Stop “bedroom tax 2” ministers urged, as 250,000 face financial hit under new housing benefit laws : Daily Record.

Tories plan to cap the amount of cash social housing tenants receive, meaning some claimants won’t be able to cover their rent.

Opposition to original bedroom tax was widespread

Opposition to original bedroom tax was widespread.

Scottish ministers have been urged to help almost 250,000 people who will be hit by housing benefit laws branded the bedroom tax 2.

Tories plan to cap the amount of cash social housing tenants receive, resulting in some claimants not having enough to cover their rent.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Association (SFHA) have estimated 241,000 people will be affected by the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cap when it is introduced in April 2018.

Ministers spent £35million a year making up the rents of families affected by the hated bedroom tax.

Campaigners have called on the Scottish Government to help those who will be hit.

Mary Taylor, chief executive of the SFHA, said: “Claimants and their advisors increasingly have to navigate a maze of regulations and entitlement conditions.

“The Scottish Government will have to implement their welfare powers in the midst of this uncertainty and our members across Scotland face trying to protect rental income while securing funding to invest in the affordable home the country so desperately needs.”

She added: “It remains to be seen how the effects of the LHA cap can be offset. There could be the possibility the Scottish Government may be able to vary the LHA rate through the new welfare powers that have been devolved to Holyrood.

“However, this will depend on budget and political priorities.”

Under the LHA reform, a single person or couple living in a two-bedroom flat will have their housing benefit capped at the one-bedroom rate.

Campaigners have warned the cut will hit the vulnerable hardest.

Dave Moxham, deputy general secretary of the STUC, said: “Given the shocking figure of a quarter of a million people potentially affected by bedroom tax 2, we’ll be again returning to the Scottish Government to seek assistance in helping the greatest in need.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We’re committed to support vulnerable people in supported accommodation affected by local housing allowance.

“The UK Government have yet again made changes to benefit support without consultation, which will impact on those in the social housing sector.

“However, the Scottish Government are not in a position to mitigate or reverse all UK Government welfare cuts, which will total £2billion by 2020.

“We are already spending £100million a year on mitigating the worst impacts of UK Government benefit cuts.”

Link : Daily Record.

Brexit arrogance exposes ineptitude of Tory elite : Guardian.

The party of privilege is bungling the EU deal and Scotland’s wishes are being sidelined.

Philip Hammond visit to Scotland


Donald Trump may be assembling the world’s richest government but he remains a few Boris Johnsons short of possessing the most arrogant and privileged one. Such a title surely belongs to the Tory government currently headed by Theresa May but which was begat by David Cameron. The real difference between Trump’s cabinet and May’s is that many of his high office holders have at least earned their fortunes. The UK Tory party, on the other hand, is the natural home of unearned wealth and privilege.

It has always been a curious anomaly of the UK Tories that they preach the virtues of honest and hard graft but in practice will always promote the interests of those at the top of society who rarely work and who will do anything to avoid contributing to the upkeep of the country that allows them to wallow in this lifestyle.

Another Tory anomaly is that while extolling the virtues of the free market and unfettered competition in all other areas, where their writ runs they encourage unfair advantage. They would rather award an important job to a buffoon who was considered the “right sort” than hand it to a competent person who, alas, attended the wrong school.

Underpinning everything that they do at home and abroad is the need to ensure that power is exercised by as small and exclusive a group as possible. The lord alone knows how many military disasters (including many that have been concealed from us) have been the result of an inbred officer class that included many who were given the safe haven of a regiment to stop them creating chaos at home. How many billions of pounds in government cock-ups could have been saved if the higher echelons of the civil service were confined only to the UK’s brightest and best rather than a private members club for the scions of a small group of families who have been running the show since Agincourt?

How many miscarriages of justice have occurred because we allow justice to be dispensed by a gratuitously and grotesquely unrepresentative temple of law lords? I did have a laugh last month at the faux outrage of people who were shocked that our top judges were being openly and savagely criticised over their Brexit verdict last month.

Those gilded few who have ownership of the highest courts in the land are selected from a tiny tributary of society who attended the most exclusive and expensive schools before taking a place at Oxford or Cambridge that had been waiting for them since before they were born. Many of them would have struggled had they not had the benefit of a lopsided playing field. Why should we assume that all their verdicts are safe and that they dispense justice equitably when they are drawn from such a small pool?

The arrogance of the Tories in government rests upon this pattern of privilege and entitlement that has remained more or less intact since Magna Carta. All around this power structure is the thrum of thousands of common people who subjugate their personal dignity and sense of self in the delusion that, one day, they may be beckoned in. They are to be found in some national newspapers and in the high command of the BBC. Many of them have insinuated themselves into the parliamentary Labour party. They are disdained by genuine aristocrats but nevertheless retained and indulged as useful idiots.

