Monday, February 29, 2016

Violence at Work: Unison Community Conference 2016

The UNISON community conference started on Saturday afternoon after the close of the seminar. I spoke in favour of this motion below.

"Conference, President, John Gray, one of your elected Community NEC members and proud to be a health and safety rep. Moving motion 2 "Violence at Work" on behalf of the SGE.

Conference, the general public is beginning to understanding how vulnerable social care users are to potential abuse. However, what the public doesn't understand, is how due to the lack of investment in training, support and staffing, we now routinely have staff at risk too.

This too is a national scandal. While the HSE, which relies on employers reporting incidents, claim that only 1.3% of workers in caring professions suffer violence at work in one year. Unison’s own research of community members found that nearly half of our members, suffered an incident of violence or aggression over the last 2 years.

Conference, why is this? Why such massive under reporting by employers? Why such under reporting by staff as well? Equally, Why to be honest, did I as a young housing officer, in East London, shrug off the threat by a gang member to put an axe in my head during a messy eviction and not report it? The truth of the matter is that in too many workplaces, and not just social care, there is a problem that violence and aggression, is seen as just being "Part of the job". or“it goes with the territory”. How many times will we hear this?

Even worse than this. Members often mention that the reason why they do not report violence at work, is that they fear being blamed for "allowing" the incident to happen and being told by managers, that if in some way, they were more professional, it wouldn't have happened in the first place.

To top even this, many staff also say that the reason, why they don't report incidents is that they have little or no confidence whatsoever that the employer will do anything about it. So it is a waste of time to report anything.

Conference, while it is a fact that we will face violence and aggression in our work, it is also a fact that something can be done to tackle this and prevent many incidents happening again. If employers (and trade union safety reps) Investigate every incidents and learn what went wrong and what went right. We can learn and do things differently and stop many assualts happening again and again.

Your employer as a legal duty to protect you at work. To protect you at work they need to provide a safe system of work. That safe system of work must be based on them providing proper support and resources to workers to do their job - safely

 Conference we must do 3 things Firstly, make the public aware of what is going on.

 Secondly, we must campaign for zero tolerance of violence at work and make it clear that safety is a collective issue and raise expectations of our members that they feel empowered to report every single incident.

Thirdly, We must try to work with our employers but after a point, as a union, we must name and shame employers who don't provide such support, allow under reporting, don't investigate, don't take action to protect their staff and then also demand that the HSE and Local authorities prosecute the senior managers, executives and board members, who put members health, safety and even lives at risk.

 Conference, I move

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Unison Community Seminar day 2

The Unison Community seminar resumed on Saturday morning with workshops, followed by a panel debate headed by our lay President, Wendy Nichols, on "any questions about Unison". There was questions about democratic processes, low turnout in union elections, insufficient support for community activists, members being blocked from conferences, profile etc.

There are clearly problems with some Unison Local Government and Health Branches, who due to their own pressures and attacks by their employers are not able to properly support their Community members and we desperately need to do something about this.

However, this is not a totally accurate picture of all what goes on, since I am aware of Local Government branches who do excellent work for Community members and also in my employer, two local government branches, now have community members as their Secretary or Chair.

The seminar finished at 12.30.  During lunch there was Caucus meetings and then we came back at 2pm for the start of the actual Community conference. More stuff to follow.

Friday, February 26, 2016

UNISON Community Seminar/Conference 2016

Today I was in Southport for the start of the 2016 Unison Community  (Housing Associations and voluntary organisations) seminar and conference.

 I have never been to Southport before and am really impressed. It is a beautiful resort and reminds me of Llandudno in North Wales. I went for a run along the beach in the morning.

Before the start there was a meeting of the Community Service Group Executive then the biannual Housing Associations' sector meeting. The reps for a number of different housing organisations met and exchanged ideas and experiences.

The seminar kicked off with key note speaker, the Unison Assistant General Secretary for organising, Roger McKenzie.

Roger promised that the union must and will change. We are no longer a one employer, one branch union.  We have to modernise.

Next was workshops on TUPE, Work related stress, Equality Act, recruitment and training. I took notes for a report back on recruitment.

This evening we had regional and branch delegation meetings. We are all off now for a delegation meal next at the "Hungry Horse". Sounds like my sort of restaurant.  Will post further as and when.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Europe: Should we stay or should we go? Sunday Night Live Sunday 28 Feb

Register here Stratford East Picturehouse - Salway Road London E15 1BX GB - View Map

"In the first of a two-part Sunday Night Live special on Europe this week’s session will examine the key issues and arguments, with speakers from the Labour In and Labour Leave campaigns, ahead of the EU Referendum on the 23rd June.

