MR REASONABLE: Barnet Council Plan to Gag Residents

Last week the Constitution and General Purposes Committee proposed significant changes to the public participation rules. Currently, up to 30 minutes is set aside at the start of each committee meeting for public comments and questions. You have to submit the questions by 10am 3 working days in advance of the committee meeting and you also have to specify which agenda item on which you wish to make a public comment.  At the meeting the resident gets 3 minutes to make their public comment and they can then be questioned by committee members. Questions are taken in strict rotation so everyone who has asked a question gets a chance to ask a supplementary question. Even if the questioners do not get the chance to ask a supplementary question there is a written response to their original question. This provides a useful audit trail when matters arise in the future.

Last week all those rules were changed.  Following ratification at the forthcoming full council meeting on 30 July public participation will be dramatically reduced. The Council’s proposals are as follows:

Questions and comments should be amalgamated. The number of words for each question/comment should be limited at 100 and must be submitted in writing by 10am 3 working days in advance of the committee meeting.
Residents may raise one question/comment on an agenda item. The question/comment must relate to the substantive matter to be determined by the committee. No more than two questions from residents will be allowed per agenda item taken in the order of receipt by the Governance Service. These changes means the public will no longer be able to address the committee in person and councillors will not be able to ask the member of public about their comment. When reports run to many pages, summarising a single question or comment in 100 words will severely restrict what people can say. Residents will only be able to make one comment or one question on an agenda item but if more than two residents ask a question or make a comment on an agenda item, no other questions or comments will be accepted.  Barnet say this is about saving money and giving more opportunities to residents. It will do neither especially, if residents are forced to submit multiple FOI requests to get important answers. It seems clear that Barnet do not like residents scrutinising decisions such as the Council’s £22.9 million loan to Saracens Rugby to build a new stand at their stadium or asking questions about the £2 million fraud carried out by a Capita employee which went undiscovered for more than a year. Capita’s performance in areas such as Highways and Pensions Administration have been dismal but public scrutiny of their performance and why they are being allowed to continue to provide such a poor service will now be all but eliminated. The Council are also making major cuts to services such as libraries and are changing the rules to force disabled people who receive in-home care packages to move into residential care simply because it is cheaper. The ability to question these changes will be dramatically reduced, allowing the council to rubber stamp decisions without any meaningful engagement with the public. Barnet residents have a right and a need to scrutinise the Council and these changes will eliminate that scrutiny. I admit I do ask quite a few questions but that is simply because I believe committees are failing to provide adequate scrutiny. Conservative councillors keep saying the questions are political. The questions I ask are almost always about money and performance. With £20 million of budget cuts this year and a further £47 million of cuts over the next four years it is important that Councillors at least listen to the concerns of residents. If you think the Council’s proposals are wrong, please sign the petition here or go an visit your local Conservative Councillor before the Council meeting on 30 July. Details of all their councillors’ surgeries are on the Barnet Council website but I have summarised them here for your convenience.

ORIGINAL POST

We’re calling for an end to harassment at work. Please support our petition

Sexual harassment has no place anywhere in the UK. But it’s still happening every day in our workplaces.

Our laws rely on individuals reporting harassment to get action taken but this is not working. Four out of five don’t feel able to report sexual harassment to their employer.

We need a new law to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace before it happens.

We’ve launched a petition calling for immediate action. For government and MPs to take notice, we need thousands of people to add their name. 

Can you add your name and demand action?

Sign the Petition
1 in 2 women have been sexually harassed at work and 4 out of 5 of them don’t feel able to tell their employer. 2 in 3 LGBT workers have experienced sexual harassment too.

Just like health and safety rules protect us from physical dangers at work, employers needsimple rules to protect us from harassment, whether it comes from a colleague, client orcustomer.

We’re demanding a new, easily enforceable legal duty. It would require employers to take all reasonable steps to protect workers from sexual harassment and victimisation.
 
It’s a simple step that could stop harassment in many cases before it starts.

Join the call for the government to take immediate action. #ThisIsNotWorking.

Grenfell Never Again: Keep our buildings safe

On 14 June 2017, the fire at Grenfell Tower claimed the lives of 72 people and devastated a close-knit community in the heart of London. Two years on, the bereaved, survivors and residents are still waiting for justice. And two years on, we are still waiting for the lessons from that day to be learned, and acted upon to safeguard all our communities.

