When the TUC recently declared their intent on supporting the student struggle against fees and ‘upping the ante’ across the board to fight against the cuts, there was certainly a sigh of relief from many on the left.
The rest of us were not so complacent however, realising fighting means more than uttering words and declarations of ‘struggle’.
Indeed the TUC, following criticism that the earliest they could call a march in opposition to the cuts would be on 26/3/2011, declared their intent on pushing for a day of local actions across the country to keep the fight back and the links with the unions visible. A case of We must be seen to be doing something…
Sadly in our own part of the region surrounding Norwich it seems the local Trades Council and Labour Party supporting bureaucrats have not yet managed to even put pen to paper and publicly acknowledge a day of action in any way shape or form, and the Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts appear to still be finishing off the remnants of their Christmas turkey dinner. Either that or their hidden caucus within the steering group has put an end to even the pretence of organising any kind of decent fight back.
While Norwich Trades Council and Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts have found it too complicated to publicly answer the call to action there will indeed be a day of action starting with a protest outside Vodaphone on St.Stephens in Norwich at 12 midday to protest against tax avoidance by corporations. The event has been called by local UKUncut activists, many with no union connections at all, in support of the TUC’s call for a fightback.
It’s a funny ol’game’….
Lobby of Norwich City Council ‘Cabinet’ Meeting December 8th 4.30, front of City Hall.
Bring drums, pots n pans and grannies old bloomers as well as anything else loud!
DON’T IMPLEMENT THE TORY DESTRUCTION OF THE WELFARE STATE!
Protest Statement From A Norwich City Action At Vodafone Today.
Corporate tax evasion/avoidance, I don’t pretend to remember which is legal and what loopholes make it so, is costing us our services. Last week ‘The Browne Report’ detailed billions of pounds worth of suggested cuts to the front line of public services affecting, for example; doctors, nurses, cleaning staff and specialists, special educational needs departments and classroom assistants. Right here in Norfolk ‘meals on wheels’ schemes were scrapped today plus there are the ongoing battles to save the day-care centres for the elderly, and now the centres for the deaf, blind, deaf-blind and disabled are all in the firing line. Also facing cuts are rural bus and train services, many people’s only transport link to the wider world. Not to mention the cuts to the Fire Service, youth working groups such as Connexions, and three thousand local jobs, all being the tip of the ice-berg. We are angry.
Vodafone have managed to swindle £6bn in unpaid taxes this year, which George Osbourne has happily written off.
So today a bizarre assortment of students, subcultural-stereotypes, community activists and revolutionaries stood outside Vodafone on St. Stephens St. and let the public know exactly what was causing them their considerable grievances. They were met with a healthy mix of sarcasm, anger, apathy, confusion, virulent support, back-slapping, knowing nods as well a series of follow up questions and a few pledges of solidarity. Within half an hour over 500 leaflets had been distributed and the shop effectively closed as staff locked the doors and released their small amount of customers back onto the high street. We stayed and continued to spread the word asking shoppers “Why should we be expected to pay our taxes when they won’t pay theirs?”
After another short while the police inevitably turned up and claimed they had reports of harassment from the public only seconds after having told us it was driving past us that had alerted them to our presence. When asked if they knew what cuts the Norfolk Constabulary were facing they said they would not be drawn into political arguments then proceeded to debate the finer points of free speech with us. The cops assured us that free speech only applied if in-audible to anyone over around four feet away from the speaker, ignoring the rights of street preachers and buskers to pollute our ears with whatever drivel they like at nearly any volume.
We assured them we’d be back tomorrow with more leaflets so we wouldn’t need to shout anymore. See you on St. Stephens.
On Monday night members of Norfolk Community Action Group attended a steering committee meeting of the Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts where we were quite literally ‘vetted’ on our suitability to join.
While some of our members and supporters are annoyed that we even attended the meeting and had to justify our class struggle politics against much of the lefts obsessive ‘identity politics’, and local trade unions almost universal lack of support for the Tomlinson Family Campaign, having met and spoken to the members who were there, we found them amiable and courteous enough to admit that no other group had to go through the same process to sign up, and believe them to be people we can work with.
Whether this coalition goes the same way as many others in the last 25 years due to ‘stacking’ by one particular group we must wait and see but feel there are potentially enough decent minded trade unionists there to recognise when this is happening.
It is imperative that the upcoming struggles against public service cuts and the potential decimation of the welfare state are fought on as much of a united front as we can possibly achieve.
