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Demographic complexity no excuse to deny the reality of inequality

Mon, 2015-01-19 09:13
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Commenting on a recent exchange between an inner city clergyman and a former deputy prime minister about economic divisions in Britain, Simon Barrow, co-director of the beliefs and values think-tank Ekklesia, said:

"The Rev Paul Nicolson is surely right to challenge Lord Heseltine and other politicians and media commentators on their easy dismissals of concern expressed by the Anglican archbishops about the unacceptable extent of poverty and inequality in austerity Britain.

"Both the facts and lived experience, including the alarming rise of foodbanks in one of the richest societies on earth, backs their claim.

"Of course the demographics and economics of regional and national inequality are complex, but this should not be used as an excuse to avoid the challenge of poverty and the massive gaps in income and wealth to which the archbishops, along with charities, other churches, academics and others are pointing.

"The need to address inequality and the suffering caused by policies that make life increasingly difficult for the poor, the vulnerable, the disabled and sick people in Britain should be at the top of the agenda for all parties and candidates in the forthcoming General Election."

See: Heseltine challenged on criticism of Archbishops' inequality claims: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21327

* 'Combatting the denial of poverty and inequality' - Ekklesia, January 2015: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21318

* Archbishops robustly challenge government on income inequality: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21305

* More on General Election issues from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/generalelection2015

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Heseltine challenged on criticism of Archbishops' inequality claims

Mon, 2015-01-19 08:58

The Rev Paul Nicolson says Lord Heseltine is incorrect to call Archbishops' statements about UK poverty and inequality "factually wrong" and "out of touch".

A clergyman who has been a tireless grassroots anti-poverty campaigner has written to challenge Lord Heseltine over his claims that recent statements about poverty and inequality in the UK are "factually wrong" and "out of touch".

In an open letter circulated by Taxpayers Against Poverty (TAP), and republished as part of a paper published by the beliefs and values think-tank Ekklesia, Mr Nicolson highlights the government's benefit freeze, the facts of income inequality, the impact of welfare changes, the burden of the non-progressive council tax, and hunger as among the clear indicators that poverty is a serious issue in an increasingly divided society.

The letter is a personal appeal, in that Mr Nicolson used to be a member of the Bow Group with Lord Heseltine – a former deputy prime minister under Conservative PM John Major, and holder of a range of cabinet positions under Margaret Thatcher.

Mr Nicolson, who has been in court for withholding council tax in protest against the penalisation of economically deprived people in inner London, says that comments about the unacceptability of levels of poverty and inequality by Anglican Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu, made in relation to a new collection of essays entitled On Rock or Sand? Firm foundations for Britain's future, are "right as far as they go, but have soft-pedalled the plight of the unemployed."

"The giant that must be slayed is income inequality – where some few have far too much and the many have too little,” Archbishop of York John Sentamu said last week, in introducing the book.

What angered Lord Heseltine, who in the Thatcher government argued for more support for Liverpool, in particular, is the assertion by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby that the regions are declining in relation to London, and that "there are now fewer readily available government resources able to support economic development in these regions."

"I think it's simply out of touch”, said Lord Heseltine of claims in the book edited by Archbishop Sentamu. "“I have spent some 30 or 40 years dealing with leaders in local authorities and the transformation, and they acknowledge this, is extraordinary”, he said.

However, in its paper Combatting the denial of poverty and inequality, published this weekend, the think-tank Ekklesia points to the analysis of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) as showing the devastating impact on local services of government cuts to local authority funding, and to the data-based research of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Equality Trust on what the latter calls "excessive levels of inequality" in the UK.

The Equality trust, in its 2014 report published A Divided Britain – Inequality Within and Between the Regions, notes that "we should not trivialise just how unbalanced the UK is towards London and the South East. But it must also be noted that the most significant and troubling inequality is ... between those at the top and the rest of us."

The point is reinforced by the charity Oxfam today (19 January 2015), which says that the combined wealth of the richest one per cent will overtake that of the other 99 per cent of people globally in 2016, unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21323)

Simon Barrow, co-director of Ekklesia, said: "The Rev Paul Nicolson is surely right to challenge Lord Heseltine and other politicians and media commentators on their easy dismissals of concern expressed by the Anglican archbishops about the unacceptable extent of poverty and inequality in austerity Britain.

"Both the facts and lived experience, including the alarming rise of foodbanks in one of the richest societies on earth, backs their claim.

"Of course the demographics and economics of regional and national inequality are complex, but this should not be used as an excuse to avoid the challenge of poverty and the massive gaps in income and wealth to which the archbishops, along with charities, other churches, academics and others are pointing.

