Sunday, 26 March 2017

Lonelyness of the longdistance whistleblower!

by Brian Bamford
Derek Pattison - Joint Editor wrote on the 9th, March 2017:
'I feel compelled to comment. There is no doubt that Mr. Wainwright's help in exposing this blacklisting scandal, was absolutely invaluable to many building workers.  This was because he was a 'blacklister' turned 'whistleblower' and had valuable inside information.  However, when he gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, he was asked at what point he realised that there was something reprehensible or immoral about blacklisitng construction workers.
'Many people (including those on the Scottish Affairs Select Ccommittee) felt that he did not act as he did, because his conscious pricked him, but because he had been shit on by the company he worked for when he raised the issue of alleged corrupt practices and they took detrimental action against him. Some people feel that he really blew the whistle because he was a disgruntled employee who wanted to get back at the company that he worked for.
'There is nothing surprising about this and people often do blow the whistle for similar and not unrelated reasons, rather than acting in the public interest.
'Mr Wainwright refers to his meeting with Ian Kerr.  As I understand it, Kerr said in his evidence to the SASC, that Mr. Wainwright had said that Tarmac (the company he worked for, now Carillion) did not need his services because they had their own information about construction workers and could operate their own blacklist.
'Understandably, Mr Wainwright will now want to minimise his involvement in this scandalous practice of blacklisting, and engage in ex-post facto rationalisations.  No doubt, Alan will be happy to expand on these matters and answer questions about this, when he meets trades unionist to talk about his role in the blacklisting of construction workers.'
Derek Pattison, the joint-editor of Northern Voices, wrote the comment above earlier this month in response to an appeal from the whistle-blower and former costruction industry boss, Alan Wainwright in a legal case against Balfour Beatty.  Derek, in his account below, was clearly anxious to show that there is much that is complicated in the affairs of men and women:  the line between morality and expediency may well be a fine one.  It is now worth reminding ourselves by re-reading what the journalist Rob Evans had to say in The Guardian on Friday the 15th, May 2009:

Alan Wainwright: The lonely life of a construction industry whistleblower 

by Rob Evans Friday 15 May 2009

Alan Wainwright
Blacklist whistleblower, Alan Wainwright. Photograph: Christopher Thomond 

How former manager exposed how workers were being secretly blacklisted. 

ALAN WAINWRIGHT is a whistleblower who appears to have had a significant hand in changing government policy. The one-time construction manager used his inside knowledge to expose the clandestine use by companies of blacklisting that has prevented trade unionists and alleged "troublemakers" getting jobs.
By going public, he set off a chain of events which resulted, on Monday, in an announcement from the business secretary, Lord Mandelson, that the government was finally going to outlaw covert blacklists. Mandelson had been forced to act after a watchdog closed down a private investigator allegedly at the heart of blacklisting in the construction industry. Wainwright played a key role in helping to unmask the investigator, who is due to be prosecuted for breaking the data protection act on 27 May. This week he is pleased, but keen to stress that others, including trade unionists and politicians, deserve the credit as well.
He has trodden the familiar path of a whistleblower – battling for a long time in obscurity while being ignored by those in power: "It was demoralising not to be believed." Like other whistleblowers, he suffered for going public – losing his job, having no income, using up all his savings to live, experiencing a lot of stress, and fearing he would be evicted from his home: "It affects your relationship with your children, who are the most important thing in my life."
Industrial strife
Wainwright, 45, grew up in Deeside, north Wales. He started off as an electrician then ran a recruitment agency before being recruited by the Tarmac construction firm.
His whistleblowing story starts in 1997 when he was the national labour manager at an engineering company, Crown House (then a Tarmac subsidiary). He had been told by a senior manager that construction companies paid a private investigator, Ian Kerr, for information to "ensure that certain workers did not gain employment on their projects". He was told to meet Kerr because the vetting was being extended to Crown House's labour force.
"He [Kerr] definitely made it clear that they were undesirable people who had a history of causing disruption to projects," Wainwright says.
He had two meetings with Kerr, who said that many construction firms supplied him with details of workers on his database. As an example, Wainwright was shown a list of more than 100 names. According to Wainwright, Kerr said that when someone applied for a job, the company would forward their name to him so he could check his database. Wainwright said that if a worker was rejected, a simple "no" would come back, with no other explanation.
Wainwright's department faxed a weekly list of names to Kerr; later the lists went to Tarmac's head office: "It was very discreet, a closely guarded secret. It was made clear to me that I was not to discuss it with anybody, and I didn't." However, something was stirring in his mind: "I knew deep down that there was something wrong with it."
Yesterday, Laing O'Rourke, which now owns Crown House, said that in recent years it had bought companies which had paid Kerr, but this had been stopped.  In 2000, Wainwright briefly worked for the Drake and Scull construction firm. He said his managers sent him a list of 500 workers, with their national insurance numbers, which it had received from rival construction firm Balfour Beatty.  He said the listed workers had been employed on three large construction projects that had seen a lot of industrial strife, and that the list was distributed to managers to ensure some workers were not employed.  The memo, dated August 2000, advised him to "keep this information confidential".
The Emcor construction company, which owns Drake and Scull, said it was aware of the list described by Wainwright: "We have employed individuals named on that list, at the time and subsequently. We do not condone blacklists."
By 2004, Wainwright was a manager for Haden Young, a subsidiary of Balfour Beatty. Within a year, he came across what he thought was fraud by employees, but says his bosses were not interested in finding out the truth – a claim they deny. "The management shunned me," he says. "It got to the point where I felt very isolated, alone and alienated. It was one of the most distressing periods of my life."  He initiated a grievance complaint against the company, but began to worry that he himself would be branded a troublemaker.
In a letter to his head office in July 2005, he wrote: "The company operates a blacklisting procedure for new recruits and hired temporary agency workers to check for any previous history of union militancy, troublemaking."
Copies of Haden Young faxes from the time show lists of names being faxed to head office so that, he believes, they could be vetted.
Yesterday Balfour Beatty said it did "not condone the use of 'blacklists' in any circumstances and has taken steps to ensure that none of our companies use such services."  In 2006, Wainwright quit Haden Young but lost an employment tribunal claim. He was by then convinced that he had been blacklisted as he had applied unsuccessfully for more than 150 jobs.  He believed he had to make a concerted effort to expose the blacklisting if he were ever going to get work. He set up a website and posted names of hundreds of workers he believed had been blacklisted to alert them.
Unfair dismissal
He linked up with workers who thought they were being blacklisted, shared his inside information with them and gave evidence for them in industrial tribunals.  Three workers won their case in 2007 for unfair dismissal when a tribunal concluded that a "disgraceful" blacklist did exist in the construction industry.  A Guardian article on the cases last June caught the attention of the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, the official privacy watchdog.  He investigated because he was worried that workers were unfairly being denied jobs.  As Wainwright had met Kerr and still had documents concerning the alleged blacklisting, he was able to help him.  Investigators raided Haden Young premises and tracked down the elusive Kerr to a nondescript office in Droitwich, Worcestershire. In February, they raided Kerr's premises and seized a secret database of 3,200 workers, effectively finishing the 66-year-old's business.
Thomas then named 40 construction firms including Balfour Beatty, Sir Robert McAlpine, Laing O'Rourke, Emcor and Crown House, which he said had been clandestinely using the database to vet potential workers. According to Thomas, the firms bought details of the individuals' trade union activities and work record from Kerr. Workers were said to be labelled, for example, as "Communist party", "lazy and a trouble-stirrer", "Do not touch" and "Irish ex-army bad egg".  Among the entries was one on Wainwright recording how he had helped blacklisted workers.
Now the jovial Wainwright is happily out of the construction industry and working for a concert ticket business.
He is animated about who are the ultimate culprits –  the directors of the construction companies. "Ian Kerr is not the primary cause of this.  The companies set him up in business, funded his existence from the start, and each name on the list would have been provided by the companies.  The directors took the decisions to join the system."
He is not ready to celebrate the end of blacklisting yet as he is waiting to see if Mandelson manages to draw up a proper law to eradicate it. "I am cautiously optimistic, however," he says.
Alan Wainwright's new blog on the construction industry blacklist is now live
Alan Wainwright: the CV
Born Chester 1963.
Career 1979-1989, qualified electrician; 1989-1993, managing director of own recruitment business; 1993-2000, national labour manager, Crown House; 2000, business improvement director at Emcor Drake & Scull; 2001-2004, human resources consultancy work; 2004-2005, production manager, Haden Young; 2006-present, concert ticket buyer, after 200 unsuccessful job applications.
Family Divorced, son 21 and daughter 19.
Interests Writing, performing and watching live music.

