Sunday 29 November 2009

Blair s*** Sherlock!

After a week the Chilcot inquiry confirms what we already knew.....Blair lied.

He lied about the threat posed by Iraq, he lied about their weapons capability, he lied about them being ready to attack within 45 minutes, he lied about being a "restraining influence" on Bush.

The anti-war movement knew this, and the 2 million who marched knew it too.

So what were our MP's doing at the time (you know...those people we vote for to "hold the executive to account")? Checking their expense accounts? Climbing the greasy pole to the dizzy heights of Parliamentary Private Secretaryhood? They certainly weren't applying even a scintilla of scepticism to what they were being fed.

So, Des, David and Celia (oh yes, and Ivor too!), what's your excuse? How did you not spot what anyone with half a brain was able to?

Answers on a postcard.............

Stop Cissbury Sell Off - all smoke and mirrors from Worthing Council

Stop Cissbury Sell Off. November 27th 2009

Contact: David Bangs, T: 01273 620 815, Trevor Hodgson, T: 01903 602 200,, Chris Hare, T: 01903 200 648,

Worthing’s Downland
When is a sale not a sale ?

We would like very much to offer three cheers to Worthing Council leaders’ proposal to Worthing Cabinet to withdraw the Council’s Cissbury downland from the market[i].
Sadly, we cannot.
Indeed, the proposal to replace the sale of the Cissbury Downland with ‘long term leases’ looks like an attempt to dispose of the substance of their ownership of this Downland, under cover of the near-worthless retention of the legal freehold.

Pulling the wool over Worthing peoples’ eyes.
The council will thus receive the credit for dropping an unpopular sale, but still gain the capital receipts from the sale of the leases. Worthing people will gain little or nothing in terms of the management and improvement of their downland.
In effect, this proposal revives the discredited idea that covenants will adequately protect the future of our downland, by using the slightly different legal form contained within a long-term leasehold agreement.

It is telling, also, that the idea of the sale of the downland through long term lease has its origin in external advice from a ‘prominent developer’[ii].

Councillors should bear in mind that it was the Council’s past history of distance management of their farmed downland on long term agricultural tenancies that has encouraged the Council to forget the original purposes of their ownership in the first place.

‘Long term leases’ are not a solution. Thus: -
- The National Trust own about 450 acres of downland at Beeding Hill on ‘long term leases’. That form of ownership means nothing. They have no management control over any part of the resource except the tatty little fly-tipped car park. The rest of the downland has been bulldozed and relentlessly ploughed. The public have lost all rights of access, and all the archaeology and the ancient flowery pastures have been destroyed.
- Adur Council own large amounts of farmland north of Shoreham and Southwick, which is let on long term leases, and over which the Council has no management control. That downland has been stripped of almost all of its wildlife interest, its archaeology, and its public access.
- Brighton City Council own the freeholds of both Benfield Valley and the Devils Dyke Golf Course, yet they are let on long term leases. In the case of Benfield these leases have been owned recently by several developers and have not prevented several damaging development proposals for parts of the Benfield Valley land. In both cases the leases give the Council zero management control over these downland areas.
We urge the Council to develop democratically accountable forms of management for all its downland, which optimise their control over the land and their ability to put in place all the enhancements that would benefit Worthing people. These structures may well include carefully drawn up Agricultural Business Tenancies, but they would not include any ‘long term leases’ or ‘long term’ tenancies.
Particularly, the Council should write a Management Plan for their owned downland and consult with Worthing people and other interested bodies on the contents of that plan.
Such a Worthing Downland Estate Management Plan should include:
- Free and open access over all the council owned downland, as was always envisaged when the Borough purchased it, and as is strongly needed on this urban fringe Downland within the new National Park. All of Mount Carvey already has such access, and Tenants Hill had it in the past, and needs to be returned to that free and open condition.
- Management of all the farmland as permanent pasture, with the removal of most of the internal fencing at Tenant Hill and some at Mount Carvey.
- A project of enhancement of the quality of this permanent pasture, so as to re-create the flowery, species-ri ch pastures which were so central to the place identity of the South Downs in earlier generations.
- This project of enhancement to be done with the close partnership of Worthing’s neighbours, the National Trust, the new National Park Authority, Natural England, and local experts.
Eastbourne Council have undertaken just such an enhancement project over the past 15 years with excellent results for all visitors to their downland at Beachy Head and on the heights above the town, for wildlife, and for the restoration of a badly damaged down landscape.
With such a plan Worthing, too, can make its Cissbury Downland an iconic landscape for the new National Park.
Please reject any return to the bad old days of distant Council management and loss of all memory of the public values for which our downland was first bought.

