Solidarity Magazine » UK Coalition government Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Doctors reject revised NHS plans Tue, 28 Jun 2011 16:42:41 +0000 Continue reading ]]> By Nick Triggle Health correspondent, BBC News, in Cardiff

Doctors have rejected the government’s revised NHS plans, urging their union to take a tougher stance.

Delegates at the annual British Medical Association conference voted in favour of calling for the Health and Social Care Bill to be withdrawn by 59%.

The union initially welcomed concessions by ministers this month on competition and patient choice.

But doctors at the Cardiff meeting said it was time to keep pushing the government “further and harder”.

The plans involve opening up the health service to greater competition and giving GPs a lead role in spending the NHS budget.

Amid mounting criticisms the government put the changes on hold in April. Two weeks ago ministers attempted to appease opponents by watering down certain aspects of the plans.

But delegates at the BMA said they were still not satisfied – despite pleas by BMA leader Dr Hamish Meldrum not to vote in favour of a series of critical motions.

One of those was calling for the bill underpinning the changes to be withdrawn.

Dr Meldrum said he would continue to ask for more.

But he added: “If you push too far you may lose some of the ground you have taken.”

But delegates were not convinced with 59% voting in favour of the motion.

Dr Jacqueline Applebee, a GP from London, said the overhaul would result in one of the “biggest ever social injustices” as it would lead to charges for services and backdoor privatisation.

We have a duty to past, present and future generations,” she said.

Paddy Glackin, who is also based in London, added: “This is a slippery government that we cannot give any wriggle room to. This is not the time to back off, this is the time to push further and harder.”

Vote ‘disappointing’

It is the second time the BMA has called for the bill to be withdrawn. In an emergency meeting in March doctors voted in favour of it being withdrawn, but their attitude softened when the concessions were published, with the union’s leaders indicating they were willing to work with ministers to get the bill right.

That stance will now harden following the conference vote. In fact, Dr Meldrum is likely to convey the message on Tuesday afternoon when he gives evidence to the House of Common’s bill committee about the reform programme.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “This vote is disappointing because only a few weeks ago the doctors’ union said there was much in our response to the listening exercise that addressed their concerns, and that many of the principles outlined reflected changes they had called for.

“The bill has changed substantially since the BMA first voted to oppose government policy. Our plans have been greatly strengthened in order to improve care for patients and safeguard the future of the NHS.”

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Cuts are not the answer – organising and fighting for the alternative Mon, 27 Jun 2011 17:59:15 +0000 Continue reading ]]> UNITE Executive Policy

Adopted by the Unite Executive 19th May 2011

Unite’s Executive Council unanimously confirms its opposition to all Government spending cuts. We commit ourselves to fight this ideologically driven assault on our much valued public services and welfare state.

This assault on our class is designed to shift the blame for the economic crisis to the public sector and make working people pay for a crisis not of our making but caused by the negligent and irresponsible behaviour of financial institutions, gambling for profits in an unregulated market for financial products.

The consequences of these actions, coupled with the failure of both national and international regulators to prevent even the worst excesses of the free market and their promotion of self regulation, are now being felt by workers across the globe. Further, the economic crisis has given government the opportunity to promote and further its ideological attack on collective trade unionism, social and employment protection and the wider social fabric of our society.

Of course there is an alternative;

  • collect the missing tax billions from the banks, multinationals, rich and powerful in our society and close the loopholes and avoidance scams that enable them to opt

out of making their fair and proper contribution.

  • introduce a Robin Hood tax to collect revenue from all financial transactions, bonuses and share options and raise tax rates at the top to ensure a fairer

contribution from those most able to make one.

  • maintain public spending and invest in our future, keeping people in jobs and growing our economy to create new ones. Supporting public services as well as

our private sector, construction, manufacturing and support services is vital to rebalancing our economy.

We congratulate our General Secretary and this Executive Council in promoting our position of opposing all Government’s cuts and the call for co-ordinated industrial action,

but much more needs to be done:

1. Unite’s position on the cuts must be effectively communicated to our officers and staff, our constitutional committees, shop stewards and activists, within our political

structures and to Unite MPs and councillors as well as within our wider communities. We have to end confusing messages being communicated within certain sections of

our union sympathetic to the Labour leadership’s message of “cuts too far, to fast” – the so-called “dented shield approach”.


