With pressure mounting to reverse a decision to axe free transport for students, Northumberland County Council has agreed to hold an extraordinary meeting in Morpeth next week.
Angry parents and opponents of the Labour administration at county hall have been urging the county council to reverse its decision to reintroduce transport charges for students over the age of 16.
They say it discriminates against parents in the north and rural parts of the county and that the consultation was inadequate.
They have also been highly critical of county council leader Grant Davey for avoiding a meeting to raise the concerns.
But an emergency meeting has now been called. It will take place at County Hall in Morpeth on Friday at 9.30am.
The motion to be debated has been put forward by Conservative group leader Peter Jackson.
He is requesting the suspension of the decision and the introduction of a new consultation process.
Mr Jackson said: “The leader of the council Grant Davey can run but cannot hide from the electorate.
“He has been doing everything in his power to avoid public accountability. Labour have made a huge mistake with this teenage tax and we are asking them to revisit this decision which will be discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the council.”
But Mr Davey, leader of the council and the Labour group, accused the Tories of playing politics:
“The extraordinary council meeting could end up costing the council tax payers over £40,000, which is a very expensive way to play gesture politics after their own government has raided Northumberland’s budget to the tune of £130m.
“It’s cynical, hypocritical and it goes to show that local Tories would rather spend than save money.”
Protestors met senior county council officers on Wednesday to express concern about the lack of engagement with the public.
Leading protestor Allison Joynson said: “Whilst I appreciate the officers taking the time to meet with us, and the fact that finally a dialogue has begun, it became quickly apparent that the Labour administration is not prepared to seriously consider revisiting this discriminatory policy.
“It was evident from the discussions that the council had no real appreciation of the huge impact on the people of Northumberland especially those from rural areas.”
The county council voted to scrap its free transport scheme for pupils over the age of 16 last month in a move which will save £2.4 million.
From September 1 students will pay the full cost where public transport is available, or £600 a year to travel on council contracted school transport.
Council bosses say they were forced to bring back charges as they have to remove £32m from the authority’s budget in 2014/15 and a further £100m over the next three years.
But furious parents in the rural north of the county say their children are being penalised for staying in education, and are calling on the administration to change its mind.
The pressure group opposing the plans has already staged a demonstration outside the Duchess Community High School in Alnwick and has circulated a petition demanding a rethink.
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 05 July 2014
Ok… round 2. I’ve now discarded the submissive attitude adopted for the initial interview and now its time to enter angry, cynical bastard mode (admittedly this seems to be pretty much my default state nowadays).
The adviser was allowed to play his hand in the first interview, and he proved himself to be one of those who would, if given the opportunity, steamroller the claiment into signing a Jobseeker’s Agreement (JSAg) designed to set them up for sanctions, presumably with no qualms about the ensuing hardship their actions would cause.
Remember this, and remember it well – it’s YOUR life they will be disrupting, possibly destroying. They will continue on their merry way, drawing their rather good wage and probably basking in the praise they get for hitting their sanction targets at your expense.
So what are YOU going to do about it ? Because its only YOU who can do anything about it.
Luckily its not so hard as you might think – or might be encouraged to think. Of course it helps if you’re a naturally stroppy person. Actually, I’m not, and once upon a time I’d have probably have allowed them to steamroller me too, but the passage of the long, hard years, etc – basically I’ve learnt how to play the part, studied how they play their parts, learnt the facts that they should know but so often seem ignorant of – pretty inexcusable when that knowledge should be central to the proper execution of their jobs, but there you go. It’s something you can use.
Knowledge is power, and can give you a little leverage – it’s up to YOU how you use it to best effect.
Archimedes said “Give me a firm place to stand, and I will move the Earth.” That’s a little ambitious perhaps – I’d settle for helping a few more cracks appear in the edifice – it may not be as dramatic as burning down the Jobcentre, but chipping away here and there has its effect.
Not much of one if it’s just me, but what if YOU join in, and YOU and YOU ? And all the other YOUs who accept having deadly JSAgs foisted on them without argument, then whinge about it afterwards ?
If everyone refused to sign sub-standard JSAgs at the initial appointment and took the adviser to a second session, that would instantly impose extra strain on the system – and probably on the advisers too. More cracks for you to insert your metaphorical crowbar into.
But its down to YOU to act in your own best interests. All I can do is record how I’ve gone about things – hopefully it may inspire YOU and give YOU a few ideas.
Anyhow, enough about YOU, how was I getting on back at the Jobcentre ?
Mr Submissive safely back in his box, Mr Bastard takes to the stage. As the adviser’s only previous experience of me is as the former, this apparant change of personality may throw him a bit.
Incidentally, I find it useful to take a few props along. Print out anything you think you might be able to quote at them, put them in a file, then add enough extra sheets (blank if you like) to give it a bit of weight so that it gives a satisfying thump when you dump it on their desk. If they query it, say “Just a few notes…I’ve been looking into the legal implications” or something on those lines. Leave it vague – let their imaginations fill in the blanks, however erroneously.
