Tag Archives: council

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

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After This Site suggested it, Tories are letting experts tackle Covid-19 instead of their chums

I know. It’s just a coincidence.

But isn’t it interesting that, the day after This Site asked, “Don’t you agree that giving control of the response to Coronavirus back to people who actually know what they’re doing might turn the tide?” the Tories are talking about doing just that?

I had suggested, “Let’s see the Tories reopen the contract system to multiple tenders, with assignments of Covid-related contracts going to the firms best-suited for the work. Or – indeed – to the public organisations and authorities best-placed to handle it.”

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick made the admission that this will happen on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show today (October 11): “People who know their own community… are bound to be better than Whitehall or national contact tracers.”

Here’s the clip:

There’s an obvious question to be answered here:

Yes – why weren’t they used in the first place?

The obvious answer is that individuals within the Johnson government have corruptly and opportunistically used the pandemic as a chance to funnel cash to their fellow-Tory friends. Certainly there is a movement now to find out how much money has been wasted on so-called services that haven’t worked at all:

That question of wasted time is crucial because many people have died.

What happens if we find that those deaths happened because the Tories were giving money to their friends – for nothing – rather than to people who could actually keep that death toll down?

Will there be any accountability?

Or will Boris Johnson just shrug his shoulders, say “Now is not the time,” and forget about it?

For further information, here‘s the Mirror‘s piece.

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The Bar Council has laid into Suella Braverman so let’s all join in

Suella Braverman: She has made some knowledgeable enemies who may soon wipe that idiotic grin off her face.

The UK’s professional organisation representing barristers has accused Brextremist Attorney General Suella Braverman of sacrificing the UK’s reputation, sidelining legal advisers and bypassing the ministerial code.

At its annual general meeting, members of the Bar Council asked Braverman how she thought the UK’s Tory government could retain “a shred of credibility” in imploring other countries to follow international law after revealing its own willingness to breach agreements.

Here’s The Guardian with details of the festivities:

Five QCs confronted the attorney general during Saturday’s meeting, telling her that a crime which broke the law in a “specific and limited way” – the phrase used by the Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, when he announced the move – was still a crime.

Asked if she believed ministers were breaking the ministerial code with the legislation, Braverman on Saturday dodged the question by stating that the code was not legally enforceable. Pressed, she suggested the cabinet secretary had ruled that the code would not be breached.

She was also confronted over why she had sought advice on the measures from three pro-Brexit legal figures, including one junior barrister who had worked with the Vote Leave campaign, rather than relying on senior government lawyers. She refused to disclose the advice she had received, but said that seeking external opinions was not unusual.

Braverman was asked what had changed since former justice minister Lord Faulks stated in 2015 that ministers would not breach international law. She said his statement reflected “government policy at the time”.

The proposals were needed to resolve tensions between domestic and international law created by the EU withdrawal agreement, she said, but the government remained “committed to the rule of law”.

Of course this is not true. A government cannot expect to be believed when it claims to be “committed to the rule of law”, after also committing itself to breaking the law.

We could never expect better from Braverman; she is used to breaking the rules.

Back in 2017, when the European Research Group (ERG) “party within the Tory party” was set up, she was its chair. It was funded illegally, with money from members’ expenses claims (expenses rules state that MPs cannot claim for research or work “done for, or on behalf of, a political party”, but by September 2017 the European Research Group had received more than £250,000 from MPs who claimed the public cash through their official expenses).

After she became a minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union, she remained a member of the ERG, even though the ministerial code prohibits ministers from becoming “associated with non-public organisations whose objectives may in any degree conflict with government policy” – as the ERG’s did at the time.

Neither she nor any of the other then-ministers who were also in the ERG were penalised, which may go a long way towards explaining why she believes she can tell the Bar Council she is above Parliamentary rules.

In March 2019 she was accused of using anti-Semitic language by stating that “As Conservatives, we are engaged in a battle against cultural Marxism”. This refers to a far-right-wing anti-Semitic conspiracy theory which identifies Western Marxism as the basis of an ongoing academic and intellectual movement to undermine and destroy Western culture and values. Challenged over this, she dismissed the idea, stating “We have culture evolving from the far left which has allowed the snuffing out of freedom of speech, freedom of thought…I’m very aware of that ongoing creep of cultural Marxism, which has come from Jeremy Corbyn.” So either she didn’t understand what she was talking about or she is a genuine anti-Semite who used opposition to Jeremy Corbyn to co-opt support from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which withdrew its accusations against her.

And now we have her vain attempt to justify breaking international law, as described by This Site here.

