You’ve got to hand it to Norwich South MP Charles Clarke, he can smell the whiff of the decaying Labour corpse alright, but sadly he’s not able to admit that no matter how hard he scrubs, the stench is still all over his own hands.
Nobody has forgotten his part in the New Labour experiment that has seen public freedoms slowly eradicated and it’s Bush supporting full on ‘crusade’ to war.
His current attacks against Gordon Brown and urging for his replacement in order to win the next election are nothing short of a political desperation to save his own skin.
The Labour movement is dead and the Tories are still the Tories, the upper class swine who will continue aggressive Thatcherism as soon as they are elected to power next May.
There is no longer any representation of working-class people in Britain today (if indeed there ever was), and pretending otherwise is just politically motivated lip-service.
You may be oblivious to the truth of British politics Charlie boy, the rest of us aren’t.
And as for Labour needing to adopt the “killer instinct”….we’ve had enough of that thanks.
Hundreds of thousands of innocent dead in Iraq and Afghanistan and our own children being brought home in body bags.
At least have the decency and courage to go down with the Labour wreck quietly….
Meanwhile the rest of us will start to build a new political movement, one that puts real working-class politics in the hands of real working-class people….and Parliament can go to hell!
If ever people who are supposedly ‘represented’ by Mr.Clarke feel like sharing their opinions with him, which ofcourse we are entitled to do, he can be contacted by
1) Writing to Charles Clarke MP for Norwich South, Norwich Labour Party, St Marks Church Hall, Hall Road, Norwich, NR1 3HL or Charles Clarke MP, Constituency Mail, House of Commons, London, SW1A OAA
2) Phone the constituency office on 01603 219902
3) Fax the constituency office on 01603 764475
4) E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s a long and rich history of independent tenants organisation in Britain stretching back one hundred years. Battles against rent rises and demands for security, the fight against the Housing Finance Act and Housing Action Trusts (HATs) prompted tenants to organise on a militant basis and co-ordinate their campaigns. In the 1970s and 80s active Tenants Federations sprung up around the UK to co-ordinate Tenants Associations within a local authority area which in turn sent delegates to national meetings and debates.
In the 1990s a whole new industry of ‘Tenant Participation’ was encouraged by government to wrestle control of tenant organisation. Under the guise of ‘empowerment’ tenants organisations were sanitised and new forums and panels created. Instead of open debate they want to give us tenant directors gagged by confidentiality clauses and overcome with business plans, missions and visions. There’s a deliberate strategy to incorporate and sanitise tenants organisation. Some so-called ‘tenants leaders’ are easily flattered and end up spending more time with government officials than organising meetings with tenants. Now government is proposing to set up a national ‘consumer panel’; and saying that the regulator will only have to consult that panel and can ignore the rest of us! It’s not on.
But there are encouraging signs around the country of more tenants turning against this controlled Tenants Participation bandwagon. Again we’re starting to organise ourselves into the kind of independent tenants organisations that we’ll need to fight off the latest threats. If we are to succeed we’ll have to ignore the flattery and refuse the seductive offers of funding if conditions that restrict our democratic rights to organise and say what we want are attached. We expect and demand that, however we organise ourselves, our landlords hand over funds from our rents to finance our independent tenants movement, with no strings attached.
Below the EDP reports on the line-up of the next Chief Constable of Norfolk ‘contestants’. As three of them are currently not residing in Norfolk we will be paying a massive relocation fee as well as stamp duty on their new luxury abodes from our council tax.
Outgoing Chief Constable Ian McPherson has creamed his off the top of the cake and is moving on to bakery’s new…courtesy of the Met in London.
We did approach Norfolk Constabulary and the Police Authority on how they justify the waste of money but they declined to reply…
Favourite quote of the piece?
Police authority chairman Stephen Bett said that although stability was important, the authority was prepared to appoint another ambitious candidate even if that meant they may follow Mr McPherson’s lead by leaving the force within a matter of years.
Cuts in public services? We could start right here!
New Year, new chief constable for Norfolk police – and today the EDP reveals the full shortlist of candidates for the force’s top job.
Interviews for the £134,000 post will take place on January 18 and 19. Outgoing chief Ian McPherson will begin his new role as assistant commissioner of territorial policing at the Metropolitan police on his return for the Christmas break and his replacement will be announced within three weeks.
