November 16, 2013 3 Comments
November 8, 2013 Leave a comment
There was music laid on, and I did not initially notice that this was being provided by my long-standing friends Graham Burnett and Wayne Avrili (who, amongst other things, are members of The Stripey Zebras). It was good to catch up with them, and to jam with them too.
I had a long chat with someone who had spent many years on the streets. It was really interesting to hear firsthand about life for the homeless. Amongst the stories was that they had subsisted on wild rabbit for three months (just rabbit, no vegetables, no bulky carbohydrates, no drink). It was a fascinating and thought-provoking conversation. Homelessness is definitely on the rise in the town; I am told that there are between fifty and a hundred rough sleepers. As the winter nears and the weather turns one cannot but wonder how the homeless will deal with it. It certainly makes you think that being able to sleep somewhere warm and dry is a real treat for some people – and this is taken for granted by most. I mentioned to my once homeless conversationalist the number of long-term empty properties in the borough; they responded with the idea of the council purchasing a number and allowing these to be done-up and lived in by the homeless – an idea worthy of further consideration. One thing was evident from our chat and that was the good work being done by many of the churches and charities in the town – real life-savers for some of the most desperate in the community.
The Milton Ward Community First Panel have up to £2500 match funding available to fund a project in the ward. So, if you have an idea about a project to address one of local priorities get in touch. The MCP are also holding an Ideas Fair on Sunday, 8th December (3-5pm). There is £50 available for each person to develop their idea.
Last night I paid a visit to the opening launch of India Witham’s new shop: Made With Love. Fizz and nibbles were advertised – I stuck to orange juice and just a few of the nibbles. I had a quick chat with a couple of people there, and I hope that this venture is a success.
My stay at Made With Love was brief because I was had to leave to chair a Labour campaigns meeting at our headquarters in Sutton Road. I found this very useful, and I hope that my stewardship of the campaigning this year bears fruit come next May’s elections. We are cautiously optimistic.
Earlier in the week I managed to get to a Southend Against The Cuts organising meeting – albeit that I was late and it was nearly finished by the time I had negotiated the traffic. The one thing I can report is that there will be a public meeting on the Bedroom Tax in the near future.
May 8, 2013 Leave a comment
Chaired by Des Freedman of the Coalition of Resistance, the audience of about 80 listened to three speakers (a fourth, Francesca Martinez, could not make it). First up was Julian Esposito (who saw fit to adorn the meeting with vote Green Party posters). He gave a teacher’s perspective on the cuts. To be honest his speech did ramble a bit.
Julian was followed by Peter Passingham, a Unison official, local librarian, and organiser for Stand up for Southend Libraries. His speech spoke at length about the library service in Southend and the effects of the cuts.
Kate Hudson from CND and the Coalition of Resistance spoke about austerity, the cuts, the rolling back of the welfare state, and the People’s Assembly. Kate wants a strong anti-cuts message from the Labour Party, who she believes will win the next General Election.
I announced my presence, and thought I was the only councillor present. I was not; Cllr Mark Bromfield from Leigh Town Council also spoke in the question and answer section that followed the main speakers.
March 8, 2013 Leave a comment
At last night’s Southend Against The Cuts AGM the three officers were re-elected. Thus, Tim Sneller remains as Chair, Julian Esposito was re-elected as Secretary, and I will see my third year as Treasurer. Prior to the elections I presented my annual report, a story of fairly low amounts in and out and a general need to raise some funds to finance campaigning. Any donations can be sent to me (email email@example.com if you wish to contribute).
The very brief business of the AGM was followed by the public meeting.
The first speaker was Mick Patrick from Defend Council Housing. He spoke about the benefit cuts, changes to DLA and the ATOS testing regime, council tax benefit, the bedroom tax and universal credit. He also spoke about the benefits justice campaign which he is also part of.
Nick Bradley, a regional organiser with UNISON, spoke on the destruction of the NHS by the Coalition Government. He also touched on the dismantling of the welfare state that is going on, and spoke about the Health and Social Care Act.
The good sized audience then had an opportunity to debate the issues touched on by the two speakers, as well as throwing in a few new points. Everyone was encouraged to get involved in the Southend Echo blood test campaign. It was also noted that the PCS is planning a day of action on budget day (March 20th).
