Category Archives: Local Government

#Labour councillors crossed a #picket line they should have been joining. Here’s the shameful reason [VIDEO]

The Labour Party is supposed to represent workers and working-class people, especially if they are struggling for decent pay, in-work benefits and pensions, as part of its reason for existing – wouldn’t you agree?

Members of the University and College Union have been striking in a dispute that is partly over the management and financing of the University Superannuation Scheme (USS), which provides pensions to the UK’s older universities as well as research institutes and academic thinktanks, and partly over low pay and issues including insecure fixed-term contracts used to employ an increasing number of teaching staff.

So why did Labour councillors in Sheffield not only cross a picket line but, in one case, apparently assault a picketer?

It seems a meeting of Labour-led Sheffield City Council had been scheduled to take place in a university building – during the strike, which seems extremely insensitive of a Labour-run organisation.

These councillors were attending a pre-meeting, and it seems they crossed the picket line to do so, attracting cries of “Scab!” from some of the picketers. That’s how the incident came to take place.

Sheffield UCU subsequently released a statement:

For those who can’t read images, it says:

Today, the majority of Labour councillors entered a University of Sheffield building for a pre-meeting, and in doing so, walked past striking members of Sheffield UCU. Along with UCU members from 57 other HE institutions across the UK, today is our first day of strike action in our dispute over rampant precarity, unhealthy workloads, equal pay, and substantial cuts to our pay and pensions. These are issues that we trust would be of particular importance to the Labour party.

“We do not condone the use of university buildings during strike action, and when we learned of this meeting, had worked with the Sheffield Students Union to find an alternative location in the Students Union next door, which is treated as neutral ground during industrial action.

“We are extremely disappointed that any member of the Labour party would choose to cross past striking union members, despite being given an opportunity to support our action by simply relocating their pre-meeting to a nearby building. We understand that at this pre-meeting, the Labour members took a vote and were determined to not attend the later, full council meeting. This decision does not negate their previous choice to do so, but we are pleased they made the correct choice in the end.

“We appreciate the solidarity of those Labour, Green, and Lib Dem council members who chose to not enter the building.”

Yes indeed. Apparently the alternative, Student Union, building was turned down by councillors because they thought it was too small for social distancing.

That doesn’t excuse the Labour Party from having scheduled a meeting to take place at the university during strike action, though.

What were they thinking?

And isn’t this typical of Labour Party policy at the moment – that the challenges faced by workers and working-class people are increasingly overlooked by career politicians who are more concerned with keeping their positions as members of the Establishment?

If that’s the political position occupied by Keir Starmer’s Labour, then it is worse than useless to the people for whom that party was originally formed.

Labour Exploitation Party. They climb to the heights by walking all over us.

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Latest feared Brexit-related shortage is of GRITTER DRIVERS. Good luck on the roads this winter!

We’ve had shortages of fruit and veg harvesters in farms, and are now seeing shortages of butchers and abattoir workers.

We’ve had shortages of nurses for years.

Our transport infrastructure is already suffering because of the shortage of hauliers, and now it is about to take a second hit because…

Local councils are saying they cannot pay drivers as much as haulage firms, meaning there won’t be any gritter lorries de-icing our highways during the winter:

This could bring the UK to a total standstill – and in the depths of winter, when we’ll need food and supplies that allow us to heat our homes more than ever.

Of course, the reason councils can’t afford to pay gritter drivers is simply that the government doesn’t pay them enough grant money to be able to afford the new going rates. Any resulting tragedies must then be laid at Boris Johnson’s door.

According to Sky News:

Transport spokesman David Renard added: “While most councils have been able to keep services running, some may find that their gritting services are affected in the same way that some have seen waste collection services impacted.”

Although he stressed that councils will be trying to plan ahead to ensure their winter services are resilient, he warned additional training for this on-demand sector will “not alleviate the short-term pressure on frontline services”.

