Wirral Labour ready for a general election – bring it on!

A first class turnout for today’s door-knocking and leaflet distribution

With the Tory government more divided than at any time in living memory,in chaotic disarray over Brexit, and continuing to punish the most vulnerable in our society with the enormity of the cruel manner of “Universal Credit” introduction, it’s time for them to accept that the future should be put in the hands of the People with a general election following the inconclusive result of June 2017.

Universal Credit – Tories are now forced into (partial) retreat in face of massive national outrage.

The Seacombe Motion condemning Universal Credit was not debated. It was, nevertheless, moved formally by Cllr Chris Jones, and seconded formally by Cllr Paul Stuart without debate. It was voted on and carried – despite the LibDems’ attempt to water it down by amendment and Tory opposition.

Cllr Chris Jones was not called to speak to our motion. In this note she covers just a few of the points whe would have made had the motion been debated.

Cllr Chris Jones comments: At Monday’s Wirral Council meeting our motion on Universal Credit was one of many motions for debate but was not called before the 9:15 “guillotine” fell. Our decision to bring it to Council has been vindicated by a huge national outcry that’s now forced Mrs May’s increasingly embarrassed government into (at least partial) retreat. Although our UC motion couldn’t be debated at Council (because seven other motions were listed ahead of it) it was nevertheless carried, without our even speaking to it, with a strong majority.
Had I been able to speak to it I would have drawn attention to the anguish already apparent in our Ward among many residents who fear the bleakest Christmas in living memory if they become caught up in the cruel delays in the Tory plan. Almost half of over 65s only have the old age pension – so without benefits they would sink. In the UK economy today more than 15million people are still not paying into a pension scheme – so the problem during retirement can only get worse. Yet the government brags that it’s created more jobs – what sort of jobs? Many of these “jobs” pay so little that they’ll just perpetuate poverty into old age – increasing financial dependency long into the future for our children and grand children. And at the same time the present generation face not only an employment crisis of few jobs and low wages – but astronomical housing costs and increasing price inflation of basic essentials such as food!

These are just some of the points Cllr Paul Stuart would have raised had the motion been debated.

Cllr Paul Stuart seconded the motion, formally – and we publish below some of the main points in the speech he had prepared.
The DWP expect that by 2022 over 7 million UK households will receive Universal Credit: 54% of claimants will be in working households; 52% of claimants will have children in the household; 58% of households claiming universal credit will have an adult who is disabled or has a long-term health condition.
Currently: 39% of those claiming universal credit are waiting more than 6 weeks to receive their 1st payment; 11% are waiting over 10 weeks without payment; 57% are having to borrow money while waiting for their 1st payment. In the last year Citizens Advice supported more than 30,000 people with Universal Credit issues, with 25% of those also needing help with debt issues.
But these are not just statistics & numbers!
Lost in these statistics are people, human beings, someone’s mother, father, son, daughter – the sick & disabled – the most vulnerable in our society, real people struggling to get by. These People are having problems with a complicated application process ranging from difficulties using a computer or with the online system, to issues getting hold of the right evidence to support their claim, long payment delays and difficulties getting help with their application mean they are less able to focus on getting into work or increasing their hours. And despite their efforts to do what is expected of them, people are not able to get the help they need often having to make more than 10 calls to the Universal Credit helpline during their application process, with an average time spent on hold around 30 to 40 minutes. The cost of these calls can be a staggering £13.50 to £22 per before actually speaking to anyone! (Thanks to pressure like ours all over the country it looks like this cost will at last be ameliorated.)

These issues are making a mockery of the professed goals of Universal Credit, which was to simplify the benefits system, offering people the security and support they need to move into and progress in work – making work pay! (Or was the real goal to drive down costs?) People claiming Universal Credit face uncertainty about how much money they will receive and when it will arrive, with many waiting 8 – 10 weeks, some as long as 12 – 14 weeks. This filters through to every other area of life, making it harder to focus on finding work while they worry about how to pay bills or put food on the table.
From next month, the accelerated rollout means this will be happening here in Wirral. meaning many Wirral families will be forced to go without money during the winter months and “yes” – over Christmas! Universal Credit is already failing too many people across the country, pushing them into debt and leaving them without the means to make ends meet.

The government needs not merely to pause plans to accelerate the “roll out” 0f Universal Credit, but to abandon the scheme in its entirety and devote the time and resources needed to tackle the key problems. Pushing ahead with this accelerated roll out, while the system is buckling under the strain of its many flaws, will put hundreds of Wirral families at financial risk – and that’s why our motion doesn’t accept that tinkering at the edges of a cruel and flawed scheme is enough – our motion calls for it to be abandoned and I call on council to vote for our motion without amendment.

LibDems failed attempt to “amend” Seacombe Labour Councillors’ motion calling for Tory “Universal Credit” to be condemned and scrapped.

Our previous web-post (October 5th 2017) set out our case against Universal Credit. How sad – but unsurprising – that there was a (failed) attempt this evening to amend our condemnation of that cruel attack on the poorest and most vulnerable.

The Tories’ “Universal Credit” scheme was condemned by Council on a motion moved by Cllr Chris Jones (centre) and Paul Stuart (right).

UNIVERSAL CREDIT – Proposed by Councillor Chris Jones Seconded by Councillor Paul Stuart

Par.1 “Council condemns the government’s misnamed “Universal Credit” scheme as an extension of past Tory/LibDem and current Tory policies crafted to shift to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society the burden of the bank-driven world debt crisis of 2008”.

A LibDem (attempted) amendment sought to delete this crucial, scene setting, first paragraph. Why?

Could it be because they saw that Seacombe Labour Councillors condemned a policy they, LibDems, cannot (with consistency) condemn?

Would it have reminded them, and the voting public of their Parliamentary Party’s collaboration in the Tory/LibDem government that shifted the cost of the bank-driven world deb- crash of 2008 onto the shoulders of the poorest, neediest, and most vulnerable people of our society – and notably so here in Wirral?

In a further amendment, they seemed to illustrate that they perhaps hadn’t quite understood the paragraph they sought to amend. Here they proposed “… a pause to the roll out …” of policies that Seacombe Labour called on the government not to pause, but to abandon.

Their amendment was so formulated that it appeared to transmogrify Seacombe Labour’s motion such that it would ask the government to both “pause the roll-out” of UC and also abandon it – at the same time!

Oh dear, if UC were to be paused it could not simultaneously be abandoned, and if abandoned it would not be paused! What a pity there was no debate – they might have been asked to explain the apparent contradiction. However, at 9:15 the “guillotine” fell, to close debate and perhaps save some difficult explanation and blushes.

Regrettably, Cllrs Chris Jones & Paul Stuart (our mover and seconder) then had no opportunity to enlarge on the enormous potential hardship, for countless numbers of local individuals and families, that the government’s misnamed “Universal Credit” would have – notably to be hit first in the Christmas period!

Although not debated, as time had run out, the motion was nevertheless voted on and carried overwhelmingly. Chris and Paul insisted on a “Card vote” – meaning that each individual councillor’s personal vote would be recorded. Needless to say, one or two Tories made half-hearted attempts to justify what we regard to be a punishingly cruel attack on the most vulnerable people in our Wirral communities. They parroted the worn out mantras of their national propaganda – as though they were persuaded by it. How could anybody be?