"The need to address inequality and the suffering caused by policies that make life increasingly difficult for the poor, the vulnerable, the disabled and sick people in Britain should be at the top of the agenda for all parties and candidates in the forthcoming General Election."

The concern about poverty and inequality expressed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York follows on from similar views expressed by senior Catholic leaders, the Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed Churches, the Church of Scotland, groups like Church Action on Poverty and grassroots initiatives such as End Hunger Fast http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/2132 in addition to anti-poverty NGOs and charities.

On Rock or Sand? is to be launched officially at a London event on Tuesday 20 January 2015.

Sir Philip Mawer (Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from 2002 until 2008 and former secretary general of the Church of England's General Synod) will chair a panel for the Question and Answer session to follow. Both Archbishops and all contributors will be present.

* 'Combatting the denial of poverty and inequality' - Ekklesia, January 2015: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21318

* Taxpayers Against Poverty (TAP): http://www.taxpayersagainstpoverty.org.uk

* Archbishops robustly challenge government on income inequality: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21305

* Research reveals huge impact of cuts on local authority services: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21313

* Richest 1% will own more than all the rest by 2016, claims Oxfam: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21323

* On Rock or Sand? Firm foundations for Britain's future, edited by John Sentamu (SPCK, January 2015) ISBN 978 0281 07174 6. Price: £9.99

* More on General Election issues from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/generalelection2015

[Ekk/3]

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Bedroom Tax challenge by disabled people to be heard in Supreme Court

Mon, 2015-01-19 03:46

A landmark legal battle being brought by people with disabilities against the Bedroom Tax has been given permission to go to the Supreme Court.

A landmark legal battle being brought by people with disabilities against the Government’s controversial ‘Bedroom Tax’ has been given permission to go to the Supreme Court.

Permission to take the case to the Highest Court in the UK came following last year’s Court of Appeal decision, which upheld a previous High Court judgment that the new housing benefit regulations were lawful.

Since 1 April 2013, people in the social rented sector deemed to have one spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14 per cent and people deemed to have two or more spare bedrooms have had their housing benefit reduced by 25 per cent, even when their disability means they cannot move to smaller accommodation or they need the extra space.

In July 2013, the High Court accepted that the new housing benefit rules introduced discriminated against disabled adults but found that the discrimination was justified and therefore lawful.

The High Court however accepted that, for a disabled child, unable to share a bedroom with another child because of their disabilities the new housing benefit rules were discriminatory and this discrimination was not justified.

Following the High Court’s ruling, the Government introduced new regulations exempting households from the housing benefit reduction where children are unable to share a room because of their disability. The High Court held that discrimination against adults with disabilities, even those in the equivalent situation to children with disabilities who could not share a room, was justified.

In February 2014, adults with disabilities took their case to the Court of Appeal, arguing that they should be entitled to full Housing Benefit for the accommodation they actually need as a result of their disabilities and that the discriminatory impact of the measure on people with disabilities cannot be justified and is unlawful.

Jayson and Jacqueline Carmichael from Southport, who were part of the legal action and represented by law frirm Leigh Day, sought an appeal on the grounds that their position was indistinguishable from that of the disabled children who were now exempted.

However, the Court of Appeal refused this argument on the basis that the differential treatment of adults and children was reasonable and justified.

Charities, Social Landlords, Local Authorities and Advice Agencies as well as the United Nations Special Rapporteur have spoken out about the plight of people with disabilities who have been affected by the measure.

Two law firms, Leigh Day and Public Law Solicitors, representing those five adults with disabilities, will now take the legal challenge to the Supreme Court later this year following permission granted on 24 December 2014.

Ugo Hayter from the law firm Leigh Day who is representing Mr and Mrs Carmichael, said: “This is a very positive step as we are able to continue the fight on behalf of our clients against the Bedroom Tax.

“The Court of Appeal last year recognised that our clients and thousands of disabled people across the UK had a need for accommodation not provided for by the new housing benefit rules, however the Court decided that disabled tenants should not have their housing needs met on an equivalent basis to their able bodied counterparts, just because they are disabled.

“Instead disabled tenants continue to be forced to rely on short term and discretionary payments.

“Our thoughts remain with the thousands of disabled tenants who, almost two years on from the introduction of the Bedroom Tax, continue to be faced with uncertainty, poverty and risk of eviction from these regulations.”