Norfolk Police Authority has been given permission to interview four candidates for the post by the senior appointments panel. They are:
Current deputy chief constable Ian Learmonth who is in temporary charge of the force. He has risen through the ranks and takes a keen interest in operational policing. Mr Learmonth has played a key role in Norfolk police’s modernisation programme since joining in 2007 from Strathclyde police where he was assistant chief responsible for most major operational projects.
He is the popular choice among the rank and file and could bring the stability the force is seeking. Privately police sources say he will need to prove his ability to step up to the more politicised top job.
Adrian Leppard, the present deputy chief constable at Kent police. He is responsible for operational policing and has a number of corporate development duties including “change management” which would equip him well for any further modernisation in Norfolk.
He has filled a variety of roles from traffic policing to CID and has also led a number of major inquiries including high profile murders..
Janet Williams, currently deputy assistant commissioner at the Met in the specialist crime directorate which oversees major crime in the capital including murder, drugs, covert policing and shooting.
She had previously been in the running for the chief constable vacancy in Merseyside but dropped out of the running to focus on the Norfolk role. Ms Williams already has a home in Norfolk and her mother lives in the county.
Philip Gormley, currently deputy chief constable at West Midlands police. He began his career at Thames Valley police and moved to the Met in 2003 on promotion to commander.
He has experience in modernisation which could be crucial in Norfolk having led the restructuring of specialist operations at the Met. He also took command of the Met special branch, overseeing the merger of special branch and the anti terrorist branch to form the new counter terrorism command.
Police authority chairman Stephen Bett said that although stability was important, the authority was prepared to appoint another ambitious candidate even if that meant they may follow Mr McPherson’s lead by leaving the force within a matter of years.
Mr Bett added: “Ian McPherson achieved more in three years than many would have in a decade; if we can find a similarly ambitious replacement who can achieve that kind of success then we won’t hesitate to appoint them.
“We are not looking for somebody who will come here to see their time out. We are facing tough times and we need somebody who can take on the challenge.” source
Community Video Training Project
You can now watch short films made by new directors trained by Undercurrents in 2008 with funding from Communities@One and the Social Risk Fund.
Link to Community Training Project
Undercurrents has proved that anyone with access to equipment and the right training can effectively use video to bring about positive change in their community. Video cameras have become more portable, easier to use and best of all, cheaper. Now you can make a video reflecting your life,campaigners can gather evidence of factories polluting water supplies, you can produce an empowerment video aimed at getting people motivated into action. We can show how you can distribute your video across the web, or even get your images onto mainstream television news and current affairs programs.
Introduction to Undercurrents video training workshops
Aimed at people with little or no experience of using video, this workshop will teach you to operate any video camera and edit a basic video feature.
The workshop consists of demonstrations and practical exercises including:
Holding and using a camcorder with confidence
Obtaining good audio quality
How to get the right images to tell a story
Understanding the cables and accessories
How to interview people
How to put your new video skills into action
Tel: +44 (0)1792 455900 email: email@example.com
People were today reminded they can take part in a consultation which could transform how Norwich looks in the future.
In October, Norwich City Council unveiled its draft site allocations plan, which identified 170 potential sites to be developed around the city.
The draft consultation document has been drawn up after the city council called on developers’ agents and community groups to come up with ideas of how sites in the city could be used for development.
Among the proposals are for the former Big W at Riverside to be turned into a concert hall or sports centre, 20 of the city’s car parks to be used for housing and for the Bethel Street fire station to be used for shops, flats and offices.
A string of staffed exhibitions will also be held next month, on the following dates:
January 11 from 10am to 2pm at Norwich Central Baptist Church in Duke Street
January 18 from 5pm to 7pm at the Walter Roy Theatre at the Hewett School in Cecil Road
January 21 from 5pm to 7pm at the Norman Centre in Bignold Road
January 28 from 5pm to 7pm at City Academy Norwich in Earlham Road
Following the initial round of consultation, there will be a second round based on shortlisted sites and another chance for the public to comment on the proposed document before the formal adoption of the document
To view the consultation documents, go to http://www.norwich.gov.uk or pick up a copy from City Hall or the Millennium Library in the Forum.
