Tagged: social justice

Green Party in Darlington announces its candidate for the General Election

The Green Party has announced its candidate for Darlington in the forthcoming General Election will be Michael Cherrington.

Following the increased profile of the Green Party nationally, a Green Party group for Darlington has officially been formed, with the intention of fielding a candidate in each ward for elections to Darlington Borough Council, as well as contesting the Darlington constituency.

The Darlington Green Party group is looking for people to help them campaign in the town or who are willing to stand for council.

Mr Cherrington, who lives in the town and works in social care, said he had seen the negative impact of cuts to health and social care on people living in Darlington.

He added: “I have served vulnerable people in communities for the past twenty years and have and will continue to ensure that inequality levels are challenged so all Darlington residents have good opportunities and benefit from a better quality of life.

“People must be at the centre of all activity – I will ensure I listen to your concerns and needs.”

The Darlington Green Party group launched its campaign with a stall on High Row on Saturday and is campaigning on the grounds of social justice and long-term economic and environmental sustainability.

To contact the Green Part in Darlington email darlingtongreens@gmail.com or call 01325-242498. The group can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

The General Election will take place on May 7.

The parliamentary candidate for Labour is sitting MP Jenny Chapman, the Conservative Party candidate is Peter Cuthbertson and the candidate for UKIP is David Hodgson.

No other parties have declared their prospective parliamentary candidate for Darlington.

Source –  Northern Echo,  27 Jan 2015

Living wage joy for 1000 South Tyneside Council staff

A thousand South Tyneside Council workers will begin to be paid a national living wage from next year, it was confirmed today.

The authority is the first in the North East to commit to working towards the implementation of the full national living wage value of £7.65 per hour – £1.34 above the national minimum wage of £6.31 an hour.

The historic move is a major financial boost to borough cleaners, school lunch supervisors and catering assistants in schools, residential homes and leisure facilities – 95 per cent of whom are women.

And it means those workers, who are currently paid £6.54 an hour, will eventually see their hourly rate rise by £1.11.

Pending full council approval in December, from April next year the process of introducing the wage on a phased basis will begin.

Today Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for Resources and Innovation, said there was a “compelling case” for making the change, which will cost the authority an estimated £700,000 to implement.

He said:

As a council we are committed to the social justice agenda and trying to bring real change to the lives of people in South Tyneside.

“This is not about giving staff pay supplement – this is about radically changing our salary structure.

“We are working towards permanently protecting our lowest paid workers for the future. Staff affected will not only benefit from the extra money in their wages but also from additional benefits like increased pension provision.

“There is a compelling case to introduce a living wage because it brings dignity and pays families enough to enjoy a basic but acceptable standard of living.

“However it is important that we consider this very carefully in the context of ongoing Government budget cuts and our commitment to protecting vital services in South Tyneside.”

The council established an Independent Wage Commission in June last year to examine the benefits and challenges of adopting a living wage in the borough.

That commission found that a living wage would make a positive contribution to reducing poverty and promoting well-being among low paid workers.

Now the local authority will look to implement a phased introduction of the new hourly rate.

From April 2015 its the lowest paid employees will receive £7.11 per hour – representing an immediate increase up to a maximum of 67p per hour.

Coun Malcolm added:

Of course we would have liked to implement the full living wage with immediate effect but given the unprecedented cuts imposed on the authority we have had to take a prudent approach.

“When we have further information on our future funding, we will sit down with our trade union colleagues to consider the affordability of implementing the full Living Wage from 2016 with a view to eliminating low pay across the council’s workforce.”

Rachel Reeves MP said:

“It’s brilliant that South Tyneside council is making this important commitment. It shows that even in tough times when there is less money around we can make choices that help build a fairer society.”

Professor Keith Shaw of Northumbria University, chair of South Tyneside’s Independent Living Wage Commission, said:

“South Tyneside Council’s support for the Independent Commission’s recommendation to introduce a Living Wage will make a real difference to the lives of people living and working in South Tyneside.

“In recommending its introduction, the commission were convinced that increasing the income of the lowest paid employees would make an important contribution to reducing the scale of in-work poverty, have a positive impact on the life chances of families, young people and women and, by increasing local spending power, also boost the local economy in South Tyneside.

“The council are to be commended for their support of such an important initiative.”

Source –  Shields Gazette,  17 Oct 2014

1,000 South Tyneside Council staff set to get ‘living wage’

Oone thousand low-paid council workers in South Tyneside are today a step closer to receiving a ‘living wage’.

The move – recommended by an independent commission – leaves South Tyneside Council needing to find £700,000 to cover its wage bill if it presses ahead with the plan next year.

The commission has recommended South Tyneside pays its lowest paid workers a minimum of £7.65 an hour – £1.34 above the national minimum wage of £6.31 an hour.

This would help about 1,000 cleaners, school lunch supervisors and catering assistants in schools, residential homes and leisure facilities – 95 per cent of whom are women.

It would mean those workers, who are paid £6.54 an hour, would see their hourly rate rise by £1.11.

It is highly unlikely any change will come into force before April next year – because the council’s budget for the financial year has already been set.

The decision was labelled “historic” today by Merv Butler, the branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, which has long campaigned for the introduction of the living wage.

