Thursday, 30 June 2011

Schumacher & the Big Society

E.F. Schumacher
David Cameron's Big Society? Well, actually, economist E. F. Schumacher thought of it first, forty years ago, and his daughters have recently been invited to No 10 to discuss their father's ideas. This summer marks the birth centenary of Fritz Schumacher, seminal author of the newly re-published "Small is Beautiful - Economics as if People Mattered". And a long-lost recording of one of his public lectures given at the Findhorn spiritual community in Scotland in October 1976, has just been lovingly restored.

The recording, now broadcast for the first time, is a revelation. Quite simply, just months before his sudden death, Fritz is on fire! He is relaxed, inspirational, extraordinarily witty, and highly prescient. "The economic party is over," he says, "we're just left with the washing up. At the height of our achievements, we're bankrupt. Our civilisation is experiencing the second fall of man and must get up again."

Jonathon Porritt examines how the philosophy of this German exile, described as "one of the few original thinkers of the 20th Century", is now being taken seriously in British government circles, even to the extent of unwittingly helping today's Prime Minister shape his ideas for Big Society. It also reveals how Cameron's predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, was a Schumacher fan - but only up to a point - and how Schumacher championed the now fashionable concepts of well-being measurement, localism, and volunteerism

Contributors include: Satish Kumar of the Schumacher College and George McRobie (with whom he pioneered the Intermediate Technology Development Group), Findhorn members who were present at his1976 talk, economist Wilfred Beckerman (author of Small is Stupid), and members of Schumacher's family.

Producer: Chris Eldon Lee
A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 4.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Manchester's Cervantes Institute: Muerte de un Ciclista - Age of Infidelty

Showing at the Cervantes Institute on Deansgate [near Castlefield], Manchester on THURSDAY 30 JUNE at 6:30pm

Realism in Spanish Cinema of the 50´s Film Series
MUERTE DE UN CICLISTA – Age of Infidelity

Story line:

María José and Juan are on their way from a date when they run a cyclist over and kill him. They’d been going steady years before, but then María José had married Miguel, and Juan had become her lover. Obsessed by the shadow of the dead cyclist –who they abandoned on the road side–, they are afraid of everything and of everyone; afraid of their relationship being revealed and of losing their social position. The situation becomes more complicated until it comes to a tragic end.

Dr Nuria Triana Toribio, Senior Lecturer in Spanish Cinema at the Univiersity of Manchester will present the film.

Title: Muerte de un Ciclista
Director: Juan Antonio Bardem
Year made: 1955
Duration:- 88 min
Original Version in Spanish with English Subtitles

Free admission. Bookings on 0161 6614206 or

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Snooty Sanders gets OBE!

THE publication Northern Voices, which in previous issues has covered stories on Bury and blacklisting, is available for £4.20 for two issues (post included & cheque payable to 'Northern Voices') from c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH or email:

Mark Sanders
Despite rampant use of Spy Cameras, a Reign of RIPA Terror, a Blacklister on the Rock & the sale of a Lowry former Chief Executive of Bury MBC, Mark Sanders, was awarded an OBE.

THIS June, Mark Sanders, who was Chief Executive of Bury Council in Greater Manchester from 2001 up to March this year, was awarded an OBE in this year's Queen's Birthday Honour list. He presided over some dodgy and controversial deals during his term in office: such as annoying local art lovers with the Council's sale of a Lowry to rescue the authority from debt and revelations in the media that the Council had conducted several spying operations in 2006 on its binmen and other staff. The surveillance of the working binmen, all members of Unite the Union, was carried out by a security guard using a hand-held camcorder in an unmarked council vehicle, but a later Bury Council operation was conducted, using audio equipment attached inside a council vehicle, on the security guards themselves while they were going about their work.

Mr Sanders has got his OBE for services to local government but seven years into Mark Sanders' term in office on the 6th, September 2008, The Mail on Sunday reported that Bury MBC 'used controversial anti-terror laws to spy on a crew of refuse collectors after receiving a tip-off that they were incorrectly emptying a dustbin' and that 'Officials set up an undercover surveillance operation in an attempt to prove the three binmen were being bribed by a newsagent to take away trade waste when he had not paid the extra fee for it to be collected.'