Given these courses take up to 16 weeks to complete, trained drivers won’t be hitting the roads before Christmas – fuelling fears that shortages could overshadow this year’s festivities.

Mr Renard said: “Fast-inflating HGV driver salaries in the private sector risks exacerbating issues in the public sector, with the rises potentially creating a retention as well as a recruitment problem for councils and their contractors.”

It should be remembered that the government has tried to lure drivers back from the EU with a temporary HGV visa scheme.

However – and possibly because they remember being stuck in a Kent car park over last Christmas, with no toilet or washing facilities – very few drivers have taken up the offer. Very few:

This Writer saw a suggestion on the social media that even those 27 applications were not, in fact applicable.

The suggestion was that they were test applications relevant to each EU member state, made to ensure that the system was working properly!

And, of course, the Tories are also running into “sauce for the goose” arguments:

Yes indeed – and we know that the government can’t blame poor pay and conditions for nurses on anybody else. It is therefore hypocritical of Johnson and his cronies to berate haulage firms over low pay when their derisory pay rise for NHS staff has now been translated into a pay cut by new conditions that their political choices have created.

All we can do now is hope for a mild winter.

If we get ice, there will be death on the roads – because of Boris Johnson and his godawful Brexit.

Worse still, the knock-on effect could bring death to our homes – and, depending on how often we all check on our neighbours, it could be weeks or months before we even know the total death toll.

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Government authorities are STILL pretending they think amputees can grow their limbs back!

Blue badge: this one wouldn’t be valid any more because it has the EU’s logo on it.

It’s amazing that benefit-providing authorities are still pretending to be this stupid.

Read the following tweet, and I’ll provide a text version of the attachment (for those who can’t read images) afterwards:

Are you with me so far? Ben’s local council contacted him to say that his disability did not qualify him for a Blue Badge – used to gain privileged parking for disabled drivers.

Council officers wanted to see evidence of his disability. So he contacted his doctor and asked for a letter providing details.

This is what the doctor wrote:

“I was most surprised to be asked for a statement of fact regarding Ben’s disability. I can assure you that he has indeed had a traumatic amputation of his right lower leg in a road traffic accident. This has left him severely debilitated with chronic phantom limb syndrome and perpetual pain in his stump which on some days allows him to be independently mobile and other days leaves him unable to walk independently.

“I would be grateful if you could take this into account when dealing with his requests for blue badges in the future.

“It is of course unlikely that this situation will change unless medical science allows us to re-grow a new leg for him.”

It reminds me of an image I used to use, years ago, to illustrate that way Department for Work and Pensions officers would try to diddle people with severe disabilities out of their benefits by putting them through pointless repeated benefit assessments, because they knew the experience would cause severe distress.

The image was of a quadruple-amputee and the caption was something like “Every six months the DWP demands that she attend a re-assessment interview… IN CASE THEY’VE GROWN BACK.”

As the doctor’s letter states: unless there’s a sudden advance in medical science that makes limb regrowth feasible – and this is likely to be announced on all major new outlets, all over the world, so we’ll all know about it – then there is no point in pretending there is a reason to put people with disabilities through all this extra trouble.

All those years ago, I was charitable enough to believe it might be possible for people to genuinely believe it was possible for human beings to regrow amputated legs.

Now I am less tolerant – and I think it’s time for zero tolerance from the rest of us.

So, if a local authority – or the DWP – tries to demand that people with disabilities need to provide proof that they still have a disability that simply won’t go away…

Let’s name the authority and – where possible – the official responsible for the demand, and ask whether the person is too stupid to have such responsibility, or whether the authority itself is too stupid to be put in charge of such an important duty.

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Councils send in the bailiffs to clear tax arrears [Also in the news]


Local authorities seem to think that driving council house tenants to starvation, or taking their belongings, as a means of clearing council tax arrears is a good idea.

