Monday, 25 November 2013

Poverty Street -Stories behind the Bins with no Shame...

Rhyl. The town on the N Wales Coast by me that gets the worse press. The screaming headlines Mail-esque of "Benefit Town" "Ghetto Town" "Benefits -by-the-sea" and all that nonsense. Stats are trotted smoothly and disgustingly off the tongue while Tories shake their heads at the town with the highest percentage of people on JSA, the highest percentages of sick and disabled people, and the home of the most deprived council ward in Wales and probably pretty high up on the UK table too.

But while the headlines blast out these stats and headlines, they see little and know nothing of the people behind them. I spent time on a random street in Rhyl and will tell you the real stories.

The first thing that strikes me is the once proud huge 6/7/8 bedroom former B + B's which dominate the street. When Rhyl and the British seaside holiday were in fashion in the 1960's you can imagine the hanging baskets, pure white net curtains and scrubbed doorsteps as owners welcomed in the holidaymakers. Fast forward to 2013 and on both sides all I can see are houses of multiple occupancy. The houses are divided into 3 or even 4 flats and open out directly onto the street with just the tiniest of space between front door and pavement. In these spaces are squeezed the various recycling and waste bins but I notice they are allocated per house not per family and so you could have 4 families all having to use the 1 bin for each option -recycling/plastic waste/Greenwaste/FoodWaste. As I walked along every single bin had been uncollected with huge notices and tags left by the bin men saying each bin was contaminated with different kinds of waste and needed to be sorted out before collection could be made.

Marie lives in a first floor flat with her partner Josh and toddler daughter. I ring the bell and she invites me up. The living room is spacious but I immediately notice all the Christmas decorations up and a Christmas tree, minus fairy lights.

"Don't laugh about the Christmas decorations"she says, "We put them up early to brighten the place up a bit. It just makes the place a bit less miserable.. I bought the tinsel at a local charity shop and the baubles on the tree. My mum had an old tree from years ago she didn't want so passed it on to us. We can't afford the fairy lights - no point adding that on to our electric anyway. We have 2 days a week as it is without electric, just can't keep feeding the pre-payment meter."

I  am guilty as charged for ridiculing houses for putting up Christmas decorations in November. Whenever I drive past in the car as a passenger, I always point them out and wonder why people do it. I shall now think twice.

Marie and Josh both work part time and juggle childcare between them - both in the same supermarket at 16 hours a week each. Josh is constantly searching for full time work but can't find
any. Marie tells me that he would get another part time job if he could be confident that his shifts were the same every week in his supermarket job, but they change constantly. Their rent on this 1 bed flat is £570 a month. They both feel they would be better off not working so they could claim full Housing Benefit for the rent. I mention the benefit cap which they are unaware of.

"Every time we feel we are going forward we seem to take 2 steps back. We simply can't afford to pay the rent, heat the flat for 7 days a week, and buy nice food. I end up looking for the most filling food like £1 pizzas in Iceland and £1 bags of frozen chips. Whatever anyone says meat and vegetables cost a lot more."

Marie wants to move out of the flat for somewhere with a garden for her daughter,  but she tells me that even though bungalows are in huge supply on the Coast and the rents about the same as the flat, she worries about larger energy bills, council tax bills etc.

As she shows me out, I point to the uncollected bins, overflowing with different types of waste in the
wrong bins.

"There are 4 families in this house. We need 4x the bins, but at the end of the day we have just got too much more to worry about. The council send someone round to educate us about what goes in each
bin, but when the bins are full, everyone just crams in where they can. It's annoying as the rubbish is overflowing and the bin men won't take it, but to be honest we have all got far more important things to worry about."

Further down the street, I meet Eileen and her husband Steve.They live in a ground floor flat of one of the formerly grand B+B houses. Steve has multiple illnesses and disability. Eileen cares for him. They too have some Christmas decorations up in the window. " It makes the flat more cheery" says Eileen. They are both in their 50's.
" What's life like living here?" I ask.
"Hell!" Says Steve. " We are the only British people living in this place. The families above are from Poland, Romania and the Phillipines. The Romanians keep gathering on the stairs and outside right in front of our flat until the early hours. It keeps us awake. They don't seem to understand the concept of inviting visitors into their own front room. The Filipinos are hard workers and so are the Polish. Their children are very polite, but ..."
" Kids will be kids" says Eileen. " Laughing, shouting and so on. They have no garden, but then neither do we. We're just living on top of each other. We're on the waiting list for a bungalow or ground floor flat, but the list is huge.'

