Update: Council Tax Support consultation, dates for your diary, and help needed!

First off, we have decided to return to our pattern of monthly meetings, on the first Wednesday of every month. Our next meeting will therefore be on Wednesday 5th November (bonfire night, yes!) at 7pm at the UNISON offices on Woodhouse Lane – the road that goes up from Morrisons towards the universities. The building is on a corner opposite the Fenton pub. If you want more info or directions call/text  07930 966205. If you are on benefits we can pay your bus fare. Contact us in advance for advice and possible lift by car if you have limited mobility.
Today’s update is a full one. It includes:
  • Urgent request to respond to the consultation on next year’s cuts to Council Tax support
  • Another urgent request for people affected by the 35 hours supervised jobsearch pilot scheme to get in touch
  • Dates/times of stalls and leafletting sessions – help needed
  • Hands Off Our Homes at Leeds Summat New, 8th November
  • Register for the open meeting on welfare reform hosted by the Tenants Federation
First, a welcome to those who have recently signed up to the campaign against bedroom tax and other benefit cuts. This update is going out to two announcements lists – one mainly for bedroom tax and related issues, and one mainly for issues around sanctions, workfare and other issues affecting ESA and JSA claimants. A lot of these issues overlap, but not all. Some of you will be on both lists, which is fine if you don’t mind getting some of these messages twice – but if it’s bothering you just get back to us and we’ll take you off one or the other. And don’t forget to contact us if you have any questions or ideas, or want to help with the campaign.
Consultation on the council’s proposals for further cuts to Council Tax support, and introduction of conditions for claimants. 
This is urgent – cuts to council tax support are adding to the already multiple burden of government cuts on the poorest – and it’s about to get worse unless we act. The online consultation ends on 14th November, and we all need to make our views known before then if possible,  both online, and in writing/email or in person to our councillors.
The council is proposing that in 2015/16 people will have to pay at least 30% of their Council Tax bill from their meagre benefits. They also propose that all new JSA claimants who remain unemployed after 6 months will have their Council Tax Support stopped altogether unless they take up what the council is calling a “package of support” to get them back into work.

To be clear – “support” in this context means even more harassment of claimants already affected by numerous impossible jobsearch conditions – including forced unpaid work (“workfare”) – enforced by the DWP and private contractors. These schemes waste public money and have been shown to be useless in general to people seeking work. Yet the council is expecting us to believe that they will somehow save money and produce more jobs!

You can find the online consultation by clicking this link council tax support consultation  When you’ve done that it would be great if you could write to council chief Keith Wakefield, and copy your letter to your MP and to all three of your local councillors. You can also phone your councillors or visit them at their surgeries. All the details you need are here, and you can also contact us if you need help or would rather visit your councillor as part of a group.

Please read more on the Hands Off Our Home website here , and use our flyer here to give you more ideas to challenge your councillors and MP. Of course, if you are on benefits yourself your own experience may be the most relevant thing of all.

Call-out for people affected by the 35-hours per week supervised job-search pilot – please get in touch

This will mainly affect people who have been unemployed for quite some time, and have already been on the Work Programme. It’s a scheme the government is piloting whereby JSA claimants have to spend 35 hours per week doing supervised jobsearch – despite the fact that there are very few jobs to search for! The scheme is being run by A4E, who will be getting a large sum of government (public) money for keeping claimants effectively locked up all day, 5 days a week for 6 months. In some other parts of the country the scheme is being tried on people who are newly unemployed. either way, we know it won’t create more jobs, but we can be sure the government will manipulate the results to make sure that whenever someone does find a job, A4E will take the credit.

We have been contacted by a reporter who urgently wants to talk to anyone who has been put on this scheme, so that she can write about it in the press and hopefully expose the effects it is having on affected claimants. If you are willing to talk to her (or to any reporter on another occasion) please get in touch. Obviously your identity will not be made public, and you would only share what you feel comfortable with.