How do they think taking the few possessions and the little money left to people in extremely vulnerable situations, that were worsened by Covid-19, will make everything better?

And which councils do you reckon are responsible for this behaviour? The Tory ones?

Also in the news:

1. Boris Johnson may be thinking of replacing Rishi Sunak as Chancellor – with Liz Truss

He would be replacing one incompetent – Sunak was responsible for the ‘Eat out to die out’ voucher scheme that did so much to spread Covid-19 last autumn – with another – Truss trumpeted a trade deal with Japan that sold Stilton cheese to a country that is lactose-intolerant.

2. MPs have been claiming expenses for ‘dependent children’ – who aren’t children at all

And they’re mostly Tories. What a surprise.

3. NHS waiting lists could top 15 million in four years, ministers are warned

They’ve been told a major increase in capacity is required but they are too busy giving cash to private companies and selling off NHS assets to pay for it.

4. Former Chancellor is accused of breaking the ministerial code

It’s claimed that Philip Hammond broke the rules because he lobbied the government on behalf of a bank that employs him as a paid advisor – before the end of a two-year ban on using his his “government and/or ministerial contacts to influence policy” on behalf of his new employer.

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Boris Johnson isn’t the only Tory who’s tried to ruin London with ‘white elephant’ schemes. Here’s (Tory-run) Westminster Council

Marble Arch Mound: if Westminster Council had wanted to stink up the classic architecture of Marble Arch with a big pile of earth, they could have got it dirt cheap from any Powys farmer. Why spend £2 million on it?

Ridicule has met the opening of Tory-run Westminster Council’s ‘Marble Arch Mound’ – a £2m embarrassment that follows the rule: never let a Conservative near a building project.

The architectural plans were very exciting, apparently – but the reality has turned out to be a big pile of Earth.

And now people who bought tickets to climb this travesty are claiming refunds.

Oh. It’ll look better once the landscape has had time to “bed in and grow”. But this is only a temporary installation, isn’t it?

The idea had been to tempt shoppers back to central London after the lifting of the Covid-19 lockdown there. In Oxford Street, 17 per cent of the shops have closed permanently because of Tory government mismanagement of the crisis.

Perhaps the others will have to close after this fiasco – which is more likely to turn people away, it seems.

Source: ‘Teething problems’: visitors offered refunds for Marble Arch Mound | Architecture | The Guardian

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Welsh Secretary is whining because he read about UBI experiment online. But is that it, really?

Why so sad, Simon? The Tory Secretary of State for Wales is upset that Universal Basic Income might be tried out in Wales. What if – God forbid – it’s a success?

Simon Hart has made a big mistake, shouting about the Welsh Government’s Universal Basic Income experiment too soon.

He’s all upset because Wales’s First Minister, Mark Drakeford, has announced that the Welsh Government will run a pilot scheme.

He reckons Drakeford jumped the gun by announcing it in a story he read online (this one?*) before talking to the Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions, which runs state benefits.

In fact, it seems to This Writer, Hart is the one who’s jumping the gun.

Drakeford, a long-term supporter of UBI, realised before this year’s local elections that he could end up leading an Assembly in which a significant number of members also support it.

In the event, counting himself, 26 of the 60-strong Welsh Assembly want UBI trials.

So he has begun research into that possibility. It clearly hasn’t gone very far because when I ran the story he was seeking expressions of interest from unitary authorities and now he’s talking about giving it to people leaving care.

It is far too early to be talking with the Treasury, DWP or any other official organisations about this because it might not come to anything, despite the good intentions of all concerned.

But being premature isn’t the big mistake I think Simon Hart has made.

His big mistake was showing how much he hates the idea of UBI:

Mr Hart said he agreed with previous comments made by the Welsh economy minister Vaughan Gething in 2018 – when he was health minister – that the idea was “out of touch”.

The UK government, which controls benefits, has said it did not think it would be an incentive to work.

