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

international conference to combat racism and fascism: Sat 19 October

Trump in the White House…. Far Right growing internationally… Hate crime at epidemic proportions… Political crisis in Britain…

BOOK NOW

How do we stop the racist right?

The racist and fascist right are experiencing their biggest growth in their support across Europe since the 1930’s.

Inspired by the likes of Donald Trump in the white house racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism are on the rise everywhere. Hate crime has reached epidemic proportions, and the horrific attacks in Christchurch and Pittsburgh represent a new level of threat from far-right terrorism.

In Britain the toxic debate around the Brexit crisis has seen populist racists like Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and Nigel Farage come to the centre stage of politics.

Hunt backed Trumps’ attacks on London mayor Sadiq Khan and his “Londonistan” retweets. Johnson described Muslim women as “letter boxes”. Farage built his reputation by attacking immigration to the UK.

Although fascist Tommy Robinson and far right UKIP were humiliated in the EU elections, thanks to mass campaigning work by anti-racists Johnson, Hunt and Farage will play the politics of divide and rule, scapegoating migrants and refugees and targeting the Muslim community with Islamophobic attacks.

It doesn’t matter whether you voted “Leave” or “Remain” everyone must oppose their racist agenda.

And whoever wins the Tory leadership election race the hostile environment for migrants that led to the Windrush scandal remains at the heart of government strategy and the reality of institutional racism continues.

On Saturday 19 October anti-racists activists will gather in London from across Europe and the US at the Stand Up To Racism international conference to debate how we build an international movement against the racist and fascist right and how we drive back the populist racism of the Tories and Farage.

Saturday 19 October, 10 – 4pm, Friends Meeting House, 173 Euston Road, NW1 2BJ London

Previous speakers include: Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, John McDonnell, Emma Dent Coad, David Lammy, Catherine West, Claude Moraes, Sabby Dhalu, Shahrar Ali, Mohammed Kozbar, Weyman Bennett, Maurice Wren, David Rosenburg

Workshops and plenaries include: Combating the “Hostile environment”, fighting for justice – Solidarity with refugees – The battle against Islamophobia in the age of Trump and Johnson – How do we stop the far right in Europe – Solidarity with refugees – Climate refugees and the climate crisis

Stand Up To Racism Barnet LAUNCH STATEMENT

There is no doubt that the far right is manipulating current political issues to further an agenda of division and hatred. We are seeing a well-documented rise in populism and xenophobic versions of nationalism.

Empowered by Donald Trump, far right parties have made electoral gains throughout Europe and beyond. There has been a worrying rise in racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism and anti-migrant hostility both abroad and within the U.K, where there has been a serious attempt by fascist “Tommy Robinson” and other far right figures to build racist street movements.

In London there has been a big rise in racist attacks and abuse. Specifically in Barnet, the number of Racist and Religious Hate Crimes reported in 2018/2019 Q2 has increased for the second consecutive quarter and is up from 667 last year to 711 this year.

Given the strong tradition of anti-racism here in Barnet we believe that we need to come together to marginalise the racists and those who would divide us. We pledge to stand with our diverse community in Barnet against racism, discrimination and injustice.

Call for a public boycott of London leisure centres as Bromley library workers dispute escalates

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, has called for a London-wide boycott by the public of leisure centres run by social enterprise leisure services’ giant Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL).

Unite said the boycott call of GLL’s money-spinning leisure centres across the capital would support the 50 Bromley library staff who have been on strike since 6 June over pay and other issues specifically relating to GLL’s stewardship of Bromley’s 14 libraries.

The boycott will be launched on Friday (28 June) when Unite members will stage protests at three GLL venues in Woolwich. GLL has contracts with 16 London boroughs to run leisure centres and/or libraries.

The union is aiming its boycott campaign at potential new members that the GLL sales force wants to sign up for gym membership and fitness classes, as well as one-off users. It is not aimed at those with pre-paid membership plans.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The call for the London-wide boycott of GLL leisure centres is aimed at putting pressure where it hurts – in the company’s coffers – to achieve a resolution of the Bromley library dispute.
 
“We argue that every penny that goes to GLL, generated by its money-spinning activities at its leisure centres, helps it to win further library contracts which then results in a serious erosion of library services for both users and staff.

“Our Bromley library members have been on continuous strike since 6 June and have received fantastic support from the public who are refusing to enter the libraries in a great show of support.”
 
The Bromley dispute relates to GLL bosses not filling vacant posts; asking staff to be managers without paying the proper rate for the job; and failing to pay wages owed.
 
Unite is seeking a six per cent increase in basic pay from April 2019 for its hundreds of  members working for GLL in more than 140  leisure centres and libraries in 16 London boroughs, as well as in Belfast.
 
The London boroughs with GLL contracts are: Barnet, Bromley, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hillingdon, Lambeth, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Merton, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Wandsworth.
 
ENDS

Notes to editors:

Diary of upcoming protest events organised by Unite

Friday 28 June
10.00 – Headquarters building. Middlegate House, The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich SE18  6SX
11.00 – Waterfront leisure centre, Woolwich High Street,  London SE18 6DL
12.00 – Woolwich library, Calderwood Street, London SE18 6QZ

Friday 5 July
Demonstration at 10.00 – Charlton Lido, Hornfair Park, Shooters Hill Road, SE18 4LX. The lido is a GLL showpiece venue.