2. We must do more to inform, inspire and engage with our lay representatives, shop stewards and activists across all sectors of our Union. We must equip them with the

arguments they need to engage our members at work and within local communities if the fight back against the cuts is to be effective. This campaign requires leadership

from the top but also grassroots activity at local level.


3. We encourage all workplaces, branches and constitutional committees to send resolutions to their Regional and National Industrial Sector Committees as well as to

this Executive Council supporting actions for consideration.


4. We firmly believe coordinated industrial action is an essential tool in the fight before us and ask the General Secretary to write urgently to all officers, branches and

constitutional committees with a strong message of encouragement to take up the fight and to initiate a series of communications and promotional materials to support

our activists in developing the arguments for action. While decisions on industrial action will of course be taken by our members in democratic ballots, they must be

confident in an alternative and know that they have their Union?s full support intaking action. When members of any union are taking industrial action against cuts Unite members in workplaces not taking industrial action are encouraged to protest and showsolidarity as far as they can.


5. Industrially, it must be clear that we will support all members fighting back. Unite recognises the importance of advancing our members interests by fighting for improved pay and conditions even in these difficult times, while in our public services specifically our full resources must be given to those fighting against job losses and compulsory redundancy, pay cuts and/or freezes and the privatisation or outsourcing of work.


6. We support the initiative in developing training for our activists. It is critical that we up-skill our officers and activists in preparation for delivering our fight back strategy.

Providing evidence to support the fact that we are not “all in this together” such as the fact provided by recent evidence from the High Pay Commission that chief executives

of FTSE 100 companies earn an average of £3.7 million which is 145 times the average wage.


7. We are seeing an employers’ offensive unleashing itself against all workers – on their pay and conditions, their pensions and their collective bargaining rights. If workers

vote to take strike action, they should be encouraged to co-ordinate strike dates with others in dispute to maximise their effect. We ask the General Secretary to ensure

that mechanisms are put in place to enable such coordination to develop.


8. We particularly urge the General Secretary to ensure that this union immediately engages with other like minded public and private sector unions with a view to our

working together on an urgent programme of co-ordinated strikes over pensions and pay cuts, redundancy, privatisation and outsourcing of work. This should however not

stand in the way of Unite taking a lead or acting alone in the defence of our members interests wherever necessary.


9. We believe we must communicate our position within the Labour Party at all levels and make it clear that Unite cannot support a position based on government cuts

being “too far, too fast”. We must seek urgent dialogue with elected councillors on ways in which, by working together, we can reach agreement on alternatives to

cutting, outsourcing or privatising services and jobs. We are very clear that we will reject and fight any attempt by councils to use the economic crisis in an opportunistic

way to attack and/or undermine trade unionism, our agreements or facilities.


10. We must ensure that Labour MPs and councillors receive an unequivocal message from our union supporting our policy of opposing all cuts. Elected councillors must

know they will receive the full support of this union if they face disciplinary or other action for supporting union policy. We must ensure Unite fully supports councillors

who oppose cuts to local services.


Finally, we are determined that Unite will never abandon those who face the most serious cuts of all; the poor and vulnerable in our society including the disabled, the unemployed and those on low incomes who are now beginning to suffer real hardship as the first £18 billion of Welfare Benefit cuts begin to bite.

Some are our members but many are not, our success in fighting the cuts will require us to stand shoulder to shoulder with those at the sharp end. We recognise that the most vicious cuts of all are hitting those who often have no voice.

We urge and encourage our activists, shop stewards and members to get involved in the fight back, linking up trade unionists with groups coordinating actions locally and nationally such as UK Uncut and the Coalition of Resistance, as well as students, pensioners, tenants associations, community groups, the unemployed and welfare claimants.

This is a fight to defend our class. We must redouble our efforts to ensure we will win that fight. This Executive Council and our unions leadership is fully committed to this

strategy and must now ensure that this message runs through our union, at all levels and in everything we do.

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Open letter to the medical profession: Now is the time to get tough on NHS reform Sun, 26 Jun 2011 15:42:09 +0000 Continue reading ]]> We are writing as a group of concerned doctors and we are also members of UK BMA Council.

Next week the representatives of UK doctors meet in Cardiff for the annual BMA meeting. The meeting occurs at a time when the NHS is at a crossroads. ??The 60-page Government response to the Future Forum does nothing to reassure us about the Health and Social Care Bill and its underlying aim to impose a fully-fledged market on the NHS, which will result in increasing fragmentation and privatisation of the English NHS.

