Tag Archives: overcrowding

Here’s the reason it is impossible to treat the plague in a post-truth country

The United Kingdom is never going to get to grips with Covid-19 if its government ministers continue to lie about it.

Grant Shapps – a man well-known for playing fast-and-loose with the facts – was up to his old tricks at a press briefing last week when, as Transport Secretary, he claimed trains were not overcrowded since the Tories ordered people back to work, despite numerous photos of overcrowded trains.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

That looks pretty crowded – and this was the Victoria Line. The Central Line at the height of rush hour must be a nightmare.

Bear in mind that social distancing rules still apply and we are supposed to stay at least two metres away from other people.

Shapps claimed that tube trains have been at just five per cent occupancy – which leads This Writer to wonder whether he has been averaging out usage over each 24-hour period, rather than examining the situation at times when people are most likely to be infected by close proximity to others.

He has announced that it will be mandatory to wear face masks on public transport from June 15, when the government intends to ease lockdown restrictions further and send more people back to work.

There is no justification for such easing; the nation remains at Covid alert level 4, meaning the virus remains at large and its reproduction rate is increasing.

But this is a government that won’t accept our truth; it is too busy pushing its own on us.

So snake-oil salesman Shapps told us, in very poor English: “In fact, there hasn’t been very much crowding situation going on.

“It’s not the case … that transport’s been overcrowded. We’ve been watching it very carefully.”

He continued to deny the facts, despite being shown photographic evidence of overcrowding on trains, taken on different days since the lockdown was eased:

“We tracked it on a day by day basis.

“I can literally tell you the trains where there was an issue, because the train was broken down, or Canning Town [in east London], where those pictures were shared very widely.

“But actually the broad picture is there have been one or two people sitting in carriages a lot of the time.”

What can you do, in the face of such blatant denial of the facts from a government minister who is hell-bent on exposing you to a killer disease?

What will you do?

Source: Grant Shapps claims trains aren’t overcrowded despite photos of overcrowded trains – Mirror Online

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Tory social housing crisis as number of homeless households hits 12-year high

Remember when the Conservatives said they would halve homelessness by 2022, and end it altogether by 2027?

I bet the Tories wish you didn’t!

New figures show the number of households considered newly homeless has risen by 3,000 in the last three months – raising homelessness to its highest level since 2007.

And the housing shortage has forced 130,000 families to live in one-bedroom flats.

There is a simple answer to both these problems: Build more social housing.

Ah, but that isn’t profitable for Tories, is it?

I can picture the scene now – some Tory economic ‘guru’ claiming that if you limit the supply of housing, it forces the price up and landlords make a tidy profit.

(It reminds me of the firm that told my brother – yes, BeastRabban himself – that getting into debt was a great incentive to make more money. He told them they were quite clearly madder than a hornet in a coke can and quit the company on the spot.)

You see, it’s all very well having expensive accommodation for private rent – but absolutely no good if people can’t afford it. You just end up with loads of empty flats.

But the ideology of it means no social housing gets built – or at least, not enough.

No wonder there was a huge drive to get sick and disabled people out of their homes – no matter how many special adaptations had been added to them. Remember that?

What concerns This Writer most of all is the fact that the increase in homelessness comes after hundreds of homeless people were shown to have died.

Somebody should tell the Tories, greedy and stupid is not attractive.

Here are the figures, for those who need that sort of thing before they’ll believe the story:

“A total of 84,740 households were in bed and breakfasts, hostels and other temporary accommodation at the end of March this year, including 126,020 children, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said. It is the highest number of such households since mid-2007 and compares with a low of 48,010 in 2010.

“Between January and March this year, 32,740 households were initially assessed as being homeless, up 11.2% from 29,430 in the previous quarter.

“The figures only account for those whom the authorities deem homeless, and charities say the true figure is much higher. Years of austerity, changes to the benefit system and rising rents have led to sustained increases in the number of people made homeless.

“The number of households classified as homeless in rural England almost doubled over the past year, according to an analysis by the Campaign to Protect Rural England. It said 173,584 families were on waiting lists for social housing in areas where councils built just 1,336 homes for social rent in 2018.

“The housing charity Shelter said one household had become homeless every four minutes in England in the last year, and it called on the government to invest in a new generation of social homes.”

The full story is here: Number of households in temporary residence highest since 2007 | Society | The Guardian

And the National Housing Federation supplied the information showing that a severe shortage of homes has put 130,000 families in one-bedroom flats:

“More than one in ten children in England are living in overcrowded homes.

“This comes to a total of around 1.3m children from more than 600,000 families, who are stuck in overcrowded conditions because there is nowhere else for them to live.

“Overcrowding in England has now reached record levels, as around 96,000 more children are living in overcrowded homes compared to a decade ago.

“Homes are said to be ‘overcrowded’ if a child has to share their bedroom with two or more other children, sleep in the same room as their parents, or share with a teenager of the opposite sex.

