The Green Party is aiming to field candidates in all 18 South Tyneside Council wards being contested at May’s local elections.
The plan coincides with a recent doubling of party membership in the borough.
The party is also putting up candidates in both borough Parliamentary seats for the first time – Shirley Ford in South Shields and David Herbert in Jarrow.
The news comes at a time when the party’s profile nationally is rising, courtesy of a surprise endorsement from Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr Cameron has refused to take part in any television debate until broadcasters agree that the Greens be included too.
“As a democratically elected leader, I have no reason to doubt his motives for doing that, but whatever his motives, his intervention does mean that people across the country are taking a look at us,” said Mrs Ford.
“Something like 300,000 people have signed an online petition supporting our involvement in the debates.”
Later this week, the borough’s Green Party branch is to meet to select candidates to fight for council seats in May, and a public meeting is also being lined up.
Mrs Ford said: “There has been a surge in membership.
“It has more than doubled in the last couple of months, from about 20 to 42, the last time I looked.
“There’s probably a mixture of reasons why that has happened, including the publicity in the national media and the fact that we have been very visible since the Westoe by-election in September last year through our beach cleans, park cleans, the stall we had in King Street, South Shields, and our support for the Gazette’s campaign to cut business rates.”
Green activists were also out in force at The Nook in South Shields on Saturday asking the public to sign a petition opposing Harton Technology College’s plans to become an academy.
Mrs Ford said: “There is definitely a different vibe towards the party now.
“At the last general election in 2010, we stood in a handful of borough wards, but I can’t see a reason why we can’t have candidates for all 18 wards in May.
“That’s our aim anyway. All the members who have signed up in recent weeks will be able to stand. We don’t have any rules that forbid that.
“The party has pledged to stand in at least 75 per cent of constituencies, and we are determined to exceed that in the North East.
“We really want to give everyone the chance to vote Green in the general election.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 19 Jan 2015
The Green Party is set to triple its number of candidates standing for Parliament in the North East this General Election.
In 2010, the party fielded seven candidates but this May it will field 25 as support for its campaign grows in the region.
So far, the party has put forward 14 candidates and members are in the process of selecting a further 11.
Broadcasters have so far refused to include a spokesman in the upcoming TV debates ahead of voters going to the polls in May despite the fact the Green Party has seen membership rise by 120% to 40,879.
The Lib Dems’ membership stands at a reported 44,576, while Ukip says it has 42,500 members.
The party will be fielding seven candidates in County Durham constituencies, 10 in Tyne and Wear, five in Teesside and three in Northumberland.
Prime Minister David Cameron has declared he will not take part in a TV debate unless the Green Party is also invited.
> Only, one susposes, because he suspects the Greens will draw in any Labour supporters who still harbour socialist principles. Labour don’t seem at all keen to allow them airtime, so they probably think so too.
Well tough – Labour has lost support of people like myself since they became pale blue under Blair, and Milliband just compounds the problem – not because he looks a bit weird alledgedly but because he really has nothing new to offer – more austerity ? Gee, thanks Ed – enjoy your MPs 10% pay rise.
No doubt if the Greens did become a major party they would over time become just as corrupt and dysfunctional as the other main parties, especially if career politicians of no obvious convictions saw them as a way into power. But in the meantime, where else do those of us who would rather cut off our hands before we voted UKIP register our protest vote ? And they do at least have some policies that generate a little ray of hope that some party may have ideas that look beyond years more of austerity.
The North East regional party coordinator, Shirley Ford, who is standing for the Greens in South Shields, said to have so many candidates is a sign of confidence amongst the party ranks –
“The party has pledged to stand in at least 75% of constituencies and we are determined to exceed that in the North East. We really want to give everyone the chance to vote Green in the General Election.
“The way our membership and supporter numbers are rocketing, we are optimistic that we will be able to do that.
“With local parties right across the region blossoming, we are confident we can raise all the deposits and funds for campaigning. And one key way we are doing this is by crowdfunding, with some local parties having already fully funded their candidates’ deposits.
“We rely on the commitment and dedication of our members and supporters to raise the money we need.
“We are receiving requests all the time via email, Twitter, Facebook and when we’re out campaigning, for us to stand candidates.
“People want to be able to vote for a party that has the policies to tackle the economic, social and environmental crises we face.
