Bristol Citizens | 19.11.2010 23:22
[most links removed]
P R O T E S T
Gloucester's march and rally against the cuts really is tomorrow (apologies for last week's error). The march to Kings Square kicks off from Gloucester Park at 10:30 prompt.
REMEMBER, REMEMBER THE 10TH OF NOVEMBER
The student-led National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts has called for 24 November to be a day of walkouts, occupations, protests and outreach. Teachers and lecturers and all students, including school students whose futures are rapidly being ruined, are invited to support the protests.
"BRISTOL WALKOUT AND PROTEST AGAINST EDUCATION CUTS"
24 November 2010:
11:00 UWE Walkout across all campuses
12:00 UoB Walkout
12:30 Assemble opposite Senate House, Tyndall Avenue
13:15 Walk to Wills Memorial Building
Please come and invite your friends. All are welcome – Universities, schools and public alike – from across the South West. Want to get in touch? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
You are also all invited to a placard/banner-making workshop, in preparation for this event. Tuesday 23 Nov., 15:00-19:00, 2-8 Cave St., St. Paul’s. Come along!
Students at the University of the West of England are occupying Frenchay campus on Monday 22 November from 4pm. The occupation is part of the week of actions protesting fee increases and cuts both to education and across the public sector more broadly.
Hundreds of local coppers have been taking part in exercises to learn how to deal with a violent protest. A mock protest with 300 officers took place at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire on Wednesday night. A second larger demonstration happened on Thursday - involving 170 "students" would you believe? Avon and Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset and Gloucestershire police all took part in the exercise that let “riot teams test officers in live conditions” and gave “officers the opportunity to deal with an escalating level of hostility”.
BRICK THROWING AND VIOLENT DISORDER WORKSHOPS
Coming soon. For students and activists but all welcome! Watch this space.
YELLOW TORIES FOR THE CHOP
The National Union of Students (NUS) is launching a "decapitation strategy" to oust Yellow Tory MPs from parliament in protest at the party's U-turn on student fees. The move is aimed at Lib Dem-held constituencies with large student populations. Key targets, besides Clegg in Sheffield Hallam, are Stephen Williams in Bristol West and Don Foster in Bath
FOREST OF DEAN
The Save the Forest Campaign have organised a protest for 10 December in Cinderford when Forest MP Mark Harper will be there. This is the minister who is pushing for the sale of the Forest. The meeting point is 12 noon at 53 High Street, Cinderford, GL14 2SU. A good place to get rid of your rotten fruit!
'Hands off our Forest' has called a public meeting on the evening of Friday 10 December in the Miners Welfare Hall, Cinderford.
The ukuncut crowd who brought you the Vodaphone shop shutdowns a few weeks ago have called for a day of national mass direct action against tax avoiders for 4 December 2010. More details as we receive them. Also see 'BOOTS THE CHEMIST' below.
E V E N T S
Benefit Party for Anti Cuts Action, this Saturday 9pm 'til 3am!
at the 'Frowning Motorcycle' (ex-motorcycle showroom), 27 Stokes Croft, Bristol
Rat Face (radical Hip-hop),
The Directors (Clashesque punk trio)
Abnormality (Tribe of frog, Dub Voyager)
Mark (Dub Revolution)
Missfit (Kebele Sound Collective)
£3 suggested donation, no-one turned away due to lack of funds!
Bands on from 9.30pm!
BENEFIT FOR ANTI-CUTS RESISTANCE
Tuesday 23 November, Punks Against Cuts Presents:
JAKAL - Feral London Ragga Dub Punx
DUB REVOLUTION - Local Dub 'n' Roots heavyweights
+DJs 'TIL LATE
Playing ska, reggae, jungle, drum'n'bass
Funds to Bristol Anarchist Federation and Bristol Industrial Workers of the World. £3/4
8pm 'til well past the bosses' bed time at The Plough, Kilburn Street, Easton, Bristol
BRISTOL RADICAL HISTORY WEEK
Until Sunday 5 December 2010. Enters its second week of 'Life Before Thatcher' on the 1970s.
U N I O N S
GREAT WESTERN AMBULANCE SERVICE
Ambulance crews in Gloucestershire, Bristol and Wiltshire are threatening industrial action over proposed changes to shifts. Their union, Unison, say the removal of breaks and other alterations could leave staff without enough rest. A spokesman said they cannot "risk patient and staff safety".
Last week's story claiming the country's largest public sector union, Unison had prevented its Bristol Healthcare branch from joining the local Anti-cuts Alliance was inaccurate. The truth is that the salaried bureaucrats of the union's South West Regional Branch office have instructed all their local branches not to affiliate to any Anti-cuts Alliance anywhere.