Can you help call on the government for action? Working with the Daily Mirror and Grenfell campaigners, the Fire Brigades Union are calling on Communities Secretary James Brokenshire to take five key steps:

1. Remove remaining inflammable cladding from 2,000 tower blocks and public buildings.
2. Retrofit sprinklers in high rises and schools. 
3. Ensure tenants get a real voice in the running and upkeep of their buildings. 
4. Reverse cuts to firefighter numbers and Fire Safety Officers.
5. Create a new independent body to oversee standards in fire service across the country. 
Sign the Petition
James Brokenshire needs to listen and act on the demands of Grenfell campaigners and the Fire Brigades Union.

These five steps are achievable if there is political will to do so, and would make a huge difference in ensuring a fire like the Grenfell Tower tragedy never happens again.

Thanks for all your support,
Anthony, Going to Work

P.S. Once you’ve signed, please share the petition with your friends and family: www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/grenfell-never-again-keep-our-buildings-safe

Reinstate David Muritu (UCU)

David is UCU Branch Secretary, Sandwell College.
He was summarily dismissed for writing the word “racist” on a Prevent poster.

David was a member of our NATFHE branch at Harrow College when I was Branch Secretary.
He’s a committed trade unionist and hard-working Maths lecturer.

He has support from UCU and Angela Rayner (see link below) and please circulate.

https://speakout.web.ucu.org.uk/reinstate-david-muritu/

Stop private companies suing the NHS

The 2012 Health and Social Care Act is a complete disaster for our NHS – particularly Section 75, which forces the NHS to let private companies compete to provide some services. Now, NHS England has recognised the harm that Section 75 has done, and are calling on the government to get rid of Section 75 as part of their ‘Long Term Plan’ for the NHS.

The Long Term Plan is the next step in dismantling our NHS, reducing care provision, and moving away from the original founding principles of universal healthcare, free at the point of use, and accessible to everyone.

SIGN HERE

NHS England are asking for your views – let’s tell them that we don’t just want to end Section 75. We want to end all NHS privatisation, and rebuild the NHS based on its founding principles.

The battle for Algeria’s streets begins: police attack protests as mass strikes sweep country

Protests and strikes demanding the new ‘transitional’ president Abdelkader Bensalah follow Bouteflika out of office are gathering pace across Algeria. On the railways, in the ports, government offices, schools, universities and across large swathes of manufacturing, workers are walking out or going into occupation in solidarity with the continuing demonstrations in major cities demanding that all the key figures associated with the old regime step down.

But the regime is fighting back: police attacked a major student protest outside the Post Office in the capital Algiers on 9 April. Trade union federation COSYFOP condemned the attack on student protesters by security forces and urged workers to join the general strike planned for 10 April: “The strike continues, and we will escalate our action until we win freedom,” the federation said in a statement on Facebook.

Thousands of demonstrators were met again with police water cannons and tear gas on 10 April, but news reports showed large crowds continuing to rally despite the efforts of police to smash the protests. Thousands could also be seen in reports from social media marching in other major cities including Tizi Ouzou, Bouira, Tiaret, Annaba, Blida, Batna, and Tlemcen. School and university students are leading many of the demonstrations, alongside their teachers who have been at the forefront of strike action in recent years.

What you can do:

 

 

  • Send a message of solidarity to trade unions and student unions in Algeria – email menasolidarity@gmail.com and we will pass it on or let you know where to send direct
  • Download a copy of our briefing on teachers’ struggles with a model motion: [Teachers_MENA_2019]

Raise the National Living Wage

Having a job should guarantee your family doesn’t live in poverty. 

But right now that’s not the case. Millions of working people are trapped in low paying, insecure work with no path out.

Not only is the percentage of those in poverty living in a working household at its highest since records began, but so is the percentage of children from working households living in poverty.

Theresa May might think this is fine, but we don’t.

Raising the National Living Wage to £10 per hour would give a pay rise to 4 million people. That’s why today, on the 20th anniversary of the minimum wage, we’re calling on the Prime Minister to take action.

Add your name.

I support £10 per hour for all workers.

This pay rise would go a long way to ensuring those on the lowest wages have enough to pay the bills, put food on the table and find somewhere permanent to live.

Millions of people in working families are living in poverty and this isn’t an accident. The system has been designed to benefit a few, while the rest struggle to afford the basics.

The minimum wage was a victory for union campaigning. It will only continue to rise if we take a stand.

Add your name.

I support £10 per hour for all workers.

We were told it would bankrupt the country. Instead it gave workers earning as little as 90p per hour a fair deal.

20 years on, the fight to end working poverty goes on. Workers need a £10 minimum wage now.

War on Want: Stop corporate courts

Corporate courts, formally known as ISDS (investor-state dispute settlement), are an obscure parallel legal system only accessible to the super-rich. They allow transnational corporations to sue governments outside the national justice system, for amounts into the billions, over decisions the companies think might affect their profits.