"What are your thoughts on the Government and the housing situation? Have disability changes
affected you" I ask.

"We get worried every time a brown envelope comes through the door. It's always summoning Steve to yet another interview, whether it's the job centre or housing. We like Sundays. No post on a Sunday."

Next door I meet Michelle, a divorced single mum to two boys. Michelle tells me that recently while her split from her ex- husband was going through and she applied for income support for the first time and had to move out of her house and into this flat, it took 5 weeks for the Job Centre to sort things out. That was 5 weeks with nothing. Her parents lent her some money, but after 2 weeks, she was referred to the local Foodbank as she had no money for food or fuel.

"People don't understand just how rock bottom your life is, to have no food and be asking a Foodbank for a food parcel to feed your own kids. I had gone from having my own home to a miserable flat, lost my ex-husbands income, to applying for benefit. I have every intention of looking for a job, but the split and the move has had a huge impact on me and the boys, they just need me to be there for
some stability for a few months. I can then get on my feet and try to improve our lives. "

"Did you have any idea it would be this difficult to claim benefit?" I ask.

"No idea at all. There is a women's group in Rhyl who helped me with the forms and told me what I was entitled to, but the wait for assessment is too long. I really was on the edge of life, just clinging
on for those 5 weeks. The Foodbank was fantastic and helped me through those weeks and kindly even put some electricity cards in my meter. Their volunteers even put a few packets of sweets in for the kids. I can't thank them enough. "

I can tangibly see, hear and feel her desperation. In life, events take place that throw us out of keel. It maybe illness, divorce, disability. At these times we turn to the state for assistance. But now that state under this Coalition Government are turning their back on vulnerable people in their time of greatest need.

As I walked back down the grim street, the overwhelming sense of "It shouldn't be like this" gripped me. Why haven 't successive governments ploughed council house sales into new build social housing so Eileen and Steve can live in a bungalow in a quiet close? They need a more peaceful existence in pleasant surroundings. There will be huge cultural differences between Brits and Immigrants. Where are the support and integration services that are needed? Why have we got to the stage that two working parents, Maria and Josh don't have enough money for fuel? They work! And why is the Government doing nothing about the sheer scale of Part Timers who cannot find Full Time Work? Why is it taking months to assess people for benefit in a time of crisis in their lives when they urgently need support? And the question I ask continually "Why are Foodbanks operating on such a large scale? A scale so large they will be forced to feed 500,000 people shortly?"

This Government is abdicating all responsibility to voluntary support networks to feed, clothe, house and advise people in their darkest hours. It is mine and your responsibility to stop them. Until we do or there is a tangible change of Government in 2015 millions more will suffer. In fact, as I write Iain Duncan-Smith is looking to scrap the Work Related Activity Group of people on ESA who are currently too ill to look for work. He wants to put 550,000 sick people straight onto JSA whether they are fit for work or not.

There are thousands of Poverty Streets throughout the UK. Think twice before judging them. There are desperate stories behind those overflowing bins.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Don't forget Parents of Disabled Children in Childcare Revolution!

Ed Miliband is certainly talking the language that working parents need to hear. It is most welcome to know there will be increases in childcare provision hours from 15-25 hours per week for all 3+4 year olds under a Labour Government 2015. With the sheer vandalism of closing Gordon Browns Sure Start Centres and the new mantra of "let's get 2 year olds into education" this Government has made it clear  there is a greater educational and childcare apartheid between rich and poor children than ever before.

Ed Miliband  has his ear to the ground and knows working parents, and especially working poor parents need more childcare provision and at an affordable cost. It is a popular policy and one the Labour Party will be pushing at parents in the run up to 2015.

But Ed, you need to be bold. You need to go a step further. You need to offer parents of disabled children the same level playing field of work opportunities as those with able bodied children.

Take my case Ed. I have 4 sons and worked up until the arrival of my final son. Our world changed when this child was diagnosed as autistic. Work stopped. Caring duties and the pittance of carers Allowance (currently £59pw) kicked in big time. My husband went self employed to juggle all the interventions and drive us to medical appointments, therapy appointments and education appointments. Outside of this, we realised our son would only maximise his life chances with expert input.. And that input was just us, his parents while he was under 5. Granted he is nearly 15 and Blair was in the first stages of his childcare policies back in 1999, but there was no choice.