[i] (Worthing Borough Council Press Release, 26th November 2009, and WBC Cabinet Meeting Agenda item 9, December 3rd 2009).

[ii] (Agenda Item 9, para. 3.2, Report to Cabinet: 3rd December 2009).

Monday 23 November 2009

Local Union activist threatened with sack!

This just in from the National Shop Stewards Network. I know Zena, and this is quite incredible. This NHS trust doesn't just want to get rid of her - they want to be able to appoint the union rep to take her place!

Zena Dodgson, the elected Trade Union Facilitator (TUF) for staff at East Surrey, Crawley and Horsham hospitals, has been threatened with dismissal by Surrey and Sussex NHS Trust. Zena is also the elected Secretary of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Branch of Unison, but would be unable to continue in this role unless employed by the Trust.

She was elected to the TUF post by the trade unions in 2005 and has been re-elected every year since by her union colleagues.

The Trust has unilaterally decided to make Zena’s elected post redundant and replace it with an appointed Trade Union ‘Convenor’ role at the end of 2009. She has been issued with an 'at risk' notice. The management want to have the 'new' post appointed by a panel which will include them! The union side is opposing this and defending their right to elect their officers.

The Trust in the past had a management appointed staff side coordinator and it took a four year effort to end this arrangement.

Zena is obviously seen as an obstacle to the plans of the Trust. Along with her Union colleagues at the Trust, she strongly opposed the ‘reconfiguration’ of Crawley hospital, which involved the downgrading of some services.

The decision to dismiss Zena is part of SASH management’s effort to turn it into a Foundation Trust, allowing it to be run as a business in the health care ‘market’. In the Marketing and Communications Strategy Update presented by Andrew Hines, former Director of Corporate Services and Facilities, to the SASH board meeting on September 24, 2009, he wrote:“If the Trust is to be effective in the future as a Foundation Trust, it needs to develop a mature approach to marketing.”The staff have started a petition to defend their elected Trade Union Facilitator.

Zena’s union, Unison, has lodged an appeal against her dismissal, which is scheduled to be heard on Monday, 23rd November.All supporters of the NHS should oppose this attack on Trade Union democracy.

The Chief Executive of Surrey and Sussex NHS Trust is Mrs Gail Wannell.Send letters of protest to her at: Maple House, East Surrey Hospital, Canada Avenue, Redhill, RH1 5RH.The phone number is 01737 231825, or email at

Please send messages of support to

National Shop Stewards Network

Thursday 19 November 2009

Council helps itself to employees' pay

Now, tempting as I am sure it will be to some to write this post off as the special pleadings of a featherbedded public sector worker, do please stick with it. Any worker could potentially find themselves in a similar position.

At the end of last month, we finally got the pay award that was due from April, the delay being due to some very protracted negotiations (well actually some protracted stalling from the national employers).

Only several hundred employees didn't - the reason supposedly being that they had previously been overpaid a year previously when last year's pay award was applied. The Council took it upon itself to simply withhold people's pay on the basis of a "maybe" People weren't told this until they enquired - no explanation, no justification.

Now people are starting to have deductions made from their pay for these supposed overpayments, but still no explanation of these overpayments has been forthcoming. People have been given no opportunity to challenge the decision that an overpayment has occurred, nor to challenge the decision that there is a legal right to recover.

Needless to say, the union is on the case. We are disputing the Council's right to act in this arrogant and high-handed manner, and we are demanding that employees are given the right to challenge these decisions before money which they have earned and are relying on is snatched away from them. Now that they are being challenged they are starting to back down.

John Barradell, the new Council CEO, places a high premium on good customer service. But of course, if any user of council services were to be treated like this, there would be hell to pay.