Health warnings on cigarette packets, raising the minimum wage and protecting the environment from mining are just some of the laws big business has challenged in corporate courts. Even the threat of a case can be used to bully governments into backing down.

Recently the Minister proposed using Brexit to slash tariffs, regardless of impact on jobs, farming and industry, following an extreme market-driven approach. Corporate courts are a key part of this agenda.

The minister wants to keep ISDS to protect investment stocks. We need to speak out and say that people and planet matter far more.

TAKE ACTION

The fightback has begun. Across the world, countries have been rejecting ISDS: South Africa, India, Ecuador, Tanzania, Indonesia and New Zealand have all taken steps to back away from corporate courts.

Here in the UK and across Europe, our movement against TTIP and CETA – the EU’s trade deals with the USA and Canada – has exposed its illegitimacy. The system is vulnerable.

We’re at a tipping point, and if enough of us come together, we could bring ISDS down altogether. Can you sign the petition today and join the movement to end corporate courts?

Join the protests in solidarity with Sudan uprising, 9 February

Sudanese activists will be organising protests in Liverpool and London on 9 February, as trade unionists across the country are moblising in solidarity with their demands for democratic change and social justice. Sudanese refugees in Liverpool will gather at Lime Street station at 1pm, while Sudanese activists will also gather in Trafalgar Square in London at 2pm the same day. The demonstrations, which bring together activists from different areas in Sudan, and UK-based members of the Sudanese trade unionists and political organisations, follow several weeks of protests in cities around the UK.

UK trade unions are mobilising in support of the uprising in Sudan, and to demand an end to UK arms sales and diplomatic backing for Omar El Bashir’s brutal regime which has thrown thousands in jail during the last few weeks, and killed dozens of demonstrators.

Liverpool TUC, Liverpool University UCU and Stockport NEU have all passed motions raising these demands, and other branches will be considering similar motions in the coming weeks. A statement for trade unionists to sign has been launched by MENA Solidarity which has attracted support from leading activists in UCU, NEU and UNISON.

What you can do:

  • Join the protests in Liverpool and London on 9 February. Meet 1pm at Lime Street Station in Liverpool, 2pm in Trafalgar Square in London (in front of the National Gallery)
  • Sign the petition to the UK parliament calling on the government to condemn the repression of the uprising: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/236102   
  • Sign the solidarity statement here
  • Pass a resolution in solidarity with the movement in Sudan in your trade union branch or student union. Download a model motion here [sudan_solidarity_modelmotion]  [Liverpool motion]
  • Call on your MP to show their support for the protesters’ demands for democratic change in Sudan.
  • Take a picture in solidarity with the Sudanese uprising using this sign [sudan_solidarity_poster] and share on social media using the hashtag #تسقط_بسPlease mention @MENAsolidarity so we can share further. Follow reports from Sudan on #SudanUprising and #SudanProtests.
  • Read more on the background to the uprising here

We stand with #Stansted15, who face sentencing this week: Support the solidarity protest, Wed 6 Feb

This Wednesday, 6 February, the #Stansted15 activists who bravely and peacefully protested a deportation flight, face their sentencing in Chelmsford at the Crown Court. Stand Up To Racism is supporting the solidarity protest called by End Deportations, from 8.30am, New Street, CM1 1EL.
If you are able to get to Chelmsford to support the protest, contact us at info@standuptoracism.org.uk. But everyone can do something to show their support: download the ‘solidarity selfie’ poster HERE Whether in your workplace, college, community or just yourself, you can take a picture with the message of solidarity and share it including #Stansted15 and @AntiRacismDay. If you don’t have Twitter or other social media access, you can email it to info@standuptoracism.org.uk and we can share it for you. 
The #Stansted15 were found guilty in December of a terror-related offence after they peacefully prevented a secretive deportation flight from leaving last March.
These activists are an incredible inspiration to millions of people who are enraged and horrified at the injustice of how refugees are forced to suffer at the hands of Fortress Europe and the British government’s ‘hostile environment’ that regularly sees parents stripped from their children, lives put in extreme danger as deportation flights take off to deport people, and the horror of life for those in detention centres.
They now face an uncertain future, and the implications of the use of anti-terror legislation in this case poses a threat to the civil liberties and right to protest of us all. This sentence is intended to smash the anti-racist movement’s resistance to this government’s racist policies.
They need the full solidarity of our mass, broad movement – we all must get behind them now to send the message loud and clear that refugees are welcome here, and that the charges against the #Stansted15 heroes must be dropped.
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