Cheshire West Against the Cuts delivers 6 questions to M.P. in week of action against Atos Origin.

Cheshire West Against the Cuts in a highly visible protest on the gateway roundabout to Chester. Picture Frances Laing.

In the interests of joined up thinking on policy and politics – I’m continuing to post on the cuts protests. Yesterday saw Cheshire West Against the Cuts demonstrate outside Stephen Mosley M.P’s office as part of a week of action against Atos Origin. The group was formed in response to the coalition government’s programme of cuts.

Cheshire West Against the Cuts member Sam Oxford said:

“These cuts are unnecessary and ideologically motivated, we have seen the top 1000 richest people become 18% richer in the last year. Whilst cuts are being delivered to the poorest and most vulnerable in society. This government has given Atos Origin a £300m contract to reassess those who claim disability benefits, and has targets for Atos to meet.

Anyone who knows a disability benefit clamaint knows how hard it is to meet the criteria initially, and this just contitutes a vicious attack on the most vulnerable. Many have quoted the phrase ‘death by a thousand cuts’ as there are too many cuts happening to mention them all, but our set of 6 questions highlights the main issues we’re fighting for and demonstrating against. Cheshire West Against the Cuts group is growing by the day and we urge more people to get involved, we’ve set up a facebook group an anyone is welcome to join”.

The 6 questions given to Stephen Mosley are:

1. If the tax gap is estimated to be 123bn a year why are you cutting 81bn over 4 years instead of collecting it? If you collected all taxes due there would be no need for any cuts.

2. With 5 million on the council house waiting list and 2.5m unemployed, why doesn’t the government build affordable, environmentally friendly housing which would create jobs and relieve the waiting list?

3. Mervyn King said the roots of the global crisis were rooted in the financial sector. How do you justify passing the cost of it on to working people when the Sunday Times Rich List has increased its wealth by 18% in one year of your government?

4. Under your proposals not one hospital will remain in the hands of the NHS. How can it not be privatisation by stealth if you make the NHS unable to perform its function without relying on the private sector?

5. How can you justify spending money on bombing Libya while cutting public services? This is clearly an ideological choice to cut and not support the public services.

6. Do you agree that children’s special educational needs do not disappear because the definition of who qualifies changes? Your proposals cut out those whose needs relate to emotional, cognitive and social factors. Are they to sink or swim?

Len Morris Chair of Blacon Disability Group in Chester told me:

 “By cutting benefits in the long  term people with disabilities are going to suffer more. They will not be able to pay bills. People who have properties are not going to be able to repair them as it is expensive”.

The Chester protest links up with hundreds of others across the U.K. this week. Chester has traditionally been dubbed a ‘royalist’ city – but with the facade of conservatism comes a proud heritage of dissent. Local protestors are keeping up a very well informed  ongoing dialogue with their elected representative and the protests are not going away.

In my view the two industries on which the city’s economy is currently based: tourism and finance – do not necessarily benefit local residents and council tax payers as much of this money appears to flow directly into the pockets of large retail chains and multi-nationals. 

There is a steady flow of ‘spin’ which attempts to convince local council tax payers that services are not deteriorating. The realities are very different – not least because the proposals for welfare reform – are hitting people on a local level too. Midwives groups too have come out this week protesting against the cuts.

There is so much more to say about this – but I’ll leave you with two links. The first the Guardian verdict on the march:

Hardest Hit March, London.

And second the BBC News coverage of the hardest hit march.

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