Expecting council workers to show respect for service users starts with some respect being shown to them. Over this issue, Brighton and Hove City Council has shown its employees no respect whatsoever.

PS - if you find your pay packet suddenly "light" because of an alleged overpayment, challenge it quickly. Demand an explanation, and demand the right to negotiate around whether and how it should be recovered. Use your employer's grievance procedure and get the union involved if you've got one. What the employer won't tell you is that they may not have the legal right to recover the money at all, if you received it in good faith and had no reason to believe it was wrong.

Make sure you get advice quickly!

UPDATE - the council has now backed down in the face of pressure from Unison and the GMB. Everyone is getting the money they are owed and anyone the council thinks it has overpaid will get a letter of explanation and a chance to discuss and dispute the issue. The council looks like it will still seek to recover the money but we will be arguing strongly for it to be written off.

Yes..I know...lots of "righteous indignation" from the usual suspects on the Argus Comments about this great "windfall" council staff are supposedly enjoying - but if you have ever been overpaid benefits, tax credits or wages you'll know what a nightmare it is. You have got used to living on a sum which you had every reason to suppose was correct, then it's taken away from you when someone discovers the mistake. That in itself is bad enough, but then they want back all the money you've had been overpaid in the past as well.

Don't forget - if you didn't know it was wrong and had no reason to suppose it was, and you have acted on the basis that it was right, it is highly likely that the employer has no legal right to demand the money back. In Keenan vs Barclays Bank, an employment tribunal ruled that the employee had so built her life around the salary which later turned out to be incorrect that it was not only unfair to ask her to repay the sum hitherto overpaid - but that it was also unfair to expect her to take any reduction in the salary she had been wrongly paid for the future. Now there's an interesting precedent to quote at your friendly local HR department!

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Respect Conference

Reports of conference are available on various blogs which I link to. For example here and here.

The official report is here.

I just wanted to give a few impressions as a delegate.

The positives are that Respect is on the up, growing in membership and hopeful that we can increase our Parliamentary representation, by adding Salma Yaqoob and Abjol Miah to George Galloway. Respect remains the strongest left current electorally (the Greens have more councillors but as yet no-one in Parliament).

On the downside we remain small and active in a comparitively small number of places. This really brings us to the nub of the biggest and most controversial questions facing us - if we can only win in a few places, who do we work with on the rest of the left and on what basis?

There were a number of motions about this at Conference, none of which were mutually exclusive and all of which were passed. But this paper unanimity does mask sharp disagreements about what the words really mean for different people

One group, which supported No2EU at the Euro-elections and is sceptical about the Greens, want to see Respect orient towards the new coalition which has just been announced between the Socialist Party and Communist Party of Britain.

Another group, around the leadership, is dismissive of No2EU and the latest coalition and sees co-operation with the Greens as a bigger priority. In Birmingham this has borne fruit with the Greens deciding not to stand against Salma Yaqoob after she supported the Greens at the Euro-elections, and a possibility of a similar deal in Manchester.

Socialist Resistance does not see the approaches as needing to be counterposed. We want to see votes for credible candidates to the left of New Labour in as many places as possible, be it left Greens, explicit socialists or indeed Labour lefts like McDonnell and Corbyn.

The left's priority must be to mount as big a challenge as possible at the general election to counter the swing to the right (and the far right) which is currently a very real prospect.

We cannot afford the luxury of bickering.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Hove Park School - the new blackboard jungle?

Last week, there was a distressing incident in which a boy was stabbed by another boy at Hove Park School, which my own child attends.

I do not claim to know all of the circumstances of this incident - I expect all of those to come out in the investigation which will follow.

What I do want to comment on is how this incident has been seized upon by the local media to sensationalise the incident and to try to paint this school as some den of iniquity. The Argus has also implicitly attacked the management of the school as having failed to act appropriately, as having not treated the incident seriously, and as trying to sweep it under the carpet. In fact nothing could be further from the truth.