A reporter’s notepad is also useful. Put it on their desk to make sure they see it, but transfer it to your lap, out of their sight, to make notes. Actually, you dont even have to make notes – just appear to be doing so. doodle, scribble, whatever, it’s the fact that you appear to be making notes that is important. Once again, encourage their imagination to jump to conclusions. Oh, and dont forget a pen – you kind of lose points if you have to ask to borrow one of theirs.
The notepad can also be used to disrupt their flow, should you wish to. Just say “Sorry… could you repeat that ? I ought to make a note of that,” and then scribble something on your pad for a while.
Mr Bastard also attempts to take control. Mr Bastard is right in from the word go. He points out that the JSAg is a contract and that under English common law there are certain niceties that must be observed if it is to be considered valid, does Mr Adviser not agree ? Mr Adviser has obviously never given a moments thought to the subject, is caught on the back foot, and resorts to umming and ahhing.
“Well it is, and it does,” Mr Bastard informs him, and moves on to the next issue.
You might recall from Part 2 that this adviser changed one of my specified employment fields on the JSAg to “assembly”, despite me pointing out that not only did I have no experience in that field, I wasn’t even clear what “assembly” actually entails.
Mr Bastard points out again that he knows nothing of this field, and demands it is changed…but not back to the original job, instead he is willing to allow “Retail” to be inserted instead.
In actual fact, Mr. Bastard’s experience of retail is pretty much limited to working stalls at markets and festivals – still, that’s 100% more experience than he has of assembly. Mr. Bastard also knows that far too many retail jobs are part-time and zero hours, but he wont have to apply for those, as he specifies needing full-time work.
However, the important thing is that Mr. Bastard is seen as willing to compromise and allow the Mr. Adviser to change one of his designated jobs (albeit one that he did not himself designate to start with). Mr. Bastard makes sure Mr Adviser knows that he’s making compromises, that he’s willing to do business. All bullshit really, but this perceived willingness to negotiate will look good should you need to take your case to independent appeal.
Still pushing the illusion of being Mr Compromise, Mr Bastard also states that he’s going to allow the total of 6 compulsory job applications per week to stand – a 100% increase on the existing JSAg. Mr. Adviser upped it from 3 to 6 at the initial appointment.
Six applications a week may not seem much, but taken in the context of the North East’s job opportunities… some weeks it’ll probably mean applying for 5 jobs I know I’m not going to get. The one bright spot is that email means I dont have to waste money on stamps and stationary anymore.
Mr Adviser did attempt to rally behind his assembly fixation – what the hell is is with him and assembly work ? If its so great, why isn’t he doing it ? And, being Mr Bastard, I asked him that very question. He didn’t answer, but stated that assembly was where all the work is locally.
Aha ! said Mr Bastard, who had spent a profitable and instructive 15 minutes prior to the interview printing off jobs from the Jobcentre’s jobpoints.
“Funny you should say that,” says Mr Bastard, “I’ve just been working my way through the top 100 local jobs, and guess how many assembly jobs I found ?”
Mr Adviser is not up to guessing games, but Mr Bastard tells him anyway – “Two !” He dumps the job slips in front of Mr Adviser and goes on to point out that both require previous experience and arcane qualifications, neither of which Mr Bastard – as he has repeatedly pointed out – possesses.
Mr Adviser shrugs. But there’s more – Mr Bastard dips into his other pocket and extracts a far larger wad of job slips. “By way of comparison, in the top 100 jobs on your job points I found no less than nineteen vacancies for self-employed leaflet distributors.”
And that’s the way of it folks – 2% assembly jobs, 19% leaflet distributors. In fact its probably worse than that – had I counted several other door-to-door, catalogue selling, commision based non-jobs in with the leaflet non-jobs, they’d have accounted for at least 25% of work available on the Jobcentre’s (and thus the government’s) own job points.
Its the unpalatable fact that they wont acknowledge – last August the Financial Times highlighted a survey of vacancies by Adzuna.co.uk, described as “a search engine that collects every online job vacancy.”
According to this survey, London and the southeast accounted for 46 per cent of UK vacancies… compared with just 3.3 per cent in the North East.
Anyone having to live on benefits in the North East knows this. Anyone looking for full-time work knows it’s even worse than that – once you’ve weeded out the part-time jobs, the zero hour contracts, and the 25% of “self-employed” scam non-jobs – what’s left ?
We know it , they must know it too, but refuse to acknowledge it, and insist we continue to chase vacancies in which we have neither the specified experience or qualifications, which we know before we even send the application that we wont be considered for.
If you wanted to design a system that seems guaranteed to destroy self-confidence and morale, look no further.
Mr Bastard makes these points, but Mr Adviser is obviously not interested. After all, he has his job, his little bit of power over the plebs, and is fulfilling the the trust invested in him by Iain Duncan Smith admirably.
The session petered out around now, with Mr Adviser saying that he will have to book a double-session for next time, as Mr Bastard has to agree to the revised JSAg or it will be refered to a decision maker.
“WE have to mutually agree on a contract, subject to English common law” Mr Bastard reminds him, and exits, feeling he’s probably come out on top – and still hasn’t signed the JSAg.
To be continued …