Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Archive for the ‘Sanctions’ Category

Food Banks Use Soars.

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It’s hard not to notice a flurry of stories about Food Banks in recent days.

Appeal for baked beans as benefit changes sees demand for food banks soar.

THE Government has been criticised after a Somerset food bank made an urgent appeal for baked beans.

Ann Gibbs, coordinator of West Somerset Food Cupboard, says it has seen a huge rise in demand over the last year which has hit their stocks so hard they are running out of tinned beans and other non-perishable food.   She said: “These are families who can just about manage during term time, but are struggling to make ends meet while children are not at school.

“For the first time ever, we recently ran out of baked beans.”

Chard and Ilminster News.14th of August

 

Nottingham food bank sees ‘surge’ in donations after almost running out of stock

The centre says they saw “an upsurge in offers of help” after last week’s appeal.

One of the largest food banks in the city almost ran out of food last week – but it has now thanked the community after a surge of donations.

Mount Zion food bank, in Radford, was the busiest it had ever been due to the summer holidays increasing the number of families turning to them for help – a pattern seen across the city.

But now the centre says they saw “an upsurge in offers of help” after last week’s appeal.

Mount Zion Church is under particular strain because of its central location making it very popular, while it also lacks major local sponsors.

Nottingham Post 14th of August.

 

The rise of the working poor and food banks in our wealthy nation. How a Huddersfield food bank has seen a 17-fold increase in demand – and why.

Alan Clarke, head of European fixed income strategy at Scotiabank, is forecasting CPI to hit 2.8 per cent, driven in part by rising price tags on food.

He said: “Food price falls came to a fairly abrupt end in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, particularly on the back of the sharp fall in the GBP exchange rate.

“Indeed, food prices have risen for seven of the last eight months – with last month being the exception, showing a 0.2 per cent month-on-month fall.

“Overall, we view last month’s downward adjustment in inflation as temporary and the peak in inflation is yet to be reached.”

End the Benefit Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

August 15, 2017 at 10:29 am

Homeless Levels to Double.

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The camp set up on Ipswich Waterfront by a group of rough sleepers. Pictures taken by Gregg Brown in January 2017.

Rough Sleeper Camp in Ipswich (January 2017). 

Enigma is the latest of our contributors to point out that this is a growing issue.

The Mirror.

Twice as many people are sleeping rough in Tory Britain as we thought, alarming new study reveals

Analysis by Heriot-Watt University found 9,100 people are currently sleeping on the streets across Britain – the previous estimate was 4,100

 

In January this was published,  Rough sleeping rockets across Suffolk: “It’s a sign that a lot of people are struggling”

 

Welfare Weekly reports,

The number of people forced into homelessness is expected to more than double to half a million by 2041 unless the government takes immediate action, a homelessness charity has warned.

Analysis by Heriot-Watt University for Crisis has found that the number of homeless people in Britain will reach 575,000, up from 236,000 in 2016. The number of people sleeping rough will more than quadruple from 9,100 in 2016 to 40,100 over the same period, the research found.

The forecast, released to mark the 50th anniversary of Crisis, comes as the number of homeless households has jumped by a third in the past five years. The majority of those affected are “sofa surfers”, with 68,300 people sleeping on other people’s couches.

The biggest rise will be for those placed by a council in unsuitable accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts, with the total expected to rise from 19,300 to 117,500.

Crisis has urged the government to build more affordable housing and launch a concerted effort to tackle rough sleeping.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “With the right support at the right time, it doesn’t need to be inevitable … Together we can find the answers and make sure those in power listen to them.”

Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, said that homelessness had become the bulk of her workload. “The government needs to wake up … The system is broken. Without more social housing, a flood of good temporary accommodation and investment in homelessness support the problem will get worse.”

This will help increase the numbers of homeless as well:

The Tory government has quietly axed a free benefit claimed by 124,000 people – here’s how it could hit you.   Mirror. 

The government will be transferring existing claimants onto the new loan system from 5 April 2018.

There will be a transition period where some people can continue claiming SMI as a free benefit for a while.

But this is simply to stop people falling through the cracks if there are “delays” to moving them onto the new scheme.

Outsourcing giant Serco is taking responsibility for telling people about the new system in the coming months through letters and a phone call.

….

A spokesman for welfare rights charity Turn2us added: “Support for Mortgage Interest has been an important source of help for those with a mortgage who have had an income shock.

“It has helped many stay in their homes.

“The increase in the waiting period to 39 weeks has already affected that.