Read More : The Guardian.

Why we voted to get rid of Zac Goldsmith : Guardian.

Readers who elected Lib Dems’ Sarah Olney in the Richmond Park byelection cite Brexit and Zac Goldsmith’s controversial mayoral campaign as motivation.

Goldsmith (left) reacts to his defeat in the Richmond Park byelection.
Goldsmith (left) reacts to his defeat in the Richmond Park byelection. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images


Zac Goldsmith may have wanted the Richmond Park byelection to be a referendum on Heathrow expansion, but local voters had other ideas. The Lib Dems’ Sarah Olney won after a marathon local campaigning effort focusing on Brexit, with the party’s remaining big guns spending significant time in the borough.

When we asked local readers to tell us why they backed the Lib Dem candidate, we heard from tactical voters alongside longstanding party supporters.

Brexit came up more than any other issue, followed by anger and revulsion at Zac Goldsmith’s divisive campaign to succeed Boris Johnson as mayor of London.

Here is a selection of our readers’ views.

‘When will progressives start boxing as clever as our enemies?

Labour couldn’t win in Richmond Park. Only Sarah Olney had a chance to overturn Zac Goldsmith’s majority. Labour’s blinkered decision to field a candidate in the face of these political realities – unlike the Greens, to their lasting credit – speaks volumes about the party leadership’s inability to recognise the enormity of the crisis Britain faces today – the gravest since the Second World War. Our foes, by contrast, are under no illusions about the stakes hence the Tories and UKIP allowing Goldsmith a free run. When will progressives start boxing as clever as our enemies?

Barry Langford, Richmond

Byelection was not a political calculation, says Zac Goldsmith

‘The fact Ukip supported him said it all’

I used to respect Zac as a good constituency MP, despite never voting for him. However, after his racially divisive mayoral campaign and his support for Brexit I feel he cannot represent me. The fact that Ukip supported him said it all.
I’m a Labour party member but feel the Labour candidate had no chance here. Labour’s response to Brexit has been disappointing. I’m looking for a strongly pro-EU party to support, and the Lib Dems seem like the best option.

Tim Young, 40, Richmond

‘It’s never been more important for liberal voices to be heard’

I joined the Lib Dems in 2015 because of their unapologetic pro-EU stance. It may be a flawed institution, but to me the European Union represents everything that is good about co-operation for mutual benefit and has acted as a bulwark for decades against the politics of nationalism and division. I believe that it has never been more important in my lifetime for liberal and internationalist voices to be heard, and winning this by-election sends a powerful message to the Government to temper its hard Brexit plans.

Ewan Maddock, 29, Richmond

‘Goldsmith showed his true colours’

Goldsmith’s disgraceful mayoral campaign, support for Brexit, choice of cronies (Johnson, Rees-Mogg et al) and recent voting record on issues such as disability benefit cuts (which saw him dropped as patron of a local charity), showed his true colours, and they’re hideous. This year he’s proved himself to be so self-serving, posturing and petulant that I now think he only cares about about Heathrow because the flight path goes over his house.

I cast my vote as a protest against everything Goldsmith has revealed himself to represent.

Susan Ward, 33, Richmond

Bob Geldof campaigning in Richmond with Lib Dem candidate Sarah Olney.
Bob Geldof campaigning in Richmond with Lib Dem candidate Sarah Olney. Photograph: Sam Lister/PA

‘I don’t understand why Labour didn’t go in with the Lib Dems’

I’m a Labour member and can’t understand why they didn’t go in with the Lib Dems against Zac Goldsmith. Labour doesn’t have a chance in this area sadly. Zac has been a great MP. I respect that he stuck to his promise of resigning because of Heathrow but to make that issue the thing he campaigns on just after Brexit …

I also cannot forgive him for the way he managed his London mayor campaign, aggressive and a real ‘nasty party’ tone. I emailed him a few times asking him to support a debate in parliament about rent control and he refused, despite this being a massive issue in his constituency and London as a whole.

Rebecca Patterson, 29, Richmond

‘Brexit is national suicide’

I am a Labour Party member and have supported the party since I leafleted with my father for the 1945 election. This time I’m voting Lib Dem because I voted to Remain. I’ve been on pro-EU marches and am very against Brexit, which to me is tantamount to national suicide. Not all older people are Brexiters who want to return to a mythical 1950s.