With the British public facing the most important economic choice in a generation, this session offers an opportunity between now and then to delve into some fundamental questions about Britain’s place in the world. With membership of the European Union bringing jobs, growth and investment – and representing a single market consisting of 550 million consumers (the largest commercial market in the world, bigger than the US and China); plus a raft of social benefits, this session will explore:

What are the benefits and risks with Brexit? Does it really signal a move to isolationism and threaten Britain’s economic prosperity by destabilizing its place at the heart of the global economy?
Will Britain’s national identity be strengthened or diminished if the majority of British voters opt to leave?

Was Cameron’s EU deal the best possible in the interests of the country or his leadership – and future - of the Conservative Party?

Will campaigning for staying in help the Labour Party march achieve electoral success in 2020?

What are the key issues you need to think about when determining what’s best for you, your family and your country?"

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Unions threaten HA strike over restructure

See "Inside Housing" website. "Unions are threatening one of the largest industrial actions in the housing association sector’s history over Circle’s plans to restructure ahead of the rent cut.
Unison, Unite and GMB are close to declaring an industrial dispute over the 50,000-home landlord’s proposals to centralise services, cut jobs, remove subsidiary boards and change terms and conditions of employment.

Circle is aiming to cut its operating costs by 17% a year to enable it to cope with the social housing rent cut, which it estimates will reduce income by £50m a year. The first phase of this will see 60 compulsory redundancies.

The changes begin to kick-in from 1 April, and the unions on Thursday requested an urgent meeting with chief executive Mark Rogers to discuss a ‘counter-offer’ they have made to Circle. Mr Rogers has agreed to meet the unions.

Circle is changing 12 terms and conditions, including alterations to hours, the way salaries are calculated, pensions, leave and redundancy policy. Circle has since modified a number of its proposed policies, extending protection against the changes in areas such as annual leave, pay and pensions. However, unions remain opposed in a number of areas.

The unions are also calling for the restructure to be put on hold until after Circle has completed its merger with Affinity Sutton. They fear that otherwise staff could be affected by a second restructure as the merger takes place. Circle says the restructure is a completely seperate process.

John Gray, secretary of the Greater London Housing Association branch of Unison, said: “We don’t want to have a war over this, but we want to speak to the chief executive as soon as possible and try and sort something out.” The unions were angered by a letter from Mr Rogers last Thursday saying there has been “no firm viable counter proposal from the unions” as the unions’ proposals would cost more.

Robert Melcioiu, GMB convenor for Circle, said he believes around 40% of Circle’s 2,300-workforce are members of the unions.

Mark Rogers, chief executive of Circle Housing, said: “We – alongside the sector as a whole – are implementing a number of changes in order to protect the long-term financial viability of the organisation and continue our social purpose, to invest more in our homes and communities.  We understand that change is difficult for staff, and are committed to supporting them through this period.”

Circle had already expressed a desire to find efficiencies through a plan called ‘Fast Forward Circle’. However, the 1% rent cut, announced last July, has prompted the organisation to outline an ambitious plan to reduce operate costs by 17% and centralise services. The union argues that the plan will impact on terms and conditions and lead to a poorer service for tenants. It says the plan should be delayed until after the organisation’s merger with Affinity Sutton.

UCU and UNISON back strike action today by further education college staff

College workers in England voted by 2 to 1 to go on strike on 24 February following a 0% pay ‘offer’.

College workers in England have been offered no pay rise, when many have lost the equivalent of more than £3,000 over the last five years because of inflation and pay restraint.

In a consultation UNISON members voted overwhelmingly to reject the employers’ offer of no pay rise and balloted for industrial action on pay.

Members voted by 2 to 1 in favour of strike action and by 4 to 1 in favour of action short of a strike.

The issue

College workers have had below-inflation pay deals for the last five years and some are as much as the equivalent of £3,000 worse off. This is a 17% cut in real terms since 2010.

UNISON wrote to individual colleges to ask for a better pay offer for staff

In a consultation, UNISON members overwhelmingly rejected the employers’ offer of no pay rise. So UNISON wrote to individual colleges giving them another chance, asking them to make a better local offer. Sadly only a small number made improved offers. More than half didn’t reply.