I would have thought by now, 2013, there would be choice for parents of disabled children but sadly no. We are locked into 24/7 care on £59pw Carers allowance with little respite and no time to find an employer who will be flexible enough to let us run home in an emergency, or more importantly a low cost childcare provider who has expertise in dealing with our sons particular disability.

Sure there are general childminders, but who is going to take on a disabled child who needs 1-1 care in many circumstances when they can take on 6 children? If you find a childminder who is willing, do they have experience and a qualification in dealing with a disabled child? Do they have experience of looking after a child with your disabled child's disability?  Will they charge the same as they do for looking after an able bodied child? Most probably not.

Nurseries. They do not provide anywhere near the 1-1 provision a disabled child needs. And with this government watering down the staff to child ratio , many parents of disabled children will be alarmed there could be as many as 8 children to 1 staff member.

The care doesn't change when the disabled child hits 5. Some are in mainstream school, others in special schools. Call outs to attend meltdowns or the like are common. Would an employer understand? Childcare for able bodied children tends to end at 11/12 years of age on entry to High School. Childcare doesn't end there for parents of disabled children. We need that care to continue to even post  18+. It is expensive and scarce. We parents are rightly more precious over our disabled children than our able bodied children, and need reassurance our disabled child will thrive in a childcare environment.

So Ed I implore you. Be bold, be radical. You would be the first party leader to offer disabled children's parents an opportunity to escape poverty, fulfil their potential, not be viewed entirely as the parent of a disabled child but as individuals who have far more talent than the paltry £59pw currently paid to do a caring task that saves the Government ££££££££s per year. Ed we deserve your consideration and a specific Labour Party policy on this issue. Should you gain power in 2015, be the first PM who recognises the sheer hard work caring is for a disabled child, and offer their parents peace of mind, and low cost affordable specialised childcare. It is time the Labour childcare policy was inclusive. Now is the time to do it.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Children in Need donators may actually be Children in Need..

November always spells a time of frenzied activity for ideas, sponsored walks, cake sales and of course the school non uniform day to raise much needed funds for Children in Need. The day culminates with the traditional BBC fundraising show and repeated calls to give what you can. I know the much needed monies raised go to a variety of UK projects including women's refuges and play centres for children. The  money raised does indeed go to children in dire need.

However, this year I am a little unsettled by the schools annual call for fundraising for CIN. My sons school bizarrely have decided on a "No Tie and blazer day" rather than a non uniform day, so the boys have to wear school shirts, jumpers and trousers and shoes. Ok maybe, but there is a £2 per child "donation". If they do not make the donation they cannot take part. For me the "donation" imposed is £4 as I have 2 sons in High School. On Twitter other parents have expressed concern over these compulsory donations and the fact some primary schools are having a pyjamas day.  A fact not lost on parents in the middle of November.

It's  nothing more than a psychological bribe on parents. If your child does not pay the "donation" they are the odd ones out in the class and are not taking part. But perhaps the reason there will be many children "not taking part" is that the parent (s) cannot afford the £1 or £2 donation, especially where multiple children are involved. Paradoxically the very children who the school are asking to donate, are indeed Children in Need themselves.

The TV pressure for Christmas is bearing down on parents also. As austerity is biting harder than ever before with a toxic mix of energy bill rises, food prices and rent rises, perhaps more parents will think charity begins at home this year. I know myself as I packed my sons off to school with donations of £4, and a GCSE Home Economics recipe costing  £7 plus Year 11 have organised a "Secret Santa" week of yet another £3 contribution, I am feeling the bite and pressure to constantly "cough up" amounts that basically I need to spend elsewhere.

Schools should be more sensitive to these Dickensian times and appreciate many parents are struggling to feed their families and heat their homes. Far more preferable for Children in need would be to ask for voluntary contributions and include all children in non - uniform day whatever their circumstances.

And this evening while TV presenters on BBC1 frantically shake tins and buckets of money at the general public and ask everyone to spare more cash,  remember it is this Government removing and cutting funding for Women's refuges, cutting children's play centres, cutting Sure Start Centres and cutting and sanctioning benefits that are leaving organisations like CIN to pick up the tab and fill the gap of providing essential services from charity. As much as I admire the enthusiastic people who walk miles, do wacky stunts like skydiving and give up their time and money I cannot help feeling we are the ones being scammed by a Government who RELIES on us doing these events for charity to bridge the gap for the poor and needy.