Instead, the union think the best strategy available to fight the gravest assault on the welfare state and collective values ever is to hire an open-top bus and drive it around Bristol waving a few placards containing some non-offensive messages of protest carefully drafted by Ian Ducat in consultation with his Labour Party friends and family.
Firefighters from the west have been protesting this week in London about the cuts to fire service budgets. The Fire Brigades Union says Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AFRS) could have its budget cut by more than £6 million next year.
B R I S T O L
The outlook for vulnerable people in need of social housing in Bristol has been described as "grim". The Hub, run by Bristol City Council, which provides advice and support to the homeless is shutting, while financial support to housing associations will be cut. Most other housing budgets are getting cut by around 50% and staff morale at the city council is said to be "rock bottom" as housing workers know these cuts are unworkable.
Council workers in Bristol have been told that the number of people receiving long term support after extended stays ‘under Section’ (in hospital for mental breakdown) has to be cut by one third. One in three people will therefore be left without financial support, which - more than likely - will send them into crisis again.
MORE MENTAL HEALTH
The new Housing Benefit cap means that in practice people with mental health problems will be forced to move into shared accommodation in the private sector. There is a huge risk they will deteriorate in these conditions, get kicked out and run the risk of ending up on the streets or in poor quality temporary accommodation.
Bristol City Council announced to its staff this week that they are considering privatising their Parking Services department. The service raises over £4m a year at present.
BOOTS THE CHEMIST
Bristol Community Health run by Bristol City Council and NHS Bristol are proposing to move their city centre walk-in centre to Boots the Chemists in Broadmead. The BBC's File on 4 recently reported that Boots switched its HQ to a post office box in Switzerland to avoid paying UK taxes and is now handing over only £14m a year instead of more than £100m.
MUTUAL BACK SCRATCHING
The University of the West of England (UWE) has handed University of Bristol Vice-Chancellor, Eric Thomas, a honorary degree just a week after he described student tuition fee rises to £9,000 as "welcome news". Is this award a recognition of his services to the local lunchtime catering industry?
Watershed Director Dick Penny is also to become a Honorary Doctor of Arts at the University of the West of England. Penny recently vacated his post as 'Saviour of the Bristol Old Vic' just weeks before the Arts Council announced brutal cuts to their budget.
BRISTOL CITY IN EUROPE!
A complaint has been made to the European Commission about the sale of Bristol City Council land to Bristol City Football Club. The sale, to help the football club fund their new stadium, may breach EU state aid rules. The council values the two plots of land at just £4.6m and is exchanging them with the club for ten years worth of subsidised gym memberships for the general public.
However, the council has had neither their land nor the the proposed benefits independently valued. The price, alone, of the land they are proposing to sell at the club's existing Ashton Gate ground has been estimated to be worth £5m - £10m. However, the council are insisting, "the disposal is compliant with state aid legal requirements."
The football club, owned by Guernsey-based tax avoider, Steve Lansdown, is reputed to be “furious”.
NOT MUCH BENEFIT FRAUD IN BRISTOL
Lie detector tests introduced in Bristol to trap benefit fraudsters do not work the Government has revealed. In a £2 million trial at 24 councils, including Bristol, more than 5,000 telephone calls with people claiming housing benefit, council tax, income support and Jobseeker's Allowance were analysed using 'voice risk analysis' (VRA) to identify fraud. Apparently it did not.
A DWP spokesman says, "we had trials of this technology to see if it would work, but there was simply not enough evidence that it does”. Perhaps it means that there's not the level of benefit fraud around the government claims?
THE BOY IS FOR TURNING
Bristol West's Yellow Tory MP Stephen Williams appears to have instructed a local councillor, Dr Jon Rogers, to write to the Bristol Evening Post to defend him over tuition fees. Williams' u-turn on promising to vote against any university tuition fee rises, explains Rogers, is an “agreed compromise”.
“It is disappointing to see the bullying and intimidatory tactics of a minority of students, which have no place in a democracy,” froths Rogers. Unlike broken electoral pledges and promises, which presumably do?
IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID
Bristol's yellow Tory MP, in an attempt to reconnect with the student vote that now hates him, launched a charm offensive on his blog this week. Focussing hard on wet-left issues, Wednesday found Stephen "Working for peace and nationhood for Palestine".
"Achieving peace and stability between Israel and all its near neighbours is the epicentre of the solution to so many other world conflicts," explains Bristol's new global strategist and international statesman. Thursday found Williams fighting homophobia and spouting on about his love of art.