Members working in further education were balloted over industrial action on pay

UNISON took the tough decision to ballot members over industrial action on pay. The government’s recent Comprehensive Spending Review was less harsh on further education funding than had been predicted and we believe that there is money available in colleges to pay college staff what they deserve.

College staff have picked up the extra work and cuts, redundancies and reorganisations have taken their toll on pay and morale, but the employers aren’t offering anything in return.

UNISON is working with our sister union UCU (which is also in dispute), and other unions to seek to get an improved offer.

Still time for colleges to make a better offer

There is still time for colleges to make a better offer. That’s why we are calling on the further education national employers’ organisation, the Association of Colleges, to come back to the table and reopen national pay negotiations.

Get involved

In order to win a fairer pay deal we need your help. Please:
  • talk to colleagues in your workplace about pay and why no pay rise is unacceptable to you
  • encourage non-members to join UNISON
  • go to your workplace meetings to discuss the pay campaign
  • ask your local UNISON representative how you can get more involved.
The ballot opened on 6 January and closed 29 January.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Brexit or Stronger together?

I am a supporter of staying in the EU even if I am not always its greatest fan. I do think that the arguments to leave are pretty similar to those supporting the break up of the UK. Which I also don't support.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

UNISON Housing Association Branch AGM Monday 22 Feb 2016 at House of Commons

Please attend if at all possible. Sadiq is passionate about Housing and this should be a really "interesting" meeting (with social afterwards).

Newham Council Budget 2016/2017 - my comments

Councillors were asked to submit questions and comments on the proposed Newham Council budget for consideration by the Mayor at the Cabinet meeting last Thursday. I was unable to attend this public meeting since it was at 5pm and I had a work commitment.

These are the comments that I sent on the proposals. The Full Council meeting is tomorrow at 7pm at Newham Town Hall. I may have missed some things since we only got a copy of the full Council agenda the day before.

Report for Cabinet to consider on Newham Council Budget Proposal 2016/2017

Apologies for not being able to attend this Cabinet meeting today but I have a work commitment clash.

As I have mentioned in the past attending any Council meetings which take place or start during office hours are not always possible to attend for Councillors who have demanding full time jobs.

This is an important matter to my constituents and we have been asked to submit comments and thoughts on the budget proposals to this meeting. If there is to be proper consultation process on the proposed budget then all comments should be welcomed even those which challenge and question.

The Politics 
Firstly, we are all aware that this Government is deliberately starving Labour Councils of the money required to meet need for ideological purposes and for political gerrymandering. Austerity is a political choice and it is clear that many Tory run authorities are being cushioned from the cuts.

It is vital that we keep reminding the people of Newham where the blame truly lies and hold the Tories to account for cuts to services, jobs and Schools. This is why I and others support the Newham United Against Austerity (NUAA) campaign.

In a difficult and demanding environment I appreciate that in Newham hard choices will have to be made but that does not mean that I think all the right choices are being proposed even if some of the proposals I fully support in the present circumstances.

Small Business Externalisation or Privatisation of Council Services 
I am concerned about the proposals to further externalise or privatise Council services. I will admit upfront that as a committed trade union activist, who has worked in front line public services for over 30 years I do not believe in the externalisation or privatisation of publicly owned services. That doesn’t mean that services cannot change, cannot be efficient and cannot be responsive

Risk to Residents, Council & Staff
I further believe that the proposed privatisation via “mutualisation” or the small business programme of Newham Council services will:-

  • Face the risk of not delivering the budget savings projected. There is a wealth of evidence that this will not happen. If you break up and fragment services, you destroy economies of scale and increase costs.
  • Will put vital services to residents especially the vulnerable at risk if and when these new companies collapse and fail Cause financial risk to the Council who will then have to step in and rescue or replace contractors
  • Put local jobs, pay, pensions and other national agreed terms and conditions at risk
Mutual and Co-ops 
I work in the Charitable, Co-operative and Voluntary sector. Imposing top down, partly owned, new organisations on staff are not true mutual or co-ops. I have no problem with the idea of staff themselves genuinely wanting to set up a grass root and democratically controlled mutual or coop to deliver services. Even though I think it creates a risk to them and to the Council by doing so.

I support our Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and his ideas about a rebirth of municipal socialism. Bearing in mind some of the announcements made by Newham in recent years on Council investments designed to generate revenue it seems that there is actually a degree of common agreement with his ideas and that of the Newham Executive.

