Thursday 27 January 2011

Hollingdean's against the cuts

Nearly 50 people gathered at Hollingdean Community Centre on Thursday night at the invitation of Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition. It was an excellent turnout on a cold, wet night.

What was striking was the number of stories from ordinary people about how the cuts are already affecting people. We heard from people being messed about the benefits system, being messed about by employers, how cuts in young peoples' services are making life increasingly difficult for teachers.

There were good speeches from Phil Clarke of the Stop the Cuts Coalition, Dave Russell GMB shop steward at the depot, and Tony Greenstein of Brighton Unemployed Centre.

There will regular meetings to build a local anti-cuts campaign.

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Tuesday 25 January 2011

Failing Grayling gets rough reception....and Freud's a no-show!

Homophobic DWP Minister Chris Grayling, who thinks it's ok to refuse services to people on grounds of their sexuality, got a hot reception from a hastily-assembled group of protestors in Brighton today.

Grayling thought it would be fun to visit the local Jobcentre to meet claimants whose benefits he's cutting, before going to City College to meet students whose EMA he has just abolished.

I guess you have to admire the sheer nerve of some people.....

A couple of police officers were present at the Jobcentre, but sadly they seemed unwilling to question Mr Grayling about his expenses claims - £100,000 for a central London flat though his constituency home is less than 17 miles away.

Meanwhile the commonsense light has reportedly finally flickered into life at the Council. Lord Freud will not now be visiting the housing benefit office on Wednesday, after it became clear that he really wouldn't be very welcome in an office which has just been told that 20 posts are going as a result of his policies.

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Monday 24 January 2011

Fraudulent Freud is visiting Brighton

Lord David Freud, the welfare cutting gun-for-hire of successive governments, is gracing us with his presence this Wednesday (26th January). The government minister is apparently visiting the council at the invitation of Cllr Maria Caulfield, who recently took it upon herself to "welcome" the Government's (Freud's) changes to housing benefit - changes that will leave 12,000 households in Brighton and Hove worse off.   Many of the people affected are in work but will see cuts in their income as a result of cuts in benefits and tax credits.

He is visiting the housing benefit office just a couple of weeks after staff there were told of cuts to the service totalling £1.3 million over the next four years and the loss of 20 posts this year alone.

Freud first came to prominence in the dying days of the New Labour Government when the Work and Pensions Secretary, James Purnell, got him to write a report about disability benefits.  But now he's the Tories' man.

His work for Purnell was characterised by a quite amazing degree of ignorance about how the benefits he was meant to looking at actually work, perhaps to be expected from a merchant banker who had little previous contact with the benefits system.  Among the errors which littered his report to Purnell was the claim that people's own GPs assessed them for Incapacity Benefit, when in fact it has long been the case that medical personnel from companies contracted by the DWP do this work.

He also claimed, with no foundation whatsoever, that "7% of IB claimants are on the 'black economy'" and promised that he would end their "free lunch".  In fact, official measures of IB fraud put the level of fraud at 0.5% and falling.

The Child Poverty Action Group remarked
"Freud confesses to having known nothing about the benefits system, thinking it too complicated to understand. He clearly spent most of the 3 weeks writing and researching his welfare reform report playing around with financial models on the back of an envelope instead. The result is a proposal to hand over £167 billion of tax payers' money to private companies with incentives to keep as much as they can. But while the private companies get the cash, he wants more powers to cut benefits to families kept from work by disability."

Notwithstanding the fact that, had Freud's "report" been a school project it would have got a "Fail", he became part of New Labour's trusted inner circle on benefit reform before jumping ship after the election.

If any benefit claimants would like to provide Lord Freud with some education about the reality of life on benefits, he'll be arriving at Brighton Town Hall at 9.30am.

Sunday 23 January 2011

NSSN Conference - a classic wasted opportunity

This has already been commented upon by Collective Resistance, but as one who was there I can provide a first-hand account of the whole disheartening experience.  Some of the background is in my earlier post.

As one delegate (in one of the better speeches) pointed out, the trade union movement in this country is catastrophically underprepared for the onslaught the ConDems want to unleash upon our jobs, our terms and conditions and the public services we work in and/or use.  About 27% of the working population is in a union.  In the "strong" public sector, union density is barely more than half; in the private sector it plummets to about 15%.  Trade union struggle is at an all-time low with worker resistance the exception not the norm, and shop steward numbers continue to decline.

In this area, while we were chewing the fat in a school assembly hall in Camden, jobs were going in the Brighton-based British Bookshops group (with more likely when the whole operation goes belly-up in the coming weeks), and yet another tranche of redundancies at the already battered Edwards Engineering in Crawley and Shoreham.

