Numbers reliant on Food Banks is double in the North West compared to the South East warns @KeelyMP

Barbara is worried about figures just published which show that people in the North West are increasingly relying on foodbanks to cope with unexpected bills or harsh benefit sanctions.

A report by the charity the Trussell Trust shows that 2% of people living in the North West have received 3 days emergency food supply from a Trussell Trust foodbank in the last 12 months. As other organisations also run foodbanks, this means the numbers using foodbanks in the region must be even higher than the 139,000 people in North West reported by the Trussell Trust.

The high percentage of people needing foodbanks in the North West is double the percentage in the South East region where Trussell Trust report only 1% of the population being referred to a foodbank. The main reason for people being referred to a Trussell Trust foodbank is when the increasingly harsh benefits sanctions regime leaves them unable to buy food but people struggling to manage on a low income is also a major factor.

Barbara said:

“The sheer number of people being forced to rely on emergency food supplies is very worrying. I have noticed many more constituents coming to me for help after losing income due to harsh and often incorrect application of sanctions. It is shocking in the 21st century that so many people in our region have to rely on foodbanks.

“I have helped our local Trussell Trust volunteers collect for the foodbank in Little Hulton and I know that people in Salford are very generous with their donations. However, I feel it is time we decided that a rich country like the UK should not tolerate food poverty at all. Things have been getting much worse for the poorest in our society and we now need a Government prepared to tackle the problems which are leaving families hungry”

food donation

Barbara with volunteers at Tesco Walkden collecting donations for the Little Hulton Foodbank

Dear David Axelrod by @Val_Hudson

Dear David Axelrod

Please help the Labour Party to be proud of an ethical socialist idealism

Here’s an early welcome to Britain from a very longstanding member and activist of UK Labour. You come with a wealth of experience in mobilising the grassroots that twice got Obama elected. Let us hope you will do the same for Ed Miliband. I’m sure you will.

I’m not a great fan of Wikipedia but I did like this quote you gave in your entry

“I got into politics because I believe in idealism. Just to be a part of this effort that seems to be rekindling the kind of idealism that I knew when I was a kid, it’s a great thing to do. So I find myself getting very emotional about it.” *

I too remember that idealism I had as a child of a single mother, probably about the same time as you. Yes it was hard but my mother was never made to feel like she was a ‘scrounger’ if she was out of work to look after me or because of her considerable ill health at some stages in her life. She and, as I grew up, I knew the state would be there to provide a safety net. It wasn’t a lot but it was enough to ensure that we didn’t go hungry or were left homeless. Food banks weren’t necessary when I was a child. I remember when we got the keys to our first council house. It was like a palace even though it was ‘compact’. It sounds clichéd but I then went on to be the first person in my family to go to university and to have my fees fully paid by the state. The cost of tuition fees now means that had my childhood situation been replicated, I would never have gone today. I would never have received the rich and varied state education that gives me confidence to put my thoughts on paper like this. To top it all I have spent my working life in public services. I don’t feel guilty about that. The pre neo-liberal slashed public services were not only an expression of collectivism, they also provided work, treated employees with dignity and respect and bought  income to local economies.

So Mr Axelrod my plea to you is persuade UK Labour to return to some of that idealism that you and I felt in our childhoods, especially in relation to our public services and to do it within an ethical socialist framework. I have to tell you that quite frankly many of us are sick of the neo-liberal ideology that has seen the rapid decline and obliteration of the principles that encompassed our collectivism and care for each other that underpinned two of our most valued assets, our NHS and welfare state. These principles used to play a key role in protecting and promoting the economic and social well- being of people like me and my mother, and of all its citizens, particularly the young and most vulnerable. Today some of those most vulnerable, people who are sick, out of work, disabled and dependent are persistently pilloried and made to feel that the economic crash was their fault, when even the most right wing commentators know it was the fault of the bankers. This government in particular uses language that reinforces that blame like ‘hard working people’ versus ‘scroungers’ Even where people are lucky enough to have jobs in the public sector, like workers in our wonderful NHS, the government is determined to undermine them in every way possible to open the door even wider for privatisation. The media persistently run stories about NHS ‘scandals’. But our media almost wholly ignore the fact that most NHS workers day in and out give 100% of themselves to our NHS because they believe in those principles that underpinned Nye Bevan’s vision for the NHS. Equally, I could give you endless examples of the marginalisation of people who have to depend on welfare benefits. I know my mother and I would have been in that position.

I understand that you will be concentrating on the ‘cost of living crisis’ as Labour’s rallying call for the 2015 election. I hope in doing that you can persuade Ed and his top table on the need for idealism, and an ethical socialist framework that reverses the tide of condemnation against our public services, and those who rely on and work in them

Best wishes






*La Ganga, Maria L. (February 15, 2008). “The man behind Obama’s message”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 28, 2008.

Labour’s plan for a High-Wage economy is key to solving the Cost of Living Crisis says @ChrisWMP

By Chris Williamson MP, Derby North


The cost-of-living crisis has been going on for far too long, for far too many people in Derby. Youth unemployment is all too commonplace, public service jobs have been slashed and the pernicious attacks on Derby’s poorest communities has led to a surge in demand for foodbanks in the city

Every time I hold an advice surgery and even when I am out shopping people tell me how they are struggling and that things are getting harder, not easier for them. The prices of essentials such as food, clothes and heating are rising much faster than wages thanks to the slowest economic recovery in over a century.

That is why the government’s talk of recovery rings hollow for local people in Derby who are still struggling with the cost of living crisis. The workers, pensioners and unemployed people I speak to know that one set of figures on an economist’s spreadsheet isn’t going to help them pay their bills.

