Friday, 30 December 2016

Campaign to hold up rise in Council Allowances

Stop 34% RMBC Councillor's Allowance rise UNTIL reduction of Councillors.

Rochdale Councillor's Vote for their Allowance Increase 

To:  Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council
Stop 34% RMBC Councillor's Allowance rise UNTIL reduction of Councillors.
In December 2016, the Labour and Conservative Groups on Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council decided to implement the recommendation of an 'Independent' Remuneration Panel (IRP) and give themselves a whopping 34% increase in Councillor's Allowances. This was met with almost universal anger from residents in the Borough alongside Council Staff at RMBC.
It is our view that the imminent rise in councillor's allowances is inexplicably linked with the reduction in councillors. To that end, we demand that any rise is NOT implemented until the number of councillors are reduced from 60 to 40. Failure to do will go against the spirit of what councillors agreed at the meeting and is likely to be met with further fury from local residents and council workers.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Universal Credit - the bureaucratic nightmare!

A mind at the end of its tether - claiming Univeral Credit
By Steve (Starlord) Fisher

Iain Duncan Smith promised that Universal Credit would 'make work pay' and make the transition into and out of paid work seamless. This has not been my experience here or elsewhere. The whole system is not fit for purpose - it is a bureaucratic nightmare! Weber's 'iron cage' of bureaucracy! The unemployed now needs the skills of a Philadelphia lawyer in order to negotiate the system.

As a self-employed consultant, I've been helping a client (who turned to me in desperation), to move from paid work back onto Universal Credit. He'd been working as a manual worker for six months and his contract came to an end. However, it has proved a bit of farce despite our doing everything correctly.

The same day his employment ended we contacted the DWP and I was happily surprised that his claim was still open. This made matters easier, or so we thought. It was my understanding that a UC claim is kept open for 6 months to facilitate movement in and out of paid work and unemployment. Any longer, and UC is automatically closed necessitating the making of a fresh claim. Apparently it can be longer, anything from 6 months up to a maximum of 8 months. It all depends on exactly when work begins and ends and where it falls within a UC monthly commencement or start-up period and end period. We thought this 'good fortune' would make it easier to make a claim. That, after all, is one of the avowed claims of UC, to make the transition in and out of paid work fluid and seamless. So we thought that was that, but the reality it couldn't have been further from the truth.

He signed-on for a couple of weeks and received a letter telling him that his UC claim had ended! We phoned the UC help-line only to be told, eventually, that they had indeed cancelled his claim, in error. His claim had 10 days before expiry, and so I speculated the most likely scenario was that his claim had been terminated, automatically, because the paperwork from Ashton Jobcentre did not reach the relevant department in time, ie within 10 days. The help-line agreed this was the most likely scenario. We were told they may be able to 'rebuild his claim'. They said he could make a complaint. As it turned-out there was nothing they could do and he would now have to make a fresh claim. But any such claim commences only from the moment it is made. What about the last few weeks then? That's why it is imperative that one make a fresh claim as soon as possible because it won't be backdated.

When he signed-on he was told he was due a payment, but what did this mean now it had been cancelled? He received an award payment of zero. I already knew he would not receive a payment until mid-January despite what he thought because the first 7 days don't count and it is paid 1 month in arrears making for a 5 week wait at best. But does this fresh claim include the last few weeks of a claim that never was, even while signing-on at Ashton Jobcentre?

We resigned ourselves to making a fresh UC claim and would have to wait and see how this farce worked-out.

So, on Tuesday 21st December 2016 we tried without success to make an online UC application. That's how it's done these days. I'd already heard about the online completion time limit. We had 20-40 minutes to complete it. Exceed this and everything's lost. One must start again playing the UC version of 'snakes and ladders'. There is no option to save and return later as with other online systems.

The online form is a poor-mans version of a HMRC Tax Return. Very poorly designed, with poor 'error-handling'. It's almost as if it's been designed to fail, to put people off making an application in the first place, and even when one does try it often fails for other reasons. The software is very fragile. But how typical was our experience?

We had no trouble finishing within the time limit. However, we ran into a different but related problem. We were well prepared and had almost finished. We were just entering banking details when the bloody system crashed, telling us to try again later or continue with the current application. However, there is no way to continue. One is forced to abandon the current attempt and start again, but even that's not easy. We tried again only to be told a claim was already in process, that we would have wait 20 minutes for the current application to expire or continue with it, but as said this was not possible. So we had to twiddle our thumbs for 20 minutes and begin again just like poor old Michael Finnegan. This time we were moving at speed knowing exactly what to do only to find it failed within minutes returning us to the beginning yet again. Yet another 20 minutes of thumb twiddling. I tried again but we were getting nowhere fast. I suggested we try again tomorrow when we could phone the UC help-line if this happened again.

So on Wednesday 22nd December 2016 we tried again. Immediately we started we were told a claim was already in process and we would have to wait 20 minutes before we could continue, but I'd not done anything yet. I telephoned the DWP UC help-line and was told they'd been having problems yesterday. That explained that. Now the excuse, was that they were updating the system starting this afternoon at 16:00, with only minutes to go! The DWP officer thought we may have difficulty and it would be best to leave it to another day. However, I thought lets give it one more try and finally, success! I told my client to include all of these difficulties as part of his efforts to find work. However, one cannot save a copy. One does not get a receipt number or get an email confirmation. My client is told that he can expect a phonecall within 2 days to make an appointment at the Jobcentre. Of course, he's already done all of this!