The problem, for Tories, is that in many cases the only incentive to work at the moment is the avoidance of extreme poverty and the threat of death due to benefit deprivation according to – guess what? – Tory rules.

Universal Basic Income scheme would take away that threat, but would still leave people living at subsistence level.

The difference is that, rather than forcing the worst possible pay and conditions on possible employees and saying, “take it or leave it,” employers would have to start offering genuine incentives for people to take their jobs.

That is anathema to Tories. It means they and their business-oriented friends would end up taking a smaller cut of their firms’ profits, because employees would be able to demand what they’re actually worth.

That’s what Simon Hart revealed to us: he isn’t opposed to UBI because it’s “out of touch” or because of any inter-governmental lack of manners; he hates it because it offers dignity to working people.

And to those without jobs, come to think of it.

*I doubt it, although the tweet that I used came from a source that was new to me. Why can’t the BBC credit social/online media sources that published stories first? Is it some weird neurosis – worry that someone else is doing better news reporting?

Source: Universal basic income: UK government ‘not told’ about Welsh plans – BBC News

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Rising price of Grenfell proves Tory cost-cutting is a murderous false economy

Ravaged: this destruction happened because rich Tories wanted to cut a few farthings from their council tax bills. It has ended up costing them more than a thousand times what they hoped to save.

Tory-run Kensington and Chelsea council has spent more than £400 million trying to cope with the consequences of the Grenfell Tower blaze – a fire caused by its attempt to save just £300,000.

Could anything demonstrate more plainly the bankruptcy of Tory thinking?

If these rich, irresponsible, selfish office-jockeys had not been so keen to shave a few quid off their council tax bills, they would have saved themselves from paying out more than 1,300 times as much.

And 72 human beings would not have died.

I wonder if those responsible ever remember that?

The public costs of the Grenfell Tower fire have exceeded £500m after the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea revealed it had spent £406m on its response and recovery efforts in almost four years since the disaster.

The sum is in addition to the costs to the taxpayer of the ongoing public inquiry, which hit £117m by the end of March this year, most of which was taken up with lawyers’ bills.

The figures stand in stark contrast to the £300,000 saved in a cost-cutting exercise during the refurbishment of the 24-storey council block between 2014 and 2016 that led to combustible aluminium panels being substituted for the planned non-combustible zinc on the exterior of the block.

The plastic-filled replacements fuelled the fire on 14 June 2017 which killed 72 people, the inquiry has already concluded.

Source: Grenfell costs surpass £500m as council bill revealed | Grenfell Tower fire | The Guardian

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Was Sadiq Khan’s narrower-than-expected London Mayoral win due to Keir Starmer’s right turn?

Sadiq Khan said unflattering things about then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after his 2016 London mayoral victory. But at least Corbyn provided Labour policies for the public to support in the poll. Starmer put him in a vacuum and it is a miracle he received as many votes as he did.

Belated congratulations to Sadiq Khan on his re-election to the London Mayoralty.

But isn’t it disturbing that he won by a narrower margin than against Zac Goldsmith in 2016, against an equally inept candidate?

In the years preceding the election, Bailey had been criticised for racism (calling Khan “the Mad Mullah of Londonistan”, criticising celebration of Muslim and Hindu festivals and claiming that British people were being indoctrinated in the cultures of those religions).

He also proposed forcing larger London businesses to drug-test their employees – but with Parliament, dubbed the “corridors of powder” because of the huge “trace” amounts of cocaine that have been found there, exempt.

And he was accused of sexism as well as racism when it emerged that he had stated in 2006 that single girls in inner cities “deliberately become pregnant” in order to secure homes and benefits from the government.

Against such a man, Sadiq Khan gained more than 100,000 fewer votes than against Goldsmith.

I don’t think the drop-off was anything to do with Khan himself – or with his opponent, though.

I think it was about the leadership of Khan’s political party – Labour.

