Maybe you agree with the new Mandatory Work Activity, maybe you don’t. Can we set our politics aside for a moment?
Recently, we posted a piece about a new Jobseeker instructed to apply for manual labour, despite considerable professional experience and which, if successful, would end those insurances that protect his borrowing repayments from unemployment. In short, the likely outcome of such a reduced income would be personal over-indebtedness. Annie Shaw of Cash Questions pointed out that there was a market for insurance to start protecting against such circumstances. It is protection, which interests us here.
Last Summer, we posted news of significant changes to the Arriva bus services around the villages where Zero-credit is based – several were cut. Those of you who have known us for some time will be aware that we are about as Middle England as you can get, less than a mile from the geographic centre of the country. Within a thirty mile radius, there are three airports, countless motorways, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Coventry city centres - you’d be forgiven for thinking the high speed rail link was designed for people like us.
Yet, as April approaches we are expecting another change, which sees our community in fear - the possibility of a reduction in service from hourly to two hourly, between Coalville and Burton-upon-Trent. There are no other destinations. These are our hub towns, access to all other areas is from these. As it stands, the last weekday bus from Coalville is at 18.00, from Burton at 18.30. Jobs in any town these might connect to and jobs with out of office hours are lost by the lack of transport home. Get Britain Working? Get Britain to work, more like.
When we supported campaigns to prevent Arriva from changing the service last summer, we were met with embarrassed and ineffectual support. The 1985 Transport Act allows commercial operators to take any statutory route and run the service pretty much as they please. The pockets of village cut out by the last service update are now served by local authority taxi – a two hour round trip twice a week, bookable in advance to satellite towns, Ashby and Swadlincote, where local people may shop.
Shopping is great when you have the income to do it. But when public transport legislation is such that communities may not access any of the employment, education or healthcare opportunities which enable them to contribute to their economy, there is nothing for it but to question this institutional benefit fraud.