Burnham pledges free bus passes for 16-year-olds, but not for over 60's!

Labour Mayoral Candidate - Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham, the Labour mayoral candidate for Greater Manchester, recently launched his mayoral manifesto. Amongst other things, he pledged to roll out free bus passes for 16 to 18-year-olds, who live in Greater Manchester.

According to a recent report by the “Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change” (CRESC), published in November 2016, Greater Manchester is a city region marked by low wages and precarious work with an acute shortage of social housing. Despite this, the report points out that fares for public transport are high and most commuting is by car. The report says:

“Excluding movements from Salford to Manchester, 60 to 70% of the commutes in to Manchester City from the nine other boroughs are by car. Commuting to work accounts for less than 20% of trips in Greater Manchester.”

Since the deregulation of buses under the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher in 1986, bus trips in big cities outside of London, have collapsed from 2bn trips a year to 1bn. Moreover, while fares have risen, services have worsened or have been cut altogether. Around 40p in every pound of revenue that bus companies take, comes directly as a subsidy from the taxpayer.

By contrast, bus use in London since the 1980s, has gone in the opposite direction, from 1bn to 2bn trips a year. Under ‘Transport for London’ (TfL), everything from the fares, the bus route, the timetable, and the profits that the bus company makes, are decided by the Mayor and TfL. Under the “Oyster Card” fare system, which everyone must use, Transport for London have introduced a standard single fare for journeys which allows passengers to pay one single fare if they change service within one hour. Free travel on bus, tube or tram, is available if you live in a London borough and are over 60-years of age.

However, if you live in within Greater Manchester, you are no longer entitled to a free bus pass when you reach 60-years of age. This change came about in 2010, when the qualifying age for a free bus pass, was moved incrementally, each year, towards pensionable age.  

As a 62-year-old man who lives in Labour controlled Greater Manchester, I must pay full bus fares until I qualify for a free bus pass (if there are still free bus passes) in September 2020, when I will be almost 66-years of age, possibly riddled with arthritis, and with a long white beard, and a walking stick. Like many people, the high cost of travelling on public transport in Greater Manchester, means that I rarely use it nowadays.