The school suspended the alleged perpetrator, called the police and, remarkably, printed a letter which was taken home by every pupil on the very day of the incident in order that parents would know what had happened and that the safety of nearly all the other pupils was in no way compromised. So much for "sweeping it under the carpet". Of course, this measure was not good enough for one parent, who bemoaned "having to find out about it through a letter", though his suggestions as to what the school could have done to get the information to all parents that quickly is not recorded.

Another implied sin according to the Argus was that, horror of horrors, lessons carried on normally while this happened. Again no indication is forthcoming as to what would have been a sensible alternative course of action

Of course, the Argus could also not resist throwing in another mention of HPS's exam results (which they had covered previously), to complete the exercise in dog-whistle politics.

So far, so predictable. What is worse is that a local councillor, Amy Kennedy, has decided to go along with the wave of hysteria, and in fact has helped to make it worse. So far we've had Cllr Kennedy saying that the school should be put into special measures (huh??), unfounded claims that behaviour problems are not dealt with at the school, and wild comparisons to The Bronx!
(Such a comparison is of course soooh last century...the correct point of overblown comparison from the US is of course Baltimore, in these post-Wire days.)

Would it be too much to expect that the school should get some support and acknowledgement for the steps it is taking, rather than being undermined at every turn by people who seem determined to label it a failing school?

Hundreds protest against downland sell-off

Thanks to Dave Bangs for this report on the protest in Worthing which I mentioned last week.


HUNDREDS of residents have protested in Worthing against controversial council plans to sell off downland next to Cissbury Ring.

250 to 300 people gathered at the Coombe Rise car park in Findon Valley last Saturday November 14th for a rally staged by campaign group Stop the Cissbury Sell-Off (SCSO).

They then filed up on to the land itself, waving banners and placards, and let off distress flares to draw attention to the threat.

Some then continued for a four-mile guided walk across the council’s for-sale land and the National Trust’s Cissbury Ring, despite intermittent squalls of gale force wind and lashing rain. The walk passed over one for-sale council-owned field next to Cissbury Ring which has had a statutory right of access for the last 5 years, but has never been opened to the public, as the law required it to be. This was the first time the public have ever properly used this land.

The event was hailed as a huge success by SCSO, which has already forced Worthing Borough Council to look again at its plans.

After the group alerted the public to the proposals, the local authority last week announced a review of its decision to sell agricultural land at Mount Carvey and Tenants Hill.

But speakers Dave Bangs and Chris Hare from SCSO, along with Kate Ashbrook from the Open Spaces Society, told the rally that this was not enough. Dave Bangs said: "The council failed to appreciate the public’s wish for this Downland to remain in council hands. We urge everyone to write to Cllr Steve Waight, the Worthing Council Cabinet Member for Resources, who will conduct the review, and express their opposition to any sales of Worthing council downland”.

Speakers urged Worthing council not only to definitively withdraw plans for the sale, but to work with bodies like the coming National Park authority and the National Trust to preserve and enhance the much-loved areas and to take advantage of available environmental funding.

Said SCSO spokesman Trevor Hodgson: "There was a very strong feeling amongst everyone there that we cannot assume the council will do the right thing, despite the massive turnout today.

"The speakers stressed today that it is important for everyone who cares about the future of this land to remain vigilant in the weeks and months ahead.

"There are now a huge number of people actively involved in this campaign and the council can be assured that we are not going away.

"We will fight on until we are completely satisfied that this crucial piece of Worthing 's environmental and historical heritage is fully protected and secure for generations to come."

Mr Hodgson added that there had been particular disbelief among residents that Worthing council was trying to sell off its downland at a time when the South Downs National Park was being given the official green light in recognition of the importance of this unique English landscape.

Further information on the campaign, including maps of the land in question, can be found on the SCSO website at To contact the group email


SCSO: Media contact. Trevor Hodgson. Email:
Tel: 07968 042646

Wednesday 11 November 2009

The tabloid, the letter and the Prime Minister

Well, The Sun in full retreat...never a bad thing, but what are the issues here?

It is quite clear that most people don't quite understand how a war which is killing Afghans by the thousand and British soldiers by the score can be reduced to the standard of one person's handwriting and spelling. Didn't we lose a certain amount of perspective here?

