Thursday, 31 March 2011

Weston People in London protest - Weston Mercury article

The following article is in today's Weston Mercury

DESPITE the mass scenes of violence and vandalism campaigners from North Somerset enjoyed a peaceful protest in London on Saturday.

Hundreds and thousands of demonstrators marched through the central city streets to express their disapproval against the coalition Government’s ‘savage’ spending cuts.

Although the majority of protestors acted appropriately, several breakaway groups caused chaos by smashing shop windows and attacking police officers.

More than 100 members from North Somerset’s Unison branch and their families travelled from Weston to London to join the rally.

Unison branch secretary, Helen Thornton, said: “We were marching to protect our libraries, our schools, our youth services, and our services for disabled people.

“It was disappointing that the actions of a small violent minority were given more media coverage than the 400,000 people who marched peacefully.

“We have sent a powerful message to the Government and the country that there is an alternative to the savage public spending cuts.

“We need to make our taxation system fairer and tax those that caused the recession, instead of making ordinary working and non-working people pay for the greed of a few.”

Pippa Chambers , Reporter
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Andrew Lansley Rap

If you want to find out more about the Coalition government's plans to privatise the NHS then watch this great video by MC NxtGen.

Protect our Pensions

Lord Hutton's report on public service pension schemes has now been published. The proposals mean we will pay more, work longer and get less.

The proposals include:
  • Increasing the employee contribution by 3%
  • Increasing Retirement Age
  • Using the Consumer Price Index rather than Retail Price Index to calculate yearly pension increases
  • Moving from a Final Salary to a Career Average Scheme
  • Removal of the requirement for a broadly comparable pension for TUPE transferred staff
For more information go to:

UNISON will be campaigning to protect our pensions, and the branch needs a Pensions Contact in every team and workplace in all its employers - whether you work in Local Government, the Health Service, Further Education or a private sector employer. As a Pensions Contact we would ask you to talk to members and non-members to get their views about the proposed changes to their pensions and feed them back to the branch. If you're interested please contact the branch office - 01934 634759 or

Sunday, 27 March 2011

March for the Alternative - what a great day, but it's only the start...

Here's some pictures. To all North Somerset UNISON members who attended the march - please leave your comments and get copies of your pictures to the branch office.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Anti-Cuts Public Meeting - 30th March

Weston and North Somerset Trades Union Council have organised another Public Meeting against the Cuts. It will take place on Wednesday 30th March at 7 pm in St Andrew's Church Hall, 68 Lonsdale Avenue, Bournville, Weston super Mare.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Find out how your Councillor voted on the Cuts before you cast your vote on 5th May

The letter below has been sent to the Weston Mercury, Clevedon Mercury and North Somerset Times. It is really important that all North Somerset UNISON members find out how their councillor voted on the cuts before casting their vote on 5th May. If you live in North Somerset only the Green party, Labour party, Liberal Democrat party and a few Independents voted against the £18.6 million of cuts.

I am writing in response to the decision by North Somerset Council to slash £18.6 million from their budget for 2011/12. As the Branch Secretary of North Somerset UNISON, which represents workers at North Somerset Council and many smaller private and voluntary sector organisations providing council services, I believe that the cuts will impact on services for some of our most vulnerable people. It seems incredible to me that when councillors voted on the budget at the meeting on 22nd February, they had in front of them a 100 page document outlining the impact of the cuts to services, including high impacts for services to vulnerable groups, and yet they still voted for cuts in excess of those assessed as required. These include the almost £1 million reduction to Supporting People services, which include services provided to older people, people with physical and learning disabilities, people with mental health issues, people fleeing domestic abuse, refugees and homeless people. These also included the almost £2 million reduction to services to children and young people including children at risk of social exclusion, children with mental health issues, looked after children, children living in the most deprived area of North Somerset, children at risk of not entering education, employment or training, disabled children, children with complex and additional needs, and young carers.

