Palestine

By John Eden,

Today we have had our first visit to this Blog from the Palestinian Territories, seems appropriate as they have taken a sight movement forward with the United Nations decision to grant them yesterday, limited member status,  the USA and Israel voting against and Britain abstaining.

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Ben Stevenson Reflects on the Croydon North By-election Result

The result of the Croydon North by-election was announced earlier this morning. Ben Stevenson, the Communist Party candidate, said, “I am pleased we increased our share of the vote at yesterday’s election. Although voter turnout was low, we secured a respectable proportion of votes.

But this is not just about turning up for occasional elections. The Communist Party in Croydon is here for the long-term. We have a good record of involvement in the fight against privatisation and for the protection of public services. We stand for jobs, investment in industry and green technologies, public ownership of the banks and major utilities, and progressive taxation.

Frankly, Britain can’t afford capitalism. The Communist Party offers the only authentic working class voice in Croydon and I look forward to continuing the fight against the cuts, the use of the economic crisis as cover to destroy the welfare state and the actions of this greedy, cynical and corrupt Government.”

 

Crunch Time Today in Croydon North By-election

Read the feature in today’s Morning Star on Ben Stevenson and the Croydon North by-election:

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/126623

Vote Communist for a people’s Britain not a bankers’ Britain!

Ben Stevenson Underlines his Support for the NHS

Ben Stevenson, Croydon North Communist Party candidate , spoke today about the pressing need to save the NHS. He said, “Despite the announcement that Croydon A&E will not face immediate closure, the cuts in health services across South London are going to place a massive amount of additional pressure on Croydon University Hospital (formerly Mayday Hospital).

Even without these cuts the coalition government is trying to sell-off our NHS through the back-door. Bizarrely, Virgin Care, better known for making eye-watering profits in the rail and communications industry while offering a terrible service to consumers, has been employed to run the Urgent Care Centre at Croydon University Hospital since the beginning of this year. What they know about health-care you could print on the back of a matchbox! This is the start of a slippery slope as large parts of the NHS are handed over to the private sector.”

Less than a year in, a damming report has been published on Virgin’s record which points to ‘a recent, sudden and sustained failure in performance’. This is inevitable, as Virgin rely heavily on agency staff, are currently under-staffed, and focus on making profit for shareholders rather than providing good quality patient care. Privatisation of the NHS is accelerating under the Government, with Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, ordering all Primary Care Trusts to put three chunks of their NHS out to tender. Rationing of services is already happening across the country, A&E waiting times are going up and a number of NHS Foundation Trusts are facing bankruptcy and possible closure because of the ill-judged Private Finance Initiative funding package forced on them by New Labour. Rather than address the problems caused by PFI, the Tory-led coalition is content to see hospitals merge or go to the wall. In the meantime, patient satisfaction levels are slumping and vast sums are being wasted on management consultants and the costs of needless restructuring and privatisation.

Mr Stevenson went on to say, “The NHS is the crown jewel in Britain’s post-war welfare state. Good quality healthcare, free at the point of access, from cradle to grave, is the hall mark of a civilised society. Nye Bevan, founder of the NHS, famously said, ‘The NHS will survive as long as there are folk left to fight for it.’ Well, the fight is on!

“After thirty years of privatisation – by both Tory and New Labour – it’s plain for all to see that the ‘private good, public bad’ mantra is total rubbish. The people who know best how to run the NHS, or any public service, are the dedicated, professional public sector workers who deliver that service. You can’t run a public service for profit without it costing more to the taxpayer and more to service users, along with an inevitable decline in quality and access to the service.

Vote Communist on 29 November. Vote for someone who actually has a record of fighting NHS privatisation and stands against cuts and closures”

Croydon Communists support and are involved in the “Croydon Alliance for Public Services”. If you’d like to get involved email croydonstopthecuts@gmail.com or contact Croydon Communists and we’ll pass on your details.

 

Ben Stevenson Speaks Out on the Constituency’s Education Problems

Ben Stevenson, Croydon North Communist Party candidate , said today, “The shortage of school places in Croydon North has rightly become a significant issue in this by-election. The situation is only getting worse as the Tory-led coalition Government pushes New Labour’s education policies to their logical conclusion. I think it’s really disturbing that these divisive policies are felt particularly badly in Croydon North.”

