Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Sign the petition for equal pay

Karen Jennings, Assistant General Secretary of UNISON is calling on
UNISON members to back women's magazine Cosmopolitan's call for the
Government to make equal pay auditing compulsory.

Karen Jennings, said:

"Cosmopolitan has set up an e-petition and with the power of the union
behind it, we want to hit the target of 100,000 signatures as quickly as

"UNISON has campaigned long and hard for fairness and equality for
women. It is a sad fact that 40 years in from the Equal Pay Act, we
still have a battle on our hands, with women still earning 17% less than

"We want employers to be transparent about how they pay their workers
and to undertake full equal pay audits, so they can address any pay
inequality that exists and to ensure women are not being targeted
unfairly for redundancy."
Click on this link to sign the petition www.cosmopolitan.co.uk/equalpay

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

North Somerset councillors sign An Alternative to Austerity

Today, Richard Tucker, leader of North Somerset Council's Labour group, along with Green party councillor Tom Leimdorfer, and Independent councillor Donald Davies have signed North Somerset UNISON's statement An Alternative to Austerity. Here's the link to the full document:

Here's the press release:

In the week of George Osborne’s budget statement, North Somerset UNISON is asking all North Somerset councillors to sign up to a series of principles and actions which are set out in a statement entitled “An Alternative to Austerity: The role of Local Government in stimulating the local economy and safeguarding communities”, which councillors will be receiving in their postbags on Wednesday 21st March. It is quite clear that austerity isn’t working and that public spending cuts are having a major impact on the local economy. Research has shown that for every £1 spent on public services, 64 pence is generated in the local economy, and that for every 100 jobs lost in the public sector, the knock on effect will be 41 jobs lost in the private sector. It is therefore no wonder that the government’s public spending cuts are hindering the economic recovery.  A walk down Weston High Street nowadays tells the story of the recession. More and more shops are closing down, and those shops that take their place are either charity shops, cheque cashing shops, pawnbrokers, or pound shops. Unemployment is increasing - we are currently seeing the highest levels of female unemployment since 1987 and there are now 1000 young people claiming jobseekers allowance in North Somerset. High levels of unemployment are affecting the government’s ability to reduce the deficit, because there is less taxation being paid. Cutting the 50 pence tax rate, will not only favour the wealthy, but will further reduce the tax take. In addition ordinary working people are experiencing massive job insecurity, pay freezes and pay cuts and quite simply aren’t spending. Localised pay for public sector workers is likely to make this situation worse, as the largest employers in North Somerset are public sector employers – the council, Schools, NHS and Police. Localised pay will simply drive everyone’s pay right down, and will in turn further depress the local economy.

Public spending cuts are also making our country increasingly unfair and unequal, because they hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest. North Somerset already has the seventh largest range of inequality in the country. Ordinary working people are seeing their incomes fall, while those that caused the financial crisis continue to receive their enormous bonuses. At the same time Disabled people, elderly people and young people are being hit hard by cuts to services, welfare benefits, education maintenance allowance, and tuition fees. The government’s NHS reforms will create a privatised healthcare system and a postcode lottery for health care. North Somerset already has massive inequalities in health across the district and this is set to get worse if the Health and Social Care bill becomes law in the next few weeks. We are seeing increasing anger at our very unfair and unequal society – Occupy protests have sprung up all over the world, including in nearby Bristol, and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have expressed their concerns over corporate greed and massive inequality. Even more recently there have been protests against the government’s Work programme, which has led to major employers withdrawing from a programme, which effectively forces unemployed people to work unpaid.

The title of the statement really speaks for itself - it sets out UNISON’s view of “An Alternative to Austerity” - an approach based on sustainable growth and the increased tax revenue, which will come from greater employment and business activity. Crucial to achieving this is a fairer tax system so that those who can afford to pay most do pay the most, and the Government putting an end to the tax avoidance and evasion that costs the country up to £125bn each year. At a local level it recognises that Local Councils have a key role in providing essential services, creating jobs, promoting economic development and challenging the Government’s policies. Public services, including local authorities have an essential role getting the economy through and out of recession. It is imperative that trade unions and councillors are committed to develop actions and responses that protect citizens from the worst impacts of the spending cuts. The key commitments we are asking councillors to sign up to are:

·        to protect essential services to families and communities and the most vulnerable individuals in the district;
·        to value, recognise and appreciate the role of public sector employment as a positive contributor to the local economy;
·        to understand and develop the role of local government as a driver of economic and social progress;
·        to work together with trade unions to promote these principles.

