No explanations needed… very few (if any) creative people like the Tories, a party of destruction rather than creation. There’s just so much evidence…here’s a selection :
Cassetteboy – Cameron’s Conference Rap
The Common People – Common People
Glasgow Thatcher death party song
NxtGen – IDS Rap
The Common People – Don’t Stop Me Now
Frankenstein Sound Lab– Workfare = Slavery
Ron Barry and the Night Sweats – We Hate The Tories
Taking from the Poor to Pay the Rich
It’s called the Natural Health Service – and sums up the therapeutic benefits flowing from green spaces and contact with wildlife.
“Nature is good for us. This is something that we intuitively know, and for which there is mounting evidence,” says Northumberland Wildlife Trust chief executive Mike Pratt.
“Stroll through a nature reserve, or just watch wildlife from your window – all contribute to our physical, mental and emotional well being.”
For many urban dwellers, it is parks which offer a link to the natural world.
“Many people talk about “the other NHS” – the alternative and preventative health benefits that nature provided for free,” says Mike.
“After all, we are animals and are intrinsically linked to the ecosystem and life support provided through the surrounding environment.
“So it’s no surprise that we feel better when we interact with wildlife, and enjoy the open air and green spaces, benefitting from the therapeutic qualities of the natural world.”
The Wildlife Trusts is proposing a Nature and Well Being Bill which recognises the basic connection between health and the natural environment.
Mike says: “The idea is to bring together all the disparate protections and designations affecting the natural environment under one umbrella piece of legislation.
“Work has started on this and we have met senior politicians to generate interest and support.
“We will be attending all the parties’ autumn conferences to push the idea and we are trying to get manifesto pledges in advance of next year’s General Election.”
The Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) Parks for People scheme, which has invested millions of pounds in restoring and improving green spaces all over the UK, has touched almost every local authority area in the North East.
Since 1994, the HLF has jointly invested with the Big Lottery Fund £60m in over 50 parks related projects in the region. Soaring visitor numbers suggest the investment has paid off in spades.
An improved outdoor space can make a significant difference to the quality of life for many people on a daily basis.
“Parks are free,” says Jerry Dronsfield, North Tyneside park and horticulture manager.
“They provide a green space, a place for physical activity and they promote health and wellbeing. It’s what we call here a Natural Health Service.
“Green spaces provide great benefits for physical and mental health, and parks were created as green lungs in polluted cities.”
Fears have been voiced that councils, faced with Government funding cuts, are in turn reducing spending on parks upkeep.
Two decades of public and lottery investment has ensured that the majority of UK parks are in better condition, but unless future funding is generated in new ways, parks are at serious risk of rapid decline and even being sold off and lost to the public forever.
“One of the important things about parks is that if they are not maintained then people don’t go in,” says Morris Boyle, retired chairman of the Friends of Barnes Park in Sunderland.
“If you don’t maintain them then they quickly fall into decline, but when there is a lot of footfall people feel safer and that encourages more visitors.”
An example is the restoration of Wallsend Parks in North Tyneside, which includes the 1900 Richardson Dees Park, Wallsend Hall grounds and Princes Road arboretum.
Comprising 40 acres over three interconnecting sites, Wallsend Parks fell into a gradual decline over the last few decades.
But that has dramatically changed since last year, thanks to a £7m lottery cash redevelopment.
Works have included refurbishing the tennis courts, improved plantings, restored views, rebuilding the Victorian bandstand, and the extension of the 1930s bowling pavilion to include a café with wi-fi, which is designed as a social hub for the area.
There is also an innovative play area, which includes a zip wire and youth shelter for older children and a sand pit for toddlers.
It has already attracted around 100,000 more visitors to the park.
“With parents, if your children are happy, then you’re happy, and Wallsend Parks is now a hive of activity, ” says Jerry.
Students working alongside local historians have produced 17 illustrated panels on the park’s history and biodiversity, which will go on permanent display.
One of the original aims was that Wallsend should become a destination park, rather than one purely for locals, says Jerry, and the evidence is that this has already happened.
“It’s a hub for the area,” he says. “What has happened is fantastic”.
Ouseburn Parks in Newcastle includes Jesmond Dene, Armstrong and Heaton parks. The parks were awarded a £4.4m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund with match funding from Newcastle City Council.
Often visitors don’t realise they can walk for a full two miles between the parks without crossing a road, says parks manager Seamus Tollitt.
The overall Ouseburn Parks scheme won an award for its restoration in 2012. Attractions include a green visitor centre, landscaping, the restoration of historical buildings, the opening up of vistas and a revamp of Jesmond Dene’s Pets Corner.
And the result? “There has been a 40% increase in visitors to the parks,” says Seamus.
This huge change has been boosted by the efforts of local volunteers who range from 18 years old to 80, including people with special needs. They have donated hours of labour helping with practical conservation such as clearing paths and riverbanks to bee-keeping – there are hives on the roof of the visitor centre – or taking guided walks.
Pensioner and volunteer Maggie Dowman has been working at Jesmond Dene for 10 years.
“The vast majority of people who come with their dogs, children or on bicycles see what has been done and really appreciate it,” she says.
