Tag Archive: council


The Friern Barnet library victory shows the way to
campaign against cuts

Local residents, Occupy activists and squatters have worked together to force the council to re-open Friern Barnet library.Friern Barnet library

The Guardian, Nov 15th, 2013
Local residents, Occupy activists and squatters have worked together to force the council to re-open Friern Barnet library.

When Bob Marley and Peter Tosh wrote the classic protest song Get Up, Stand Up they could not have envisaged that it would be adopted by a group of mainly white, middle-aged, middle-class north Londoners who have formed a remarkable alliance with a group of squatters and members of the Occupy movement to oppose a library closure.

On Tuesday, all of the above joined hands in a human chain around Friern Barnet Library in north London. It was closed in April 2012 due to council cuts, and occupied by squatters five months ago, who reopened it with the help of local volunteers almost immediately.

Needless to say the council was not pleased. It has now reopened as a community library with financial input from the council who shut it down. Together, the disparate group of library fans sang an adaptation of their song that Marley and Tosh would probably have approved of – Get Up, Stand Up, Save Our Libraries.

The council threatened to close the library in 2009. Residents and Labour councillors staged various protests, including leafleting, a five-hour sit-in and the temporary establishment of a pop-up library. When the library closed the council brushed off the pleas to reopen it on that site.

When the squatters climbed through an open window in September and began working with local residents to restore a library service in the building the council was stymied.

Officials had to lodge court proceedings to evict the squatters, and as the weeks ticked by before the case was heard the disparate groups forged genuine and trusting relationships and the initially empty library shelves swelled until they had more than 10,000 donated books on offer to lend.

The library became a community hub with events for children, yoga classes and book signings with the likes of Will Self. Barnet county court granted an eviction order in December. But local residents speedily formed a legally constituted group of licensees who offered to take over the running of the library when the squatters moved out on Tuesday. They are now negotiating a long-term lease with the council and plans to sell the site off to a developer have been shelved – for now at least.

When David Cameron put forward his “big society” idea he probably wasn’t advocating unusual alliances of people working together collaboratively to overturn closures of public services implemented by radical Tory councils such as Barnet. But, arguably, this is the big society in action.

The Occupy movement has raised a great deal of awareness of global inequality but has not focused on or achieved small, concrete wins such as this one. The Barnet residents’ protests fell on deaf ears until the squatters supported by Occupy moved in. Squatters have had an opportunity to rebrand themselves as socially responsible, community minded individuals who are working to restore closed-down public services. The local residents are clear that without the input of the squatters and Occupy, the library would not have reopened.

The squatters know that without the huge support from residents they would have been unceremoniously evicted from the library premises much sooner and Barnet council would have gone ahead with its plans to sell the site to a commercial developer. But together the different groups formed a potent alliance. Assisted by a strong legal team they were able to argue in court that they were providing a greatly valued public service. Their arguments were reflected in the judge’s ruling. While granting Barnet council an eviction order, district judge HHJ Pearl recognised the right to protest and said of the occupied library: “There is no suggestion that this is anything other than a happy, pleasant, well-run place.”

The relationship between the various groups involved in the library protest and occupation has been characterised by gentleness, mutual respect for the range of views put forward and a very sincere spirit of collaboration. The residents have become more tuned in to the issues raised by the squatters and Occupy, and the latter have worked sensitively with the locals to help them achieve their objectives of restoring a much-loved public service.

As those gathered to celebrate the establishment of Friern Barnet community library on Tuesday lit candles on a very long cake modelled on Eric Carle’s classic children’s book, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, the unity of purpose resonated around the room. Could this kind of unusual alliance be the future of campaigning against cuts in services and other matters of public concern? This unprecedented reopening of a closed down library suggests that it could.Voag-Logo-Darker

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Even fellow Tories distance themselves from this “crazy fascist”

Yesterday, The VOAG re-published a story about John Butcher, a Conservative Surrey County Councillor for Cobham ward. He has worked out a brilliant scheme for pushing up property values in the county – by driving out everyone who is fat, takes recreational drugs, gorges on junk food or has ‘self-inflicted’ health problems of any kind. As a member of the council’s health committee, he has sent an email to staff suggesting a two-speed NHS in which “patients with self-inflicted morbidity, (mainly smoking, alcohol, narcotics or obesity) or an injury through ‘dangerous activities’ are placed in a much slower-moving queue”. https://suacs.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/john-butcher-surrey-heath-tory-councillor-health-committee-nhs
In a response to the Elmbridge Guardian, which first broke the story, John Butcher added: “If sports can ban performance-enhancing drug use, then entertainment etc. should ban narcotics and alcohol abuse”.

“Everyone in, or aspiring to, a position of public responsibility and everyone in a position to influence the public, including entertainers etc, should be asked to sign a voluntary pledge not to take illegal narcotics or consume excessive alcohol, or drive when so affected”.

“Anyone who fails to sign that pledge, or who signs it and breaches it, should be excluded from positions of public responsibility and influence. All public organisations, including regulated broadcasters etc, should agree to impose this exclusion”.

Fellow Councillor, Karen Randolph was also quoted in the paper. She  said: “The views expressed by Councillor Butcher challenge the very credibility of Surrey County Council’s Health Overview Scrutiny Committee, of which he is a member. It is highly disturbing that the Conservative administration at SCC has deemed it appropriate to appoint to this committee a councillor who clearly does not support the NHS and who holds such extraordinary views about the responsibilities of the state to its citizens.”

Cllr John Butcher also sits on Elbridge Borough Council, where he lists his chief concerns as “Challenging wishy-washiness” and “nebulous do-goodery”.

Simon Cook, a Conservative councillor in Cullingworth, Yorkshire called John Butcher “a real deal health fascist” and blogged yesterday: “So if you smoke, drink, drive fast cars round a track or climb rocks (not sure whether Cllr Butcher’s ‘dangerous activities’ includes horse riding and playing rugby) you’ll be made to wait longer in the hope that you’ll move away from Surrey. Indeed, it seems that Cllr Butcher thinks that, by doing this, all these people with “self-inflicted” illnesses will move to places where the authorities believe in equal treatment”.