  • “Just under half of children in overcrowded homes are forced to share a bedroom with their parents – this could affect as many as 627,000 children.
  • “In more than a quarter of overcrowded homes, children even have to share a bed with a parent or sibling – this could affect as many as 368,000 children.
  • “More than a quarter of parents in overcrowded homes are often forced to sleep in kitchens, bathrooms or hallways because of the lack of space – this could affect as many as 380,000 people.
  • “More than half of parents in overcrowded homes worry that their children aren’t coming home because of how overcrowded it is – this could affect as many as 695,000 children.
  • “Around half of children in overcrowded homes struggle to do their homework because of the lack of space – this could affect as many as 750,000 children. This includes 14% (as many as 190,000 children) who find it totally impossible.

“The main cause of overcrowding is the stark lack of housing in England, especially social housing, which means growing families have nowhere affordable to move to. The country needs around 145,000 new social homes every year, including 90,000 for social rent.”

For the full details of this, see: 130,000 Families Forced To Live In One-Bed Flats, Research Shows

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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Grayling’s failings are spreading – look at the mess he made of launching these new trains

This Writer has had a grudge against Chris ‘Failing’ Grayling since he was Minister for Employment under Iain Duncan Smith, so forgive me if I take a moment to gloat:

The Tory Transport Secretary got a taste of what its really like to be a commuter today when his policy launch descended into a PR nightmare straight from the Thick of It.

Chris Grayling launched a new fleet of trains on the Great Western line and boarded the first service – the 6am from Bristol Temple Meeds to London Paddington – to mark the occasion.

First, the departure was delayed by 25 minutes and it then broke down 22 miles outside London, according to Independent travel writer Simon Calder, who was also on board.

The service eventually arrived 40 minutes late, but only after causing significant rush-hour delays for other trains on the route.

Tory Wales Secretary Alun Cairns (pictured right) was hoping the launch of the new trains would help people forget about the Government’s decision to cancel rail electrification to Swansea.

But the first new train due to depart from London for south Wales was cancelled.

Passengers on new trains that did run not only had to put up with delays, but [there were other ]faults like a leaking air conditioning unit [and] there was still no more space.

Even Tory ‘improvements’ make things worse.

Source: Chris Grayling launched a new train – which immediately broke down with him on board | Political Scrapbook


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The Mail was wrong about ‘feminist’ t-shirt

THIS is what a feminist looks like: Actress Emma Watson has recently been using her role as UN Women's Goodwill Ambassador to promote HeForShe, a campaign that fights for equal rights - for both genders - by inspiring men and boys to support gender equality. If the Fawcett shirt is good enough for her, it's good enough for us!

THIS is what a feminist looks like: Actress Emma Watson has recently been using her role as UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador to promote HeForShe, a campaign that fights for equal rights – for both genders – by inspiring men and boys to support gender equality. If the Fawcett shirt is good enough for her, it’s good enough for us!

It’s all bad news for the Mail on Sunday.

Not only did it target the wrong people with its report stating that t-shirts proclaiming “This is what a feminist looks like” were made in a sweatshop, but now the charity that commissioned them has made it clear that the claim isn’t even accurate.

The Fawcett Society had the shirts made and sold them in Whistles shops. Yesterday it revealed that “expansive and current evidence” showed that the CMT factory in Mauritius that Whistles used to produce the shirts “conforms to ethical standards”.

The evidence shows that all of the workers are paid more than the government-mandated minimum wage and all are paid according to their skills and years of service.

The standard working week is 45 hours, and workers are compensated, at a higher rate of pay, for any overtime worked.

There is a high level of staff retention and employees are offered training and development. Workers are able to join a union and there is a union presence in the factor.

In addition, an audit into the CMT factory was carried out only last month (October 2014), by an independent not-for-profit organisation, and this did not reveal any material concerns on the working conditions, welfare or the health and safety of workers.

In many ways, it seems this factory provides better conditions than are currently available in the UK, with no zero-hours contracts, overtime paid at a higher rate, and staff training available.

Fawcett’s deputy CEO, Eva Neitzert, said the charity was not taking the evidence at face value and was examining it with the help of an international trade union.

“The evidence we have seen categorically refutes the assertion that the ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ T-shirts produced by Whistles were made in a sweatshop,” she said.

“Whilst we have confidence in the evidence provided to us, we are currently working closely with an international trade union body to scrutinise it so that we can be absolutely assured of its provenance, authenticity and that all findings are robust and factual.

“Further, whilst Fawcett has a UK remit, we are nonetheless acutely concerned with the inequalities women across the globe face. We recognise that investment in developing countries is vital and support this provided decent labour standards are adhered to.

“We will continue to work with Elle and Whistles on this project.”

The Mail on Sunday raised its objections to the shirts after Labour Party leader Ed Miliband was photographed wearing one for a special feminism-based issue of Elle magazine, and Harriet Harman wore one in the House of Commons to mock Tory leader David Cameron.

It seems Mr Cameron – who has very few women in his cabinet – had declined to wear the shirt, claiming that he did not have the time to put it on.

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The Mail is silly to whip up a storm over a t-shirt

zfeministshirt

It wouldn’t be a Sunday without a bonkers story from the Mail, would it?

