Union chiefs Len McCluskey and Matt Wrack and left-wing author Owen Jones will top the bill at this year’s Durham Miners’ Gala.
The general secretaries of Unite and the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) will be joined by the firebrand Guardian columnist on the Durham Racecourse speakers’ stage at Europe’s biggest trade union event on Sunday, July 11.
Durham Miners’ Association secretary Dave Hopper will also introduce Steve Murphy from UCATT, John McDonald from ASLEF and Chris Keates from the NASUWT.
However, Ed Miliband will be absent – organisers having decided not to invite the Labour leader.
Mr Miliband, who claimed the Labour leadership ahead of his brother David with strong union backing, became the first party boss to address the Gala since Neil Kinnock when he travelled to Durham in 2012, but has not returned since.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out for the 131st Gala, as dozens of brass and bagpipe bands march union and colliery banners through Durham City’s historic streets past dignitaries watching from the first floor balcony of the Royal County Hotel and to the Racecourse where, in addition to the political speeches which start at about 1pm, there will be family entertainment, campaign stalls and more.
Mr Hopper said he was very pleased with the speakers line-up.
The outcome of this week’s General Election is bound to be the central theme of the speeches; and Mr Hopper said he could not see Labour winning.
“The Scottish girl (Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon) has run rings around them.
“Miliband hasn’t come across very well. She’s putting him on the spot every time,” he said.
Last year’s Gala had a mournful feel, as guests paid tribute to the late Labour grandee Tony Benn and union leader Bob Crow.
On Gala day, the centre of Durham will be closed to traffic from 7am. Visitors are encouraged to use park and ride buses.
There is an ongoing appeal to support the continuation of the Gala. Supporters are invited to become a Friend of the event, for a minimum fee of £2 a month. For more information, visit friendsofdurhamminersgala.org
> Interesting developments ? Are the decision not to invite Miliband, and Dave Hopper’s comments about Labour’s chances the beginnings of a move away from the Labour Party ?
Source – Durham Times, 04 May 2015
Thousands of Tyneside’s most vulnerable families will go hungry when a voucher support scheme is scrapped because of austerity cuts, leaders have warned.
A scheme which sees supermarket vouchers given to 2000 families in Newcastle to help feed their children over the school holidays has been axed as the Government slash £40m from the city council’s annual budget.
Under Newcastle City Council’s Crisis Support Scheme, families with children aged five and six, who have had their housing benefit reduced by the bedroom tax and are paying council tax for the first time, received Asda vouchers to help feed their youngsters during the Easter, Christmas and Summer school holidays.
But the council say they are forced to slash the service as the Government roll out their next round of cuts.
Leaders warned that cutting the benefit would lead to an increase in the number of people turning to foodbanks for emergency food parcels.
The announcement comes shortly after a teacher made claims some of his pupils returned to school after holidays “visibly thinner”.
Simon Kennedy, from teacher’s union NASUWT, said:
“It’s easy to point the finger at Newcastle City Council and say it’s their fault but this is the coalition government’s fault.
“This Government are hitting the most vulnerable and least well off families. I don’t think we can blame the council. The reality is when you get millions cut from your budget you have to cut it from somewhere.
“On May 7 people will be given the chance to vote and these are the sort of things people will take into consideration.
“We know people are going hungry and it’s not just over the holidays, it’s week in week out. We know that parents are missing meals to feed their kids.”
In April 2013 the Government abolished the Social Fund and asked local authorities to set up replacement schemes for Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants and the council set up the Crisis Support Scheme.
The funding falls under three areas and supports people in crisis, disaster or emergency, provides council tax assistance and did provide meals vouchers to schoolchildren in the holidays before it was cut.
In 2013/14 the council spent £214,000 to spend on the crisis support fund, and a further £173,000 in 2014/15. It will spend £116,000 in 2015/16, which includes a £50,000 overspend from the previous year.
In order to manage the reductions the council said they had no choice but to slash the voucher scheme.
This week letters went out to the affected families as they received their final set of vouchers over the Easter holidays.
Deputy leader of the council Joyce McCarty said:
“We are really disappointed this has been left to the local authority to fund.
“The Government have dumped the austerity cuts with local authorities who can’t afford to pick up the pieces and it’s the least well off in the community that are suffering.”
In Easter 2014 families with one child were awarded a £10 voucher, while families with more than one child were given £20.
A further £40 was handed to families with one child in the summer and an extra £60 to families with more than one child.
And at Christmas 2014 the vouchers were increased to £40 with families with one child and £60 for families with more than one child.
Ms McCarty added:
“It will add to the growing problem. It’s the same families who are struggling, it’s those families having to pay the bedroom tax and it’s things like this that tips people over the edge.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government said they would be unable to offer comment in the run up to the general election.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 12 Apr 2015
Teachers are being forced to bring food into school to feed hungry children, a North East union leader has warned.
Simon Kennedy, regional organiser of the teaching union NASUWT, said school-funded breakfast clubs and teachers bringing food into work was a “sad situation” for the fourth richest country in the world.
However, the Conservative Party said the number of children living in poverty in England and Wales has fallen by 300,000 during the party’s term in office.