The models apparently put forward is essentially the privatisation of democratically accountable, publicly owned and publicly run services. As someone who works in the "not for profit" sector, there are many examples of appallingly run organisations which operate mainly in the self-interests of their senior management as a "mates club" which provide expensive, inefficient and poor quality services.

The report “Proof of delivery” A Review of the role of co-operatives and mutual in local public service provision” by Association of Public Sector Excellence (ASPE) and De Montford University found little or no evidence that they improved or enhanced public service provision.

The budget states that savings have been made and further savings will be made by centralising services with external bodies such as OneSource. It therefore doesn't make sense to argue that fragmentation will save money.

Going “bust”
It is admitted that these small fragmented services will be at risk of failure. As did NewCo, the former Council owned company that failed recently following being set up as a small business making a number of disabled workers redundant. For example, my Community trade union branch has to deal with the consequences of small organisations going bust and staff being sacked by administrators without notice or any redundancy pay.

Small and fragmented organisations are often forced to slash and burn pay and other conditions to try and survive. The impact on residents of such services going bust can also be horrendous for them and the Council which may have statutory or policy commitments to step in. Replacing failed providers is time consuming and expensive.

I fully support the commercialisation of Council services providing business services in Newham and elsewhere.

Shared Services
I also have concerns with OneSource and do not believe that the proposed shared services model are sustainable in the long term. Both Havering and now Bexley Councils have very different political traditions and cultures than Newham. You have a hard right UKIP/Independent run Council in Havering and a right wing Tory Council in Bexley. They will have different attitudes to services and staff than a Labour Council. If we have to combine and share services then I think it should only be with Councils which are geographical adjacent and shares similar political traditions such as Waltham Forest, Hackney, Barking and Dagenham or even Tower Hamlets.

East London Waste Authority 
This long term contract is extremely expensive and inflexible. It appears to be getting even more expensive. Many officers are critical of it. Can officers look into cancelling or changing it?

Social Care 
I agree strongly that to meet need we should go ahead with the 2% social care levy on Council tax. Yet this will only be a sticking plaster at best and not at all a solution. We need to generate more income.

Due to the increase in the national living wage can the cost of making our contractors pay a real London Living wage be calculated?

Council Tax 
I would strongly urge the Mayor to think again about not raising Council tax. While I accept it is not a truly progressive tax, our need is such that we cannot have the lowest Council tax rate in all of outer London. There is no Freeze grant for 2016/2017. So there is no penalty for increasing Council tax by 2%.

We are becoming more and more reliant on Council tax since the Government is withdrawing grants. Due to gentrification in recent years there are more wealthy individuals and households who can afford to pay more. The most poor in Newham will have access to Council tax benefit.

The cumulative impact on our Council tax revenues of not raising it for the last 7 years (?) is a huge risk. I understand that the loss is far, far more than the temporary new recalculation of Regional support grant.

I have previously expressed concerns about the cost and risk of the £563 million in long term so called Lender Options Borrower Options capital loans that Newham holds.

Social Housing

I am disappointed that there is no programme identified that will start the building of homes at social rents. Red doors, none need based allocation priority and equity release have reduced the number of sites and homes available for social housing.

Mayoral advisers allowance.
This is currently £1.3 million per year and far in excess of what other similar authorities pays. Due to austerity we should set an example and such allowances should be scaled back and reduced. We do not need 11 full time Councillors and in other authorities, many advisers do not receive an SRA for these extra duties.

Keeping Newham moving/Parking 
I support the proposal to have a borough wide parking zone but think that we should consider charging for first permit per household. Not only to raise revenue but to encourage the use of public transport and alternative transport. This is not only to reduce carbon and help save the planet but will also have direct public health benefits and reduce the number of Newham residents dying prematurely from air pollutions (recently estimated to be 9500 per year across London) Similarly I would hope that the £100 million identified for transport improvement would incorporate and take into account the carbon crisis we face.

Bulk rubbish
This is a regressive charge but I support this charge in the circumstances but agree that it should be looked at again if it just increases fly tipping.

While at a time of austerity I appreciate that any growth is limited I would support looking at reversing the cuts to Children centres made last year, Expanding youth service provision and providing services to give residents specialist advice on urgently needed welfare benefits & housing rights.

John Gray
London Borough of Newham Councillor for West Ham ward.
18 February 2016

Action For Children - "Well run charties do not treat their staff with contempt"

UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentice, attacks the Charity "Action For Children" after 73.5% of members vote for strike action.