Brown's crime is to continue the criminal presence of UK troops in Afghanistan - against the wishes of a clear majority of the Afghan and British people - but The Sun and the Tories can't quite come out and say this. They have no different strategy to New Labour but still somehow need to make political capital out of the situation. So we have the unedifying spectacle of a particularly clumsy tabloid sting, aided by a bereaved mother whose grief has clearly overruled her better judgement. Brown's getting the best press he's had in over a year - how did that happen??

I don't want the UK troops to get more equipment - in order to kill yet more Afghans - I want them out.

Oh..and by the way...the Afghans?...remember them? They're the people whose dead we don't count and don't name, the people who we've reduced to bit part players in their own tragedy.

That, rather than the nonsense over "the letter", is what we should be focussing on.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

It looks like victory

The Cityclean workers have suspended their action after appearing to win most of their demands. If that is the case it is a welcome victory. However the action is only suspended and it looks like there is weeks of negotiation ahead. Given the way the council's negotiating position constantly shifts over this issue, nothing should be taken for granted. We also don't know what the employer's expectations are around the issue of productivity.

But for now, it looks like the Council has backed down in the face of solid and determined action which had clear popular support.

Pictures from the picket lines - Hollingdean Depot yesterday

Monday 9 November 2009

Stop Cissbury Sell Off

Stop Cissbury Sell Off
Our website has a map of the for-sale Downland:

against the proposed selling of Worthing Council-owned Downland around Cissbury Ring

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14th, 11.00am
Speakers include: Kate Ashbrook, redoubtable Director of the Open Spaces Society, & Marion Shoard, countryside author & national campaigner.
Press and TV will be there, so we need maximum turn-out to demonstrate our opposition to the loss of this public landscape.
We will walk up onto the for-sale land and hold a short meeting.
Bring the family and all your friends, and anything to make a show – banners, placards, balloons…..

For those who have time we will then take a walk across Mount Carvey, Cissbury Ring and back down Tenants Hill to view the for-sale Downland and talk through how we wish to see it improved under Worthing’s ownership.
The walk will be around 4.5 miles, but folk who do not wish to walk the whole way can easily return at several points.
The walk will cross a Council-owned field that has a statutory right of public access but has been closed to the public, contrary to the law, for the last 4 years.
Contact: Chris Hare, Tel. 01903 200 648,; Barry Winter, Tel: 01903 263 038,; Dave Bangs, Tel. 01273 620 815,

From: David Bangs, 78 Ewhurst Road, Brighton, BN2 4AJ, Tel: 01273 620 815
02 / 11 / 2009

Stop Worthing selling off its Downs !!
Worthing Council must stop the sale of its Cissbury Downland forthwith. The decision to sell was made without public consultation, or, indeed, public knowledge.

Worthing folk will not to take kindly to the loss of their present informal right to roam over the fields and little woods which Worthing has just put up for sale.

This is a potentially disastrous repeat of the mistake which was made 15 years ago by Brighton Council, when it covertly decided to flog off its Downland. Thankfully, a sharp local campaign reversed that decision, and Brighton is at last making real public improvements to its Downland.
Worthing Council Leader Paul Yallop is plain wrong to imply that the Council has a ‘duty to the taxpayer’ to sell its landholding around Cissbury Ring.

To the contrary, they have a public duty to enhance this landscape as one of the core green spaces available to their residents, in a town which is relatively poorly endowed with urban green space.

The Cissbury Ring landscape is, to Worthing, what council-owned Beachy Head is to Eastbourne, and what Stanmer Park is to Brighton. It is Worthing’s own ‘green lung’.

The solution is ready and waiting for Worthing to take up. There is ample money available for future Downland management via ‘Higher Level Stewardship’ funding, which is now available to local councils as well as private farmers and landowners. Furthermore, there are other targetted funding sources to tackle a project of Downland enhancement.

If Worthing Council does not feel it any longer has the in-house expertise to plan such a project they need not worry. There will be ample expertise available from the forthcoming National Park Authority (underway in less than a year) and, in the meantime, staff of the South Downs Joint Committee, of which Cllr Yallop is a new member, are available for support. Furthermore, the National Trust, who own Cissbury Ring itself, have a direct interest in partnership working with the Council to undertake enhancement of this landscape.