Politicians seem to have one thing in common, whichever party they hail from – and no, we don’t mean an unquestioning adherence to failed capitalism, although that is almost invariably the case these days.
That common ground is their unshakeable belief that the public has the attention span of a particularly challenged gnat. How else can one explain their continual policy back-flips?
Take, for example Universities Minister David Lammy. Way back – actually, only back to July this year – Mr Lammy was proclaiming that “in tougher times it is right that we continue to invest, which is why we are providing funding today to help meet some of the unprecedented demand to study at university.”
All well and good, and very praiseworthy it sounded, that is until yesterday, when Business Secretary Peter Mandelson pronounced that cutbacks were needed to pay for the “higher than expected cost” of funding grants and loans for the record number of students going to university during the recession.
In his annual grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Dark Lord announced university funding cuts of £135 million for next year.
This is on top of £600 million efficiency savings to be made from 2012, which were announced in the pre-Budget report by the Chancellor, and £180 million of efficiency savings over the next 18 months.
The letter also says that universities will be fined £3,700 for every student they took on this autumn above the limit set out by the government – fines which will add up to many millions of pounds.
Mr Lammy was speaking at a time when the government was providing an extra 10,000 university places in a frantic effort to cut the number of school-leavers entering the unemployed statistics direct from school.
But government generosity at that time was strictly limited. Although it funded student support in loans and grants, there was no money to finance the teaching and universities had to provide it out of reserves.
These are now to be depleted even further to penalise universities for taking on more students than the government expected during the unseemly scramble to provide the extra places between July 20 and the start of the university year in September.
Mr Mandelson said at the time that the costs of supporting extra students would be met be “reprioritising” existing budgets, whatever that means.
Well, it’s now become clear. He meant that the costs would be met until the Labour government had bunged billions at the banks to such an extent that the public finances needed drastic retrenchment.
Apart from taxpayers having to pay the penalties for Labour’s misplaced generosity to a pack of failed gamblers, young people not even qualified to pay tax yet will also have to cough up, in terms of their life opportunities being cavalierly restricted.
So much, then, for Mr Lammy’s “continued investment.” The British people will continue to be squeezed to underwrite the profligacy of the bankers and education will have to bear £915 million of that squeeze.
And that’s just the start of a retreat from education that the government is trying so hard to portray as simple necessity. It is, in fact, nothing of the sort. It’s a judgement call that the government has got wrong.
To subsidise the banks, it is mortgaging the future of Britain’s young people, truncating the expansion of education chances for poorer students before that expansion really got under way.
And that is an ill-judged call, because it will inevitably restrict Britain’s ability to climb out of recession and the consequences will be visible for decades.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt described the cut as “a real Christmas kick in the teeth for staff and students and proof that the government has completely lost its way when it comes to higher education.”
We can’t better that estimate.
The body of a man who had been sleeping rough in sub-zero temperatures has been found on the outskirts of Thetford.
The dead man, who was from Poland and was found in a tent on Barnham Cross Common has been named as 33-year-old Mariusz Fidos.
Yesterday team rector of Thetford, Canon Bob Baker and Thetford mayor, Pam Spencer, both spoke on behalf of the town of their sadness over the tragedy.
“The people of Thetford are shocked and saddened. We don’t know what the circumstances are surrounding this man’s death but clearly, if there are lessons to learned, we must learn from them and ensure that this does not happen again,” said Canon Baker.
Mrs Spencer said: “My thoughts are with the relatives and friends of the deceased at was must be a particularly difficult time.”
It is understood that Mr Fidos was sharing the tent with his twin brother and a friend, all three being Polish nationals. A fourth man, also believed to be Eastern European, was in a tent on his own by the dead man’s tent.
The three other men have since been provided with emergency accommodation in Norwich.
Mr Fidos was found dead on Sunday. A post-mortem examination carried out later that evening revealed early indications are that he died from hypothermia.
The case has now been passed to the coroner. Police said the man’s death remains “unexplained” but police said there were no suspicious circumstances.
John Walker, of Breckland Council’s housing advice and home-lessness service, described Mr Fidos’ death as an “appalling tragedy”.
He said that the authority was not aware that Mr Fidos was sleeping rough on the Common and had not had any direct contact with him.