The real question is: How would John butcher’s proposals push up house prices in Surrey, and to whose benefit would it be? John Butcher’s argument is that people with illnesses will be repulsed from Surrey, whilst “healthy people will be attracted to the better healthcare that Surrey could afford, having been freed from the burden of treating sick people”.

What the councillor is really saying is drive out the poor and less affluent from Surrey (the sick, disabled, smokers obese et al, who are by-and large the less well off) to make lebensraum for his wealthy friends. Bring on the concentration camps.

But let’s give the councillor a chance. Let’s take his comments on face value. There are 1.08 million residents in Surrey. According to Surrey County Council, one in four adults in Surrey are smokers. Surrey NHS estimates there are 455,000 “hazardous”, “harmful” or “binge drinkers” in Surrey. http://www.surreydaat.org.uk/pdf/Alcohol%20Needs%20Assessment.pdf

The Obesity rate in Surrey, lower than the national average, is estimated by Surrey PCT to be at 20% of the population. http://www.guildford.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=569&p=0 As for drugs use, there are no statistics for Surrey, but in the South East, according to the ONS, 8.6% of the adult population took illegal drugs last year, with 3.3% of the population described as frequent drug users. http://data.gov.uk

The councillor extended his attack on the unfit and unwell to people engaged in “risky past-times and sports”. It’s plainly obvious that this is just a smoke screen to hide his real agenda, which is to chase the less affluent, who have a propensity to be less fit, out of Surrey. I can’t believe the Councillor is thinking of his horse riding, rugby playing chums when he talks of “dangerous sports”. However, taking Cllr Butcher at his word again, we have to take account of horse riding, rugby, perhaps even motor cycling, and a host of other recreational pass-times that might be considered potentially hazardous.      

For example, according to Surrey County Council’s 2007 Rights Of Way report, there are 20,000 horses in Surrey. A 1998 Gallop poll found 6% of Surrey residents had gone horse riding in that year. http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/176058/ROWIP-main-text.pdf

Where’s all this going, what’s the point of all these statistics? Well, by my reckoning, if the Councillor had his way, they’d be no-one left in Surrey. His policy certainly wouldn’t produce the rise in property prices that he and his chums so desire.     

As an aside to these arguments; according to the ONS, Excise duty & VAT raised by the UK Drinks industry amounts to £22bn annually, whilst alcohol consumption costs the nation, through the health service, crime, lost production etc £20bn.

Estimates of the costs to the NHS from smoking varies greatly, one study estimated an annual cost of £610m. Another study (Allender, S- The burden of smoking-related ill health in the UK) estimates the cost to be £2.7bn – whilst the Centre for Health Economics estimates the cost to be between £1.4bn and £1.7bn.  According to the HMRC (Revenue & Customs) Tobacco tax revenue last year amounted to £12.1bn.

Another argument, developed by the University of Public Health, Rotterdam indicates that smoking may even save the NHS money. Their study shows that since smokers on average die younger, they do not incur the costs of a lengthy old age or the costly diseases that are associated with it. Their study concluded that the average health cost of a non-smoker was $83,400 whilst the average health cost of a smoker was $72,600.

These fiscal arguments, which clearly show the tax payer incurs no cost from smoking and alcohol consumption, can be equally applied to the sporting activities Cllr Butcher appears so against. In each and every case revenue exceeds the costs.

It’s not the first time John Butcher has hit the local headlines. A council employee lodged an official complaint against him in February 2010.

Council proceedings start with a prayer, during which no one is allowed to enter or leave the council chambers. Cllr Butcher arrived late to the 2010 February council meeting- and finding that prayers had already begun, and the door to the chambers closed and guarded by an attendant- he lost his temper. He aggressively forced his way in to the chambers, thrusting the door in to the face of the attendant, injuring him and bruising his face.

An eye-witness told the Surrey Advertiser: “During prayers I became aware of someone attempting to gain entry to the council chamber, through the door being ‘guarded’ [by the officer], using his body to keep the door shut. It quickly became apparent that this someone had not been deterred by the efforts and they again tried to enter the chamber in a more forceful manner. I then recall [the officer] turning his head towards the door as if to indicate through the frosted glass to the person on the other side that prayers were still ongoing. A very short time afterwards I recall hearing something of a thud as the door hit [the officer] on the side of the head and I witnessed John Butcher stumbling/forcing his way into the chamber through the partially opened door.”

After the incident John Butcher refused to apologise to the attendant and denied injuring him, even though there was a council chamber full of witnesses.

Not only are John Butcher’s views abhorrent, but as I hope I’ve shown, they don’t even make sense or stand up to any kind of reasoning. Rather than exile the less-well-off, the sick and the disabled from Surrey, it’s time to kick John Butcher out of Surrey. Do not re-elect John Butcher to Surrey County Council or Elmbridge Borough Council.
John Butcher
18 Bramble Rise
Cobham Surrey
KT11 2HP
Tel: 07899 891685
jbutcher@elmbridge.gov.uk

Surrey County Council Health Committee Tory Councillor, John Butcher: “Force seriously ill people out of Surrey to push up house prices”

From Political Scrapbook blog -June 1st, 2012.
A Tory councillor on Surrey’s health committee has called for seriously ill people to be forced out of the county. John Butcher has suggested those with “self-inflicted morbidity” should be “encouraged” to “move away from Surrey” – in the name of pushing up house prices.

Butcher wants groups such as smokers —  referred to as the “self-inflicted” — to be offered slower NHS treatment so that they will be forced to move: “This factor would attract more ‘other’ patients to come to live in Surrey – and that would push up house prices here.”

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more sick, he ventures that this would benefit the Tories in elections: “any political party that seeks to pander to the needs of the self-inflicted unhealthy, and to win their votes, will suffer twofold … mortality will ensure that its voters will be much fewer in number than the ‘others’”

 Councillor Butcher’s email, which went round Surrey Council like wildfire before being leaked, is reproduced in full below:

1 Please pass on my apology for absence from the Surrey HOSC meeting on 24 May 2012, but I have a hospital appointment that day, and it has already been postponed once.

