Battling parents were on song yesterday in their fight against cuts which could see vital services for their kids cut.
A group of around 30 mums, dads and their children braved the chilly weather to take part in a street theatre event at the Centre for Life and later Central Station in Newcastle city centre.
For it, they also re-worked a few well known Christmas tunes to highlight their cause.
These included ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ which detailed what they saw as the effect on services of proposed city council cuts.
Lines included ‘On the first day of Christmas the council took from me, a future for my family’.
Meanwhile Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ and ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ by Shakin’ Stevens also got the treatment.
It was the latest in a series of high profile events by The Parents against Cuts group which have resulted in at times heated clashes with city council leader Nick Forbes. Some wore Nick Forbes face masks for the event yesterday.
Last week the council announced proposals to cut its budget by £40m in response, it says, to Central Government austerity measures.
The PAC group was set up when plans to reduce the number of Sure Start Centres, which provide early educational and play facilities for pre-school children from the poorest backgrounds to save around £4.7m as part of these measures, were first made public.
Shannon Sherman, who helped organise the event, said:
“We’re still waiting to hear which Sure Start centres are to go.
“We were told it was to be this month, now the council is saying it’s in January.
“Christmas is a busy time for parents but we’ve got a good turn out.
“We have another planning meeting next week to decide what to do next.”
Those attending the event laughed off a suggestion made by Mr Forbes last week of a link between PAC and the Revolutionary Communist Group.
In an interview the council leader said:
“The Revolutionary Communist Party website clearly claims responsibility for a number of actions that Parents Against Cuts is taking.”
Vanessa Cutter of PAC denied the link. She said:
“I think it shows the council leader had been rattled by our protests.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Dec 2014
A low pay epidemic is sweeping the North East, it is claimed, as new figures reveal one in four are paid below a living wage.
A report released today by KPMG estimates that well over a quarter of a million workers receive less than the £7.65 per hour experts say is needed for the basic cost of living in 2014.
The TUC claim that some businesses can afford to pay the living wage, calculated by Centre for Research in Social Policy, but are refusing to do so – and the regional economy is suffering as a result.
The North East Chamber of Commerce, however, says there has been progress and last week published a survey which shows 35% of firms increased workers’ pay above inflation last year.
Northern TUC Regional Secretary Beth Farhat called for a bigger commitment. She said:
“People deserve a fair day’s pay for an honest day’s work.
“But low pay is blighting the lives of hundreds of thousands of families in the North East. And it’s adding to the deficit because it means more spent on tax credits and less collected in tax.
“We have the wrong kind of recovery with the wrong kind of jobs – we need to create far more living wage jobs, with decent hours and permanent contracts.
“The fact is there are employers out there in our region who can afford to pay living wages, but aren’t.
“It is now time for all responsible employers to commit to adopting this standard, which enables workers to earn just enough to be able to live a decent life.”
Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle North, will speak at the Living Wage Summit at Newcastle’s Centre for Life on Thursday as part of a week of action on low wages by the TUC.
Newcastle City Council became the first to introduce a living wage and the authority boosted this to £7.55 in April, and South Tyneside has announced it is to follow suit. Councils in Gateshead, Northumberland and North Tyneside all set up working groups to explore the issue earlier this year.
Ms McKinnell, Labour’s Shadow Economic Secretary, said:
“People in the North East are really struggling with the cost of living crisis and with around one in four workers in our region paid less than the living wage, more must be done to tackle the problem of low pay.
“Finding ways to support and encourage employers to pay the Living Wage is a major part of that.
“It is fantastic to see more businesses and Labour-run councils in our region seeing the benefits of adopting the Living Wage, but it is important that we continue to demonstrate the value, both to employers but also to our region as a whole.”
The Living Wage Summit will also hear from local authorities, trade unions, voluntary and community agencies, such as the Child Poverty Commission and employers.
Speakers include James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, Sarah Vero from the Living Wage Foundation, Reverend Simon Mason and Matt Stripe, HR director for Nestle, who are a committed Living Wage employer.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Nov 2014
Railway workers and supporters are to protest at an event staged by a privateer bidder for Britain’s only publicly owned intercity rail service.
Eurostar/Keolis wants to take over East Coast — Britain’s most efficiently run and profitable rail service.
It was taken back into public ownership in 2009 when profiteers proved incapable of operating it.
Under public control it has provided about £800 million to the Treasury.
But the Tory-Lib Dem coalition plans to hand it back to the private sector before next year’s general election.
Rail unions RMT and TSSA will demonstrate when Eurostar/Keolis stages a presentation in Newcastle.
The protest takes place outside the banqueting suite at Newcastle’s Centre for Life at 12 noon on Friday April 11.
RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: “Privatisation has been a disaster for Britain’s railways. They now cost between three and four times more in taxpayer subsidy than the publicly owned British Rail.”
Source – Morning Star 03 April 2014