Council cut Funding to Youth Homeless Charity

“Before being housed I was sofa surfing and putting myself in dangerous situations. I was going to kill myself if I could not be housed. SHYPP helped me to turn my life around and go to university.”

These are the words of Laura one of the many young people helped by local charity SHYPP (Supported Housing for Young Peoples Project). SHYPP works with 16 – 25 year olds across Herefordshire. They provide advice, housing, training and employment opportunities as a way of tackling youth homelessness. SHYPP also provides a range of accommodation for young people including foyer accommodation, move on flats, shared houses and supported lodgings.

Unfortunately the importance of these services has been over looked by Herefordshire Council who revealed last week that they plan to cut their funding to SHYPP by 66%.

Herefordshire Council has already shown its utter disregard for young people when it closed the Youth Support Service. But further cuts like the ones proposed to SHYPP will leave young people without the support and advice that this service offers

These cuts will have a massive impact on the ability of SHYPP to help some of the most vulnerable people in Herefordshire.

“This is a significant cut for SHYPP and will put key areas of our service at risk.” Tracey Brumwell SHYPP Central Team Manager told the Heckler. “In particular they are proposing to de-commission our floating support service which is the key preventative work we do with young people, this is where we provide housing, benefits and debt support to young people across Herefordshire working to prevent them from becoming homeless. They are also proposing cuts to our foyer services.”

Campaigners are hoping that people will put pressure on their local councillor to reverse the decision and continue to support the vital service SHYPP provide. An online petition has been set up and can be accessed here.

For more information visit SHYPP’s facebook page here

Luther Blissett


The Powys Tax Rebellion

“I will find you and your money” announced Chancellor George Osbourne in 2011. He was speaking after negotiations with Swiss Banks about tackling tax avoidance. Tory millionaire Osbourne claimed that “Tax avoidance is morally repugnant.”

Of course he didn’t mean it.  Because while the most vulnerable in society are suffering massive cuts to their incomes, multinational corporate giants are still getting away with billions in unpaid tax.

According to Tax Research UK we lose out on over £120bn in tax each year, enough to clear the deficit that politicians keep banging on about. Companies like Asda, Google, Apple, eBay, Starbucks and Vodaphone pay minimal tax on their massive UK profits. Cafe Nero hasn’t paid any UK corporation tax since 2008!

All this tax avoidance is done legally using loopholes that allow companies to divert their money to other countries where tax levels are much lower. Successive governments have failed to close these loopholes preferring to blame the unemployed, refugees and the EU for our financial situation.

Now a group of Independent traders in Crickhowell have found another way to force politicians to act.  The group which includes the local coffee shop, bakery, optician, and book shop are exploiting the same tax loopholes by moving the town ‘offshore’.

“We were shocked to discover that the revenue generated by hard-working employees in these British high street chains isn’t declared”. Said Jo Carthew who runs Black Mountain Smokery in the town,” We do want to pay our taxes because we all use local schools and hospitals but we want a change of law so everyone pays their fair share.”

“Until now, these complicated offshore tricks have only been open to big companies who can afford the lawyers’ fees. But we’ve put our heads together, and worked out a way to mimic them.”

Everything the traders have proposed is legal and they have met with HMRC to discuss their plans.

Coffee shop owner Steve said “I have always paid every penny of tax I owe, and I don’t object to that. What I object to is paying my full tax when my big name competitors are doing the damnedest to dodge theirs.”

One of the town’s traders discovered that he paid seven times more in corporation tax than Facebook, which paid less than £5,000 in the UK last year!

They hope that their DIY tax avoidance scheme could go national and force politicians to act.

The story of the Powys tax rebellion is to be covered in a BBC documentary to be aired in early 2016.

Luther Blissett


Herefordshire Supports Refugees

In September this year the Hereford Times ran an online poll asking whether Herefordshire Council should accept 10 refugee families.

The result of the poll and the comments that were left on the Times’ website and Facebook page were truly depressing. They painted a picture of a county full of misinformed bigots with no sympathy for those far worse off than themselves. Many comments were racist and offensive, most were removed. The result of the poll was overwhelmingly against helping the refugees.

Three months on and the picture couldn’t be more different. Many grass roots organisations across the county are now working directly with those 6000 desperate people who are stuck in Calais. Our faith in people has been restored.

Groups are now working in Ross, Ledbury, Leominster, Bromyard and Hereford offering practical support and assistance. The collection of food, clothing and other essentials are being collected and taken directly to France. Ross for Refugees has even assisted in the construction of a school for those children currently living in Calais.

