insurance scheme to cover bank losses. Altogether the Government has offered some £1.15 trillion to the banks (a sum equivalent to 78% of the entire UK GDP), yet still bank lending to its business and household customers is stuck at a level still causing escalating bankruptcies and unemployment.

Was there, is there, an alternative? There certainly is. It is perhaps best illustrated by the RBS saga. After the catastrophic takeover of ABN Amro, RBS in 2008 chalked up the biggest corporate loss in British history – £28bn. So the Government stepped in with a £20bn recapitalisation for the stricken bank. That however didn’t staunch a further massive slide in RBS shares. By 20 January this year RBS stock, which was worth £78bn in 2007, had had its value reduced in the market to less than £4bn – a staggering drop of 95%. What that means is that instead of trying to bribe RBS (and other banks) with colossal £20bn subsidies into increasing their lending in the wider economy, with very little success, the Government could have, at a fifth of the cost, taken over the bank and thereby secured in full the increase in lending that was desperately needed. For with the State behind them, the banks would no longer need to bolster their own balance sheets at the expense of all the rest of the economy.

The same benefits would of course apply in the case of other bank rescues. Instead of HBOS with its very high levels of toxic assets threatening now to put the new Lloyds Banking Group at risk, HBOS which was valued in the market at £35bn a year ago could have been bought at its stockmarket value of £6bn last October. Instead £11.5bn of taxpayers’ money being pumped in to assist the merger with Lloyds TSB, it could have been purchased at half the price or less and the merger which is dragging down Lloyds need not have taken place.

The costs via the public ownership route of returning to full-scale lending would therefore have been hugely less than current policy. Whilst the £1 trillion or more of public funding currently at risk to assist the banks is only likely to be partially used, it is still estimated that the deficit on the public accounts may well reach £175-200bn by the end of the next fiscal year. Recovering from that astronomic level of deficit could take several years of severe financial strain. But the overriding argument for the public ownership alternative is that by rapidly restoring normal levels of lending within the economy it would largely prevent the enormous costs of rising bankruptcies and joblessness that we are now seeing.

It is almost incredible that such an obvious common-sense solution is derailed because of extreme ideological aversion to even the faintest whiff of public ownership, and at such mind-numbing cost to the economy and the wider electorate. But it exposes, more sharply than anything else, just how deeply embedded in the minds of the political and economic leadership (of both main parties) is the market fundamentalism which is the defining element of the neo-liberal era.

Adopting the most obvious and appropriate solution of public ownership at least cost in the current financial meltdown is not an ideological stance, but rejecting such a solution out of hand, even temporarily, at unbelievably massive cost to the taxpayer certainly is an ideological statement of deep prejudice which no Government should countenance. Policy is one thing, but a fetish which warps judgement is quite another. It is time to think afresh on the fundamental approach to this crisis”.