Blog

We must resist the deadly cuts to specialist domestic violence services

This is a guest blog by Suzy Blackwell, a Sisters Uncut and UK Uncut activist.

Violence against women is now a global pandemic, yet the government is removing vital funding for domestic violence services. Sisters Uncut demand an end to these cuts, which are part of a programme of austerity that disproportionately affects women.

I was asked to write about why I’m taking action tomorrow for the Sisters Uncut Valentines Day Revolt, well let’s start with the facts:

In Britain, 46% of women killed by men were killed by a partner or ex-partner. 2 women a week die as a result of domestic violence. A report by the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that only 8 of 43 police forces responded to domestic violence well.  The report identified “poor attitudes, ineffective training and inadequate evidence gathering” by police in response to domestic violence.

This quote from Cosmopolitan magazine shows they have a much better handle on the situation than the government:

“Imagine if hospitals could only plan three months ahead. Or if police forces had no idea if they would still be funded six months from now. It’s unthinkable, isn’t it? And yet, this is how hundreds of domestic violence refuges are being forced to operate. Currently, local authorities decide how much they spend on provision for domestic violence, and how that money is spent. As a result, several parts of the country such as Gloucestershire and Devon have been left without a single specialist refuge. Instead, women and children – terrified, sometimes even fleeing for their lives – are ending up in B&Bs and hostels, with no specialist support or advice on what their next safe move should be.”

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To answer the question of why I’m taking action, I’d like to pose another question in return: why wouldn’t I take action to change this situation? Why would I stand by while women die? Why would I not be outraged that in 2015, in a supposedly advanced democracy where women’s rights are championed, campaigners have had to start a femicide register to record murdered women because it is such a common occurrence? How can this be happening?

The fact is this situation has been allowed because women – all women – are viewed as second-class citizens whose lives are expendable. This needs to change. Sisters Uncut demands that domestic violence services are protected from cuts, that there are specialist domestic violence services for LGBT women, BME women and so on; that there is guaranteed access to legal aid for women experiencing domestic violence; access to safe and secure social housing for women fleeing domestic violence; the end of panic rooms being classified as a spare room under the bedroom tax, and for the safety of victims not to be subject to immigration status.

We demand recognition that women’s lives matter. We refuse to stand by while the government ignores this epidemic of violence. And we will keep taking to the streets until something is done. That’s why I am taking action tomorrow. It’s why I want other women to join me, and men to give us their support and solidarity. It’s a matter of life and death.

The Sisters Uncut Valentines Day Revolt will take place tomorrow – Saturday 14 Feb. This event is women only. We call on all self-defining women, as well as those who experience oppression as women or define as women for the purpose of organising, to join us.

It’s important this is a safe space for women, especially survivors of domestic or sexual violence, so we invite male allies to show their solidarity online rather than attending. You can support us by changing your Facebook profile picture to our Sisters Uncut logo, and linking to our social media @sistersuncut.

Stand with us to commemorate the women who did not survive, and show your solidarity with those still living under the threat of violence.

Facebook Event: Sisters Uncut Valentines Day Revolt

Facebook: Sisters Uncut Facebook

Twitter: @sistersuncut

 


Direct action won the argument on tax dodging, now we need to change the rules

This is a guest blog by Mark Williams, a UK Uncut activist.

From its earliest days when the current government introduced its first brutal round of cuts, UK Uncut has been about showing that there is an alternative to the cuts, that the cuts are not necessary. The cuts are a political choice, exercised by a rich, male elite, that benefit the richest and most powerful in our society at the expense of the most marginalised.

Five years on, what we said then has turned out to be true. Today over 8 million people live on less than needed to cover a minimum household budget, while the richest 100 people in the country increased their wealth by over £40 billion in the last year. Austerity is transferring wealth from poor to rich.

The tax system is one of the ways that wealth is supposed to be transferred from the rich to the poor, redistributing the wealth that our economic system concentrates at the top. When companies dodge tax it undermines this redistribution, and leaves less money to fund the public services or welfare this government is now ideologically intent on cutting beyond all recognition.

High street occupations by UK Uncut made tax dodging the issue it is today. Our direct action forced this issue into the public debate. When we started our biggest debate was that since tax avoidance was legal, what’s the problem? Thanks to people across the country taking direct action we won that argument.