In justification for this Bury Council said at the time that'the investigation proved that the men had removed trade waste - and it also claimed they had used their refuse truck for "pecuniary gain" because one accepted a bottle of strawberry-flavoured mineral water from the shopkeeper.'

Commenting on Mr Sanders' OBE, Mike Kelly, the new Chief Executive of Bury Council, said: 'Mark was nominated for this award due to his commitment and dedication, not only to the people of Bury during his time as Chief Executive here, but his work across Local Government at a local, regional and national level. It is a great achievement and Mark should be very proud that his work has been recognised in this way.' Such 'commitment and dedication' cost the people of Bury an estimated £100,000 with an out-of-court settlement to the sacked binmen after their claim for unfair dismissal resulted in a payout to the binmen with a gagging clause, following being suspended for 10 months on full pay.

Perhaps Mr Kelly as the current administrative boss of Bury has an eye on some future award for himself because Mr Sanders predecessor Dennis Taylor who left his role as Chief Executive of Bury Council in 2001, when Mr Sanders took over, got himself an MBE for his services to local government and to the community. Mark Sanders himself was described to me by Steve Morton, an official in Unison, as a being somewhat snooty and always getting one of his underlings to answer when dealing with a union official. When I wrote to him about the possibility that the blacklist was in operation on the building site on the Rock in Bury he failed to respond and was only forced to reply when the Manchester electricians organised a picket at the site in August 2009. No wonder that George V, even in the 1930s, was worried that the awarding of honours was getting out of hand and that there was a danger of letting in any old scallywag.

'Money is losing its value!'

LAST Friday I overheard an old man in the Yorkshire Building Society in Manchester say 'I'm spending my money on my house because money is losing its value'. The very next day, I picked up the Financial Times to read Merryn Somerset Webb writing about Adam Fergusson's book 'When Money Dies', which she says everyone should buy: it's about hyperinflation in Weimar Germany.

It seems that at some charity event a year ago, Ms. Somerset Webb had argued that: 'Five years ago, we trusted the big banks to keep our money safe and they trusted each other to stay more or less solvent' but she then went on to say 'That's not the case any more.' She followed this by making a prediction that we would endure 'a period of deflation before a period of much higher inflation.' Her talk was accompanied by one from Gillian Tett, the FT's United States' managing editor, who had predicted that 'the next stage on the crisis would involve a collapse in trust between populations and governments.'

This year, at the same charity function, Ms. Somerset Webb will be explaining 'why she was wrong on deflation'. A headline in today's International Herald Tribune entitled 'In Greece politicians are seen as common foe' and quoting a recent study by Transparency International that 'in Greece ... 9 out of 10 Greeks said their politicians were corrupt, and 80% said Parliament had lost credibility' suggests Ms Gillian Tett got her prediction spot on. As I write demonstrators in Athens have projected the word 'Thieves' across the facade of the Greek Parliament.

While the citizens of Greece face wage and pension cuts, their lawmakers have benefits including state cars, generous double pensions (from the government and professional guilds), bonuses for attending committee meetings in addition to monthly pay of $8,500 or £5,800. Even the Prime Minister, George A. Papandreou, realises he must do something and has promised to form a committee to look at cutting the number of Parliamentary members and to abolish the law protecting Greek MPs from prosecution.

In her column in last Saturday's FT, Merryn Somerset Webb admitted: 'Gillian's (Tett) prediction in June last year was entirely right' and she says 'Look at Greece and you can see the next stage of the crisis ...' But, Somerset Webb writes: 'Along with losing their faith in their politicians, the Greeks have lost faith in their currency.' 'After all, if you think that there is a chance Greece might end up out of the euro, why on earth', she asks, 'would you hold any money on deposit in a Greek bank?' Why indeed? Reports of Greeks swopping their euros for olive groves, Swiss francs and gold coins now flourish.

Ms. Somerset Webb is what has been called 'a gold bug' and she has be advocating that we get into gold with her for some time now. The old editor of The Times, William Rees Mogg, took a similar 'Buy gold' view, as I recall, in the 1980s. Webb thinks their will be a sudden loss of faith in paper money because of 'the levels of sovereign debt knocking around the world' and that there will be 'either defaults or more massive rounds of money printing'. Either way her message is to stock up on the Krugerrands before it's too late. Today's price for a one oz Krugerrand is £977.00.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Frank Field calls for the work-shy to be punished. Welfare reforms are not radical enough, he says!

