Archive for the ‘East Anglia’ Category
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Short of wonga?
Not earning the Living Wage and find it hard to make ends meet?
A bill’s just arrived and you can’t pay it?
Suspended from the Dole and relying on Food Banks?
Had your disability claim disallowed?
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Last Known Sighting of Ben: I Make Fun Stuff !
Popular Ipswich MP, Ben Gummer (Unofficial Minister for Ipswich, Honorary Mayor of Ipswich, Acting Editor, Ipswich Star, Benefactor of the Shrine of Lady Lane), has been less than visible lately.
His last major political achievement was this, “February 2014 BISHOP’S HILL LIGHTS STOPPED.”
Sadly the sprightly Latin scholar, and author of the definitive guide to the Black Death (1), does not appear to have benefited from the recent Cabinet Reshuffle.
His position as Michael Gove’s PPS has, well, lapsed.
For all his prestigious unofficial and honorary posts, Ben did not figure in the roll of honour that was at the command of Leader David Cameron.
Rumours that Ben is seeking a bolt-hole in the West County have flourished in the absence of any more definitive news.
We hope to be informed of developments on this front.
The fate of the Gummer dynasty is in the balance.
(1) Fittingly the last outbreak of bubonic plague in England occurred on the nearby Shotley Peninsula in 1910 (Here).
Grandma Gilles on Ipswich Demo. (Thanks Ellie).
Over 300 people came to the demo in Ipswich called by the Trades Council and local unions, Suffolk Needs a Pay Rise, yesterday.
In Ipswich there were well attended pickets at the Russell Road Borough and County Council offices, at Crown Pools, the Borough Council Waste depot (dust-carts – the majority of which did not go out), and HMRC offices in Lower Brook Street.
59 Suffolk schools were affected by strike action and 17 closed for the day.
At the march and rally there were members of UNISON, GMB, FBU, UNITE, PCS & NUT, NUJ, DPAC, the Peoples Assembly, other unions and campaigns, as well as members of the public.
The Suffolk People’s Assembly (Facebook) report notes,
Many speakers at the rally expressed their anger at the wage freeze public sector workers have faced over the past 4 years. This has led to a 20% decline in real wages at the same time as increased workload. One PCS member said that he was now doing 2 peoples’ jobs and facing constant performance reviews, which was destroying his job satisfaction.
A parent talked of her support for the teachers’ strike, to defend her and other people’s education. The Ipswich NUT Secretary, Margaret Bulaitis, spoke about how the the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, denigrated the work of her profession, and was more interested in promoting academies and privatisation than the needs of school students.
Martin, from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), gave an impassioned speech on the effects cuts and changes to the benefit system were having on those with disabilities.
Support came from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). Their representative suggested that Grandma Gilles (above) would not have put up with the attacks on public services by the Liberal-Conservative Coalition.
Ipswich Tory Attacks Strikes.
Ipswich Tory MP, Ben Gummer, disagrees.
He said (Ipswich Star) that, “public sector workers had fared better than the private sector during the recession.”
He said striking teachers were damaging the education of the children in their classes.
And he said the government was taking action to clamp down on tax avoidance by the rich and to help the low paid.
“This government has lifted two million people out of paying income tax altogether and the gap between rich and poor is getting smaller for the first time in 20 years.”
Gummer’s figures are certainly creative.
Sky news states (May 2014),
“The gap between rich and poor in Britain has become wider, with 10% of the population now owning almost half of the nation’s household wealth.
Those same one in ten households own assets worth over £1m – that’s almost 1.4 million homes.
Teachers’ Unions argue that it is Michael Gove’s ‘reforms’ are undermining education.
Their dispute about pay, pensions and working conditions, is linked to the government’s efforts to devalue teaching, and open the way to private companies profiting from the schooling system.
Gove’s changes have created excessive workloads, and let free schools operate without democratic control and public accountability.
On public sector workers’ pay the TUC says,
Public sector workers are £2,245 worse off as a result of the coalition’s austerity policies, according to the Trades Union Congress.
NHS staff, teachers, firefighters and local government workers are among those that have lost out following pay freezes and limited pay rises since the government took office, the TUC said.
The figures, which show the average fall in real terms pay suffered by workers since May 2010, were published a day before a wave of strikes among UK public sector workers over pay, pensions and working conditions. Government policies on public sector pay have had a big impact on the spending power of almost six million UK households, according to the TUC.
The Liberal-Conservative Coalition has one overarching policy for the public sector: turning it into a source of profit for private companies.
As Thomas Picketty has noted,
“Instead of holding public debt via their financial investments, the wealthiest European households would becomes the direct owners of schools, hospitals, police stations, and so on. Everyone else would then have to pay rent to use these assets and continue to produce the associated public services.”(Page 541. Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Thomas Piketty. Harvard University Press. 2014.)
The trade unions, backed by the People’s Assembly, are fighting back!