Mr Butler would favour an immediate introduction of the increase but, if that’s not possible, he will be pushing for a “stepped approach” – with phased rises in the rate paid per hour over the next few months.

He said:

This is an historic day for Unison. We have campaigned long and hard for the council to introduce the living wage. The recommendations of the commission bring that a massive step closer.

“Our task now is to get the council to bring in the living wage as soon as possible, and we have a clear plan on how they can do this.

“The report shows that 1,195 job holders are paid below the living wage and nearly 95 per cent of these are women.

“This proposal will make a real difference to our members. It will put money into the local economy as well.”

Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, will now work over the coming months with finance officers to look to identify funding for the change.

He said:

“As a council, we are committed to social justice and trying to bring real change to the lives of people in South Tyneside.

“This is why we welcome the commission’s report into the impact of introducing the living wage in the borough.

“There is a compelling case to introduce a living wage because it brings dignity and pays families enough to enjoy a basic but acceptable standard of living. However, it is important that we consider this very carefully in the context of ever decreasing budgets and our commitment to protecting vital services in South Tyneside.”

Coun Joan Atkinson, the council’s lead member for children, young people and families, described the living wage as a “priority” and a chance to take struggling families out of poverty,

She said:

“It is going to be hard.We don’t have a hidden pot of money but, through innovative measures savings are being made. This is a priority and we need to find a way of funding it.”

Coun Malcolm added:

“We would like to thank Professor Keith Shaw and his commission members for the wealth of work they have done on this issue.

“They have produced a very comprehensive report exploring what we can do as an employer to lift more people out of low pay and support local families.”

Source –  Shields Gazette, 05 Sept 2014

In case you think the media aren’t trying to pull the wool over your eyes

The SKWAWKBOX

On 16 March this year, around 112,000 people marched in Melbourne, Australia, against the policies of its government that are clearly against any principles of decency, fairness, social justice or just plain humanity.

It was one of many marches across Australia that day for the same purpose – some of the largest in the country’s history – yet you probably never heard of it. No surprise – even the Australian media chose to almost completely ignore the protest, focusing instead on the St Patrick’s Day revelries that took place the following day.

All the while, state governments are pushing through laws against protesting with penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment.

In October 2012, I was one of hundreds of thousands of people marching through London in protest against our own (excuse for a) government’s policies of victimisation and demonisation of ordinary people to smooth the way for draconian penalisation…

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South Tyneside rents to rise as £18m budget cuts bite

RENTS for 18,000 council tenants in South Tyneside are to rise by an average of £5.50 a week, it has been revealed.

However, there was better news for residents in the borough as South Tyneside Council boss, Coun Ed Malcolm, revealed that Council Tax bills are to be frozen for the fourth consecutive year.

The details emerged from the local authority’s budget plans for the coming 12 months in which it needs to find another £18m worth of savings.

That is made up of a £9m reduction in Government funding and another £9m in other areas – particularly services for the young and elderly.

Savings need to be identified out of a revenue budget – made up from government funding and Council Tax payments – of £148m for 2014/15.

Despite the pressures, the council is committed to spending almost £5m improving borough highways and footpaths.

It is pushing ahead with selling off council buildings which are regarded as being “surplus to requirement” – with profits 
re-invested in capital programmes.

As a result of a Council Tax freeze, the owner of an average Band C property in the borough will pay an estimated £1,290 for the year from April.

Meanwhile, council rents will increase by 6.8 per cent, which is in line with Government guidelines.

That would mean the average weekly borough rent, which currently stands at £78.34 over a 48-week period, rising by about £5.50 – which still represents the lowest level in Tyne and Wear.

It’s estimated the hike will add an additional £4.7m to the council’s coffers.

Coun Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, today pledged that “no one would suffer” as a result of the budget proposals he has overseen.

There was also a commitment that job losses at the council will be less than in previous years – with more than 1,000 posts shed since 2010.

He said: “Even though we have had £18m of budget cuts to find this year, I’m confident that this budget will mean we can still provide services to anyone who wants them, anyone who needs them.

“No one will suffer because of this budget. As a Labour council, we remain committed to social justice.

“The key message is that is that we are continuing to get funding reductions, we’ve got nine per cent less core funding and we still have the standstill financial pressures on top.

“We’re going to be freezing Council Tax for the fourth consecutive year and that means we will have the third lowest in the North East, and we remain committed to our ambitious regeneration of the borough.

“We face £18m worth of savings in the year ahead. The days of salami-slicing budgets are over.

“We’ve looked at integration, working with partners in the private sector, the public sector and the voluntary sector on Adult and Social Care.

“The council has a lot of buildings which have passed their sell-by-date and I think we can work more efficiently by redesigning the town hall and have the majority of staff transferred there.

“Then we have the community hubs which will provide a majority of services under one roof.”

Coun Malcolm added: “There will still be job implications but we will endeavour to keep away from compulsory redundancies.

“Because we are redesigning services there will be redundancies but we envisage there will be less than in previous years. We
 are also putting substantial investment in highways and pathways and increasing amount of money going to Community Area Forums by £50,000.”

Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, said: “Jobs-wise, next year we are hearing that there will be a little bit of respite in terms of a large number of job losses.

“But there are still going to be job losses in the area of business support and the merger of some other services together.”

Source – Shields Gazette  05 Feb 2014