Lynne Hall, 79, Richmond

‘Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign was squalid’

I voted Lib Dem – very reluctantly. A party canvasser told me that “honesty is overrated” when I challenged him about his party’s support for ‘austerity’, student fees and the bedroom tax.
But Zac is far worse. He has the temerity to claim about being a local but refused as a non-dom to contribute of his fair share to public services – especially invidious when he campaigns outside local schools such as the one my son goes to. His mayoral campaign was squalid.

Sanjiv Sachdev, Richmond

Tim Farron Congratulates Sarah Olney on her byelectio win.
Tim Farron Congratulates Sarah Olney on her byelectio win. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

‘I voted for Goldsmith at the last election but not this time’

I voted for Zack Goldsmith at the last election but not this time, principally because of his support for the Leave campaign. He claims to be a constituency MP who listens to his constituents – the reason we are having this byelection in the first place. However, whilst 72% of his constituents voted Remain (a far more significant issue for the country at large), he persisted in advocating the Leave campaign.

John Gaylor, 46, Richmond

‘His stance on Brexit is completely at odds with the borough’

Other than the Heathrow expansion, there’s nothing Zac Goldsmith represents that I don’t disagree with. His mayoral campaign was a disgrace, he voted for the disabled benefit cuts while a patron of a disabled charity, and his stance on Brexit is completely at odds with both myself, and also the borough as a whole. As someone from an absurdly privileged background, who’s never had a job that wasn’t created for him, I don’t feel he’s qualified to represent ordinary people

I understand the criticism of the Lib Dems for their capitulation in the Cameron government, but what’s important is we saw off Goldsmith.

Jason Regan, Richmond

‘Labour fielding a candidate showed a lack of strategic understanding’

I have voted Labour since 1971; except for prior tactical voting (against Tories), and am a member of the Labour Party. However, I am intending to cancel and join the Lib Dems , because I loathe what Corbyn and McDonnell have done to the Labour Party.

The fact that they fielded a candidate in this byelection shows they have no strategic understanding, no big vision and no belief or plan for how to counter the Tories.

Wendy Knight, 63, Richmond

Some names have been changed

Link : The Guardian.

Growing crisis on UK streets as rough sleeper numbers soar : Guardian.

Charities raise concerns for homeless people over recent deaths and falling temperatures.

Jason Nash looks for buildings where he can sleep at night.

Jason Nash looks for buildings where he can sleep at night. Photograph: Andy Hall for the Observer.

Jason Nash wears all three of his jackets and both his pairs of jeans at the same time. His sleeping bag doesn’t look like it has the greatest filling but he tries to get inside the stairwell of a block of flats to sleep when he can so at least he doesn’t get wet if it rains overnight.

Now 26, Nash has had only sporadic periods of living under a roof since he left care. He has a heroin and crack problem which costs him around £60 a day. “When I’m off my nut I can sleep. I don’t think you can live on the streets sober. It’s cold,” he says.

Nash is one of the rapidly growing number of people sleeping rough on Britain’s streets. With some of the harshest weather of the winter still to come, charities and local authorities say this rapid rise is extremely concerning.

Three homeless people have died in the last 10 days – two men died in a fire at a derelict building in Manchester and last Tuesday a 30-year-old man died in his sleeping bag in a Birmingham car park. There have been “tent city” protests in Leeds, Manchester and Hull over the past few weeks, with homeless people demonstrating against what they see as local authority inaction on the issue.

The annual count, carried out by 44 English authorities and estimated by the other 282, finished last week. Sources at three cities told the Observer their figures, which are yet to be officially released, were double last year’s number.

Charities say the counts only pick up the most visible – those sleeping in shop doorways, for example – and miss the majority hidden in derelict buildings or other makeshift shelters. Official government figures for the 2015 count were 3,569 people rough sleeping in England on a single night, up 102% from 2010. In Scotland the closest statistic is that 1,787 people slept rough the night before submitting a homelessness application in 2014. But those figures contrast with those from charity outreach workers who reported seeing 8,000 people on the streets in London alone last year.

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of homelessness charity St Mungo’s, says the true figure is 10 times that. “Rough sleeping is increasing year-on-year – and so are the needs of those people, the complex issues, the range of problems,” he says. “The degree of need, is much, much higher than it was even three years ago.”

The housing crisis, the reduction of benefits – especially to younger people – and austerity cuts hitting local councils, charities and mental health services are creating the “perfect storm” in human misery, says Sinclair.

“With all of this the numbers can only worsen, the housing crisis is not just about house prices and the shortage of social housing, but problems with private landlords. That’s the area we’re really seeing a rise in, people ending up on the streets after tenancy breakdowns.