It has become very clear that on close inspection of the Government’s response to the NHS Future Forum report, the key changes that the BMA and other organisations like the RCGP have asked for have not been met:

1. That the Secretary of State should retain responsibility for ensuring provision of a comprehensive health service.

A technical briefing note on the Government response by the Public Interest lawyer Peter Roderick and Dr Evan Harris concluded that “it appears that the new Bill will continue to propose abolition of the Secretary of State’s duty to provide health services in accordance with the Act, and of his or her duty to provide the key listed NHS services, and will not propose to give this duty to any other body”

2. That Monitor’s primary role to promote competition should be removed.

Although the regulator, Monitor, will no longer “promote” competition “as an end in itself”, the government says that it “will maintain the existing competition rules for the NHS” and give it a “clearer statutory underpinning” which implies that there will be at least the same, or more competition, and not less. The government will do this by making the Department of Health‘s Co-operation and Competition Panel (CCP) a statutory body within Monitor “retaining its distinct identity”.

In addition, “the NHS Commissioning Board in consultation with Monitor will set out guidance on how choice and competition should be applied to particular services, guided by the mandate set by Ministers”. The NHSCB will also set clear expectations about offering patients choice through a “choice mandate”. Dr Evan Harris has stated that “this is simply reintroducing the marketisation of the NHS – rejected by (the LibDem) conference – by the back door of the NHSCB.”

To make matters worse there remains lack of clarity on EU competition Law, which could irreversibly open up the NHS to overseas providers competing for NHS contracts paid for by UK taxpayers.

3. Reducing the role of ‘Any Willing/Qualified Provider

According to the Government response, the revised bill will outlaw the Government now, or in the future, from naming the NHS as ‘preferred provider’. This clearly opens up the NHS to an “Any Willing/Qualified Provider” rather than reducing it. In addition, the staff “right to provide” policy will enable groups of clinical staff to set up their own social enterprises or “mutuals” and sell their services back to the NHS.

These are just a few examples of the ways the Government has crossed the “red lines in the sand” of the BMA and RCGP in order to stay on course with its original plans. It does not surprise us that the Lib Dem MP, Andrew George, who sits on the Health Select Committee, said: “If the Government had been listening it would have scrapped the Bill. Instead it looks as if they’ve just massaged and tweaked it a bit.”

Other examples in the Government’s response, which confirm its original direction of travel include: (i) the outsourcing of the function of commissioning to private companies, exposing the system to a whole new raft of even less identifiable conflicts of interest; (ii) the extension of personal health budgets; (iii) promotion of the choice agenda (which promotes competition); (iv) no mention of a reversal in the policy of allowing the NHS CB and commissioning groups to introduce additional charges for services they decide are not part of the NHS (Clause 22, para 14s of the bill); (v) retention of all the mutually reinforcing levers of a healthcare market (patient choice, competition between a plurality of providers, Payment by Results, and freedom for Foundation Trusts).

Thus, it is clear that the NHS will be subjected to increasing market competition and private provision and commissioning of services, which will undermine the founding principles of the NHS and drive it towards a mixed system of funding. In addition, the work of Lucy Reynolds from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine published in the BMJ last week also described how the bill could allow private companies to strip NHS assets “leading to more a expensive system that will deliver worse quality of care”. We therefore totally reject the repeated claims of the Coalition leaders that their reforms will deliver greater NHS efficiency and that there will be “no NHS privatisation”.

If all of this is not bad enough then even the supporters of clinically led commissioning must be highly concerned with a return of central control in the NHS via a strengthened NHS Commissioning Board and clinical senates. Thus, even the potentially “good part” of Dr Meldrum’s “Curate’s egg” has now gone rotten.

In conclusion, the simple fact is that the Government’s proposed changes to the bill are mainly cosmetic in nature. There are no ‘significant’ policy changes that will alter the general direction of travel of the reforms and we believe the proposals will actually create even more problems for the NHS by increasing the tiers of bureaucracy. It is at this point that we would remind Mr Clegg that “no bill is better than a bad bill”. He would also do well to listen to views of his fellow liberal Democrat colleague, Dr Evan Harris, who dismissed the NHS Future Forum’s paper on Choice and Competition as “cliché-ridden, trite nonsense” at the Social Liberal Forum last weekend.