The serious left, meanwhile, is back where it should be concerning itself with economics.
MORE GREEN SPACE THREATENED
Bristol City Council's Green Spaces Strategy - in which public open space in working class areas is sold off to fund improvements to parks in the yellow Tory suburbs of leafy North Bristol - already has a private funding deficit of around £10m before it's even started.
The city council, technically, has about £5 million of S.106 planning gain monies from developers to spend on improving green spaces, although this is at least £10 million less than it needs. It's unlikely, however, that even all of the £5m would be available as much of it is beyond reach due to the poor quality of the legal agreements drafted by city planners with developers over the years. It's likely, then, that more public land will be sold to cover the deficit.
ROK MAKING IT ROCKY
Residents in Croydon House, Easton have been left with a building surrounded in scaffolding and tarpaulin following the collapse of building company ROK. The company is halfway through a £35 million contract with Bristol City Council to refurbish hundreds of homes and flats in Bristol. Work ceased on the block when administrators were called in last week. The administrators PwC have confirmed the company will not complete the work. Bristol City Council said: "We've been holding talks this week with ROK and the administrators in order to resolve the current situation for our residents as quickly as possible."
A further 235 job losses, including some in Bristol, were announced by the administrators of Rok, on Thursday. Rok is one of Bristol City Council's main contractors for carrying out repairs and maintenance on its housing stock.
THE Government's pupil premium will deliver lower school funding in Bristol. House of Commons research shows areas already receiving extra cash, like Bristol, will lose out under the ConDems' plans to reward schools taking pupils from deprived homes. Bristol currently receives more money than average based on numbers of pupils who receive free school meals and families on tax credits.
Students doing German at the University of Bristol staged a protest at the department on Thursday after learning that one of their lecturers is at risk of redundancy. Dr Anne Simon, one of only six academic teaching staff in the department, faces redundancy as part of the university's plan to cut its School of Modern Languages. A Facebook group opposing the cuts already has more than 250 members and students have collected about the same number of signatures on a petition.
B A T H
Maternity services in Bath will be run by a hospital nearly 40 miles away in Swindon. Community maternity services in Bath and North East Somerset and the Princess Anne Wing at the Royal United Hospital are to become the responsibility of the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Swindon. The move is part of the 'Transforming Community Services' project in Wiltshire, which is part of a Government shake-up which will see primary care trusts end their involvement in direct patient care.
Bath and North East Somerset politicians met this week to discuss the future of a service that employs around 1,700 people. The community health service is currently run through a partnership of the council and the NHS. But the council now want a social enterprise organisation to run it.
Unions want the service was transferred to an NHS trust such as the Royal United Hospital. Unison regional secretary Ian Ducat (aka Mr Dawn Primarolo) says the proposals amount to privatisation. “We have no confidence whatsoever in the notion that a social enterprise will maintain the integrity of the NHS. Local services provided by PCTs should be transferred to an NHS trust.”
Senior management posts at Bath and North East Somerset are to be cut to save £2m a year. The six 'strategic directors' at the authority, will be reduced to just three. Reduction in divisional directors, the tier below, are also planned.
Culverhay School, Bath is to close. There will be no no further admissions to Year 7 from September 2012. The closure is going ahead despite 74% of respondents in a public consultation saying they were against the school closing.
Bath's yellow Tory, Don Foster MP, has written to voters to explain himself. Foster has been criticised by student leaders over his party's U-turn on tuition fees. The letter claims, "After the mess left by Labour, we can't afford everything that we want. We have to compromise."
Taxi fares in Bath are to rise by just over six per cent to help operators cope with petrol price increases.
N O R T H S O M E R S E T
Pontin's, the iconic holiday company, has gone into administration. The company runs Brean Sands, a holiday park near Weston-super-Mare and employs 850 staff across the UK. A spokeswoman for administrators KPMG says the company has run out of cash because bookings had fallen drastically in the past year.
Repair bills could see the last primary school swimming pool in North Somerset shut. Crockerne VC Primary School in Pill is facing large repair bills to the pool building as well as having to replace expensive equipment. The pool was built in 1966 after the drowning of a young boy in the River Avon prompted residents of the riverside village to raise funds for a pool to teach youngsters to swim.
Council offices in Nailsea, Long Ashton and Clevedon are being sold off. The offices will be left vacant when staff move into the authority's new headquarters in Clevedon. It's claimed that the sale of the offices will raise £1.3 million.
A scheme to reduce traffic in Barrow Gurney near Bristol has been scrapped to save money.