2 Because of the economic catastrophe facing the capitalist world, the NHS, that is a Marxist organisation, is bound to fail – like Greece.

The government’s efforts to ‘improve’ it are merely a postponement of that failure, which will arise from ever-increasing demand for, and the unit costs of, healthcare and the ever-decreasing national wealth available to afford those demands and costs, through taxation or otherwise.

Politicians who support the diversion of increasingly scarce fiscal resources into propping up the NHS, without taking measures to curb demand, not only accelerate its eventual demise but allow more important demands on the public purse to go unmet, with serious adverse consequences to the people. It will be the people who suffer from the collapse of the NHS – but they will have only themselves to blame – for voting in politicians who promise to improve the NHS regardless of other factors.

3 One way of saving the NHS is to encourage patients to take very much more care of themselves, with penalties on those who won’t do that. If the NHS in Surrey were to be run on the basis that patients with self-inflicted morbidity (mainly – smoking, alcohol, narcotics, obesity) and injury (dangerous activities) are, following due warning, placed in a much slower-moving queue for healthcare than ‘other’ patients, this would encourage the self-inflicted to move away from Surrey, to areas where there is no differentiation between patients on the grounds of their contribution towards their condition.

And it would deter the self-inflicted from coming to live in Surrey. Over time, that would result in the healthcare for the ‘other’ patients in Surrey being significantly better than the average national level for all patients, as the resources deployed to the self-inflicted would be very much reduced.

This factor would attract more ‘other’ patients to come to live in Surrey – and that would push up house prices here – assuming that planning controls remain similar to now.

4 Eventually the self-inflicted patients would end up living in ‘equality’ areas that are dominated by politicians who pander to their needs, thus driving more ‘other’ patients out of those areas, as healthcare there will be badly affected by the over-dominance of the self-inflicted.

These ‘other’ patients would move into areas, such as, hopefully, Surrey, where ‘other’ patients are not nearly so adversely affected. Eventually the country will be sharply divided into two types of area:

4.1 the ‘equality’ ones, where the self-inflicted unhealthy are treated the same as all patients, and 4.2 the ‘others’, such as, hopefully, Surrey.

Average life expectancy will be substantially lower (by, say, 20 years) in the ‘equality’ areas than in the ‘others’. This may mean that ‘other’ patients moving out of ‘equality’ areas may have to live in a less desirable dwelling, because of house price differentials, but that is a trade-off, that they can choose, with healthcare differentials between the two types of area.

Such house price differentials already apply for schooling, with houses on one side of a catchment boundary being worth a lot more than houses on the other side of it.

Indeed, the perception that the gap in those prices between those two types of healthcare area will grow substantially will encourage the ‘other’ patients in those ‘equality’ areas to move out of them sooner, lest they see their dwelling there becoming worthless.

5 Thus, any political party that seeks to pander to the needs of the self-inflicted unhealthy, and to win their votes, will suffer twofold:

5.1 mortality will ensure that its voters will be much fewer in number than the ‘others’, and

5.2 by concentrating its voters into particular areas, that party will never be able to win enough seats to dominate Parliament.
Regards John Butcher.
18 Bramble Rise
Cobham
Surrey
KT11 2HP
jvcbutcher@btinternet.com
Tel: 07899 891685

May Day Greetings from the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International to The VOAG.

The Liaison Committee for the Fourth International sends its
warmest revolutionary greetings to The VOAG and the world’s working class, the poor and oppressed and in particular to its fighting vanguard- those most class-conscious elements- who have now begun to emerge on a global scale to fight its cause under the banner of the world revolution, so shamelessly abandoned by so many international groups claiming the name of Trotskyism.
 

Since the uprising on 15 February, 2011 in Benghazi, the ‘Libyan revolution’
has
been the touchstone for revolutionaries worldwide. The mass media
supplied us
with a great deal of lying propaganda, lies that the
majority of left groups
would have had no trouble exposing in an earlier period, as
with Iraq,
for example, but they did not try.

They did not find and expose the racism of the ‘rebels’, their lynchings and
summary executions of black people on the pretext they were all “Gaddafi’s
mercenaries from Chad”. They could not expose the CIA connections and obvious
pro-imperialism of the Transitional National Council, and even those who were
eventually forced to acknowledged this told us that there was a ‘real
revolution’ in the ranks of the ‘rebels’, pointing to the sole pathetic piece of
‘evidence’, the very sophisticated banner that opposed intervention with six
people around it, undoubtedly flown in from CIA headquarters in Langley,
Virginia to fool the gullible and those who wanted to be fooled.

Of course the LCFI recognises that Gaddafi was no
revolutionary socialist, he was a bourgeois nationalist who ruled with a
corrupt clique of capitalist backers, whose main aim was the preservation of
the privileges of that group. He assisted Imperialism by supplying weapons to
Southern Sudan to divide the country to enable the US to seize the oil
resources then controlled by China. In return Omar al-Bashir (whom Gaddafi
assisted to come to power in the 1986 coup) was the foremost backer of the
rebels in Benghazi, secretly supplying weapons and other assistance to overthrow
Gaddafi, totally consistent with the completely unprincipled character of the
national bourgeoisie.

Those on the ‘left’ who wish to assist in the overthrow of
Assad in Syria, (and they are generally the same culprits) can point to similar examples
of treachery, and the favours Assad and his father Hafez al-Assad performed
for Israel and the US in Lebanon, intervening to prevent the defeat of the Falangists
(Christian fascist forces), when the alliance between Lebanon’s leftists and
Palestinians were on the brink of victory during the Civil War in 1976.

As with the policy of the United Front of working class
parties, the LCFI champions the Anti-Imperialist United Front tactic as developed by
Lenin and the Comintern in its first four Congresses. Just because the
semi-colonial world is terrorised by a brutal dictator, it does not mean that they
are the main enemy of the world’s working class and oppressed. That epithet
belongs to Imperialism and global finance capital, and to it alone in all wars and
conflicts.

A defeat for Imperialism has always two great progressive
consequences. The strengthening of the class consciousness of the workers and poor
in the oppressed nation under Imperialist attack; and far more importantly in the
global balance of class forces, the dashing of illusions in the working class
of the imperialist country in their ‘own’ bourgeoisie, as the defeat of US Imperialism
in Vietnam showed.