Frank Field (pictured), the Labour MP for Birkenhead, is back in the headlines once again after claiming that David Cameron`s proposals for reforming the welfare state, don`t go far enough. He favours a harsher welfare regime that punishes the 'work-shy' and rewards those who have contributed to the system.

A former Labour minister at the Department of Social Security, he was once dubbed by Tony Blair, his 'minister to think the unthinkable'. But he was criticised for being inclined to pose more questions than he answered. Now he`s been appointed by the Con-Dem government as their 'Poverty Tsar', to look into poverty and life chances.

As a former poverty professional himself, having worked for both the 'Child Poverty Action Group'(CPAG) and the 'Low Pay Unit', Field, ought to know something about poverty. But he has attracted a certain amount of notoriety for his right wing views on welfare reform. He has said that he favours reintroducing National Service to tackle unemployment and to inculcate, in the unemployed, a sense of order and patriotism. Some years ago, he also proposed that the unemployed (like criminals), should be subjected to compulsory DNA testing as a way of countering benefit fraud.

Curiously, as a practising Anglican and member of the Church of England General Synod, Field, seems to show a certain predilection for deriding the poor and disadvantaged. This may well be linked to his upbringing. Both his parents who were Conservatives (like himself), "believed in character and pulling oneself up by one's own bootstraps." He also exhibits a certain inclination towards using the welfare system as a means for social engineering. But as George Orwell, once pointed out, there`s a 'pew-renter' asleep in every Englishman.

Judging from his recent musings in the national press, a number of things seem to gall Frank Field about the welfare state. He says that since the election, nine-out-of-ten jobs which have been created, have gone to foreigners because the British fail to chase work. The public he says, are clamouring for tougher sanctions that force the long-term unemployed back to work, like taking their benefits off them. Moreover, he says, that voters reject the idea that entitlement to state benefits should be based solely on need and not earned. He believes that 'good and reliable' people who have worked and paid National Insurance contributions and contributed to society, should be prioritised for help above others. This equally applies when allocating social housing. Field says that priority should be given to those who are deserving, such as those who have waited the longest, paid their rent on time, and have been upright citizens who have kept their children out of trouble.

Concerning the government's work programme for the unemployed, Field says that he doubts that this will ultimately have a huge impact on the number of workless claimants, or those who have never worked, getting back to work. He believes that those who are likely to gain jobs from these schemes, will be the recently unemployed, who are 'work ready' and motivated and easier to place in work, by private companies running these schemes. However, he adds:

"But what of those lads, barely able to read or write, who tell me they wouldn't dream of taking a job that doesn't pay three times the rate they gain on benefits, and who refuse those jobs available on the grounds that such work is fit only for immigrants? This group of recidivists, workless claimants, know from past experience that governments leave them alone."

Field says that three quarters of the public - including benefit claimants - believe those who willingly refuse to seek work should lose all or part of their benefit. He wants tougher sanctions to force people back to work and believes, that if this is not introduced, the Government`s approach to welfare reform will fail. He also believes that we ought to get back to an insurance based system where benefits are only awarded to those who have paid in and not to those who are in need, or whose income is below a certain threshold.

As Frank Field is undoubtedly aware, claimants already in receipt of Jobseeker`s Allowance (JSA), have to be available for work and must provide evidence that they are seeking work every time they sign-on, in order to keep their JSA. Under the guise of 'work experience', many claimants are also working for their dole money for private employers or are being confined in modern day 'detention centres' doing job searches. If unemployed, your chances having getting a job will differ depending on where you live. Rates of unemployment vary across the country and within regions. In Dorset West, one claimant of JSA is chasing every vacancy, but in Hull North and Rhondda, there are 84 claimants chasing every vacancy. Moreover, Britain has never had a system of social insurance like that which developed in countries like France and Germany. Britain`s welfare system is a product of the new poor law and the 'workhouse', which continued in this country from 1834 to the introduction of the National Assistance Act in 1948. The 'means test', the workhouse, the 'deserving and undeserving poor' and the principle of 'less eligibility', have shaped and moulded the British Welfare State for donkey's years, as well as the opinions of its ruling political elite.