My client has now been told that he's got a Jobcentre appointment for his UC claim and can expect his first payment at the beginning of February 2017, having started his claim on 30 November 2015, over two months ago. He is now in rent arrears and has been given his first a food-bank voucher  from his landlord. He now faces a gloomy Christmas, with no money, and wonders what was the point of taking temporary paid work, when all it does screws up your benefit claim and leaves you facing hardhip.  God help us, if this is what the government calls simplyfying things.

Carl Faulkner on Rochdale's Council allowances

Carl   Faulkner
CARL Faulkner (pictured) from up Rooley Moor Road in Rochdale, has a letter published in the Rochdale Observer today in which he challenges the generous rises in councilor's allowances that Rochdale politicians of all parties, with the exception of the Liberal Democrat Party, awarded themselves in the Rochdale Town Hall council chamber last week.  Mr. Faulkner is not just jumping on the popular band-wagon of public opinion which clearly opposes the current increase in councilor's allowances because below is the statement he put out when he stood as an Independent in the local Rochdale elections for Spotland & Falinge Ward in 2014:
'If elected, I will be the only councillor who will not take any councillor allowances.
'Two years on from the last local elections, councillors have not cut their own generous income they receive from the council by a single penny, but many local people have lost their jobs because of council cutbacks. What does that tell you?  There are many people throughout the Borough who work extremely hard in a truly voluntary capacity.  They do not expect nor receive financial reward. I believe councillors should be no different and their time should be given freely – or not at all.
I am standing as an Independent because I genuinely believe we need councillors who are not part of the three-ring circus that passes for local democracy. Local issues should be left to local people whose passion is their town and not their chosen, private political organisation.  A councillor is not elected to deal with national issues and any councillors who think they are part of the national political scene are deluding themselves and the people who elect them.  Let our MP concern himself with such matters. That’s what he’s paid for.
'The primary purpose of an elected councillor is to ensure our council acts in the best interests of the people it serves - not in the interests of itself.  Far too often our councillors are too busy promoting the alleged achievements of their chosen party to properly undertake this basic function.
'I will support all who act in the best interests of Spotland and our town regardless of their own party affiliations.
'Party politics has let us down.  It’s time for a true Independent Spotland voice on the council; someone whose mind is not shackled because they have been elected under a party banner of convenience.'

Friday, 23 December 2016

Torment and Corruption in British Jails

Specialist "Tornado" teams were sent into HMP Swaleside, on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, after a disturbance at about 19:00 GMT on Thursday.
Meanwhile a prison spokeswoman said:
'The challenges in our prisons are longstanding and won’t be solved overnight but the justice secretary is committed to making sure our prisons are stable while we deliver wholesale reforms to the prison estate to help offenders turn their lives around and reduce reoffending.'
Meanwhile, a week ago rioting prisoners took over four wings of HMP Birmingham, setting fire to stairwells, destroying paper records and causing £2m in damage. It was the latest high-profile disturbance to break out in a jail, prompting Justice Secretary Liz Truss to warn that "long-standing" problems in the nation's prisons could take months to solve.

AN editorial in the Financial Times last Wednesday commenting on the state of British prison's being 'a national disgrace', quoted Fyodor Dostoyevsky as saying that 'the degree of civilisation in a society can be judged by entering its prisons'.

In 1971 or thereabouts, a prison officer in Brixton jail suggested to Stuart Christie then remanded in there of charges relating to the Angry Brigade, that he should write a comparative book about his experiences in Spanish and English prisons.  He was found not guilty when the case came to trial.  Later in his autobiography 'Granny made me an anarchist' Stuart Christie wrote:

'I discussed this with Miguel Garcia, my friend and former fellow prisoner, he agreed that it was the soullesness of British prisons that made them outstanding in the history of penology.  National characteristics come into it as well.  Cold cabbage, muddy fishcakes, soggy sponge lumpy custard and gnats' piss for tea would be considered a provocation diet in Spain.  The authorities offering it would be expecting a riot.  British prisoners have probably been conditioned by years of factory canteens, greasy spoon cafes and now Macdonalds. 

'But there was another striking difference between the two countries: British jails were run on a system of state socialism, where you get what your given ('Incentives' and 'earned privileges' are now the system).  Spanish jails in Franco'ws time were run along on much more humane lines inasmuch as there was some degree of choice involved.  You could work and earn more, or – and this is a punishment – not work and scrape by if you were prepared to do without things like fags and Serrano ham sandwiches.  You could have money sent in from outside and spend it in a fanteen or the prison restaurant.  Thus responsibility for the individual's quality of life in prison became his own, that of his family and his comrades.

'Like money everywhere, its circulation in jail leads to corruption, but it is also the one thing that eases tyranny.  Corruption certainly exists in English jails – albeit fitfully.  In Spain it was built into the system.  But for those who have illusions as to what can be achieved by the parliamentary system, a comparison of Spanish and English prisons would be interesting.'
As the prison spokeswoman said 'the challenges to our prisons are longstanding...'


Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Cyril Smith on the Council Stipend

TODAY's Rochdale Observer has letters attacking last week's decision by Councillors to increase councilor's allowances.  Both the Vice Chair of UKIP in the Rochdale area and Dale Mulgrew a former Liberal Dem. Councillor have letters in the paper condemning to decision.
Years ago councilors got only allowance for expenses, and at that time they had greater responsibilities.  Today many of the tasks they use to hold have been eroded by central government.
Yet today some of them treat it like a career, and as a consequence have lost touch with the people they serve.
About quarter of a century ago in the Rochdale Observer on the 30th, May 1992, Rochdale's former MP, Cyril Smith suggested that all payments to councilors should be abolished.  He then said:
'ABOLISH all payments to councilors except to reimburse them for expenses incurred. 
'I believe the concept of voluntary services is being swiftly eroded.  Society is worse off for that.  This is especially true in local government.  It used to be an honour to be of service as a councillor to one's fellow citizens.  Sadly, that is no longer the case.'
Furthermore, Cyril Smith added:
'I would decree that all councilors cease being administrators, and abolish titles such as "Leader of the council".  That would expose it for the nonsense it is.  The office bestows false authority whose only base is the regimentation of fellow councillors in the leader's political party.'*
It is suggested that Richard Farnell threatened to withdraw the party whip from any Labour Party councillors who failed to support the proposal to increase councilor's allowances last week.  Perhaps because of this, some Labour councillors sent their apologies and didn't attend the Council meeting to give their vote.
*  Cyril Smith served more than 40 years as a councilor, alderman or MP for Rochdale.  He served as a Labour councilor in Rochdale from 1950 and became mayor in 1966, then he subsequently switched parties again and entered Parliament as a Liberal in 1972, and won his Rochdale seat on five further occasions.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Who is the real Karen Danczuk?

AS Karen Danczuk, the estranged wife of Simon Danczuk MP for Rochdale, was  pictured last week in The Sun newspaper entering La Belle beauty parlour in leafy Cheadle, Stockport, she said 'My healing starts now'.  She followed this up by branding her own 38-year-old brother, Michael Burke, a 'selfish coward' and declaring 'I hope he rots in jail'.  Mr. Burke had just been sentenced to 15-years on eight counts of rape and one indecent assault against his sister and two other women who cannot be named.  Mrs. Burke had previously told The Sun, 'My brother is a monster for raping me'.  She had told the jury the abuse perpetrated by her brother had ruined her schooling, left her incapable of love and intimacy and that she struggles with depression and anxiety.  Those of our readers who may not had seen Karen Danczuk, who is said to be a regular panelist on ITV's 'Loose Women', and has performed on 'Bear Grylls', may care to peruse the colourful detailed report below in The Sun's rival newspaper The Mail on Sunday published in July 2015:
 'claim of threats to kill ...' - The Danczuk's Dark Side!
Simon Danczuk and estranged wife Karen and a 'claim of threats to kill ...'
Dark side of the Danczuks: A Spanish family holiday suddenly abandoned.  A text that read: ‘I’m scared.’  A claim of threats to kill... Disturbing questions about the MP who crusades against abuse
By David Rose for The Mail on Sunday
PUBLISHED: 22:06, 11 July 2015 | UPDATED: 13:50, 12 July 2015
It’s not often I say this but I’m scared,’ said the midnight text that Karen Burke sent to her mother, Sue, from Spain. ‘Who knows how long I’ll have to stay in [the] airport for? I can’t believe he’s done this!’ It was very late on August 25, 2008, and Karen’s future husband Simon Danczuk was about to dump her, their infant son, Milton, and her seven-year-old niece Eboni at Alicante airport after a titanic holiday row – without airline tickets or enough money to get home.
Soon to be elected as Rochdale’s Labour MP, Mr Danczuk would later become famous as a scourge of child abusers. But that day at Alicante after an evening of escalating conflict with his partner, he seemed ready to leave both Karen and the children to their fates. They were forced to wait at the airport all night while her family in Rochdale desperately tried to arrange and pay for flights home for them the next day.
Today, The Mail on Sunday can reveal disturbing new details of this incident – and of contemporary statements about it drawn up for a secretive Labour Party inquiry. These alleged that although he was apparently provoked, Mr Danczuk not only abandoned but physically assaulted his partner.
The inquiry was held not to decide whether Mr Danczuk had attacked Karen but whether those who claimed he had, by so doing so had brought the party into disrepute. It ruled in Mr Danczuk’s favour and five party members were expelled. Interviewed by this newspaper last week, some of the statements’ authors – close members of Simon and Karen Danczuk’s families – insisted they stand by what they said, and they remain certain they are relating the story as Karen told it to them.
Mr Danczuk has always denied the row became violent and that he assaulted Karen. Afterwards, they were reconciled and she now also denies the claims of an assault. She told Rochdale Online that she was distressed by the accusation, describing it as ‘very offensive’. And Mr Danczuk slammed the allegations as ‘vicious mischief making’, adding that they were ‘totally untrue and absolute nonsense’.