For this reason we have affiliated with the Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts and ask all to respect the organisations aims and principles which are as follows…
We seek to build broad based alliances in the major communities of Norfolk involving all trade unions representing members in the public sector, Trades Councils, campaigning, community and welfare groups, school councils and other organisations representing young people
We seek to form a Steering Group with representatives from all of the above to take forward the campaign
Priority task to build support for a credible alternative to the Coalition Government’s policy of public spending cuts
We agree a core Statement of Aims that we ask other Trade Unions and organisations to add to and support
We seek to promote a positive image of Public Services and Public Service workers to counter the negative propaganda of the Government and its supporters in the media
We seek to hold a series of meetings in identified communities in Norfolk to build the Alliance
We seek to develop practical and meaningful solidarity to support campaigns and actions in opposition to the cuts in our communities
We welcome the support of any political organisations and politicians that are prepared to oppose (in words and deeds) cuts in public spending
That we develop a Communications and Media strategy to promote our ideas
Commitment to universal public services for all regardless of ability to pay without discrimination
Recognition of the crucial social and economic value of Public Services and public sector jobs to the communities of Norfolk
Opposition to all public spending cuts
Effective action to close the Tax Gap and ensure the wealthiest in society pay their fair share of taxes
Commitment to maintenance of ‘Face-to-face’ and local services
Opposition to job cuts, service delivery cuts and closures
Opposition to privatisation or outsourcing of public services
Opposition to cuts in Welfare benefits
Opposition to the scapegoating of minorities for unemployment and strains on services.
Union bosses offer proposal plan to save jobs getting axed at Connexions, while Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children’s services, replies
“We are still in the consultation process and we are still listening to people with regards to the options available.”
Now where have we heard that load of old rubbish before…
A new drive has been launched to save a vital career service as hundreds of youngsters desperately scramble for limited jobs and university places.
Union bosses have revealed new proposals to help save half of the under threat jobs at Connexions which could in turn help keep the career service for young people alive.
The news comes as hundreds of teenagers across Norfolk last week celebrated the county’s best ever A-level results – the biggest year-on-year increase for five years.
But for many those celebrations turned into panic as figures reveal that more than 170,000 people are set to miss out on a cherished university place nationally and that six students are fighting for each spare university place.
The knife-edge situation is illustrated locally, with Norwich University College of the Arts (Nuca) full to the brim and the University of East Anglia had just 70 places available through clearing after seeing a 30pc rise in applications for this year’s courses.
This year, hundreds and thousands of students across Norfolk have been lucky enough to be able to turn the Connexions service for career advice and to be steered in the right direction.
But next year, students may not be so fortunate as the service is facing a 50pc budget cut with 65 jobs expected to go. It is expected that the service will become more online and telephone based.
Norfolk County Council says it has to make £2.8m of cuts in the Connexions service in this financial year as part of a £10m package of savings.
County Hall says those cuts need to be made because in-year grants from the government have been slashed – with more than £4m taken from area based grants used to support services to children.
Fears have been raised, however, that Norfolk’s youngsters are taking a “disproportionate hit” in terms of where the cuts are being made.
The proposals being put forward by trade union UNISON could help safeguard Connexions and stop 30 jobs from being lost.
It is hoped they will be considered at a meeting of the full county council on September 6.
Jonathan Dunning, UNISON Norfolk branch secretary, said: “We’re hoping they will incorporate our proposals into the report which will go before the council. Our proposals mean Connexions will be left in a state where it can still be a credible service.
“The current proposals, we believe, means it will struggle to deliver the level of service to Norfolk’s young people, because it seems to be relying on a web-based service. That won’t reach some of the young people in parts of Norfolk where the broadband service is poor and access to computers is limited.”
Under the union’s proposals, it is suggested to bring in planned changes to the Connexions structure earlier – in December, rather than January – to enable savings of £2.1m to be made in a full financial year.
That is above the £1.4m the council missed out on after the area budget grant was reduced, but below the £2.8m the council has said it wants to save.
The union says the £700,000 left in the Connexions budget by not cutting £2.8m, plus an additional £250k from not filling new four new management level posts in finance, can be used to provide specialist one to one support for young people and will save about 30 of the under threat jobs and the subsequent redundancy costs.
Paul Morse, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at County Hall, said: “I feel as though young people are taking a disproportionate hit in terms of where cuts are being made.
“This is a knee-jerk reaction by the Tories and they don’t realise the breadth of services that are provided by Connexions.