For the last 30 years, successive governments in this country have continually sought to undermine and dismantle the benefits system on a piecemeal basis, to make it less attractive to be out of work and to price the unemployed back into work by taking low-paid employment. Hyperbole about the work-shy, scroungers, and the deserving and undeserving, used by political parasites like Frank Field, are merely conjurors tricks designed to make it easier to cut the benefits bill. The Con-Dem (millionaire) government of which he is a member, is already, "looking at more radical American-style plans to set time limits on benefits for fit people of working age", (Daily Telegraph 21/6/11).

We should not forget that back in 1996 the government cut contributory unemployment benefit from 12 months entitlement to 6 months, at a stroke, regardless of how much money people had paid into the system and without any consultation whatsoever. Who would pay into social insurance system where there was no guarantee that the government would even honour the social contract? Likewise, who would want to buy into a system which is so punitive and which pays a mere pittance, to the jobless, as compared with other welfare systems in other EEC countries? While means-testing may well create perverse incentives like making people less inclined to save, it has nevertheless, been preferred by British governments because it is far cheaper than the cost of providing a universal welfare system, where everybody was entitled, who had paid in.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Taaffe Tells A Good Tale


of the Spirit of Lobscouse about the Socialist Party! All those red round-faced folk with a west coast of Lancashire twang and glasses. Bespectacled Liverpudlian, Linda Taaffe (now living in London), wrote a triumphant report on the recent 'National Shop Stewards Network' (NSSN) London Conference [11/06/11] on pages 6 and 7 of the current issue of 'The Socialist' saying that the 'NSSN has gone from strength to strength over the last year' and that the 'NSSN has increased its presence and will continue to develop a respected role in the labour movement'.

Mrs Taaffe described the conference thus: 'A solid working class trade union conference' with '350 workers' in attendance and representing what Lynda writes was 'the best NSSN conference so far'. She tells us that 'this regular event is rapidly becoming a feature in the calendar of the labour movement.' Hence, the conference went on to unanimously support a resolution 'Saluting those unions who are balloting their members for strike action' on the 30th, June and declaring that the NSSN has 'produced 40,000 flyers and 15,000 placards all calling for a public-private sector general strike to stop ALL cuts and defend pensions.' This report was accompanied with a photo of Socialist Party veteran, Tony Mulheard, mouth open and fist clenched close to his throat threatening whatever or whoever should defy this noble Network. And well he might threaten, for Linda writes: 'We understand a couple of ... detractors snooped into the conference hall simply to do a head count'.

Who might these 'detractors' be one wonders? Well, none other than 'those who walked out from the NSSN in January ... after a democratic and open discussion', thus, writes Linda, leaving the 'NSSN stronger and more active'. 'Stronger and more active' maybe, but with a 'newly elected steering committee' cut to '24 trade unionists with positions in most of the major unions'. Last year's national NSSN steering committee had a membership of over 60 and the previous year it was over 50. It would seem that last January's breakaway from the NSSN by independent minded syndicalists and socialists has had its effect on the make up of the NSSN steering committee and Bob Crow, the General secretary of the RMT, has been reported as saying that the NSSN split resulted in the loss of some good people.

Linda Taaffe has now clarified the current dilemma for the Socialist Party and the NSSN; the NSSN may appear 'stronger' and more 'active' in so far as it is all of one mind being mainly a creature of the Socialist Party itself. Dialogue and discussion is no longer necessary because they can kid themselves that they are united. This is the illusionary strength of the narrow-minded and the monomaniac.

Thus the ingredients in the Network, or stew, are diminished in the same way that traditionally Lobscouse as a dish has less and more boring ingredients than Lancashire Hot-Pot. My copy of 'British Cookery' edited by Lizzie Boyd describes Lobscouse as being a nautical dish - a variation on Lancashire Hot-Pot - and constituting 'a monotonous diet' often including scrag end of neck of mutton, shin of beef, swedes, potatoes and carrots, while proper Lancashire Hot-Pot is from middle neck of lamb with lamb kidneys, sliced potatoes, onions, white stock and dripping traditionally served with red cabbage; in the case of Bolton Hot-Pot adding mushrooms and fresh oysters and some Lancashire cooks add curry powder. Compared to this Lobscouse, which traditionally was eaten by sailors on board ship with rock-hard ship's biscuits was a tedious affair, not unlike the Socialist Party itself. Hence, the National Shop Stewards Network today is a movement for monomaniacs which the British labour movement, with all its many faults, is not. In fact, the British labour movement is, if anything, too heterogeneous, too varied in its constituent parts.

