August 13, 2014 Leave a comment
July 11, 2014 1 Comment
It has been a long time since I have been on strike. I cannot give a precise date, but it is something of the order of thirty years, maybe a little less but not much less. I last struck when still a civil servant and I cannot actually recall what the argument was about. In total, during my twelve and a half years employed by HM Customs and Excise I think it was about a handful of days of industrial action that I participated in. In those days we were up against a Prime Minister who really did not like the trades unions or the public sector and was intent on trouble. Not that the unions were entirely blameless, but Mrs Thatcher was certainly spoiling for a fight.
That I have not been on strike since is down to my work environment since; information technology departments are generally well looked after. However, I am pleased to report that I have yet to cross a picket line, and have been on many a march.
Striking is an important tool for ordinary people and serves two basic functions. Firstly, the withdrawal of labour lets employers know that their workforce is dissatisfied. It also informs the wider community – strikes are usually highly visible. Strike days are not holidays. Aside from the loss of income (and pension) those who value their work do not enjoy disruption. My experience teaches me that it is always a last resort.
Politicians are often in a strange place when it comes to striking in the public sector, not least because they are often the employer. However, whether an individual piece of industrial action is supportable or not, the right to strike is fundamental; Conservative plans to further limit union power is wrong.
Yesterday’s industrial action by public sector workers comes after four years of falling living standards, four years in which incomes have barely (if at all) risen. These same four years have seen an 11% average rise in the cost of running a car, 16% rise in the cost of food, 22% average electricity bill rises, and 57% average rises in gas bills. This is accompanied by job losses and reductions in public services. It is little wonder that they are fed up and angry.
My daughter, and granddaughter, took part in yesterday’s rally in Southend-on-Sea, and Eilise had to field a number of inquiries as to my absence from the event. There is a straightforward answer to that one, and that is that I do not work in the public sector and so was not on strike. I was working in Basildon yesterday.
For the record, I belong to Unite the Union, am Treasurer of Southend Against The Cuts, and am the Trade Union Liaison Officer for the Southend Labour Parties Local Campaign Forum.
July 9, 2014 Leave a comment
Email exchanges between Southend-on-Sea’s councillors are mostly mundane. Only occasionally do they titillate.
One Independent member of the Executive chose to include the following in an email to all councillors today: There have been two pre- application presentations in the last two weeks, the amount of interest and attendance by Members has been in my opinion appalling.
I did not go to the first of these (I do not have a note of it, but I assume I was busy elsewhere). Quite often I am double booked, and I cannot be the only one. I did go to the second, last night’s pre-planning presentation on the plans for the old college site in Carnarvon Road. I made a note of who was there: four Labour members, three Liberal Democrats, two from UKIP, two from the Independent Group, and one Conservative.
I can only presume that said Executive member is having a swipe at the Conservatives and his own group as the other three groups had about half their members present. I should add that many of us specialise, and therefore elect to attend presentations that reflect these specialisms.
The Executive member’s email did give another member the opportunity to query part of their email sign-off; they styled themselves ‘Chair, Independent Group Committee’. The Executive member was reluctant to fully explain, a reluctance that is puzzling.
Anyone wanting to see the email sign-off for themselves are advised to email CllrAssenheim@southend.gov.uk
Said Executive member also added this: Hopefully, the new presentation for the Fossetts Farm Development tomorrow evening will be better attended.
I will not be going to this presentation, or conducting any council business unless there is an emergency. This is because of the industrial action being taken by public sector workers. They are sacrificing a day’s pay, and the least I can do is respect picket lines, both physical and electronic.
July 3, 2014 2 Comments
Two meetings last night. the first being the Southend Trades Council. I do not often get to their meetings, usually because of a diary clash, but I am acutely aware of the importance of trade unions. The dominating item was the impending strike by public sector workers, a strike for fair pay. The public sector has certainly seen falling standards of living since the Coalition came to power, and it can be no surprise that after four years of squeezed pay packets they are feeling rebellious.