It is incumbent on us as doctors to ensure our patients will always have access to a health service that does not differ across the country, a health service that is there when you need it and does not require an insurance policy or self funding if you need some extra care that your personal budget won’t fund. ?The NHS is facing the biggest threat in its history and as its founder, Anuerin Bevan famously said: ‘It will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.’

We therefore urge members of the medical profession to take up the fight for the NHS by continuing to oppose this damaging bill and call for its withdrawal. We urge them to lobby their MPs, members of the House of Lords, and BMA representatives by highlighting what this bill means for the NHS, the profession and our patients.

Dr David Wrigley, GP, Carnforth, Lancashire

Dr Clive Peedell, Consultant clinical oncologist, James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough

Dr Jacky Davis, Consultant Radiologist, Whittington Hospital

Professor Ian Banks, President of European Mens Health Forum and Professor of Men’s Health, Leeds Metropolitan University

Mrs Anna Athow, Consultant Surgeon, North Middlesex Hospital

Written in personal capacities and all are members of BMA UK Council

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3 Questions to Con Dem anti-union emmisary Vince Cable MP Wed, 08 Jun 2011 18:08:15 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Professor Keith Ewing, who addressed the GMB Conference on the same day as Vince Cable MP earlier this week, poses three searching questions to the Con Dem Business Minister following his threat of more ant-union laws:

Question 1. Dear Vince,

Could you please explain the size of your majority in Twickenham at the general election in 2010? No need for us to wait for an answer. The BBC website tells us that Mr Cable secured some 32,483 votes in an election in which some 59,721 people voted. Vince won handsomely with 54.4% of the vote in an election in which there was a significant number of candidates.

Closer inspection reveals, however, that only 75% of the good people of Twickers voted at the election, which makes Vince’s achievement look not quite so impressive after all. What this means is that of those eligible to vote, somewhat less than 50% voted in favour of Vince, giving rise to the obvious question:

If less than 50% is good enough for the Secretary of State for Business and the Elimin-Ation of Trade Union Protection (BEATUP) (I made up that bit), why is less than 50% not good enough for workers who want to strike to protest against a government without a mandate?

Question 2. Dear Vince,

Could you please explain which other countries have a special majority of the kind now proposed? By other countries, please avoid Bahrain, Egypt, Syria and Tunisia. No need for us to wait for an answer here either. The Tory cubs who proposed a strike threshold in May thought they had struck gold on discovering that what they were proposing had parallels in other European countries: Denmark and the Czech Republic.

Being a sceptical sort, I made inquiries of labour movement contacts in Denmark, and in particular their legal advisers. Yes, they said, we do have a special threshold. But it is 25% of those eligible to vote. Moreover, it applies only where less than 40% of those eligible to vote actually do so. In my view, Denmark thus does not really count. Which means that the best they can come up with is the Czech Republic of all ‘major democracies’ in the world.

I can only presume that the apparent lack of attraction of this particular balloting regime is that it is neither liberal nor democratic.

Question 3. Dear Vince,

Where a union calls industrial action with the support of at least 40% or 50% of those eligible to vote, could you please explain what steps you will take to ensure that unions are protected from employers using the courts like slot machines to obtain injunctions to stop strikes on trivial technical grounds?

• In 2009, 92% of Unite cabin crew members in an 80% turnout voted in favour of industrial action. The action was crucially stopped by a High Court injunction because the union had inadvertently included in the ballot a number of members who would be taking redundancy before the strike started. The injunction was granted even though the participation in the ballot of the contested individuals could not possibly have affected the result.

• In a second ballot in the aftermath of the High Court decision, 80% of cabin crew in an 80% turnout voted in favour of industrial action. This too was stopped in the High Court before sanity was restored in the Court of Appeal. The reason for the High Court injunction was that the union had failed to notify its 10,000 or so members that 11 of their number had spoiled their ballot paper in the strike vote, an omission which could not possibly have made any difference to the ballot. It seems that even the Court of Appeal was embarrassed by this pedantry.

I can only presume that a 40% or 50% threshold will not prevent injunctions being granted on such grounds, but on the contrary will provide employers with yet another litigation opportunity.

In other words, what is being proposed is (i) contrary to principle and deeply hypocritical, (ii) unparalleled in any modern industrial economy, and (iii) a recipe for even more nit-picking litigation.