And while the day goes ahead teachers should take a look around them, perhaps schedule an hour in the day to talk about Children in Need and the UK projects it supports and ask the children for their views on where the money goes to and how it should be spent. For perhaps some of the children in that classroom need help themselves...

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

IDS simply isn't working - For the Working Poor

The rhetoric has started to appear in the Mail, a fleeting sentence in the House of Commons, a whole passage in the terms of Universal Credit. It's my turn. They're coming for us. We constitute a whole army, not just a battalion. We arguably will be the most controversial arm of Welfare Reform. Stand up the part time Working Poor.

The Mail (quick to demonise most sections of society who are poor) wasted no time in running an article on a family with 9 children whose parents both work part time about 20 hours a week each. That equates to over 1 full time job which is not enough in the Tory vision of "everyone must work til they drop" UK. Both parents had saved hard to take their family on their first ever holiday. But the DM's craftily worded article made this out to be the wrong thing to do due to the size of the family. The parents wages were not mentioned, the Mail took care not to discuss what they earnt for their  labour. Instead it focused on the amount of child benefit, the volume of top up working tax credits etc. There was no mention of course of possible help if a Living Wage were to be introduced. Just paragraph after paragraph of hate against this working couple and raging about more hours being worked.

The House of Commons debated the bedroom tax and its repeal tabled by Labour. Heather Wheeler Tory MP for South Derbyshire screamed at Labour that her husband who sits on the council has engaged with residents and found they "only" have to pay £11.68p extra a week to keep their "spare room". This was found by doing a few hours more work each week apparently. These words were echoed time and again by Ann Main, David Davies and Margot James. "Work some more" is their mantra, like jobs are falling off trees into the laps of unfortunate part time workers.

1.46 million people who are currently working part time and thus claiming working tax credits are people who want to work full time but can't find full time jobs. Here in N Wales, full time permanent work where you are not laid off seasonally or are on zero hours contracts is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Thus those who would welcome full time work but have to accept part time work have no stability, are not welcomed by landlords or banks for mortgages as their future is uncertain. The answer by the Government is to blame the Working Poor and use throwaway phrases of " just find a few hours more a week work" and that will be the answer to the problem!

Wrong on all accounts. This Coalition presides over the greatest period of Austerity in centuries. Low paid part time work is now the norm. While Tories like to think part time work is confined to mums looking to earn a bit of "pin money" or while away the hours of boredom from 9-3pm while the kids are in school, the reality is that part time work is all that's out there to find. And if your shifts constantly change, especially in part time retail, it is damned nearly impossible to take on a second part time job that fits in with the changing hours of the first. But then employers, spurred on by the government are happy with this unstable relationship with employees. Hiring and firing at will and instability for the future are great for them.

But fear, like the fear that stalks the poor, disabled and sick daily is coming to the working poor now. Under Universal Credit and the DWP "Minimum income Floor" part time workers will be expected to earn £11k per year. Failure to do so will be a call to the job centre and a period of time given to increase hours worked and income raised or tax credits will be cut and sanctions imposed. For those like myself who are self employed, the threat is that unless you raise your hours and raise your income you will cease to be self employed, thrown off working tax credits put onto JSA until you find employment etc. The whole merrygoround then starts again as if you gain part time employment you will be forced to raise hours..... And so it goes on.

I only mention him in the title of this piece but it is obvious. Iain Duncan-Smith your ideas simply are not working. From the crazy bedroom tax where people who cannot afford the extra money for the spare bedroom are then "downsized" to a smaller home in the private sector which then increases their rent and thus the amount of Housing Benefit someone has to claim  ; to the idea that those who currently work are not working enough and full time jobs are as easy to get as claiming £5.8k for energy expenses on an MPs 2nd home.

It is indeed as several Labour MPs  have commented "The Economics of the Madhouse". But then IDS is the man in charge of the asylum.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Snouts (or should that be Muzzle) in the Trough Take 2!

So Nadhim Zahawi proffers an apology on claiming energy expenses on his 2nd  home which is based in his constituency Stratford-Upon-Avon, as he already lives in a £5 million home in London and for this he expects the story to end?