6At a time of brutal cuts it is not fair that the richest escape without paying their fair share. Politicians across the political spectrum are now tripping over themselves to condemn tax dodging as unfair, immoral, anything to try to answer the public outrage at the injustice of our tax system. But winning the argument didn’t make companies pay their tax. For all the politicians tough talk on tax, there was no real action, just talk.

Today, a group of NGOs including ActionAid, the NUS and War on Want are launching a campaign to see if politicians are just full of hot air or whether they will actually act to tackle tax dodging. The Tax Dodging Bill campaign is calling on all political parties to pledge to pass a law to tackle corporate tax dodging in the UK, and by UK companies in the global south (the global south loses more to corporate tax dodging every year then it receives in aid from rich countries).

The Tax Dodging Bill, if done properly, could take a massive swipe at the tax dodging by some of the biggest tax dodgers in the UK – Starbucks, Google, Amazon, would all get caught by it. It doesn’t claim to fix everything, but would be a massive step in the right direction, and would get billions of pounds more money for public services and welfare. All of us can demand politicians and our local candidates act, we can force them to see if they will live up to their hot air.

Tackling tax dodging won’t end austerity. We still have to fight against an election that’s being debated between cuts and cuts light, but the more we show these alternatives do exist, that cuts are a political choice to let off the richest while targeting the poorest, the harder it is for any party to justify austerity.

You can sign the petition to support the Tax Dodging Bill at taxdodgingbill.org.uk


Guest blog: ‘No More Deaths from Fuel Poverty’

This is a guest blog from Fuel Poverty Action.

 

This Friday 28th November pensioners will lead a march from Charing Cross to Energy UK- the Big Six energy company’s lobby body  under the banner ‘No More Deaths from Fuel Poverty: Energy Rights Now!’

Why? Because this is the day that the Office of National Statistics will also be releasing the numbers of ‘Excess Winter Deaths’ in winter 2013/2014- and it’s estimated that at least 30% of these deaths caused by the impacts of living in a cold home. Shockingly, in winter 2012/2013 there were more than 10,000 deaths in the UK from cold homes (with 31,100 Excess Winter Deaths recorded in total) whilst in the same year the Big Six energy companies- British Gas, E.On, EDF Energy, npower, Scottish Power and SSE- made £3.7billion in pure profit.

Fuel Poverty Action, the Greater London Pensioners’ Association and Reclaim the Power are inviting everyone angry about fuel poverty, deaths from cold homes, Big Six polluting and profiteering, lack of government action on badly needed home insulation , home break-ins by energy companies, benefit cuts and more to come and join the march and ‘powerful and creative’ action outside Energy UK.

FPAWe are also inviting you to attend the end of the protest where there will be n ‘Energy Rights teach-in’ – where we will learn, collectively, how to negotiate if you’re in debt to your energy supplier or steps that you can take if you can’t afford your bill. We will also read out Fuel Poverty Action’s ‘Energy Bill of Rights’ which recently had a rowdy launch in Parliament- a Bill of Rights that asserts our right to access affordable, sustainable and democratic energy as well as decent housing that doesn’t waste heat. We think that until we make real demands about our Energy Rights we will continue to be at the whim of the profiteering companies and couldn’t-care-less government.

Join us to express sadness, anger, solidarity and to point fingers at some of those responsible for outrageous cold home deaths. Take action with us this Friday 28th November.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1486809398267145/?ref=ts&fref=ts

-A Pensioner? Join the Pensioner Bloc meeting at 11am at Charing Cross Station

https://www.facebook.com/events/1486809398267145/?ref=ts&fref=ts#!/events/708554315906912/?fref=ts

-A student? Join the SOAS Student Bloc, meeting 10.45am https://www.facebook.com/events/1486809398267145/?ref=ts&fref=ts#!/events/732599153496936/

-Join the main protest gathering outside the Institute of Directors, Pall Mall at 11.30am

Can’t come?
Tweet support using the hashtags

#HeatNotGreed and #EnergyRightsNow


Guest blog: Invitation to join the People’s Solidarity Network

This is a guest blog from the People’s Solidarity Network, a new coalition trying to bring grass roots camapigns together.