The reason she thinks she – and the Johnson government – will get away with breaking international law is easy to understand in the context of her career.

She is an extremist Brexiteer who chaired a pressure group that was funded illegally – but still went on to occupy a role shaping government policy on Brexit; she voiced anti-Semitic sentiments – whether knowingly or not – but got away with it by claiming that she and her challengers had a mutual enemy in Jeremy Corbyn.

Based on this past behaviour, she thinks anyone opposing her on this can say what they want but it will not stop her from having her way.

Well, that has yet to be proved.

She may think she is sure of her ground but the Guardian article quotes a groundswell of opposition within the Parliamentary Conservative Party that could pull it out from under her feet.

And the Bar Council won’t be as easily swayed as the partisan Board of Deputies. Already there are murmurings about court action to forbid her from breaking international law in any way, not just the way she has described.

I look forward to seeing her get her comeuppance. It will be well-deserved.

Source: Top lawyers slam Suella Braverman for wrecking UK’s reputation | Politics | The Guardian

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Here’s the shocking reason your Tory government is more guilty of attacking press freedom than Extinction Rebellion

Dictator: despotic governments attack press freedom – and they do it quietly, while claiming to be doing the exact opposite. That’s exactly what your Boris Johnson-led government has done – and why this image is appropriate.

So much for Boris Johnson’s (and Priti Patel’s) comments about the Extinction Rebellion blockade for Rupert Murdoch’s print works being an attack on the ‘free press’.

On the day before they were making these attacks, the Council of Europe – that the UK founded – issued a formal warning that the Conservative government is a threat to the freedom of the press:

The Council of Europe issued the Level 2 “media freedom alert” after Ministry of Defence press officers refused to deal with Declassified UK, a website focusing on foreign and defence policy stories.

The new alert, issued by the organisation on Friday, was classified by the watchdog as an “act having a chilling effect on media freedom” and put under the “state” category – because the British state was the source of the threat.

It seems the only reason the government was refusing to comment to Declassified is that the Tories were retaliating against previous reporting that was critical of the government’s use of its armed forces.

Writing to urge the government into a rethink, the International Press Institute stated:

“It goes without saying that the exclusion of a media publication by a government ministry due to its investigative reporting would undermine press freedom and set a worrying precedent for other journalists whose job it is to report in the public interest on the British military. Criticism should be no reason to discriminate against a media publication.

“In contrast, tough journalism by outlets such as Declassified UK on matters such as the UK’s foreign and military affairs, uncomfortable though it often may be for those in power, is crucial for a transparent and functioning democracy.”

So your Tory government had deliberately and silently sabotaged the workings of “transparent and functioning democracy” by restricting press freedom on the day before it accused XR of the same thing with a public and popular demonstration.

Source: Council of Europe issues media freedom alert over UK government blacklisting of investigative journalists | The Independent | Independent

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Elderly man’s health failed and he died after council sent his wife to a care home

When care isn’t so caring: one partner was taken into a home and the health of the other deteriorated until he died. Why didn’t the council consider this? Or was it just a financial consideration?

In these days of Covid-19, one might be forgiven for thinking this gentleman was worrying himself sick that his wife would catch the virus and die.

But it is also a recognised phenomenon that if a couple who have been together for many years are split up, most commonly because one of them dies, then the remaining partner’s health often suffers – possibly to death.

So This Writer is led to question why the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead didn’t take this into account when it split up the couple in this story. Was it just a question of money – that it was cheaper to split this couple, and never mind of one of them died? And what happened to the house where the deceased gentleman had been living?

An elderly couple of 59 years were split up with little regard for their welfare by Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The couple were separated when the wife was discharged to a care home after leaving hospital.

The husband was left to live in the family home with the help of care workers, but quickly deteriorated.

He became very low, did not eat or drink properly and lost weight. He stopped going out and instead spent a lot of time in his bed.

When the family complained a few days later the council agreed to take more steps to help the man visit his wife, but he passed away just a few weeks after.

A report by the Ombudsman found the council did not do enough to consider the man’s situation when his wife left hospital, despite his family telling it he would suffer at home.

Windsor and Maidenhead Council has a history of ill-treating people. Back in 2018, it tried to get police to arrest homeless people under the Vagrancy Act so they wouldn’t be on the streets during the Royal Wedding.

Then it imposed a fine on aggressive or proactive begging, requests for money, leaving bedding and belongings in a public area and other behaviour associated with homelessness – totalling an unaffordable £1,000.

Needless to say, it is a Conservative-run authority.

Source: Elderly man suffers after council splits him from his wife

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