“Now, turning Support for Mortgage Interest from a benefit into a loan adds to the pressure on homeowners who are already struggling.”

Can I take the time to flag up this article by one of the best activists in Britain, 

The first sentence is relevant to the above, “Outsourcing giant Serco”

Outsourcing is killing local democracy in Britain. Here’s how we can stop that

Residents at Grenfell Tower describe how, as the local council outsourced contracts to private companies to work on their estate, essential elements of local democracy became unavailable to them. Their voices weren’t heard, information they requested wasn’t granted, outcomes they were promised did not transpire, complaints they made were not answered. The outcome at Grenfell was unique in its scale but the background is a common enough story. Wherever regeneration of social housing has been outsourced to private developers, responsiveness, transparency, oversight and scrutiny – key elements of healthy democracy – are lessened for those most directly affected.

Outsourcing of public services began in the 1980s, a central feature of the drive to roll back what neoliberalism casts as a bureaucratic, inefficient state. Its proponents claimed the involvement of private providers would increase cost-savings and efficiency, and improve responsiveness to the “consumers” of public services. Thirty years later, the value of these contracts is enormous – more than £120bn worth of government business was awarded to private companies between 2011 and 2016, and their number is increasing rapidly. At least 30% of all public outsourcing contracts are with local authorities.

 

In Ipswich the Labour Borough Council does not outsource. – sadly this is not the case for many Labour authorities.

 

Cuts mean it’s hard to deal with problems like homelessness.

But the gang of Tories from the backwoods and chocolate box villages who run Suffolk County Council have hived off everything they possibly can and helped make things that but worse.

Result?

Read Pilgrim’s article.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 11, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Sanctions and Benefit Freeze Blamed for Rise in Food Banks Use and Growth in Mental Health Problems.

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From Ken,

Benefit sanctions are increasing hunger and depression not driving down unemployment

The UK is a fairly hostile environment to be unemployed, but some might say the approach is starting to pay off. After all, unemployment is currently at its lowest rate in 42 years, with 109,000 more people entering employment in the three months to April this year.

With numbers like that, some people might be wondering if aggressive tactics such as benefit sanctions are helping drive willfully unemployed people into gainful work.

Yet that is not what the public spending watchdog believes. Last year the National Audit Office – the independent body that monitors spending for Parliament – declared that benefit sanctions are inconsistently applied across the country and that withholding payments pushes claimants into hardship, increasing their chances of experiencing hunger and depression.

 Now, the latest report by Oxford University and the Trussell Trust food bank network has revealed that almost 80 per cent of food bank users had experienced food insecurity in the previous 12 months, meaning they could not buy enough food and/or had experienced entire days with nothing to eat.

The issue of price rises and insecure incomes are major factors in ‘food insecurity’.

The former justifies our call for an end to the benefits freeze.

The latter raises the issue of Universal Credit delays and Sanctions.

This is from the Report: Financial insecurity, food  insecurity, and disability: The profile of people receiving emergency food assistance from The Trussell Trust Foodbank Network in Britain  2017

  • Financial and food insecurity: Almost half of households reported their incomes were unsteady from week-to-week and month-to-month. 78% are severely food insecure (meaning they had skipped meals and gone without eating – sometimes for days at a time – in the past 12 months), while over half could not afford heating or toiletries
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  • Price rises: 3 in 5 households had recently experienced rising or unexpected expenses, with 25% of these saying higher food expenses were to blame, confirming the impact of food inflation on squeezed budgets
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  • Housing: 28% of those who had experienced rising expenses said this was due to housing costs, such as rent or energy, going up. Tenants in private housing were more likely to find it difficult to keep up with rents than socially rented properties
  • Disability and mental health: Over 50% of households included a disabled person, consistent with the definition used in national surveys. 75% experienced ill health in their household. Mental health conditions affected people in 1/3 of households
  • Debt: 1 in 3 households were finding it difficult to make minimum monthly repayments on outstanding loans, and nearly 1 in 5 in debt owed money to payday lenders
  • The report found people were experiencing multiple forms of destitution. 50% had gone without heating for more than four days in the past 12 months, 50% couldn’t afford toiletries, and 1 in 5 had slept rough in the last 12 months. Over 78% of households were severely, and often chronically, food insecure.
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Almost all households had experienced a drop in income in the past three months, unsteady incomes, or an unexpected expense or rise in expenses in the past three months.