“It’s ironic that at the moment there’s a focus on young people getting their exam results and, whether they be A-levels or GCSEs, and there’s an emphasis on the fact that there’s a definite shortage of places within education and there’s a difficult labour market which means that it’s the time when our young people need Connexions more than ever.”
Connexions, which gives career advice to young people aged 13 to 19, has six centres across Norfolk: Norwich, North Walsham, Thetford, Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and Dereham.
From April 09-10, the service saw 45,000 youngsters across the county and took as many calls. The figure does not include visits to schools, colleges, homes and training centres.
In Norwich alone, more than 1,600 young people walk through the doors of the centre in just one month.
The service does not only help with careers advice but helps point youngsters in the right direction to overcome or deal with a range of issues including homelessness, drugs, teenage pregnancy and sexual health.
Norman Lamb, Lib Dem North Norfolk MP, said: “I went along to the Connexions centre in North Walsham and I met with a large number of youngsters there and couldn’t help but be impressed by the stories they had to tell about the value that they had gained from the service and the type of support that they get.
“It’s very easy to lose a service and then it’s gone for good. There’s an opportunity for reflection now and everybody would be impressed by the county council if they took a step back and thought again about the alternatives being put forward.
“Everybody understands that the savings have to be found, we are not in denial about that at all, but let’s think very carefully about the damage that’s being done here and whether it’s possible to find another way forward.”
A County Hall spokesman said the suggestions from UNISON would be “carefully considered”.
Conservative county councillor Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children’s services, added: “We are still in the consultation process and we are still listening to people with regards to the options available.”
Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP for the Conservative Party, said: “It’s important to have information, guidance and advice for young people and everyone concerned about Connexions should be talking to the county council as it’s a local authority decision, although their funds have been drastically cut as a result of the irresponsibility of the last government.
“I’m doing that as well on behalf of people who have been in touch with me. It’s important to retain as much of the front line service as possible with the funds available but be realistic that some very difficult decisions have to be made because of the financial situation.”
Last month, young people joined forces with redundancy-threatened workers and union activists to save the careers service from the drastic cuts. They protested outside County Hall, but the cuts were still approved.
We knew we were in trouble no matter who won the last election.
Another four years of New Labour and the injust and intrusive ‘Big Brother’ state and the continuation of the destruction of the Labour movement, or the toffs of the Conservative party with their sole interest, the propping up of the rich to the detriment of the poor in our society…
How many of us however realised just how far a new Tory government, with their Liberal poodles, would go?
Yes we’ve been aware there were likely to be cuts in the public and private sectors. Each of our darling political parties told us so. What we didn’t know however was the extent to which this government was aiming to fulfil the same old Thatcherite ideology- nothing short of the total destruction of the welfare state.
In a week where the announcement that banking profits have gone far beyond even the most optimistic economists predictions, and news that housing prices are once again on the rise, David Cameron has announced the plan to eradicate the right to stay living in council housing indefinitely.
While the word ‘community’ keeps popping out of Camerons mouth he plans to wipe out what little ‘community’ we have left.
Once we could grow up in the same house, move to a house nearby when old enough to start families of our own, grow up in an area with people we had known all our lives…
Years of government inaction by refusing to build new social housing put an end to that kind of ‘community’ many years ago. People have had to move miles away from families and friends because there was either a shortage of housing or buying property was simply out of the question due to an obvious lack of economic fluidity to most ordinary working people.
Now it gets worse. If you leave home, will your parents be evicted because they no longer need the housing now you’ve fled the nest? Will you lose your home because you’ve found a job that pays that £1000pa more?
It’s time to stop living in a fantasy people, time to turn the TV off and open your twitchy curtains.
We are heading for the destruction of all the great rights and achievements our great-grandparents won for us.
No more health service, public housing, workers rights, welfare and sickness benefits for the most vulnerable…just a return to the days of old…serfdom at the beck and call of the privileged elite who are getting stronger and stronger by the day.
Question is, have you the willingness to actually turn that thing off and take a look at what’s actually going on around you before it’s too late?
It may have past you by but were you aware that your council has voted to reduce Norwich’s fire cover along with cuts and damaging restructuring across the rest of the county?
Were you even aware that there is a public consultation going on? No we weren’t either until this morning.
According to Fire Brigade Management
Norfolk is one of the safest counties in England and our fire and rescue service is helping make it even safer. Since 2005 the number of significant fires in Norfolk is down 11% and the total number of incidents our firefighters attend is down 8%.
Now that is fantastic we hear you say, but wait for it…this therefore justifies losing one fire engine and a whole crew from the city of Norwich alone.
