Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hackney Community Census Launch - Tues 23 November

Hackney Unites is holding an open meeting (all welcome) on Tuesday 23 November at 7pm in the basement of the Café Z Bar, 58 Stoke Newington High Street, N16 7PB.

We will be formally launching the Hackney Community census, and discussing how we get people involved in it. Our target is to get 1,000 people in Hackney to participate in the Community Census. After just a few days we have reached over 150, so a good start but still some way to go.

To participate in the census please visit:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/hackneycommunitycensus If you have not done so already, please cascade this email onto others and encourage them to participate and also to pass on the details.

We will also be discussing the next workers advice session which will now be held on Saturday 11 December (more details to follow). We will need help with pre-publicity, in particular leafleting and arranging the display of posters to publicise the event.

You can also help publicise Tuesday's meeting by visiting the facebook event and then inviting your friends:

Please help us publicise not just the launch but the census itself by cascading this message onto friends, sharing this info on any blogs you are on, as well as Twitter and facebook etc.

Why not take the survey now, and help us reach the target of 1,000 respondents:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/hackneycommunitycensusMany thanks for your support
John Page
Hackney Unites

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vigil for London’s Advice Services - Lobby of London Councils Grants Committee Meeting 25.11.2010

The Grants Committee of London Councils will be meeting on Thursday 25th
November to make its final recommendations to the Leaders Committee on
proposed cuts to the London Councils Grants Programme.

BAN (BME Advice Network) is co-ordinating a lobby of this meeting:

10.30am, Thursday 25th November 2010
Outside the London Council offices
591⁄2 Southwark Street
London SE1 0AL

BAN opposes cutting services funded by London Councils because:
• Vulnerable Londoner’s will be hit hardest and the impact of this has not
been fully considered
• The categorisation of services as local, sub-regional and pan-London is
• There is no guarantee repatriated funds will be ringfenced for the
voluntary sector
• The proposals are not cost-effective as many advice services are
significantly cheaper to provide on a pan-London basis

We are calling on London Councils to honour the grants it provides until
the end of the original contracts to allow organisations enough time to
find alternative funding for the future

All London Councils funded projects including staff, volunteers and
service users are invited to join us at this lobby to ensure the voice of
those affected is fully represented and heard by the decision makers.
Whilst many of us have taken part in the London Councils consultation,
there have been limited opportunities for us to show our unified
opposition to the proposed cuts and the manner in which the consultation
process has been conducted.

The lobby will also be handing in a petition, which can be signed at
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/londoncouncilsfundingcuts• BAN is a network of over 40 quality assured advice services delivered by
and for people from London’s BAMER migrant and refugee communities. More
details about BAN and why we oppose the cuts can be found at:


For queries about the BAN lobby, the liaison contact is Estelle du Boulay,
Newham Monitoring Project 020 8470 8333 / spw@nmp.org.uk

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Please Sir, a little less profit - just for a bit!

Last week Hackney Unites, the TSSA (Transport Salaries Staff Association) and Hackney Trade Union Council came together to organise a meeting about Public Transport and the challenges ahead. The purpose of the meeting was to allow for a discussion on exactly what the cuts in public transport are likely to mean to residents, workers, young people, families and businesses in Hackney. Teena Lashmore reports..

A representative from the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Union) gave a brief summary on the potential consequences of 800 job losses which are currently on the table for London Underground’s ticket staff. In summary, the losses and gains for transport users may mean less staff to help you if you are trying to get children and prams up stairs or need assistance with mobility. Although many stations do have escalators or lift facilities not all do.

Now that transport in London is mostly covered by Oyster - with ticket machines available in most stations, it seem wholly reasonable that we need less ticket staff, but this becomes a little different when you want to journey outside the M25 boundary. Finally, the escorting of passengers down the train lines and back into stations when the trains breakdown. With less platform and ticket staff, this is likely to mean passengers will have to wait on the train in the tunnel until staff are ferried in from other locations.

Unite supports a hybrid of workers across a range of services and their representative spoke mainly on the changes of Arriva Busses. He explained the loss of the ‘bendy bus’ (route 38 and 149), has already had an impact on the bus workers, users and the environment. He explained the capacity of 40 bendy buses is met using approximately seventy double-decker buses, causing more pollution and resulting in more vehicles on the roads. The biggest losses are to people with prams, those carrying heavy shopping and those with mobility needs. Finally the salary losses to the individual bus drivers is about a 25% drop, as they are removed from the articulated buses and put back on the double-deckers.