But even if the allegations of violence were exaggerated, it is clear they emerged directly from what Karen told her family that night and during the following day. The incident raises disturbing questions about the volatility of the couple’s subsequent marriage – which recently juddered to a very public halt. Our investigation comes as the Sunday Mirror today reports bizarre claims that Mrs Danczuk considered paying a lapdancer £1,000 to sleep with her husband in an attempt to end their marriage. Today we can reveal that: 
For more go to 

Monday, 19 December 2016

Industrial Action at Accrington Delivery Office

No. 740/2016
19 December 2016
Dear Colleagues,
Branches will wish to be aware that CWU members at Accrington Delivery Office took a second day of strike action on Saturday 17th December as a result of the failure of Royal Mail to implement a joint CWU/Royal Mail recommendation from a Flashpoint report published on 24th August relating to aggressive and bullying management of the office.
Last Saturday’s action followed a one day strike on Saturday 10th December and if the issue remains unresolved will be followed by further one day strikes on 23rd and 31st December.
The dispute raises a number of serious issues:
  • Disregard of the welfare of employees. Royal Mail has abrogated its duty of care to employees by failure to address management behaviours far outside the standards the company says it expects from all employees.  
  • Disregard of its agreements with CWU. Royal Mail is acting in breach of the Agenda for Growth Agreement by failure amounting to refusal to implement a joint recommendation made through the Flashpoint Procedure – which is designed to avoid industrial action. 
  • Disregard of its duty to customers. 85 managers have been deployed in Accrington on the last two Saturdays to undertake the work of striking delivery staff but customer service was still disrupted by Royal Mail’s refusal to implement the agreed recommendation of the Flashpoint report.
 I am sure Branches, Representatives and members will wish to send messages of support to members in Accrington who are standing up to bullying and harassment. In addition, members are facing loss of 4 days earnings over the holiday period.
Messages of support should be sent to:
Martin Berry, Branch Secretary, East Lancs Amal Branch, Union Room, Delivery Office, Bank Parade,
Burnley, Lancs. BB11 1DY
Tel:     07800 794221
Donations should be sent clearly marked “Accrington DO Dispute” to the following account:
Bank:                              Unity Trust 
Name of Account:           CWU North West Regional Fund
Acc No:                           33954055
Sort Code:                      608301 
All enquiries regarding the content of this LTB should be addressed to the PTCS Department, quoting reference 412.
Yours sincerely, 

Email Attachments - Click to download

Len McCluskey Supports Blacklist Probe

Len McCluskey:
"I undertake to ensure an independent review of this new evidence when I am re-elected General Secretary of Unite and after the new High Court proceedings have concluded".

Full story and quote:

Call for Probe into Union Collusion in Blacklisting

WE THE undersigned, are writing this open letter in the spirit of fraternal debate among members of the newly merged Ucatt / Unite construction union.
The upsurge in industrial militancy in the last few years demonstrates that when the official union works alongside rank and file activists, it is possible to mobilise workers even in a hostile environment. The merger offers an opportunity to start anew the fight against the appallingly high fatality rates and casualisation of the construction industry by combining the best traditions of the two unions.

However, one issue threatens to cause internal friction:  possible union collusion in blacklisting.

Some years ago, both Ucatt and Unite carried out internal investigations into possible union involvement in blacklisting.  But that was at a time when barely any of the documentation was available.

Since the High Court case, all that has changed.  The employers were forced to provide witness statements and disclose 40 years’ worth of documentary evidence. It is now in the public domain that officials in both unions were recorded as the source of information on Economic League and Consulting Association blacklist files.  Some of those named, remain senior officials in Unite and Ucatt to this day.  Every union activist in construction knows who the named officials are, as does every major employer.

The leadership of both unions have now seen the evidence: discussions about those officials potentially implicated in blacklisting or with overly cosy relationships with industrial relations managers has been part of the behind the scenes discussions in the run-up to the merger.

The High Court litigation won a multimillion-pound settlement for blacklisted workers.  We fully acknowledge and recognise the tremendous legal, political and industrial campaigns that the unions have undertaken.

But compensation is not the same as justice.  No-one has been held accountable for their actions.   We remain resolute in calling for a public inquiry into blacklisting.  But that is for a future Corbyn government.  Now is the time to put our own house in order.

We the undersigned call upon the new Unite construction section to engage an independent legal expert to carry out a thorough investigation of the allegations relating to union collusion in blacklisting, with a remit drawn up in conjunction with the blacklisted workers.   If the implicated officials are completely innocent, then this is their opportunity to clear their name once and for all.  But if the independent investigation concludes that there is a case to answer, then the union should take the appropriate disciplinary action.  We are not looking for a witch-hunt, we simply want answers into possible union collusion in order to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.

This issue has haunted the union for years and until it is prepared to act, it will continue to be a running sore that hinders building unity in the newly merged union.  We need to unite in order to fight against unscrupulous employers and the Tories, but the newly merged union needs to start with a clean slate.

We urge members to please attend your branch or regional meetings, and send a motion in support of an independent investigation to the Unite EC.