It is pretty evident to most of us that these ‘consultations’ are nothing more than a game council plays with us. If nobody knows about the consultation, nobody opposes it, therefore there’s no argument, the cuts go ahead.
Apparently the public have been well informed of the proposed changes, yet we haven’t been able to find anybody aware about this.
We’ve decided to help Fire Brigade management out on this score.
But before you do lets leave you with a few words from those who know best, the men and women on the ground who actually get their hands dirty shall we…
Nationally, reduced call volumes have been used as a justification for reductions in fire cover. As a result, the ratio of deaths and injuries to fires, the rate of injuries to firefighters and the cost of fire to the economy has increased.
Norfolk Fire Brigade Union
There’s only one fair response to give the Council and Fire Brigade Management to these proposed changes and that’s a firm and resolute ‘Jog On!‘
Please fill in the online ‘consultation’ and support the men and women of the FBU! You just might need them one day…
As the Con-Dem government begin to live up to their name it is the Norfolk Connexions service that finds its head squarely on the block, with 65 jobs to be cut.
Yesterday a coalition of Unison members, community groups, employees and users of the service picketed outside County Hall to raise awareness of their cause and to urge councillors to enter the fight to save the service.
About 150 demonstrators turned up despite the 9am start! Decked out in the purple shirts of the Connexions service the only thing louder than the the garb of the protesters were their chants and the songs performed by a local trio of musicians supporting the cause.
After an hour of picketing a large contingent went to sit in on the meeting of the county council, to create a visual pressure on the elected representatives to do some justice for the people of Norfolk. This quickly proved futile as the best part of the first half hour of proceedings were taken up by councillors declaring interest in BP before the discussion of the Norfolk pension fund. We promptly left in disgust.
Here’s how the EDP reported the event…
Hopes fade for Norfolk careers service
Hopes of saving a lifeline Norfolk careers service from drastic cuts are fading after council members voted in favour of a plan to cut its funding.
Scores of young people joined forces with redundancy-threatened workers and union activists as they descended on County Hall yesterday in a bid to urge members of Norfolk County Council to vote against a plan to cut the Connexions service.
Their protest looked to be in vain as a two hour debate saw members vote in favour of the recommendations put to the council, which could lead to 65 job losses.
But after the meeting, campaigners vowed to continue to press against the cuts ahead of a meeting on September 6.
Ruth Thacker, a Unison steward, said: “Some of the comments made were very positive which was nice to hear.
“Obviously it doesn’t sound too hopeful in the long-run but it was an emotive meeting and there were some abstentions. It’s a slow process of getting people to understand what we do.
“It’s definitely a financial issue that has to be explored and hopefully common sense will prevail.”
As previously reported, the county council plans to axe £2.8m from the service, which provides advice and guidance to thousands of young people aged from 13 to 19, as part of a £10m package of savings.
Supporters of the service fear the move will severely affect the crucial support offered to young people and lead to a big increase in youth unemployment and teenage pregnancy.
During yesterday’s full council meeting, Paul Morse, county councillor for North Walsham East, said: “This is out and out salami slicing.
“The way the council has approached this whole episode is the easy option. There are three reasons why the council is going for Connexions – members in this chamber are not really involved in the service and don’t know much about it, Connexions is fairly recent so it has not got many friends high up and it’s a preventative service so the client group does not have a voice.”
Members heard how the service does not only provide young people with careers advice but also a range of support from healthy eating to homelessness, anti-social behaviour to sexual health.
In 2009, it helped 1,300 young people get work and apprenticeships.
Tory councillors argued that the savings were necessary and although the service will be reduced, it is not going to be scrapped completely.
Daniel Cox, leader of the council, said: “There’s no reason why young people wouldn’t receive the same advice they currently need. It’s not being abolished, just reshaped. We are not taking away advice, we are looking at the best way of providing advice to young people with the money available.”
A meeting will be held at County Hall on September 6 after consultation with trade unions.
The news that our local fire service are planning major cuts is not going to come as too much of a shock to anybody in our region.
Once again essential services are being cut short threatening the lives of the public.
Norwich is set to loose a whole crew and fire engine, something the FBU are vowing to fight.
There is currently a ‘public consultation’ (where have we heard that before) going on with public meetings around the region which ends on the 15th August 2010.
Please get along to these and support our fire fighters against the stupid and dangerous cuts in services NF&RS are proposing which they have titled their ‘Draft Safety Plan’-we kid you not!