This is the nature of the economic recovery under this dreadful Tory-Lib Dem government: tax cuts for millionaires while people on lower and middle incomes get left behind.

The government’s dismissal of the cost of living crisis demonstrates how out of touch it is with the reality facing people in places like Derby. The government can’t deal with the long-term challenges we face because it’s committed to a race to the bottom built on low pay, low skills, low prospects and low productivity.

Since David Cameron became Prime Minister, there has been a surge in the number of insecure jobs, with the number of people on zero hours contracts tripling since 2010. And too many of these jobs are low paid, with employment growing twice as fast in low paid sectors as in higher paid sectors.

A hundred years ago today Keir Hardie made his “Sunshine of Socialism” speech in which he referred to the accpeted view of the Conservatives and Liberals of his era who thought it “an offence against laws of nature and ruinous to the State for public authorities to provide food for starving children, or independent aid for the aged poor. Even safety regulations in mines and factories were taboo. They interfered with the ‘freedom of the individual’. As for such proposals as an eight-hour day, a minimum wage, the right to work, and municipal houses, any serious mention of such classed a man as a fool.”

Keir Hardy described these views as “cruel, heartless dogmas.” The incredibly sad fact is that these selfsame cruel, heartless dogmas are the mainstream opinion in the modern day Tory and Lib Dem parties.

As Keir Hardy identified 100 years ago, the way to make a real difference in people’s lives is to make sure the economy works for working people. That begins by creating decent, secure, well-paid jobs so we can all benefit from the recovery.

The next Labour government will build a highly skilled, higher wage economy. This will mean more jobs in skilled construction trades, better quality jobs in health and caring professions and more growth in the technology sector.

But this can’t be just imposed from Westminster – real change needs local people to make the difference and create the jobs we need. We will back city and county regions to become engines of growth so they can develop their own economic strategies, clearly focused on the creation of well-paid jobs for local people.

The cost of living crisis is far from over for people on lower and middle incomes. Too many people have been locked out of the economic recovery and are unlikely to feel the benefits under this appalling Tory-Lib Dem government. By creating more high-quality, well paid jobs Labour will ensure that we all benefit from our future economic prosperity.

The very firms who refuse to disclose their tax details will now have access to yours warns @RichardJMurphy

As many will know I have been campaigning for country-by-country reporting of accounting and tax data by multinational companies for overcast decade. As a result of that work, and campaigning by many others, this issue reached the international taxvagendalast year, and then the fight back began.

At the OECD those multinational businesses – whose trading information whether at group or subsidiary level should, in my opinion, be on public record because of the limited liability they enjoy – have been saying two things. The first is that this is an infringement of their right to privacy and the second is that tax authorities can’t be relied upon to protect the private nature of this data.

I have to date dismissed both concerns.

However, now we know that the UK government is apparently planning to sell tax payer data to commercial organisations and researchers (although the latter is just PR; they won’t be able to afford it). So the very same companies who object to filing information on their tax affairs that will ensure they pay the right amount of tax in the right place at the right time will now be able to buy information on the tax affairs of people who do just that.

You really could not make up such staggering hypocrisy from both big business and HMRC.

On hang on: given who is on the board of HMRC they are of course virtually one and the same thing.

If Labour does not commit to sweeping this board clean on coming to office we’ve no hope of having a decent tax authority.

Royal Mail cost taxpayer 1.4 billion stresses @GrahameMorris

The Royal Mail served the nation for over 500 years; however a Government fire sale not only privatised this prize asset but also short changed the public.

National Audit Office (NAO) delivered a damning report showing that the Government’s rush to privatise the Royal Mail cost the taxpayer £1.4 billion.

In fact, following the first day spike in the share price, the NAO found the Government could have made an additional £750 million if it had priced the sale at the first day closing price of 445p rather than 330p.

Business Secretary Vince Cable dismissed the first day rise as “froth and speculation”, however, since then the share price rose to a peak of 618p in January, and today still remains 70% higher than the flotation price.

Royal Mail privatisation was a policy that nobody voted for, and all except those in the city wanted. A third of share went to 16 priority investors with an agreement they would be long term investors.

Prior to the flotation these priority investors warned they would not buy shares at any more than 330p, however, once the price range was set, city institutions scrambled for these shares, with the offer being 24 times oversubscribed, clearly showing the Government had undervalued the Royal Mail.

Throughout the privatisation process the Government repeatedly promised that the Royal Mail would be owned by long term share holders rather than hedge funds. However, within weeks, the “long term investors” broke their agreement selling almost half of the shares allocated to them, and within the first month seven had sold their entire allocation banking profits of between £10 and £36 million.

These profiteers are now being protected by the NAO and the Government who are refusing to name the companies that short changed the taxpayer, and allowed the Royal Mail to be left at the mercy of hedge funds that have significantly increased their holdings.

The taxpayer not only lost out on the sale price, stamp prices are due to rise with first and second-class stamps going up to 62p and 53p respectively, and 1300 job losses have also been announced. Fears remain that the universal delivery obligation will be threatened sooner or later.

Even if the Government had achieved the real value of the Royal Mail, privatisation would have still been wrong.

The Coalition Government is ideologically blinkered and they could not accept that Royal Mail could succeed in public hands. This is despite the Royal Mail trebling profits last year and returning £440 million to the taxpayer prior to privatisation.

The private is best mantra has failed to deliver results when it comes to our public services. The public are right to question how successful privatisation and competition have been when looking at rising energy prices, or commuters paying thousands of pounds a year to use the rail network. We now see the Royal Mail following a similar path.

Whether it is energy, rail or mail, these are vital public services that should be run in the best interests of public, not private profit.