Believe me, for Charity workers to vote this way must mean that they are being treated with complete and utter disdain by their senior management.

Is it right that the CEO of this Charity is paid nearly £164,000 per year when they haven't yet implemented a Living Wage policy for all staff?

The unfairness of senior managers giving themselves pay rises (don't believe the guff about "benchmarking") while cutting the real pay of their junior staff, year in and year out, sticks in the gullet of members, who are passionate for their jobs but simply can't afford to live on the money they get.

It is especially damning when you have a Children's charity whose staff struggle to earn enough to  feed and clothe their own children adquately .

If you look at their accounts (see above for 2015) you will see the number of highly paid jobs paying between £60,000 per year and £160,000 per year has jumped to 46.  In 2013 there was "only" 26. 

Charities are under pressure not only for having maverick Chief Executives and for unethical fund raising but also for being too often run as a senior management's "mates' club".  When, and if, they trouble themselves to consider their employees, the attitude is, "as long as I'm alright Jack, and sod the little people". 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

General Secretary ERS Election Report 2015

Some positive news yesterday on the UNISON website about the return by the independent Election Reform Society on the recent General Secretary Election :- 

In response this statement by UNISON lay president Wendy Nichols

“UNISON has now received the final report from the Electoral Reform Society dealing with complaints made during the general secretary election 2015.

“The report confirms the result, which was announced in the scrutineer’s report on 17 December 2015.

“Any issues raised in the report will now be reviewed and dealt with through the union’s normal procedures.

“On a personal level, I would like to add that UNISON members face some very serious challenges in the next year and I would ask that we all work together now to strengthen our union and speak up for our members. They deserve nothing less than a strong, united union.”

Friday, February 19, 2016

UNISON Greater London Housing Association AGM 2016: Branch Secretary's report.

My UNISON branch AGM is 6pm Monday 22 February at the House of Commons, Committee room 19.

We are the guests of Sadiq Khan MP, Labour Candidate for London Mayor, who is our keynote speaker. This is my report to the AGM as the branch secretary.

"2015 was dominated by the dreadful general election result and the return of a Tory Government determined to carry on with Thatcher’s project to smash trade unions and destroy social housing.

Many of our employers have capitulated to government bullying over Right to Buy, pay-to-stay and rent cuts. Our number one aim this year is to prevent our employers making us pay the price of their surrender which they will try to do by attacking our services, jobs, pay, and terms and conditions.

We can expect some organisations to fold due to financial pressures while others rush to merge and consolidate. The only defence that workers can rely on is their trade union and their colleagues.

Employment law is important but it is a safety net and usually a last resort. The best defence at work is a collective defence. If we have more members in the union, more members becoming activists and stewards, we have more power and influence at work.

The more power and influence we have, the better the outcome for us.

Housing Associations members have also had some successes this year with personal injury claims – in July 2015 three of our members received compensation totalling £60,000 following a terrifying violent attack at work. The members were supported by UNISON to return to work and UNISON’s solicitors, Thompson's assisted them in making claims against their employer. While the real strength of trade unions is in collective action, this case shows that the legal services offered by the union can also help members in securing the compensation they deserve if their employers have been negligent or endangered them at work.

It has been yet another busy year for the branch. Our 2015 AGM was held in the London Assembly building with Stella Creasy MP and Murad Qureshi AM as our keynote speakers. We finally finished our own restructure and we are now fully staffed with new IT equipment.

We sent full delegations to our UNISON Community Service Group and National Delegate Conferences. Our motion on pensions was debated at NDC as part of a successful composite and branch executive member, Doreen Davies, spoke in favour.

In March we said goodbye to temporary Outreach Worker Andy Robinson. April 28 was Workers Memorial Day and we organised a wreath laying event with local MP, Lyn Brown, in Newham, East London, at the site where four workers were killed (in 2016 we will organise a similar event).

In September we celebrated branch Case Worker, Nazan Sen’s 20th anniversary in the branch and the branch executive presented her with flowers and wine glasses to mark the occasion.

In October we took part in the demo in Manchester against Austerity and in November the TUC parliamentary lobby against the anti-trade union bill.

In January of 2016, East Thames activist and branch Welfare officer, Mitsy Harmon-Russell was featured in the UNISON eFocus magazine. Mitsy’s message was that being involved with UNISON has built her confidence and made her much more likely to speak up at work when she thinks something needs changing. Mitsy is a shining example of how by becoming an activist you not only help grow the union but the union will also help you grow.