As with the international class struggle, so with the national.
You cannot fight for Imperialism in its foreign wars whilst consistently
seeking its overthrow at home. Domestically, the first line of Trotsky’s
Transitional Programme, “The world political situation
as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of
the proletariat” is as true today as when written in 1938. Every refugee from the
fight to build the world party of socialist revolution must deny the truth of
that proposition. Every refugee from the class struggle blames the working
class for its lack of combativity and its inability to lead itself, and thereby defends
the class treachery of the trade union bureaucracy and their political
representatives in parliament.

Trotsky said the British Trades Union leaders were the “backbone of British
Imperialism”.
This is true of every national TU bureaucracy, from the British TUC
to COSATU in South Africa. Without for a single moment neglecting our
internationalist duties, our main task today in our own class struggle is to
fight and pose alternatives to these treacherous misleaders. The building of rank
and file movements in the trade unions, the placing of demands on all those who
claim leadership of the working class, the relentless exposing of the centrists
who defend the left Trade Union bureaucrats is our central task in the class struggle.

As the Transitional Programme says: “In the struggle for partial and transitional demands, the workers now more than ever before need mass organizations, principally trade unions. The powerful growth of trade unionism in France and the United States is the best refutation of the preachments of those ultra-left doctrinaires who have been teaching that trade unions have “outlived their usefulness.”

We therefore reject totally any suggestions that the trade
unions have become simple agents of the capitalist state; that Trotsky’s
Transitional Programme no longer applies in 2012, that we must seek to build
our own sect in isolation from the mass struggles of the working class.
We are as confident as ever that with a correct orientation to Imperialism
internationally,
and to the class struggle domestically based on irreconcilable
opposition to the TU bureaucracy, our small international current will

undoubtedly find the ear of the resurgent vanguard of the international working class.

·  Defeat World Imperialism, finance capital and its agents in Syria and in every war!
·  The Malvinas are part of Argentinean national territory, defeat British Imperialism!
·  No reliance on Bourgeois nationalist leaders, even of the left variety like Chavez!
·  Only the International Working class can defeat Global Imperialism!
·  Build the World Party of Socialist Revolution!
·  Forward to the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International! 
Liga Comunista—Brasil
Tendencia Militante Bolchevique—Argentina
Socialist Fight—Britain
1 May 2012

Leabank Project Ltd (A Not-For-Profit Ltd Company) Public Meeting.
Stop The Alisa Street Waste Management Development!
February 18, 2012. Truissler Hall Community Centre, Poplar.

The VOAG has been on holiday in East London. And together with a local activist, attended a public meeting “To Consider the proposal of Tower Hamlets Council that land in Ailsa Street be reserved for a waste management facility, to assess the likely consequence of this, and to agree if possible on how best the people of Poplar may respond.”

The 5.8 hectare site comprises of a long strip of land running between the River Lea and the A12. At the north end of the plot lies ACME House and the A12/Glender Street junction. The Southern limit is adjacent to Aberfeldy Street. The site is dissected East-West by Alisa Street and Lochnagar Street, which run parallel to each other and divide the site in to a northern part and a southern part.                                                       Proposed waste facility site
The Northern half of the land is used for a mixture of industrial activities and a small waste transfer station. The Southern half is largely disused land, a former primary school and some warehousing. Within the area lies Bromley High School, a listed building, with two more graded buildings on its boundaries. The site borders the Aberfeldy and Teviot estates.

Tower Hamlets intends to use this space for a waste transfer station to eventually deal with the entire boroughs waste, estimated to be around 300,000 tonnes. The facility will receive the waste from domestic collection lorries and store it until it is carried off by larger vehicles for subsequent treatment or disposal. The plan will mean an extra 200 trucks will travel down the A12 and along the A13. Just south of the location, opposite the Aberfeldy Neighbourhood Centre, on land presently housing a gas works, there is a plan – already approved – to build a primary school, a housing development, and a public park to link up with the Lea River Park.

The Tower Hamlets Local Development framework, which calls for the waste site, says it must be “integrated in to its surroundings”. It “should minimise negative impacts on the environment, transport and amenities and respect the surrounding environment”. It should also “protect heritage assets on the site and surrounding area”; “address noise and air pollution”, “enable ‘activation of the river side”, and “improve walking and cycling access and connections”.

John Baker, the founder and director of Leabank Project, presented the case that the proposal for the waste transfer station made no reference to the planned gas works redevelopment. Neither plan takes account of the impacts one would have on the other. The waste management facility would negatively impact the development planned for the gas works site. He told the meeting that lorries entering and leaving the site would significantly increase traffic congestion and pollution along the A12 and A13. He said that the river side will suffer and access to it would be further restricted. For these reasons he believed the waste facility proposal was incompatible with the council’s own Local Development Framework, and there were better uses for such a river side location.
  




John Baker is also the treasurer and founding director of Tower Hamlets Council For Voluntary Service Ltd, a registered charity which is endorsed by the mayor and funded by the council. Its web site says it aims to “Provide ‘third sector’ organisations with the necessary support, information and services to enable them to pursue or contribute to any charitable purpose.” According to THCVS’ February e-bulletin, their Council funding was overdue and in a recent letter John Baker had asked the mayor for an assurance their funding wasn’t going to be cut.

Previously, in January 2006, John Baker was one of the founding Directors of New Mill Consultants. It was originally set up by Poplar HARCA – a large, not-for-profit, social landlord – as a group of residents to provide the government’s Guide Neighbourhoods Programme. The centrally funded programme is “awarded to social housing groups to “encourage regeneration, empower and include residents in planning decisions and promote a range of environmental and social benefits”. Once the residents group was established it incorporated as a company and operated independently of Poplar HARCA. After six months John Baker resigned.

New Mill founded the Linc Cafe as a drop in and advice centre. Its web site says: “the company provides professional courses and consultancy services to community and residents groups” and has helped to set up residents trusts. Between 2002 and September 05, John Baker was also a director of Poplar HARCA.