Update: this how private companies making money out of public services in Suffolk fail to deliver:
Bosses at the private firm providing community healthcare in Suffolk have defended themselves following concerns over equipment provision.
Jane Basham, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for South Suffolk, criticised the Serco-run Suffolk Community Healthcare after patients spoke of equipment delays.
Ms Basham heard how one elderly woman was told she would have to wait three weeks for a walking aid, while she also heard of delays for equipment for paediatric services as they were no longer stored in Suffolk.
It comes after concerns were raised in January about the performance of the Community Equipment Service (CES), part of Serco-run Suffolk Community Healthcare.
In October 2012, Serco took on the role of providing community health services to 600,000 patients in Suffolk.
The CES is an integrated service providing equipment for people with health and social care needs.
However, delays of up to five months in providing equipment, such as specialist beds, slings and hoists, and poor communication were among the concerns raised at a Suffolk health scrutiny committee meeting.
Hats off to Ipswich Labour Party!
Ipswich: Labour wins two Tory seats after the town goes to the polls for borough council election
Labour won two seats from the Conservatives during the election for 17 councillors, one in each of the town’s 16 wards and a by-election in Alexandra.
Whitton and Rushmere were the two wards switching from blue to red.
And despite big UKIP votes in some wards, including Bridge, Castle Hill and Gainsborough, they were unable to secure a council seat.
Labour worked extremely hard in these elections.
The won on the basis of the good record as a Borough Council – ranging from their widely acknowledged competence, standing for the majority of the people in the town.
There have been no devastating cuts.
They have begun to build new Council Housing.
Their backing for the Living Wage, their anti-racism (march against the EDL), to policies, such as their opposition to Workfare, have solidified good links with the labour movement, unions, and to the broad progressive constituency.
Just to give an example of things have changed politically in the UK.
This is where Tendance Coatesy lives by the centre of town (we call it a town, but in most English speaking countries it would be called a City).
Alexandra (first two elected): John Cook (Labour) 935, Jane Riley (Labour ) 917, Jose Esteves (UKIP) 444, Mark Felix-Thomas (Conservatives) 400, James White (Green) 390, Alex Hopkins (Conservatives) 331, Robert Chambers (Liberal Demcrats) 215, Andrew Houseley (Liberal Democrats) 180. Maj: 18. Turnout: 33.58%. No change.
UKIP beat the Tories.
The Green beat one of the Tories and both of the Liberal Democrats.
This pattern was repeated with the exception of St Margaret’s where the Liberal Democrats (aka the St Margaret’s Residents’ Association) clung on.
There were no candidates standing from TUSC and other left parties, or from the Galloway communalists.
This is because most (not all) of the left in Ipswich works well with Ipswich Labour – which naturally represents a far larger constituency.
We might have our differences on this or that, but we consider in unity there is strength.
Ex-Tories Fall for UKIP Politics.
Controversial former Tory council leader Dale Jackson is attempting to make a comeback in this year’s borough elections in his old ward – for UKIP.
Mr Jackson, who left the council after falling out with his Conservative colleagues, has been selected as UKIP candidate for Castle Hill ward.
It is a seat that his new party is targeting – the party’s James Crossley won the Whitton and Whitehouse county council division last year and that includes part of Castle Hill.
Mr Jackson will be up against former Conservative leader Chris Stewart who stood down earlier this year after a split in his group during the borough’s budget debate.
The Castle Hill ward will now be a key battleground – with Mr Jackson well known in the area.
He was Conservative leader in 2004 when the party took control of the borough in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, but stepped down as council leader after he became subject of a Standards’ Board investigation into claims that he had sent an inappropriate letter to the teenage daughter of a fellow Conservative councillor.
He was cleared of wrong-doing, but the group did not allow him to return as leader. After that he fell out with other Conservatives, and ended up sitting as an independent councillor.
Dale, from the lunatic fringe of the Conservative Party, has plenty of other skeletons in his cupboard.
This may well be worth looking into (from UKIP Ipswich’s Twitter account),
Then there is this, from the Best Blog based in an outhouse in Ipswich :
Three weeks ago Jose Esteves was canvassing with the Ipswich Tories. Yet now he is a UKIP candidate for Alexandra Ward. I have ascertained that the Tories knew nothing of his defection, though intelligence suggests that another local blogger may have been aware of it.
There is a theory held by some Ipswich Tories that Jose was in fact a UKIP spy. But I don’t think Ipswich UKIP are organised enough to indulge in such espionage. I think that the more likely thing that has happened is that Mr Esteves worked out he was working hard for the Ipswich Tories, not being appreciated for his hard work and being taken for granted like a lot of their foot soldiers are. Then UKIP offered him a candidacy and he took it.
There are 14 UKIP Ipswich candidates standing, that is out of 16 Borough wards.