While I don’t begrudge giving a healthy 16 to 18-year-old a free bus pass, it seems outrageous to me, that because I don’t live in Greater London, I cannot get a free bus pass as a man in my sixties, but would be entitled to it, if I lived in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Although I accept that many people who live in Greater Manchester may be totally unaware that they no longer qualify for a free bus passes at 60, the government must marvel at the way in which they get away with this in England - cutting people’s benefits while at the same time, cutting taxes for the multinationals and the rich. No doubt, they must wonder why, the people of Greater Manchester and the other areas of England, put up with such blatant discrimination in transport policy within the regions of the UK.  No wonder, some politicians get awarded lucrative part-time jobs in the city.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Unite row between rivals McCluskey & Coyne

International Business Times:reports:

The bitter row between Len McCluskey and Gerard Coyne, his main rival for the leadership of the Unite union, continued on Friday (24 March). Coyne told International Business Times UK that McCluskey has spent "far too much time" focusing on Westminster politics and suggested the current general secretary is Jeremy Corbyn's "puppet master".
"People really do believe it's time for a change and a sense that under Len's leadership we've spent far too much time focusing on Westminster politics and not enough time on supporting our members and protecting them through difficult times," he said.
"I'm actually saying that the relationship with the Labour Party is likely to be very different under my leadership. Not in that we don't affiliate – that's within our rules – but the focus on the leadership of the Labour Party and effectively being a puppetmaster to the leader of Labour Party that will definitely end under me.
"There's a big enough day-job here in being the Unite general secretary then trying to be the general secretary of the Labour Party at the same time. I think you'll see a very different and tangible change when I'm successful."
Coyne, who is Unite's regional secretary for the West Midlands, issued the attack against McCluskey with just days to go before voting opens on Monday 27 March. Unite is the UK's largest trade union with more than 1.3 million members and the organisation is a major donor to Labour.
But, like other unions, Unite's membership has fallen over recent years. More than 42,177 people left the organisation Between 2012 and 2015, according to the union's annual returns. Coyne wants to make Unite "relevant for the 21st century" and introduce a new "family membership" to boost the union's influence.
"We want to reach out and bring them into the family of Unite by making sure that if their parents are already Unite members that they get that protection the union can provide," he said.
Coyne added: "One of the realities is that since 1979 trade union membership has been declining year-on-year. Part of my argument is that the union has not been relevant to the world of work is today and it's changed quite rapidly, not just in terms of the loss of manufacturing jobs, but in the structure of the way people are involved in work.
"You've seen a massive increase in zero-hours contracts, almost one million people, there's 1.6 million people on agency contracts and more than four million on self-employment, a lot of those are on bogus self-employment where they are working for one employer and it's a means of avoiding National Insurance Contributions [from the company]."

Operation Clifton Further Discredits Danczuk

by Les May
WHEN Simon Danczuk, the MP for Rochdale's book ‘Smile for the Camera’ was published in April 2014 it was applauded by almost every reviewer.  But there was one slightly sceptical note struck by Nicholas Blincoe who reviewed the book for the Daily Telegraph.  Whilst almost everyone else seemed to accept at face value everything that Danczuk and his aide Baker had to say about Cyril Smith’s activities, Mr. Blincoe was more cautious in what he said:  
'If it emerges that Smith, who died in 2010, raped young boys at Knowl View, the failure to act earlier will seem unforgivable. But the guilt will be shared.  Everyone in Rochdale read the RAP story.  I pored over it as a 13-year-old. There was never any doubt over Smith’s guilt. So why did no one do anything?' and 'Investigations into Knowl View by the police and council have been extended to discover Smith’s role, if any, in the abuse. We will soon know if Rochdale’s sympathy for Smith was a terrible mistake.'  

‘Smith’s guilt’ here refers to the story which had appeared in the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) in 1979, about him carrying out fake medical examinations and spanking young men at Cambridge House Hostel in the early 1960s.  The reason ‘There was never any doubt...’ is that when the story appeared Smith huffed and puffed and blustered, but did not sue.

In the event Blincoe’s prediction of May 2014 that ‘We will soon know...’ proved to be wildly optimistic.  It has taken not one, but three, investigations to get at the truth about what Baker wrote and Danczuk put his name to.  
Essentially their credibility rests on three claims: 
1)  That Smith was protected by, amongst others, the security services, and was effectively immune from prosecution, 
2)  That Knowl View special school was a ‘sweetshop for paedophiles’ and Smith took full advantage of it,
3)  That there was a ‘cover up’ by officers of Rochdale Council about what was happening in the school. 
Now we have known since July 2015 that the first of these claims are false.

This is what I wrote about this incident on the Northern Voices blog in September 2015: 
On pages 221 and 222 of his book is a typical Danczuk story about Smith.  In recounting this story he forgot the collateral damage being caused to the reputation of the Northamptonshire Police:   
'His car had been pulled over on the motorway and officers had found a box of child porn in his boot.  The police were naturally disgusted and wanted to press charges.  But then a phone call was made from London and he was released  without charge Senior officers had threatened the officers involved with dismissal if he was not released immediately.  The mood was tense and sullen as officers stood back while Cyril breezily walked past them to freedom.  All the staff who knew about it were threatened with the Official Secrets Act if they discussed the matter any further.  Once again Cyril walked out of the police station knowing he was a protected man.'  

A totally convincing story, but totally untrue.    

How do we know?    

Because detectives have interviewed Danczuk, two former chief constables, about 60 police staff, a journalist who has written extensively about Smith, and several members of the public.   No witness has been found who saw Smith in custody or was involved in his arrest, no reports of the alleged incident have been uncovered and no witnesses have been found from Special Branch.   A manual trawl of its archives was undertaken by Special Branch and the Crown Prosecution Service searched its archives for relevant information.   Both found nothing. 

