First of all, thanks to all those who have worked tirelessly over the last few months to organise and build for Saturday’s march for the NHS. There were upwards of 1500 people on the demo (see our photo gallery here), which is a great turnout – not surprising given that every one of us will need healthcare at some point, and we all want a service planned and run for public good, not one which is carved up and farmed out to corporate providers whose main concern is to maximise profit. But secondly – there is far more to be done, and there need to be far more people involved. If you are reading this the chances are that you are personally affected by, or worried about, cuts to welfare, social housing and public services (including health), and profiteering by corporate providers. So do get involved – help stage a protest, lobby your MP and other parliamentary candidates, write to the press, lobby news channels and press to provide more coverage of dangerous cuts, privatisations and worsening working conditions of privatised NHS staff. Talk to your friends, neighbours and workmates, and get them involved too. To find out more about the campaign to Keep Our NHS Public you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0113 2622800 – or check out Leeds Keep Our NHS Public on Facebook. Read on for more about housing and benefits….
As we all know, we are facing a worsening housing crisis caused by unaffordable house prices, soaring private sector rents, sell-offs of council stock, properties bought up for investment and left empty, and cuts to housing benefits for both private sector tenants (reduction in the proportion of private lets which are affordable to benefit claimants) and social housing tenants (affected by the bedroom tax). Sanctioning of JSA and ESA claimants brings the threat of homelessness to private sector tenants who have to pay part of their rent from these benefits. The Conservative Party is threatening stricter caps to total benefit entitlements, including regional caps which will mean that even social housing is placed out of reach of millions of benefit claimants around the country (see https://speye.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/tory-overall-benefit-cap-means-the-social-landlord-cannot-afford-the-tenant-on-benefit/ for more details and analysis). Under Universal Credit, the housing component will be sanctionable, and even working households on low incomes may be affected.
On Wednesday, supporters of TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) will be lobbying the Leeds City Council and taking a deputation to the full council meeting calling for an increase in council house building (rather than houses let at so-called “affordable” rents – which at 80% of the private sector rates is still unaffordable for households on low-to-average incomes) and for a council run-letting agency to tackle admin fees, low quality & high rents in the private sector. Please join the lobby of the council on Wednesday at 12 noon, at Leeds Civic Hall – and please read, sign and share the petition here https://www.change.org/p/leeds-city-council-establish-a-council-run-letting-agency-build-council-houses
The next meeting of Hands Off Our Homes will be on Wednesday 1st April, at the UNISON offices at 160A Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS2 9EN. Please come along to discuss the council’s plans for social housing in Leeds and to help build the campaign for more and better housing at genuinely affordable rents. HOOH is also encouraging people to appeal their new Housing Benefit (bedroom tax) decisions, so come along to a meeting or get in touch (07930966205) to find out more and get support with this.
Finally, for more support and advice around benefits, don’t forget the new Leeds Unite Community Centre in Farsley – 90-92 Old Road, LS28 5BN. The centre also needs volunteers (training provided). Over the coming weeks, months and beyond, Unite Community will be campaigning on the issues which affect all our lives – sanctions, ESA Work Capability Assessments, housing and rents, the health service and more. Unite Community is there for people who are not in waged work – and recognises that the struggles of waged workers and those who are not in waged work for whatever reason are linked. You can join for 50p per week – get in touch for more details. And most Tuesday afternoons there will be meetings at the new centre at Ebor Court (Ebor Court. Skinner Street. Leeds. LS1 4ND), to plan and organise these camapigns. Please come along and see how you can get involved:
Phone 0113 2575221 or 07932424118
Read the blog at http://www.unitecommunityleeds.wordpress.com/