“What you see is that strata of people who really have nothing – no money, no front door key, no friend or family. That number is growing. And you can’t just pin it all on local authorities, the health service is failing people too – 90% of rough sleepers are discharged from hospitals back on to the streets.”

The number of rough sleepers has more than doubled since 2010.

The number of rough sleepers has more than doubled since 2010.
Photograph: Fabio De Paola for the Observer

Darren is in his late 30s. In April he was living in Camden, north London. He lost his job in healthcare, could not meet his rent, was evicted and ended up sleeping on the streets. All within a period of four weeks. “It was really scary. I had a normal life, I always had a job, then I wasn’t able to eat,” he says. “I went to the council when I still had a roof over my head and they took all my details and told me they’d write to me, but before they did I had no address any more, I was homeless. I went to their offices but you’re not a high priority and I didn’t know where else to go for help. When you’re homeless you can’t have a search on the internet to look for help, you can’t look for a job.”

He slept rough for two months before being picked up by an outreach team from St Mungo’s and given temporary accommodation. “I’m one of the lucky ones, you hear the stories of violence and abuse, its so dangerous out there.”

Read More : The Guardian.

Warning over epilepsy drug dubbed ‘new thalidomide’: Thousands of British mothers-to-be are taking the medication : Daily Mail.

  • Thousands of British mothers-to-be are taking an sodium valproate 
  • One in five women taking the drug are unaware of the damage it can cause 
  • Every woman of given the medication should be warned of the risks

Thousands of British mothers-to-be are taking an epilepsy drug dubbed ‘the new thalidomide’ because of its link to birth defects, despite decades of health warnings, say campaigners.

Last year the Department of Health and prescribing watchdog the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued new guidance that every woman of child-bearing age given the seizure-controlling medication, sodium valproate, should be warned of the risks.

Yet according to new research, one in five of those on the drug were unaware of the damage it can cause to an unborn foetus.

Up to 40 per cent of children exposed to sodium valproate in the womb had developmental problems, including delayed walking, speech, memory and language skills.

Up to 40 per cent of children exposed to sodium valproate in the womb had developmental problems

Up to 40 per cent of children exposed to sodium valproate in the womb had developmental problems

In 2013, researchers found that of the 48,000 children born to mothers in the UK who have taken the drug since it was introduced in 1973, 19,200 have developed physical or mental problems.

This is a far greater number than those affected in the thalidomide scandal of the 1960s – when about 2,000 babies were born with missing or shortened limbs after their mothers took the drug thalidomide to control morning sickness.

UK charities Young Epilepsy, Epilepsy Action and the Epilepsy Society interviewed 3,000 women with the incurable brain condition for the new research, which found that half of all those questioned – whether or not they were on the drug – were unaware of the potential problems.

The drug, also known by brand names Epilim, Convulex, Episenta and Epival, controls electrical functions in the brain to halt seizures, and has also been linked to defects including spina bifida and facial abnormalities.

In addition, it increases the risk of childhood autism.

Latest figures, based on NHS prescriptions dispensed, show that more than 21,000 women are currently on the drug, with an estimated 177 babies a year born with sodium valproate syndrome.

Lisa Horton, 36, has been on Epilim since she was a teenager. She was on a low dose when she had eldest son Josh, 17, and he was born unaffected by his mother’s medication.

But by the time her second child, Kieran, now five, was born, she was on a high dose of the drug to control her seizures.

The nursery nurse from Coxhoe, County Durham, said: ‘He was born with a cleft palate and hypertonia, which caused him to be floppy as a baby.

‘Although physiotherapy has helped, he has walking and balance problems, has difficulty swallowing and digesting food, and has difficulty with speech and language and needs visual aids at school, where he is at least a year behind classmates.

‘He also has a narrowed and thin windpipe, which made it hard for him to breathe, especially when he was asleep, and he has had to have his tonsils and adenoids removed to help with that.’

Lisa is adamant that no doctor informed her about the risks of sodium valproate in pregnancy.

She added: ‘The first time I realised Kieran must have been affected was when I saw a Panorama documentary on my drug in 2013.’

Emma Murphy, a 32-year-old Manchester-based mother with epilepsy, and a founder of the Independent Fetal Anti-Convulsant Trust (In-FACT), said: ‘This is the new thalidomide – in fact it is bigger. It’s not just epileptic mothers whose babies are harmed. Sodium valproate is also given to women with bipolar disorder and severe migraine.

‘Women must be told by doctors before they start a family that there is a danger in using this drug when they are expecting.’