So far as I know this is the only one of Danczuk's stories that has been subject to scrutiny.  I leave it to your imagination to figure out how much it has cost to find out the truth about it just because he and Baker could not be bothered to check it out before committing it to print. 
Their second claim about paedophiles at Knowl View school was demolished in September 2016 when Operation Jaguar was closed due to the absence of substantive evidence.  
This is what the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) had to say: 
‘Between April 2014 and April 2015, 13 files with multiple allegations were submitted by GMP to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) relating to 27 suspects and 16 victims (I think they mean complainants), of both physical and sexual offences.  In 2016 the CPS communicated their decision on the final one of the 13 files that was still under review.  No further action will be taken in relation to this allegation.  In May 2016 a further file was submitted to the CPS and in August 2016 the CPS advised there was insufficient evidence to support a prosecution.’
Danczuk did not like this one little bit and responded with:  
'I believe that there has been a catalogue of failings by GMP during the investigation of these crimes.   A failure to prosecute will leave child sexual abuse victims devastated that the people who changed their lives forever will not be brought to justice.  This statement from GMP announcing that they have not been able to prosecute any more abusers will, I am sure, mean that the perpetrators of these horrific and evil crimes will sleep more happily in their beds tonight.’   

In other words he ‘knows’ the people accused are guilty, and if the evidence cannot be found it is due to police failings.
Whilst Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd did not see fit to defend the good name and professionalism of Greater Manchester Police, the local Police Federation chairman Inspector Ian Hanson, did saying:  
 '(f)rom his comments I would assume Mr Danczuk is in possession of very specific information that backs up his comments (and) if that is the case then he should refer that information to the IPCC (Independent Police Complaint's Commission) himself immediately.'   

In a Facebook post, Ian Hanson said a statement released by Mr Danczuk on Thursday was 'totally lacking in detail or substance'.   

Inspector Hanson said of Simon Danczuk: 
'.... I will publicly call him out to deliver the firm evidence that he bases his criticism of GMP on to my office by 12 noon on Monday - and I will personally deliver it to the IPCC.'

As for their claim of a ‘cover up’ this is implied rather than made explicit.  But anyone reading page 113 of their book could not be left in any doubt of what is being suggested, especially as they refer to one council officer by name.  Certainly the media took the view that the police investigation into whether there had been a ‘cover up’ by Rochdale Council had come about because of the book.

Assistant Chief Constable Ian Wiggett from GMP, said:  
'Following the publication of MP Simon Danczuk's book 'Smile for the Camera’, GMP conducted an assessment of the allegations contained within that book. As a result of the assessment, GMP decided that a criminal investigation was required. 
'This also followed consultation with Rochdale Council and the QC conducting the independent inquiry on their behalf. The council asked Neil Garnham QC to suspend his independent review and he has agreed to do so.
'The GMP investigation will now seek to identify whether any offences have been committed in the way that previous reports of abuse were handled or allegedly covered up.'

After more than two and a half years and at a cost of nearly three quarters of a million pounds the Greater Manchester Police investigation Operation Clifton concluded that there was no ‘cover up’ of what was happening at Knowl View.  In other words Danczuk and Baker once again got it wrong.   Now at this point I must declare an interest.  In May 2015 I was interviewed at Rochdale Police Station for some two hours by two officers who were part of this operation.  I handed over copies of all the relevant documents I had amassed during my own investigation and signed statements detailing the information I had provided verbally.  At the end of the interview I was asked to express a view as to whether I believed there had been a ‘cover up’. I said no. So far as I was concerned I was very impressed by the thoroughness of the investigation.   

Danczuk sees things differently.  He has described Operation Clifton as a 'shambles' and he said: 'This must be the most bizarre and unprofessional police investigation I’ve seen in my time in public office.  The police have been effectively investigating themselves.  The way it has been handled by the police warrants investigation.'

What he does not say is that the investigation was set up examine whether there had been a ‘cover up’ by Rochdale Council and that he was wrong to suggest that there had.
This is curious because in April 2014 he had dismissed the existing enquiry into claims of a ‘cover up’ set up by Rochdale Council in January 2014 as a ‘bogus review’ that lacked the necessary independence.  It was this enquiry which was superceded by Operation Clifton.  

He said at the time:  
'It's well known that Rochdale council are knee-deep in litigation over claims of historical physical and sexual abuse and their so-called independent review is nothing more than a defence of the council.  
'I don't know why they're calling it an independent review because the council commissioned it, they've set the terms of reference and the council leader is busy calling round people connected to Knowl View asking them to come and speak to him.
'There's nothing independent about it and I think it's wrong that the council should be investigating serious allegations of abuse that they had responsibility for preventing.'  

Incidentally, the council leader in question was Colin Lambert who went on to deliver the Labour party a stunning victory at the next election but was then replaced by someone closer to Mr Danczuk.

Operation Clifton cost almost £750,000, Operation Jaguar cost in the region of £500,000, the cost of the investigation by Northamptonshire Police is unknown but we can tentatively place it in the tens of thousands of pounds, if not more.  Taken together the sum is in the region of one and a quarter million pounds.  Even though Danczuk was the proximate factor which led to each of them, he rejects the findings of all of them. 

Allowing Danczuk to remain in a position where anyone might be inclined to take the slightest notice of his views on Cyril Smith, Knowl View and indeed the whole question of sexual abuse of children, is rapidly becoming an expensive luxury the country can ill afford.  But he won’t go until he is pushed and the people to do that pushing are the members of Rochdale Labour party or, if they still won’t do it, Rochdale’s councillors from the other parties need to kick up a fuss and not be cowed by attacks from Danczuk’s cronies.

Rochdale will never climb out of the mire so long as it has Danczuk as its MP.  Blaming the police when they don’t come up with the findings you think they should is lacking in judgement.  Doing it three times is the action of a fool.  