Blacklist Support Group

Construction Rank and File (national)

And (in personal capacity)

• Steve Acheson, ex-Unite branch secretary and safety rep

• Dave Ayre, ex-Crook Ucatt branch secretary

• Brian Bamford, Secretary of Bury Unite Commercial Branch.
. Roy Bentham, ex-Ucatt steward and secretary Unite Liverpool construction

• Graham Bowker, treasurer Unite Manchester contracting branch

• Graeme Boxall, branch secretary Unite London construction branch

• Ian Bradley, Unite London contracting branch

• John Bryan, retired Bermondsey Ucatt

• Dan Collins, Unite London construction branch

• John Connolly, Unite Liverpool

• Paul Crimmins, ex-Ucatt branch secretary and steward

• Keith Dobie – ex-Ucatt steward & Tottenham branch president

• Stewart Emms, ex-Ucatt full time official

• John Flannaghan, ex-Ucatt, Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group

• Jack Fawbert, ex-Ucatt convener

• Lee Fowler, ex-offshore safety rep, Unite

• George Fuller, ex-Ucatt safety rep

• Jim Grey, Jubilee Line steward, Unite London contracting

• Jim Harte, chair Unite combine committee

• Brian Higgins, ex-Ucatt eastern regional council and branch secretary

• Kevin Holmes, chair, Unite Manchester construction branch

• Stewart Hume, Unite construction NISC

• John Jones, ex-Ucatt London regional council

• Tony Jones, Unite Manchester construction branch

• Steve Kelly, Jubilee Line steward, ex-Unite branch secretary

• Stephen Kennedy, Jubilee Line steward, Unite

• Greig McArthur, Unite construction NISC

• Frank Morris, Unite EC member for construction

• Kenny Newton, Unite construction

• Tony O’Brien, ex-Ucatt convenor and branch secretary

• Derek Pattison, Unite member and Chair of Tameside TUC
. Jason Poulter, secretary Unite Manchester construction branch

• Jim Ryan, Crossrail steward, Unite London contracting

• Tony Seaman – UNITE NISC, Middlesbrough branch secretary

• Pete Shaw, Unite construction RISC, Combine committee

• Dave Smith, ex-Ucatt branch secretary and London regional council

• Frank Smith, ex-Ucatt branch secretary and steward

• Billy Spiers, chair Unite construction NISC, ex-Amicus EC

• Tony Sweeney, ex-Ucatt Liverpool convener

Trade Unionist Martin Larkham Dies

Dear Brothers & Sisters
I have been contacted by Martin Larkham’s son in the last few minutes. He has informed me that Martin died over the weekend.
As we all know he was suffering from throat cancer and had only been given 12 months to live. 
He was with us for nearly 2 years and continued to attend Rochdale TUC meetings and  GMATUCs as a delegate and vice chair.
His son will contact be with information concerning the funeral arrangements
 Stefan Cholewka
GMATUC secretary

Sunday, 18 December 2016

One party state leader accused of hypocrisy over self-employment!

WE are publishing below a letter from Steve Fisher aka 'Starlord' that was sent to the Tameside Reporter & Chronicle last month but was not published.  Mr Fisher, a tenant of New Charter Housing, who own the Reporter, under the guise of 'Quest Media Ltd', in the one party state of Tameside, has been proscribed and deemed a "prolific complainant" by New Charter and banned from entering their business premises since 2007. His letter, was a response to Tameside Council leader, Kieran Quinn (pictured below).