Ms Murphy and her In-FACT co-founder Janet Williams believe that despite changes in the guidance, it is taking too long for information to reach women.

NHS bosses blame patients for being ‘fat and old’ as they plead for more cash : Daily Mirror.

Heads of NHS trusts in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough blame patients for damanding more from their services without taking responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

Obese woman

Health bosses say many patients are demanding too much while living unhealthy lifestyles (Photo: Getty)

Health chiefs in one of the country’s worst-performing NHS regions have complained patients are getting older and fatter as they plead for help filling a £547million funding gap.

It comes just weeks after MPs slammed bosses at the trust for a “catalogue of failures” after they bungled an £800million elderly care deal.

The report from the heads of NHS trusts in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough reveals a stark assessment of their own poor performance as they admit to “struggling with the delivery of plans”.

It warns that by 2021 between £504million and £547million could be missing from care coffers in the area, which bosses brand “the most challenged health system in England”.

Officials have vowed to slash spending to bridge this gap.

The report, compiled by the heads of major local NHS trusts as part of nationwide NHS restructuring, calls on the central NHS Sustainability and Transformation Fund to deliver up extra cash to help the struggling organisations.

Just weeks ago the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group and the UnitingCare Partnership were forced to abandon an elderly care contract last December – eight months into its five-year lifespan – Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said in a damning report.

MPs said patient care would suffer as a result, adding: “The procurement exercise was undermined from the start by poor commercial expertise, a lack of realistic pricing, and weak oversight.”

At least £16million was sapped from Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust and the CCG’s budgets as a result.

Elderly woman

Increase in older and obese patients putting strain on services, according to report (Photo: Getty)

Meg Hillier MP , Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “It beggars belief that a contract of such vital importance to patients should be handled with such incompetence.”

But the same bosses blame patients for demanding more from their local NHS services whilst getting fatter and older.

Read More : Daily Mirror.

NHS forks out £10million on trial of lifestyle pill to prevent HIV… but £8million scheme screening for bacteria that kills babies costs too much, says experts : Daily Mail.

  • NHS to spend £10million testing a controversial drug which blocks HIV 
  • But £8million screening scheme for bacteria that kills babies is snubbed 
  • Decision means other treatments wanting money will not get any in 2017

The cash-strapped NHS is to spend £10 million testing a controversial drug which blocks HIV infection – despite fears that it could fuel high-risk sexual behaviour.

Aids charities last night said they were ‘absolutely delighted’ at the decision, which would make a ‘life-changing difference’ to those who took the pills.

But critics warned of the danger that those taking the drug may be encouraged to have sex without condoms, and questioned the outlay at a time when the NHS faces difficult financial choices.

The decision to launch the trial involving at least 10,000 subjects – mostly gay men – comes three weeks after judges ordered NHS England to consider funding the pills.

The cash-strapped NHS is to spend £10 million testing a controversial drug which blocks HIV infection. Pictured HIV in blood stream

The cash-strapped NHS is to spend £10 million testing a controversial drug which blocks HIV infection. Pictured HIV in blood stream

The study is set to take place over three years. Should it be judged successful, the prescription of the drug will be widened at an annual cost of up to £5,000 a person – adding up to a vast total bill just as the NHS is feared to be nearing a £20 billion deficit by 2020. There are thought to be about 400,000 gay and bisexual men in the UK.

The decision means a number of treatments considered for funding next year will now fall by the wayside. They include a second stem cell transplant for leukaemia patients who fail to benefit from a first transplant. The procedure costs £50,000 to £120,000 but can be a lifesaver.

Tory MP David Davies said it is ridiculous

Tory MP David Davies said it is ridiculous

The blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan trust said: ‘We are deeply disappointed that NHS England has confirmed that it will not routinely fund second stem cell transplants. It will deny the chance of a cure to patients whose blood cancer or disorder has tragically returned.’

Tory MP David Davies said: ‘This is just ridiculous. There are lots of people suffering from cancer and other diseases who can’t get prompt treatment because of the cost. We really need to think about what the NHS is for. It’s a national health service, not a national have-it-away service.’

The drug is known as ‘PrEP’, short for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It is believed to cut the risk of contracting HIV – the virus which causes AIDS – by close to 100 per cent if taken every day. But it will not prevent the transmission of other sexual diseases. Dr Peter Saunders, chief executive of Christian Medical Fellowship, said: ‘Someone using this drug might be less careful and that could lead to an increase in other sexually transmitted infections.’

Those who only take it twice a week run a one-in-four chance of contracting the virus. Trial participants will take the pills unsupervised after being handed them at sexual health clinics. Only those ‘most at risk’ will be eligible.