When he was elected in 2016, the people of London were riding high on the election of Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership with a set of genuinely socialist policies that had the potential to transform the UK into a vibrant example for the world.

By 2021, Corbyn’s right-wing opponents in the Labour Party bureaucracy had stabbed him in the back and had him replaced with suit-haircut-and-flag man Keir Starmer, who had promptly ditched all of those transformative policies in favour of an “any way the wind blows” approach.

In the absence of any policy support from his party leadership, it is a miracle Khan received as many votes as he did.

Source: Sadiq Khan wins second term as London mayor despite tighter-than-expected race | The Independent

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Starmer in denial as Labour take local election pummelling. HE is the problem

The excuses man: but no amount of references to Jeremy Corbyn can save Keir Starmer from the condemnation of traditional Labour supporters who have been forced to walk away from the party by him.

Before I start, let’s be clear about one thing:

That being said…

Keir Starmer has vowed to lead Labour’s fightback after having led it to a bitter local election pummelling and the loss of one of the party’s Parliamentary strongholds.

The denial is strong in this one.

It is clear to even the most disinterested observer that the party’s losses are all Starmer’s fault; that his direction for the Labour Party is deeply unpopular with the British people and that the best way he can help Labour fight back is to resign.

But he won’t do that. Instead, he’ll be announcing a “bold vision” for the party in the next few days.

That will be – what? His third “bold vision”? His fourth? – since he deceived party members into making him leader last year.

By the time of writing, StarmerLabour has lost 192 council seats, with the bulk going to the Conservatives.

The Green Party has picked up 51 seats, indicating that left-wing voters have migrated to that party in protest against Starmer’s betrayal of traditional Labour values. And the Liberal Democrats have also lost seats – 24 of them – indicating that the public has still – and rightly – not forgiven them for propping up the Tories for five years, from 2010 to 2015. These are about the only things the English voting public has got right.

In terms of council control, the Conservatives have taken Pendle, Maidstone, Cornwall, Nottinghamshire, Basildon, Northumberland, Dudley, and Nuneaton and Bedworth councils from no overall control. They also took control of of Harlow council, in Essex, from Labour.

Labour has lost Sheffield, Plymouth and Rossendale to no overall control.

And in another former Labour stronghold, the Tees Valley, Conservative Ben Houchen was re-elected mayor with 73 per cent of the vote – a massive swing of 23 per cent away from Starmer’s Labour.

Meanwhile, here in Wales, Mark Drakeford’s version of Labour – which many have said is a genuine continuation of Corbynism – has won 30 seats in the Senedd, securing another working majority. Labour will rule in Wales for another five years.

The contrast with StarmerLabour could not be more plain.

For This Writer, the most surprising aspect of StarmerLabour’s implosion is the way his critics are pussyfooting around him, playing down the scale of the disaster.

Look at left Labour MP Richard Burgon’s comment, quoted in the following tweet – and the response by Jen Wood:

Let’s not bother with the ‘soft’ critics. Starmer doesn’t need to hear people saying “Never mind, Keir. You stay put and next time you’ll do better.” At this point, such a possibility seems unlikely in the extreme; Labour is more likely to run out of votes altogether and be extinguished as a political movement.

He needs to hear the hard criticism – like this, from Peston:

And this, from near-legendary Canary columnist Steve Topple:

Even this is charitable; voters didn’t abandon Labour because they don’t care – they walked away because they do, and because Starmer wasn’t offering them anything they could support.

You want proof?

So that’s that. These people aren’t going to come back to Labour while Starmer remains in charge of what was once their party.

The message of the 2021 local elections is clear, then. For those who are still having trouble grasping it, it is this:

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Starmer silent after Hartlepool calamity. He knows he should resign but will he go?

Are you sitting uncomfortably? Keir Starmer’s relationship to the Labour leader has become akin to that of a squatter in an abandoned house after the loss of Hartlepool in yesterday’s by-election.