John Baker made the case that the riverside should be “recovered and developed with houses, shops and leisure facilities. I don’t even mind luxury flats” he said. “There should be protest and unanimous opposition to the plans”, But he continued: “the campaign must submit viable waste management alternatives. A NIMBY attitude will not be good enough to dissuade the council”. “What we need is more information, research and more residents’ participation”.

“The council has other vacant land available. Houses have been good investments recently in the area, due to environmental improvements and investment from the council and housing associations. If the plans go ahead property prices will fall. Public money spent on regeneration projects will also be wasted” John Baker said, “because the value of the investment will decrease with the property values. Businesses and landlords will also suffer”. “Poplar HARCA, many councillors, and the MP Jim Fitzpatrick have all stated their support for the campaign”.

“Tower Hamlets Council have been working on the proposals for months, yet the idea has never been discussed in public. Their scheme only came to light when it was included in the 212-page Tower Hamlets’ Development Plan Document (DPD) – part of the Local Development Framework – buried on pages 127-9 and 130!. There followed a wholly inadequate, six week consultation period during which most residents were unaware of the plans”.

I counted seventy people, seated in groups of five, around tables. Most were residents from the Aberfeldy and Teviot estates. There were four landowners, and a couple of ‘small businessmen’. Representatives from Poplar HARCA, one of whom was another director of Leabank Project, were also present.There were four councillors present. Three of them were on the board of Poplar HARCA. They all voiced their opposition to the plans. However, Cllr. Shiria Khatun pointed out that: “There was a shortage of alternative land. Transporting the waste out of Tower Hamlets would be costly and not the best environmental solution. There were options that could be looked at for example locating the facility underground or autoclaving the waste instead of moving or incinerating it.”.

Autoclaving, treats the waste by sealing it in tanks and passing high pressured steam through it. The majority of waste is biodegradable which is shredded into strands. There are presently no plants of this kind in the UK, and there is no market for the resultant biomass. Glasgow Council has been advocating large scale autoclaving, but recently distanced itself from the process, opening up its waste disposal contract to tenders with alternatives to autoclaving. Autoclaving is energy intensive, and since there is no market for the resultant biomass it usually ends up in land fill where it degrades to produce methane, a ‘greenhouse gas’.

John Baker, knew almost everyone in the meeting. In a gesture to the landowners, “who have not been allowed to develop or sell ‘their’ land, he said: ”Housing should be developed on the site, I don’t mind luxury flats, we need proper returns for the landowners. The Deputy Mayor, independent Councillor Ohid Ahmed joined in: “We want housing on the site, that’s what the developers want”. John Baker hands petition to Dpt Mayor Ohid Ahmed
The Deputy Mayor giggled nervously and looked bemused as he addressed the audience. He was obviously unprepared to speak to the meeting. He said “the council did not support a waste facility in Poplar”. “After the Fish Island site was decided against as a location for the waste plant, we had to come up with an alternative place to put it – for reporting and central government purposes. – To fulfil our statutory obligations. We have no intention of actually putting it there”. He went on to say that many of the businesses in and around the proposed site were sited on illegally held land. The VOAG found these remarks astounding, but they went completely ignored and unchallenged.

One of the Landowners spoke to the meeting. He was a friend of John Baker. He suggested smaller waste sites spread across the borough as an alternative, which could be used to produce electricity or gas. “I’m not a business man, coming in from outside the borough just to make money.” he said.

Several residents spoke out from the floor. One said:”they’re not thinking of the residents, they just think about themselves.”. Another said:”we must persuade the council” Another resident called the estates “the forgotten estates”. Labour councillor, Rajib Ahmed, also spoke to the meeting. He said that London Thames Gateway Development Corporation (LTGDC) has the power to over-ride Tower Hamlets Council (THC). Cllr. Kosru Uddin, Development Committee member and board member of the (LTGDC) added: “The (LTGDC) is being disbanded in the Autumn. Some of its powers will be transferred to THC, whilst others will go to the newly formed London Mayoral Development Corporation, which will have to approve any plans of THC once the powers have been transferred.

Shiria Khatun, Councillor

Oddly it seemed, John Baker stressed several times that the mayor and the council were not responsible for the decision to build the waste plant. It was “down to an officers job and ‘administration”. John Baker was at great pains not to criticise the council executive especially the mayor. Cllr. Shiria Khatun addressed the meeting. “London Thames Gateway dictates that THC must have a plan for waste management, but it must take into consideration air quality and nature reserves”. She emphasised that it was the mayor and the executive that was responsible, not the “clerks and council officers” as John Baker had said earlier. “You must demand another meeting with the mayor” she urged the meeting. The Labour Councillor went on to suggest Leabank Project organise a lobby of the council and apply to speak to a council meeting.

Cllr. Khatun, together with another councillor was sitting at the same table as the VOAG. At one point she whispered in my ear “why don’t you speak, go on ask John Baker why he doesn’t want top blame the mayor”. Naturally, the VOAG said nothing. The VOAG has never been to a meeting quite like this. Hidden agendas hung like shadows between the lines of everyone that spoke. It has become clear to the VOAG since the meeting, that the reason John Baker is reluctant to criticise the mayor is because the mayor is holding the funding for the Tower Hamlets Council For Voluntary Service which John Baker is a director of.

The VOAG noted that although the councillors, one independent and three Labour, arrived more or less at the same time, they entered the hall separately and sat as far away from each other as possible. There was a tension between the councillors and also between two of the councillors and John Baker. The source of this tension and the issues behind it, are not quite clear to The VOAG – yet.It was all-in-all an intriguing meeting which left open many questions regarding a serious local issue. There were many different concerns and contradicting agendas represented. What did the councillor mean when he said “the council had no intention of putting the waste facility on the site”? Are the councillors seriously opposed to the project? What are the interests of the landowners? How does the close relationship between the various stakeholder organisations and the councillors effect the dynamics of the debate? And lastly; what on earth was the councillor referring to when he said “many of the businesses were sited on illegally held land”. But as you know: The VOAG is always watching!

The VOAG joined the Kingston Anti-Cuts Group for a demonstration outside Kingston Council’s Budget meeting at the Guildhall, Wednesday, 29th February.