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  • Benefit delays: Nearly 2 in 5 people were awaiting a benefit payment, with most of these waiting up to 6 weeks, though a fifth were waiting 7 weeks or more. A third of delays were for Employment Support Allowance payments, with people assessed as capable of taking steps to move into work in the future particularly at risk of needing a foodbank
  • Income shocks: 2 in 3 people had been hit by a recent ‘income shock’, with most experiencing sharp rises in housing costs or food expenses
  • Low income: The average income of households in the month before being referred to a foodbank was reported at around £320, with 20% of households still needing to pay housing costs. This falls well below low income thresholds, before and after housing costs, and is a fraction of the national average. 16% had no income at all in the last month
 Enigma adds this:

Government welfare cuts blamed for 50% surge in mental health issues among unemployed

Exclusive: Benefit freezes and sanctions ‘are having a toxic impact on mental health’

Rates of severe anxiety and depression among unemployed people have soared by more than 50 per cent in the last four years as the impact of “harsh” austerity policies take their toll, The Independent can reveal.

The UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) said the Government’s reforms of welfare payments were to blame for the rise, as benefit cuts and sanctions “are having a toxic impact on mental health”.

New analysis of data from NHS surveys of GP patients shows that in March 2017, 15.2 per cent of unemployed people said they suffered from severe or extreme anxiety or depression.

This figure has increased steadily from 10.1 per cent in June 2013, and marks a sharper jump than rates of the conditions among the general population, which rose 20 per cent over the same period, from 3.4 per cent of people to 4.1 per cent.

“The devastating impact of the benefits cap for families with children, the freezing of benefits at a time of inflation, and the cutting of benefits for the disabled are putting claimants under terrible mental and financial strain,” said Janet Weisz, the UKCP’s chief executive.

“The constant threat of benefit sanctions only adds to the pressure.”

The austerity measure, widely recognised as a key driver behind forecasts of rising poverty to come, is expected to reduce support by £13bn by 2020, above the Government’s forecast of £9bn, according to research from the House of Commons Library.

People claiming benefits can have their payments cut or stopped entirely if they miss one job centre appointment. The minimum sanction period was increased from one week to four in October 2012.

About a quarter of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance received at least one sanction between 2010 and 2015, according to the National Audit Office, which warned last year that the Department for Work and Pensions is not doing enough to find out how sanctions affect people on benefits.

These reports, signaled originally from the Independent, just about clinch the argument us lot have made here.

End the Benefits Freeze and the Sanctions Regime! 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 17, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Universal Credit: Iain Duncan Smith’s Love Child.

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This is important to bear in mind:

If you make a new claim for Universal Credit you will not be paid for the first seven days. These days are known as waiting days. Don’t let this stop you making your claim and apply as soon as you are entitled to do so as it can take up to six weeks after you claim for your first payment to reach your account.

During those 6 weeks (increasingly the norm), people can take out loans.

The loans are taken from the first payment.

You could be left – a real case – with around £70 a month to live on…

The latest on Iain Duncan Smith’s Love Child:

House of Commons Debate on Universal Credit

 On Tuesday 27th June 2017 there was a debate in the House of Commons on Universal Credit, Damian Hinds Minister for Employment informed the audience that DWP recognised the concerns raised and are working to resolve them.

To date over a million people have made a Universal Credit Claim with £530,000 currently on the new benefit, more people are now on Universal Credit than on JSA.

Under the full service 99% of claims are made online DWP have conducted a survey on those on the scheme, apparently 82% of claimants have said they are satisfied with the new system.

Landlords were a key topic in the debate and it appears that DWP are aware of the issues faced with Housing, because of this they have introduced a Housing Confidence Scheme whereby work coaches now speak with claimants about Housing and look at their budgeting and any difficulties that they may face making it easier to facilitate direct payments to Landlords.

The UC 47 has been redesigned with improvements making it easier for the landlord to complete and apply for direct payments and receive payments faster.

Currently, DWP are working on ways to make it easier for Landlords to find out the status of APA’s and will announce the details in the near future.

You can watch the debate by following the below link:

http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/432847ea-d55c-426f-98c5-c81aed753d08?in=19:13:28

Alternatively you can follow the below link to read the transcript:

http://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-06-27/debates/2B95A18D-0F11-4B11-91C8-9A93C6FBC17E/UniversalCreditLowestoft

After watching the debate are you confident in the proposed changes and would you house someone on Universal Credit?

Today in the Mirror,

Families could be left penniless over Christmas as the online roll-out of Universal Credit causes a “Scrooge effect”, a former minister has claimed.