He said Breckland Council was working hard with the police and other agencies in the Thetford area to ensure that everyone was aware when people were sleeping rough and then provide what help they could.
Council officials, had, however, been aware in October of three men sleeping rough on Barnham Common. The group were advised of their housing options and also offered assistance to travel to their home countries but they declined such help. “We can’t force people to return to their home countries if they do not want to go,” said Mr Walker.
Thetford town councillor Terry Jermy, whose ward covers the Barnham Common area, said that although housing officers were aware of people sleeping rough on the Common, he did not feel it was a priority to them.
He was angry at the situation and suggested that a caravan could have been provided on the town’s travel-lers’ site which had not yet been used.
“At least on that site they could have been free from harm,” he said.
He is calling for a serious look at the homelessness issue in Thetford.
There is a facility for the homeless in Thetford at John Room House but it is currently closed for major refurbishment.
Breckland Cabinet member with responsibility for housing, Paul Claussen said the authority took the homelessness issue very seriously and would be working with partner agencies to ensure that such a tragedy did not happen again.
Mr Claussen stressed he was not aware of all the details of the case, but Mr Walker and his team did their utmost to find accommodation for people in difficulties.
“We do encourage people to be our eyes and ears and let us know when they are aware of people facing difficulties with accommodation,” he said.
Despair over Diss diversion
Road users face an astonishing 55-mile round-trip if they want to get from one side of a Diss road to another over Christmas.
That is the official Norfolk County Council-recommended diversion drivers face when Victoria Road closes at 6am on Christmas Eve until 6am on December 28 while the railway bridge is replaced.
Angry business leaders and a Diss town councillor have asked why a shorter diversion could not be organised for light traffic using local services, with fears trade will be lost.
A driver arriving from the A140 Scole roundabout will be diverted via Rose Lane, Palgrave, along the A143 towards Bury St Edmunds as far as Stanton, then up the B1111 to Garboldisham, before taking the A1066 back to Diss – a journey of nearly 28 miles. The reverse route would be needed for the return journey.
Jenny Waterfield of town centre fashion accessories shop Candies said: “It is absolutely appallingly bad planning and a disaster for the town centre in what has been a very difficult year.
“People won’t travel that distance. If they could have some signage for shopping traffic that would keep people coming in to the town.”
Town councillor Glyn Walden appealed to Norfolk County Council to put in a light traffic diversion via Sawmills Road, Sandy Lane and Frenze Road.
He said: “We all know people familiar with the back roads in Diss will find their way around.
“The fact is a lot of people come to Diss along Victoria Road and park in supermarket car parks – they will find it difficult.”
Graham Steward, store manager of Wallace King Interiors, in Victoria Road, was also unhappy there would be no local signage for shoppers, with their sale starting on December 27.
“There’s a lot of money spent on advertising and I’ve doubled my staff for the day because I hope, like in previous years, it will be busy,” he said.
“If I didn’t know Diss, I wouldn’t mess about with the diversion and go straight to Norwich or Bury instead.”
Norfolk County Council spokesman John Birchall said the timing of the closure was a matter for Network Rail, but said: “We have considered a diversion for local traffic, but the only route entirely within Norfolk would be via Sawmills Road, Sandy Lane, Frenze Road (or Walcot Green, etc.).
“We have decided not to place any ‘light/low vehicles only’ signs directing to the town centre along this route because experience has shown that it would be used by the wrong sort of vehicle, with a serious risk that the roads would be blocked.”
Mr Birchall added Suffolk County Council would not agree a diversion from Palgrave to Fair Green via Denmark Hill to bring light traffic into Diss from that direction.
What do you think about the timing of the railway bridge closure and the diversion route? Write to Road Closure, Diss Express, Mere Street, Diss, Norfolk, IP22 4AE, email firstname.lastname@example.org or add your comments to this story online at http://www.dissexpress.co.uk
It’s nice to know that a ‘public service’ who believe themselves to be anything other than a ‘public service’, and who milk our taxes and pay their bureacrats a fortune in incentives, whilst never being on hand in an emergency unless you live on the posh side of town, have finally been given the ‘freedom of the city’ of Norwich.
Perhaps we’re missing something here Councillor Morphew. We’re glad you all get on so well, public opinion however reckons the lot of you are overpaid, and quite simply…useless.