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Deregulation is really a workplace death wish Thu, 02 Jun 2011 17:08:33 +0000 Continue reading ]]> By Rory O’Neill Hazards Magazine

A UK government-commissioned review of health and safety, which will report to ministers in autumn 2011, is not really about changing the law. It’s about risk envy – our competitors don’t all abide by strict rules governing safety and decency at work, so why should the UK? And it is a topic on which Professor Ragnar Löfstedt, charged with undertaking the review, is an acknowledged expert.

In May 2011, the government put out a call for evidence for the Löfstedt review, inviting contributions “from all interested parties on the scope for reducing the burden of health and safety regulation on UK businesses whilst maintaining health and safety outcomes.”

The government said the review “is part of a package of changes to Britain’s health and safety system to support the government’s growth agenda and cut red tape.” It hopes Professor Löfstedt will give it license for a backdoor erosion of safety rights and of the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) enforcement role.

In the US, the professor has been a prominent opponent of tighter regulatory controls on industry. Under his “risk-risk” analysis he argues they can mean an unjustified bill for firms that would then be disadvantaged in global markets.

In the case of Portland cement, a potential human carcinogen, Löfstedt’s March 2010 report concluded “putting forward stringent regulation on the US cement industry, will lead to a risk transfer from the United States to offshore (most notably China), leading to negligible environmental improvements for the United States and the global community.”

The March 2010 analysis was press released by the cement industry. The paper contained all the key talking points from the business lobby’s anti-regulation template. Regulations cost jobs, regulations are expensive, regulations are unfair to domestic industry and regulations don’t work. It’s a package found repeatedly to be based on inflated estimates of costs and consequences, and a blind eye to the potential benefits.

Equally concerning, it is informed by an assumption that regardless of the costs, it should be the world’s dirtiest players that set the standard. The logic would also make forced labour an economic necessity – it’s a practice that remains a significant problem worldwide, and which presumably offers some economic advantage to less scrupulous employers.

Professor Löfstedt’s work has not previously focussed on occupational health and safety issues. However, he is viewed as a strong anti-regulation advocate by many who have encountered him on food safety and environmental issues. He is an adjunct professor at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, a body which has been criticised strongly by unions, safety and environmental advocates in the USA as an anti-regulation “front” for business interests.

Throughout July 2011, in the midst of the health and safety review, Professor Löfstedt is scheduled to be running a 30-session ‘Managing hazards in Europe and the United States’ course at King’s College London. He will be working hand-in-hand with long-time collaborator and founder of the Harvard Center, Professor John D Graham. The academic’s 2001 nomination for a key regulation-busting role in George W Bush’s administration prompted a letter from 53 of his peers warning Graham’s work “demonstrated a remarkable congruency with the interests of regulated industries.”

Morality and facts are already casualties of the business driven ‘business burdens’ debate, and safety is set to follow suit. The deregulation urge is now so engrained at the UK’s safety watchdog, HSE, it routinely ignores evidence that legal standards designed to protect workers from established poisons like lead and cancer-causing chemicals are inadequate and tightening them will save lives.

Its latest denial of responsibility involves workplace dust. Unions have long called for tighter dust exposure standards and HSE’s own advisory committees have demanded a campaign to promote awareness of the risks. Even if HSE was willing, which is it not, it now says “constrained resources” rule out a campaign. And despite acknowledging evidence showing hundreds of lives each year could be saved if employers reduced workplace dust exposures, it describes this as “only limited benefits” so it would not be tightening the occupational exposure standard.

This outbreak of deregulatory fever not limited to the UK. Business lobby groups across the world are issuing a stream of cookie-cutter reports. It is not about lifting burdens, it is about evading responsibility. This may seem a good idea from the safety of the boardroom, but at the shopfloor it is, inevitably, a bloody disaster.

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Threat of statutory duty removal Thu, 05 May 2011 10:35:52 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Rubbish could litter our streets, bodies could pile up, vulnerable children could be left without care, strip clubs could be set up on any corner, and mouldy chops could stack up on our shelves. These are just some of the damaging things that could happen if the Tory government presses ahead with plans to cut the duties on councils that protect us all, and give us better communities.

UNISON, the UK’s largest union, today publishes a list of crazy cuts that could leave communities exposed. In its submission to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (CLG) consultation on statutory duties, UNISON is calling on the government to protect our communities by putting a stop to its damaging plans.