Labour MP Frank Field has written to Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke to express fears that expanding online applications for operation to 27 more local authority areas at that time of year could add to hardship already caused by delays in payments.

He wrote: “Such a revolutionary transition to the full service shortly before Christmas risks leaving large numbers of families without money, and facing misery, over the festive period.

“There is, of course, the six-week wait which new claimants must endure even if their claim for Universal Credit is processed on time.

“It is not inconceivable that a family with children making a new claim in mid-November could be left without money on Christmas Day, even if the system processes their claim as planned.

Given, though, that the current system struggles in some cases to cope with its existing caseload, the new system being rolled out just before Christmas could trigger all sorts of chaos.”

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 4, 2017 at 10:09 am

Universal Credit Faces New Criticisms as Northern Ireland to Suffer Roll-Out.

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Flagship Benefit Reform Limps from Crisis to Crisis.

This was reported a week ago: Universal credit rollout in North Kensington halted after tower fire.

The Guardian.

New benefit system will not be introduced in full in July so jobcentre staff can focus on claimants affected by Grenfell blaze.

Officials have halted the planned rollout of universal credit into North Kensington, west London, next month, saying they want jobcentre staff to focus on supporting claimants affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.

Universal credit, which pulls together six separate benefits into one monthly payment, has been dogged by criticism that design flaws and payment delays were causing low-income claimants to run up rent arrears and rely on food banks.

 

We have still to find out the details of how those affected by mass evacuations of Tower Blocks will be treated by Universal Credit.

The prospect is not looking good.

This appears now:

Universal Credit’s planed roll out in Northern Ireland:

Universal Credit (UC), which has caused social havoc in people’s lives in other parts of the UK, is on its way to Northern Ireland.

MPs recently launched an official inquiry into Universal Credit amid growing concerns that design flaws in the new benefits system are leaving thousands of low-income claimants facing eviction and reliant on food banks.

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee said it was compelled to launch a full investigation after mounting evidence that built-in payment delays and administrative blockages were creating severe problems for claimants and landlords.

It has been stated by a number of Conservative Party ministers that one of the key aims of universal credit is to simplify the benefits system but also to reduce the overall cost of the welfare benefits system.

We  are also repeatedly told that spending on “welfare” for disabled people is out of control, yet the Department for Work and Pensions has gone nearly £200m over budget, paying two private firms to run the personal independence payments (PIP) assessment system.

The Conservatives have now spent £700m in taxpayers’ money on these contracts alone, despite the fact the process is so flawed that one charity reported that four out of five rejections that they appealed against were overturned.

Journalist Frances Ryan in a recent newspaper article (http://bit.ly/2sQ8NZz) said: “The government’s flagship benefit reform, universal credit (UC): is five years behind schedule, with delays announced seven times and a price tag rising to a staggering £16bn. And yet, with all that public money, it’s still plagued by administrative chaos and design flaws – to the extent that it’s not only failing in its purpose of improving the benefits system but is actively creating more social and economic problems.

“The Trussell Trust found that universal credit’s much-criticised six-week waiting period has led to mass emergency food parcels. In areas where the full universal credit rollout has taken place, food bank referral rates are now more than double the national average. This is on top of the debt, rent arrears and evictions it is also causing.

There are many bodies in Northern Ireland who have voiced their concerns over the planned introduction of universal credit, including Advice NI (http://bit.ly/2t5VhDj) and PPR (http://bit.ly/2sFBslk), but it is obvious that a more co-ordinated approach of opposition is needed, including the involvement of the community and voluntary sector and the trade union movement, if this ‘welfare tsunami’ is to be halted.

Then there is this:

Landlords could see the number of their tenants claiming Universal Credit multiply by up to nine times when their area moves to full digital roll-out, according to a Chartered Institute of Housing expert..

This wider view of ‘welfare reform’, of which Universal Credit is a pillar, is worth looking at:

Four reasons why welfare reform is a delusion Richard Machin

Welfare reform is regressive

There is clear evidence that welfare reform has a disproportionately negative impact on some groups in society and some areas of the UK. The Sheffield Hallam research found that those particularly hit by welfare reform are working-age tenants in the social rented sector, families with dependent children (particularly lone-parent families and families with large numbers of children) and areas with a high percentage of minority ethnic households. Geographically, the impact of welfare reform is stark with the greatest financial losses being imposed on the most deprived local authorities. As a general rule, older industrial areas and some London Boroughs are hardest hit, with southern local authorities the least affected.