Friday, 24 March 2017

‘Down and Out in Paris ..,and Rochdale!'

by Andrew Wastling
'The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it.' 
Henry David Thoreau , On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, 1849
INSTEAD of being a progressive driver of positive social change Rochdale council still seems intent on moving our civil liberties back almost four hundred years to the time when beggars or those without visible means were forcibly taken to the Parish boundary and unceremoniously thrown over it onto the mercy of the neighbouring Parish for poor relief giving to the rise to the expression ‘From Hell, Hull and Halifax, may the Good Lord deliver us!'
These words form part of the infamous Thieves’ Litany, uttered in Mediaeval Yorkshire as a leave-taking ‘prayer’ between two thieves as they parted. Hell was to be feared, of course, as was Hull Gaol with its evil reputation. Halifax was one of those towns granted the right to a ‘gibbet’, (still visible at the end of Gibbet Street , in Halifax to this day ), a particular savage form of early guillotine, which  was notorious for its quick use against suspected villains. In the seventh century paupers were sometimes branded on the forehead with a letter 'V' for vagrant. 
Whilst in  the 1930's, local Socialist writer Jack Hilton was truncheoned into near temporary paralysis at the Town Hall Poor Relief Assizes simply for speaking out in support of the poor & needy of Rochdale in the Great Depression. In the preceding eighty odd years we have thankfully made considerable progress.  Or at least some of us have.

Hilton knew he was a link in a long chain going back to the Middle Ages and beyond of those who'd chronicled the lived experience of the poor and marginalised in this country when he described the treatment of vagrants in the late 1500's in Caliban Shrieks ,written 1935 ,he vividly described the medieval lived experience the poor:
'Vagabonds were sentenced to be branded, five to be hanged , and eight set to service .  Service was unvarnished slavery .And it was from the stress of such times that humanity set up it's workhouses. We still have them with us.'
We also have first hand descriptive evidence by Jack Hilton of the scene in the Rochdale  Means tests for Public Assistance  in the middle 1930's when he noted brutality to the poor remained , just in a different form:
'What sort of civilised action in such callousness. When you take away the last straw off the poor blighter, it's a punishment that eats into his bone ? '
What sort of 'civilised actions' indeed comrade?

Proving that history does indeed have an uncanny knack of repeating itself we read that in the twenty first century Rochdale Council seems to be again intent on a course of action that insure that far from being feared that they are widely ridiculed & locally despised.
Human rights are human rights.  We can not decide that some human rights are more important than others or cherry pick those we wish to preserve & those we wish to ignore. For that way lies Animal Farms proclamation by the pigs and the rank hypocrisy of governments that proclaim the absolute equality of their citizens but give power and privileges to a small elite : ' All animals are equal but some are more equal than others,' is the well known political phrase.
Or perhaps in Rochdale Councils  case : 'some human rights abuses less important than other human rights abuses' ?
Maybe our council could take us further backwards  still and bring back the use of St. Chads stocks , reintroduce the 'rack', public floggings with the birch ,put the building of a shiny new privately run Rochdale Workhouse up for tender to the highest bidder and while they are at it have the poor of our Borough sew a letter 'P' for Pauper on their clothing so they can be easily identified for ridicule by their fellow citizens & aid their imminent arrest by the Goon Squads of the State apparatus ?
As to imposing one thousand pound fines for begging just refer R v Ealing Justices ex p Cloves (CO/16/10/89) where the Court said:
'If the defendant cannot pay the fine within a reasonable time, it is an indication that the fine is too high.'
Owing money is of itself not a criminal act.'
Amongst the widely ridiculed ' swearing ban' we also have the deeply undemocratic : 'Unauthorised distribution of printed material/leaflets' - having to get each and every leaflet authorised before it's handed out smacks of the Stasi, the Police State & Orwell's Thought Police. 
Who exactly decides what is to  be authorised and approved and what passes or fails to pass the official State sanctioned Censor I wonder ?
In the Manifesto Clubs booklet, 'Leafleting: A Liberty Lost?',  it is argued that:  '27% of councils now restrict public leafleting.'
Prompting their call for 'a review of local authorities’ no-tolerance policies, and for a more liberal regime that recognises leafleting as part of a free and vibrant civic life.'

Equally in Areopagitica, published in 1644, John Milton argued that licensing laws were a dead hand on the search for understanding, with every creation passing under the licenser’s stamp and pen before  it could enter into the world. The criticisms of fellow citizens were a surer test of truth than friars or crown agents, he argued:
‘Truth and understanding are not such wares as to be  monopolised and traded in by tickets and statutes and standards.’
The pressure of liberal opinion won the day, and the licensing of printing was finally ended in 1695, a century or more before many continental states.