Anne McMurdie from Public Law Solicitors, representing three of the adults bringing the appeal said: “The decision by the Supreme Court to grant permission for the appeals to proceed is a recognition of the importance of the issues raised by our clients.

“The Government has sought to make savings by targeting the most vulnerable in our society. On the Government’s own figures at least 440,000 disabled households are losing out as a result of the Bedroom Tax.

“There is compelling and growing evidence of the terrible adverse impact on disabled tenants, having to make the dreadful choice between paying the rent and buying food or heating their homes.

“Disabled tenants are not asking for special treatment, they are asking for housing benefit to be paid at a level which meets their needs – for the same rights as others. Discretionary payments are not the answer.”

* Leigh Day Solicitors: http://www.leighday.co.uk/

* Public Law Solicitors: http://www.publiclawsolicitors.co.uk

[Ekk/3]

Categories: News syndication

Richest 1% will own more than all the rest by 2016, claims Oxfam

Mon, 2015-01-19 03:38

The wealth of the richest one per cent will overtake that of the other 99 per next year unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked, Oxfam warns.

The combined wealth of the richest one per cent will overtake that of the other 99 per cent of people on the planet next year, unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked, Oxfam is warning.

The claim comes ahead of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, which starts on 21 January 2015.

The international agency, whose executive director Winnie Byanyima will co-chair the Davos event, warned that the explosion in inequality is holding back the fight against global poverty at a time when one in nine people do not have enough to eat and more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day.

Byanyima will use her position at Davos to call for urgent action to stem this rising tide of inequality, starting with a crackdown on tax dodging by corporations, and to push for progress towards a global deal on climate change.

Wealth: Having it all and wanting more, a research paper published today by Oxfam, shows that the richest one per cent have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44 per cent in 2009 to 48 per cent in 2014 and at this rate will be more than 50 per cent in 2016. Members of this global elite had an average wealth of $2.7 million per adult in 2014.

Of the remaining 52 per cent of global wealth, almost all (46 per cent) is owned by the rest of the richest fifth of the world's population. The other 80 per cent share just 5.5 per cent and had an average wealth of $3,851 per adult – that's 1/700th of the average wealth of the one per cent.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: "Do we really want to live in a world where the one per cent own more than the rest of us combined? The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast.

"In the past 12 months we have seen world leaders from President Obama to Christine Lagarde talk more about tackling extreme inequality but we are still waiting for many of them to walk the walk. It is time our leaders took on the powerful vested interests that stand in the way of a fairer and more prosperous world.

"Business as usual for the elite isn't a cost free option – failure to tackle inequality will set the fight against poverty back decades. The poor are hurt twice by rising inequality – they get a smaller share of the economic pie and because extreme inequality hurts growth, there is less pie to be shared around."

Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Chief Executive Officer of EL Rothschild and chairman of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, who is speaking at a joint Oxfam-University of Oxford event on inequality today (19 January 2015), called on business leaders meeting in Davos to play their part in tackling extreme inequality.

She said: "Oxfam's report is just the latest evidence that inequality has reached shocking extremes, and continues to grow. It is time for the global leaders of modern capitalism, in addition to our politicians, to work to change the system to make it more inclusive, more equitable and more sustainable.

"Extreme inequality isn't just a moral wrong. It undermines economic growth and it threatens the private sector's bottom line. All those gathering at Davos who want a stable and prosperous world should make tackling inequality a top priority."Oxfam made headlines at Davos last year with the revelation that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50 per cent (3.5 billion people). That figure is now 80 – a dramatic fall from 388 people in 2010. The wealth of the richest 80 doubled in cash terms between 2009-14.

The international agency is calling on governments to adopt a seven point plan to tackle inequality:

* Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals
* Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education
* Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth
* Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers
* Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal
* Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum income guarantee
* Agree a global goal to tackle inequality.

The new research paper, which follows the October 2014 launch of Oxfam's global 'Even It Up' campaign, shines a light on the way extreme wealth is passed down the generations and how elite groups mobilise their vast resources to ensure global rules are favourable towards their interests. More than a third of the 1645 billionaires listed by Forbes inherited some or all of their riches.

Twenty per cent of billionaires have interests in the financial and insurance sectors, a group which saw their cash wealth increase by 11 per cent in the 12 months to March 2014. These sectors spent $550 million lobbying policy makers in Washington and Brussels during 2013. During the 2012 US election cycle alone, the financial sector provided $571 million in campaign contributions.

Billionaires listed as having interests in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors saw their collective net worth increase by 47 per cent. During 2013, they spent more than $500 million lobbying policy makers in Washington and Brussels.