If you wish to comment on the permanent removal of a fire engine in Norwich you can visit the Norfolk Fire Service website or come to the public meetings at 13:00 and 18:00 27th July Kings Centre, Kings Street, Norwich.
Other meeting dates are
29th July 1800 Fakenham Community Centre
Community Centre, Oak Street, Fakenham, NR21 9DY
3rd August 1800 Wymondam – Ketts Park Community and Recreation Centre
Harts Farm Road, Wymondham NR18 0UR
Here’s a piece from the FBU site
FBU fight Norfolk fire cuts
Norfolk fire crews are warning that frontline cuts will put the public and firefighters at greater risk. The Fire Brigades Union say Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service propose to reduce emergency response fire cover in Norfolk to save £1.5 million between 2011and 2014.
Jamie Wyatt, Norfolk FBU Brigade Secretary said: “These proposals are at a very early stage but they have still come as a very big shock to local fire crews. We are still assessing the full impact of the proposals but it is clear that they will mean a large reduction to emergency fire cover in Norfolk which will put firefighters and the public at greater risk.”
The proposals are presented in a complex and technical way but the union believes their impact will in reality mean the loss of 8 front line fire engines. Some stations would see the number of fire engines available halved.
Cut the number of wholetime fire crews and fire engines covering Norwich from four to three.
Cut one of the two wholetime fire crews and fire engines covering Great Yarmouth.
Cut all the retained firefighters at Gorleston and replace them with a wholetime crew.
Cut 2 retained firefighters by replacing one full-size fire engine with smaller vehicles at:
A total of 63 frontline firefighter posts will be lost, both Wholetime and retained (on call). There are currently around 750 frontline station-based firefighters meaning a loss of one in eleven frontline crews.
The union has been told further cuts to response times for second fire engines at incidents will mean they will take longer to arrive at some emergency incidents. This will mean the first crew will have to deal with fires and other emergency incidents for a longer time without proper resources, meaning that fires will spread further, cause more damage and other types of emergency becoming more dangerous.
Peter Greeves FBU Brigade Chair said: “In financial terms business and home fire losses have reached yet another new high. Government rules require the fire authority to undertake professionally integrated plans to improve community safety but what they’ve come up with are pure and simple cuts proposals. We believe these proposals will lead to a worse service and increase risk to the public and fire crews at emergency incidents.
“The fire service does a lot more than attend fires, there are a whole range of emergencies these cuts will have an impact on. Not only do we save lives and reduce injuries, but we also protect businesses and workplaces from damage.
“These cuts plans are the worst we have ever faced in Norfolk and are targeted at our emergency response capability. Politicians from all parties say they want to protect frontline services and we will challenge them to do so.
“Norfolk fire crews are well aware of the current financial pressures that the country faces. We are happy to work with the fire service to see where genuine savings can be made which protects our core work of frontline emergency response.”
FBU Regional Secretary Adrian Clarke said “Yet again the cart has been put in front of the horse when it comes to changes in the fire service. An Integrated Risk Management Plan for Norfolk has yet to be produced and we see something more akin to an Integrated Resource Management Plan where cash is king and safety considerations are a very lowly servant.
“These proposals will go out for public consultation and we call for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service to be one of the first Fire Authorities to have the courage to actually produce a document that spells out clearly for the public the actual cuts in 999 provisions they propose for which communities. Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service is paid for by the businesses and communities of Norfolk to protect the businesses and communities of Norfolk and they have every right to be told the facts clearly and their voice listened to by their locally elected Fire Authority Members.”
Pete Greeves FBU Brigade Chair 07971151957.
Jamie Wyatt FBU Brigade Secretary 07825327331.
Adrian Clarke FBU Region 9 Secretary 07917017713.
Defiant campaigners and pensioners today said the fight would go on to keep a Norwich day centre for the elderly open – after a decision by councillors left the door ajar for it to continue.
Norfolk County Council’s cabinet yesterday made a final decision on the fate of the Silver Rooms and Essex Rooms, which will now set wheels in motion for their gradual closure.
The dozens of pensioners who attend the centres for lunches and entertainment had fought to keep them open and at the start of the meeting, a 2,212-name petition was handed to county council leader Daniel Cox by campaigners from the Silver Rooms and one of more than a thousand names from their counterparts battling to save the Essex Rooms.
The county council runs the centres and says it wants to shut them because of a shake-up in the sort of care they provide – which will focus on dementia and re-ablement needs.