Dates/times of stalls and leafletting sessions

We have a lot of work to do getting information out to people affected by benefits issues, and raising the awareness of the general public about how harsh the benefits system is, the suffering caused by cuts, ESA assessments, bedroom tax etc. – countering the lies being told about claimants by the government, which if left unchallenged will give them free licence for even more attacks on the sick, disabled and wageless. We need your help – even if it’s just an hour here and there. If you can’t turn out for a stall, maybe you could take some flyers to give out in your neighbourhood or at work/at your kids’ school, or wherever. You can join us at these times.

  • Saturday 25th October (tomorrow) – 1pm in Briggate, near the Body Shop for stall and leafletting
  • Tuesday 28th October 2pm – outside Park Place job-centre for stall and leafletting
  • Wednesday 4pm – Door-to-door leafletting, contact Ellen on 07930 966205 for details of where to meet.
After that, anywhere people suggest – the best plan of all would be for people to take a batch of flyers to give out in their neighbourhood, at work, outside schools etc. If more people get involved we can do loads with much less effort. And please, spread the word on facebook etc (see post on Leeds hands Off our Homes to share)
For details and more flyers, please call/text 07930 966205 or email this address.

Leeds for Change presents Summat New – Saturday 8th November 9am – 10pm | Leeds University Union, LS2 9JZ  Hands off Our Homes will be holding a stall and a joint discussion session in the afternoon, with national campaign Fuel Poverty Action, and Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty. Over to Leeds for Change to explain more about the day:

Over 25 Workshops | Guest speaker panels | Art | Film | Music | Food | Kids Space | Comedy | Wellbeing sessions

Get connected, share skills and join in action for change! Where else would you find an event with card-making for people in detention, yoga, discussions on the living wage, learning confident public speaking and upcycling an old T-shirt?

Our guest speakers include Channel 4 journalist Paul Mason, Pragna Patel from the inspiring Southall Black Sisters, Clara Osagiede who fought for underground cleaners to have the living wage and Eleanor Lisney from Sisters of Frida, a disabled women’s co-op.

There are also tons of workshops from brilliant social justice groups, including the Hands off our Homes, Leeds Community Energy, Reclaim the Power, Together Women Project, War on Want, ReachOUT and loads more!

There is a free kids space – Summat Small – available all day for you to drop off the little ones and have them entertained by Leeds Development Education Centre, the Woodcraft folk and lots of volunteers.

First thing at 9am you’ll be able to take part in free yoga, tai chi and other wellbeing sessions and eat a lovely free breakfast!

In the evening we will be celebrating with dinner cooked by The Real Junk Food Project, music courtesy of Summat New’s own workshop choir, and comedy from Chris Coltrane.

Want to know more? You can read lots more on the Leeds for Change website and a shortened version of the full programme online.

You can now get yourself registered! 

The evening tickets have already sold out, but we’ve got plenty of day tickets left that you can book on eventbrite. We would really appreciate it if you were able to register as it helps with our planning of the kids space, stewards, breakfast etc. – we don’t want anyone going hungry! 

I hope to see you there in just a few weeks. Please explore the website to find out more, and don’t hesitate to email us with any questions you might have. Please pass this message on to friends and family who might be interested.

And finally – join HOOH at the meeting hosted by the Leeds Tenants Federation on Saturday 15th November, to hear more about so-called welfare reforms, and the chance to challenge representatives of all the major parties about these policies. here’s what they say:

The meeting will feature presentations from the Welfare Benefits Service and Advice Leeds Partnership on the impact of welfare reform. The meeting will also feature a panel of politicians from the 3 main parties plus the Green party to whom you can direct your questions on the thorny issue of Welfare Reform. 

The meeting will take place at Leeds Civic Hall on Nov 15th 10.00 until 14.00 (9.30 for refreshments). Lunch will be provided.

Book your place by contacting the office on 08001384142 (from landline) or 0113 3783007 (from mobile). You can also e-mail to admin@leedstenants.org.uk ” More details here

So, anyone can participate as long as you book, and HOOH will be there with a stall and lots to say to the politicians. We also get a free lunch, apparently! Please join get yourself registered and join us there!!

Hope to see you soon,

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