Tag Archives: council

This is how governments attack minorities: they cut funding to councils

End SEND cuts: the Tory war on kids with special needs has been going on for years – this image is from 2019.

Your Tory government has targeted youngsters with special needs for persecution.

Oh, it hasn’t announced an attack on kids whose life opportunities are limited by accidents of birth. Oh no. It doesn’t have to.

Instead, it has simply cut funding – creating a shortfall of more than £500 million in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) system.

There’s no need for the cuts. Experience over the last few years has shown us that the government could easily create the money needed and dedicate it to this purpose, if ministers were included to do so.

They are not.

Don’t be surprised. This is just the latest stage of the ongoing Tory war on people with disabilities. Eugenics disguised as economics.

Source: Councils in England facing funding gaps plan to cut special needs support | Special educational needs | The Guardian

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Tory MP admits his government inflicts suffering on Opposition-controlled areas

Boris Johnson swears he didn’t say it but David Amess has tacitly admitted that a Tory government will make people suffer if they don’t support the Conservatives in the local elections.

A Conservative member of Parliament has called for people in his constituency to elect a Tory-controlled local council – because his government won’t support Opposition-run councils.

How revealing! Although it’s nothing we didn’t know already – from the behaviour of governments run by David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

Here’s the evidence:

As I say, we have seen this kind of corruption in the way Tory government treat local authorities.

The Boris Johnson government is stripping schools in Opposition-run councils of their Pupil Premium at the moment, in order to stuff schools in Tory authorities with even more undeserved cash. That’s just one example.

This is attempted blackmail.

The Tory is demanding that his constituents vote for his party – or they will lose funding; they will lose support. They will suffer.

Unacceptable.

Anybody living in Southend should put their vote elsewhere – and start campaigning not only for the removal of Amess from Westminster but also for him to be stripped of his knighthood.

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Local services in Wales will suffer if the Conservatives take over the Senedd

Think before voting: the Conservatives are promising to freeze council taxes in Wales if they take control of the Assembly – but this will benefit the rich far more than working-class people.

The Welsh Conservatives have said they will freeze council tax for at least two years if they take control of the Welsh Assembly after the local elections in May – but this is a threat, not a promise.

The party has said it will fund a council tax freeze, but there is no guarantee that it will follow through on any such pledge. Even if it does, this only means that it will maintain services as they are.

So what happens when events demand spending beyond that level?

Answer: we won’t see it – they’ll say there isn’t enough money (which is a lie).

Also: who benefits most from a council tax freeze? The rich.

Taxation is a way of redistributing wealth, ensuring that poorer people are able to enjoy publicly-funded services for all, rather than those services being restricted only to those who can afford to pay for them out of their own pocket.

It also ensures that funding is available for projects that would not otherwise receive support from private individuals.

By freezing council taxes, then, the Conservatives are pledging to let rich people keep more of their money while depriving the poor of the services they need to get by.

But the Tories don’t tell you that.

Source: Tories pledge to freeze council tax in Wales for at least two years

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Grenfell residents who raised safety fears before fire were bullied, inquiry hears

After the fire: Grenfell Tower.

Lawyers for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire have told the inquiry into the disaster that residents were “bullied” and “stigmatised” for raising safety concerns.

Michael Mansfield QC, representing a group of survivors and the bereaved, said Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council regarded the 24-storey block in North Kensington as an “eyesore which required cosmetic surgery to make it more palatable to its elegant and wealthy neighbours”.

So it provided a refurbishment between 2012 and 2016 that was only a “superficial facelift while neglecting underlying deficiencies”.

The council, along with the body that ran Grenfell Tower and oversaw the refurbishment, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), ran a complaints system for residents that was “outdated, cumbersome, not simple and was used to shut them off, lock them out essentially”, said Mr Mansfield.

He said the council and TMO had a “culture of indifference”.

Edward Daffarn, a member of the Grenfell Action Group, wrote a series of blog posts about safety issues in the building and raised concerns with the council – such as a fire door with a broken closing mechanism.

This was pointed out in 2015 and the door still wasn’t working on the night of the fire in 2017, allowing smoke into a central area on one floor where two people died.

The inquiry heard the council described Mr Daffarn’s blog posts as “scaremongering”.