Heather Wakefield, UNISON Head of Local Government, said:

“The coalition has made some pretty crazy and dangerous decisions, but even thinking about getting rid of some of these duties is up there with the best of them.

If the Tories press ahead with their race to scrap the so-called ‘red tape’, they could see bodies pile up on the street, as nobody has responsibility for mortuaries. We could see gas safety fall and recycling schemes dry up. Unregulated taxis could prowl the streets and strip clubs set up on any corner.

Eric Pickles only needs to scratch the surface to find out that these duties protect our communities, making them safer and better places to live. Like a lot of other Tory plans, this consultation should go on the scrapheap.”

Crazy cuts rundown

Gas Appliances (Safety) Regulations 1995 (SI 1995/1629)

Local Authorities are responsible for keeping gas safe. How many people will be put at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if this is abolished?

Fire and Rescue Service Act 2004 Section 7

Makes provision for the purpose of extinguishing fires and protecting life and property. Who else should do this?

Fire and Rescue Service Act 2004 Section 8

Makes provision for the purpose of rescuing people in the event of road traffic accidents.

Fire and Rescue Services (Emergencies) (England) (Order) 2007 (SI 2007/735) made under s. 9 FRSA 2004

Makes provision for chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear emergency and urban search and rescue. Who will the public turn to if this duty is removed?

Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 Section 7

Local Authorities have a duty to provide a library service. Will libraries be cut to extinction if this is abolished?

Gambling Act 2005 Section 159

Councils have to licence premises for gambling activities. How would corrupt operators be stopped if this was abolished?

Licensing Act 2003 Section 18

Requires local authorities to have a system for regulating premises licenses, including issuing licenses. Would we see strip clubs set up on any corner?

Zoo Licensing Act 1981

Councils should ensure zoos are safe for the public to visit and have a high standard of welfare for animals. What cruel and bad practices would come into place with unregulated zoos?

Environmental Protection Act 1990, Section 45 A

Councils have to arrange for the collection of recyclable materials. Is our care for the planet going to be dumped?

Environmental Protection Act 1990, Section 89

Councils currently have to keep land and highways clear of litter. Would litter start to pile up on our streets?

Food Labelling Regulations 1996 (S.I. 1996/1499)

Councils are responsible for ensuring food labelling is accurate and out of date food is not being sold. Do we want to eat old sausages or have ingredients missed off the label?

Public Health Act 1936

Councils have to provide mortuaries. Would removing this duty see bodies pile up in the street?

Children Act 1989 Section 33

Councils take vulnerable children into care and look after them. Who would take over this role if this duty was scrapped?

Local Government (Misc. Provisions) Act 1976 Section 54

Councils licence taxi drivers. If they stopped doing this, how dangerous would it be to get into a cab?

Highways Act 1980 Section 41(1A)

Puts local Authorities responsible for dealing with snow and ice – who else could take this up?

New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 Section 81

Councils have to tell other bodies when they (or a utility company) are digging up the road. Without this, would we see roads in constant upheaval?

Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (as amended) Section 5 (1)

Makes local authorities one of the authorities responsible for formulating and implementing strategies to tackle crime and disorder. Who else can create a joined-up approach?

Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004) Section 9

Requires local authorities to participate in domestic homicide reviews with a view to improving policies and practice and preventing further violence and homicide. Tackling domestic violence requires a multi-agency approach – should this be optional?

Juries Act 1974 Section 3

Requires electoral registration officers to provide the Lord Chancellor with copies of the electoral register from which potential jurors can be summoned. A vital cog in the wheel of justice.

Crime and Disorder Act 1989 Section 39 (5)

Establishes the multi-agency, multi-disciplinary ethos behind the Youth Offending Teams. Putting into practice decades of experience.

Criminal Justice Act 2003 Section 325

Requires agencies to work together to manage the risks posed by offenders following their release from custody, for example to ensure that paedophiles aren’t inadvertently housed by the local authority near a school, or in an estate with many families. It is necessary to have one body – the locally accountable one – ensuring that this coordination happens – it can’t be optional.

Freedom of Information Act 2000

Councils have to disclose information to the public on request. Do we want a culture of secrecy from the people we elect?

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Exposing the myths about welfare Wed, 06 Apr 2011 14:36:35 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 6 April 2011

Right-wing politicians and commentators make regular pronouncements about welfare. We look at its importance and bust some of the myths

George Orwell wrote in his novel 1984 about those able “to tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient”. He could have been writing about the current welfare debate.