S O U T H G L O U C E S T E R S H I R E
CAR PARK SALE
South Gloucestershire Council with the support of Chipping Sodbury councillors have voted to sell the lease on the town’s only free car park to developers Chelverton Deeley Freed. The company are planning to build a new supermarket and housing development next to the Wickwar Road car park.
EYE IN THE SKY
Plans to move a police helicopter helicopter from Filton to RAF Colerne to save money could lead to an increase in crime in Bristol because of the longer flying time to deal with incidents say critics.
G L O U C E S T E R S H I R E
Gloucestershire County Council is to offload thousands of acres of farmland to help balance its books. They are looking to raise £25 million by selling 2,000 acres. It is part of £108m of cuts over the next four years announced last week.
A street in Gloucester and part of one of its main thoroughfares is up for sale for more than £1.4m. National property consultants Bruton Knowles is inviting investors to buy a chunk of Northgate Street and St Aldate Street in central Gloucester.
C S R
A thousand hospital jobs are being cut in the West despite ConDem claims that they would protect the NHS from cuts. Nurses' trade union, The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), claim more than 1,000 posts have either already been cut or have been earmarked for the chop as managers implement £20 billion 'efficiency savings' in the NHS.
Tusts across Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire have frozen recruitment and posts are being deleted through natural wastage as they look to save millions of pounds in efficiency savings, says Kate Tompkins, the RCN's South West director
OFF THE BUSES
The government has confirmed that people in rural areas who rely on bus services will be hit hard as a result of 20 per cent cuts to the bus service operators grant.
South West Transport Network have warned that communities across Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire will face a "triple whammy" with local authorities also slashing bus subsidies and ministers axing the pool of funding dedicated to bus services in rural areas.
"The shock waves will be felt in urban areas too. Bristol is withdrawing £600,000 of subsidy and I predict there won't be Sunday and evening services in parts of the south and east of Bristol next year," they say.
Children's minister, Sarah Teather, has told Sure Start children's centres to start charging for some services. She has told councils and charities that run the 3,500 centres to target resources towards the "neediest" families and consider charging the better-off for "fun" activities.
Children's centres in deprived areas will no longer be obliged to offer full daycare or hire staff with both Qualified Teacher and Early Years Professional status, Teather announced on Tuesday at the Daycare Trust conference.
Cash-strapped Wiltshire County Council chiefs spent more than £100,000 on new uniforms for staff just months before announcing £70 million of cuts. In the last 18 months, 130 staff from the council have been made redundant at the council and another 240 managers are to be made redundant soon.
AGRICULTURAL WAGES BOARD
The Government is abolishing the Agricultural Wages Board. For 80 years the board has improved terms and conditions in a sector notorious for its long hours and poor safety record. Wages in the sector are now likely to fall.
E C O N O M Y
GAS PRICES UP
British Gas are putting their prices up by an inflation-busting seven per cent from December 10.
Benefit reforms will hit 88,000 claimants in the Bristol region as the ConDems threaten to "make work pay". Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith vows to come down hard on claimants by ending their payments for up to three years if the DWP decides they have refused work.
The reforms will hit at least 45,350 claimants in Bristol, 11,070 in Bath and North East Somerset, 15,940 in North Somerset and 15,780 in South Gloucestershire. Oxfam's Director of UK Poverty Kate Wareing says, "these changes to the benefits system will expose people to the risk of destitution.”
UK property prices have recorded their biggest drop in nearly three years. According to the Rightmove House Price Index, new sellers cut asking prices by 3.2% in November – the largest decline since December 2007. There's currently an "unseasonably high number" of unsold properties on the market amid a dearth of first-time buyers and buy-to-let investors.
Rural property prices have nearly doubled during the past decade, rising by about £200 a week, according to new research released today by the Halifax. The average cost of a home in the countryside has increased by 96 per cent or £102,722, since 2000. A typical rural home now costs 6.4 times average annual earnings.
The NFU (National Farmers Union) has published an investigation - 'The Great Milk Robbery'. It uncovers a "climate of fear" with processing dairies forced to sign confidentiality agreements so that details of their negotiations with retailers cannot be disclosed. This means that the rest of the supply chain - and consumers - "are kept dangerously in the dark".
The Government must now speed up the appointment of a supermarket ombudsman to urgently help the dairy sector says the NFU.
A quarter of a million people have now been claiming Jobseeker's Allowance for more than one year. There are 245,370 adults in England, Scotland and Wales who have been unemployed and claiming JSA for 12 months or more - over double the number that were in this position at the start of the recession in January 2008.
Consumer price inflation rose to an annual rate of 3.2% in October.