Not a chance. Zahawi is only apologising for PART of his energy bill. That part is for the "ordinary extras" one would expect on a house like stables and a mobile home in the grounds of his 2nd home. Yeah right Mr Zahawi - we all have those don't we?!

Get real man! Not only have you claimed £5.8k on energy expenses, as this is your 2nd home (your 1st home is in London within spitting distance of the House of Commons) but it does not take much working out to know that you would only be in your constituency Friday-Sunday at most! MPs are in London Monday-Thursday, so your claim for nearly £6,000 is even more obscene than first thought!

Moving on, we must then ask the next question. What regulations are there on MPs 2nd homes? Surely a 1 bed flat is sufficient? And surely with a London based 1st home anyway, MPs like Zahawi shouldn't qualify for a 2nd home just to "reside" in their constituency on weekends? The whole point of a 2nd home us naive voters think, is for MPs to conduct business in London as they do not live within commutable daily distance of their constituencies, not the other way round in Zahawis  case!

So Zahawi has a 2nd home that provides the luxury of extensive grounds and stables. Abhorrent on every count again. Why no restriction on size of property? Which then begs the question why are we paying to subsidise huge energy bills on clearly a 2nd home that is lavish enough to warrant a £5.8k energy bill claim?

Even though Zahawi "lives" in Tory Stratford, 1100+ of his constituents have rightly protested on Facebook about his Robber Baron type energy expenses claim. While his own constituents worry about how to pay their heating costs, they have to put hand in pocket to pay this multi-millionaires heating costs too!

We must rage against these 2nd homes for MPs and have clear rules on size of home, location and what a reasonable expense is. Renting a 1 bed property in London for those MPs living 80+ miles from London is a start. Then setting out reasonable expenses. But MPs could surely be expected to pay their own energy bills on a 2nd home. They earn £66k minimum. Or an amount of £500 per year for energy would be more than reasonable.

Banish MPs like Zawhawi from having a 2nd home. No need when he lives in London. If he wants to parachute into his constituency every weekend, there are plenty of budget hotels he can pay for out of his own pocket, or he could downsize his London home and pay for a modest 2nd home himself in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

One final point. Zahawi says he is "mortified" he made a mistake on claiming for the stables and mobile home energy. If someone on benefit makes a mistake they face jail. If they miss an appointment even for a valid reason they face immediate benefit sanctions. Think we should apply the same to "mistaken " MPs.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Signing the WOW petition by December 12th will change disabled people's lives...

...Yes you heard me right! There is a petition that is asking for the government to pause and reflect on the huge changes and upheaval and life changing events the current welfare reform is having on disabled people.

But I'm not disabled, I hear you say. Signing some petition for disabled people has no effect on my life.

Got a disabled relative? Are your parents getting older, frailer, are they on medication? What about that great neighbour of yours, always willing to help you out who cares for their disabled child 24/7? What about the lad in your sons football squad who has a disability but always takes part and puts his all into the game? And you- what happens if one day you are in a car accident and end up disabled, a fall from a ladder, a diagnosis of cancer?

So this WOW petition is worth signing. Because somewhere you will know someone who will benefit from it.

But aren't petitions useless? The government surely won't be bothered by it?

Not in this case! The WOW petition already has over 76,000 signatures as I write. It needs to reach 100,000 by December 12th 2013. This will force the Government to hold a debate as 100k people
have supported it, which is a significant amount. It shows the Government people are worried and care about the impact of cuts and austerity on disabled peoples lives.

Disabled people in social housing adapted especially for them, are having to move out if they have a spare bedroom and cannot afford to pay an extra £14+ pw for the Bedroom Tax. Disabled people are having lifelong disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and even people with amputated limbs, having to be assessed and reassessed and assessed again sometimes every 3 months or so in order to claim a benefit called ESA. Many disabled people with even terminal illnesses like cancer are being found fit for work when they obviously are not. This is causing anxiety, stress and even suicides in people's most dark moments when they need to know they have a certain amount of money coming in each week to heat their home and eat properly.

All I ask, and all disabled people want, is for the Government to stop and think again about the impact of the cuts on all disabled people and whether those cuts are justified.