The Communist Party has a long-standing involvement in the fight against privatisation and for decent education in Croydon. Research by the party has identified a number of real problems in the area. The proposed Free School in Norbury, in the old Age Concern UK building, is notably lacking in outdoor space for playtime or sport. It’s designed to take only 90 five-year-olds when it opens in September 2014. This is not a long-term solution to the acute shortage of primary school places in the north of Croydon. To compound problems, free schools do not have to employ qualified teachers – neither do mainstream schools and academies as a result of recent changes introduced by the Government.

Mr Stevenson said, “It’s deeply worrying to hear that a new grammar school is proposed by the Tories at the old CALAT site in South Norwood. This will have to be an annexe of an existing selective school in neighbouring Bromley or Sutton in order to get round the Tory party’s national commitment to not establish any new selective schools. Not only does this constitute a loss of democratic control and local accountability, it also represents a return to a form of educational apartheid which labels 4 out of 5 children as ‘failures’. This speaks volumes about the Government’s education priorities!”

Croydon Council’s ruling Tories’ recent decision to cut the £78,000 grant to the Croydon Supplementary Education Project – which provides Saturday and evening extra teaching for black children – is another real setback. There was no justification for doing this. It will have an immediate impact on the more vulnerable residents in Croydon North because BME groups are in the majority in six out of eight wards in the constituency.

Mr Stevenson concluded, “Communist Party education policy is based on four simple principles: the right of all children to non-selective and free comprehensive primary and secondary education; the right of every child to a qualified teacher; the right of all young people to free further and higher education; and the right of all people to free lifelong learning.

None of these rights apply in Britain today. And the marketisation and outright privatisation of our education system being driven forward by this deeply cynical, elitist Government is designed to destroy the relatively democratic structures we currently have.

Yet we could easily fund the investment needed in education if we implemented a more progressive tax system, including a wealth tax on the richest 10 per cent of households who own an estimated 44 per cent of Britain’s wealth, a 10 per cent ‘Tobin tax’ on City transactions and ended tax dodging by the super-rich and big business.”

Ben Stevenson Highlights the Growing Housing Crisis

New research by the Communist Party highlights the growing extent of the housing crisis in Croydon and the implications this has for local people. The current supply of social housing available each year is only sufficient to help one in ten applicants on Croydon’s housing waiting list, with Croydon North particularly badly affected.  This means over 9,000 households (at least 22,000 people) across the borough waiting years for a decent home, many ending up in sub-standard B&Bs and hostels in the meantime.

Ben Stevenson, Croydon North Communist Party candidate, responded by saying, “I knew Croydon was facing a real housing crisis, but am frankly appalled by the scale of the problem. We have a much smaller social housing stock than many other London boroughs, because of years of neglect by the local council (Tory controlled since 2006), and exacerbated by New Labour and Tory Government housing policies. This limits our ability to meet housing need, something even the current Croydon Council Housing Strategy admits.”

The benefit of council housing for ordinary people is clearly demonstrated by the fact that , 100% of council and housing association homes in Croydon met the decent home standard in 2011, whereas 37% of private housing is substandard according to the Building Research Establishment.

Croydon council is also failing to replace existing stock in the last decade 1,378 council homes were sold off , but only 10 new council homes were completed, in 2010.  Only 280 housing association homes were completed in 2011. Meanwhile, 3,638 homes were listed as empty in Croydon in March 2011.

Mr Stevenson said, “I think this is a shocking indictment of a supposedly civilised society. Britain has the seventh largest economy in the world. We can clearly afford to build decent homes for all who need them. Instead, we are failing those least able to defend themselves. BME applicants make up 65 per cent of those on the housing register; and in six out of Croydon North’s eight wards, BME people make up more than half of the population. Disturbingly, the total number of homeless people in temporary accommodation has risen from 75 in March 2007 to 1,749 in March 2012.”

The situation for those living in private accommodation isn’t much better, as private rents continue to increase well above the rate of inflation. Median rent per month in London for a two bedroom homes equals £900. This requires a net household income of £31,000 per year for the median rent to equal 35% of income (the recommended affordable maximum). While to buy a 2-bed house at the average price of c.£208,000 would take an annual salary of over £69,000.

The Tory-led coalition Government’s cuts to Housing Benefit (HB) and Local Housing Allowance (LHA) for tenants in the social and private rented sectors are estimated to lead in Croydon to up to 580 extra homeless households and an increase in single homelessness by up to 300 by 2012/13; and migration to Croydon from more expensive parts of London by around 550 households displaced by the HB changes in 2012/13.