“More and more people are recognising that the Greens stand for making real bold change for the common good.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 15 Jan 2015
With a general election looming ever larger on the political horizon, the main parties are now unveiling the policies they think will secure them victory.
The economy, immigration and benefits are among the battlegrounds which they will be fighting over in the next four months.
Another is the heavily unionised public sector which has undergone swingeing cuts since the Coalition Government came to office in May 2010 and historically has been the favoured whipping boy of the Tory party.
And so when David Cameron’s party revealed plans to make it harder to call strikes in certain “core” public services if it wins the general election, it came as no surprise.
A policy along those lines, after all, was floated last year by Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster general Francis Maude.
There was also no surprise in its backing by the employers organisations the CBI and the British Chamber of Commerce, or in its universal condemnation by members of the TUC.
Yet, while certain sections of the media need no invitation to attack the public sector, and its day of action last year caused discomfort and annoyance amongst the public – not least the sight of rubbish piling high in places like Newcastle – it is still a risky strategy.
For a start, it opens the Government up to accusations of hypocrisy and double standards.
After all, the present Coalition Government is made up of the Lib Dems and Tories who between them received 38% of the total number of the UK’s eligible voters – 18m out of 45.5m – and below the 40% threshold it wants to demand of the public sector it is targeting. The Tory share of this was 23%.
In her heyday , Margaret Thatcher won around 30% of the total available vote and, during the present parliament, the Tories voted down a Lib Dem motion to introduced an alternative voting scheme which arguably would have made parliament more representative of the people’s views.
Meanwhile, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny also got his calculator out to further hammer home the point. He said:
“Only 16 out of 650 elected Members of Parliament secured the support of 40% of those entitled to vote in their parliamentary constituency area election in 2010.
“Only 15 Tory MPs out of 303 secured that level of support. They had no hesitation in forming a government in 2010 without securing 40% support from the electorate.”
Another point is that, particularly in the North East, the public sector which employs many in the region, is not as hated as the Tories might think. So such a policy strategy could be a vote loser here.
Gill Hale, regional secretary of Unison in the North East, said:
“They are the anti-public sector party – you only have to see what they are doing to the NHS and what they have already done to local government.
“Industrial action is taken as a last resort, and when we’ve had to take it we’ve had very good public support. I don’t think it will be a vote winner.”
Meanwhile comments by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable, in which he denounced the plans as “brutal” and “ill-conceived”, echo those of Ms Hale.
He said the Conservative proposals were “entirely ideologically-led and a brutal attempt to strangle the basic rights of working people in this country”.
Mr Cable added that a 40% threshold would be “odd”, when MPs do not have to overcome such a high hurdle to be elected.
Under the plans, a strike affecting health, transport, fire services or schools would need the backing of 40% of eligible union members.
Currently, a strike is valid if backed by a simple majority of those balloted.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC says the Conservatives’ proposals would have “profound implications” for civil liberties.
They would also end a ban on using agency staff to cover for striking workers, impose a three-month time limit after a ballot for action to take place and curbs on picketing.
The package of measures will feature in the party’s manifesto for May’s general election.
In explaining the plan, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said a planned London bus strike set to take place on Tuesday had only been voted for by 16% of people entitled to take part in the ballot, and called the walk-out “ridiculous”.
“I think before a strike is allowed to go ahead it must havemuch more support from the union members and cannot be called by politicised union leaders,” he said.
But Ms O’Grady said that participation in strike ballots and other types of vote should be improved by introducing online voting, in “safe and secure balloting”.
At the moment, strikes can only be called based on the results of a postal ballot – which “don’t do the job”, Ms O’Grady added.
She said the government “continues to oppose this proposition”, although Mr McLoughlin replied he would be willing to talk “in more detail” about such proposals.
However, his partner in the Coalition Government, Mr Cable, goes further.
He said: “If there is to be trade union reform, it should be to allow electronic voting in ballots which would improve the turnout and legitimacy of polls.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the Conservative Party’s proposed changes would have a “chilling” effect, and added the way to “resolve disputes was through negotiations – not to intimidate and silence by legislation”.
Ministers have repeatedly clashed with trade unions over pay – with a 1% cap on increases in the public sector – as well as changes to pensions and retirement ages.
It was during the day of action last summer when hundreds of thousands of public sector workers took part in a day of strike action across the UK, that Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “time to legislate”.