Oxfam says it is concerned that the lobbying power of these sectors is a major barrier in the way of reforming the global tax system and of ensuring intellectual property rules do not lead to the world's poorest being denied life saving medicines.

There is increasing evidence from the International Monetary Fund, among others, that extreme inequality is not just bad news for those at the bottom but also damages economic growth.

Oxfam is holding a joint symposium, 'Rising Inequality in the Global South' with Oxford University, today, 19 January 2015. Speakers include Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank and Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild.

* The new Oxfam report, Wealth: Having it all and wanting more, is available here: http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/wealth-having-it-all-an...

[Ekk/3]

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Six million people join Papal Mass in the Philippines

Mon, 2015-01-19 00:54

Some six million people flocked to the Philippine capital Manila on Sunday 18 January to take part in a celebratory Mass led by Pope Francis.

Some six million people flocked to the Philippine capital Manila on Sunday 18 January to take part in a celebratory Mass led by Pope Francis.

The attendance was a record for the Catholic Church. In 1995, a little over four million turned out for Pope John Paul II.

People in the Philippines and other parts of Asia have been drifting away from the Church in recent years.

But the new Pope, with his human touch, concern for the poorest, determination to reform the hierarchy and much more warm-hearted approach to issues of faith and life, seems to have won a huge number of people -- including sceptics towards organised faith -- over.

Whether this will be translated into a deeper renewal of the prospects of the Catholic Church, rocked globally by abuse scandals and other problems locally and globally, is yet to be seen.

However, the atmosphere in the Philippines was extremely positive, attendees and reporters say.

The country has 78 million Catholic adherents, which means that one in thirteen came to see the Pope on the last full day of his visit.

Caroline Wyatt, the BBC's religious affairs correspondent, commented: "The atmosphere has been electrifying, despite the heavy rain. Pope Francis's visit has been seen here as a resounding success.

"There's been enormous enthusiasm for the Pope and the themes he's focused on - helping the poor, the importance of the family, and protecting the environment."

During the Mass, the Pope spoke of the terrible impact of Typhoon Haiyan, in which some 14.5 million people were impacted across six regions and 44 provinces.

Over one million people remain homeless, and NGOs say that there is a huge amount of recovery work still to be done.

Pope Francis declared: "So many of you in Tacloban have lost everything. I don't know what to say - but the Lord does… He underwent so many of the trials that you do."

Earlier on Sunday, the Pope met with young people on the campus of Santo Tomàs University in Manila.

Departing from his prepared text, the pontiff addressed the young people in Spanish.

"What is the most important subject you have to lean at university?" he asked. "What is most important subject you have to learn in life? To learn how to love. This is the challenge that life offers you: to learn bow to love. Not just to accumulate information without knowing what to do with it. But through love, let that information bear fruit…

"To be wise use three languages: think well, feel well and do well. And to be wise allow yourselves to be surprised by the love of God. That will guarantee a good life."

He concluded his impromptu talk: "This is what I wish to tell you all today. Sorry if I haven’t read what I prepared for you, but there is a phrase that consoles me: that 'reality is superior to ideas'. The reality that you have is superior to the paper I have in front of me. Thank you very much. Pray for me!"

[Ekk/3]

Categories: News syndication

Bishop attacks punitive benefit sanctions and mistaken fraud rhetoric

Sun, 2015-01-18 03:45

The Anglican Bishop of Carlisle has spoken out strongly against punitive sanctions and misleading claims about benefit cheats.

The Anglican Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev James Newcome, has spoken out strongly against punitive sanctions and misleading claims about benefit cheats.

The number of people falsely claiming benefits is incredibly low, meaning that tough sanctions are mostly causing trauma to the vulnerable, critics say.

Pete Moran, head of the Cumbria Law Centre, has backed the bishop's comments about the huge gap between public perception of the extent of benefit fraud and the actual level.

The bishop was giving his talk as chair of the Cumbria Welfare Reform Commission (CWRC).

The commission has held a series of hearings across the county to look at the impact of government benefit changes on residents and to identify ways to minimise their negative impact on many of the poorest people in society.

Bishop James told a recent meeting: “Much of the rhetoric around benefit fraud is largely exaggerated.”

Just 90p in every £100 went to those claiming benefits questionably, but when people were encouraged to report their neighbours, 74 out of 75 people who thought that they were committing benefit fraud turned out to be wrong.

Sanctions based on false premises have “become pretty punitive”, the Commission heard.