I went straight from the STC meeting (in Southchurch) to the Essex Police Challenge Meeting in Westcliff-on-Sea. This was hosted by the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, Nick Alston. He was accompanied by his deputy, Lindsay Whitehouse, who managed to read an extract from one email in the whole two hours. Also at the top table was Stephen Kavanagh, Essex Police’s Chief Constable, who made some substantial contributions.
The subjects covered: the two recent Colchester murders, police performance, local policing model, and the summer demand. There was also a question and answer session.
It was largely a public relations exercise. Some statistics were distributed, but I found these mostly frustrating owing to the lack of reference data. The audience was around the forty mark, and this included five Borough councillors (two from Labour, and one each from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Independent Group.)
Cllr Mike Assenheim (Independent, Shoeburyness) made the somewhat startling assertion that it was “well known that there are several no-go areas in Southend”. Well known? Not to this councillor it ain’t. I can confidently state that there are no no-go areas in either the ward I represent, Milton, or where I live in Leigh-on-Sea. If he reads this I hope he will enlighten me as to where he considers these no-go areas to be. Those residents about to be stigmatised by Cllr Assenheim will doubtless rejoice.
I am not about to pretend that there are no violent incidents in the Borough, I think my ward has had its fair share of these. But these do not make the site of these incidents out-of-bounds to anyone. I am frequently out and about in my ward, and not just during daylight hours. I am often alone. It is a safe ward with lots of civic-minded and law-abiding residents. If anyone tells me that they feel unsafe in any street my response is to contact the local policing team and request extra patrols. These requests have so far not been ignored. I cannot speak for Shoeburyness, which parts of which may fit Cllr Assenheim’s description – he knows his ward far better than I do – but even if on occasions true it cannot be helpful to make these sort of public outbursts.
Nick Alston finished the event by stating how accountable he was, and what an improvement he is on the previous governance regime. Aside from commenting about self praise being no recommendation, I also wonder how truly accountable he is. For starters only one in thirty-five Southenders voted for him, and as he carries a party affiliation he is as likely (if not more likely) to have been elected owing to this as to anything else. He cannot escape the fact that he now represents a politicised police force.
March 4, 2014 2 Comments
A press release from GMB union last week stated: HUGE PAYMENTS FOR HOUSING BENEFIT IN EAST OF ENGLAND SHOWS LANDLORDS ARE THE REAL WINNERS FROM BRITAIN’S WELFARE SYSTEM. Amongst the statistics that accompanied this release were the following, directly relevant to everyone in south Essex:
• Regis Direct Plc – £725,000 from Southend, £24,000 from Rochford. Donated £7,900 to Conservatives in 2008.
• Thorney Bay Park Ltd – £1.45m from Castle Point. Donated £3,000 to conservatives in 2001.
• Horwood, PACE plc – £596,000 from Southend, £12,500 from Rochford
• Martin & Co – Letting Agents, £3.1m from 20 districts nationally. £484,000 from Southend and £19,000 from Rochford
• Hopson Property Management Ltd – £761,000 from Southend
• The Letting Shop – £136,000 from Colchester and £29,000 from Chelmsford
• Northwood – National lettings Agency getting over £2.3m nationally. £251,000 from Milton Keynes, £162,000 from Chelmsford
I oppose the housing benefit cap because, whatever the intentions, its actual consequence is to drive the poor out of expensive areas. The effects of this are being felt in Southend as Londoners seek to escape over-priced and unaffordable accommodation costs.
Tenants do not get housing benefit – it goes straight to landlords. Despite what some of the headlines may imply, no-one on welfare is being made rich by housing benefit. There are those who are coining it in – the landlords. I think there is a problem here, and the solution is not the cap. The solution lies ultimately in the need for affordable housing, which can only be met with a vigorous house-building program.
There are 16,439 private rented households in Southend-on-Sea. 10,282 (62.5%) are in receipt of housing benefits.