Reposted from Union Solidarity International
The list of Cabinet members who failed to secure 40% of the vote. They would not have been elected had the same criteria been imposed as strike ballots
Half the members of the new Tory Cabinet were elected on less than 40% of the electorate – failing the government’s own trade union legitimacy test.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid, himself elected by 38.3% of the electorate, yesterday announced new rules concerning strike ballots.
The proposal is that a ballot result would only be valid if: (1) at least 50% of members vote in them and (2) at least 40% of all members vote to support the action.
Therefore, the bare minimum will be 80% yes with a 50% turnout. meaning trade union strike ballots would no longer be declared by a simple majority, but would only become valid if 40% of members voted in them.
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A petition against the privatisation of the NHS won the support of hundreds of North people during a day of action.
Campaigners from 38 Degrees took to the streets at Durham Market Place and on Teesside to drum up support for protecting the NHS after the next election.
They are challenging parliamentary candidates to protect the NHS from privatisation.
A petition which has been signed by around 2,000 people in the area will be handed to Durham City candidates in the coming week.
And campaigners delivered a 700-strong ‘Save our NHS’ petition to Middlesbrough parliamentary candidate Andy McDonald on Saturday.
Members of the independent campaign group 38 Degrees have called on parliamentary candidates, if they are elected, to “do everything they can to protect the NHS,” from what the group describes as “funding squeezes, privatisation, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal”.
The message behind the campaign is spelled out on the 38 Degrees website which says:
“The NHS has been part of our lives for 67 years, but now it’s make or break.
“The NHS isn’t getting the cash it needs. And the government is letting money-hungry private companies carve out profits from treating the sick.”
Alan Rose, one of the campaigners, said:
“‘Our NHS has always been there for me and my family when we’ve needed it. But some politicians seem determined to break it up and sell parts off to the highest bidder.
“The thought of my family being cared for by profit-making companies really worries me. It’s not just about campaign promises to spend this or that, it’s about the fundamental values of the NHS. Could we be heading for a two-tier service based on ability to pay?
“What about the massive structural changes introduced by the Health and Social Care Act in 2012?”
“I would estimate that we collected around 400 signatures.
“We were so impressed with the number of people who were prepared to stop and talk to us in the cold and rain, because the weather really was awful on the morning.
“This petition is important because there is a great danger to the North East if there is a substantial amount of privatisation of the NHS.
“The 2012 Health and Social Care Act went a long way to dismantling the NHS.”
David Babbs, executive director of 38 Degrees, said:
“We want Durham City’s MP candidates to see that the best way to win votes is to pledge to save the NHS from privatisation and funding freezes.
“Every candidate needs to realise that cutting NHS funding, or handing it over to private companies, is a huge turn off for voters.”
‘Boro’s petition has attracted 792 signitures and was handed to Mr McDonald at the Bottle of Notes by Stella Worton, a 38 Degrees member from Middlesbrough.
David Babbs, executive director of 38 Degrees said:
“We’re sending a clear message to our local MP candidates – you’re being watched by hundreds us. And we all want you to protect the NHS.
“Politicians can’t sit on the fence about the NHS. If they want our votes, they need to promise to keep the NHS safe from private companies and funding freezes.
“We won’t stand for another five years of the NHS being broken up or squeezed to breaking point.
“Saturday’s petition delivery event is all about the people of Middlesbrough telling our next MPs exactly what we want for our NHS.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 26 Apr 2015
The Green Party today launched ‘For the Common Good’, the Party’s 2015 General Election Manifesto (1), which sets out a bold, ambitious plan for a fairer society and safer planet.
The manifesto focuses on the Greens’ commitment to restoring and extending public services and tackling climate change.
Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time and only the Greens are determined to tackle it by taking serious action to limit our emissions at home and fighting for a fair global deal that secures humanity’s shared future. The Green Party will invest up to £80billion over the next Parliament in renewable generation and energy efficiency.
Real action on climate change will create jobs, reduce energy bills and make life better for ordinary people.
The Green Party stands for a fair economy that works for all and will end austerity and restore the public sector, creating over one million good jobs that pay the Living Wage. The Green Party will introduce a Wealth Tax on the top 1%, a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ on the banks and crack down on tax dodging to raise £75billion a year by 2019.
The Green Party will take back our health service by reversing the creeping privatisation of our NHS and increasing health spending by £12billion a year. Healthcare must be publicly funded and free at the point of use.