The mainstream media often fails to report the true impact of welfare reform that this research highlights. A more accurate account of the human costs can be found in ‘For whose benefit? The everyday realities of welfare reform’ in which Ruth Patrick documents her research on the impact of sustained benefit reductions. Dominant themes include the stigma felt by benefit claimants, the negative impacts of a punitive sanctions regime, and living with persistent poverty.

Welfare reform does not produce the behaviour changes sought by the government

Although welfare reform is a values-laden policy underpinned by a strong, but flawed, ideology (only those who fail ‘to do the right thing’ are affected) there is little evidence that the retrenchment of the welfare state has been accompanied by the change in claimant behaviour that politicians desire. The ‘bedroom tax’ was supposed to ‘provide an economic incentive’ to move to smaller accommodation. The evaluation indicates that more than 7 in 10 claimants affected had never considered moving, with an estimate that no more than 8% of those affected having downsized within the social sector.

The Benefit Cap places a limit on the total amount of certain working age benefits available to claimants. One of the government’s main intentions was for this to improve work incentives. There is no common consensus on the extent to which this aim has been achieved: the Institute for Fiscal Studies have suggested that the majority of those affected will not respond by moving into work, however, government ministers rarely waste an opportunity to tell us that low levels of unemployment are partly due to the benefit changes introduced.

The research of David Webster into sanctions argues that ‘Sanctions are not an evidence-based system designed to promote the employment, wellbeing and development of the labour force’ and that this regressive system results in lower productivity, pointless job applications, and poverty-related problems.

In the last days of the previous administration we saw the introduction of the  2-child limit for child tax credit and universal credit. Child Poverty Action Group emphasise the contradiction in a policy which supposedly provides parity between those in work and those out of work, when 70% of those claiming tax credits are already working.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 28, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Grenfell Tower Victims, Tower Block Evacuees, and Benefits.

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As More People Evacuated from Tower Blocks, what will happen to their Benefits? 

Reports on the way the Grenfell Tower victims have, and will be, affected by the benefits system are beginning to appear.

Last Thursday there was this, in the Guardian,

Grenfell residents feared benefit sanctions – they are too used to being ignored

If you’ve followed the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire on social media, one disturbing revelation has stood out: the fear that victims could have their benefits sanctioned because they were not able to get to the jobcentre to sign on.

Incredibly, representatives of local residents who approached local Jobcentre Plus officials and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff in North Kensington report being told that it could “not be guaranteed” that people caught up in the fire and its aftermath would not be penalised if they were unable to sign on.

Last night, when the Guardian approached them for comment, the DWP confirmed that normal jobcentre rules – including financial sanctions routinely issued to claimants who miss appointments – had been suspended indefinitely for former Grenfell Tower tenants and other local residents who claim unemployment benefits.

A local resident who said he was acting on behalf of the community claimed that the DWP only later moved to clarify the position because of pressure on social media. “Once it became clear that there was media attention focused on them, they have finally done the right thing,” he said. “Why should it take shame for them to act? Where is their humanity?”

As anyone who has been put through the Tories’ benefit system knows, “humanity” and the DWP are two things that do not tend to go together. Rather, it’s a department that in recent years has become synonymous with cruelty.

Followed by this,

Former residents of Grenfell Tower will not be exempt from the bedroom tax and the benefit cap, the government has confirmed – although ministers have ordered that any tenants affected are prioritised for special payments to offset any losses.

Guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says councils should ensure Grenfell tenants hit by welfare reforms should be given so-called discretionary housing payments (DHPs) to protect them from potential housing benefit shortfalls of hundreds of pounds a month.

The government has promised that all Grenfell residents will be rehoused permanently as close as possible to their former home. This week it secured 68 social rented apartments in a new block in Kensington to provide permanent accommodation for those made homeless by the fire.

The guidance is the latest example of ministers moving to soften normal benefit rules for Grenfell residents. Earlier this week it said jobless tenants would not be sanctioned for failing to look for a job, and that a planned roll-out of universal credit in North Kensington next month would be put on hold.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We have already relaxed benefit rules for anyone affected by the Grenfell Tower fire and our staff are handling people’s claims with sensitivity, understanding and flexibility.

“As part of this, our recent guidance to local authorities is that they should treat these residents as a priority for extra payments to help with their rent if they are rehoused in a larger property.”

But,

….experts said that providing DHP support was not always a permanent solution for tenants affected by welfare reform, especially if Grenfell tenants were allocated permanent homes that were too big and unaffordable under housing benefit rules.