But pat yourselves on the back why don’t you.
Norfolk Constabulary was granted the honorary freedom of Norwich at a ceremony on Friday night.
Councillors voted to confer the honour in recognition of the force’s “historic ties with Norwich and to mark their continuing contribution to the city”.
The title has been awarded fewer than 40 times since 1887.
Chief Constable Ian McPherson said the force and the city had an “unbreakable bond” and the lion of Norwich was worn by all officers on their uniforms.
Mr McPherson said: “Policing in Norfolk is woven into the very fabric of Norwich life and it has been so since 1836 – a proud heritage depicting devotion and loyalty to public service where the community comes first.”
Council leader Steve Morphew, who proposed the motion, said: “Over time the relationships between the city council and our police have become much closer.
“It is fitting we recognise the past, present and changing future for the relationship between the police and the city by honouring those who serve us so well.”
Eight pages make the case against transfer and for direct investment; analyse the government’s new proposals; and explain why we need new first-class, affordable, council housing with secure tenancies, not more public-private partnerships.
A number of councils, including some with ALMOs, are shamefully still trying to privatise their homes (find out who’s doing what). We need to unite to fight this threat and achieve the promised sustainable future.
A senior councillor has admitted that more elderly people could become depressed if their day centres close – but says every effort will be made to find alternatives so this does not happen.
Norfolk County Council wants to change its in-house day centres to concentrate on providing day services for people with dementia and re-ablement needs. It is proposing to close two of its buildings which it says are not suitable to provide this service – the Essex Rooms and Silver Rooms.
Mr Harwood was asked whether he had considered the fact that the rate of depression amongst elderly people could go up if the centres were closed.
He said: “I accept that could be the case, but depression is a medical condition and something which is sorted out through GPs etcetera, and could be controlled that way. I don’t know all the medical details but we understand that is a problem and something that happens.”
However, he insisted that the council was looking at “all the options”, and added: “We have said we are not stopping the services being delivered for them, but that they might be moved to another building which wouldn’t be too far away.” source
We at Norfolk Community Action Group are not only convinced that the councillor is a modern day Nostradamus, but that the current ongoing ‘consultation’ in place regarding the closure of day centres is a sham and ‘democratic lip-service’.
All cuts in public services of this kind should be robustly fought against!
Plotting and scheming for Welfare not Workfare
On 12 November, it became legal to force unemployed people to work for their benefits – to do 40-hour-weeks for under a third of the minimum wage. The Government’s Welfare Reform Act introduced ‘Work for your Benefit’ pilot schemes, which once completed can be rolled out without any further debate. It also attacked single parents – who face sanctions if they fail to prepare for work outside the home as soon as their child turns three – and people with impairments, disabilities or severe and enduring illnesses.
Two days later, members of twenty-three different groups from around the UK met to share information and plan resistance to these pernicious attacks, which will take their toll on working-class and low-income communities.
Groups present included Unemployed Workers Unions from six cities across the UK, the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network, Southwark Mind, WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities), Single Mothers’ Self-Defence (part of Global Women’s Strike) and members of the union in the Department of Work and Pensions – PCS. They were joined by feminist and other groups (all listed below).
The strength to be gained from meeting in solidarity with each other was immense and created a real sense that a movement is building: a movement which will not only fight the immediate attacks of the Welfare Abolition Act, but draw out the connections between our struggles and together challenge the ideology driving them.
The Act seeks to make our worth dependent on work; work defined in the really narrow terms of waged work for someone else’s profit. By making us compete with those in waged work for non-existent jobs, it helps drive down wages and conditions. We all take the brunt as the rich make even more money out of us.
• We want solidarity with and from people in low-income, temporary and insecure work. These are the jobs that ‘work-for-your-benefit’ would replace.
• We want caring to be recognised as important work in society. Single parents are already working and benefits are their entitlement to a social wage.
• We want justice for people with severe or enduring illnesses. The drive to get people off incapacity benefits and Employment and Support Allowance and into work is making people more ill with stress. Only we know what we are capable of and it is wrong for conditions and sanctions to be imposed on us to force us into unsuitable work, unwanted “work-related activity” or “motivation sessions” which press us into their programmes of treatment for addictions and other conditions.
