Battling parents were on song yesterday in their fight against cuts which could see vital services for their kids cut.
A group of around 30 mums, dads and their children braved the chilly weather to take part in a street theatre event at the Centre for Life and later Central Station in Newcastle city centre.
For it, they also re-worked a few well known Christmas tunes to highlight their cause.
These included ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ which detailed what they saw as the effect on services of proposed city council cuts.
Lines included ‘On the first day of Christmas the council took from me, a future for my family’.
Meanwhile Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ and ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ by Shakin’ Stevens also got the treatment.
It was the latest in a series of high profile events by The Parents against Cuts group which have resulted in at times heated clashes with city council leader Nick Forbes. Some wore Nick Forbes face masks for the event yesterday.
Last week the council announced proposals to cut its budget by £40m in response, it says, to Central Government austerity measures.
The PAC group was set up when plans to reduce the number of Sure Start Centres, which provide early educational and play facilities for pre-school children from the poorest backgrounds to save around £4.7m as part of these measures, were first made public.
Shannon Sherman, who helped organise the event, said:
“We’re still waiting to hear which Sure Start centres are to go.
“We were told it was to be this month, now the council is saying it’s in January.
“Christmas is a busy time for parents but we’ve got a good turn out.
“We have another planning meeting next week to decide what to do next.”
Those attending the event laughed off a suggestion made by Mr Forbes last week of a link between PAC and the Revolutionary Communist Group.
In an interview the council leader said:
“The Revolutionary Communist Party website clearly claims responsibility for a number of actions that Parents Against Cuts is taking.”
Vanessa Cutter of PAC denied the link. She said:
“I think it shows the council leader had been rattled by our protests.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Dec 2014
Sad right-wing bastards on parade in Newcastle…
You may have read the account of our writer friend being targeted by supporters of the National Front. Here’s his account of the demonstration itself. Thanks for your contribution, comrade!
I arrived at the demonstration area about half an hour before the advertised start time and there was already about 20 people standing on Grey’s Monument with a large banner declaring ‘Nationalists against Groomers’ and smaller Union flags. The crowd had doubled in size after just 15 minutes and by midday there was around 100 people.
This wasn’t the drunken wannabes of the EDL (although there was a small group of EDL from Sunderland who were, somewhat predictably, already drunk) this group was predominantly middle-aged veterans of the far-right. The fascist insignia was proudly on display; Blood and Honour shirts, C-18 badges and swastika tattoos.
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Fewer pupils in the region are attending fee-paying schools, new figures show.
There are 69,847 pupils at private schools in the North belonging to the Independent Schools Council (ISC), compared with 70,577 pupils in 2013.
Across the country, 7% of schoolchildren are at independent schools. The underlying trend over the last year has been growth, but pupil numbers declined in the region, falling by 1% in the North.
Almost half of the country’s independent schools are located in London and the South East. According to the census, independent schools in different parts of the country have faced different sets of challenges.
Among those schools that participated in the census in both 2013 and 2014 there was a rise in pupils of 1% in London and of 0.5% in the rest of the South East.
Hilary French, headmistress at Newcastle High School for Girls, says the fall in pupil numbers has to be linked to the region’s struggling economy.
“People are doing really well in the South East but we are not feeling those effects yet,” she said. “The Government is trying to save money in public services, which is detrimental, because these services form a really large part of our economy.
“We have to be aware that some parents are struggling – the North East is the only part of the country that hasn’t seen a rise in house prices. We have to hope that the London ripple effect is all to come for us.
“But with the severity of the recession and what’s been happening to the economy here, a 1% fall is quite encouraging. All independent schools are businesses and any business has to look at its situation in the economy – how it needs to attract and retain customers. There are lots of excellent independent schools in the North East. Both Royal Grammar School and ourselves have waiting lists for pupils. Those schools which can move with the times and provide what the market wants are doing very well.”
School fees climbed by 3.9% last year, the lowest rise for almost 20 years. The overall average annual fee, excluding nursery fees, is almost £15,000.
The census said 166,268 pupils nationally – 33.4% of the total – received help with their fees. ISC schools provided more than £660m of help with fees in the academic year 2013/14, an increase of 5.1% on last year.
Schools gave more than twice as much help in the form of bursaries as they did in scholarships. The survey said means-tested bursaries were worth an average of £7,894 per pupil a year and were held by approximately 8% of all ISC pupils.
Pupils from overseas helped to buttress numbers during the recession, and last year their numbers rose 1.4% to a total of 25,912. The two regions supplying the largest number of overseas pupils are Europe (38%) and Hong Kong and China (37.2%).