Speaking after the NASUWT held its annual conference in Cardiff at the weekend, Mr Kennedy said child poverty has become a growing problem.
“Kids are coming into school hungry and that is affecting their educational attainment,” he said.
“Teachers are bringing food into work because these children would sometimes not otherwise eat.
“Schools are also dipping into their budgets to pay for breakfast clubs which were originally set up to encourage healthy eating among children.
“So many parents in the North East are relying on , especially in Newcastle which has the busiest foodbank in the country.
“Whichever government comes in needs to increase the amount of investment in education. But a basic part of our society should be to ensure that our children are fed. Children of today should not be left to go hungry.”
Teachers at the conference also raised the problem of excessive workload, which they say is not only damaging their mental health, but also driving talented teachers out of the profession.
Nearly 90% of teachers at the conference cited excessive workload as the greatest concern they have about their job.
Mr Kennedy said: “Many teachers work every evening and every weekend and they’re not being paid for it.
“There is this endless drive to improve and what’s best for the child and the teacher has gone out of the window.
“School management is being forced to focus more on the league tables and the next Ofsted inspection rather than the children’s needs.
“Increased workloads, coupled with a cut in pay for teachers, has led to many in the profession leaving work or suffering from mental health problems.
“Media coverage would have you think teachers are failing our young people in some way, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Meanwhile, teachers have backed calls for a ballot on strike action over shortfalls to school funding.
The ballot motion was backed at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference in Harrogate, where members heard claims that funding shortages would threaten redundancies.
A Conservative spokesman said:
“Under the Conservatives, the number of children living in poverty has fallen by 300,000.
“Extending free meals has led to over a million more children eating a school meal at lunchtime and by introducing the Pupil Premium, we are targeting an extra £2.5 billion toward the education of the most disadvantaged every year, which helping close the attainment gap with their peers.
“Thanks to our policies, there are more jobs than ever before, wages are rising faster than prices and with the lowest inflation on record, family budgets are starting to go further. The NASUWT should recognise how the Conservatives have rescued the economy, and through that, are delivering the jobs that secure a better future for families.
“Our Child Poverty Strategy is tackling poverty at its source: dealing with the problems of worklessness and family breakdown which blight the lives of vulnerable families. But we know that there is much more to do. We need to stick to our long-term economic plan, so that all children have the best possible start in life.”
> All I can say is it’s a good thing Pinoccio isn’t a government spokesman…
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 08 Apr 2015
Children are going to school hungry, cold and wearing dirty clothes because their parents are struggling for money, a teachers union has warned.
Members of the NASUWT, which represents thousands of teachers across the North-East and North Yorkshire, have reported that some children are turning up for lessons with mouldy food in their lunchboxes and holes in their uniforms.
A survey of almost 4,000 NASUWT members found that many teachers are giving pupils money out of their own pocket, providing food and lending clothes to help them out.
The warnings come days after foodbanks across the region reported a 463 per cent increase in the number of people using the services.
The Trussell Trust reported that 18,592 adults and children in County Durham received three days’ emergency food relief from its foodbanks in 2013-14. In total, 59,000 people accessed foodbank support in the North–East.
The president of the NASUWT, Geoff Branner, said that schools alone cannot solve the problems of poverty, poor housing, neglect and abuse.
In a speech at NASUWT’s annual conference in Birmingham, Mr Branner said: “Public education is not just about developing an individual’s capacity to earn, it has a moral objective as well – to tackle inequality.
But he added: “Whether education alone can overcome the malign effects of poverty, poor housing, neglect and abuse in all its forms is questionable.”
The poll of NASUWT teachers revealed stories of pupils hugging radiators to keep warm and getting upset when they lose basic items such as pencils and rubbers because they are fearful of the cost of replacing them.
The union said it had commissioned the survey in response to concerns raised by teachers about the long-term impact of Government economic policies on children and young people.
The findings show that almost three quarters – 74 per cent – of teachers have seen pupils coming to school hungry, with 80 per cent saying that youngsters had been lacking in energy and concentration because they were eating poorly.
The poll also revealed that 27 per cent of teachers said they had experience of students losing their homes due to financial problems.
One NASUWT member said: “I have never known such abject poverty as my pupils are suffering at the moment.
“Many are affected by the cold – they cannot complete any work at home as a result of lack of heat, warmth, equipment, and we are seeing more pupils being told by their parents to stay behind in school at night in order to make sure they can do their homework with light and warmth.”
Another said they had seen “children practically hugging radiators, children eating at friend’s houses because they don’t have food at home. Mouldy food in packed lunch boxes”.
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “The lives of children and young people are being degraded by poverty and homelessness.
“Teachers and other public service workers are struggling to pick up the pieces caused by this Coalition’s economic and social policies.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said the Government was taking decisive action to help disadvantaged pupils.
She said: “Around 1.3m children currently receive a free, nutritious meal at school. We are extending this to all five to seven-year-olds in state maintained schools from September and allocating more than £1m to help schools establish more breakfast clubs.
“We have invested in the Pupil Premium, raising it from £625m in 2011-12 to £2.5bn in 2014-15.
“This is giving schools the additional resources they need to raise disadvantaged pupils attainment, and give them a better start in life.”
Source – Northern Echo 19 April 2014