It is also incredible that the majority of councillors voted for the cuts, despite having the option to lessen their impact with a perfectly viable alternative from the Green councillor Tom Leimdorfer, backed by Labour, Liberal Democrat and some Independent councillors. This would have involved using some of their reserves in order to reduce the cuts. We do not understand why the council are prepared to use their reserves to invest in capital projects, such as buying the Castlewood offices and refurbishing the town hall, which they claim will make future savings. But they will not apply the same argument to using reserves to invest in preventative services for our most vulnerable groups. Previous investment in Supporting People services has actually saved money, not just for the council, but also for the NHS, Police and Probation services. Quite simply it seems to us that North Somerset Council prefer to put property before people. And this is also clear from their proposals to reduce the unsocial hours payments they make to already low paid Home Care workers.

It is also disappointing that much of the local media coverage of the Council’s budget has concentrated on their proposal to move Weston Library into the town hall. This proposal will not result in an immediate loss of service, unlike many of the cuts I’ve referred to above. We would urge the citizens of North Somerset to log onto the council’s website and have a look for themselves at the document entitled “Report 13-2 Budget Information” which can be found amongst the papers for the Council Meeting of 22nd February or if you follow this link - A reading of the first four pages of the Equality Impact assessment for the budget proposals paints a frightening picture of high impacts for vulnerable people.

Finally, it was interesting to hear the Bishop of Bath and Wells urging people in his diocese, which includes North Somerset, to protest against the cuts because in his view they will affect the poorest and most vulnerable. As public sector trade union members we believe that investing in public services is an investment in all our futures. We believe that public spending cuts are both unfair because they hit the poorest and the most vulnerable the hardest, and are also unnecessary because there are other ways of cutting the deficit, such as taxing the banks and other financial institutions who caused the recession. It should be of great concern to the voters of North Somerset that the majority of councillors, mainly Conservative, approved these £18.6 million of cuts, and we would argue that voters need to find out how their councillor voted on the cuts on 22nd February, before casting their vote on 5th May.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

London Calling to the Faraway Towns - 26th March

There are now only a few seats left on our coaches to the TUC Rally in London on 26th March. Pick ups are in Weston super Mare, Clevedon and Portishead. Contact if you want to come.

Blood Suckers - Stop the Privatisation of the National Blood Service

The Tories really are Blood Suckers - what will they think of to sell off next? UK citizens donate blood for the benefit of others. It is quite simply unethical for private companies to make money from the blood of our citizens.

Sign the petition:

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Cuts affect poorest and most vulnerable - Bishop of Bath & Wells

Government must recognise impact of cuts on the most vulnerable (Parish Magazine Article March 2011)

As the Bishop of Taunton and I are out and about in the communities that we serve as the Diocese, what has affected us most on recent visits is the widespread concern over government cuts.

Many people fear for their jobs. Farmers are concerned about issues of food security, human and animal welfare. On a visit to Locking Deanery last month, a college principal spoke about the removal of the Education Maintenance Allowance. 82% of his students can only afford to study because of the grant. Students themselves spoke of anxieties over debt and no longer being able to contemplate university or college unless they lived at home.

The Citizens Advice Bureau is worried about funding cuts, as is a lawyer who is concerned about the substantial removal of Legal Aid and cuts to funding for victims of domestic violence.  The threatened closure of libraries and the decision to stop funding to much local authority youth work are also matters of deep concern.  The cutting of rural bus services, coupled with the increase in fuel prices and the overall cost of travel, will further isolate those in rural communities.

The impact of many of the proposed cuts is felt most immediately by the poorest and most vulnerable.  The call for a Big Society will be hollow if national and local governments do not recognise this.
If government programmes require sacrifices of people, the people need to trust that the result will be a better future for everyone. If that trust is absent then people will see such cuts as unfair and punitive.  A Big Society calls for a commitment to the common good by government and people alike.

The society of God’s Kingdom calls for priority to be given to the poor, lonely, isolated and vulnerable. In society we do together what we cannot do alone. Nurturing and encouraging volunteering in the community is good. But it is not something that can be done without resources, anymore than the Hebrews could make bricks without straw.

Can we as church communities look at the impact of the cuts upon our communities and seek out ways of not only encouraging, supporting and helping those affected, but, where there is real suffering, hardship or deprivation, drawing this to the attention of national and local government?

Jesus observed in Matthew 25 that those who served the needs of the vulnerable served him. Such a possibility should both inspire and encourage us to love of neighbour and love of Christ.

+Peter Bath and Wells.