We are the People’s Solidarity Network, and we’d like UK Uncut to join us.

 

FIRST OPEN PLANNING MEETING:
12noon-5.50pm, 6th December, East Oxford Community Centre, 4 Princes St, Oxford OX4 1DD

 

The People’s Solidarity Network is being established to unite groups on the left, who are campaigning or working to address issues which have been neglected or affected by government and corporate policies, including: climate change, energy, women’s rights, disabilities, housing, and many more. We want to create change by collective action and solidarity. Each new group that joins will be able to ask for support from the rest of the network’s members in any instance where they feel like their rights or principles are violated. This might be attending marches, tweeting about their events, or even taking more significant action, like striking. Each member group will also be asked to pledge reciprocal actions in solidarity, in whatever capacity they’re able to.

SolidarityWe will be holding an open meeting on Saturday 6 December in Oxford, which we’d like to invite YOU to. During this meeting we plan to decide on the main issues which we will focus on in the run-up to the general election on 7 May 2015. The meeting will also act as a day of planning for a series of actions around these issues over the next few months, and an opportunity for groups to share their own plans for, and collaborate on, different actions. We aim for these to culminate in a big day of action around the election, after which we hope to hold a People’s Summit in the summer of 2015, where we can collectively start a process of more significant change, by tapping into our collective power through reciprocal solidarity.

Our aim is to have as many groups as possible represented. We already have representation from groups such as Disabled People Against the Cuts, Boycott Workfare, the Blacklist Support Group, Reclaim the Power, and UK Uncut. We’d be really excited if you or other members of your group could attend our day of planning on the 6th December and have an input into what the People’s Solidarity Network will look like and do. Please let us know if you, or another representative of your group is able to attend, and we’ll send further details.

We want the event to be as accessible as possible; the venue is wheelchair accessible and we will be providing large print resources. If you would like to come but would struggle financially to do so, or if you have particular travel requirements, please let us know as we are looking into a funding pot. Also, do let us know if you would like accommodation on either the Friday or Saturday night.

We look forward to hearing from you, and working together in solidarity.

CONTACT: peoplessolidaritynetwork@gmail.com

 


Guest blog: Parliament to Debate Money Creation for First Time

This is a guest blog from Positive Money. Positive Money is a movement to democratise money and banking so that it works for society and not against it. They raise awareness and understanding of the fact that most of the UK’s money is created by banks as they issue loans.

The UK parliament debates Money Creation for the first time in 170 Years

Parliament places huge scrutiny on how taxpayers’ money is spent. But for the last 170 years, parliament has largely ignored the question of how money is created in the first place. This will change on Thursday 20th November when MPs will be given the opportunity to attend a debate on money creation and society.

Bh5rHGcCEAAuI46Money creation affects almost every aspect of our lives and is directly connected to almost all public policy, including public and private debt levels, house prices, and rising inequality, but it remains very poorly understood. A recent poll found that 7 out of 10 MPs believed that only the government can create money, when in fact 97% of money is created by banks when they make loans, as recently confirmed by the Bank of England.

This debate has cross-party support. It is being hosted Caroline Lucas (Green), Michael Meacher (Labour) and Steve Baker (Con). Positive Money have launched a campaign calling on MPs to attend the debate – Whatever their position, they need to be there. Lacking a basic understanding of where money comes from leaves our MPs ill-equipped to prevent another financial crisis, tackle the housing crisis or understand the drivers of growing inequality.

Please call on your MP to attend the debate. We have just over a week to make the most of this historic opportunity.

Email your MP. You can use our email template to ask them for their commitment to be there.

Phone your MP. This is the quickest way to let them know the debate has been announced and find out if they are planning to go. (Call the House of Commons switchboard on 020 7219 3000)

Tweet your MP. Include the hashtag #sovereignmoney in your message so we can follow your conversation.


Guest blog: Fees have failed, we demand free education!

This is a guest blog from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.

CALL OUT: Fees have failed, we demand free education!

On November 19, thousands of students will march on Parliament to demand an end to tuition fees and education cuts as well as the abolition of student debt. Sounds optimistic? No: Germany became the most recent in a long line of countries to abolish university fees and if they can do it, so can we.