Tory thinktank ResPublica claims 'the Big Society' could be achieved by selling off assets such as libraries to community groups. Their report, 'To Buy, To Bid, To Build' argues the government’s Big Society initiative will fail unless community groups are supported to take on these types of expensive public assets.
The Government is to give councils the power to set their own planning fees. The Department for Communities and Local Government says the new Localism Bill will allow councils to recover the actual cost of submitting an application.
The UN warn that food prices could rise by 10%-20% next year after poor harvests and an expected rundown of global reserves. African and Asian countries will be the worst hit. It's the worst forecast since the 2007/08 food crisis, which saw food riots in more than 25 countries and 100 million extra hungry people. The UN has urged all states to prepare for hardship.
B U S I N E S S
Research by the Federation of Small Businesses has found jobs are not being created because companies are concerned about a double-dip recession. John Walker, national chairman of the federation, says "The Government is looking for the private sector to create jobs and take on the people that will be made redundant by the cuts. Evidence from this report shows that small firms do not have the confidence to do that."
Enrolling staff into a pension scheme will cost small businesses £2,550 each, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned. They say the true administrative costs of the scheme, due to come into force in 2012, could be "extortionate". From 2017, all firms and their staff will have to be fully enrolled into a pension scheme and business owners will have to pay a minimum of three per cent of an employee's salary into a pension.
A further 1,800 redundancies at Exeter-based builders Rok were announced by administrators this week. Total job losses are now around 2,600. The “nation’s local builder” appointed PwC as administrators last week. Only 650 staff remain at the firm.
Garvis Snook the former chief exec of Rok sent a jovial email to staff last week, signing himself off "Keep on Roking! Garvis." Snook was among the first Rok employees to go. Another former Rok employee says, "it makes sad reading. "It more or less says that others were to blame, when ultimately, I think it was down to him and his management team."
The first twenty-four staff at the Thales defence plant in Wells are about to be made redundant in the wake of a government's defence review that hacked billions off the defence budget. This announcement comes as Thales prepares to close the Wells plant.
Thales in Wells have been involved in support systems for the MR4A Nimrod, which the government canceled in the recent Strategic Defence Review. The BAe project was £789 million over budget and ten years late. 280 people currently work on air operations in Wells and the factory closure will take place in March 2011. Some staff may be offered moves to Thales, Templecombe on the Somerset/Dorset border, 22 miles away.
DB Russell Construction, based in Clevedon, have gone into administration. The company, which does building work for local councils and housing associations and employs 30 people, owes about £2m, its administrators say.
G A R B A G E
Bristol City Council has sent out the following message to staff about the proposed £70m worth of cuts they first told them about in the Bristol Evening Post. If anybody has the foggiest idea what they're on about, please let us know!
"Bristol City Council’s savings plan – how the Centre of Excellence is helping to make the changes needed
Release Date: 16 Nov 2010
Due to the current economic climate Bristol City Council, along with other public sector organisations, faces significant financial challenges for the foreseeable future. There is an ever-increasing need for us to target our resources more effectively to deliver change with a clear business need and clearly identifiable benefits.
Some of the savings will be made through making changes through the directorates in their ‘business as usual’ arrangements - eg by not filling vacancies, or by streamlining processes in service delivery. Others, however, require us to fundamentally challenge and change the way we work across the whole Council, and the way we deliver services.
These ‘business changes’ will be delivered through programmes and projects.
The Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Centre of Excellence (CoE) has been established to help the organisation take its change plans forward and to support and embed a revitalised corporate approach to programme and project management for Bristol City Council.
We support strategic directors and senior management in successfully delivering corporate priorities through the controlled implementation of its portfolio of programmes and projects. This gives the Strategic Options Delivery Board (SODB) confidence that savings will be released and benefits delivered. (SODB comprises the Chief Executive, Strategic Directors and Heads of Finance and HR, who meet monthly acting as the sponsoring group for programmes and business change projects.)
It is within this context that the CoE, along with the Programme and Project Management Community, have the primary responsibility of making sure that programmes and projects deliver the benefits we, as an organisation, are counting on.
By introducing more structure and discipline into our project and programme management and providing the necessary support to project managers the CoE is supporting the organisation to improve in a critical area.
As a result of initiatives the CoE has introduced, SODB is supported in its strategic decision-making about project and programme investment. Through supportive challenge, the CoE works with the directorates to ensure that business change gets off ‘on the right footing’ and business cases are strengthened so that benefits are clear and can be tracked throughout the programme and project and beyond."
S T U F F
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Original article on IMC Bristol: http://bristol.indymedia.org/article/700381