But Ms Hale added:
“We already have some of the most draconian laws in Europe regarding industrial action. There are so many obstacles we have to get over.”
However, Mr McLoughlin said:
“It is wrong that politicised union leaders can hold the country to ransom with demands that only a small percentage of their members voted for. That causes misery to millions of people; and it costs our economy too.”
He said the changes, which would be introduced in the first session of a Conservative-led Parliament, would “increase the legitimacy” of strike action held by unions.
“It is only fair that the rights of unions are balanced with the rights of hard-working taxpayers who rely on key public services.”
CBI deputy director general Katja Hall commented:
“Strikes should always be the result of a clear, positive decision by those balloted. The introduction of a threshold is an important – but fair – step to rebalance the interests of employers, employees, the public and the rights of trade unions.”
However, the TUC has previously said imposing a minimum turnout would leave unions with “about as much power as Oliver Twist”.
Labour criticised those plans as “desperate stuff”.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said the proposed measures would make it virtually impossible for anyone in the public sector to go on strike and would shift the balance completely in favour of the government and employers, and away from dedicated public servants.
He said: “The UK already has tough laws on strikes – there is no need to make them stricter still.”
But John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “In the eyes of businesses large and small, these proposals have merit, as they would help ensure essential services and the freedom to work in the event of strike action.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 12 Jan 2015
Prime Minister David Cameron has been given an open invite to visit the region’s young unemployed to stop him labelling them benefits scroungers.
The Tory leader announced plans to ‘combat’ youth unemployment by stopping benefits after six months for those aged 18 to 21 to wean them off a life of ‘dependency’.
While it played well to the gallery at the Conservative party conference, it left young people at the sharp end angry at how it seems to portray them.
Katie McLaren, 21, graduated with a degree in Performing Arts three months ago from Northumbria University and has still to find work.
“I’m trying to get on the employment ladder, be an adult, but there aren’t a lot of work opportunities out there,” she said. “Believe me I’m trying.
“Why doesn’t he speak to the young unemployed to find out what the situation is like? I think there’s a lack of understanding between the south and the north as well as politicians with the people they are supposed to represent. If he wants to come up here he is more than welcome.”
The region has one of the worst jobless rates for young people in the UK, running at 25% or about one in four.
And the figure for all ages in the North East is about 10%, the worst in the UK by a considerable margin.
Neil Burke of Youth Focus North East, a charity which aims to improve the life of young people across the region, said: “There might be lots of jobs in London but there aren’t loads of jobs up here, as the figures show.”
Speaking about Mr Cameron’s proposal, he said: “What about young people who have come from vulnerable circumstances?
“They can be socially isolated and getting them out of the house to train them can take four months which could be great work. And then have them find work in two months?
“It’s a one-size fits all policy. Many might have been let down by the education system and haven’t left school with the skills to get a job and sometimes it can take more than six months to get them ready for work. It seems to me the six month figure has just been plucked out of the air.”
Under the plan, unemployed 18 to 21 year olds will be given six months to find work or training before their jobseekers allowance (JSA) is withdrawn, and replaced with a ‘Youth Allowance’ which would be set at the same level as JSA, £57.35.
This would be time-limited of six months, after which young people will have to take an apprenticeship, a traineeship or do community work – such as cleaning up local parks – to earn their benefits.
Young mum Amy Ormston, 22, from Gateshead dropped out of college to have daughter Mya. She is now training to become cabin crew.
She said: “I don’t agree with the plans to cut benefits at all. If it happened to me how would I be able to feed Mya?
“There aren’t jobs but there is plenty of voluntary work going round – how many of those lead to a permanent job?
“He is tarring young people with the same brush. Stigmatising them as if all we want to do is just to be on benefits.”
Lizzie Crowley of the Work Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation providing research on work, said similar schemes have been introduced in the US and Australia and have not been successful – unless the intention was to save money on benefits payments.
She said: “People have just left the system before the time period is up. It can lead to homelessness or relying on your parents even more. That’s people who have stable family relations.”
Katie said she has family to go back to in Hartlepool. However she added: “I don’t think that would be fair on them and I’d feel a failure if I had to.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 01 Oct 2014
The coalition government’s ‘Help To Work’ scheme comes into effect from today, Monday 28 April 2014.