Continuing the series of Realism in Spanish Film at Cervantes Institute in Manchester

El Verdugo (Not on your Life) at the Cervantes Institute on Deansgate [near Deansgate Station] Manchester


Free admission but best to book

Story Line:
José Luis, an employee in a funeral parlour hopes to go to Germany and become a good mechanic. Through his job, he meets Carmen, the daughter of Amadeo, an old executioner who is just about to retire. They fall in love and marry. The Housing Board offers Amadeo a new, modern flat, owing to his profession, which is the dream-come-true of the newly-weds and which offers a peaceful retirement to the old man. The concession of the building however, is conditioned to the employment of executioner and so, Amadeo must try to convince José Luis to succeed him and thus keep the house. His reasoning is clear and not void of logic: he can apply for the post, earn the money and live in the house for years probably without having to carry out his task, as the death penalty is not very frequent and there are always pardons. José Luis accepts on the condition that he will resign immediately if he is asked to execute someone...

'Regularly voted by its country's critics as the best Spanish film of all time, Berlanga's brilliant dark comedy on the peculiar horror of the garrote has not lost its power over the years.' UK TimeOut

Mr. Andy Willis, reader in Film Studies and the Programme Leader for the BA (Hons) Film Studies at the University of Salford, will present the film.

Title: El Verdugo
Director: Luis García Berlanga
Year made: 1963
Duration:- 87 min
Original Version in Spanish with English Subtitles
Free admission. Bookings on 0161 6614206 or

Monday, 20 June 2011

From Manchester to Madrid & from Sevilla to Brussels young people protest the Pacto del Euro


Yesterday hundreds of thousands of protesters across Europe reaffirmed their rejection of conventional politics and half-baked democracy: with the cry of 'Que no, que no, que no nos representan!' ('You don't, you don't, you don't represent us!') It was not so big as the mourners at the funeral of Durruti in Barcelona in the Autumn of 1939, but yesterday's demonstrations in the major cities of Spain by the movement Real Democracy Now ('Democracia Real Ya') or 'Los indignados of the 15-M (15th May)' was described in today's El Pais as massive.

In all an estimated 200,000 people took part in Spain in the protest against the Pacto del Euro with support in other countries including a small demo of about 100 in Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens called 'La Assemblea' near the monument to Queen Victoria. Barry Woodling of Northern Voices reported that the Manchester demo was very enthusiastic and determined. Besides Barcelona, which mustered 98,000, a vast protest in Madrid saw between 37,000 and 42,000 turn out onto the paseo Castellana on their way to the Square of Neptune. Valencia had a turn-out of some 25,000, Alicante 10,000 and Castellon 4,000. Another 16,000 took to the streets in Galcia and 5,000 in the Andalucian city of Sevilla and yet more were out in the cities and towns of the Basque region.

One of the slogans of the demostrators in Barcelona was 'Menos porrazos & mas abrazos' ('Less clubs [truncheons] & more hugs'). This was a response to the heavy-handed behaviour of the police in that Catalan Capital on an earlier demonstation in May this year. In Valencia, the mood was hostile to the corruption in the municipal affairs of that city with 'hundreds shouting insults against the President of the Generalitat (Valencian City Council), Francisco Camps, who is alleged to have taken presents in the Gurtel scheme' (see El Pais 20th, June 2011). The cry there was 'President a Picassent!' - Picassent is the name of the locality of a prison in Valencia or 'president a Fontcalent' [Fontcalent: name of a prison in Alicante]. Every city in Spain seems to have well known swindlers in office that the protestors can name and denounce on the streets.

Barry Woodling reported that up to 100 attended the Manchester demo yesterday including some Greek and Syrian protesters as well as a number of activists from UK Uncut, a handful of Trots from the SWP and the RCG. Another demo is planned to take place in Piccadilly Gardens next Saturday at 1pm. Because the Spaniards dominated the Manchester demo the Trots had little impact being out of their depth in the new politics which is hostile to party politics of the conventional kind even on the extreme Left. Especially when it comes from the extreme Left or Retro-Left.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Former Tameside College art student wins BP Portrait Awards second prize!