 The council approved cuts of over £8.6million with another £4.4million planned for next year and a further £12 million the year after. They follow cuts of over £15million last year.

Kingston Council has already made a 100 redundancies, cuts to  children’s services and £1.4million cuts to mental health facilities. At the same time the council has spent £20,000 on car park “rebranding”. A further 600 jobs are to be lost at Kingston hospital, together with £6million cuts to adult social care and services for children with Special Educational Needs. Another £500,000 is to be cut from “One Kingston” projects.

Kingston TUC, the CWU and GMB unions, the Communist Party, Kingston Anti Cuts Group, Kingston SWP, the Socialist Party, Surrey Unison, the IWW and Kingston Labour Party were represented in the 60 strong demonstration.

The demonstration was joined by the Christian Peoples Alliance, who held a candle-lit vigil and said prayers for “those less fortunate than themselves” (us), before taking off in their brand new cars.

As the Tory and Lib-Dem councillors arrived for the meeting, they were met with chants directed at the Tory council leader: “Derek Osbourne get out, we know what you’re all about- cuts, job losses, money for the bosses”. Campaigners also shouted “Save our services- stop the cuts!” and gave out leaflets to passers-by.

Kit Leary from Surrey County Unison gave a spontaneous speech to the demonstration assembled on the steps of the Guildhall, he said: “With all these job losses, it’s a time when we need our public services more than ever.” When the meeting was due to start the campaigners joined the councillors in the warmth of the Guildhall.One fat balding Tory, councillor Priyen Patel, spoke of the council becoming a “commissioning council”. This is Tory speak for privatising services, where-by public services, presently provided direct by the council, are bought, or commissioned from private companies who profiteer from the tax-payer. He spoke of boosting charities rather than providing services.

Campaigners and residents in the public gallery were outraged. They shouted “They’re not ‘savings’ they’re CUTS, call them what they are” and chanted “Shame on you!”. The mayor Councillor Patrick Codd was forced to adjourn the meeting whilst half the public gallery were escorted out of the meeting under a threat of arrest. They chanted “shame on you” and “why don’t you stand up for the people you represent?” Some of the protesters broke away from their escort to run back into the meeting via another door to continue their berating.

The demonstration attracted a very positive reaction in the local press and won some great publicity for the Kingston Anti Cuts campaign. Once again the Super-Swappies (SWP) of Kingston, who organised the event, show the rest of us how it’s done. Some of those present asked after the South London Anti Capitalists and wondered why they hadn’t come out to support the demonstration. Well, the VOAG thinks the clue is in the acronym.

Tesco is boosting it’s £4 billion profits by using the slave labour provided by the Government’s ‘Workfare’ schemes. Take the fight against Tesco into the streets of Kingston on the National Day of Action against Tesco. Wednesday, 22nd, February. 5:30pm until 6:30pm, Kingston Station

From Corporate Watch
The campaign against workfare has claimed some major successes over the last month, with Sainsburys, Waterstones and TK Maxx bowing to pressure and pulling out of some (though not all) of the government’s workfare programmes. Other companies now face a dilemma: do they also withdraw to avoid further bad publicity, or do they continue to enjoy the free labour that workfare brings? Corporate Watch finds the benefits of workfare for retailers such as Asda and Argos make it difficult to say no to.

Over the Christmas period for example, the government’s eagerness to send unemployed people on unpaid placements meant stores did not need to go to the trouble of hiring and paying temporary workers as they would normally. Joe Wilson, a 21 year old on Jobseekers Allowance, worked a four-day week, unpaid, for six weeks from the middle of November at the Asda superstore in Harrogate, Yorkshire.He told Corporate Watch: “There were about 15 of us on placements. The manager said they had overspent on stocking Christmas stuff so they’d got people in on placements [to save money]. The paid staff told us they were being asked to leave before they’d ended their shift as we could do the work. I worked Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. They arranged it so everyone came in those days.”

 His Jobcentre had said that if he didn’t attend the placement his benefits could be stopped: “The Jobcentre had got a group of us in for CV writing training. It was really obvious stuff – don’t use a crayon and so on. When we were there they said some people had come to speak to us about a work experience programme. Then a few days later I got a letter saying that, as I’d expressed an interest they’d be organising a work placement. The letter said if I didn’t go they’d stop my JSA. I’d never said I wanted to do a placement in Asda.”

A spokesperson at Asda’s head office told Corporate Watch that the company hadn’t received any reports of workfare placements replacing paid staff and they would “investigate further,” adding the placements were “not designed to substitute colleague roles”. Despite several follow-up calls and emails, we have not heard anything since.

Argos: discount products, discount labour
A claimant in Bristol told Corporate Watch how paid Christmas work in the Argos store in the Galleries shopping centre disappeared when the company realised it could get people in for nothing on workfare placements. ‘Jason’, who wishes to remain anonymous, said Seetec, the ‘provider’ company that he was sent to by the Jobcentre, had arranged an interview for him and 13 others for temporary work. They were not hired because the store instead took people on unpaid placements organised by Prospect, another employment provider company, which ironically has its Bristol office in the same building as Seetec.

Argos told Corporate Watch that its stores had “liaised over our peak Christmas trading period with local job centres to offer working opportunities to job seekers through initiatives called work placements or work trial”. The retailer went on to say it is currently assessing whether its trials over the Christmas period will continue and that it “endeavoured to offer permanent roles to young people” after the placements. Corporate Watch asked how many permanent roles had been offered but we have not received a reply. Prospect did not reply to any of our enquiries.

You’re supposed to find me a job, not turn me into a slave!
Workfare does not only replace paid work at Christmas. ‘Chris’ was sent to do a three month placement in Booker Wholesale in Bath. He told Corporate Watch that when the placement commenced the manager said that if he worked hard he would get a job, but he soon found out that this was unlikely:

“I asked the manager about jobs and he said: ‘keep working as you are and you will be fine’. The turning point came for me about two months in, when two part-time employees were laid off for stealing some alcohol. I thought there would be a job for me but they hired the brother of an employee already working there. I went to see the manager and he said that there were no positions. He suggested I could continue doing four days a week unpaid. I left in disgust and took my last two days off. They had the nerve to say: ‘what if we are counting on you to be there?’ Then hire me! You’re supposed to help me find a job, not turn me into a slave.”