Ms French added: “We are finding that overseas pupils, particularly from China, want to come to us as a day school and stay with either relatives or host families.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 30 April 2014
Two North-East towns have the highest youth unemployment in the country, a report claims.
Middlesbrough and Stockton were ranked top of a youth unemployment table prepared by The Work Foundation.
The Lancaster University-based organisation’s report, The Geography Of Youth Unemployment – A Route Map For Change, claims that unemployment rates for 16 to 24-year-olds in the two towns is more than 25 per cent.
In contrast, York was found to have the second lowest youth unemployment in the country at less than 13 per cent.
The study recommends that town and cities reduce their rates by ensuring that local services work together more effectively.
The paper argues that without effective, targeted action from national and local government, businesses, and educators, a generation of young people in these cities will face a bleak future in the labour market.
Commenting on the paper, Lizzie Crowley, head of youth unemployment programmes at The Work Foundation, said: “Urgent action is needed to ensure young people get the right support to either continue in school, further training or with getting a job.”
Commenting on the report, Stockton Council leader Councillor Bob Cook said it was a “nonsense that the youth unemployment rate in Stockton was the highest in the country”.
“That said, we know that the current economic climate has made it tough for young people to get a foothold on the career ladder.
“We are determined to help which is why our children and young people select committee is in the final stages of an in depth scrutiny review looking at how education and business can work together to make sure that learning provision matches local industry need.”
Source – Northern Echo 08 April 2014
Members of one of the North East’s biggest unions have been told to demand more from Labour.
Unison chief Dave Prentis told members gathered in Newcastle that the party “has to make sure Labour is on our side.”
In an apparent attack on party leader Ed Miliband, Mr Prentis told union representatives gathered in the city’s Vermont Hotel that “You can’t get Ed to say he likes trade union leaders.”
He added: “He says he likes trade unions, I’m not sure he even knows what one is.”
Mr Prentis said the Labour party had “wasted time” on the party leader’s reforms to Labour’s trade union links.
“The outcome of all that was six months of time wasting that no one else cared about, that did nothing for the people they are supposed to represent.”
Asked if he agreed with one delegate who said Labour had slept through the last four years, Mr Prentis said: “I share the sentiment that it has take some time for some Labour officials in London to realise that they are no longer in Government.
“I share the sentiment that Labour does not even have the pledge card that was there in 1997 so people can say on the doorstep, ‘this is what we will do for you.’”
Mr Prentis said Unison wanted to see “clear policies from Labour” that the union could support in the run up to the General Election, telling members that he would be seeking to put pressure on the party to come up with manifesto commitments that would “make a clear difference.”
He said: “We need clear, strong policies from Labour if we are going to get a Labour victory. We want the party to set out how it will rebuild the NHS to make it a real national health service, for example.”
During the meeting with delegates, Mr Prentis backed those who said it was wrong that no major employer in Labour’s North East heartland had a Living wage, despite the party having it as a target wage for all in the last manifesto.
Clare Williams, Unison’s regional convenor, said, “Across all our members in whichever service they work, the key issue is pay. Friday’s event with Dave Prentis was an opportunity for members in the region to have an open discussion with our General Secretary to plan a strategy to tackle poverty pay in the public sector.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 07 April 2014
The Week of Action Against Workfare begins today with actions across the UK and online scheduled over the next seven days.
The week has been called in response to mass unpaid work schemes such as Traineeships and comes in the month that Community Work Placements are set to be launched. These mandatory placements will mean unemployed people forced to work in at charities and in so-called community organisations for a period of six months.
In a huge embarrassment for Iain Duncan Smith, workfare’s biggest supporters The Salvation Army have already announced that this scheme is too exploitative even for them to stomach. The charity had been invited by the DWP to bid for a lucrative sub-contract to administer the placements. Other…
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This article was written by Larry Elliott, economics editor, for The Guardian on Monday 17th March
The scale of Britain’s growing inequality is revealed today by a report from a leading charity showing that the country’s five richest families now own more wealth than the poorest 20% of the population.
Oxfam urged the chancellor George Osborne to use Wednesday’s budget to make a fresh assault on tax avoidance and introduce a living wage in a report highlighting how a handful of the super-rich, headed by the Duke of Westminster, have more money and financial assets than 12.6 million Britons put together.
The development charity, which has opened UK programmes to tackle poverty, said the government should explore the possibility of a wealth tax after revealing how income gains and the benefits of rising asset prices had disproportionately helped those at the top.