Education is something that benefits all of society. It is only just that it be publicly funded at every level, by progressive taxation. This means taxing the rich and those who own vast amounts of property, as well as cracking down on the tax avoided by big businesses.

We don’t just want to scrap tuition fees though; we want a radically transformed education system; a liberated curriculum which is democratically controlled by workers and students and living grants and living wages for all, at all levels of education.

BRITAIN-EDUCATION-POLITICS-DEMOWe will not win this alone, and we will not win it just by passing policy in student unions; we will win with a movement which joins with others in society, and we will win by occupying, organising and agitating in our colleges, schools, communities and workplaces.

We ask you to join us to take part in non-violent direct action during the National Demonstration for Free Education on November 19.

The demo is only the beginning.

187790-london-student-protests

We need local waves of action which involve a far broader section of the community than a national demonstration. Get active on your campuses: occupy, blockade and resist on December 3.

Organise in your workplace and your college and bring the fight to your hometown; work with Unions and local groups to march on your city on December 6. We can win this, but we have to do it together.


Guest blog: National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts

This is a guest blog from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.

On November 19th, thousands of students will march through London in what is likely to be the biggest demonstration in several years. We could well be on the verge of a new wave of student activism.

But we all know from experience that A to B marches are never enough. In order to build a serious campaign for free education, the national demo has to be the beginning of a mass campaign in the streets and on campuses.

That is why the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts is calling two more days of action in early December to provide a focus for mobilisation.

NCAFC

Wednesday December 3rd

On Wednesday 3rd December (facebook event HERE), we are calling for a day of action and walkouts. This will involve:

  • Walking out of lectures and classes
  • Launching occupations
  • Protesting in your local area

Use the time between the national demo and the day of action to build for it on your campus. Put on meetings and rallies, hold campus demos, occupy, run stalls and spread the word. If you want help to build on your campus, we’re always here to help: email againstfeesandcuts@gmail.com

For the facebook event, click here. Post your activities into it and we’ll list them in the description.

 

Saturday December 6th

On Saturday 6th December (facebook event HERE), we are calling for marches for education in local areas. Wherever you are, take over your town centre: make noise, make a fuss and be visible.

Most importantly, this is the chance to get a wider layer of people involved in the campaign. Don’t just focus on students, get the community out with you. Contact local trade unions, trades councils and community groups. We want parents, teachers and workers to march with us for free education! Now is the time to start building this: put up a facebook event up now!

Post your activities into the facebook event, or email us, and we’ll list them in the description.

 

December 13th and 14th

We will be hosting a national conference on 13th and 14th December – a national meeting  for everyone involved in the free education movement to plan the next steps. This will be a democratic assembly: everyone will have a vote and we will decide on things collectively and elect a new national committee. We’ll also plan a strategy, and have lots of discussions and workshops about the student movement. Click here for the facebook event.


Guest blog: Open Letter from a Firefighter

This is a guest blog from a Firefighter. The letter was written before firefighters in England took part in 96 hours of industrial action last weekend. The original letter can be seen in full here. You can also see a follow up article following the strike action here

 

Dear Citizen of the United Kingdom,

It is with a heavy heart that I feel I have to write to you. I am a Firefighter and I feel it’s my duty to explain to you why I have chosen to take Industrial Action. This I’m afraid is the only option I have left. I have spent my working life serving you. I have seen and done things that nobody should ever have to, but I do it and live with the scars because I am Firefighter, it’s what I do. I am there when you need me the most, willing to lay my life on the line to help you and your family in your darkest hour. I am not a hero, in fact I resent that title. I am a human being just like you, only a human who has dedicated their life to train and train and train again for any situation. Who has fought through heat and smoke to be there when you need me the most. Who has studied for hours numerous cars to know the best way to cut you free. Who has swum in icy lakes to save you from drowning. This is to name but a few.  I don’t do it for thanks, I don’t do it for praise, I don’t do it for money,  I do it because I am a Firefighter. It’s what I do. The only thing I ask, which I never thought I’d have to, is to be treated fairly and with respect.