The myths about welfare are so pervasive and they have become the received wisdom. They are: people on welfare are mostly shirkers; the welfare state is generous; welfare is rife with fraud; and that Jobcentre Plus is ineffective at helping people back to work.

Each and every one of these statements is pure myth, yet from the pages of the tabloid press to the mouths of ministers they are perpetuated as if they were the truth.

MYTH 1. ‘People on welfare are mostly shirkers’

Last October the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith suggested the jobless in Merthyr Tydfil should “get on a bus” to Cardiff to find work. Merthyr has a very high level of unemployment with 43 people for every job vacancy. But if the town’s Unemployed were to travel to Cardiff they would be disappointed: there are already nine unemployed people for every job vacancy in the city.

People on the dole are not shirkers – they don’t have jobs because of the recession caused by the banking crisis.

Four years ago, before the banking crisis began, there were 1.69 million people unemployed, today it is 2.53 million. Is it really serious to suggest that since 2007 an extra 850,000 people have opted not to work as a ‘lifestyle choice’. To demonise the victims of the recession is one of this government’s most disgraceful attacks. Myth two explains why no one is likely to choose benefits.

MYTH 2. ‘The welfare state is generous’

David Cameron takes on Spongers’ cries the Daily Star, ‘Workshy to lose benefits’ reports the Daily Express. Even the more refined Telegraph ran the headline ‘Dependency cannot be a lifestyle choice’, while the Daily Mail combined it with its twin obsession to complain about migrants accessing ‘Britain’s generous benefits system’.

So is the welfare state generous? Jobseeker’s Allowance is currently £65.45 per week (£3,400 per year). If unemployment benefit had risen at the same rate as earnings over the last 30 years it would be worth £110 per week now. Today’s unemployed are worse off than previous generations.

Those on Employment and Support Allowance, formerly Incapacity Benefit, receive about £97 per week. According to campaigning organisation Disabled People Against Cuts, 30% of disabled people live below the poverty line.

MYTH 3. ‘Welfare is rife with fraud’

In his comprehensive spending review statement last October chancellor George Osborne said: “Nor will fraud in the welfare system be tolerated any more. We estimate that £5 billion is being lost this way each year.” After complaints, the government has now admitted the combined cost of benefit and tax credit fraud was only £1.5 billion.

A figure less widely quoted is that of the level of benefits and tax credits unclaimed: £16 billion. So for every 10p lost to fraud, over £1 is recouped by people not receiving benefits they are entitled to. And don’t forget there is a £120 billion annual tax gap from wealthy individuals and big businesses avoiding and evading taxes.

MYTH 4. ‘Jobcentre Plus is ineffective at helping people back to work’

All the evidence shows that Jobcentre Plus outperforms private contractors. These workers have years of experience and training. A recent National Audit Office report comparing contractors with Jobcentre staff found: “Contractors have universally underperformed against targets set by the department which had to make concessions as part of contractual renegotiations to support the continuation of businesses and services . . . Jobcentre Plus achieved better job outcome rates for mandatory customers compared to external providers.”

Despite this evidence, backed up by several academic studies, prime minister David Cameron announced that his new welfare scheme will be delivered by “social enterprises, charities and businesses”, with 9,000 job cuts expected in Jobcentre Plus.

Iain Duncan Smith’s Welfare Reform Bill is predicated on these myths to justify their brutal £18 billion welfare cuts.

The welfare state was set up on the basis that unemployment, ill health or even disability could affect any of us. We must defend welfare: the right to live secure and dignified lives whether in or out of work.

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The strike busters: Secret plans drawn up to tackle threat of a mass walkout Thu, 24 Feb 2011 15:40:29 +0000 Continue reading ]]> By Tim Shipman
22nd February 2011

In charge: Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude is leading the unit and has analysed the workforce at thousands of workplaces

A secret ‘war plan’ to prevent a general strike has been drawn up by ministers – with thousands of union-busting workers lined up to cross militant picket lines.

A unit has been set up in the Cabinet Office to prevent Britain grinding to a standstill in the event of mass public sector walkouts.

Officials have conducted ‘war games’ to ensure that strike breakers are available to run vital facilities such as the Tube and energy hotspots such as power stations.