How about you getting more involved with the union? Interested in finding out more? Please ring the branch and ask to have a chat with Joy or Victoria about getting involved.

John Gray Branch Secretary

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mayor blows own trumpet

This is a little late but there are still tickets available for this event on Sunday. Hat tip top Musician union member and Redbridge Mayor, Barbara White.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Extending the "Right to Buy" to Housing Associations and "Pay to Stay".

"Pay to Stay" seems to be finally making the news. This is the speech I made at the UNISON London regional AGM this month, while moving my branches motion on this and "Right to buy". The motion was passed unanimously and will go to the UNISON national delegate conference in June.

"Council, John Gray, speaking as a delegate from Greater London Housing Association branch but who is also a Community NEC member, moving motion 4, on extending the right to buy to Housing associations and the so called “pay to stay”.

Council, I have always suspected that these modern day Tories don’t like, don’t understand and don’t care about working class people but their current plans for social housing certainly proves it.

The Tory plan is simple, it is to make future generations pay for their pre-General election bribes, on extending the right to buy by stealing homes from Councils and making them sell these already scarce and inadequate resources, on the open market to pay for it.

Let us be very clear here. At a time of chronic housing shortage. The Tories are going to make Councils sell their homes, their stock to pay for this discount for Housing association tenants? This cannot be right.

London is most at risk from this. Since it seems, we will be forced to sell our London Council homes to pay for the discount in other parts of the country where there is no Council housing, since they have already been sold off or transferred their homes to housing association. Since they have no Council housing they have nothing to sell.

Council, make no mistake, The Tories are coming to London for your homes and those that should have been let in the future for your children.

This also means that while a number of existing Housing association tenants may feel they have no choice but to buy and take on huge mortgages and communal repair risk, it will mean that their children and everyone else's, will have even less of a chance of obtaining a social home in the future.

Of course many tenants will simply not earn enough money to buy a home in London regardless of discount and will not be allowed a mortgage.

Not only this, but the so called “pay to stay” scheme, which will be compulsory for all Council tenants and probably compulsory for housing associations tenants, will result in double or triple or even more rises in their rents. If you or your family household income is more than £40,000 per year (or £30,00 out of the capital) in London (remember family income would be if you and your partner both work or have grown up children who work) you will have to “Pay-to-Stay” full market rental rates to stay in your home.

This could mean your rent for a 2 bed room flat in inner London increasing from £150 per week to as much as £600 per week or more.

If you don’t pay for “pay-to-stay”, be under no illusions, that you and your family will eventually be evicted and could be thrown on the streets.

Council, we have to oppose and campaign against this attack - and all the other Tory attacks on working people.

We shouldn’t really be that horrified or surprised about all this, since this what Tories do when they are in power.

We have to make the case that secure and affordable housing is a basic human right and an absolute duty of the state to make sure their citizens are decently housed.

Council, please, not only support this motion but join us and campaign together against this recipe for housing misery for our members now and in the future.

Council, I move. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Proof council cuts hit poorest areas hardest

Hat tip Ravi. "In recent days there has been a storm about the recently announced 2016/17 local government grant settlement from central government. The creation of a new £300m relief fund will mainly be used to help Tory-run councils, like David Cameron’s Oxordshire County Council, with Labour leveling the accusation that this is to buy off Tory MPs.

I will leave it to others to form a view on whether this is fair or not. But this whole storm did get me thinking about the scale of the cuts not just for this year, but over the past few years, since the Tories came to power.

So I grabbed hold of the 2011/12 figures for “council spending power” and compared them to the recently announced 2016/17 figures and worked out the percentage cut in spending power for each council. I picked 2011/12 as a base year this was the first full council financial year the Tories were able to fully influence after being elected.

I decided to look only at the 152 County Councils and Single Tier Councils (e.g. London Boroughs, Unitary Councils, Metropolitan Boroughs etc) as they make up over 93 per cent of all council spending. There are 201 district council but they make only about 7 per cent of total council spending. Hence looking only at the “Upper Tier” councils as this made the analysis more focussed.

The thing I wanted to test was the theory that the most deprived councils were worst hit. So I took a trip over to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) English indices of deprivation for 2015 website. Here I got the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) average score breakdown by council areas and then  used the rank of the average IMD score to plot percentage change in revenue spending power using versus the IMD average score rank.