This week, that pillar of the rabid-right press has got the knives out for Ed Miliband – because he put on a t-shirt without knowing its full history.

The shirt, emblazoned with the words, “This is what a feminist looks like,” was given to him by the women’s-interest magazine Elle, in association with equal rights charity the Fawcett Society, in the hope that he would agree to be photographed wearing it for a forthcoming special issue of the magazine on feminism.

The Fawcett Society had commissioned the shirt and said it had been told the garment would be made ethically.

But Mail on Sunday reporters weren’t satisfied with such assurances! Stung by the criticism attached to their idol David Cameron, after he refused to wear it (on the basis that he didn’t have the time, if the BBC’s News Quiz is any kind of reliable source of information), they travelled to Mauritius, where the shirt was made.

There, they learned that “Migrant women in Mauritius are making the £45 tops for 62p an hour” and that, when they weren’t working, they “sleep 16 to a room and earn less than average wage on island”.

Two thoughts occur: Firstly, the Mail on Sunday is wrong to direct its anger at Mr Miliband (and at Labour’s Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman, who wore the shirt in the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions, to highlight the lack of women in Cameron’s cabinet).

Everybody who put on that shirt and allowed themselves to be photographed wearing it did so in good faith. They did it for the Fawcett Society – a charity that supports ethical employment and equality – and for Elle, to support its edition on gender equality.

How many times have you ever asked if anybody was exploited in the making of a clothing item before buying it?

If anyone has been caught in the wrong, it is whoever the Fawcett Society contracted to manufacture the shirt. If the Mail allegations are accurate, then the organisation was misled, the t-shirts will have to be withdrawn from sale and the charity will (now) have to apologise to anyone whose name has been besmirched by association with it.

Secondly, it is hypocritical in the extreme for the Mail to be criticising the treatment of migrant workers who have been paid less than the average wage and forced to live in overcrowded conditions.

The Mail‘s attacks on people who immigrate into the UK are now the stuff of legend; it supported Lord Freud after he commented that some disabled people could be made to work for less than the minimum wage; and it is a strong supporter of the Bedroom Tax and other changes to housing-related social security benefits which can lead to eviction for families who cannot make ends meet in David Cameron’s low-wage, no-benefit Britain. When people become homeless, their local council has to pay for them to be housed in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, often sharing with many other people, often in entirely inappropriate conditions.

In writing the article, the Mail set out to expose Ed Miliband as a hypocrite.

In fact, all it has done is expose its own double-standards.

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Sink, Britain, Sink! – the cost of privatising water management

– This is a song by a local musician, here in Mid Wales, written during the last serious flooding. I make no apologies for opportunistically linking to it as it says a few choice words about the situation and the government.

“And the rains came down, and the floods came up” – The Wise Man and the Foolish Man (Southern Folk Song).

Some of you may have noticed we’ve had a few spots of wet weather recently. This is nothing new to our island nation.

The trouble is, having fallen on us all, the water hasn’t had the decency to clear off and drain away. Instead, it has built up and up and caused a huge amount of flood damage to land and houses that were not built in a safe place, as in the song lyric quoted above, but in flood plains.

This is a result of bad planning – by water and sewerage companies that have failed to implement successful drainage schemes or to divert floodwater from rivers in order to prevent overflow, and by planning authorities that have allowed housing to be built in the wrong place.

What were they thinking?

My guess is that the water companies were thinking about the money, and planning authorities wanted to ease overcrowding.

We live in a country where management of the water supply went into private hands several decades ago. When that happened, it became impossible to have any kind of integrated plan to deal with the supply of water, droughts, floods and storage. Water supply became a commodity to be bought and sold by rich people according to the golden rules of capitalism: Invest the minimum; charge the maximum.

So reservoirs have been sold off to foreign water companies, meaning we have no adequate response to droughts. None have been built, meaning we have no adequate response to floods. Concerns about river flooding have been neglected. There has not been the investment in extraction and storage of floodwater that repeated incidents over the last few years have demanded.

The government is reducing its budget for handling these issues. Not only that, but it is delaying implementation of a new policy on drainage.

This would be regulated by local authorities, who have responsibility for planning approvals. Some might say these authorities should have had a little more forethought before granting applications to build on flood plains, or for adaptations to existing properties that have prevented water from draining into the soil and sent it down drains instead, to overload the sewer system.

Some of these are matters of necessity: Planning officers may have gone to the limit of what is allowed, in order to allow housing developments that relieve the burden of overcrowding; in other matters, they may have been unable to apply any legal restrictions on applications.

In short, there is no joined-up thinking.

There will be no joined-up thinking in the future, either – unless the situation is changed radically.

Meanwhile, the cost racked up by the damage is huge – in ruined farmland, in ruined homes and possessions, and blighted lives. And what about the risk of disease that floodwater brings with it? The NHS in England is ill-equipped to deal with any outbreaks, being seriously weakened by the government-sponsored incursions of private, cheap-and-simple health firms.

Something has to give beneath the weight of all this floodwater. Change is vital – from commercial competition to co-operation and co-ordination.

Privatisation of water has failed. It’s time to bring it back under public control.

Is anyone opposed?

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