I honestly don’t know if Keir Starmer has failed dramatically, or actually achieved his goal.

As leader of the Opposition, his party’s loss in Hartlepool is devastating. A constituency that has been a Labour stronghold since it was created in 1974 has passed to the Conservatives. It means no Labour seat is safe from the Tories.

But many critics have suggested that Starmer’s job as a right-wing Labour leader has been to ensure that – at a time when the Conservatives are burdened with a corrupt and incapable leader, the consequences of failed Brexit and Covid policies, and rampant cronyism – Labour still cannot win an election.

If the latter is true, then he has succeeded monumentally.

Any sincere Labour leader would see that his time is up; his policies have failed and it is time to go.

But Starmer was silent when he left his house today (May 7). Maybe it is too soon to make official announcements (although Corbyn was prompt enough after the 2019 general election result).

He had claimed he would “carry the can” if the result was poor – but This Writer fears it is more likely that he will try to pass the buck instead.

Already Peter Mandelson has tried to blame the disaster on what he called “the two Cs – Covid and Corbyn”.

Many people consider him to be a certain kind of C, too.

His comment is reminiscent of the claims made by the Tory government many times since they took office in 2010, whenever they have been criticised over a policy failure – that the fault lay with the previous Labour administration.

The facts betray the lie in both cases. Here, it is more than a year since Jeremy Corbyn was leader of the Labour Party. Starmer had himself elected as a “continuity Corbyn” candidate, sure – but he subsequently dumped every single policy promise he made, replacing them with nothing.

As a result, voters were left with no idea what StarmerLabour represents – and it seems to me that this is what has put people off, more than the shadow of the previous leader.

As former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said, “You cannot go into an election without any policy programme, without explaining what sort of society you want. You can’t send candidates out there naked without policies to advocate.”

But that’s what Starmer did. There is also the question of whether he foisted an unwanted candidate on Hartlepool’s Labour party by interfering with the selection process (as suggested in certain parts of the social media).

Even right-wing Shadow Culture Minister Alison McGovern has implied that voters don’t consider Labour to be a viable alternative to a one-party state run by the Conservatives.

She said: “There are lots of people who will have voted Conservative with a heavy heart – who want there to be an alternative,” implying that people don’t see Labour as an alternative any more. And who can deny this after a year of Starmer supporting one Tory policy after another?

“The way to do that is to offer people a set of policies that give them hope for the future, [hope] that we don’t live in a one-party Tory state, that things can be better and different,” she added, implying that people think we do live in a one-party Tory state, and that Starmer’s leadership of Labour has turned it into a pale-blue imitation of the Tories that provides no alternative but merely shores up the corrupt Johnson government.

The most risible comment so far came from hard-right “Labour First” activist Luke Akehurst, who managed to get himself onto Labour’s National Executive Committee under Starmer. He said Labour needs to make sure it is relevant and talking about issues that big swathes of the electorate care about – which is hilarious considering the way his wing of the party has diligently steered it away from those issues.

Apparently the left-wing Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs is planning to demand radical reform of the party, possibly including a shift to a federal structure in England, with cities and regions having their own leaders who then exert influence over the Westminster leader.

This would de-centralise power, ensuring that Starmer could not force right-wing, un-Labour policies on the wider party membership. That would have the advantage of ensuring that Labour had a strong direction – if the local leaders could agree a policy position with party HQ.

But it also runs the risk of fragmentation.

An alternative suggested by the BBC is that Labour could re-focus itself as the centre of a combined Opposition, allying with other parties like the Greens. This risks a watering-down of some policies, which is exactly the problem that many believe Starmer has created.

No matter what happens in the long term, the short-term problem can be summed up in two words: Keir Starmer.

He has to go. The longer he delays, the worse Labour’s plight – and that of the UK as a whole under Boris Johnson’s corrupt Tories – will become. And this brings us back to the big question: is that what Starmer wants?

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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