February 27, 2013 Leave a comment
For those without access to Facebook here are the details -
[When] Thursday, 7 March 2013
[Time] 19:30 until 21:30
Southend Central Library
Victoria Avenue, SS2 6EX Southend-on-Sea, United
[Description] All welcome to our Annual General Meeting. Speakers have been invited from the Campaign for Benefit Justice and the campaign against NHS cuts and privatisation.
February 7, 2013 1 Comment
The General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trade Union has issued a press release regarding the blacklisting of workers in the Eastern Region.
This affects seven people in Southend-on-Sea (although the 32 in ‘Essex’ could include more from the borough).
The blacklist is for construction workers who have, at some point, taken an interest in trade unionism or health and safety – there is no suggestion that any have broken the law. To be blacklisted for doing perfectly legal activities smacks of the sort of thing one expects in a dictatorship, not in a modern and mature democracy.
January 24, 2013 2 Comments
I have received (as has every councillor) a letter from the Southend-on-Sea Local Government Branch of Unison about the proposed cut in trade union facilities. The letter runs to five pages, and so I will not produce it in full here. Instead I reproduce the Conclusion, which seems to neatly sum up their argument.
There are many challenges ahead and there is a clear need for a consultation mechanism at all levels to implement fairly any changes the council propose. It must be therefore also be clear that this financial cap on trade union facilities will exacerbate the problems we already have in meeting requests for Unison’s presence from the employers ranging from the representation of members in individual cases to collective grievances and restructures.
Many of you, I am sure, may not agree with the current attacks on public services and believe this Government is failing the public. The erosion of trade union facilities time will not help support local services but will simply mean that proposals for cuts go without challenge and the voice of staff is not effectively heard.
Both the employers’ and trade unions’ heads of the Eastern Regional Joint Council (the joint body where employers and trade unions meet) are clear that they do not support the loss of facilities time and that attacks like these do not benefit councils in any way.
Facility time for union officials helps to ensure timely availability of representation leading to early resolution of work issues and, ultimately, better outcomes for employers, the workforce and service users. Undermining this investment will not prove productive in the long term.
I have also received the council’s response. I do not reproduce this in full either, instead choosing the Current Position as this similarly strikes me as a neat précis of the council’s position.
As part of the 2013/14 budget proposals, a further reduction of the time off for trade union duties is currently under consideration.
Following a benchmarking exercise with other authorities a reduction to £45k has been proposed. The benchmarking identified that other similar sized unitary authorities were allowing between 1.5 – 2.5 FTE and that a number of County Councils’ were allocating less than Southend. In most District councils the amounts are significantly less and tend to be agreed on an ad hoc basis with more support coming from Regional officers (employed and funded by the unions themselves)
Most Councils who responded also indicated that they are in the process of reviewing and reducing their allocations.
Reference was also made to the consultation by the Cabinet Office on trade union facility in the Civil Service. This calls for a reduction in overall facility time and for a balance to be struck between reasonable paid time off and business needs and ensuring best value for money. This consultation also includes a proposal that no employee spends less than 50% of their time delivering their substantive job.
The proposed reduction for Southend Council does not include any change to the following benefits which will continue as follows:
- Accommodation ( Unison only)
- Telephone ( Unison only)
- Use of notice boards
- Access to e-mail
- Access to intranet
- Access to space on the Council server
January 17, 2013 2 Comments
There are quite a number of cuts being proposed, and I stress proposed because nothing has yet been agreed. I hope to write about some of these in the coming days, and have chosen to kick off with one that is unlikely to illicit much support from taxpayers, but nonetheless is still important.
I am not going to caveat everything I write about the need for cuts, take that as read here. Whilst I may not agree with the ethos of cuts, I cannot get away from the fact that as far as I am concerned they are unavoidable, coming down on us from on high. The Government wants cuts, and will get cuts. My role is to lessen the impact as much as I can.
Under council services, item C5 in appendix 13 of the Report of Corporate Management Team (Draft General Fund Revenue Budget 2013/14) is entitled Trade Union Duties. This shows a cut of £45,000 – a reduction of 50%.
I am not going go over well rehearsed arguments about how important trade unions are; you will agree or disagree with my views on this dependent on where you see yourself in the wide political spectrum. However, even those who are cynical about the benefits of trade unionism will understand that, with the job losses and hardships to come for many council employees, there is a need for advice and support. Trade unions also have a role in lobbying for and against the targets of the cuts, and can offer help in saving money for Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.
This cut may not be directly felt by the wider populace in the borough. However, it will impact those will find themselves losing their employment at the Civic Centre, and those left to face tougher working conditions.