The current Government have decided that since the financial crisis, people like me will have to pay for it. People who are easy targets. This not only includes nurses, teachers, police, ambulance staff and other essential  services, but people who rely on benefits through no fault of their own to survive. We continue to be penalised while the real crooks get away with it. The Government have decided my future and I must accept whatever decision they seem fit.  No negotiation, no looking at any evidence provided, just dictating what I must concede to. This I can not do. It is not in my nature to lie down and accept what is unfair and unjust.  I am a Firefighter, the clue is in my title, I will fight for what I feel is right just as much as I would fight for you or your family’s life.

FBUThis weekend sees 96 hours of Industrial Action been taken all over England. In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, Industrial Action will be avoided as negotiations have taken place and the relevant authorities have seen sense in sitting round a table and compromising to find a solution.  I am bitterly disappointed that the current Conservative Government, particularly Eric Pickles along with the current Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt  and former Fire Minister Brandon Lewis, think so little of us that this has not been an option.

It has become apparent that members of the public think that I am asking for more pension and more pay. This is certainly not the case, even if the Government let you believe this. I am not asking for a single penny more.  Just what I signed up to and what I was told I was guaranteed. The Government have started to lay new pension regulations which will be unattainable for many Firefighters’. The Fire Brigade Union has plenty of evidence to back this up*. In my 50’s, I will be asked to take a fitness test which hasn’t been laid out in writing, so I have no idea what it will involve. If I fail the unknown test I will face the choice of dismissal or a heavily reduced pension.  A decision I feel is immoral for just getting older. The Government are also taking more pension contributions for longer and then paying out less.  This is unacceptable without any negotiation.The last time I checked we were in a Democracy, not a Dictatorship. My message to the Government is simple. Negotiate with us, don’t put us in a situation where we have no choice but to strike. It’s not fair on Firefighters or the Public. You have a responsibility to all of us. Take it seriously. This is not a game.

Please do not think that the decision to take Industrial Action has been taken lightly. It pains me that this has been our only option and even now the Government refuse to negotiate. I wish for no lives to be endangered, but this is only the beginning of our fight. More cuts are to come. You will have less and less Firefighters, less and less Fire Stations.The Government will try to tell you Fires are a thing of the past. This is not true. We still face overwhelmingly difficult fires on a daily basis across the UK. The Government however fail to tell you that flooding has significantly increased. They fail to tell you how the Fire and Rescue Service have had to face new threats with Terrorism as 7/7 showed. We face new challenges with more and more chemicals that are used in the modern world. The Government don’t tell you that much of what I do isn’t in my ‘role map’ but I do it voluntary so I can deal with anything thrown at me. We may be called Firefighters, but fires are only the start of it.

I implore you to speak to your MP and tell them your feelings. You can find them here http://findyourmp.parliament.uk. Go out and show your support on the picket lines. Speak to a Firefighter, they will be happy to answer any questions you have. We need you!  Help us to stand up for the future of not only ourselves, but the future of the Fire and Rescue Service in England.

Thank you for reading.

Yours sincerely

A Firefighter of England.

* http://www.fbu.org.uk/


Guest blog: Sisters Uncut

This a guest blog from Sisters Uncut a new network being set up to highlight cuts to domestic violence services. Find out more here.

sisters_504Calling all self-defining women who are furious about the impact of cuts to domestic violence services. A group of women from the direct action group UK Uncut are starting a ‘sister’ group – ‘Sisters Uncut.’ We plan to organise solely on the issue of cuts to domestic violence services in the run up to the general election. We need your help!

We are deeply concerned by the impact austerity is having on women. Doors are being closed on women fleeing violence. Refuges are being shut down, money for domestic violence services is shrinking, legal aid has been cut, social housing is scarce and private rents are extortionate. What’s more, local councils are selling out contracts to services who are running them on a shoe string – putting the safety of survivors at risk and deteriorating the working conditions for those who work with abused women. All the while, the number of women who are killed every week due to domestic violence is on the increase.

Austerity is adversely affecting women and is a reflection of gender inequalities within central and local government and the wider culture of misogyny in our society. We want to fight this and we want to do it together and we want to use direct action.