Although Labour is seeking to make living standards central to the political debate in the run-up to next year’s general election, Osborne is determined not to abandon the deficit-reduction strategy that has been in place since 2010. But he is likely to announce a fresh crackdown on tax avoidance and measures aimed at overseas owners of high-value London property in order to pay for modest tax cuts for working families.
The early stages of the UK’s most severe post-war recession saw a fall in inequality as the least well-off were shielded by tax credits and benefits. But the trend has been reversed in recent years as a result of falling real wages, the rising cost of food and fuel, and by the exclusion of most poor families from home and share ownership.
In a report, a Tale of Two Britains, Oxfam said the poorest 20% in the UK had wealth totalling £28.1bn – an average of £2,230 each. The latest rich list from Forbes magazine showed that the five top UK entries – the family of the Duke of Westminster, David and Simon Reuben, the Hinduja brothers, the Cadogan family, and Sports Direct retail boss Mike Ashley – between them had property, savings and other assets worth £28.2bn.
The most affluent family in Britain, headed by Major General Gerald Grosvenor, owns 77 hectares (190 acres) of prime real estate in Belgravia, London, and has been a beneficiary of the foreign money flooding in to the capital’s soaring property market in recent years. Oxfam said Grosvenor and his family had more wealth (£7.9bn) than the poorest 10% of the UK population (£7.8bn).
Oxfam’s director of campaigns and policy, Ben Phillips, said: “Britain is becoming a deeply divided nation, with a wealthy elite who are seeing their incomes spiral up, while millions of families are struggling to make ends meet.
“It’s deeply worrying that these extreme levels of wealth inequality exist in Britain today, where just a handful of people have more money than millions struggling to survive on the breadline.”
The UK study follows an Oxfam report earlier this year which found that the wealth of 85 global billionaires is equivalent to that of half the world’s population – or 3.5 billion people. The pope and Barack Obama have made tackling inequality a top priority for 2014, while the International Monetary Fund has warned that the growing divide between the haves and have-nots is leading to slower global growth.
Oxfam said the wealth gap in the UK was becoming more entrenched as a result of the ability of the better off to capture the lion’s share of the proceeds of growth. Since the mid-1990s, the incomes of the top 0.1% have grown by £461 a week or £24,000 a year. By contrast, the bottom 90% have seen a real terms increase of only £2.82 a week or £147 a year.
The charity said the trends in income had been made even more adverse by increases in the cost of living over the past decade. “Since 2003 the majority of the British public (95%) have seen a 12% real terms drop in their disposable income after housing costs, while the richest 5% of the population have seen their disposable income increase.”
Osborne will this week announce details of the government’s new cap on the welfare budget and has indicated that he wants up to £12bn a year cut from the benefits bill in order to limit the impact of future rounds of austerity on Whitehall departments.
Oxfam said that for the first time more working households were in poverty than non-working ones, and predicted that the number of children living below the poverty line could increase by 800,000 by 2020. It said cuts to social security and public services were meshing with falling real incomes and a rising cost of living to create a “deeply damaging situation” in which millions were struggling to get by.
The charity said that starting with this week’s budget, the government should balance its books by raising revenues from those that could afford it – “by clamping down on companies and individuals who avoid paying their fair share of tax and starting to explore greater taxation of extreme wealth”.
The IMF recently released research showing that the ever-greater concentration of wealth and income hindered growth and said redistribution would not just reduce inequality but would be economically beneficial.
“On average, across countries and over time, the things that governments have typically done to redistribute do not seem to have led to bad growth outcomes, unless they were extreme”, the IMF said in a research paper. “And the resulting narrowing of inequality helped support faster and more durable growth, apart from ethical, political or broader social considerations.”
Phillips said: “Increasing inequality is a sign of economic failure rather than success. It’s far from inevitable – a result of political choices that can be reversed. It’s time for our leaders to stand up and be counted on this issue.”
Landed gentry to self-made millionaires
Duke of Westminster (Wealth: £7.9bn)
Gerald Grosvenor and his family owe the bulk of their wealth to owning 77 hectares (190 acres) of Mayfair and Belgravia, adjacent to Buckingham Palace and prime London real estate.
As the value of land rockets in the capital so too does the personal wealth of Grosvenor, formally the sixth Duke of Westminster and one of seven god parents to the new royal baby, Prince George.
The family also own 39,000 hectares in Scotland and 13,000 hectares in Spain, while their privately owned Grosvenor Estate property group has $20bn (£12bn) worth of assets under managemenSpaint including the Liverpool One shopping mall, according to leading US business magazine Forbes.