Paid employment ‘unlikely’
Workfare is becoming such a popular way for retailers to staff their stores that they are finding it hard to keep count of how many workfare staff they have. A spokesperson for entertainment retailer HMV told Corporate Watch its placements are organised on “a more localised basis” so it is difficult to “fully track all the placements in place across the chain at any one time.” But at least the company is less coy than Argos and Booker about the likelihood these placements will lead to paid work, admitting: “it’s unlikely that [a] large number will go on to achieve full time paid employment with the company.”

Have you been sent on an unpaid work placement or do you know someone who has? Contact Corporate Watch on 02074260005 or contact corporatewatch.org

National Day of Action against Tesco.
Wednesday 22nd, February
5:30pm until 6:30pm Kingston Station
Wood Street, KT1 1TG London, United Kingdom

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts is calling for maximum turnout for the NUS week of action on March 12th to 16th – with a national walkout on March 14th. There is now less than a month to go until we’re on the picket lines!

This strike is an opportunity for students and staff everywhere to take the fight to the government over its programme of cuts and privatisation, and make a stand for publicly funded, accessible education. We need to make a nation-wide impact, and demonstrate to Vice Chancellors and university managements that they must back us in our fight, not collaborate with the government.

Because the walkout and week of action is being called by NUS, students’ unions should be taking a lead on organising it. But we have to be ready to take on the fight if our local unions don’t, and to make sure that the walkout actually happens.

On March 14th, shut down your university.

  • Don’t attend classes or lectures
  • Organise picket lines at entrances and ask fellow students not to cross them
  • Engage with students and staff: hand them leaflets and hold meetings to discuss the fight against fees and cuts
  • If you can, occupy!

In the lead-up to the 14th, especially during the week of action:

  • Hold meetings on your campus about fees, cuts, and the white paper
  • Do banner drops and short sit-ins
  • Organise city-wide or regional meetings to co-ordinate the strike
  • Link up with staff on your campus – especially UCU branches – and get their support
  • Help local school students to mobilise

International petty-bourgeois “left” backs imperialist war in Syria

By Alejandro López. 13 February 2012
A series of petty-bourgeois “left” parties and personalities from Spain, Tunisia, Latin America, and beyond recently issued a Spanish-language manifesto on Syria on the web site Rebelion, titled “To the People of Syria who are Fighting Tyranny”.

These signatories include leading members the Anti-capitalist Left (IA) in Spain, the Worker Communist Party of Tunisia (PCOT), Brazil’s Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), Argentina’s Socialist Left (IS), and similar forces in Mexico, Chile, Turkey, and other countries. (See http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=143778  for the full list of signatories.)

The statement exposes the organizations and individuals issuing this statement as tools of imperialism. Their statement gives total support to US-backed “opposition” groups now involved in an armed civil war and destabilization campaign in Syria, which it tries to treat as representing the entire Syrian people—even though it is well known that large sections of the Syrian population are hostile to the US-backed insurgency. Their goal is to give a “left” cover to plans by the US, the European powers, and the Arab League regimes for military intervention to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The statement begins, “Ten months ago, you, the people of Syria, rose up against the brutal dictatorship led by Bashar Al-Assad, resulting in countless martyrs, prisoners and refugees. We want you to know that we are by your side … We are also aware that the rich, powerful nations have ignored you by turning a blind eye while the killings by the regime continue, but keep in mind that there are many of us all over the world who are with you and reject the policy of collaboration that those imperial powers and their governments provide to the Bashar regime.”

This version of events stands reality on its head. The imperialist powers and their Arab proxies are not supporting the Assad regime; they have reportedly brought resolutions denouncing Assad and pressing for foreign intervention in Syria at the United Nations and the Arab League. They are widely reported to be providing arms and training to Syrian armed “opposition” groups, who are carrying out attacks and bombings against the Syrian government.

Turkey has provided a base near the border for training Syrian insurgents and is discussing with its NATO allies the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over Syrian territory. The Western media has widely reported that Turkey and France are providing arms and aid to these forces, resulting in more bloodshed and stoking up a civil war (See: “France’s New Anti-Capitalist Party backs imperialist intervention in Syria”).

They are using the same strategy as in last year’s NATO war against Libya. There the overthrow of Gaddafi by NATO was accomplished with the help of Libyan proxy forces on the ground, the National Transitional Council of Libya, dominated by Islamist fighters and funded and armed by US regional allies. The NATO war cost at least 80,000 casualties, by the NTC’s own estimates.

