Unite Against Fascism Counter-Demonstration 2013

Over 400 people stood together last Saturday (9th March) at a counter-demonstration organised by Unite Against Fascism against the National Front, sending out the message loud and clear that Swansea is a no-go area for fascists, racists and Nazis.
The weather stayed on our side throughout the day and the family-friendly, festival atmosphere of the UAF’s counter-protest was fantastic to be a part of. Around forty so-called ‘white-pride’ protesters arrived at around 1.30pm, and I would like to congratulate the police on the success of their meticulously planned operation, which helped the day to pass without violence.
With the government continuing its crippling attacks on public services and welfare benefits, organisations like the NF use people’s despair to spread discord and division throughout our communities. By targeting minorities – especially black and ethnic minorities, Jews and Muslims – their poisonous policies scapegoat individuals for problems such as of lack of jobs, the banking crisis and the global economy, none of which have anything to do with skin colour or religion.
As a designated city of sanctuary, Swansea is justly proud of both the diversity of its people and its culture of tolerance. Together, we showed the NF that they and any others who hold a similar abhorrent ideology will simply not be allowed to swagger around our communities spreading their poison and their hate.

Hain warns Government welfare reforms will trigger big local rent arrears

Peter Hain has strongly criticised the Government’s plans to replace housing benefit with Universal Credit, which he has warned is likely to result in a big rise of rent arrears amongst low income tenants living in social housing in the Neath constituency.

The MP has expressed deep concern in response to the news that tenants in Torfaen taking part in a trial of the Government’s new benefits system have seen total rent arrears in the County Borough rise sevenfold from £20,000 to £140,000 in just seven months.

Mr Hain comments, “Continuing unemployment coupled with astronomical rising food and fuel prices means that many people on low incomes are struggling to manage on their budget.”

“Faced with crippling financial pressure from the Government’s brutal changes to the benefit system, and with the ‘Bedroom Tax’ due to take effect next month, a simple matter such as a broken washing machine could force many struggling parents throughout Neath to have to decide between sending their children to school in clean clothes or paying their rent.”

Under the Government’s welfare reforms, Universal Credit will be paid to the claimants themselves rather than directly to their local council or housing association, as was previously the case with housing benefit.

Mr Hain continues, “Rent arrears have sky-rocketed amongst the tenants taking part in the Government’s pilot scheme. When rolled out across the UK, this could see families in Neath running up huge amounts of debt and running the risk of being evicted.”

“Cameron’s cuts are already having a devastating impact on the most vulnerable in our communities, the very people for whom welfare systems were put in place to protect. For many already in financial hardship, the knock-on effects of Universal Credit will deliver a further crushing blow.”

“However, whilst families in Neath struggle to pay their rent and put food on the table, it is millionaires that Cameron and Osborne have decided to give a tax break. It really shows where their priorities lie.”

Hain demands further changes to the Government’s ‘brutal’ Housing Benefit reforms

Peter Hain has called upon Iain Duncan Smith to further reconsider the planned Housing Benefit reforms due to take effect next month.

The MP for Neath has reacted strongly to the announcement from the Department of Work and Pensions that parents of armed service personnel no longer stand to be penalised by the Government’s ‘Bedroom Tax’ whilst their children defend our country abroad.

According to the ministerial statement issued by the Secretary of Work and Pensions yesterday, the amendment will apply to those living in both social and private rented housing.

Furthermore, those who have registered to become foster carers or have fostered a child within the past twelve months will now also be made exempt.

Mr Hain comments, ‘That the Government ever even considered penalising those who help make such a positive contribution to our society is an utter disgrace. Although this u-turn is a step in the right direction, the ‘Bedroom Tax’ remains a matter of deep concern for many of my most vulnerable constituents, including those with disabilities or on a low-income.’

Latest figures show that approximately 1256 people in Neath will lose out due to the Bedroom Tax- many of whom will already be facing further hardship, confronted with severe cuts to their benefits and welfare against a backdrop of a flat-lining economy.