In this situation there is a crying need for a rank-and-file shop stewards movement to build the resistance which most of the union leaderships are failing to provide.  We need a network which can support union reps at workplace level and give them the confidence to build trade unionism and build struggle.

Instead what we got was the Socialist Party deciding that what really mattered at this juncture was the formation of yet another national anti-cuts movement built in their own image. 

And it really is in their own fact....drop the word "image".  It's them...pure and else!  They've managed to drive everyone.....everyone....else out of the NSSN leadership.  Way to go comrades!

This had to be justified by arguing that there was no other anti-cuts movement with the "correct" politics - in a battle where no real enemy exists, it is necessary to create one.  So we had speech after speech denouncing the Coalition of Resistance (a genuine broad movement) for holding positions it does not hold, and in some cases just making stuff up about how CoR is "soft" on Labour, and doesn't oppose all cuts. Strange that...when I was at CoR National Council last week, an amendment to the Founding Statement calling on councillors not to vote for or implement cuts was passed without dissent.

Among some of the statements which rankled was Tony Mulhearn's moaning about about "people taking their ball home if they don't get their way".  Well yes Tony, if the whole defence, most of the midfield and both wingers do that then maybe there are some "management issues" that need sorting!  We had Linda Taafe declaring "NSSN was here first".  Here first as a shop stewards movement, Linda, not the anti-cuts movement.  And there was Dave Nellist, claiming that the SP's opponents "lacked shopfloor experience".  Flamin' cheek!  How could he possibly know?

One of the saddest aspects of this is that SP members would be a real asset to a broad anti-cuts movement, but sectarian advantage seems more important to them.  The classic disease of the British far left.

One can only hope that they will rejoin the broad movement from which they currently seem to have separated themselves.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Pictures from Brighton EMA protest

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Monday 17 January 2011

Coalition of Resistance National Committee - a good start

Around 80 people attended the first meeting the CoR national Committee after November's founding conference.

There was a good spread of people there representing unions, local anti-cuts groups and political organisations. Among the participants was a representative for Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey. Unite has affiliated to CoR, which is a real boost for the organisation.

Andrew Burgin from the Steering Committee also reported that a working relationship had been established with the Right to Work Campaign and the Peoples Charter, and that it was hoped that something similar could could be established with the National Shop Stewards Network. There was a real willingness to have the broadest possible unity against the cuts.

In terms of activity the chief subjects for discussion were the TUC march planned for 26 March and the week of action being planned for 14 to 20 February.

The meeting also discussed a number of amendments to the founding statement of the CoR which had been held over from the conference, some of these were controversial, some not.

In general , there was a refreshing sense of realism about what CoR could most effectively do - acting as a source of collective support and solidarity for people on the front line of fighting cuts. Only a small minority wanted to substitute CoR for the leadership of the trade union and student movement, and they were comprehensively outvoted.

Accordingly, CoR declared itself ready to support and give solidarity to strikes and occupations against cuts, including co-ordinated action, but avoided the temptation to start sloganising about general strikes (as proposed in one amendment) - a sure way to give the trade union bureaucrats an excuse to withhold support.

In a similar vein, another amendment, which seemed to want to tell students how to organise themselves (like they need anyone's advice!) was also voted down.

The meeting did vote unanimously to call upon councils not to implement cuts and promised support for councillors who voted against cuts.

The other thorny issue was whether CoR should encourage local anti-cuts campaigns to stand candidates in the local elections. The meeting voted against this on the grounds that it would split the anti - cuts movement and narrow its base.

The meeting also heard a short speech from the honorary president Tony Benn and there were also guest speeches from a Belgian trade unionist and a Tunisian activist.

All in all a useful and promising meeting.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

"Consultation" - Brighton and Hove City Council-style

How big a notice do you need to announce the closure of a school?

And how big a notice do you need to "consult" the community about the fact that a wealthy individual is going to take ownership of the local school and its accompanying community sports facilities?

These closely typed A4 notices were put up in the CAR PARK of Portslade Community College on the last day of last term. They give local people 6 weeks to object to the proposal to close their school and open an academy in its place. Two weeks of that was taken up with the Xmas break anyway.

Hands up if you think the Council are really trying here!

Location:Church Rd,Brighton,United Kingdom

Friday 7 January 2011

Official : Bright Start Will Not Close in April !

Save Bright Start News

Bulletin number 10

Official : Bright Start Will Not Close in April !

The first recommendation of their own report to the Cabinet Member meeting on 17th January says “To withdraw the proposal to close the nursery by the end of April 2011 and, to reassure parents and staff that there will be no change to the status of the nursery before September 2011.” ( detailed report available from nursery)

This would not have happened without all the hard work of so many people who marched ,sang, sent letters and emails, lobbied councillors, wrote consultation documents, researched facts, undermined council misinformation, blew up balloons, produced stickers and placards, set up websites, ran stalls, petitioned, spoke at public meetings, met with politicians, spoke to the media, and much more.