'The Leader' accused of Hypocrisy
"I read 'The Leaders' Column', Tameside Reporter (3rd Nov 2016), with astonishment! Cllr. Kieran Quinn thinks Self-employment is 'here to stay'. Does he mean  bogus self-employment or the truly self-employed 'Sole Trader' like myself ? Should I call myself a Sole Trader to differentiate myself from the rising mass of bogus self-employed? 
Ironically, the very existence of thousands of real self-employed people, is imperilled by the roll-out of Universal Credit. Why? Because they are not subject to the National Living Wage, but that's changing for the worse. 
To qualify for Working Tax Credit (WTC), HMRC require that all work done be 'for payment or in expectation of payment', and they must work at least 16 hours p/w part-time or 3o hours p/w full-time. WTC is paid if earnings are low, zero, or if making a loss. But WTC is being merged into Universal Credit and thousands of self-employed Sole Traders will be forced onto the dole, while bogus self-employment is on the rise! 
Some organisations exploit tax loop-holes to employ people 'as if' self-employed. It's part of the tax avoidance/evasion scam. It is indeed "an excuse for companies to avoid their duties and obligations in terms of things like sick pay, holiday pay, the minimum wage and pensions." But this is precisely what Tameside Council are doing! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! 
Many of the bogus self-employed are little more than slaves without workers rights and none of the freedoms of self-employment. They have little or no control over what they do. If they don't do as the Company commands they don't get the work. Self-employment lets them dodge their employment responsibilities, and health and safety legislation. It's 'my way or the highway'! 
A client of mine was indirectly employed by Tameside Council. He worked 'as if' a council employee alongside council employees, but he has no contract with the Council. He's an agency worker. Many years ago he worked directly for Tameside Council doing the same work. 
You wouldn't believe how much paperwork he had to deal with, reading, signing, scanning and emailing, merely to secure simple paid work. It's bad enough claiming Universal Credit and trying to avoid benefit sanctions, but this scam is even more devious. 
Let me explain. As a self-employed consultant I helped him to complete all 'paperwork', did some online research, and made some phonecalls on his behalf. He couldn't have done this alone, but the tale's even more twisted. 
He was employed by 'Service Care Solutions Ltd.', Preston, who procure workers for Tameside Council via AGMA. Much cheaper than hiring workers directly. He has few employment rights and no union protection, but that's a Labour Council for ya! 
This situation was exacerbated when SCS hired a payroll company, 'Freelance Professional Services Ltd.', to pay his weekly wage into his bank account. They have an office in Viking House, Ramsey, but their HQ is on the ISLE OF MAN! The bells begin to ring! 
FPS then created a separate company to act as his direct employer, and so he became a de-facto employee of his very own company Limited by Guarantee, and working for himself. These are known as Umbrella Companies. FPS act as Tax Agent with HMRC. I say de-facto because he had to sign and agree to a 36-point 'Administrative Terms & Conditions' form, many of which are legalistic and complex and completely unreasonable. He'd already been working for a week! Don't sign, don't get paid, lose the job, and then try to re-claim Universal Credit which would be refused because he'd left his job voluntarily. Not much of a choice! Whatever happened to workers rights? 
He had to "agree to adopt a flexible working approach and opt out of the 'working time regulations'", agree to data sharing, breaching his Data Protection rights, and that FPS be appointed Company Administrator placing them in control of the very company that they set-up in his name without his permission. 
The job was advertised as £8.60 per hour, but his actual pay after deductions was £7.20 per hour. It's as if they'd calculated backwards to get this figure! He did not receive the full advertised rate because he had to pay two lots of taxes and two lots of National Insurance, one for the company and one for himself, and holiday pay manipulations. What a con!
He hadn't a clue what was happening. He just wanted to work, but had little choice in the matter. It's all seemingly legal, but very dodgy! 
There are 4 separate 'legal entities' in-between the worker and Tameside Council, which includes AGMA, the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities! 
The Leader says, "that HMRC have set up an 'Employment Status and Intermediaries Scheme' that will react to complaints and investigate companies that have declared a high amount [number] of self employed workers." Very good and about time, BUT how high is high? Will this include the likes of Tameside Council? It certainly should! So where do I go to report TMBC?"

Are the lights going out across Tameside?

By Steve Starlord
Does anyone out there know where I can buy a Coal Miner's head-lamp? Or perhaps a 'Holman Hunt' lamp for Christmas? It is pretty isn't it? It's a detail from the famous painting by Holman Hunt - The Light of the World! I thought about buying a powerful torch, but that would be difficult to hold while carrying bags of heavy shopping and my 'Death to the Work Programme' placard, while traipsin the streets of Tameside in semi-darkness.
Every week Tameside Unemployed Workers Alliance help to shine a light on the injustices taking place at Ashton Jobcentre. All the while Tameside Council willingly help to snuff-out what little light remains in the area, presumably to save money. Methinks they've got their priorities all wrong.
One full year has passed by since I last wrote to Tameside Council about street lamp outages, the majority of which have gone un-repaired. Now why is that? I begin to suspect the Council of operating a deliberate policy of leaving street lamps out when they fail, and of turning some off when perfectly fine.
It would be interesting to hear what the Council have to say about this. I could be forgiven for thinking my last email had been ignored, but for the fact that several street lamps were quickly repaired, while yet others, were more slowly repaired, and many others left permanently out. I assume the Council did these repairs because I'd told them? I was, however, otherwise ignored, for all my questions went unanswered. Shame on you Tameside Council! 

Friday, 16 December 2016

How to be an Inmate?