Mr Hain continues, ‘I only hope that this turnaround by Iain Duncan Smith indicates that he is at last waking up to the misery and distress that his ill thought-out scheme is causing people throughout our communities.’

771 new mothers in Neath to be hit by Cameron’s ‘Mummy Tax’

Peter Hain has condemned David Cameron’s plans to impose a ‘Mummy Tax’ on new mothers whilst simultaneously slashing the tax paid by millionaires. The real terms cut in maternity pay will effectively result in a £180 tax on working mothers and is set to hit 771 local working mums in Neath this year.

Mr. Hain commented, ‘The Prime Minister promised that his would be the most family-friendly Government ever, but the fact that he is planning a £100,000 tax cut to millionaires whilst targeting new mums shows where his true priorities lie. Instead to hitting the work-shy as the Government claims to be doing this is directly affecting working families and mothers who want to take time off work to look after their newborn baby.

‘Neath families with a new baby already face tough financial pressures with the rising cost of fuel and food. Cuts to maternity pay will be a crushing blow to working mums in my constituency. For many local families already facing cuts to child benefits, this will be the final straw.’

New mothers are already amongst the hardest hit by the coalition’s tax and benefit changes. In addition to the severe cuts to child benefit and tax credit changes faced by all parents – including child benefit freezes, reductions in support for childcare and frozen tax credits – new mothers have already lost Health in Pregnancy Grant, in addition to new restrictions to the Sure Start Maternity Grant and the scrapping of the baby addition to the Child Tax Credit.

Figures compiled by the House of Commons Library have now confirmed that low paid new mothers will lose £1,300 during pregnancy and their baby’s first year due to cuts to pregnancy support, tax credits and maternity pay. They are also losing a further £422 from cuts to child benefit over the same period.

Mr. Hain is joining Labour MPs across the country in opposing the ‘Mummy Tax’ and is urging people in Neath to sign a petition to David Cameron, calling on him to ‘help mums not millionaires’. To find out more visit the website, www.labour.org.uk/mumsnotmillionaires.

Hain warns of a growing local food crisis

Peter Hain has denounced Government welfare cuts in the wake of a new independent report that claims nearly five million people in Britain are now living in food poverty.

The MP for Neath commented, “it is a worrying statistic that highlights the increasing social divide in Britain, when the poorest households in Britain were found to spend almost a quarter of their annual income on food, whereas the richest only spend four per cent.”

“More and more local families are facing the crunch.  Significant numbers in low income jobs are struggling to put food on the table or pay astronomic fuel or petrol bills.  So are people losing their jobs and thousands – in or out of work – suffering from punitive benefit cuts,” he said.

“Rising food prices are making matters even worse. People are now increasingly being forced to rely on emergency hand-outs and are making cheap nutritional choices in order to eat,” says Mr. Hain.

“Whilst the Prime Minister claims that food banks are useful to ‘people who feel they need a little extra food,’ many people in my constituency are relying on their local food bank simply to avoid sending their children to bed hungry.”

Neath Food bank has been seeing over 1600 local families in a desperate situation – the equivalent to some nearly 5000 people, a figure that Mr Hain says is set to rise. “The food poverty crisis is now on our doorstep and in our homes. Furthermore, with the Government’s punitive bedroom tax due to come into effect next month, coupled with cuts in council tax benefits, there is no end in sight to the misery being endured by our most vulnerable families.”

The Report, issued by the multi-national Kelloggs cereal company, found that whilst families now spend 20 per cent more on food than they did five years ago, they are actually eating seven per cent less. The poorest are spending 23.8 per cent of their annual income on food and 4.7 million people in the UK were found to be in this situation.

The Trussell Trust, which works with churches and communities to run food banks both locally and nationwide and worked with Kelloggs on the study, anticipates that the number of people who resort to food banks will rise to 280,000 in the year 2012/13.

Trussell Trust food banks provide a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis in the UK. Neath food bank operates at the Orchard Place Baptist Church (opposite the bus station) and is open Tuesdays and Fridays 2pm-4pm. Further information can be found on the Trussell Trust website, http://neath.foodbank.org.uk/.