Moran told the local News & Star newspaper: “Overwhelmingly the people we see have very poor mental health and often very poor physical health and many wouldn’t know how to cheat the benefits system.

“I don’t think things have been helped in recent years by some TV programmes focusing on the claimants and attempting to accentuate things.”

The Law Centre helps an estimated 600 people with benefit claims annually. It believes the amount of fraud to be “negligible”.

Bishop James Newcome said that the group most deleteriously affected by the recent welfare changes was adults with disabilities.

The CWRC findings have been sent to all the Cumbrian MPs and to Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Also on Ekklesia:

* New paper: 'Combatting the denial of poverty and inequality': http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21318

* Tackling the 'poverty premium': http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21129

* The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18086

* More on benefit fraud claims from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/benefitfraud

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Categories: News syndication

Decision on Raif Badawi flogging exposes its shocking brutality

Sun, 2015-01-18 03:23

The flogging of Raif Badawi was not carried out on Friday 16 January 2015, apparently on medical grounds, which in themselves are deeply disturbing.

The flogging of Raif Badawi was not carried out on Friday 16 January 2015, apparently on medical grounds.

But this only exposes the shocking brutality of the punishment itself, says global human rights agency Amnesty International

Raif Badawi was removed from his jail cell in the morning and taken to the prison clinic for a medical check-up before his sentence was due to be carried out.

The doctor concluded that the wounds had not yet healed properly and that he would not be able to withstand another round of lashes at this time. He recommended that the flogging should be postponed until next week. It is unclear whether the authorities will fully comply with this demand.

"Not only does this postponement on health grounds expose the utter brutality of this punishment, it underlines its outrageous inhumanity. The notion that Raif Badawi must be allowed to heal so that he can suffer this cruel punishment again and again is macabre and outrageous. Flogging should not be carried out under any circumstances”, said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“Flogging is prohibited under international law along with other forms of corporal punishment. His flogging appears to have been postponed for now but there is no way of knowing whether Saudi Arabia’s authorities will fully comply with the doctor’s advice. Raif Badawi is still at immediate risk.”

The flogging has prompted an international outcry with supporters from across the world including Amnesty members rallying to protest against Raif Badawi’s flogging and to campaign for him to be immediately and unconditionally released as he is a prisoner of conscience.

* Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.org/

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Combatting the denial of poverty and inequality

Sun, 2015-01-18 02:56

The Rev Paul Nicolson from Taxpayers Against Poverty (TAP), has written to Lord Heseltine, following his criticism of recent statements from the Anglican Archbishops of York and Canterbury about the reality of poverty and inequality across the English regions and in the UK as a whole. We reproduce here the open letter to Lord Heseltine about the reality of divided Britain, and follow that with a detailed briefing on some of the issues raised by publicity round the book, On Rock or Sand?, together with commentary on who is saying what in the debate, relevant research, resources, and practical values for an alternative approach.

Simon Barrow
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Research reveals huge impact of cuts on local authority services

Sat, 2015-01-17 10:24

The future of local authority services in England are under threat from a growing funding crisis, a new report indicates.

The future of local authority services in England are under threat from a growing funding crisis, with significant cuts already being made to statutory adult care and children’s services, according to a new report published on 16 January 2015.

The analysis has been compiled and processed by the respected Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES).

The report, Austerity Uncovered looks at the impact of austerity, focusing on how changes in publicly-funded services affect both people and places across the country, now and in years to come.

The document, commissioned by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), shows that the government’s austerity plans have considerably increased in scale, with cuts extending well into the next parliament.

The report indicates that:

* Changes to the government’s deficit reduction programme since it was first announced in June 2010 mean that we are now only half way through a nine year programme of austerity, when we should have been three quarters of the way through a six year programme. The government’s original proposals expected austerity to amount to 6.7 per cent of GDP. This is now expected to reach 10.3 per cent, increasing in cash terms from £120 billion to £210 billion.

* By 2015–16 the government will have reduced its funding to local authorities by an estimated 37 per cent. A significant funding gap is emerging within local government as a result of this. The total funding gap is forecast to increase at an average rate of £2.1 billion per year until 2019–20 when it will reach £12.4 billion.

* The total budget put aside for means-tested social care by English councils in 2014–15 stands at £13.68 billion – a real terms cut of 12 per cent since 2010, while demand has risen 14 per cent in the same period.

* Cuts have had a major impact on services. In the area of adult social care, 87 per cent of councils now only provide assistance in cases of ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ need, compared to 47 per cent in 2005–06. There has been a 27 per cent fall in the number of older people receiving publicly funded social care since 2008–09 and a 17 per cent drop in the number of younger people with disabilities receiving social care.