Under the new scheme unemployed people who have been out of work for longer than two years, and who have completed the Work Programme, will be expected to undertake tough new requirements in order to continue receiving benefit.
Community work experience placements will be for 30 hours per week and could last up to six months. If participants have failed to find a job by the time the six months are up they could find themselves being recycled back onto the programme, in what could become a never-ending cycle of work for your benefits.
> How are you expected to find a job while serving a 30 hour sentence each week, when you couldn’t when you had more time to look for work ?
The long-term unemployed will also be expected to visit their local JobCentre every day to ‘sign on’ and will receive up to fours hours intensive job search coaching for each week they are on the ‘Help To Work’ Scheme.
> I don’t think Jobcentres would be able to cope with the numbers just signing on each day – forget 4 hours ‘intensive job search coaching’ ! Which in any case would actually amount to 4 hours trying to sanction you.
Failure to comply with the strict new regime could result in jobseeker’s losing their benefit for four weeks at a time or longer for repeat offenders.
According to the government, jobseeker’s with learning difficulties will also receive educational support to improve their literacy and numeracy skills.
Sick and disabled benefit claimants in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will not be required to take part in the scheme.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“A key part of our long-term economic plan is to move to full employment, making sure that everyone who can work is in work.
“We are seeing record levels of employment in Britain, as more and more people find a job, but we need to look at those who are persistently stuck on benefits.
“This scheme will provide more help than ever before, getting people into work and on the road to a more secure future.”
Secretary of State of Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said:
“Everyone with the ability to work should be given the support and opportunity to do so.
“The previous system wrote too many people off, which was a huge waste of potential for those individuals as well as for their families and the country as a whole. We are now seeing record numbers of people in jobs and the largest fall in long-term unemployment since 1998.
“But there’s always more to do, which is why we are introducing this new scheme to provide additional support to the very small minority of claimants who have been unemployed for a number of years.
“In this way we will ensure that they too can benefit from the improving jobs market and the growing economy.”
The move has come under heavy criticism from both Labour and the unions. Unite’s assistant general secretary Steve Turner describing the new scheme as a form of “forced unpaid labour”. He told the Independent newspaper:
“This scheme is nothing more than forced unpaid labour and there is no evidence that these workfare programmes get people into paid work in the long-term.
“We are against this scheme wherever ministers want to implement it – in the private sector, local government and in the voluntary sector.
“The Government sees cash-starved charities as ‘a soft target’ for such an obscene scheme, so we are asking charity bosses to say ‘no’ to taking part in this programme. This is a warping of the true spirit of volunteering and will force the public to look differently at charities with which they were once proud to be associated.
“It is outrageous that the Government is trying to stigmatise job seekers by making them work for nothing, otherwise they will have their benefits docked.”
Labour’s Stephen Timms added:
“Under David Cameron’s government nearly one in ten people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance lack basic literacy skills and many more are unable to do simple maths or send an email. Yet this Government allows jobseekers to spend up to three years claiming benefits before they get literacy and numeracy training.
> Yes, we’re a pretty ignorant lot, us unemployed – obviously we wouldn’t be on the dole if we weren’t thick.
What proof is there actually for these kind of claims ?
“A Labour government will introduce a Basic Skills Test to assess all new claimants for Jobseeker’s Allowance within six weeks of claiming benefits.
“Those who don’t have the skills they need for a job will have to take up training alongside their job search or lose their benefits.
> Here we go – Labour so eager to prove that their stick is as least as big as the ConDems.
Labour’s Basic Skills Test and our Compulsory Jobs Guarantee will give the unemployed a better chance of finding a job and will help us to earn our way out of the cost-of-living crisis.”
> Yes, but unless there are actually more proper jobs to apply for, you can have all the mickey mouse qualifications in the world – you’re still limited by the number of vacancies.
Whilst the number of available job vacancies have increased significantly in recent months many area’s of the country are still witnessing a severe shortage of jobs, with the North-East of England and parts of Scotland fairing the worst.
> See, the problem is that it’s all very well saying the number of available job vacancies have increased significantly in recent months , but no-one breaks down the numbers.
How many of these jobs are actually full-time ? how many part-time ? How many are zero hour jobs ? How many are dodgy ‘self-employed’ leaflet distribution jobs ?
As someone who needs a full time wage, I know all too well that the number of these is all too small a percentage locally.