• We want the right not to work. People not in waged work contribute loads to their communities. We do not want to be forced into mind-numbing, insecure work that leaves us no better off, or worse off than on benefits and definitely not at £1.27 an hour!
• We want free, high-quality, public services to support older people and people with impairments/disabilities. People should not have to become employers managing ‘individual budgets’ in order to access the care they need.
• We want to stand in solidarity with migrant workers. Just as unemployed people are pitted against people in work, so migrant workers are pitted against us. We believe that we must stand together and demand all of our rights together.
• We want to fight privatisation of the Department for Work and Pensions. Attacks on DWP and Jobcentre Plus workers are attacks on our rights to access welfare. We will support the PCS’ fight against cuts.
• We want an end to the apartheid system of benefits, healthcare and housing for asylum seekers. UK Border Agency support should be scrapped — where people are forced to survive on incomes far below benefit levels – which are already set at subsistence level. No slum housing and dangerous and dirty hostels, dispersal, or vouchers.
After a day of info-sharing, outrage and scheming, we formed a few working groups. If you’re able to help out with any of the projects, please email email@example.com
1. Media working group – monitor and respond to hostile articles in the media.
2. Our propaganda – creating posters, newsletters etc to get our messages out
3. Website – put together a website as a space to share resources, feedback and comment, get the word out about our campaign and publicise local and national action.
4. Our welfare rights – compiling information to help us access our rights now and creating ‘Know your rights’ leaflets.
5. Defeating the Work for your Benefits pilots – research to support the network to take action against the pilots.
Norfolk Community Action Group fully support the above actions and are planning a public meeting on the subject in the new year.
Norwich South MP and former home secretary Charles Clarke is challenging an official request to repay almost £750 of ‘second home’ parliamentary expenses.
Mr Clarke “strongly disputes” the decision made by watchdog Sir Thomas Legg and has lodged an appeal with former Appeal Court judge Sir Paul Kennedy.
He is one of about 80 MPs who have refused to accept the verdict of Sir Thomas, a former top civil servant in Whitehall, that they made wrong or excessive ‘additional cost allowance’ claims for second homes in the past five years.
They are among approximately 200 MPs who have been asked to repay a total sum running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. And these include Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson, who has agreed to pay back about £350 for a telephone bill mistakenly claimed twice.
The repayment request made to Mr Clarke is for £743.64 and covers mortgage interest claims for two separate periods – in 2004-05 and 2008-09. He has denounced the ruling as “arbitrary and without justification”, but in going to appeal has stressed that he will abide by Sir Paul’s verdict on it.
After asking the Norwich South MP in October for more information about mortgage interest statements, Sir Thomas wrote to him again this month recommending that he repay ‘over-claims’ of £400.34 for 2004-05 and £343.30 for 2008-09.
The EDP understands that this stems from a practice by Mr Clarke of claiming mortgage interest ‘in arrears’ on the basis of the previous year’s statement of mortgage interest from his mortgage lender – and that this procedure was fully agreed with the Commons fees office, and was not criticised in any way by a statement from Sir Thomas on his review’s approach to the second home rules.
Though this led to the ‘over-claims’ in 2004-5 and 2008-9, it is believed that – according to Sir Thomas’s own figures – it also resulted in significant ‘under-claims’, totalling £2,539.42, in the three years 2005-08.
The EDP has also been informed that Mr Clarke wrote to Sir Thomas on December 15 requesting that his final judgement either reduced the requested repayment to zero, or formally noted that he had ‘under-claimed’ to the level indicated in those figures, and stating that in the latter case he would request a repayment.
On learning that Sir Thomas was not prepared to revise his final judgement, even though his office did confirm that “in three out of five years of the review period” he had received “a substantial underpayment for mortgage interest”, Mr Clarke decided to make a formal appeal to Sir Paul.
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, SW Norfolk’s Christopher Fraser and North Norfolk’s Norman Lamb have been told by Sir Thomas Legg that they do not need to make any repayments.
The EDP has been unable to get comments from Tony Wright (Yarmouth), Bob Blizzard (Waveney) and Henry Bellingham (NW Norfolk) about their situations concerning the Legg review.
The period covered preceded Chloe Smith’s election in Norwich North.