The manifesto was launched by Natalie Bennett, Green Party Leader of England and Wales, and Caroline Lucas, who was elected as MP for Brighton Pavilion in 2010.
“Austerity has failed and we need a peaceful political revolution to get rid of it.
“Our manifesto is an unashamedly bold plan to create a more equal, more democratic society while healing the planet from the effects of an unstable, unsustainable economy.
“This manifesto presents the Green Party’s genuine alternative to our tired, business-as-usual politics. We desperately need a more equal society and the policies we announce today pave the way towards a brighter, fairer future for all.”
“We urgently need real leadership when it comes to tackling climate change – and that’s what our manifesto delivers.
“From ending the scandal of cold homes to investing in a public transport system that puts the public first, our plans will make a positive difference to people’s lives, create new jobs and help protect our environment.
“We have put investing in a greener future at the heart of our manifesto and only Green MPs will demand Parliament delivers change that reflects the scale of the climate problem.”
A union official has criticised a Labour council for putting 11 experienced health trainers out of a job after it chose a private company over the existing NHS provider.
The decision by Stockton Borough Council to award the contract to provide health trainer services to the private Leeds-based company More Life in preference to the existing providers – a team of 11 health trainers employed by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust – means the NHS in the North-East is facing a redundancy bill for more than £200,000.
But the council defended its actions describing the NHS bid for the contract as “very poor” and stressing that the authority was heavily investing in a new family weight management service.
In 2005 the North-East was among the first areas in the country to benefit from NHS personal trainers.
But since public health budgets were switched from the NHS to local councils some contracts have been awarded to private companies.
More Life’s website says the company delivers weight management and health improvement programmes to individuals, families, local communities and within workplaces and has an impressive track record.
It was founded by Professor Paul Gately, one of the UK’s most respected experts in obesity and nutrition
“We are determined to get clear answers from Stockton Council and the trust as to why this has happened and why our members are facing redundancy instead of transferring to the new provider. It’s simply not right and we need to get to the bottom of this quickly. “
Stockton Borough Council’s director of public health, Peter Kelly, said:
“The Stockton Health and Wellbeing board has commissioned a new service for children and family weight management investing £1.4 million over the next three years and in addition to this is also currently investing nearly £200,000 per year in services for adults. North Tees and Hartlepool Trust was one of the bidders for the new service but the quality of its submission was very poor.”
Source – Northern Echo, 27 Mar 2015
Up to 40,000 people could benefit from access to a mental health treatment course in jobcentres, costing £25 million over the next three years.
The scheme will provide access to treatments such as talking therapy and online support in jobcentres, with the aim of helping more people with mental health conditions into work.
Mental health specialists will be based at 350 jobcentres across England to provide psychological treatment to mentally ill benefit claimants. Evidence suggests that offering onsite support could improve the work prospects for unemployed people with mental health issues.
The new scheme follows recommendations made by the Mental Health Task Force, established by the Liberal Democrats. The task force explored ways the government could improve the support available for people with mental health conditions.
The Liberal Democrats say they will put equality for people with mental health problems on the front page of their manifesto.
An additional £8bn a year funding will assist the NHS in delivering better care for people with mental health problems.
Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:
“I’m determined to end the out dated attitudes and tackle the stigma that still surrounds mental health.
“People with mental health problems, who haven’t been able to work, often need support to get back to working life.
“It is vital therefore that we provide treatment as early as possible, rather than letting their condition worsen, lengthening their time away from a job.
“I set up a cross Government taskforce to look at what can and should be done to raise our game on mental health. One of the key recommendations is to help people back into work who have a mental health problem.
“I’m pleased to say that I’ve secured the funding to make this a reality and bring mental health services into the job centre for the very first time.”
> So, are ‘Work coaches’ now going to get another string to their bows and add mental health counselling to all the other things they do badly ?
I know it says Mental health specialists, but that could just mean a work coach who’s done a half-day course.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 19 Mar 2015
We have exposed the government and their greedy self-serving tactics time and time again, and now one of the biggest and most obvious abuses of their power has taken place through the largest privatisation deal for the NHS yet.
After making the NHS impossible to operate through their meddling the government have initiated the privatisation of surgery, x-rays, and other diagnostic tests through the back door.
Using a little known about body called ‘NHS Supply Chain’, a highly lucrative £780 million deal has been struck with eleven companies, three of them having previously been heavily criticised, including two by the NHS regulator, for providing poor quality of care in hospitals and care homes.