Whatever the back issues to the ‘efficiency savings’ are, it is clear that those with the better ‘spin’ will get greater support from the public; however, what appears absent is the user’s voice. My journey on the 149 from Stoke Newington to London Bridge used to take just over half an hour on the bendy and on the double-decker it is closer to forty five minutes. I understand this is due to the ‘dwell time’ which is how long it takes for all the passengers to enter and exit the two doors where as on the bendy there were multiple entries.

Unlike all the other areas being cut or undergoing efficiency saving, public transport is different. It has unique business characteristics. In particular, it continues to make profits. So much so that Chief Executives in these ‘transport’ businesses are reportedly receiving salaries beyond one hundred thousand pounds every year. So when we talk about ‘cuts’ in public transport running costs, what we are actually discussing is making less profits. This being the case, perhaps its time to ask public transport providers if they could be so kind as to make a little less profit from us this year?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reflections on the Rallies against the cuts...

It has been a busy time of late in terms of community engagement and Hackney Unites’ Teena Lashmore has been on tour… here is her round up of a few days of protest...

Tuesday 19 October 2010 saw the lunchtime rally in Westminster, where members of the public attempted to gain an audience with their MP’s to discuss alternatives to the Spending Review. Wednesday saw the evening rally: No to billions in cuts, Defend our Welfare State. This was organised by Camden Trades Council, Camden NUT and St Pancras and Holborn Constituency Labour Party. Speakers included Tony Benn, Lee Jasper and others, and the message was unrepentantly: No to cuts.

Many at Wednesday’s evening rally appeared oblivious to the chill in the air. It was as if their inner bodies were warmed by their rage at the savagery of these cuts. Speaker after speaker identified the current political leaders’ programme as being ideological. Workers and students were unanimous and united in their views, that those in most need will be hit the hardest, and that what is being attacked is essentially the Welfare State and public services.

The week ended with a Saturday demonstration consisting of a march from Charlton Street to the Trade Union Council’s building in Congress House. Synchronised with this was the strikes over London the Fire Fighters. This began at local stations at 10am.

The afternoon was spent in Congress House reflecting on the 150 year history of the London Trade Council, which was created to bring all the trade union movements together in solidarity. The session was chaired by Brendan Barber with guest speaker John McDonnell, a Labour MP. He recapped on the week’s events and on the importance of organised resistance as being the most effective means of raising an alternative narrative to the Spending Review.

As debates continue around the country, the ConDem coalition continues to hold firm, that there is no alternative to the package they published on Wednesday. And if Sunday’s newspapers are anything to go by, it appears that both Nick Clegg and David Cameron have agonised over their decision to address the country’s deficits in this way. Clearly, these ‘agonising’ moments must have been during a later period of reflection, as the male-bonding and joyous shoulder slapping of George Osborne by Mr Cameron after his austerity speech on Wednesday in Parliament was not the behaviour normally associated with agony.

As I reflect over the week here in the UK and in France and throughout Europe, I cannot help but notice the lack of debate in our media, on an alternative narrative to the Spending Review. For example, a 2% Wealth Tax on the richest 10% of the population would raise £78 billion in one year. Over four years such a tax would obliterate all deficits with extra money stored for insurance against future rainy days of poor banking practices – why is this not plausible? Changes to Private Finance Initiative (PFI) could see a net saving of £56 billion – why is this not worthy of commentary from our media?

The internet is awash with alternative narratives for the Spending Review and even the governments’ own think tanks (Institute of Fiscal Studies), have argued that those ‘in most need’ will find the changes to the benefit system difficult to negotiate, leaving many families struggling to survive.

The critical debates on the cuts appear to be slow in building their momentum, leaving many to believe there is no alternative. But Britain is a wealthy country and our history teaches us that there is always more than one way to address our finances. “We are all in this together’ is the rhetoric, but as the days pass and the potential impacts are explored further, the evidence is beginning to suggest to the contrary. Under the current review, the rich become a little less rich and the poor fall by the roadside, and those fortunate enough to be caught in between – well, they are left hoping that the private sector will deliver jobs to fill the void.

Although the Trade Union Council are discussing protests and campaigns for the spring of 2011, it is likely that community groups will take independent and coordinated approaches of campaigning against the cuts. In the interim, perhaps it is time to suggest a little reading. The Spirit Level, Why Equality is Better for Everyone is a book that has been reviewed by The Economist and they state: “The evidence (in the book) is hard to dispute.” The book explores the theory of one group looking after its own economic interest above the needs of others and the writers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett make it very clear that such practices deepen inequality and actually hurt everyone. Lets hoped signed copies can be sent to our leaders.