Transport managers and prison bosses have been ordered to organise agency workers and teams of managers to cross picket lines amid fears of a nationwide summer of industrial action.

Ministers believe militant union bosses are planning to bring Britain to a halt with coordinated strikes on roads, railways, and throughout the public services.

The unit, run by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has analysed the workforce at thousands of prisons, schools, hospitals, railway stations, bus depots and energy facilities to work out where the most militant union staff are based.

Managers at HM Revenue & Customs and the benefits system have been told to prepare contingency plans to keep tax and benefits money flowing.

The plans, drawn up in utmost secrecy, are the coalition’s attempt to emulate Margaret Thatcher’s preparations ahead of the miners’ strike in 1984.

The Tory prime minister resisted militant miners because she had stockpiled more than a year’s supply of coal to prevent the National Union of Mineworker’s holding the government to ransom.

Ministers are conscious it would be extremely difficult to keep every public service functioning in the event of coordinated strikes.

From the Daily Mail

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TUC statement on the union industrial response to government spending cuts Fri, 28 Jan 2011 17:05:21 +0000 Continue reading ]]> We await reports from inside today’s TUC meeting. Below is the response of Brendan Barber. Fearing the discussion on “coordinated industrial action” Brendan had a rabbit in his hat. It appears that the government has agreed not to implement pension changes in the March budget. It’s difficult to see this as anything other than a manoeuvre designed to undermine the possibility of strike action which was being discussed by the NUT, PCS and UCU.

Mind you, they haven’t “ruled out strike action”. Speaking outside TUC headquarters Barber told the BBC that the unions had agreed to work more closely together to fight the cuts “including – as a last resort – in some circumstances potentially, industrial action”.

Dave Prentis has just assured everybody on Radio 4 that any action taken won’t be political.

(Martin Wicks)

Speaking after a special TUC meeting called today (Friday) to discuss the union industrial response to the effects of government spending cuts, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

The government’s agenda is doing huge damage to the economy and vital public services. The TUC is mounting a wide campaign against these mistaken policies.

But today’s meeting was to consider the appropriate industrial response to the volatile cocktail of issues that face union members across the public sector – the pay freeze, job cuts and attacks on pensions.

No-one is talking about a general strike, but of course these attacks on our members could well give rise to industrial action around specific disputes.

Today’s meeting showed a clear determination for unions to work together on industrial issues including, as a last resort, industrial action when members support it.

The TUC will step up its work co-ordinating the industrial work of unions. There will be monthly meetings of all the TUC’s public sector unions in the Public Services Liaison Group, and the TUC’s General Council will consider at each of its meetings a report of what is happening across the whole economy.

As a result of discussions with the Chancellor and other ministers, the government has agreed to central talks on the future of public service pensions. Ministers have now accepted that they will not force through changes in the March budget.

These will be difficult negotiations as public service workers will not allow their pensions to be hammered. We hope that the talks can make progress, but we cannot rule out industrial action taking place on this issue.

The TUC will continue its campaign against the deep and rapid spending cuts. Polls show that public opinion is shifting, and people understand just how unfair and damaging these cuts will prove to public services, jobs and the wider economy.

The demonstration on 26 March will be a huge event at which the British people will come together to show their opposition to the government’s chosen course.”

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PCS: Cameron inviting industrial and legal action by refusing negotiations Tue, 21 Dec 2010 15:23:24 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Speaking after a meeting with prime minster David Cameron, which he attended with other trade union leaders and the TUC this morning, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

David Cameron’s claim that he wants to maintain a discussion with the unions is undermined by him saying in the next breath that he’s not prepared to negotiate on the specific issue of the change from the RPI to CPI index for public sector pensions – which represents a massive cut in the value of pensions.

If his government will not agree to full and meaningful negotiations, then these meetings and fine words are pointless, and simply invite industrial and legal action.

We will not allow ourselves to be drawn into accepting cuts to welfare, attacks on public services, mass job losses, and cuts to pay and pensions, with the occasional promise of tea and a cosy chat in Downing Street.

The Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has said today that we must oppose all cuts and we absolutely agree with him.

For our opposition to be effective, we have to say there is no need for cuts, and that they are being driven by a political imperative, not out of necessity.

The coming year will be one of the most defining 12 months in recent history. PCS is committed to uniting with other unions to co-ordinate action both industrially and in our communities to help build on what is already a promising movement against the cuts.”

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