Last year, Unite staged a campaign to make GLL pay the London Living Wage (LLW) to those aged 18-to-20 on a number of its contracts in the capital.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065 Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org

Barnet Alliance for Public Services

Tuesday 16 July 2019
Greek Cypriot Centre, 2 Britannia Road, N12 9RU
Annual General Meeting 6 pm
Public meeting 7.30-9 pm
Guest speakers: Paul and Adelaide Joseph

Barnet Alliance for Public Services is a coalition of residents, campaign groups and trade unions defending public services in Barnet. We meet every third Tuesday of the month from 6.30 to 8.30 at the Greek Cypriot Centre, North Finchley, 2 Britannia Road, London N12 9RU. Email: barnetalliance4publicservices@gmail.com

international conference to combat racism and fascism: Sat 19 October

The racist and fascist right are experiencing their biggest growth in their support across Europe since the 1930’s.

Inspired by the likes of Donald Trump in the white house racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism are on the rise everywhere. Hate crime has reached epidemic proportions, and the horrific attacks in Christchurch and Pittsburgh represent a new level of threat from far-right terrorism.

In Britain the toxic debate around the Brexit crisis has seen populist racists like Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and Nigel Farage come to the centre stage of politics.

Hunt backed Trumps’ attacks on London mayor Sadiq Khan and his “Londonistan” retweets. Johnson described Muslim women as “letter boxes”. Farage built his reputation by attacking immigration to the UK.

Although fascist Tommy Robinson and far right UKIP were humiliated in the EU elections, thanks to mass campaigning work by anti-racists Johnson, Hunt and Farage will play the politics of divide and rule, scapegoating migrants and refugees and targeting the Muslim community with Islamophobic attacks.

It doesn’t matter whether you voted “Leave” or “Remain” everyone must oppose their racist agenda.

And whoever wins the Tory leadership election race the hostile environment for migrants that led to the Windrush scandal remains at the heart of government strategy and the reality of institutional racism continues.

BOOK YOUR TICKET NOW
On Saturday 19 October anti-racists activists will gather in London from across Europe and the US at the Stand Up To Racism international conference to debate how we build an international movement against the racist and fascist right and how we drive back the populist racism of the Tories and Farage.

Saturday 19 October, 10 – 4pm, Friends Meeting House, 173 Euston Road, NW1 2BJ London

Previous speakers include: Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, John McDonnell, Emma Dent Coad, David Lammy, Catherine West, Claude Moraes, Sabby Dhalu, Shahrar Ali, Mohammed Kozbar, Weyman Bennett, Maurice Wren, David Rosenburg
Workshops and plenaries include: Combating the “Hostile environment”, fighting for justice – Solidarity with refugees – The battle against Islamophobia in the age of Trump and Johnson – How do we stop the far right in Europe – Solidarity with refugees – Climate refugees and the climate crisis

Book up now

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia declared unlawful

Last week, our friends at Campaign Against Arms Trade won a historic court case against the UK Government over arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The Court ruled that the Government’s approval of arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen was unlawful, and that it must halt exports until it reviews the permissions in light of evidence of Saudi violations of international law. The ruling is unprecedented, and really speaks to the collaborative work of grassroots campaigners, lawyers, academic experts, and many others who pitched in to make the case so strong.

But this is just one case. The UK still approves arms exports to dozens of other human rights abusing regimes that use military force to repress protests, to gain territory, and to commit dreadful and illegal violence against civilians. And it will undoubtedly try to resume its exports to Saudi Arabia at the earliest date possible. That’s why we need grassroots pressure now to make this court victory stick, for the people of Yemen and millions of others around the world who are still at risk of being attacked using British made bombs and other weapons.

The UK sells weapons and military technology to States that commit sustained and grave human rights abuses, including Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Honduras, the Philippines, and dozens of other regimes.

The UK must stop arming repression. Will you email your MP, and ask them to pressure the government to end its trade in arms with human rights abusing regimes?

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.

New alliance calls on government to make employers prevent sexual harassment

‘This Is Not Working’ is an alliance of more than 20 unions, charities and women’s rights organisations – It has launched a petition calling for a new law to make employers prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces

The TUC, women’s rights organisations and charities have today (Wednesday) launched a joint campaign calling on the government to introduce a new law to make employers responsible for protecting their staff from sexual harassment at work.

TUC research found that more than half (52%) of women – and nearly seven out of ten LGBT people – have experienced sexual harassment at work.

But under current law there is no legal duty on employers to take proactive action to prevent harassment happening in their workplaces. Instead, the onus is on the victim of the sexual harassment to report it to their employer after it has happened.

Four out of five (79%) women who have been sexually harassed at work do not feel able to report it to their employer – meaning harassment continues unchecked in workplaces across the UK.

With the government set to launch its consultation on tackling sexual harassment soon, the TUC alliance – backed by organisations including the Fawcett Society, Action Aid, Amnesty and Time’s Up – wants to see the law changed so employers have a legal duty to take preventative measures to ensure their workplaces are harassment-free.

The new duty would be supported by a code of practice, explaining exactly what steps bosses need to take to prevent sexual harassment – such as carrying out mandatory training for staff and managers, and having clear policies.

This simple step would make a huge difference practically, says the alliance. It would mean that the burden of dealing with sexual harassment would be shifted from individuals to employers.

This would change workplace cultures and help end the problem once and for all.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s shocking that in 2019 so many people experience sexual harassment and assault while at work.

“The government must strengthen the law to put responsibility for preventing harassment on employers.

“This would shift the burden of tackling sexual harassment away from individuals. And it would help end toxic workplace cultures that silence those who’ve been harassed.

“We’re calling on everyone who want to stop sexual harassment at work to join us and call on ministers to take action.”

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
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