As the seriousness of county council cuts slowly emerge, we thought we’d get in touch with the Norfolk Police Authority who seem to throw our council taxes around like they’d won the lottery.
Especially in mind is the amount of money thrown at the outgoing Chief Constable of Norfolk Ian McPherson. Full story on that little number can be found here.
Obviously if we do get some sort of reply we’ll post it here….but let’s not hold our breath!
County council plans to cut £1m in funding to voluntary groups will have “an appalling affect” on some of Norfolk’s most vulnerable young people, an MP warned last night .
Officials say the authority’s children’s services department has to cut the amount it spends on voluntary sector support to youngsters with everything from challenging behaviour to deafness.
A report to councillors warns future funding for councils is uncertain after 2010, so officials have to budget for a freeze in both government grants and council tax from 2011, along with an expected 2.5pc pay rise for council staff.
Twenty-eight groups who currently receive £2.4m between them will have to re-apply for a share of £1.4m. The news comes weeks after the EDP revealed that old people’s day centres across Norfolk were threatened by funding cuts.
Last night North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: “What’s proposed is utterly shocking, you actually get the best value out of these organisations who are rooted in their community. It’s completely counter-productive, this is slash and burn.
“The consequences are that the most vulnerable people will lose out and it will put a massive extra strain on the statutory services.
“I hadn’t any inkling this was coming, we’ve got to build a campaign. There are some tough decisions ahead but this is the worst place to start, it will have an appalling affect on some of the most vulnerable people in the county.”
But Lisa Christensen, Norfolk’s director of children’s services, said: “The public sector has not been exempt from the economic downturn and there is less money available to us than in previous years and we are continually trying to make sure the money we have available to us goes as far as possible for the benefit of children and young people.
“A number of our contracts with voluntary sector organisations are due to expire on March 31 2010.
“Next year, the resources available to children’s services will be approximately £10 million less than we would need to carry on at the same level as this year. Therefore, there will be a reduction in funding of around £1 million to the voluntary sector.
“We have been, and will be, as fair and transparent as possible in inviting organisations and groups we currently work with to tender for new contracts, and have written to them with advanced notice so they can do so.”
North Lynn Discovery Centre was set up to provide activities for young people in some of West Norfolk’s most deprived areas, with up to 5000 using the centre each year.
Manager Jimmy Yallop said it was a struggle to keep the centre going on the £70,000 grant it received from the county council.
“We would like to think that they could not afford for us to be closed, but we do not really know,” he said. “We are filling in the application like everybody else. I am not going get angry or depressed until we know we won’t be funded.
“I like to think were in a good position because of the numbers that are using the centre. If we were shut there would be nowhere else for them to go. People from the outlying villages come because there are no other projects that go on every single day and we only charge 50 pence a kid. If it’s not here, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The North Norfolk-based Benjamin Foundation, which provides advice and support to vulnerable children across the county, is losing £150,000.
Chief executive Richard draper said: “We are losing two contracts. One is working alongside Connexions Norfolk with two specially-trained advisers for the most vulnerable client group, helping young people who need the most intense levels of support.
“The other is to provide one-to-one support for children from infant school upwards on anything from low-level friendship break-up to issues like bullying right the way through to family break-up, all of which can make a huge difference to a young person’s life.”
Leigh Vallance, chief executive of the charity Break, which provides care for vulnerable children and families, said: “A number of contracts within the voluntary sector, funded by Children’s Services, come to an end on the 30th April 2010.
“These service providers have been invited to submit tender bids for services that will run from May 2010 for three years, all be it from a much smaller funding pot than had previously existed. This does mean that some services will not be able to continue.
“Break along with many other charities cannot escape the consequences of the current economic climate and the inevitable impact on local authority budgets.”
Gyros, which helps migrant workers and asylum seekers settle in the Great Yarmouth area, could lose the £35,000 it receives from the county to help children settle and integrate into communities.
Gyros support manager Des McKeating said he hoped that money, which helps 200 families a quarter, could be found from other organisations to fund the work. If not, the child support service could close.
Norfolk is the fifth most deprived county in Britain, with 19pc of children living in “income deprived” households. Deprivation is most pronounced in the east of the county, where there are low wages, a seasonal economy and higher levels of unemployment.
Organisations whose funding is at risk include:
Action for Children
Asperger East Anglia
Connects & Co.