The Syrian version of the NTC is the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Free Syrian Army, which are backed by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and supported by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The statement’s initial remark only begs the question: if the signatories of the manifesto are criticizing the imperialist powers for not acting aggressively enough against Assad, what more do they want? What else can they be advocating except an open and direct military intervention by the US and its allies to support its Syrian proxies, along the lines of the war in Libya?
The signatories of this manifesto are aware of the consequences of imperialist intervention. Indeed, many of them openly embraced imperialist intervention in Libya, sometimes making cynical and ineffectual attempts to present NATO’s overthrow and murder of Gaddafi in Libya as a defeat for imperialism.
In a press statement last August, Liliana Olivero (deputy for Córdoba), Angélica Lagunas, Jose Castillo and Juan Carlos Giordano of Izquierda Socialista (Socialist Left) in Argentina stated that “the imminent fall of the dictatorship of Gaddafi is a victory for the Libyan people … it is not a triumph of NATO as attributed by itself by Obama and European imperialism. They only made limited bombings to try to prevent a victory by the militia and seek a negotiated solution that would allow them to defend their oil business.”
Exactly one year ago, Esther Vivas and Josep Maria Antentas of Spain’s IA openly advocated “the political and economic international isolation of the [Libyan] regime, and the unconditional supply of weapons to the rebels.”
Pedro Fuentes, the secretary of foreign relations of PSOL, declared last May in the Mexican daily La Jornada: “What the rebels want and need are weapons and humanitarian aid … The supposed neutrality of the Brazilian government ends up being a totally ambiguous and hypocritical policy oflaissez-faire for Gaddafi and the imperialist countries. The only correct alternative would be to recognize the rebel government as a belligerent force and support them in every way possible and responding positively to what they ask. Meanwhile, the position socialists and anti-imperialists have to defend is, while recognizing and denouncing the goals of imperialist intervention, is by all means continue to support the overthrow Gaddafi.”
That is to say, that pro-imperialist politicians like Fuentes had to support NATO’s campaign to conquer Libya, while issuing empty criticisms of imperialism in order to deceitfully hide their role as unabashed defenders of imperialist war.
These scoundrels are repeating the same arguments now with Syria, even though the reactionary consequences of imperialist intervention in Libya are clear for all to see. The war led to whole cities being bombed to the ground, tens of thousands of casualties, racist pogroms against dark skinned people, and large-scale use of torture; Western oil companies now control Libyan oil fields and an Islamist proxy regime rules Libya.
The manifesto goes on to attack a “sector of the anti-imperialist left,” whom it accuses of “turning its back on the revolution against the dictatorship of Bashar.” This is nothing more than a preemptive strike against anyone who criticizes the imperialist intervention, by branding them as a defender of Assad.
The manifesto goes on to cynically cite the Assad regime’s reactionary role in repressing the “Palestinians in the refugee camp massacres of Tal Zaatar in 1976” and cooperating “with Israel in securing its borders.” That is, it is citing the Syrian bourgeoisie’s dealings with imperialism and Zionism to suppress the Palestinian people, in order to stimulate hostility to the Assad regime, now that Assad himself is the target of the imperialists. This remark is deeply misleading and reactionary. Its aim is not to oppose imperialist and Zionist oppression of the Palestinians, but to support imperialist war against Assad.
The manifesto continues: “Western powers only stand to gain in this situation and nothing good will come out of the American Empire and Western governments … do not trust them, the only thing they want is to rob the wealth taking it from the workers, the peoples of America, Africa and Asia, in the same way they did with their bombings in Iraq and in Libya and how they are doing now in Egypt, supporting the criminal military junta.”
The logical question to then ask is: if the signatories of the manifesto don’t trust the imperialists, why did they support the Libyan NTC, and why are they now supporting the imperialist-backed SFA to defeat Assad? Why are they treating the SNC as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian working class, instead of warning the Syrian workers of the role of the SFA and demanding a struggle of the working class against both the pro-imperialist forces and Assad?
The manifesto does not and cannot address this question, because it leads to only one conclusion: the manifesto’s authors are pro-imperialist forces, whose “left” verbiage is only a political fig leaf to hide their right-wing politics.
We must insist that Assad must be overthrown, but this task belongs only to the Syrian working class as part of a struggle of the entire Arab and international working class, directed first and foremost against imperialism. In that struggle, the working class will find that the signatories of the manifesto published in Rebelion are its bitter enemies.

TUSC, The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to challenge for a seat on London Assembly

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), made up of trade union members and socialists, is to stand candidates in the Greater London Election on 3 May to challenge the all-party support for the government’s austerity cuts and pay freeze.

The coalition expects to win support from trade unionists and other voters who are angered by the recent statements of Labour leader Ed Miliband and the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, in which they stated that they will not reverse the Government’s cuts and that they support its pay freeze.

A list of candidates will challenge in the ‘top up’ section of the election and if it wins at least 5% of the vote across the whole of London it could win at least one place on the 25-seat Greater London Assembly.

The coalition has already selected prominent London trade union leaders such as Alex Gordon, the national president of the RMT rail and maritime union and Steve Hedley the RMT’s London Transport regional organiser, Ian Leahair, the Fire Brigades Union executive committee member for the capital, Joe Simpson, assistant secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association and Martin Powell-Davies, who is the London representative on the national committee of the NUT teachers union.

The Labour Party will be concerned that many public sector workers who participated in the 30 November pensions’ strike may be moved to vote for this coalition because of the failure of Labour leaders to support the walk-out.

Labour leaders will also be worried that rank and file union members of Labour affiliated unions could press for their funds to go to a party like TUSC instead of to Labour.

Steve Hedley, whose RMT union was expelled from the Labour Party in 2004 for backing the Scottish Socialist Party, said, “We need candidates who support the ordinary man and woman. TUSC is the only organisation that opposes all cuts, defends pensions and benefits for all working people. Labour just wants a compliant, silent union movement to hand over its money. TUSC will be a voice for all workers and will support trade unions in struggle.”

TUSC national committee member Nick Wrack, who is also a candidate, said, “London is a city of stark contrasts. There is a huge amount of poverty amidst the plenty. Corporate bosses and bankers still get their million pound pay and pension packages while one in six London workers is paid less than the Mayor’s £8.30 per hour living wage. Millions are suffering from the cuts to services and benefits yet last year the city paid out over £4 billion in bonuses. It’s extremely hard even for those on better wages to make ends meet. We believe that there is an opportunity for a party that will speak up for working-class London to make a real break-through and that would begin to change the nature of political debate in Britain today.” TUSC believes it can get a candidate elected if it wins at least 150,000 votes across London.

Candidates selected for the TUSC GLA list so far include (in alphabetical order):
April Ashley, UNISON National Executive Committee

Alex Gordon, RMT President
Steve Hedley, RMT London regional organiser
Ian Leahair, FBU National Executive Committee
Martin Powell-Davies, NUT national executive
Joe Simpson, POA assistant secretary
Jenny Sutton, UCU Chair, London Regional Committee (FE)
Nick Wrack, TUSC national committee member (former chair of Socialist Alliance and Respect)
There will also be candidates from the CWU postal union and the PCS public service workers union.
(All standing in a personal capacity)

The final list is not yet decided. Other candidates are still being considered.
The FBU has 5,500 members in London.
The RMT has over 12,000 members in London Underground alone

 TUSC CONFERENCE: Saturday 28 January 2012,
11:00am – 4:00pm, University of London Union, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HY
http://www.tusc.org.uk