The statement also contains actions to stimulate the local economy, such as ensuring the council uses local businesses for its supplies, encouraging local businesses to pay the living wage, and providing apprenticeship and training opportunities, particularly for young people. It also contains actions to safeguard communities, including undertaking robust equality impact assessments on service changes, full consultation with the people of North Somerset, and protecting community and voluntary groups, which provide public services. We believe that all North Somerset councillors, regardless of political affiliation, share our commitment to the principles and actions set out in “An Alternative to Austerity”, and will as a result sign up to it. We wait and see.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Dave's Coalition the Musical

An Off Street Players Production

At the Theatre in the Hut, Milton Avenue, Weston-super-Mare,
BS23 2UL

29th March to 31st March, 7.30 pm

Tickets £7

Box Office: 01934 622129

Friday, 16 March 2012

My MP's reply to my letter on the publication of the NHS Risk Register

Here's how John Penrose replied to my letter requesting the publication of the NHS Risk Register.The second link he refers to doesn't work! From personal experience with privatisation at North Somerset Council, the whole process involves huge secrecy, so much so that councillors themselves aren't given enough information to know what they're voting for, and of course exactly the same is happening with the Health and Social Care Bill.

"Thank you for contacting me about the Department of Health’s risk register. I understand your concerns about this, although having done a little digging about the issue, it looks as if there’s been a little bit of confusion about what we’re talking about here.

Risk assessment are usually produced to evaluate and manage commercial and contractual risks, as well as potential risks for patients’ health (ie how would they handle a terrorist attack, or an IT contractor which didn’t deliver a new system on time?). They are principally used as tools for planning and prevention, ie the risks will not in most cases materialise, either because they’re pretty unlikely or because the health authorities will have anticipated them and put measures in place to make sure they’re avoided. For that reason, they’ve never previously been made public under any previous Government – in fact the last Labour Government explicitly refused to publish them for precisely this reason, which is why it’s a bit rich for them suddenly to start campaigning for publication now(!).

That said, actual or real risks such as (for example) known side effects of particular drugs which hit some but not all patients, or the relative risks of complications from caesarean births rather than natural ones, are – rightly – routinely published by the Health Department. I’m also happy to confirm that the risk assessments of the Government’s health reforms (which is what this is really about, of course), are already available on the Department of Health’s website (http://www.dh.gov.uk/) by searching for ‘Health and Social Care Bill: combined impact assessments.’ Other examples of the other management risk assessments you mention in your email are also already available online, for example at http://www.london.nhs.uk/webfiles/board/11%20Meeting%2019%20October/Ga %20Board%20CRAF%20red%20risks%20only%20as%20of%2020111006.pdf

Yours sincerely,

John Penrose
MP for Weston-super-Mare"

NHS Alert - Take Action Now

Find out more: http://www.nhsalert.org.uk/page/signup/nhs-urgent-call-to-action

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Save our NHS Rally - 7th March, Methodist Central Hall, London

Here are some pictures from yesterday's rally to Save our NHS. We now all need to take urgent action. Go to http://www.goingtowork.org.uk/saveournhs/to find out what you can do.

Let's call on the TUC to organise another massive 26th March style march involving all trade unions, and NHS service users.



Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Names of North Somerset Councillors who voted for the amendment to save Youth Services

Below is an extract from the minutes of North Somerset Council meeting on 21st February, and the results of the vote on the amendment to save Youth Services. 39 Tory councillors voted against saving Youth Services, with 15 Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent councillors voting to try to save them. The full minutes of the meeting are at: http://www.n-somerset.gov.uk/cairo/docs/doc23252.htm

Amendment:  Moved by Councillor Leimdorfer and seconded by Councillor Bell-

“ To increase the budget of Children and Young People’s Services by £350,000, The main purpose of this is to enable continuation of Youth Club provision, whether by direct North Somerset provision or in partnership with parish and town councils.”

Debate ensued.

Eight Members signified their support for a named vote.

For the Amendment (15):

Bob Bateman, Mike Bell, Mark Canniford, Andy Cole, Geoff Coombs, John Crockford-Hawley, Donald Davies, Catherine Gibbons, Hugh Gregor, Tom Leimdorfer, Ian Parker, Robert Payne, Debbie Stone, Richard Tucker, Deborah Yamanaka.

Against the Amendment (39):

Elfan Ap Rees, Nigel Ashton, Felicity Baker, Jan Barber, Chris Blades, Jeremy Blatchford, Mary Blatchford, Peter Bryant, Charles Cave, Robert Cleland, Bob Cook, Peter Crew, Bob Garner, Colin Hall, Ann Harley, David Hitchins, Jill Iles, David Jolley, Phil Judd, Anne Kemp, Linda Knott, Tony Lake, Tim Marter, John Norton-Sealey, David Pasley, Dawn Payne, Nick Pennycott, Marcia Pepperall, Lisa Pilgrim, David Poole, Ian Porter, Terry Porter, Sonia Russé, David Shopland, Annabel Tall, Arthur Terry, Clive Webb, Liz Wells, Roz Willis.

Abstension (1): Tony Moulin.

The Amendment was lost.