Michael Burke must prepare his own narrative for cell-mates

by Brian Bamford – a former inmate at Strangeways HMP
IF Michael Burke, who was yesterday sentenced to 15-years jail having been found guilty of raping his own sister 'Selfie Queen' Karen Danczuk as a child, and sexually assaulting two other girls, is to avoid himself being brutalised and possibly raped in the British prison system, he must now be carefully preparing his own narrative to relate to the prison community on the wings. 
Only yesterday the Manchester Evening News (MEN) carried a story by a prison officer at Strangeways notorious Victorian prison in Manchester in which the unnamed source said 'staff are living in fear of violence and nothing is being done to stop inmates using drugs and mobile phones'.
'Out of Sight, Out of Mind'
English people tend to adopt the view of 'Out of sight, out of mind!' with regard to their own prison system, and the anonymous source told the MEN that 'It is clear the home secretary does not understand the issues staff face daily'.
The prison officer is reported to have said in a letter that 'prisoners have no respect for authority, are violent to fellow inmates and staff and take drugs such as spice.'
Furthermore, he wrote:  'There have been several incidents at HMP Manchester where staff have been threatened by prisoners and governors have done nothing to protect the staff.'
'Notoriety' of Defendant and 'Fame' of Complainant
Defending Burke, Nicholas Walker QC said Burke had suffered a downfall of a 'very public nature'.  And Mr. Walker added:  'It's a feature of this case he can't enjoy the luxury of anonymity as the others may enjoy'.  
The judge, Mr Justice Gilbart, told Mr. Walker QC that he was not sentencing Mr. Burke on the 'because of his notoriety' in the media but based of the evidence presented in Court.  Mr Justice Gilbart said of Mrs. Danczuk that though she was 'well known' the Court will protect those in the media, and she had been active as a Councillor. 
Karen Danczuk, the estranged wife of the disgraced Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, had claimed her mother was distant, that her her father worked nights, and that her brother Michael had begun grooming her from the age of six for sex, before getting into bed and raping her from the age of nine as other siblings slept. 
Mr. Justice Goldbart, handing down the sentence to the defendant:  'Whether she (Karen Danczuk) was nine, ten or 11 at the date of the first rape is not clear, but on any view she was a young girl who not reached puberty.  After she had endured your attentions up to the age of 11 she stood up to you, you didn't touch her again.
'You have shown not a shred of remorse in your defence you spent much of your time claiming she had orchestrated a conspiracy against you, a claim I regard as entirely absurd.  Your second victim was a naïve 12-year-old ... you did not care whether she agreed or not, (went from heavy petting to) forcing yourself on her just as you had your sister.
'You ejaculated within her and you persuaded her and she persuaded herself that it was normal.
'You made (the third victim) submit.  Here too you alleged she was part of the conspiracy.' orchestrated by your sister.'
Mr. Justice Goldbart told Mr. Burke:  'You have an attitude to women that reveals a self-justifying lack of insight.'
Meanwhile, we must wait to see if any British newspaper carries another exclusive insightful interview with Karen Danczuk who claims to have suffered 'severe psychological harm'.
On the wings of a Total Institution
As Michael Burke goes into the cells to begin his sentence he will be entering what sociologists call a 'total institution'.  He will be striped, showered and searched before he gets to the cells on the reception wing.  He will be questioned as to any special dietary requirements.  I normally lie and declare myself to be a vegetarian in the hope that it may enable me to get more choice when the food is dished-up.
Once on the wings he must have a suitably convincing narrative to explain his predicament to his fellow cell-mates and other prisoners in the jail community. 
In Court Two of the Manchester Crown Court yesterday, Mr. Justice Goldbart, educated at the  University of Cambridge, may have preached to you about you having 'shown not a shred of remorse'.  That may well be the case, but the prison community is an entirely different jurisdiction from the Crown Court, and he will soon find out it applies its own rules and posses its own hierarchy and standards. 
Rule 43!
Michael Burke needs to prepare himself skillfully if he is not to end up segregated serving his ten-year sentence on Rule 43.*
To establish his status in the prison hierarchy Michael Burke will have to present a story which will  be acceptable and will gain him respect among the inmates.  To do this and survive on the wings, he needs to reaffirm his defence that a 'conspiracy' was 'orchestrated' against him by a group of people who had malicious intent.  In the context of an all-male community the idea of what the novelist Henry James called a 'capricious woman' would not be difficult for the average prison inmate to understand, (see 'The Princess Casamassima ).
For Mr. Burke to now suggest to his fellow prisoners that he is the victim of a 'conspiracy'  by an ex-girl friend and a former partner would not be something that the male prison community would find hard to understand, especially when one of the complainants has given an exclusive interview to the press.  Though it is not yet known if she will be paid for this.
Some substance may be given to this account by an exchange of e-mails in September/ October 2015, when Northern Voices was given a name of someone who had approached some women previously associated with Mr. Burke.
At that time we put the forward the following question to this individual:
'I have been given information from two separate sources that you were in contact with a number of Michael Burke's former girl friends or partners, some of whom subsequently went to the police.  'Could you confirm if this is true, and if it is, explain why you did this? 
'Look forward to your early response'
A reply came back to NV two days later in the form of a threat:
'These allegations are completely untrue, defamatory and may constitute a malicious falsehood if published.'
Considering this response and in the dangerous prison environment as described by the Strangeways prison officer above to the MEN, a conspiracy narrative could save Michael Burke's life.  Karen. Danczuk may have secured what she now calls 'closure' but she has done so by using the criminal justice system to deliver her own brother into the human jungle of the British prison system.  Meanwhile she can now get on with her life like she has been performing on 'Bear Grylls', or being paid to appear on 'Loose Women'.
As a sociologist/ ethnomethodologist as well as a former prison inmate, for practical purposes in prison I would advise Michael Burke to stick to the defence he presented in the Manchester Crown Court: that he is the victim of a 'stitch-up' by what the defence described as an 'attention seeker' and what the press call a 'Selfie Queen'.
Rule 43 states that any prisoner can apply to be taken into solitary confinement on a Vulnerable Prisoners Unit, for his own protection. Jailed police and prison officers, sex offenders and showbusiness celebrities often apply for this.