This is in stark contrast to area’s in the South-East of England where the number of available jobs are greater than the numbers of people looking for work.
However, figures due to be released on Tuesday are expected to show that competition for jobs has fallen to a new low of 1.42 jobseeker’s for every advertised job vacancy. This will no doubt come as good news for the coaliton government.
> If anyone actually believed it…
However, those figures are also expected to show that the average advertised salary has dropped by £1,800 over the last twelve months, providing more fuel to Labour’s ‘cost of living crisis’ argument.
Sourc e – Welfare News Service 28 April 2014
Church vicars are increasingly being asked for help by hungry parishioners, the Bishop of Durham has claimed.
The Right Reverend Paul Butler spoke out as ministers sought to brush off new figures revealing more than 900,000 people turned to foodbanks for emergency relief in the past 12 months – a near three-fold increase on the previous year.
Bishop Butler, a former social worker, said: “Clergy have told me of increased requests directly from parishioners struggling to make ends meet.”
And, having joined dozens of bishops and hundreds of faith leaders in signing an open letter demanding the Government take urgent action, he urged: “This is a reality and not a problem that will easily be solved – but solve it, we must.”
The Trussell Trust, which runs 400 foodbanks nationwide, reported a 463 per cent year-on-year rise in demand across the North-East.
Bishop Butler said that many families were facing the “terrible reality” of empty cupboards was deeply challenging and raised acute moral, social and political questions.
Speaking of a recent visit to a Hartlepool foodbank, he said the number of children in need was shocking.
One foodbank user from Brandon said she had asked for help having been forced to leave a stable life and move to care for her father and his partner.
“We have now been housed by Durham County Council, found help and guidance through places like foodbank. Without this help until benefits are resolved and wages for new jobs are paid, we would not be able to survive,” she added.
The faith leaders’ letter, published today, calls food poverty a “national crisis” and comes just two months after 27 bishops said Prime Minister David Cameron had a moral duty to act on the growing number going hungry.
Source – Northern Echo 18 April 2014
Successive Government policies that unfairly target the young are making this the worst time to grow up in decades, campaigners say.
High levels of youth unemployment, increased university tuition fees and the difficulty of getting a mortgage have been cited as problems affecting young people, along with changes to the benefit system and cuts to youth support services.
People working with young people in the North East say they are being disproportionately targeted in the Government austerity cuts so that Ministers can protect older people who are statistically more likely to vote.
And there have been warnings that the situation is creating a “a generation without hope” who do not feel part of society.
Liz Emerson, co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, a national charity set up to ensure fairness between the generations, said: “This is the first period in recent history where children will have worst standards of living than their parents and their grandparents.
Successive Governments have put the interests of older generations before the interests of younger ones. They’ve taken away the EMA, they’ve taken away Sure Start schemes for young people, they’re taking away their travel concessions.”
Concerns about the young being unfairly targeted came earlier this month when Chancellor George Osborne signalled benefit cuts for the under-26s just a day after Prime Minister David Cameron said he would “triple lock” the state pension, which accounts for half of all welfare spending.
Jeff Hurst, who runs the Newcastle YMCA and is vice-chair of the city’s children’s trust board, said: “I was brought up in a generation where anything was possible and everything was positive. Now we are creating a generation without hope.
“What I see is fantastic young people who are motivated, who are clever, who are innovative who are able, but who are very frustrated.”
Mr Hurst said the combined effect of higher pension ages, more graduates, and a flood of axed public sector workers were squeezing the young out of the labour market until far into their twenties.
The situation is particularly acute in the North East, which has the highest rate of youth unemployment at nearly 24% and the worst score of any region on the Intergenerational Foundation’s age fairness index.
Geoff Mount of the charity Barnados, which has a number of youth projects in the region, said: “Times are tough for young people. Funding for courses is being cut, young people now are having to take out loans, and EMA has been taken away. We’ve got a bursary scheme in place but that doesn’t meet in my opinion the needs of those young people in greatest financial need. There are fewer job opportunities out there than ever before.”
Workers also cited a squeeze on housing, with last week’s ONS figures showing a quarter of 34-year-olds are now living with their parents.
The number of “boomerang children” has soared by 25% in the last 17 years, despite the youth population remaining the same, with under-24s in the North East the least likely in the country to have a mortgage.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 27 Jan 2014