“It’s a beautiful park, we’re lucky to have it and it would not look as good without the Heritage Lottery Fund.”
When Barnes Park in Sunderland put a bid in for a lottery grant, local wheelchairs users and their carers were asked what they might want.
The answer was “freedom”. And the result, says Helen Peverly, project manager of the bid, is “a unique park for people who don’t usually have access to an outside space that is safe.”
Barnes Park was awarded £2.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund with contributions from Sunderland Council.
The park is two miles long and part of that is now a sensory garden with a camomile lawn, scented plantings, musical instruments and paths and facilities that are wheelchair-friendly.
The improvements also included restoring the historic cannon dredged form the River Wear.
“That cannon is the icon of Barnes Park,” says Morris Boyle, chairman of the Friends Group when the bid was submitted.
“Many a child in Sunderland has had their photograph taken beside that cannon. Myself included”.
Morris has been coming to the park “since I was in a pram,” he says.
“I can remember the Mayor of Sunderland doing ballroom dancing on the tennis court during the war. And I knew it before the grant, when it had fallen into disrepair and was a den for antisocial behaviour”.
Now retired, he still comes every day with his grandchildren. “There has been huge appreciation for what the improvements have done,” he says. “It’s added that bit of class that Sunderland needed”.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 02 Aug 2014
The North East has some of the highest levels of poverty in the country and is bucking the trend of falls elsewhere, new figures show.
Nearly a quarter of adults and a third of children in the region are classed as living in poverty, according to new Government statistics on household incomes. The region had also seen two successive falls in average household income in recent years, the figures show, though the number of pensioners in poverty has fallen and is now the lowest level in the UK.
The Government hailed national statistics which showed that the number of people in relative poverty has fallen by 100,000 over the past year to 9.7m.
But charities working to alleviate child poverty said the fact that 100,000 children in the region were living in poverty was “unacceptable”.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “The Government’s claim that it is protecting the most vulnerable families from falling behind is not borne out by these figures, which show that an unacceptable number of children are still living in poverty in the North East. We know that children who grow up in poverty are more likely to suffer poor health and struggle at school.
“It needs to do much more to help those who are struggling against the brutal effects of welfare cuts, stagnant wages and rising food and fuel prices if it is to stop the continuing crisis of child poverty.”
The Gingerbread campaign group said the statistics showed a steep rise in child poverty for single parent households where the parent works full-time, climbing from 17% of households where the single parent works full-time in poverty in 2011-12 to 22% in 2012-13.
Almost one in four children whose single mother or father works full-time is now growing up poor, while nearly one in three with a single parent working part-time is in poverty, said the group.
Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: “It is deeply concerning that while the economy is on the up, hundreds of thousands of families remain trapped into poverty. For far too many single parent families, work offers no real promise of escape from hardship, as today’s figures show a rise in working poverty where a single mum or dad is working full-time.”
Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman said: “Child poverty remains at its lowest level since the 1980s. It has fallen by 300,000 since 2009/10.
“Does the Government want to continue to do more in this area? Of course. Absolutely at the heart of improving prosperity across the country and for all is the importance of sticking to the long-term economic plan, because at the heart of dealing with poverty is work.”
The spokesman added: “In terms of wider poverty, the target established under the previous Government is one of relative income, and that stands at its lowest level since 1982.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 01 July 2014
> As noted elsewhere, ConDem posh boy George Osbourne gave a speech today, at Tilbury. It might have been nice if a few dockers had decided to heckle him, but as that doesn’t seem to have happened (perhaps no nasty rough types were allowed in), here’s a section of his speech, wherein he refers to his plans for those of us on benefits, with a few heckles added…
The culmination of this week that sees the biggest reduction of business and personal tax in two decades.
It’s only possible because your hard work is helping us fix the economy – and it is only part of our plan to create jobs.
> Oi, posh boy ! Was cutting all those public sector jobs in the North East also part of your plan to create jobs ? How did that work, then ?
For it’s no good creating jobs – if we’re also paying people to stay on welfare.
We inherited a welfare system that didn’t work
There was not enough help for those looking for a job – people were just parked on benefits.
> There was not enough jobs for those looking for a job. That was, and is, the real problem.
Frankly, there was not enough pressure to get a job – some people could just sign on and get almost as much money staying at home as going out to wo
That’s not fair to them – because they get trapped in poverty and their aspirations are squashed.
> Hang on, George… if people could get almost as much on benefits as they would working, how do they get trapped in poverty ? Is this a tacit admission that some jobs pay as little as benefits ?
It’s certainly not fair to taxpayers like you, who get up, go out to work, pay your taxes and pay for those benefits.
> How about tax payers like me (we’re all taxpayers – VAT, council tax, bedroom tax) who left school in 1977 and over the years has paid a lot of tax and national insurance on the understanding that, should I fall on hard times, I could claim benefits or, should I be lucky enough not to need to, my national insurance payments would go to help those who did need help ?
National Insurance is payed for a reason. Stop perverting that reason.
So if Tuesday is when we help businesses creating jobs; and Sunday is when we help hardworking people with jobs; next Monday is when we do more to encourage people without jobs to find them.