Below is the very telling plot of this data. Note councils with low ranks on the IMD (those plotted to the left) are the most deprived and those with high ranks on the IMD (those plotted to the right) are the least deprived.

 This graph shows a strong and clear relationship that the councils that are serving the most deprived communities have suffered the largest cuts over the past five years. This very strong relationship is evidenced by the high R2 value (or coefficient of determination) of 0.81. A value of 1 would indicate a perfect fit on the line of best fit, and a value of 0 would mean the data does not fit the line in any way. A value of 0.81 shows a strong and clear fit/relationship.

So there you have it: the numbers don’t lie. The poorest and most deprived have suffered the largest percentage council cuts. The poor have been robbed to subsidise the rich.

If you want to check the data and my calculations you can download it here."

Monday, February 15, 2016

The ******* union that works for you (if you are a New Yorker)

      Love this video. Saw it on Facebook again last week. Not sure if language and speech would be in accordance with UNISON rule book?


(BTW this is a spoof)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

"It's the economy, stupid": Sunday Night Live

On the last Sunday of January was the 4th (and best attended so far) "Sunday Night Live" at the Stratford Picture House, E15  The idea is to encourage maverick thinking and get subject experts to debate with the public to better understand our world.

The speaker was Economist and Professor, Stephen Keen, who is credited with being one of the very few to have predicted the 2007 financial crisis and resulting recession.

For those of us who have mortgages or property in London and fear we are in a "bubble" he is not reassuring with his analysis of the Japanese economy, where there has been an ongoing 70% fall in property prices since 1990.

He thinks that the disaster in Japan was a dress rehearsal for 2007 as was the Spanish Civil War for World War 2.

Privatisation of public services has proved to be as equally disastrous. The private sector has to deliver profit in the short term. Private utilities will always tend to run down services and not invest in the future.

The City of London makes money by creating debt. By 1990 corporate debt was exhausted,  so they went looking to create a new and bigger market for private household debt. This led directly to the the collapse in 2007.

Stephen argues that those in charge of capitalism don't actually understand it. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with Government debt. Why austerity is so wrong is that if you reduce government spending to reduce this debt while in recession, the private sector loses out.

Jeremy Corbyn's idea about "People's QE" will potentially put money into bank accounts directly to simulate demand and increase consumer prices and increase wages.

He argues that the arch Neo-liberal economist,  Milton Freeman, actually talked sense for once when he argued for "helicopter money" (helicopters throwing money out onto the streets to increase demand). Stephen was one of those who made the case for the $1000 dollar payment to all Australian taxpayers in 2008 to combat recession.

No one now in London under 35 can now buy a house unless they have  wealthy parents. Labour needs to take on the Tory government idea that the economy is just like a family household. Yes, government is often inefficient but the only long term plan that offes hope is to re-industrialise the UK. Let us make things again and trade with other countries.

In response to a question about what should we do with Greece, Stephen argued that we should write off the debt to Greece. The people who lied about the Greek economy are now dead or retired and not the young who are suffering. The Greeks will never be able to pay off these debts and their only hope will be to inflate the economy and to encourage it to grow.

(Next Sunday Night Live will be on  "Housing" on the 28 February)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Custom House for Sadiq Khan as London Labour Mayor

Picture from a cold, wet, windy canvass session this morning in Custom House, West Ham. Lyn Brown MP (and her little Labour attack dog, Cara), Local Councillors and Party activists were out knocking on doors, talking to residents and asking them to support Sadiq as our next London Mayor in May.

Custom House is a Labour heartland but it was still humbling to see the instinctive support we get from so many life long committed supporters.The message we have to get out is that due to PR,  every single vote will count in the May elections.

Newham voters could end up deciding whether or not we have another rich multi-millionaire, old Etonian as London Mayor or a proper Londoner. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Love Unions Week (and Greater London UNISON AGM results)

This week is "Heart Unions" (8-14 February) in opposition to this Tory Government's fascistic attempts to destroy trade unions via their vile Bill which is currently going through the House of Lords. There will be a Labour Government in the future and I hope it remembers what the Tories have done when we are in power.