Reuben brothers (£6.9bn)
Simon and David Reuben made their early money out of metals. Born in India but brought up in London, they started in local scrap metal but branched out into trading tin and aluminium.
Their biggest break was to move into Russia just after the break-up of the Soviet Union, buying up half the country’s aluminium production facilities and befriending Oleg Deripaska, the oligarch associate of Nat Rothschild and Peter Mandelson.
The Reuben brothers are still involved in mining and metals but control a widely diversified business empire that includes property, 850 British pubs, and luxury yacht-maker Kristal Waters. They are also donors to the Conservative party.
Hinduja brothers (£6bn)
Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja co-chair the Hinduja Group, a multinational conglomerate with a presence in 37 countries and businesses ranging from trucks and lubricants to banking and healthcare.
They began their careers working in their father’s textile and trading businesses in Mumbai and Tehran, Iran but soon branched out by buying truck maker, Ashok Leyland from British Leyland and Gulf Oil from Chevron in the 1980s, while establishing banks in Switzerland and India in the 1990s.
The family’s London home is a mansion on Carlton House Terrace, overlooking St James Park and just along fromclose to Buckingham Palace, which is potentially worth £300m. They have links with the Labour party.
Cadogan family (£4bn)
The wealth of the Cadogans family is built on 90 acres36 hectares of property and land in Chelsea and Knightsbridge, west London.
Eton-educated Charles is the eighth Earl of Cadogan and ran the family business, Cadogan Estates, until 2012 when he handed it over to his son Edward, Viscount Chelsea.
Charles, who is a first cousin to the Aga Khan, started in the Coldstream Guards before going into the City.
He was briefly chairman of Chelsea Football Club in the early 1980s and his family motto is: “He who envies is the lesser man.”
Mike Ashley (£3.3bn)
Ashley owns Newcastle United football club and became a billionaire through his Sports Direct discount clothing chain which he started after leaving school.
He was the sole owner of the fast growing business, which snapped up brands such as Dunlop, Slazenger, Karrimor and Lonsdale, until it floated on the stock market in 2007. He now owns 62%.
Ashley is a regular visitor to London’s swankiest casinos but is famously publicity-averse
Source – Welfare News Service, 17 March 2014
Since yesterday’s post on British work camps for the unemployed seems to have stirred up a lot of interest, you should check out this blog – the author has written a book on them !
We have a number of organisations and individuals today who campaign for the interests of the unemployed and dispossessed. It is not disparaging their efforts, though, to recognise that we have nothing today to compare with the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement. During the interwar years, according to the historian Rick Croucher, the NUWM’s activities represented ‘a highpoint of unemployed organisation in British history’.
The NUWM is best known for organising the hunger marches, large and spectacular demonstrations that etched themselves into national memories of the 1930s. But it many other, arguably more important roles, from local lobbying and protests through to systematic support and advocacy for individual men and women who were fighting against reductions in their benefits.
Among other campaigns, the NUWM was also active in opposition to the use of work camps. It campaigned in general terms against the camps, it made a public issue of conditions within them, and…
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> Part of the Great British history they don’t teach you at school – how the jobless were treated in the 1920s and 30s… and who’d bet against camps returning again ?
During the prolonged unemployment of the 1920s the British government proposed a scheme for transferring labour from the worse effected areas to training schemes in the South of England. For this purpose an Industrial Transference Board was set up in 1928 to monitor and control the transfer of labour form unemployment black-spots. The ITB soon brought to the attention of the Ministry of Labour a ‘class‘ of men not easily fitted into the broader scheme, men deemed ‘soft and temporarily demoralised through prolonged unemployment‘. These men were considered a danger to the morale of the other men and were considered unfit for transfer until they had been ‘hardened’.
The scheme for ‘hardening’ in Labour Camps (on penalty of loss of the dole) was devised by Baldwin’s Tory government, but was carried through with Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour Government and expanded by the 1931 National Government. They were supported by the TUC as well as the Labour Party, and were opposed and exposed only by the National Unemployed Workers Movement, in which the Communist Party was the leading influence.
Between 1929 and 1939 25 secret concentration camps were built in the most remote areas of Britain and more than 200,000 unemployed men were sent to these camps. The Labour Camps were conducted under military discipline and men were interned in the centres for three-month periods, working for up to nine hours a day breaking rocks, building roads and cutting down trees. In August 1939, in preparation for the war against Germany, the Ministry of Labour issued instructions that the managerial records of its own concentration camps should be weeded out, and much of the documentation was destroyed.