Benefits will only go up by 1% – so they don’t go up faster than most people’s pay rises, as used to be the case.
> Missue of figures alert ! Its not the percentage of the rise that matters, but the benefit or wage it’s an increase of.
A 10% rise for someone on basic Jobseeker’s Agreement would only amount to little over £7 a week – or £1 per day.
Meanwhile, our MPs are happily accepting an 11% rise – that’s 11% of some very good existing rates of pay. Got anything to say about that George ? No ? Thought not.
When I took this job, some people were getting huge payouts – receiving £50,000, £60,000 even up to £100,000 in benefits. More than most people could get by working. That was outrageous.
> £50,000, £60,000 even up to £100,000 in benefits – what ? Yearly, monthly, weekly ? How were these benefits made up ? How many cases were there ? Were there any or did you just make it up ?
If ‘some people’ ever really did get that much, then it must have been a very minute percentage of the total. So why are your policies designed to hit those much further down the chain, those on basic benefits ? Hardly fair, is it ?
So we’ve capped benefits, so that a family out of work can’t get more in benefits than the average working family.
> Define the “average working family”.
We’re now capping the overall welfare bill, so we control that. That came into force last week.
And we are bringing in a new Universal Credit to make sure work always pays.
From this month we’re also making big changes to how people go about claiming benefits.
We all understand that some people need more help than others to find work.
So starting this month we’ll make half of all people on unemployment benefits sign on every week – and people who stay on benefits for a long time will have to go to the job centre every day so they can get constant help and encouragement.
> so they can get constant help and encouragement – there speaks a man who’s never had to claim even the most basic benefits. Constant harrassment and discouragement would be nearer the mark.
To claim benefits people will also have to show they can speak English, or go on a course to learn how. It is ridiculous that people who didn’t speak English, and weren’t trying to learn it, could sit on out of work benefits in this country.
If people can’t speak English it is hard to get a job. Starting this week it will be even harder to get benefits if they’re not even attempting to learn it.
> How about posh boys who can speak English but talk bollocks, George ? How about people with regional accents ? Cut their benefits until they learn to talk proper ?
We’re going to require people to look for work for a week first before they get their unemployment benefit.
When people turn up at the job centre they’ll be expected to have a CV ready and to have started looking on our new jobs website.
> By which I suppose he means their old, discredited, scam-riddled and generally ridiculed Universal Jobmatch.
From now on the deal is this: look for work first; then claim the dole. Not the other way around.
> Then slowly starve as your claim for basic benefit help takes weeks to be processed…or get evicted for not being able to pay your rent, bills, council tax, bedroom tax, etc.
We will ask many of the long term unemployed to do community work in return for their benefits -whether it is making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, or working for a local charity.
> I do like the use of ther word “ask” – as if you’d have a choice. But George, if there is all this work, why not pay people a proper wage – you know, the National Minimum Wage – to do it ? Working for benefits means they are no longer benefits – they are an illeagal, sub-NMW, slave labour rate job.
They will be gaining useful work experience and there’s an important principle here: if you want something out, you’ve got to put something in.
All of this is bringing back the principles that our welfare state was originally based on – something for something, not something for nothing.
That’s fair to the people claiming benefits – and fair to taxpayers who are paying for them.
> As pointed out, I am a taxpayer, we all are, and I have paid in plenty over the years towards the same benefits I now have to jump through hoops for.
And if some of the taxes I’ve paid also go to help others who need it, good – that’s the whole idea of society, at least as I understand it.
The old way has failed. More public spending leading to more welfare bills and more government jobs the country couldn’t afford.
Instead, this week, we follow the new way, our way: backing businesses by cutting their taxes so they can create jobs; cutting the tax on hard working people so their job pays; and holding back welfare rises and imposing more conditions on those claiming the dole, so that getting a job pays more.
> so that getting a job pays more – pays more what ? More costs in poverty, disease, stress, mental illness ? Bigger prison bills, when people are forced into desperate measures ? More homelessness ? Who exactly does this pay more to ?
The biggest business and personal tax cuts for a generation.
Welfare changes that get people back to work.
That’s our jobs plan and it’s the only plan in town.
And it’s working.
> Look, if you really just want to save money – stop subsidising the royal family (the true benefit scroungers), scrap Trident, stop getting embroilled in foreign wars that are nothing to do with us, 1% pay rises for MPs (and cut down on the expenses as well), stop pouring money into abortions like Universal Jobmatch… and so much more.
Of course, if your plan is actually a gradual reintroduction of the feudal system, then yes, it obviously is working.
Frankenstein Sound Lab‘s new mini-album Austerity is officially released today. Not for sale, you can listen and/or download it for free from:
Four tracks, 20+ minutes –
3. The Plan Is Working…
4. Arbeit Macht Frei
“The Plan Is Working…” from the forthcoming Frankenstein Sound Lab mini-album Austerity.
A sort of musique concrete piece built around voice samples and featuring your friends and mine David Camoron and Iain Drunken Smith.
I’m doing the final mixing on the other 3 tracks, and they should be available for free download in the near future.