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Cameron's cruel cuts hammer the homeless of Oxfordshire
Reflecting the two sides of austerity the relatively rich Tory-led county of Oxfordshire has proposed to cut Housing Related Support by 38%. Over 300 campaigners turned out to lobby Tory county councillors last Tuesday to voice their anger and call for the proposals to be withdrawn. Despite the wealth of the county, over 350 people are currently receiving support to get housed. A further 550 receive support to prevent them becoming homeless. Oxford city is reported as being the second highest city outside London for the number of rough sleepers and this is rising.
Speakers at the lobby outlined how the problem is worsening. Campaigner for Oxford Homeless Services, Lucy Dewhurst, said: "Services have been cut by 20% over the last two years, the 'fat' has been trimmed, they are now cutting to the bone and beyond".
Connexions workers explained that homelessness has increased by 20% in the South East in the last year, with far fewer places in the rented sector and the impact of cuts to welfare benefits. These cuts save nothing, by pushing the problems onto other services, eg with homeless people using A&E services five times more than the average.
One service user and Socialist Party member, Emil Boughton, explained what it is like for people: "Without these services I would be homeless now. The government paints a picture of worthless scroungers but this is not how it is. I faced a crisis due to losing my job and the massive pressure it put on my life, my young son and my health. In a short time everything I had was destroyed. I nearly lost my home due to the Bedroom Tax. If it wasn't for the Rosehill Advice Centre and the support I received I don't know what I would have done. They helped me with an emergency grant and food. Sometimes I can't pay for my utilities and the gas is cut off. I'm really angry, what we need is jobs that pay a decent wage".
Many young students joined the rally who volunteer in some of the hostels in Oxford and were angry at the attack on vulnerable people. Others supporting the campaign included Green and Labour councillors. Despite their opposition to the cuts they provided no solutions other than increasing the Council Tax and putting the cost on heavily squeezed pockets of local workers and their families rather than taxing the super rich who caused this crisis.
If the cuts go through, one hostel in Oxford will be threatened with closure. An occupation should be prepared and built for if any hostels face closure. Pressure must be put on the Labour council in Oxford to maintain these services.
This can only done by the council refusing to implement the Con-Dem cuts, as £11.7 million has been cut from the budget, and demanding the government restores funding. If Labour refuses to take such a stand, Oxford TUSC candidates will take the issues of cuts and housing to the electors in May.
Oxford Socialist Party members
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 3 February 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.