Another lawyer, Stephanie Barwise QC, read an email from council worker Laura Johnson, sent during the building’s refurbishment, saying that a councillor would not want to attend a public meeting of people “moaning about minor issues”.

In fact residents had correctly identified issues such as gas pipes in hallways, problems with fire doors, power surges, a failed ventilation system and access for fire engines.

London Fire Brigade warned in the months before the fire that cladding could be dangerous. The inquiry heard the council simply forwarded the letter from the fire brigade to the TMO, saying: “FYI.”

James Ageros, lawyer for the TMO, said: “The TMO does not accept that it ever adopted a dismissive attitude toward residents or indeed toward their complaints and concerns.”

He said the inquiry should consider whether the TMO could have been expected to see through the “deceptions” of cladding manufacturers about the safety of their products.

Hundreds of other building owners and management organisations had not been able to “untangle this subterfuge”, he said.

In its submissions, the council apologised for its failings in monitoring the TMO and said “the council could have, and should have, done more to stop it happening”.

It’s a big buck-passing exercise, isn’t it?

The council apologises and says it should have monitored the TMO; the TMO doesn’t apologise and says it could not have been expected to see through “deceptions” by the manufacturers of the cladding.

My opinion? Residents are right to blame them all. The council, at least, has admitted a failing. The TMO should have recognised any false claims by the cladding manufacturers; that’s part of its reason for existing and the council should have realised this wasn’t happening.

And residents were ignored – until they died.

And now, residents at other blocks with similar cladding are being penalised for living in places where the landlord made the wrong decision because the Tory government is ignoring their concerns.

History repeats itself. The UK is run by people who want to take your money and do nothing in return – especially people in government.

We can vote them out – for example at the local elections in May.

But that rarely seems to happen. Why?

Source: Grenfell residents ‘bullied’ for raising safety fears before fire – BBC News

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Bristol council passes motion to make reparation for slavery. Tories oppose it

Over it goes: the toppling of the Colston statue, back in June.

Here’s yet another reason for This Writer to be proud of the city of my birth.

After making controversial history during the Black Lives Matter protests last year, when citizens of Bristol tore down a statue of the slaver Edward Colston and threw it in the docks, the city council has gone a step further.

It has passed a motion to make “reparations” – not just financial but also cultural – for the slave trade in which the city participated and its enduring impact.

As former Lord Mayor Cleo Lake stated, “The contribution of African civilisation, culture and people versus how we have been treated is one of the world’s great paradoxes.”

Bristol is also calling for the UK’s Tory government to set up an all-party parliamentary inquiry to examine how such reparations might be delivered.

This might be a challenging request as although the motion was passed with 47 votes in support, 12 Tory councillors voted against it.

Believe it or not, they said the motion to make amends for an abhorrent past “risks exacerbating some divisions by presenting a binary view of the world when the reality is much more complicated”.

That sounds like doubletalk to This Writer! That is, disapproving speech that is intended to confuse an issue.

I think these Tories simply don’t want to face the reality of Bristol’s – and the UK’s – slave-trading background, with all the harm it has done, or the racism that still pervades this nation as a result.

In opposing the motion, they also opposed community wealth creation strategies to produce more sustainable and equitable growth whilst alleviating systemic poverty, which acknowledges that a just economy is the only way to achieve racial justice.

Typical Tories, you might say.

Source: ‘History is made’ as Bristol passes slavery reparations motion

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Worried about Amazon deforestation? Look to your own urban street trees too

Deforestation: 5,000 trees were chopped in Sheffield after street mainenance was taken over by a private contractor. The vandalism resulted in international headlines and worldwide condemnation.

Sheffield Council (famously) is likely to be one of many UK local authorities to have made entirely the wrong decision by felling street trees in our cities.

And in the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, the blunder is becoming increasingly more self-evident:

As the UK first entered lockdown in spring 2020… many people spent more time on their local streets and in parks. Online tree app Tree Talk saw a 50-fold increase in users as people fell in love with their local “ .”

And rightly so:

The wood of street trees stores carbon, while their roots and crowns support wildlife and slow rainfall, reducing urban flooding. Transpiration and shade from their canopies reduces temperatures in heatwaves, while pollution-trapping leaves lower the prevalence of asthma.