Crossroads Gt Yarmouth and District
Crossroads North East Norfolk
Embrace Young Mums
Family Welfare Association (Family Action)
Home Start Gt Yarmouth
Include (CfBt Education Trust)
Mancroft Advice project
Mid Norfolk Mencap
Norfolk Deaf Connexions
North Lynn Discovery Centre
Norwich & District Carers Forum
Oak Grove Chapel
Olive Tree Project
St Edmunds Society
West Norfolk Carers
West Norfolk Dyspraxia Group
On the Tuesday of December 8th the Vauxhall Centre in Norwich was filled with around fifty concerned individuals eager to listen to two county councillors, David Harwood and Harold Bodmer, try and defend the councils decision to look into closing two day centres in Norwich and two day services in Hempnal.
The centres that are in danger of being closed down, the Essex and Silver Rooms, and the two day services hosted at Hempnal Mill currently provide community and sense of well being for its elderly and vulnerable users- enabling them to socialise and build relationships with people they may otherwise never have met, as well as also enabling users to partake in a variety of activities.
These services are currently provided for a relatively small amount of money, which includes funding for transport from their homes and decent meals, personal care, entertainment and therapeutic recreation, all given by a dedicated and much respected team of day centre workers.
It is the idea of losing these services that has lead to people organising in an attempt to keep the centres open. This public meeting held by the pressure group Save Norwich Day Centres For Older People led to a public verbal lynching of the representatives trying to legitimize the closure of the day centres.
The councillors who had drawn the short straw presumably knew that they had to face a room full of rather peeved people- with the elderly in attendance obviously being in a more volatile mood.
A hastily made attempt to explain that
“no final decision had been made, and that if it had, which it had not….”
was spat out stating that any closures would not be made because of financial reasons- despite the ongoing recession.
They also went on to argue that- while no final decision had been made, money was of course not the issue and no savings would be made from the closures- but that keeping the day centres open would add 15% to council tax thanks to the Labour Government…
It was at this point that any semblance of a coherent argument disappeared as the dastardly duo scraped for any argument that they thought might appease the increasingly anger fuelled audience. At one moment, mid-heckle, it was even argued that the kitchens in one of the day centres needed urgent maintenance and therefore the day centre would be expensive to get up to a suitable standard. There would need to be a full re-build and more importantly new Health and Safety Regulations deemed the gasworks in the building were unfit and dangerous.
The fact that dodgy gasworks in the premises hasn’t shut down the centre immediately speaks volumes.
When the chair of the meeting, Ian Gibson, President of the Norwich and District Carers Forum, opened up the debate to questions, the councillors appeared to have given up the ghost, refusing to guarantee that the council would not profit from the sale of the Essex and Silver Rooms. The sense of anger in the meeting was palpable at this stage, with several people stating that they simply would not trust a word out of the politicians mouths.
Of course various people in the crowd attempted to score political points, with a Labour county councillor standing at the back of the room making snide comments yet, unsurprisingly, contributed very little of actual substance. In fact every third questioner seemed to be a councillor or some sort of political representative who felt the need to declare to everyone in the room this fact at every possible opportunity!
After the meeting was drawn to a close, the various Trotskyite group members in attendance attempted to hijack the healthy anger from the meeting, standing around the exit moronically attempting to flog their dull, dry rags to those leaving the meeting hall for a biscuit and hot cup of tea.
In conclusion, the meeting was useful in highlighting the councils intentions and that they are clearly not to be trusted. However it was heartening to see that we are not the only ones that truly acknowledge this.
What was evidently and visibly clear from the performance is that people really want to protect the community and services provided by the Silver and Essex Rooms and there appears to be a lot of potential militancy, particularly from the older generation- who it seems are prepared to fight their elected representatives every step of the way.
AS OF TODAY THE 12 WEEK PUBLIC ‘CONSULTATION’ IS UNDER WAY
- To request a paper copy of the consultation, contact the council on 0344 800 8020.
- Find out more about the in-house day services consultation by going to www.YourNorfolkYourSay.org where people can access the consultation questionnaire.
- Alternatively, an electronic copy of the consultation can be requested by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- People who need help to complete the consultation feedback form can arrange for an Adult Social Services development worker to assist them by calling 0344 800 8020.