* Even though children’s services have been largely protected to date, there have still been funding cuts of over four per cent. Between 2010 and 2013, spending on children's centres fell by 28 per cent with 580 of the centres closing as a result of local authority cuts.

* The public sector workforce stood at 5.7 million in mid-2013, constituting 20 per cent of total employment – this was the lowest share of employment for four decades. The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that by 2019–20 there will be 1.1 million fewer public sector jobs when compared with 2010–11.

The report looks at changes in service provision resulting from cuts in nine local case studies across England (Bedford, Blackpool, Bradford, Derby, Devon, Dudley, Islington, Reading, and Redcar and Cleveland).

Stark regional disparities have emerged as a result of the spending cuts. The analysis shows that the situation for authorities with higher levels of deprivation is particularly dire. For example in the North East, 11 out of 12 councils are encountering higher than average spending reductions – 3.9 per cent compared to 2.9 per cent.

Austerity Uncovered identifies a number of common themes emerging from the nine local case studies. These include: a marked move away from the principle of universal services, with increased use of rationing, targeting and thresholds; significant cutbacks in adult care, particularly home care; and increasing levels of outsourcing of services in some cases.

However, there were also significant differences in approach taken by councils in response to the cuts, with some examples of local authorities working with unions, other partners and communities in order to protect services and inform spending decisions.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This government is taking a sledgehammer to public services and local government.

“Adult social care is in crisis and children’s services are under increasing attack. With cuts on this scale it will be impossible to protect local services. The tragedy is that the cuts have been disproportionate – those local authorities with the greatest need have been the worst hit.”

The report makes a number of recommendations on how to mitigate the impact of austerity. These include: a needs-based approach to funding settlements that take into account places with higher levels of social and economic deprivation; further devolution of resources and decision-making powers at the local level; develop a long-term plan for increasing funding for adult social care; a high-level commitment to improve child wellbeing and reduce inequalities; more intelligent commissioning of services that promote the living wage and reduce the use of zero-hours contracts; and more collaboration with public service unions and community groups to encourage local strategies and solutions.

CLES Chief Executive Neil McInroy commented: “This report outlines the wide range of impacts on people and communities. The scale and depth of the austerity cuts are harming both our present and future.

“We need to get the priorities right and appreciate that austerity means people’s needs are no longer being met like they should be. Without considered decisions based on the needs of people and places, now and into the future, we risk causing irreversible damage.”

* The executive summary of the CLES/TUC report can be found here (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/TUC%20Executive%20Summary-%20D...

* The full Austerity Uncovered report is available here (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/TUC%20Final%20Report%20Dec%271...

* Centre for Local Economic Strategies: www.cles.org.uk

* Trades Union Congress: http://www.tuc.org.uk/

[Ekk/3]

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WCC shock at Nigeria attacks and use of children

Sat, 2015-01-17 10:02

The World Council of Churches has expressed deep shock over the attacks by extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria, including children used in suicide bomb attacks.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has expressed deep shock over the attacks by extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria, which is said to have cost the lives of more than 2,000 people, including children used in suicide bomb attacks.

“A mind-set which deploys young children as bombs and which indiscriminately slaughters women, children and elderly people is beyond outrage, and disqualifies itself from any possible claim to religious justification,” reads a statement issued by the WCC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on 12 January 2015.

In the statement, the WCC calls on the Nigerian government to respond meaningfully to these attacks and to ensure protection of the people from any and all such atrocities.

The WCC also joined its voice with those of Nigerian religious leaders who have called for the international community’s solidarity and engagement, expressing deep disappointment at the relative – even discriminatory – lack of international media coverage. “As much as the WCC joins in the international solidarity with the people of France in the aftermath of the recent attacks in and near Paris, we are deeply saddened that the tragic events in Nigeria have not attracted equivalent international concern and solidarity,” reads the statement.

The WCC has member churches in Nigeria. The Council has been actively engaged in inter-religious peace initiatives in the country in cooperation with local partners. A high-level Christian-Muslim visit to Nigeria in 2012 was co-led by the WCC General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, and Prince Ghazi of Jordan of the Royal Jordanian Aal Al-Bayt Institute (RABIIT).

The two organisations have been working together to establish a centre to monitor religiously based violence and promote inter-religious harmony, justice and peace. The centre in Abuja will open during the first half of 2015.

* WCC: http://www.oikoumene.org/

[Ekk/3]

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