The total value of the privatisation is made up of five national contracts with a maximum value of £240m, £160m, £240m, £80m and £60m – adding up to a total of £780m.
The companies include several that…
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> Another example of what happens when NHS services are privatised…
Staff in homes for people with learning and physical disabilities in Northumberland could take strike action over what they describe as a “savage cut” to their terms and conditions.
The majority of 36 workers in five homes run by Lifeways are being balloted amid claims their pay is to be slashed by £2.30 an hour to £7.65 – below the National Living Wage.
They also say the company is cutting paid sickness leave to five days per year, reducing its contribution to workers’ pensions from 14% to 4% and removing death in service benefits.
The workers are based at three homes in Bedlington and two in Choppington and are represented by the union Unison.
It claims staff who transferred to Lifeways from the NHS are seeing their maternity provision replaced by the statutory minimum and that holiday entitlement has been reduced by seven days.
Unison spokesman Trevor Johnston said:
“They are faced with losing between a third and half of their income and a savage cut to their other terms and conditions of employment.
“The staff are very concerned about their financial security. They are very committed to caring for the residents and appreciate that disruption is unsettling for them. However, they feel that they are faced with no alternative.
“Unison has offered to undertake meaningful negotiations with the employer, especially as Lifeways made a profit last year of £14m.
“Other not-for-profit organisations faced with similar cuts have offered their staff buy out arrangements while continuing to pay the Living Wage.”
The company has blamed a 30% cut in the money it is given to run the homes by Northumberland County Council.
A Lifeways spokesperson said:
“We recognise the impact that any changes to terms and conditions will have on our staff and we are holding talks with Unison in order to avoid industrial action.
“Our service users remain our number one priority and we will maintain a high level of care at all times.
“However, like all other providers of adult social care, we are having to reduce our costs as a result of local authority budget cuts.
“Despite a 30% reduction in fees, we are required to deliver the same level of service as currently.
“The fee decrease is being absorbed in part through a reduction in our operating costs, mostly through the proposed changes in employment terms and conditions, but also in part by Lifeways directly.”
The services now run by Lifeways were operated by the Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust as residential care homes until 2012.
A Northumberland County Council spokesperson:
“The trust made a decision a number of years ago that they no longer felt it appropriate for them to continue providing this kind of social care service, and consulted their staff in relation to this.
“The county council, which was the funder of the services, therefore advertised in 2012 for a new provider to take over the services and work towards supporting the service users in a less institutional way, changing the services from residential homes to a ‘supported living’ scheme, in which service users would become tenants with enhanced rights and greater independence.
“The contract offered in the original tender is the contract that was agreed would operate from April 1.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 09 Mar 2015
You are not welcome in our city.
That was the overriding message from residents, community leaders, political parties and union bosses just 24 hours before an “anti-islam” protesters arrive in Newcastle city centre.
Under the banner of ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West’, Pegida supporters will be taking to Tyneside’s streets amid claims they are trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants.
Saturday, will be the first UK demonstration by the British branch of the organisation.
A growing counter-demonstration, now expected to attract in excess of 2,000 people, will simultaneously march through the city centre in protest over Pegida.
The counter-demo, organised by Newcastle Unites, is also aiming to attract a string of high profile speakers including George Galloway MP.
Police said they were fully prepared to cope with the extra influx of people into the city centre just hours before Newcastle United kick off their home match against Aston Villa.
Today, opponents to Pegida made one final rallying call.
David Stockdale, councillor for Blakelaw, who will also be speaking at the meeting, said:
“Newcastle is a friendly, tolerant and inclusive city of sanctuary. We thrive on the diversity of our communities which make our city one of the truly great cities of the world.
“We have a proud history of standing up to intolerance and hate and to groups like Pegida who seek to do harm to our Muslim sisters and brothers.
“Pegida paint a brutal misrepresentation of Islam. It’s important to stand up to that and for me as a non-Muslim it’s important to speak out against Pegida’s twisted prejudice.
“The Newcastle Unites counter-demonstration will show Newcastle at its best. Islamophobia targets Muslims but it hurts us all and I’m so proud of how our wonderful city has come together to march in peace and solidarity against Pegida and everything they stand for”.
The Pegida movement started in Germany but has reportedly launched a number of other European off-shoots in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.
Jeremy Beecham, former leader of Newcastle City Council, said:
“This city has a deserved reputation for welcoming people and for good relations between the communities which enrich its life.