Public Oppose Council Allowance Rise

PROTESTORS stood on the steps of Rochdale Town Hall before Wednesday night’s council meeting (14 December) to demonstrate against the 34% rise in councillors’ allowance.
As councillors arrived for the meeting, the protesters took up chanting ‘They want 34%, we can’t even pay our rent’ and ‘No ifs, no buts, no public service cuts’.  A survey was also handed to councillors by Unite representatives asking if they had asked their local constituents if they believed they deserved a 34-51% pay rise and to justify this with evidence.

Whilst most councillors passed the demonstration by arriving through the front door, Council Leader Richard Farnell was accused of 'snubbing the people' and 'cowardice' after he was spotted avoiding the protest by entering the Town Hall through the back door.
Before the Council meeting commenced, Sam O’Brien, of Unison, said:
'If the councillors vote for this then they will prove they are completely out of touch with the people they are supposed to serve. The idea that they could vote for such a huge rise whilst cutting services will strike most people as appalling.

 'Council workers are being told that the council have to take tough choices that austerity will be permanently written into our contracts. Why is it an easy choice to increase councillors’ pay but everything else is tough: no wonder 75% of UNISON members recently voted to strike against the proposed cuts.'

 A council worker, who wished to remain nameless, said: 
'To pass this is immoral and puts council workers at risk of redundancy.  
'We’ve had these never-ending cuts; we haven’t had pay rises. Our wages have been frozen since austerity started, even with inflation, so in effect, our pay has gone backwards, but here they are giving 34% to councillors and the free food before each meeting, be it planning or scrutiny.

 'I used to work at a neighbouring council, who scrapped this earlier in the year to save money. They should cut councillors to two per ward to save money, but here we still have 60 fat cats who are stuffing their faces with allowances- I’m appalled.'

 Robert Mudd said: 'This increase has been based on the average, which is false criteria. It should be based on the median or the modal value to make it more accurate.'

 Jeff Slough said:  'The only thing I’d like to ask directly to Mr Farnell is to justify his £1,000 a week for doing a voluntary role.  It’s ridiculous.  I’ve nothing against legitimate expenses, if the business is within the Rochdale Borough.'

Council Chamber Jibe: 'Jobs for the Comrades'

DEMONSTRATORS outside Rochdale Town Hall at the full council meeting of Rochdale MBC were chanting '34% and we can't pay the rent!' last Wednesday night.  It was the reaction of the unions and UKIP supporters to the proposed rise in stipend allowances for councillors on Rochdale Metropolitan Council. 

Inside, Councillor Andy Kelly accused Richard Farnell, the leader of Rochdale's Labour Council for giving jobs to the comrades by paying a stipend to assistant portfolio holders as well as Cabinet members. 

These days the 'comrades' seems to include Ashley Dearnley and his little tribe of Tories because they joined with Labour to vote for the increase.  It was noticeable that some Labour councillors stayed away and gave their apologies last Wednesday. 

In the end only the two Liberal Democrat councillors, Councillors Andy Kelly and Irene Davidson, voted against the increase.  It was suggested that the proposal to increase allowances was brought forward now because next year there will not be elections for the council, and it is hoped by Labour that by the time of the next elections the public will have forgot what happened last Wednesday.

Garcia Lorca's 'House of Bernada Alba'

 A Royal Exchange Theatre and Graeae Theatre Company co-production


By Federico García Lorca
Translated by Jo CliffordDirected by Jenny Sealey
Press Night: Tuesday 7 February

3 - 25 February - The Theatre

A bold exploration of female identity, sexuality and power: Lorca’s THE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA is beautifully transformed for the Royal Exchange’s distinctive in-the-round theatre in a co-production with the trail-blazing Graeae Theatre Company. THE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA is directed by Graeae’s Artistic Director Jenny Sealey, in a translation by Jo Clifford with the award-winning Kathryn Hunter in the title role. Deftly weaving the incredible talent of Deaf and disabled actors into this compelling drama, each performance creatively integrates British Sign Language, Audio Description and Captioning. The production will run from 3 – 25 February.
Jenny Sealey said:
‘I have wanted to direct this play for many years, and am thrilled to finally be doing so with this full-blooded translation by the wonderful Jo Clifford and in the unique space that is the Royal Exchange Theatre. Alongside this heated tale of competitiveness, danger and fragility, we’ll be weaving Graeae’s famous aesthetics of access into the fabric of the production, ensuring it truly is a landmark event, while showcasing the extraordinary talent of our Deaf and disabled actors.’  
Bernarda’s husband is dead. Now she alone rules her household and the lives of her five daughters. A period of eight years mourning will be observed without contact with the outside world and the men who might bring them ruin. That is except for Angustias, whose inheritance has attracted a wealthy local suitor. As the wedding approaches, Bernarda struggles to retain her suffocating grip on the family and on these women whose appetite for defiance is growing. 

Royal Exchange Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom said:
‘We are thrilled to be making this show with the brilliant Jenny Sealey cementing our relationship further with Graeae. Their work is synonymous with access, placing Deaf and disable actors centre-stage and ensuring that every show is fully accessible, BSL, captioning and audio-description are seamlessly woven into the production. This is the first time audiences will experience work on our stage in this way. In January Amit Sharma will join us from Graeae, as part of the Arts Council’s Change Makers programme, to continue the work we’ve started here.’