This years BP Portrait prize, has been awarded to the 57-year-old Dutch artist Wim Heldens for his portrait of a 25-year-old philosophy student, 'Jeroen'. Heldens portrait called 'Distracted' won him £25,000 and a commission to be decided by trustees at the National Portrait Gallery. In second place was the Manchester artist Louis Smith for his painting 'Holly', an allegorical re-imagining of the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus. Smith, (pictured), who won £8,000, is a former art student of Tameside College, in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire. Third place went to Ian Cumberland, from County Down, for his study called 'Just to Feel Normal'.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Community health watchdog blasts hospital for deficiencies in patient care. Patients found in soiled bedding!

The community health watchdog, Tameside LINk, organised their 'Hospital Improvement Event' at Ashton Town Hall last Thursday. The LINk or (Local Involvement Network), was set up in 2008 to assist local people to have an input into planning, management, and the delivery of health and adult social care services, in the Tameside area.

Last May (2010), the LINk invited members of the public to a meeting to hear their recent experiences of Tameside Hospital (pictured) as patients and relatives. A report and eight recommendations dealing with - staffing levels, falls and accidents, communication with patients and families, information, organisational leadership, ward leadership, food and drink, bathing and toileting - was published in September 2010.

Last Thursday`s meeting had been organised to consider whether the hospital had implemented the recommendations and to consider a report from the LINk, following unannounced visits to the hospital in December 2010 and January 2011. Using its right to 'Enter & View', LINk members, visited various wards and asked detailed questions of 91 patients and their relatives who were on wards in the hospital.

Although Tameside Hospital state that they have already implemented many of the recommendations, the LINk report makes clear that many of their recommendations have yet to be implemented and constitute a serious concern which can have a major impact on patient care and wellbeing. Link Co-ordinator, Peter Denton, introduced the report which highlighted a number of deficiencies in patient care.

According to the LINk survey, 64% of people said that they had not been offered a Patients' Handbook even though, it is the policy of the hospital to give them one. Moreover, many patients said that they had not seen nor were they aware, of the Patients` Handbook. Similarly, 90% of patients surveyed said that they didn't have a 'Relatives Shared Care and Communication Sheet' even though:

"the sheet was introduced by Tameside Hospital to improve communication and patients are supposed to be in possession of one at all times."

The report also states that 75% of people surveyed said they had not been offered leaflets about their medical condition and only 31% of people said they had been told where they could get more information. Although the hospital has a health information centre, the report says: "We were disappointed that very few patients or relatives knew about the health information centre based in the hospital." Likewise, 95% of patients said that they had not met their 'Dignity & Care Champion' for the Ward. Very little seems to have changed! The 2010 LINk report, had also stated that most patients at the hospital didn`t know who these people were.

As regards the care of patients, the report highlights a number of serious concerns. Although it is hospital policy that relatives can come in at meal times to help with feeding a patient, the report says that many patients were unaware of this, and one family, was told that they could not come in to help at meal times. The report also says that some patients did not always have a jug of drinking water at the side of their bed or a glass, or its was out of reach, or there was a jug but no glass. The report says that one patient was left unattended on a toilet for 20 minutes while other patients, complained of not getting support with eating, going to the toilet, and bathing. Overall the report says: "One in four patients we asked who needed help at mealtimes told us they didn`t get it."

On Ward 43, the son of a 92 year old patient told the LINk visitors that his mother was incontinent and this had led to a build up of faeces under her fingernails. Ward staff had not cut or cleaned her nails and when he`d asked them to do so, they`d told him, it was not policy to cut patients' nails and he had cleaned her nails himself. On the same Ward, another patient had complained about bathing and said: "they don`t do it properly, they just slosh water over you." On Ward 44, a relative complained that a patient`s hair had not been washed, their toenails had needed cutting and that their request for a chiropodist, had not been followed up. Another relative complained that her husbands eyes were stuck with green gunge and that she`d had to clean his mouth.

The 'Enter & View' visitor`s, say that on their visits to the hospital, they saw overflowing rubbish bins and that some bathrooms and toilets would benefit from deep cleaning. Also, "We did not observe a single member of staff washing their hands or using the hand gel." In the Medical Assessment & Admissions Unit (MAAU) and on Ward 42 they had found patients in soiled bedding. The report also says that the matron`s 'Dignity in Care' audits, do not "seem to be detecting and correcting the deficiencies revealed by our findings.." The visitors also observed that "spills and drinks don`t appear to be cleaned up very quickly."