“It has welcomed the contribution made by people from a variety of cultures across a range of activities, from the NHS to St James’s Park. Pegida is an extreme right wing movement driven by hatred of Muslims, on whom they have focussed their resentment for problems they perceive in Germany.
“Their Islamophobia is totally unacceptable, and it’s difficult to understand why Newcastle has been singled out for their malign attention. I hope the people of this city will unite to reject the message of division which they seek to bring to our streets.”
David Kelly, 33, from Newcastle, will be part of the counter-demo.
He said: “We don’t want these people in our city. They don’t belong here. We are a friendly, tolerant and welcoming place.”
Pegida claim to have chosen Newcastle for their first UK march due to having already established a following in the city.
Chi Onwurah, Newcastle MP, said:
“We are a city of diverse communities and shared values where we both respect and look out for each other. We have a history of facing hard times together and growing stronger.
“People coming from outside to spread a message of division and hatred are not welcome. Pegida is targeting Muslims in our community and we have to stand up and say it is wrong, Islamaphobia is wrong, anti semitism is wrong, all racism is wrong, we can do better than this, we have done better than this when we saw off the National Front and the BNP.
“The idea that there might be children in Newcastle who feel unwelcome or unappreciated because of the religion they practise I find absolutely obscene. That is why I’ll be there on Saturday.”
Police say they have had open dialogue with parties from both demonstrations and say they are satisfied the demos will pass “peacefully”.
Chief Superintendent Laura Young, from Northumbria Police, added:
“I have had guarantees from both organisations that this will be a peaceful demonstration.
“People should not be put off coming into the city centre on Saturday. People will still want to come shopping, there is a football match on in the afternoon and people will be coming for other events.
“I would just say that they should give themselves some extra time to get in and out of the city centre as there have been some road closures.”
The march, which will begin at 10.30am, has attracted national, and international interest.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 26 Feb 2015
Who decides the result of the next General Election?
Unless something changes, it’s largely going to be older and better-off people.
Because those are the people who are most likely to vote.
And it’s a problem that MPs themselves have warned could lead to a crisis in our system of government.
But the problem doesn’t begin on election day, which will be May 7 this year.
It starts earlier than that, when people register to vote – or fail to do so.
An estimated 7.5 million people who are entitled to vote at an election in this country are not correctly registered.
This means they are registered wrongly, for example because they have moved house and haven’t updated their details, or simply haven’t registered at all.
Politicians have to listen to people who vote. But one way or another, they are also aware of who votes and who stays at home.
As a result, some sections society risk having less influence than others over decisions made by the Government.
Studies also show that young people are less likely to be registered to vote at elections than older people.
A study in 2011 found that only 55% of people aged 17 to 18, and only 56% of people aged 19 to 24, were registered to vote.
By contrast, 82.3% of the eligible population as a whole was registered – and 94% of people aged over 65.
It means older people have more influence over who wins the election.
People on lower incomes are also less likely to be registered.
A report by the Electoral Commission, an official watchdog, last year found that 79.6% of people in semi-skilled or unskilled jobs, or people dependent on benefits, were registered to vote – compared to 87% of professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, or senior managers.
The Electoral Commission also found that some black and ethnic minority groups are significantly less likely to be registered to vote compared to those identifying as white British.
It all means that some people’s views matter more than others in our system of government. And politicians know there’s a problem.
A report by a committee of MPs, the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, last year warned:
“Low levels of registration and turnout among students and young people are serious problem now and could get worse.
“If a generation of young people choose not to vote, and then continue not to participate at elections as they grow older, there will be severe and long-lasting effects for turnout at UK elections, with consequent implications for the health of democracy in the UK.”
But if it’s a problem for MPs, it’s a bigger problem for people who go unrepresented in Parliament.
Politics and the work of government affects all our lives. And this election could decide some big issues – how we improve the NHS, how we ensure future generations don’t inherit massive debts, how we provide jobs and training for young people and much more.
Comedian Russell Brand caused a stir when he suggested last year that people shouldn’t vote. But the problem with that idea is that if you don’t vote then people still get elected. It just means they are chosen by somebody else.
This election is set to be the most unpredictable in decades. Nobody knows who is going to win.
And there are more credible parties to choose from than before – with the Greens and UKIP running major campaigns, alongside the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Other local candidates could also have an impact in some seats.
The good news is that it’s now easier than ever before to register to vote.
People can register online for the first time, at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote . It only takes five minutes and it helps to ensure that your voice is heard.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Feb 2015