10387601_746606704857_8405796455147665116_nWhat do we want? Two things: 1. That local authorities provide adequate funding for domestic violence services and this is ring-fenced (meaning they have to spend it on these services). 2. Survivors of domestic violence are given priority when they apply for social housing.

How do we want to achieve this? A consistent campaign of direct action in the lead up to the election E.g. occupations, sit-ins, civil disobedience, road blocks etc. We want this to be relentless, we want women’s voices to be heard, for the powerful and privileged to realise that we’ve had enough of their entitlement and that we demand our rights.

Who do we want to target? Local authorities and the government. Local council budgets have been drastically cut because of decisions made by central government. But local authorities need to be held to account, they are choosing to ignore the needs of women, they are choosing to enable and maintain a culture that holds women responsible for the violence inflicted upon them, they are choosing to ignore women’s needs.

Who are ‘we’? We envision Sisters Uncut as an umbrella group to link up feminist groups and individuals. We want to have regular, open meetings for all self-defining women who wish to get involved. The meetings are for self-defining women so that they can be safe spaces for survivors. Our association with UK Uncut means we can use the UK Uncut platform to generate support, tie in our messaging with UK Uncut’s and draw on the group’s success at mobilising large numbers of people to take direct action against austerity.

Although we have an idea of what we want to achieve and how to make this happen, we would love to get input from a diversity of individuals and groups. We need as many women involved as possible for this to work: its time that we show the government what a real coalition looks like. Please join us for an open meeting where we can discuss all of the above in more detail and begin organising together!

Time: 
19.00-21.00

Date:
 6 November

Location: Cross Roads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX

A creche will be provided.


Guest blog: Occupy Democracy

This is a guest blog from Occupy Democracy. Find out more about the project, and see a full list of workshops here. Follow @occupydemocracy and #occupydemmocracy to stay up to speed.

Our time is now.

In Hong Kong, hundreds of people are fighting courageously for the right to a real vote. They know that a system where candidates are decided by the state is no democracy.

In Scotland, 45% of people rejected Westminster rule. They know that a system that takes the power to make local decisions out of their hands is no democracy.

We know that democracy is not just about having a vote every four, now five years. It is about having the power to make your voice heard. We know that a government that answers to profit before people is no democracy.

ODIn the UK today, record numbers of people are homeless, record numbers rely on food banks to feed their families, and record numbers face fuel poverty as energy prices rise eight times faster than wages.

At the same time, inequality is back on the rise, making us one of the most unequal countries in the developed world. The amount we ask businesses to contribute to our social services in tax is set to be the lowest of any of the G20 countries. Tax evasion and avoidance costs the UK £95bn a year, enough to fund the NHS in England.

Nobody voted to be made homeless, hungry or unemployed.  It is clear whose voices are being heard.

We need to start a movement for real democracy. The voices of the majority have been ignored for too long. We need to give ourselves the tools to hold our politicians to account, and to end the corporate lobbying power that drowns our voices out.

To do it, we need a movement that cannot be ignored. That is why we are occupying Parliament Square from the 17th – 26th of October, to begin a fight for a real democracy (see the original call to action). There, in the shadow of Nelson Mandela’s statue, we will transform the Square into a civic space where we can re-envision what our society could be like, with talks, workshops, community assemblies, music and theatre.

385590There is one thing that every successful social justice movement has had to overcome: the prevalence of the belief that the status quo is how it has to be. That there is no alternative. All of us can feel weakened and ground down by that belief, but all of us must have the courage to overcome it. To imagine a different future for ourselves. To show each other that there is an alternative. Because the current system relies entirely on our believing that there isn’t.

The austerity measures imposed on us for the sake of economic growth, our continued reliance on dirty coal and oil, our hospitals closing, our transit systems worsening while fares rise, our children attending under-funded schools with exhausted underpaid teachers – we only accept these things because we let ourselves believe there is no other way of doing things.

But please, join us for the Occupation. Try imagining there is another way. Do it with people you love, people you trust, with experts and activists and people to be inspired by. If you’re reading this, you’re invited. Your friends, family, colleagues are invited. Now is the time to produce our vision of a sane, workable, inspiring alternative, together. Come to learn, discuss and participate. Dare to believe that there is an alternative.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many—they are few!