Monday, 26 September 2016

Rotten Boroughs: Censoring News in Tameside?

We recently drew attention to the difficulty that some people were having in getting their letters published in Tameside's only weekly newspaper, the Tameside Reporter & Chroncile, that is owned by the registered social landlord New Charter Housing Trust, via 'Quest Media Network Ltd'. The CEO of New Charter Housing, Ian Hamilton Munro, is a Director of 'Quest' and was a Director, when it went under the name of 'Piccolo Communications Ltd', which had the same registered address as New Charter. The Trust, has very close links with the Labour controlled council in Tameside and also owns and controls Tameside Radio. 

There is evidence, that Tameside Council have been involved in censoring the local news.  In Autumn 2008, 'Private Eye', revealed that agents acting on behalf the council, had been holding regular meetings with local newspaper editors to suppress news stories.

The following (insert) was written for the document 'Guidance for local authorities on community cohesion contingency planning and tension monitoring' by the then Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in May 2008, and was written and signed-off, by the then assistant chief executive of the council, Steven Pleasant.

We are publishing below, in full, a letter that was sent to the newspaper from the trade union body, Tameside Trades Union Council, in August 2016, which wasn't published. We would be interested to hear from anyone who has experienced similar problems in getting letters published in this newspaper, as we are investigating what could amount to a potential conflict of interest and duty and are considering making a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).

14th August 2016

The Editor,
Tameside Reporter,
Cavendish Mill,

Dear Sir,

In last weeks Tameside Reporter, you reported upon the weekly protest that is taking place outside Ashton Jobcentre, which has just completed its second year.

We would wish to point out that this protest, which began in August 2014, was launched to highlight how benefit sanctions are being used in what many consider to be an unfair and unjust way by Jobcentre staff. We know from speaking to many claimants who use Ashton Jobcentre that people have been sanctioned for the most petty and trivial of reasons:

For example, a young jobseeker was told by Ashton Jobcentre that he would lose his benefits if he continued to protest with us, outside Ashton Jobcentre. Another was sanctioned for three months, when he arrived 2 minutes late for an interview, and a man was given a 3-month benefit sanction, by Ashton Jobcentre, for making a spelling mistake.

A nineteen-year-old lad from Ashton, recently told us that he'd been sanctioned for one-month, because he'd applied for too many jobs and hadn't received enough interviews. As a result, this young man lost his home and finished up on the streets.

In the case of Tameside Trades Council delegate, Charlotte Hughes, her 19-year-old daughter, had her benefit stopped by Ashton Jobcentre when she told a prospective employer - who was offering her an unpaid work placement - that she was 23-weeks pregnant. This case was the catalyst that led to this weekly protest outside Ashton Jobcentre.

Although the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), claim that they are making work pay, some 40% of Jobcentre workers, according to their own trade union the PCS, qualify for the state benefit Universal Credit, because they are "fantastically low paid." Some Jobcentre staff that are in receipt of Universal Credit, are now signing-on, and are facing possible benefit sanctions, because of the requirement to satisfy "in-work conditionality" which is currently being piloted at Ashton Jobcentre as part of the roll-out of Universal Credit.

The Government deny that Jobcentre staff set people up for sanctioning or have national targets for sanctions. But this is refuted by the PCS union that represents Jobcentre workers. They say that staff come under pressure to sanction jobseekers or face disciplinary action. Alan Davis, a former Jobcentre worker from Leicester, told a recent Channel 4 'Dispatches Programme', broadcast on 2nd March 2015 -

"The pressure was enormous. I just felt what they were asking me to do, was totally wrong - they were asking me to 'hammer people' who in their own way were doing their best to get a job."

Yours faithfully
Brian Bamford,
Secretary Tameside TUC


Tameside said...

Why has the comment about "Tameside citizen" Been removed? Censorship?

Editor said...

Editor, be more specific. It isn't clear what you're saying.

Tameside said...

It was the Tameside Citizen blog in September 2008 which broke the story of press censorship in Tameside.

My posting on here pointing this out was removed after three or four days. I wondered why?