Picture is from our UNISON London AGM early this month. Yesterday I got the results from the ballot of Regional delegates as below:-

Regional Convenor
Doolan, Jane                     55
Green, Yvonne                 110  elected

Deputy Regional Convenor
Ashley, April                   48
Lawrence, Conroy          117 elected

Regional Finance Convenor 
Gray, John                      112 elected
Sangarapillai, Vinothan  53      

Regional Publicity Officer
Bentley, Lynn                  Elected unopposed

Regional Equalities Convenor
Baptiste, Elizabeth          Elected unopposed

Regional Young Persons Convenor
Cox, Ashlyn                    Elected unopposed

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ronald Valentine Higgins RIP - Socialist, Footballer, Trade Unionist & War Hero

I was sad to hear yesterday of the death of 92 year old Labour Party loyalist, Ronald Valentine Higgins (his middle name is due to being born on 14 February!).

Ronald had a long and fascinating life as a East End Steelworker, semi-professional football player, war time Lancaster Bomber Gunner, Docker, trade unionist and life long Labour supporter.

I remember meeting him at a Labour Party BBQ on Wanstead flats many years ago and being so impressed by this quiet, friendly, unassuming man, who had done so much in his life for his country and working people.

See the tribute here from the Newham Recorder.

Picture is of Ron supporting a Labour Party stall in Green Street last year and making clear what he believes in. 

RIP Ron and condolences to your family.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Newham United Against Austerity Launch with John McDonnell MP

Picture collage from the successful recent launch of "Newham United Against Austerity" (NUAA) with key note speaker, John McDonnell MP, Labour Shadow Chancellor, who was introduced by West Ham Labour MP Lyn Brown.

Other speakers were Kevin Courtney, the Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Custom House Councillor, Rokhsana Fiaz and Yvonne Green, the Greater London Convenor for the public service union Unison. 

More than 100 people turned up to the launch of a joint trade union and community based campaign against the Government's attempt to starve Newham’s public services of funds and impose austerity upon us. I will post further on John's speech, the other speakers and the ongoing NUAA campaign.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Ideal London Pub "The Moon Under Water"

Off message but there was a marvellous report this morning on the Radio 4 "Today" programme about 9 February being the anniversary of the article "The Moon Under Water" written by George Orwell in 1946 on his "Ideal Pub".

They got different members of the public to read out the article on what makes the perfect London Pub.

A certain pub chain (owned ironically by a hard right political nutcase) has taken up the theme and a number his pubs use the same fictional name given by this famous left wing and anti fascist writer.

"Orwell stipulated ten key points[3] that his perfect pub in the London area should have (his criteria for country pubs being different, but unspecified):

The architecture and fittings must be uncompromisingly Victorian.

Games, such as darts, are only played in the public bar "so that in the other bars you can walk about without the worry of flying darts".

The pub is quiet enough to talk, with the house possessing neither a radio nor a piano.

The barmaids know the customers by name and take an interest in everyone.

It sells tobacco and cigarettes, aspirins and stamps, and "is obliging about letting you use the telephone".

"[...] there is a snack counter where you can get liver-sausage sandwiches, mussels (a speciality of the house), cheese, pickles and [...] large biscuits with caraway seeds [...]."

"Upstairs, six days a week, you can get a good, solid lunch—for example, a cut off the joint, two vegetables and boiled jam roll—for about three shillings."

"[...] a creamy sort of draught stout [...], and it goes better in a pewter pot."
"They are particular about their drinking vessels at "The Moon Under Water" and never, for example, make the mistake of serving a pint of beer in a handleless glass. Apart from glass and pewter mugs, they have some of those pleasant strawberry-pink china ones. [...] but in my opinion beer tastes better out of china."

"[...] You go through a narrow passage leading out of the saloon, and find yourself in a fairly large garden [...] Many as are the virtues of the Moon Under Water I think that the garden is its best feature, because it allows whole families to go there instead of Mum having to stay at home and mind the baby while Dad goes out alone."

Orwell admitted that "to be fair", he did know of a few pubs that almost came up to his ideal, including one that had eight of the mentioned qualities.

The essay finishes as follows:
And if anyone knows of a pub that has draught stout, open fires, cheap meals, a garden, motherly barmaids and no radio, I should be glad to hear of it, even though its name were something as prosaic as the Red Lion or the Railway Arms.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

When Workers Unite

Great cartoon from USA Union General Electrics Workers union. If you want to know what trade unionism is all about, this says pretty much it all. Unity is strength. United we stand, divided we fall.  

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Labour Local Government Association Conference 2016

Picture taken today at the end of the conference with the 3 J's - James, Jeremy and John. Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn (and a UNISON member) fellow Newham Councillor (and UNISON member), James Beckles.  I had never been to this conference before (nor Nottingham where it was held) and was impressed with both.  I will post a fuller report soon.