In the five key domain areas: 'communication and information', 'getting the right care at the right time', 'infection control', 'leadership and complaints', 'feeling well cared for', the hospital was given a 'RED RATING' which signifies serious concern about patient care.

Last May (2010), a significant number of people who attended the LINk event, made it clear that they had little confidence in the Board and the senior hospital management running Tameside Hospital and that improvements, were unlikely, unless there was change at the top. The report published by the LINk in September 2010, also stated: "There are very strong messages that some patients, their families and the public, have very little confidence in the current management at the hospital." And yet, despite this lack of confidence, the report authors stated somewhat bizarrely: "The LINk is more concerned with the care that people receive than with who manages the hospital." Presumably, this equally applies even when the management concerned, are incompetent, or a bunch of nincompoops. Surely, commonsense dictates that the standard and quality of care that people receive at an hospital is inextricably linked, with the type of management that is running it.

Since publishing its report last September, the LINk, now say that they believe that: "effective leadership at all levels within the hospital has a major role to play in both the outcomes the hospital achieves and the reputation it has in the community it serves." Peter Denton, the LINK co-ordinator, did tell the meeting that the health regulator 'Monitor' had said that the hospital management had lacked leadership and he referred to a recent ballot that had been undertaken by consultants, and senior medical staff, concerning a proposed vote of no confidence in hospital management. Hospital management were later criticised by Monitor, for failing to inform them about the ballot.

Addressing some of these concerns, the Rev Tim Presswood, the beleaguered Chairman of the Board at Tameside Hospital, said: "The report highlights some significant areas where the trust needs to improve." But he struggled to answer many of the questions from the floor. "I know we`re not the first hospital of patients choice" he told the meeting, but added: "We`re a hospital on a journey of continuing improvement.". He also told the meeting:

"We`re struggling to find patients who are willing to tell the Board about their stories."

When asked from the floor why he thought people were unwilling to talk to the Board, he said: "I can`t explain it." When asked how he could square on the one hand, the advice given by the hospital (in its patient handbook), that while in hospital patients should maintain cleanliness and reduce infection by keeping their hands and bodies clean, with the LINk report findings, of patients lying in soiled bedding, he said he couldn't square it. When asked what he was going to about it, he deftly avoided the question.

A spokesman for the hospital told the Manchester Evening News (MEN): "The findings of this report are somewhat at odds with the hundreds of letters our wards receive annually from people who have been happy with the care and treatment they have received."

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

'Guerrilla Gardeners' Dig for Victory!

It has become a regular event now. Every Saturday, members of 'Ashton Allotment Action' meet with their shovels and spades to cultivate neglected land on Ashton Moss, near the M60 motorway in Ashton-under-Lyne, in Greater Manchester.

As we reported previously, the group turned to direct action when their local council, i.e. Tameside MBC, failed to allocate allotment sites to resident who had been on their allotment waiting list for years. Almost half of the 700 people on the council`s allotment list, want allotments on the Ashton Moss site.

According to the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners (NSALG), other people are experiencing similar problems across the country. A recent survey carried out by the Association, revealed that 150,000 people are on allotment waiting lists. Furthermore, over the last ten years some five to ten thousands allotment plots have been flogged-off by councils to developers.

In order to gain an allotment, many people like the members of Ashton Allotment Action, have started to illicitly occupy land in urban areas in order to clean it up and cultivate it to grow food etc. They are part of a wider social movement which has been dubbed 'guerrilla gardening'.

Last month members of the action group, were interviewed on the BBC One programme 'The One Show'. Nigel Rolland a spokesman for the group said:
"We've lost patience with the council after waiting seven years. Whoever is responsible for allowing this land to remain undeveloped, uncultivated, is negligent. The land has degraded, that`s why we are actually taking positive action to bring the land back into cultivation and we're improving it."
When asked to clarify their position, Tameside Council, declined to be interviewed by 'The One Show' but issued a statement, saying that they supported the need for allotments in the area but that the site, was owned by the developers. Cordingley`s, the agents who act for the landowners, Staley Developments Ltd, also declined to speak on camera but issued a statement saying that "negotiations were ongoing with the council and that they were hopeful that a positive conclusion would be reached in the short term."