'Why are beggars despised?' , asked George Orwell in 'Down and Out in Paris and London' , 1933 .
'A beggar, looked at realistically, is simply a businessman, getting his living, like other businessmen, in the way that comes to hand. He has not, more than most modern people, sold his honour; he has merely made the mistake of choosing a trade at which it is impossible to grow rich.'
In Austerity Britain where the Social Market Foundation (SMF) has just revealed the rich are 64% richer than before the recession, while the poor are 57% poorer .We have witnessed , and sometimes witness daily , since 2010 a year on increase in rough sleepers, a 60% rise in families living in temporary accommodation with 67% of children living in poverty from working families.  It should come as no surprise that at the same time the poor should be more visible on our streets .  Their cardboard pedestals a stark & constant reminder of the abject failure of neo-liberalism for many.  Equally we should not be surprised that those in power wish to demonise & scapegoat these inconvenient reminders that the glitzy consumerist utopia does not work for all.  Or even better sweep them out of sight and out of mind entirely.
Gentrification like urban poverty is nothing new. Just ask the sans-culottes driven out of their Paris quartiers in the 1860's by Barron Haussman in the 1860's , any barrios , favela , or slum dog millionaire dweller from Dickens to Dakar .Or simply ask any of the  29 mothers and expectant mothers from the E15 Campaign who received eviction notices and were told they would have to get out because the council’s funding stream to the mother and baby unit suddenly stopped by Newham Council due to Austerity and are now resisting gentrification across London.
Equally as Mike Davis points out in his excellent 'Planet of the Slums' , the 'brutal tectonics of neoliberal globalisation' have spawned :
'A proletariat without factories, workshops , and work, and without bosses, in the middle of the odd jobs, drowning in survival and leading an existence like a path through embers.'
Simultaneously we stand both despairingly distant from yet tantalisingly close to the post industrialism of Pyotr Kropotkin's 'Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow'.  It does not require much investigation to see that:  
'Everywhere you will find that the wealth of the wealthy springs from the poverty of the poor.'   Especially when we consider that  a massive £250 million pounds regeneration programme for Rochdale Town Centre it is that many of us who comprise the 'precariat' still remain 'drowning in survival' and feel alienated to and disenfranchised from the local democratic decision making process that seeks to map out our sparkling futures in which we are no longer citizens but consumers.  Mere spectators of the Theatre of the Absurd many steps removed from a dysfunctional local 'democratic process' that is neither transparent , inclusive or truly represents or involves the majority of local residents at all.
A neurotic  political climate in which we read dumfounded that a legitimate question about , 'the Labour Group wanting  to adopt a policy promoted by the local Green Party to create an additional 100 allotments in Rochdale.' Was refused on the dubious grounds that the question , 'How many allotments have been created over the 12 months since then?', was deemed too 'politically motivated' by our Big Brother Council ?
Rather than seeing 'reds under the flower beds', conspiracies and shady plots in legitimate questions about innocuous allotments our council should have a thumb through Peter Hall and Colin Ward 'Sociable Cities' since 'the birthplace of cooperation' seems far from sociable at the moment with it's  proposed a Public Space Protection Order.  They should take a lesson from Colin Ward when he pointed out that : 
'The terrifying breakdown of social cohesion in the American city, in spite of intense institutionalized police surveillance equipped with every sophisticated aid to public control, illustrates that social behaviour depends upon mutual responsibility rather than upon the policeman.'

We can not either divorce the issue of urban poverty from the question of private property & public space.  Attempts to marginalise demonise the poor go back to 1824 and further still to medieval times, with attempts to criminalise the urban poor at the height of the industrial revolution.  During this time, land privatisation was being rolled out on a mass scale, and hundreds of thousands of people who lacked the means to purchase property were displaced from their homes and the land some of them had lived on for generations.  The Enclosure Acts equally played their part:

'The law doth punish man or woman
That steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater felon loose
That steals the common from the goose.'
Or my preferred version of this 17th century protest rhyme :
'The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.'
These fundamental issues of land ownership & English liberty that can be traced back to the Putney Debates, & The Levellers when Cromwell's common soldiers took on their generals to argue for greater democracy and provided a platform for 'common people' to make their voices heard. These debates, forced by the Levellers paved the way for many of the civil liberties we rightly cherish and value today.

Fundamental to the birth of English liberty then  was the realisation by Colonel Rainsborough, (the highest ranking officer to support the ordinary solders) that:
“I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he” 

That was in Autumn 1647.  We're of course mindful that in 1649 Cromwell sent his mounted 'iron-sides'  in to brutally supress Winstanley's nascent communistic Digger Community at St. Georges Hill. Reminding us if we need one that where there are the seeds of liberty & dreams of utopia then we will find those willing to scythe such hard won liberty's & trample shared visions of a fairer society and a Better World into the dust simply to impose their own personal dystopia. In the future warns Orwell :   

'There will be no loyalty except loyalty to the Party. But always there will be the intoxication of power.  Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who’s helpless.  If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever.  The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: don’t let it happen.  It depends on you.'

Guilty by Association!