There is a real doubt over whether much of the special old Down pasture wildlife of Cissbury Ring can survive in the long term unless its ancient chalk grassland can be restored in this wider landscape. The Ring is, at present, just a ‘precious fragment’ surrounded by a sea of farmland which has been stripped of its ancient flowery pastures. This Downscape urgently needs a project of enhancement on behalf of local people.

Come on Worthing, no unnecessary fights, please ! Don’t sell this Downland. Improve it, instead !!

Dave Bangs

Unite to stop the pay cuts!

Unison in Brighton and Hove is fully in support of our GMB comrades who start a week's strike action tomorrow at Cityclean. Unison members face the same attacks themselves. In fact when the full impact of the council's proposals is known, we will have more members affected.

But there is a danger that workers will end up squabbling with each other about who does the most difficult and worthwhile jobs. There have been signs of this on the Argus online discussions.

We need to be saying that a the work of the (mainly but not exclusively male) Cityclean workers is just as important as the work of (mainly but not exclusively female) teaching assistants. The people of the city rely on both of these groups of workers We also need to reject the employers' constant depiction of certain jobs as "unskilled".

Equal pay legislation was meant to lift low-paid women workers up to a decent level of pay, but instead the employers are using it to level downwards - a complete perversion of the law's intent.

This the fight we need to be having.

UPDATE Monday - the strike is solid and the depot was heavily picketed today. We will see whether the Council will start to negotiate sensibly.

Thursday 5 November 2009


A country is occupying another country, supposedly because of some imagined threat.

Unsurprisingly inhabitants of occupied country have no inclination to accept foreign occupation and fight against it by any means they can.

As part of it's "strategy" the occupying force shores up a corrupt government which is brought to power in rigged elections. Said government's own abuses of human rights are just as bad as those which they claim to be against.

The occupying force is hopelessly bogged down, less and less wanted by the local population, and ends being stuck there for years.

The parallels are quite strong aren't they?

There's one more parallel - after years (and nearly 60,000 deaths of their own and untold millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians), the Americans negotiated a settlement and a withdrawal with people they previously called "terrorists".

Do we have wait that long and shed that much blood before we start that process in Afghanistan?

Tuesday 3 November 2009

The crisis in working class political representation

The RMT is hosting a conference in London on the urgent question of how the interests of working people can be represented politically. It is significant that a trade union is offically organising and sponsoring the event.

11am to 3pm
Camden Centre
Bidborough Street
London WC1
download flyer (pdf file 4mb)

The working class is being asked to pay for a crisis created by capitalism with more attacks on jobs, pay and conditions, cuts to services and a new round of privatisation.

This RMT-convened conference will be non-binding and non-resolution based, to discuss with like-minded socialists and trade unionists how best we can defend and promote working class interests.

The conference will seek to analyse the current crisis in working class political representation and then discuss the options for fighting back.

Open to all but please register in advance. To register please email:, or write to: RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD. Free Creche provided but please also book using the above contact details.

Susan Press, Vice Chair Labour Representation Committee
Brian Caton, POA General Secretary
Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP
Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary
John Foster, No2EU: Yes to Democracy
Joe Higgins, Socialist Party MEP
Dave Ward, CWU Deputy General Secretary
Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary

On strike against the cuts - local workers speak out

After last years banking crisis,Britain's politicians warned us that we would all have to pay for the bail out of the banks.
The forthcoming election seems to be a competition between the main parties about who will cut jobs,services and pensions the most.
Three groups of workers in Brighton and Hove have already been told that they must help pay for the mess the government and banks have got the country into. But they have also said that they are not prepared to pay with their jobs,pay and working conditions.

They are all taking or planning strike action to defend themselves and public services
Come along to hear their story,be inspired,and find out what you can do to help.


(Queens Rd,5 mins South Brighton station)

SPEAKERS Union representatives from 3 disputes

* Brighton Royal Mail Delivery Office (CWU)
* Hollingbury Bin Depot (GMB)
* Brighton Housing Trust (Unison)

Each striker will talk for about 10 minutes,leaving plenty of time to ask questions and discuss what we can all do to give help and solidarity