But with cold weather fast approaching the need has never been greater to get involved or help in any way possible.

Please find below links to groups who are helping the refugees. Please contact them to find out what donations they are accepting –

Ross for Refugees

Food Parcels for Calais, Hereford Group

Ledbury Refugee Support

Priory Church Leominster 01568 610785 or text 07790 762138

Make Bromyard 01885 448000

Please comment below if you know of other groups accepting donations.

Luther Blissett

Herefordshire gets Sett for Badger Cull

Hundreds of people marched through Hereford at the end of November to raise awareness of the controversial badger cull coming to the ‘shire.

The government, with backing from the National Farmers Union (NFU), believe that shooting large numbers of badgers will reduce the incidence of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle and its associated costs to the farming industry.

Pilot culls, which have already taken place in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset, have proven to be an expensive failure. Analysis of the pilots by DEFRA, as well as a panel of independent experts, found a cost of £3,300 for each badger killed.

Evidence showed that the culls were ineffective and could even result in an increase in bTB. The pilot culls were also found to be inhumane with many badgers taking longer than 5 minutes to die.

Unfortunately the lobbying power of the NFU is so strong that the Tory government will do anything to keep their support, even when evidence proves that culls don’t work. And so they plan to extend the cull to Herefordshire.

Not all farmers are convinced by the NFU policy though. A Herefordshire beef farmer who wished to remain anonymous told the Heckler that farmers should do more to reduce bTB before blaming badgers.

“The cost to farmers from bTB is massive and threatens livelihoods but many farmers aren’t helping themselves. TB infected cows should always be quarantined but often aren’t. Water troughs should be cleaned and put out of the reach of badgers but basic bio-security is not a priority to some farmers. On top of that we have a huge problem of lameness in the national herd making cows susceptible to all sorts of illness.”

This point of view is unpopular with the Government and NFU who’d rather paint those opposed to the cull as ‘extremists’.

Anyone who took part in the march through Hereford would have seen a diverse group of people brought together in opposition to the scapegoating of badgers.

Organisers of the march hope that people will join them to lawfully and peaceful protest to stop the cull. Herefordshire Badger Group will be coordinating efforts to oppose the cull.

Luther Blissett

Hereford Badger Group

Photo courtesy of Simon Gardener


GIG REVIEW: XSLF at The Victory, 3rd April

Wandering around the back of the pub while I stood and waited for the warm-up act was a man with no shoes on, manky white socks, shorts and a tshirt, who instantly reminded me of the cartoon character Beavis, only a middle-aged version.

© Steve Niblett

© Steve Niblett

I quickly realised he was the singer of the support band, Borrowed Time. The band went for it: the singer was constantly climbing the stairs next to the stage, hanging off the rope hand-rails and pulling his mic cable all over the place, nearly garrotting the guitarist. I could have done without seeing the singer’s dirty socks being thrown into the crowd however.

They played a self-titled song shouting “I’m on borrowed time, living on borrowed time; gonna make it mine.” I thought this was pretty ironic for a group of ageing punks. But I got it, and having only formed a couple of years ago they are embracing that borrowed time wholeheartedly, giving it their all with gigs throughout the summer and an appearance at a couple of festivals thrown too. Aren’t we all on borrowed time?

The set raced from one heavy punk song to the next. But the stand out song for me was ‘Primary Instincts’, maybe because I could understand more of the lyrics, maybe because it was more melodic. It showed a different depth to the band either way.

XSLF (ex-Stiff Little Fingers) meanwhile were missing for most of the night. At one point they were having a curry, later on they’d popped to Sainsbury’s. When they finally turned up the crowd of mainly middle-aged punks were well-oiled and very much up for it … except for one woman, who seemed to be enjoying repeatedly coming up behind random men, putting her hands up their tshirts and having a good feel. I think she was up for something of a different nature.

There was also a definite contingent of younger punks – dressed in Fred Perry polos and sharp haircuts – who got involved. And girls smashing into sweaty, pissed-up blokes three times their size and loving it!

This was XSLF’s first gig of 2015 and the opening night of their tour. They were in great spirits and from start to finish were completely involved with the crowd. At one point they invited everyone on stage to sing along to ‘Barbed Wire Love’, which most the crowd accepted and bloody loved!

They played a long, sweaty, ballsy set. Less shouty punk, more defiant in their lyrics, with a few guitar and drum solos thrown in. Everyone was loving it! It was a high energy and entertaining set. All coming from a band who clearly love what they do, love the crowds and the music.