19/11/2015 Questions to Full Council from Cllr Varinder Singh Bola

30 Nov

The below extract is taken from Redbridge Council’s approved minutes for 19th November 2015:

Councillor Singh Bola asked the Cabinet Member for Housing, Payments and Benefits, Councillor Hatfull, can the cabinet member for housing tell us what the impact of the horrendous change to tax credits is expected to have on homelessness in the Borough?

Councillor Hatfull replied that, he was previously in quite a good mood given that Valentines ward had just joined the rest of the borough with 30 minutes free parking, but now that he had just received Councillor Singh Bola’s question he had reminded of reasons that everyone was here. Councillor Hatfull wouldn’t call it changes to Tax Credits, he would call it what it was, cuts to tax credits. Cuts to the income of some of the hardest working families on low incomes. The Government tried to play the two card trick. It tried to suggest that it could take all of this money out of welfare without hitting those in work. Well guess what the reality is they have hit those that are in work and ht those in low paid work hard.

Councillor Hatfull went on to say that households applying for working or child tax credits and other were now subject to a new lower earnings threshold of £3,850, reduced from £6,420, a 50% cut. This would hit hundreds and thousands of families in low paid work across the borough, reducing their income leaving them with less to fund than their rent and other shortfalls. The Government was also putting up the threshold at which people on tax credits will lose their tax credits as their income goes up from 41% to 48%. Another cut. These changes were on top of all the other welfare reform changes that the government twas making, hitting our poorest working families. People who provide key services work providing homeware services, work as cleaners, work in sometimes very hard very very long hours would have massive cuts. The reality was, what would happen if this goes through, was that those families who were currently struggling to afford to pay their rents because the difference between housing benefit and rent wold have less income, they wouldn’t be able to afford it, they would become homeless and we will have more families in temporary accommodation at the Council’s cost.

By way of a supplementary question, Councillor Singh Bola asked, what does the Cabinet Member think about the speculation that the Chancellor of the Exchequer plans on raiding the universal credit to resolve the mess that he’s in?

Councillor Hatfull replied that, he had also heard these speculations and read them in the paper, the way the Chancellor will get out of this was to take money out of universal credit. That move is a slight of hand. It is giving money to one group of hardworking residents to take it away from another. The proposal suggested to increase the tariffs on universal credit to 70%, would act as a severe work dis-incentive. If Chancellor Osbourne does this, it would only discourage people from entering work.

Question from Councillor Singh Bola to the Leader of the Council, Councillor Athwal: “Will the Leader of the Council join me in recognising the hard work by Council and Vision staff in organising and delivering a series of public events to mark Black History Month.”

Answer from Cabinet Member
Redbridge Libraries have a strong tradition of supporting Black History Month and this year is no exception.  Vision’s Library and Culture Development Teams, in collaboration with local community organisations, organised a range of events, film screenings, author talks, history talks, workshops and activities for both adults and children throughout October which explored the heritage and history of Redbridge’s African, Caribbean and Diaspora communities.

The Month got off to a good start with a free music event in the Foyer of Redbridge Central Library featuring local groups Woodbine Steel Pan Band, Iroko Theatre Company and Rebecca Folkes, a young Gospel Singer, followed by an a spoken word extravaganza by critically acclaimed writer, poet and broadcaster Lemn Sissay who performed in front of a large audience.

The launch was  positively received by visitors to the library, with the following comments received on the night:

“As an African-Caribbean woman, I simply wanted to commend Redbridge libraries on a superb BHM Programme – varied, interesting, cross-cultural and cross-generational….BHM apart, I think Redbridge has to be in the top ten nationally for reaching out to and including a wide cross section of  its communities”

“Iroko as always were amazing –I love the drumming, My kids love to dance and join in”

“Well Done Redbridge what an amazing start to Black History Month –Thank you!”

Other key highlights included an arts exhibition by Ubuntu Arts, a film screening and illustrated talk by Eastside Community Heritage on the social history of Black Hair in East London and a poster and photography exhibition hosted at  Gants Hill and Central Libraries , curated and organised by Redbridge Equalities and Community Council.

There were also a range of talks and presentations throughout the remainder of the month on subjects such as Black-British Civil Rights Heroes, the crucial role Africa, Asia and the Caribbean played during the two world wars and the contribution that black people have made to science.

Through the Chatterbooks programme, children got the opportunity to read and discuss books with a Black History Month theme, as well as take part in a “Stories from Africa” drama workshop and Anansi Storytelling and Puppet Making.

Young People got the opportunity to celebrate at a spoken word event with performance poet Yomi ‘GREEdS’ Sodi. This event was hosted in partnership with the Redbridge Youth Council.

Local Community groups were invited to participate and programme events for BHM. Vision supported those that responded by offering free venue and marketing support.

The diverse programme offered something for all ages and tastes.

Over 650 people directly participated across the activities programmed, in addition to general visitors to the REEC exhibition held at Central and Gants Hill libraries.

Question from Councillor Singh Bola to the Cabinet Member for a Fairer Redbridge, Councillor F. Hussain: “Will the Cabinet Member join me in recognising the efforts of local volunteers from Singh Sabha London East Gurdwaras in Seven Kings for their recent campaign to serve free vegetarian food to the general public as part of ‘Langar Week’, and for preparing and delivering over 5,000 fresh roti wraps and other essential items to refugees camped in Calais”

Answer from Cabinet Member
I am very happy to join Councillor Singh Bola in applauding the volunteers from Singh Sabha London East Gurdwara in Seven Kings for serving free vegetarian food to the general public as part of ‘Langar Week’, and for preparing and delivering over 5,000 fresh roti wraps and other essential items to refugees camped in Calais

I am particularly pleased to do so because i a aware the tradition of Langar (or free kitchen) was designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people regardless of religion, colour, creed, age, gender or social status; to eliminate extreme poverty and to bring about caring communities. In addition to the ideals of equality the tradition of Langar expresses the principles of sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness.

It was very gratifying to see volunteers from Redbridge putting these principles in action by; firstly preparing food through the night; then delivering it to the refugees camped in Calais and then serving the food to the refugees as well as helping with other tasks.

I was particularly pleased to see that Muslim and Sikh volunteers worked side by side to provide help to those in need. Very well done volunteers from Singh Sabha East London Gurdwara.

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