byJohn Wilkins
ON reading Andrew Wastling's character assassination of Rochdale Councillors in Northern Voices, I was inclined to make a plea of mitigating circumstances for a tiny minority of them. However I, like several thousand residents, have already told the Council Leader in a petition and many in letters, how concerned we were to hear they (the councillors) had agreed to accept pay rises between 34 & 51%.  Basic Maths (without the need for a calculator) shows that equates to a rise of 4.25% pa. rise over the eight years when there has been minimal change in allowances. Surely a compromise of 8% now and implementing the full rise in allowances when the number of councillors is reduced from 60 to 40 might have been acceptable to residents.
Sorry I used a 'C' word there, compromise, which along with other 'C' words consultation, co-operation and compassion appear missing from the vocabulary of many councillors.  The 'd' word, democracy, is also missing from the Council Leader's vocabulary.  Why else would he stifle his Labour colleagues opinion on the issue by imposing a whip to make them vote for the rises without even the option of abstaining?  Andrew's description was more colourful bullying air of entitlement & arrogant self justification.”   The word arrogant is an appellation is one which does fit some, but not all councillors, perhaps spineless at worst or lacking an independent mind fits a few others though.
I will make a case for the defence of some councillors because it is oh so easy for us to criticise people in public office when, as with myself, they have not tried to get elected.  Two Liberal Councillors voted against the rises. I understand four Labour councillors were 'indisposed' and one, there may be more, councillor has told me he voted on party lines but has informed the leader he would not be taking the increase personally.
Ability to listen to residents and even seek out their views should be a requirement for all politicians.  When have canvassed in the past for would - be councillors, the candidate and myself always sought out resident's views and used questionnaires as a tool to find out their concerns. In nearly 10 years residing in Middleton South Ward I think I might have seen just one leaflet asking for my views. This has not stopped me asking THEM questions and inviting them to meetings on important issues such as TTIP and Inequality. Possibly too complicated for them to have an opinion! One of my councillors has never replied to 6/7 letters I have sent, another responded once after I visited his constituent's surgery. The third, bless him naively being new, replied to me when asked if if the immense cost of developing Rochdale Town Centre was warranted and if so would Middleton, Heywood and other satellite towns have similar funding for projects. He also quickly responded to a more mundane request for leaves to be cleared in a stretch of pavement used by the elderly.
A Community hub in Middleton Town Centre called the Lighthouse Project had to re-locate twice in 12 months firstly from the Warwick Mill and then from the Cromer Mill in North Middleton. The Lighthouse offers activities for a variety of people from elderly, single dads through to unemployed. The latter have benefited hugely from the free use of computers to do their job searches, getting a warm welcome (including a cuppa!) and advice. The Lighthouse along with other community centres in the town means there has been less strain on social services and fewer 'I Daniel Blakes'.  Why is this relevant you ask. Well its original location was in my ward and none of the councillors I mentioned have been of any real help to the enterprise and surprise, surprise, none of them replied to my letters of concern nor to other Middleton residents I know. Common courtesy would say these councillors should at least acknowledge receipt of correspondence, even if they feel unable to help or disagree with comments. There I go again I used a 'C' word Courtesy.
Fast forward to the recent Open Day to show the facilities in the Lighthouse plus the Foodbank and a wheelchair hire facility which share their premises.  The only councillors I saw there during the 4 hours I was there were two of the councillors I previously said were indisposed for the vote on allowances.  One of these showed his vocabulary had the 'c' word compassion, spending time advising a woman who had been made homeless.  The other renewed his commitment to raise money for the venture.  The Monday afterwards this councillor attended an open meeting on Mental Health organised by our non politically aligned campaign group.  The councillor who said he would not take up his increased allowance also fulfilled a promise to attend. For Andrew's benefit all three of these councillors also work full time so they are not 'de-skilled' as he puts it.
Andrew said:  'Many (Councillors) appear to  have little or no respect for anyone but themselves and their evident contempt for the voters will without a doubt cost many of them their seats to independents in the next local elections'.
Sorry Andrew, Richard Farnell does not agree with you, as he thinks the electorate have short memories and will have forgotten about the issue by next May's elections.
Andrew you and I and other like minded residents need to find suitable candidates whether independents, or from parties other than the current ruling elite.  They need to be supported then to rid the Council of some of the 'dead wood' there at the moment.  I hope we can find candidates who can LISTEN and can claim to have most of the c' s: compassion, ability to co-operate, a belief in consultation, blessed with courtesy and the ability to compromise.

Rochdale Councillor's Dependency Culture?

El  Gordo  Creosote

What is being a Street Beggar compared to standing for Town Council?
(In a letter in the Rochdale Observer yesterday, Richard Farnell the Leader of Rochdale Council, wrote complaining about the goal of the human rights charity Liberty for challenging his council for, as he puts it:  'clamping down on swearing and other anti-social behaviour in Rochdale town centre'.  Councillor Farnell forcefully pleads his case:  
'We are tackling a small minority of ne'er do wells who drunkenly shout and swear and harangue shoppers in our town centre.  I make no apologies for trying to make Rochdale a more welcoming place for people to enjoy... because it's difficult enough to make a living nowadays without a few yobs turning shopper away.'
 Below Andrew Wastling asks whether a little 'propaganda by example' might be in order from Richrd Farnell and his colleagues:  as Bertolt Friedrich Brecht once said 'What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?' Editor)
UNDERSTANDABLY, 'aggressive begging' has been in the local news lately.  It appears to be a growing problem in Rochdale.  Especially many of us have noticed in & around the locality of Rochdale Town Hall, which appears to have become a magnet for the worst type of anti-social behaviour.  This is particularly prevalent between the hours of 6PM & 9.30PM or whenever an expenses cheque form is proffered or a single tuna mayonnaise sandwich sliced. Something must be done to clampdown.
The worst case of aggressive begging I have personally witnessed recently was inside Rochdale Town Hall where an loud & intimidating group (possibly drug & alcohol fuelled), accompanied by a bullying air of entitlement & arrogant self justification that was tangible, beneath the wiff of expensive cologne & Eau de Toilette awarded themselves unprecedented 34% to 51 % pay rise.

So just who exactly are these rare & elusive individuals who's sense of self entitlement is such that they think that they are divinely deserving of a 34% pay rise whilst those less deserving public sector workers such as mere nurses, fire men, ambulance drivers and the like are restricted to a miserly 1% pay freeze because their work is of far less importance to Society?

After all must all be truly blessed to have such a superb cohort of councillors in our midst representing us.  At a whopping 34%/51% pay rise must be worth every penny piece they have awarded themselves & our local government be a centre of excellence for efficiency & local democratic accountability!

Its not often these highly paid 'alpha- councillors' are sighted in the heart of the local metropolis , one might think they are scared of being recognised by the occasional educated prole ,even rarer for them acknowledge the existence of, let alone to speak to us epsilon minors  of the  lumpen proletariat, yet they can, bless them , be spotted in diverse graceful abundance, far from their local watering holes , in their natural habitat the Town Hall Buffet Room or even more rarely glumly plodding the streets whenever the Ballot Box looms every few years and they need to remind their constituents that they actually exist ?