Mr Stevenson concluded, “Statements by Tory Councillors indicate they neither understand the depth of the problem nor care about the impact on local people. Poor housing is linked to child poverty, family breakdown and mental illness. Seven of the eleven wards with the highest rates of child poverty are in the Croydon North constituency.

We need, as a matter of urgency, to campaign for a significant council house building programme, a reversal to the cuts in Housing Benefit, an end to council house sales, compulsory requisitioning of long term empty properties and rent controls in the private sector. Only the Communist Party offers these and other progressive policies which matter to ordinary working people.”

Ben Stevenson Highlights Impact on Poor of High Inflation

A thoughtful report in The Guardian on Monday 19 November highlighted the growing levels of food poverty faced by poorer sections of the population as food prices rose by 32% over the last 5 years. Prices for fresh fruit and vegetables have soared, leading to real concerns about nutrition levels amongst a large proportion of the population as the least well-off consumers try to stretch squeezed budgets by switching to frozen and processed food.

Ben Stevenson, the Communist Party candidate for the Croydon North by-election, said, “This is outrageous. At the same time as ordinary working people, pensioners and others on low incomes see their real wages falling and benefits cut, something as basic as a regular, nutritional meal is now beyond the reach of many. Children are going hungry, parents are missing meals to compensate, and we’re creating health problems for future generations as poor nutrition in early years impacts on life chances in later years.”

In parallel, fuel poverty is now affecting many (with five of the big six energy firms putting up prices between 6% and 10.8% this autumn). 65 people died every day last winter as a result of illnesses caused by cold homes. Many were pensioners and disabled people. In the meantime, soaring rail fares (train fares rising by up to 11% in January 2013, on top of years of above-inflation price hikes) will increasingly make commuting unaffordable for many. While rising rents (up 4.8% in London this year), as increasing demand generated by the lack of social housing and collapse in house-building really piles the pressure on families trying to keep a roof over their heads.

Mr Stevenson commented, “It’s well understood that the inflation rate for those on lower incomes is significantly above the official rate, which itself has just jumped to 2.7% for CPI and 3.2% for RPI. This is because, amongst other things, of the high proportion of staple items in people’s budgets. What we’re seeing is blatant profiteering by big business and the monopoly corporations that dominate our energy, food and transport supplies. And with wages stagnating, life has just got significantly grimmer for many people, including those who used to see themselves as reasonably well-off.

Given levels of unemployment, poverty and deprivation in Croydon North, this is a real issue for local voters. It’s vital that we raise awareness of this problem and take action to defeat this rotten Government that is only interested in feathering its own nest!”

 

BEN STEVENSON SIGNS PCS PLEDGES

PCS have intervened in the Croydon North by-election by inviting candidates to sign up to five pledges:

1. To support PCS campaigns against public service job cuts and for an alternative to economically damaging austerity policies.

2. To support the PCS campaign for fair pay and a living wage.

3. To support the PCS campaign for fair pensions for all; including calling on the government to protect public sector pensions ensuring that they’re not linked with the state pension age, that the government addresses pensioner poverty and that companies are prevailed upon to ensure they fulfil their pension obligation to staff.

4. To support the campaign for publicly delivered welfare services and programmes based on dignity and support for those unable to work.

5. To oppose unpaid work experience placements which exploit young jobless people, and discourage employers from genuine job creation and paying fair wages.

Ben Stevenson, the Communist Party candidate has responded as follows:

I wholeheartedly pledge support for all five policies identified by PCS. Furthermore, I consider them to be the primary issues to be put before the electors of Croydon North. The current economic crisis was not caused by ordinary working people, but they, including members of PCS, are being made to pay for it with an austerity programme involving cuts in public sector jobs, worsening of terms of service, and reduction in, and privatisation of, public services. The attack on public sector pensions has more to do with fattening up public services for privatisation than in any conceivable cost saving. The callous treatment of young jobless people and the proposals for older workers to work until they drop or be forced to live on subsistence-level welfare when they cannot work must be exposed and opposed. The claim that “we are all in it together” is a blatant lie, as is Labour’s counterposed policy of “Yes to cuts,  – but let’s take a little longer”.  But there is an alternative: it’s called socialism.

At the time of posting this entry, neither the Greens nor the Labour Party have responded. The Tories and their Lib-Dem lackies are, of course, silent.