Our campaign has been noticed by many local people as broad and dynamic. Brighton and Hove Unison branch is certainly impressed with the campaign, and it is a great lesson for all of us who face arguments that the cuts can’t be stopped.

Clearly they can.

But this is only the Beginning of the End

The fact that the new consultation will take us way past the local elections in May, when the council will probably change hands, is in many ways as much as we expected to win.

Obviously we can’t rely on the Tories losing control of the council.

And a statement from opposition Green and Labour groups on the council regarding their plans for Bright Start should they win control would now be really useful.
Any attempt to privatise us would lead to staff leaving after a few years as they could not afford to support their own families on minimum wage. Unison urges all parents to support us in opposing such a change.
The misinformation during the first consultation process doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in us. But apart from referring to a fictitious “Parents Advisory Committee” (pt3.4), the agenda for 17th January cabinet is talking about seriously looking at many of the suggestions made by us during the first consultation.
There will be plenty to do, starting with another big balloon/singalong and childrens’ party at the cabinet member meeting on the 17th January. (new song sheet out next week!)

There will be a meeting for parents and staff, with Unison and hopefully Caroline Parker, to discuss our future at 6pm at Bright Start on Thursday 20th January.(this date/place is provisional)

You can pick up a copy of the report to Cabinet Member Meeting from the nursery. Or view it on-line here:-

There will be a few of us asking various questions at the meeting. If you want to ask one, or have one read out, it needs to be sent to by noon on Monday 10th January.

Monday 17th January 4pm Lobby/attend Cabinet Member Meeting , Hove Town Hall.

Thursday 20th January,6pm Parent & staff meeting at Bright Start

P&P Brighton &Hove Unison, Brighton Town Hall 291611

Saturday 1 January 2011

Abdel Must Stay In Brighton

Abdel Must Stay In Brighton
Stop His New Year’s Deportation - ACT NOW

Abdelkrim Madjoudj (HOref: M702098). Abdelkrim is a 39 years old gentleman,

Algerian who is currently detained at Brook House since last 17/12/2010

and has already been given direction removals for New Year’s Eve. Abdel

has been living in the UK for 13 years and he is very much loved in the

Brighton community.

Abdelkrim arrived initially as a medical  visitor in the UK in the 16th December 1994, sought an extension to stay unsuccessfully, and returned home to Algeria in September 1995.

Abdelkrim was detained on return and tortured and accused of being involved with criminals and being a member of a banned political party.

He was found not guilty of the alleged crime of failure to report criminals, but by that time Abdelkrim had been physically and mentally scarred by his experience, and he required psychological treatment as a
result. He is afraid that this would happen again if send back to Algeria.

Abdelkrim returned to the UK in January 1998 and lived with his brother in Brighton. He did not apply for asylum or otherwise come to the attention of the authorities until August 2009 when Immigration Officers came to his flat in Brighton. He then applied to remain in the UK for compassionate reasons under the Article 3 (prohibits torture, and "inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”) and Article 8 (provides a right to respect for one's "private and familylife, his home and his correspondence" ) of the European Convention of
Human Rights. It was refused. Home Office states in the refusal letter that Abdel had not strong links in the UK and because he was living illegally in the UK, he should be removed.

Abdelkrim is not working in the UK still suffers physically from back pain. His brother is a successful businessman in the UK. Abdel is supported financially byhis brother, has never been a burden on the State and if he were permitted to stay in the UK, he would be an asset to society as he has a degree in Civil Engineering.

Abdel is a committed and loved volunteer at Migrant English Project and Brighton Voices in Exile. MEP
is run completely by volunteers and provides free English lessons and a safe and social space. Abdel regularly cooks for up to 50 people at Migrant English Project and he takes the lead responsibility for this.

He is friendly and welcoming to new members and he is dearly missed already. After 13 years he is fully engaged in the Brighton and Hove community.

We believe that his removal is an abuse of process as he has no chance to lodge an appeal over the Christmas period with support organisations in Brighton closed, solicitors closed and the Home Office are closed for this period of the year.

And we know he is extremely distressed by the possibility of been removed after living in the UK for 13 years.

What can you do to help?

1)Call the Home Office now demanding he has a right to appeal his deportation order and ask that your message is recorded 0870 606 7766.

2)Write to the Home Secretary Theresa May and let her know that Abdelkrim should be released from detention and given permission to stay in the UK.

Rt. Hon Theresa May, MP

Secretary of State for the Home Office,

2 Marsham St London SW1 4DF

Fax: 0044 (0)20 7035 4745 or 02072191145




MEP (Migrant English Project)