So, it’s no longer just Algar and his mate in Bridge who’ve gone UKIP.
No doubt many of the others are complete nutters as well.
Paul Anderson is a University Campus Suffolk lecturer and writer who lives in Woodbridge Road. He grew up in Dorchester Road in Bixley in the 1960s and 1970s and went to Britannia primary – and his mum lives in the ward. He’s Bixley to his bones: he used to buy sweets from ITFC legend John Elsworthy’s shop at the roundabout and took the number 4 bus into town.
He knows what Bixley residents need from the council – decent bus services, reliable rubbish collection, better social services support for old people, protection of the heaths from housing development – and will campaign for all that and more on the borough council.
Shiraz hits (Sean Matgamna) the right note,
The first thing that should be said and remembered about Tony Benn, who died on Friday 14 March, is that for over four decades he backed, defended, and championed workers in conflict with their bosses or with the “boss of bosses”, the government.
That put him decidedly in our camp. The political ideas which he too often linked with those bedrock working-class battles detract from the great merit of Tony Benn, but do not cancel it out or render it irrelevant.
And then this,
He shifted radically halfway through his life – back to the Radical seam in British political history….
Benn was a socialist. But first and foremost a British radical.
But not the socialist, in the European Marxist sense.
A wonderful type, I have no words to go on about this.
But not really “one of us.”
On Tuesday up to 60 people came to Ipswich Library Lecture room to the Suffolk People’s Assembly meeting, “Defend our Unions and Right to Resist Austerity.”
Speakers represented many different aspects of the Trade union and anti-cuts movement.
Dave Smith, a Founder Member of Blacklist Support Group, spoke on employers who witch-hunted activists out of jobs. Drawing on his experience in the building trade he outlined the long-standing campaign against the practice, and the recent actions against Crossrail and private contractors for public services.
Donna Guthrie of Joint Chair Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) talked of their grass-roots campaigning in London’s East End. In Newham they had struck deep roots in the community, from many different ethnic backgrounds. They were campaigning against cuts in social housing, and issues such as the abuse of police powers.
Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary, National Union of Teachers, said,
I’m Proud that NUT was in at the beginning of People’s Assembly and to share this platform today.
Why is the NUT is involved?
Well firstly because Teachers can’t separate themselves from the rest of working people. But perhaps more importantly because many of the children we teach see the worst effects of the austerity agenda. And it is the most vulnerable hit hardest.
Kevin described the attacks on the education system, spearheaded by Michael Gove.
How do we offer an alternative?
The Peoples Assembly shows the characteristics we need for the fight back – unity, broad base, looking for activity, something for everyone to do and contribute to And we do see very successful mobilisations all over the country – against cuts and closures in the health service, against the bedroom tax and evictions, against schools being forced into academy status.
Bill Bowring, the International Secretary of Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, and Colchester based, congratulated Suffolk People’s Assembly on its work. He listed more reasons to offer an alternative to the Liberal-Conservative government’s policies. He said that reducing legal aid, a pillar of the post-war settlement, was part of the same weakening of social rights as attacks on the NHS and education.
Roy Humphries FBU Secretary Suffolk Fire Brigades Union, spoke on the government’s plans to reduce their pension rights and raise the age of retirement to an unsustainable limit.
He described how their battles were far from over and thanked members of the local labour movement, in particular Ipswich Trades Council, who had supported their protests.
Jim Kelly, Chair of London & Eastern Region Unite the Union, spoke on his union’s base in the private sector. He outlined the decline in collective bargaining agreements – the UK is now apparently on a par with only one country, Lithuania, for its low level of these agreements. Jim cited how UNITE had successfully fought back against employers and had, for example, won bonus for London Bus drivers, and had defended their members. UNITE were beginning to tackle the problems created by the anti-union Gateway port employers. What was needed were changes to the anti-trade union laws that prevented workers form organising and only a Labour government, he suggested, could do that.
On the Grangemouth dispute Jim pointed out that it was the local membership who had decided on an agreement with a ruthless employers.
In the discussion that followed a member of the SWP attacked the Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey.
Others saw the trade unions in a positive light, as reaching out to people to defend social rights and as advocates of a better society.
The People’s Assembly was mentioned as a way people draw campaigns and unions together. The previous week Suffolk activists had supported the Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) protest against ATOS. A campaign extending our work on the Living Wage, will be launched for Fast-Food workers.
At the People’s Assembly National Conference (15 March) Suffolk will be presenting two motions. One opposes the government’s policies against migrant workers. The other calls for a national campaign against Workfare and for Charities, social sector and local authorities to have nothing to do with forced labour.
Ipswich Postal workers mentioned their fight to defend their conditions, and the effects of the closure of the local sorting office.
In the pub afterwards activists considered that the meeting had been a success and a help in our efforts to campaign for progressive politics.
Sisters, Brothers! There’s a place for you – in the People’s Assembly!