Dave Morris, an allotment expert from NSALG, told the programme that progress would not be made unless the developer, the council and the allotment users, met together to sort this out. Meeting them separately, he added, would achieve nothing because developers and council's tend to blame one another.

Members of Ashton Allotment Action are of course, occupying the site illegally, and the owners or developers could take legal action to remove them from the site. When asked about this possibility, a spokesman for the group said:
"If they kick us off here, they will have to kick us off somewhere else, because we`re having allotments in Ashton-under-Lyne." 
It looks like the guerrilla gardeners of Ashton-under-Lyne are digging their heels in, for a long fight, to get the allotments they want.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

On the stump with Tameside Council`s Deputy Leader, Cllr. 'WAG' Taylor! Does he need help with anger management?

Local council elections in Tameside are normally a boring affair. Usually, fewer than one-in-three people bother to vote and the council in this one party state, has been dominated by Labour for over three decades. With so few people voting, it is questionable whether those who get elected to the council, have any real democratic legitimacy.

In the recent May elections, where there was a 39.91% turnout (one of the highest turnouts ever in Tameside due to the AV referendum), the Lib Dems (the fag-end of the Tory party) didn't even bother to field a candidate. In Hyde Werneth, the Conservative leader John Bell, just about managed to hang on to his seat against Labour`s candidate, Raja Miah. However, though Labour failed to make any in-roads into the Conservative minority, there was a Labour gain in Mossley, where Labour`s candidate, Idu Miah, a local post office owner, became Tameside Council`s first ever Asian councillor.

Though there were few surprises on the night, one thing that people can look forward to in the Tameside elections, is the annual dust-up between councillor John (Wag) Taylor the Deputy Leader of the council and his bête noire, the BNP candidate, Roy West. West, a convicted racist, saw his vote halved since standing last year. Other BNP candidates also got a similar thrashing with their votes collapsing.

Though Roy West failed to win this election, he did nevertheless, manage to provide much needed entertainment on the night in his ongoing spat with Councillor 'Wag' Taylor outside the Dukinfield community centre. Judging from the above video, West appears to have won this round, if not the election, as an enraged councillor Taylor, can be seen 'wagging' his finger threateningly at his BNP rival.

In politics, it is generally advisable to keep one's cool when confronting political rivals however odious, they may appear to be. Now that 'Wag' has risen to the dizzy heights of Deputy Leader, we wonder whether he might benefit from taking a course in anger management. But as local people say around here, you could stand a monkey for election with a Labour red rosette, and it would get elected.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

BBC Media City Accused of Exploiting Salford Youngsters!

Child exploitation in the good old days!
As part of the BBC's commitment to the local economy and young people living in 'deprived communities', the Beeb, have recently been advertising for young people in Salford and Trafford, to work as meet and greet BBC 'Ambassadors' at their new HQ in Salford's Media City.

The job specification says that the job involves working on reception and welcoming and looking after guests. It also states: "Please note this role is not a production role, so you will not be working on making programmes." For those youngsters who make the grade, the BBC, says that other opportunities are on offer - "with our partners Balfour Beatty" - such as learning how buildings are managed, giving guided tours, and working in security, housekeeping, and in the post room.

As regards the type of person the BBC are looking for, they state:

"The kind of person you are and your attitude to work is much more important to us than your knowledge, experience or qualifications."

While some people might think it a wonderful opportunity to work for the Beeb, they have nevertheless, been accused of exploiting youngsters by paying low wages to local young people. The 12 full-time jobs on offer, - which will last for six months - pay £3.64 per hour for 16-17 year olds and £4.92 for 18-19 year olds. A Salford mum told the 'Salford Star' that she was disgusted that her daughter had been asked to work for such low wages when consultants and BBC staff were earning megabucks.

While Salford's youngsters are pocketing a pittance for working for the BBC, the consultant who is responsible for finding jobs for kids from 'deprived communities', Chris Marsh, is being paid by cash-strapped Salford City Council, the obscene sum of £46,800 for just 12 days work a month, or £650 per day.

Peter Salmon, the Director of BBC North, said:

"As we begin to make a home for the BBC at Media City UK, I am proud that we are making good on our promise to be as inclusive as possible when it comes to recruitment."