Under the bedroom tax, residents in permanent social housing who are deemed to have more bedrooms than they require are docked housing benefit. In London, bedroom-taxed households typically have shortfalls of around £23 a week.

The benefit cap limits the total amount of benefits paid to out-of-work households to £442 a week in London. In Kensington and Chelsea,  latest figures show that in February 421 residents were capped. The majority suffered a benefit shortfall of £100 a week, though in some cases it was as much as £400 a week.

Discretionary housing payments, as the name implies, are normally given out at the discretion of the council and there is no guarantee that tenants – usually those at risk of homelessness as a result of rent arrears caused by welfare reform – will receive a DHP payment. The DWP guidance suggests councils should relax the usual rules for Grenfell tenants.

Each local authority sets its own criteria to assess DHP claims, with claimants normally having to produce extensive details of bank accounts, savings and loans to justify why they should qualify for financial help to stay in their home. Kensington and Chelsea’s standard five-page form asks claimants to justify why they “need to live at this address in this particular area” and “Are there any reasons preventing you from moving to other accommodation or another area?”.

Although the guidance states that there is no limit to the length of time a DHP award may be made, permanent awards are rare, and are often restricted to a few months.

This week a judge criticised DHPs in a ruling that declared it was unlawful for single parents with children under two to be subject to the benefit cap. Mr Justice Collins said that DHPs were a temporary solution that gave “no peace of mind” to capped tenants and provided an “unsatisfactory safeguard” against homelessness.

He added: “For those such as the claimants who are living on the edge of, if not within, poverty the [DHP] system is simply not working with any degree of fairness.”

Grenfell Tower victims could be hit by the Bedroom Tax in their new homes

The Mirror says: The DWP is scrambling to cover the cost of the hated levy for any victims who move into a bigger flat.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 26, 2017 at 10:33 am

Vote Labour, Vote Sandy Martin for Ipswich.

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This is not just a general appeal for vote Labour but a specific call to back Sandy Martin in Ipswich.

Sandy worked in the Ipswich Community Resource Centre, affiliated to the TUC Centres for the Unemployed, when it was in Old Foundry Road.

He has been a tireless campaigner for the rights of the unemployed, and for all those on benefits.

Sandy has joined the national days of action against Benefit Sanctions and participated in TUC events for welfare rights.

This is a picture of him in Ipswich, outside the JobCentre in Silent Street.

 

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Sandy Martin Joins Protest Against ATOS and Benefit Sanctions.

The Labour candidate for Ipswich has backed many other causes, from the campaign against Tory austerity, to the defence of the NHS, which have wide support.

 

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Demo for the NHS 2017.

This is after his candidacy was announced:

For many people their 60th birthday is time to look forward to new challenges – but for Sandy Martin the challenge is more daunting than most.

Because on the day he celebrated his landmark birthday he was formally chosen as his party’s candidate in the marginal Ipswich seat at the 2017 General Election.

He will be trying to overturn Conservative Ben Gummer’s 3,733 majority from 2015.

Mr Martin is leader of the Labour group on Suffolk County Council – and was also celebrating 20 years as a member of that authority on the same day. May 2 is clearly a significant date for him!

He has lived in Suffolk most of his life and moved to Ipswich from Halesworth in 1993 – and said he felt it was important that someone who really knew the town could represent it in Westminster.

He said: “Ipswich people want to be represented by someone who lives in Ipswich and is able to give all their attention to the issues that affect Ipswich. Partly because of my age I would not go to parliament with an ambition for ministerial office.”

Mr Martin is a regular campaigner with his Labour Party colleagues – and is seen as coming from the party’s mainstream tradition.

From his discussions on the doorsteps he said people in the town were most concerned about the everyday issues that directly affected them – especially health, education and housing.

He said: “The major concerns that people want to talk about have not changed much from last time.”

Mr Martin said the role of an MP was not just to support their party in Westminster – it was also to act as an ambassador for their constituency.

And he felt that Ipswich was in a very strong position: “When you look at the port and the Waterfront and the proximity of the town to London, we are in a very fortunate position.

“And compared with many other places Ipswich is still relatively affordable. It is a great place to live but it needs to be even better.”

He is unconvinced by the arguments for a new large bridge linking the east and west banks of the River Orwell – but backs proposals for new bridges to allow the development of the island site at the Waterfront.

And he feels the best way of easing traffic in the town centre would be to build the long-awaited northern by-pass.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 7, 2017 at 9:04 am