One ' alpha-councillor' would have us believe on the council's Twitter feed 
(@RochdaleCouncil) that she: 'works 30-40 hours per week, is on 19 committees and receives the equivalent of no more than £4/hour'
Appalling is it not, that such self sacrifice should go entirely unrewarded.  A scandal such as this should , one would have thought,  have been brought to the attention of the local media for discussion long before the Budget Setting Meeting nights  meeting to 'rubber stamp' councillors expense  - we can only assume they were simply far too busy attending meetings & reluctantly claiming the expenses from these 19 committees to raise it previously & not simply trying to elicit sympathy when their avarice was held under the magnifying glass?
Such selfless dedication to the voting masses is highly commendable.  How many other councillors share this councillors evident zeal and attend nineteen committees, I wonder?
Nineteen whole committees councillor!  Really, where are your comrades in the struggle; they must be queuing up to sit on a Committee instead of you to relieve you of the cross you carry with such evident style ?
What does this say about the total inability of other councillors to share this massively unfair workload of one of their over worked colleagues ?
Or what does it say about the quality or the governance of councillors who would surely be in breach of the Working Time Directive were they gainfully 'employed' elsewhere? 
About 'work life balance' or about the possible unwieldy Expenses cheques courtesy of the local tax payer for such a large number of committee attendances?
The sack cloth and ashes was evident in abundance.  Barley warming our councillors from the evening chill outside the Town Hall as they scuttled in, some via the back door again, to rubber stamp their own pay rise last night,  'under duress' because , so we are told, they collectively lacked the mental capacity to make a choice one way or the other of their own volition?
Whilst another, in the role of Judas Iscariot  , washed their  hands of fellow public service workers  facing a 1 % pay freeze saying :  'Is that my fault?' as they rushed inside to avail themselves of the £9.95 per councillor tax payer subsidised free nosh up on the rates.
It was an unedifying and shoddy spectacle of our local political elite, the intellectual glitterati & those who have risen from obscurity to non-entity without so much a single scribble to mark their presence  on the official record of Town Hall proceedings throughout their dedicated  public role as councillor. Some of them are so keen to hide their good works & so modest of accepting praise that it is indeed difficult to find a single recorded example of them having actually done anything at all whilst a councillor - but we the voters are not that stupid, we know in order to merit a 34%/51% pay rise or councillors must keep their noses to the grind stone 24/7, but that they are simply particularly adept at hiding their light under a bushel.  Some indeed are so personally dedicated to their roles of helping their constituents that they hardly escape from the grind of their weekly Council Ward Surgeries, so much so it's doubtful they'd  be recognised in public on the streets & avenues they represent without a preliminary pre-election street leafleting were they ever to visit from their actual homes at the other side of the Borough to meet some real people for a change. 
This dear reader is the ugly mask slipping of our self proclaimed political  'elite'  when under pressure & challenged to justify the indefensible.  Many appear to  have little or no respect for anyone but themselves and their evident contempt for the voters will without a doubt cost many of them their seats to independents in the next local elections.  They are aware that its possible twenty councillors will be axed and that also many of them are waiting to stand down and retire in any case.  For many drinking in the last chance salon this vote was the last chance to quaff down all they can even if it nearly chokes them in the process.
This shocking incident of gross self interest & greed from a 'mindless minority' was also witnessed by a number of decent law abiding citizens accompanied by their children causing great public distress & alarm for those going about their lawful activity in the town centre.In fact it was tantamount to daylight robbery.  Such 'loutish behaviour' is in danger of breeding a local dependency culture where handout dependent councillors are being forced by extreme poverty & circumstances beyond their control into 'soliciting for money in the street' for their daily living expenses. This local hardship is a  distressing sight to witness.  Some of them appear totally unable to feed themselves without regular tax payer funded food parcels at the end of each town hall gathering.
This preferential 'food queue jumping' by some councillors  breeds considerable ill will & festering resentment amongst the majority of the tax paying public who have themselves to resort to the mercy of the local food banks or Church run soup kitchens when they are similarly destitute - councillors don't even require a voucher like the majority of us.
I have reported this shocking incident to the relevant  authorities in the hope this unacceptable 'anti-social behaviour' will  be investigated?
I am hoping the town centre wrecking spree these councillors' seem intent on wreaking on local public services can be averted by them being subjected to a collective ASBO or a 'blanket-ban or curfew' preventing all councillors entering the Rochdale Metropolitan Borough area on a 24/7, such a Dispersal Order should be utilised against the majority of councillors three hundred & sixty five days a year to prevent further damage to our community.
Could we perhaps get the worst of this anti-social element electronically tagged - or at least rehabilitated back into respectable society in some well run, humane, local institution were their evident special needs could be catered for?
It's about time the anti social behaviour of this  bunch of 'ne’er do well' under achievers was clamped down on for the public good.  Since the delinquent behaviour of a selfish element is damming  the minority of  decent, hard working, dedicated councillors by public association.
I just wonder when we can all expect mass arrests and fines to be made with respect to our councillors since gangs of them have been spotted 'loitering around the public purse', with their 'socially destructive' conduct breaching socially acceptable norms of behaviour in the town centre for a number of years now and appear unable to curtail their behaviour without interventions being made to moderate these embedded selfish behavioural traits?
We need to be cruel to be kind to our struggling councillors & act with some urgency lest we get second, or third generation councillor dependency culture developing. We are already seeing repeat patterns of inter-generational dependency developing amongst spouses and families.  With anecdotal evidence amongst locals that some particularly dependent councillors are totally deskilled and entirely unable to independently support themselves at all in the real world.
Could we not for their own health & well being simply ban them from the Town Hall & No.1 Riverside in perpetuity with judicious use of a Public Space Protection Orders to prevent them causing more misery to themselves or our town any more damage?