If these ecosystem services weren’t enough, having trees on our streets reduces crime rates and improves mental health and wellbeing. One mature street tree can have a net ecosystem service value of thousands of pounds.

Sadly, it seems protecting our eco-system comes with a slight maintenance cost that has become too much for some councils (probably due to cash starvation by central – Conservative – government).

That’s why – with no interest in the environment, health or crime – councils across the country have been chopping down trees like there’s no tomorrow (which is ironic when you consider that their actions are helping to ensure that there won’t be).

After the Sheffield debacle, in which 5,000 trees were felled by a private contractor in order to make street maintenance cheaper – but the resulting outcry led to international news headlines, councils have become more circumspect.

Nowadays they tend to sing from a hymn-sheet that declares they will plant several new trees for every old one that is felled. This is no justification:

Just as any child would understand they were being ripped off if given a 2p piece and a 1p piece to replace a pound coin, removing large species trees and replacing them with small ones results in a net loss of ecosystem services.

Size really matters with trees. The annual net ecological benefit of planting a large species tree is 92% greater than planting a small one. Mature street trees do everything from having a positive effect on infant birth weight in lower socio-economic demographics, to increasing resilience to major life events among people who live within sight of them. Consumers spend more on streets that are lined with large trees.

So if your local authority decides to start felling large, mature street trees – get organised and tell your councillors:

You won’t be fooled.

You won’t be fobbed off with a promise of more planting when saplings have only a fraction of the benefit of mature trees.

And you won’t tolerate the fall in public health – and the rise in crime – that your council intends to create.

Source: Why keeping one mature street tree is far better for humans and nature than planting lots of new ones

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Lockdown democracy exposes bizarre behaviour at local council

Zoom: who would have thought that holding a meeting over the internet would reveal so much about local councillors?

My sympathies go to the people of Handforth.

Their area of Wilmslow, Cheshire, has become a place of national interest – not to mention hilarity – after a parish council meeting held via the Zoom platform went viral with more than two million views.

Sadly, the reason for its popularity is the misbehaviour of the councillors.

Jackie Weaver, from the Cheshire Association of Local Councils, said she was called in to help and “support” two parish councillors to hold the planning meeting. This is what happened:

The meeting, which took place on 10 December, descended into chaos with some people muttering under their breath while others tried to speak, hysterical laughter, participants answering phone calls and members being reprimanded.

When chairman Brian Tolver, who refused to recognise the legitimacy of the meeting, labelled himself as the “clerk”, Ms Weaver said: “The chairman simply declared himself clerk and notified everybody of the case.

“There is no way of stopping him from calling himself clerk. Please refer to me as Britney Spears from now on.”

Ms Weaver told the BBC there was a “positive spin” to the video going viral as it “raised the profile” of parish councils.

But she said it also showed an element of “bullying and bad behaviour” in local councils, adding: “A lot of us are working very hard – and that includes central government – to try to do something about that.”

I’m not going to link to any of the footage from the meeting. Feel free to click on the link below if you want to see it.

My point is that this is actually good for democracy. By seeing how our councillors behave (or misbehave) we become better-equipped to decide whether we want those particular people to represent us.

It also de-mystifies the processes of local government.

I predict hard times for some of the Handforth councillors in the future, as they are called to account for their behaviour.

But they have actually done us all a service.

Source: Jackie Weaver: Handforth Parish Council meeting goes viral – BBC News

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After ‘hamper’ fiasco, Tories want to deny kids free school meals during half term week. But what are they hiding with all this noise?

Scandal: only two days ago, the Tory government came under attack for letting an outsourcing company skim £25 in profit from the cost of a £30 food hamper FOR CHILDREN. Now the Tories are trying to confuse parents by forcing them to apply to their local council for food vouchers over half term week. Is it all a big distraction from something else they don’t want us to see?

Isn’t it incredible?

Days after they were found to have been starving children by outsourcing £30 ‘free school meal’ hampers to a company that provided only £5 worth of food and kept the other £25 to itself, the Conservative government has announced a plan to starve schoolkids during half term week.

