This meeting was attended by over 30 people, a fantastic turnout on a cold, dark winters night. This alone is a huge statement of how communities up and down the UK are hurting under the most regressive and punitive Government we have perhaps ever seen.
Hull PAAA are a group of concerned residents from across the region who are seeking a way of standing up to defend their communities. We come from all backgrounds and walks of life. Some are members of political parties, serving Councillors and trade union activists. Some have never been involved in campaigning before. Our aim is to empower people and communities and to give them the voice and practical actions to take to defend themselves. This is a bottom up movement and brings together people in a broad coalition where there is a feeling that current politics is out of touch with the real lives of real people.
A representative of the local food bank described how, every Thursday the Community Centre is visited by families, often in despair to collect food parcels in order to ensure that the children are at least fed. This in the sixth richest economy on the planet. The food bank is run by six local volunteers. People using the banks often have quite harrowing stories to tell and really are bewildered by what is happening to them. In addition they have very little idea of what their rights are and at a loss as who to turn to.
It was stated by local residents that they sometimes felt judged by housing officers and this was part of the general demonisation of those in receipt of Social Security. TV programmes such as Benefits Street and the such like are creating the narrative the Tories and New Labour before them want of divide and rule with workers blaming each other instead of the real culprits and their accomplices in Westminster. In addition residents felt let down by Councillors who voted through Tory cuts whilst arguing with each other about how their wards are affected with no consideration of the bigger picture.
A resident stated that the Labour Party is the only vehicle through which to fight back. We should work for change within the Labour Party as the threat of a Tory only Government post 2015 is beyond contemplation. The Lib Dem threat is not to be underestimated in Hull City Council elections. Someone else posed the question, are there other ways apart from the Labour Party?
A number of local people described their devastation regarding the Bedroom Tax. This was difficult to hear. The emotional strain placed on one household following the death of a family member had led to severe financial difficulties with the additional stress of having to leave a property containing cherished family memories.
There was a discussion of the context of this crisis, and the idea that the question should not be what to cut, it should be about proper collecting of tax owed to the country, the fact that so many of the rich get away (legally) with owing land and assets that are exempt from tax. There is plenty of money in the UK but us being hoarded by the big companies (the Stock Exchange is set to break all records) and the richest in our society.
It was stated that we must focus on practical actions to enable the community to defend itself. There was a fear that the 2,000 households subject to summons due to being in council rent arrears could easily be turned into evictions. It was described that in Scotland communities had seen off bailiffs and forced councils to reassess their approach.
To visit the food bank which takes place every Thursday from 11am with the aim of building for a follow up meeting to this one.
To produce an information leaflet regarding the Bedroom Tax. For example people who have been in their properties pre 1995 may be exempt. People are unaware of how to go about discretionary grants (although the Government fund is/ has been axed).
To produce a large poster for the Centre to make residents aware that they are not alone and isolated. There are fellow local people in the same boat who can offer support.
To produce a template letter , contact details and surgery times for local councillors and the MP so that residents can make their feelings known.
There is a protest against ATOS, the Government’s arms length fit for work assessors. Wednesday 19th February 11am Stanley Street, Spring Bank, Hull, HU3 1JP.
Lobby Hull City Council’s Full Budget meeting. Thursday 27th February 9.30 onwards. Residents can sit in the Public Gallery and there will be protests outside. Hot drinks provided. More details to follow nearer the time.
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