Many excellent campaigners, themselves disabled, like Sue Marsh and Wayne Blackburn have worked tirelessly for some years trying to get MPs of all parties to realise the impact of their decisions upon disabled people. All it takes is a minute of your time to sign a petition and get the people around you to sign it too, and once the WOW petition has reached 100k signatures, the government will be forced to look at how their actions are impacting the lives of disabled people daily.

So please sign. Now.
WOW Petition

Monday, 4 November 2013

MP claims £5.8k for Energy Bills while people cannot afford to cook Foodbank Parcels..

The Sunday Mirror published a table of 340 MPs claiming energy expenses for their 2nd home. Most of us ordinary voters view this 2 ways: We understand those MPs not living within commuting distance of London may need accommodation and a reasonable energy bill of under £1,000 could be expected  OR - All MPs should fund 2nd homes from their own pocket. Full Stop.

But after having viewed the top 10 claimants, and then the bottom 10 of the 340, it became clear immediately there is a huge disparity in claims between Tory MP Nadhim Zawhawi claiming an obscene £5.8k and Nic Dakin (Lab) claiming £19.54. As elected members of parliament the huge amounts over £1k, in my view need challenging , explaining and reforming immediately.

Nadhim Zahawi is a millionaire with a £5m first home. Why on earth is the energy bill for his 2nd home coming to £5.8k? I always (perhaps naively) presumed an MPs 2nd home would be a modest 1 bedroom flat. After all, this flat is purely for business purposes Monday -Thursday for an MP to conduct his business in London and not have to commute back to his constituency. I would say though that Mr Zawawi's constituency in Stratford-Upon-Avon is within commutable distance. Many people in my hometown of Worcester commute daily to London which is only 40 miles from Stratford.

So my question to Mr Zawhawi is what type of accommodation are we funding to warrant a £5.8k energy bill? Not a 1 bed flat! This amount is even more obscene as it is a hefty £2k MORE than what a person who becomes unemployed gets to live on in an ENTIRE year!

Meanwhile a Facebook post from my local Foodbank revealed problems with an increasing amount of food parcels. Many people are telling them they have no means to cook or heat food and are asking for any food that does not need cooking. Indeed the Foodbank has asked anyone who has a spare camping stove to please donate it, so people at least have the means to heat food from tins. Emergency supplies have seen parcels made up of ready made sandwiches and a thermos flask of soup. The Foodbank is worried as problems with people not affording to be able to turn on an energy supply are escalating rapidly. Not being able to cook food, means the Foodbank has to find other ready made solutions. It goes against their ethos of a "hand up -not a hand out" which is troubling them. It means consistent support and developing more reliance on the Foodbank rather than a time when benefits are stopped for whatever reason, but the person then gets on their feet within a few weeks once benefits are restored.

So while Foodbanks cope with these dire and desparate energy problems we see blatant Robber Barons, millionaires who could afford to heat a whole street if they had to, then claim an amount of money to heat their 2nd home which is more than what many people live on in a year. It is not just obscene, abhorrent and morally bankrupt, but it is a system that needs reform right now. The BBC are broadcasting a series "Britain on the Fiddle" this week. Well start at the top. Look no further than a  Tory MPs £5.8k expense claim for energy, while people are unable to heat their homes or cook their food.

As to reform? MPs living up to an 80-100 mile commute of London do not need a 2nd home at all. Give them a small allowance to conduct business in their own home. For those living further away, and I have every admiration for the MPs from the north making the tortuous journey down to London every week, a 1 bedroom flat is sufficient or perhaps modest hotel expenses could be looked at. You would be saving money on MPs like David Amess who has 2 London homes yet thought he had the moral high ground in claiming £8k hotel expenses says the Daily Mirror.

MPs will be crawling around us next year, desparate for our votes. Challenge your MP if he is on the list of the big sinners claiming £1k or more energy expenses. Ask your MP how big their 2nd home is. Tell them of your situation whether you are disabled, unemployed, elderly or Working Poor and how you are struggling and find excessive claims for 2nd home expenses is plain wrong.

Austerity cannot continue to carry on, on the backs of the poor although the Coalition have done a hatchet job in that respect. Time to challenge MPs on every cost of living expense for their 2nd home. Do not let it drop. Name and shame those who are clearly rubbing the noses of their constituents and voters in the mud. An ordinary MP earns £66k, let alone those who are ministers. We have to fund our own overpriced energy costs, so why don't they?