They say they won’t allow schools to provide free meals to pupils who usually get them; instead, local councils have been given responsibility to provide food under the Covid Winter Grant Scheme.

This scheme provided £170 million to councils in December. Under it, families have to apply to their local council for help, and will get a £15 voucher for each qualifying child.

It seems a deliberate attempt to cause confusion by switching schemes just when families need clarity.

And how much of that £170m fund has been spent already? It’s not a lot, divided across the whole of England (other UK countries have equivalent schemes, according to the government).

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, warned that switching schemes meant “yet more disruption to free schools meals could lie ahead in half term”.

He said that rather than allowing schools to carry on providing food it would cause an “unnecessary logistical nightmare”.

He said ministers should now “hang their heads in shame” for threatening more “chaos and confusion” over providing food.

“These are battles which should not have to be repeatedly fought,” said Mr Courtney.

But they are.

And both the media and the public tend to focus on recurring issues like this, to the exclusion of other matters happening at the time.

School meals don’t cost a huge amount – in government terms – and it won’t cause too much upset if the Tories are forced to capitulate again.

So This Writer is left to ask what else is happening that the Tories don’t want us to know?

Source: Row over half term free school meals plan – BBC News

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Will you be able to pay next year’s FIVE PER CENT council tax rise?

 

Isn’t it wonderful that dodgy Tory Robert Jenrick has announced a huge boost in councils’ spending power next year?

And isn’t it diabolical that, after finding billions upon billions of pounds for fake firms run by Tory cronies, these funds will be provided via a massive five per cent hike in council tax?

Councils will be given the freedom to hike bills by 5% next year despite wages and growth stalling in the pandemic.

The small print of a police grants report, published today, also reveals next year’s police funding is dependent on council tax hikes of £15 for a Band D home.

Those hikes would be over and above the other rises in council tax to pay for general services and social care.

And what will you get for it?

Street lighting, rubbish collection (except you still won’t be able to recycle everything that you should), and inflated salaries for councillors and council officers who don’t deserve them.

Source: 11 bits of bad news the Tories sneaked out hours before the Christmas holiday

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Cummings council tax: a form letter for your local authority

Where he belongs: but Dominic Cummings (and his family) seem able to get away with anything because of his connection with Boris Johnson.

The family of Dominic Cummings has been allowed to avoid paying historical council tax on several properties built on their land without planning permission, it has been revealed.

What a great opportunity for the rest of us!

It seems clear that every other council taxpayer in the UK should write to their local authority’s council tax department, demanding appropriately similar treatment. The text could run something like this:

To whom it may concern,

I read with pleasure that a family in Durham has received an effective Council Tax rebate of £30,000. What a boost for them in these Covid-19-blighted times – and on properties without planning permission, too!

write to request delivery of my own council tax rebate. While I accept that this may be adjusted down according to the council tax band in which my dwelling falls, I expect I must be due a considerable amount more than the family in Durham – because my dwelling does have planning permission.

It has occurred to me that the rebate may not be applied to my area, but only to families in Durham – but that would make no sense, would it? Why would one area receive preferential treatment? We’re all in this together, after all – or at least, that’s what we’re told!

I look forward to your reply by return of post, stating the amount of rebate to which I am due for my property, along with notification of the transfer to my bank.

Alternatively, you’d better be able to explain why a wealthy family of lawbreakers is being rewarded, rather than punished, for breaking planning laws and hiding the fact for 18 years, when the rest of us have to pay.

With regards,

(And so on.)

The injustice is clear – just think about Melanie Woolcock, the single mother who defaulted on her council tax because she wasn’t well enough to work and the Tory benefit system paid so little that she could not afford to pay the amount outstanding and buy food.

She was arrested for non-payment of £4,742 in council tax – less than one-sixth of what Cummings’s family is said to have owed – and forced to serve an 81-day prison sentence.

Between her and the Cummings family, who do you think deserves leniency?

It’s not even up for question, is it? Yet in Boris Johnson’s Britain, his adviser’s rich family walk free while the sick woman went to jail for the crime of being poor.

This latest scandal has sparked a wave of outrage – and a few alternative proposals:

Source: Dominic Cummings allowed to avoid backdated council tax on second home | Politics | The Guardian

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.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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