The council says those centres, in Silver Road and Essex Street, are not fit for those uses and wants to stop running them, instead moving the current users to other services which would be provided by the voluntary sector, such as Age Concern Norwich, in partnership with the county and city council.
Officers at County Hall say that will allow friendship groups to stay together and would offer a wider range of facilities and activities in other locations, such as The Elms, Dell Rose Court, The Cedars, St James Sheltered Housing and Don Pratt Court.
At yesterday’s meeting, members agreed to set up that partnership and, as it stands, that means see the Silver and Essex Rooms will be gradually closed, although the council was quick to stress that would not happen until the users are ready to move to a place they are happy with.
But the door was also left ajar for a community group to come in to take over the running of the centres, with the recommendation that the new partnership will retain the option of maintaining them as day care facilities alongside the new community based services if there is found to be sufficient resources and demand.
The Friends of the Silver Rooms are hoping they can do just that and believe they can make a strong case for that centre remaining open and in use by the elderly people who love it so much.
They have enlisted the aid of The Guild, a Norwich-based organisation which supports social enterprise schemes, to draw up the business plan.
They hope the whole community will rally around to enable the Silver Rooms, which have been used by elderly people for lunches and meetings for more than 25 years, to stay open.
However, their request for the county council to contribute towards the business plan was turned down at yesterday’s meeting.
Georgina Moles, from the Friends of the Silver Rooms, said: “The door is still open. We will talk to the council about the partnership process and need to find out what that means.
“We want to see the Silver Rooms continue as a community resource, primarily for older people and we still want to see that happen. We’re disappointed that they are not prepared to pay for the business plan, but we are still fighting.”
Green councillor Stephen Little, whose Town Close ward includes the Essex Rooms, said: “I would like to pay tribute to those involved in the campaign, in particular the attendees who have been an example to us all with their brave and determined efforts to speak up about places they have come to regard as a second home.
“These centres cater for a broad range of needs under one roof. It’s important to not separate people unless absolutely necessary. These centres have adapted and remained successful over 40 years, so they must be doing something right.”
But David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services, said: “This has been a long process and one where we always intended to consult with all the users.
“This is about all our day care centres across Norfolk. I’m pleased to say that we have spoken to both Norwich MPs and updated them on the proposals. It’s well known that they both now favour the proposals.
“The city council did a report regarding these places, which agreed with our assessment of the buildings.
“I was upset for the users themselves at the amount of scaremongering that went on by people thinking they were doing people a favour, but all they managed to achieve was to upset some old and vulnerable people with incorrect information. It’s important that we take into account that this is for everyone in Norfolk.”
Council leader Daniel Cox said Mr Harwood had suffered “considerable personal vitriol” over the past few months and said: “The easy thing to do would be to leave it exactly as it is, but that would not be the right thing to do.”
But Ms Moles hit back at the scaremongering claim. She said: “I think that was a terrible slur on the Friends of the Silver Rooms. We have not scaremongered. The pensioners who have come to these meetings have come here because they care about the place they love.”
When the closure plans were announced last year it sparked outcry, with pensioners protesting at public meetings, thousands of signatures collected on petitions and an all-night vigil held outside the Silver Rooms.
The Evening News has highlighted the fight to keep them open through our Fight For Our Day Centre stories.
What do you think of the decision? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Campaigners fighting to keep open two day centres in Norwich appear to have lost their battle as county councillors are set to press ahead with controversial closure plans.
Norfolk County Council today confirmed it was going to set up a new day services partnership in city to replace the Silver Rooms and the Essex Rooms.
The new scheme is set to be approved by members of the adult social services overview and scrutiny panel next Wednesday and would involve a partnership with Age Concern Norwich and Norwich City Council to look at providing alternatives to the day centres.
Under the plans, the partnership will identify new locations for day care services to replace the two centres which are likely to be based in sheltered housing and housing with care schemes.
Both centres will remain open while suitable alternatives are created.
County Hall said the plans which followed a consultation would allow friendship groups to stay together and offer a wider range of facilities and activities. Staff will continue to provide the same high quality care, but in more suitable accommodation and the services would also be available closer to many people’s homes.
David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services, said: “We are committed to improving day services and widening the choice that people have, but we must make the best use of the council’s resources in tough financial times. The consultation on the Essex and Silver Rooms showed us that what mattered to people was friendship, inclusion and care – not the buildings themselves.
“The new proposals allow us to keep to our policy of specialising council services for dementia and re-ablement, but also develop better replacement services in collaboration with our partners.
Norwich South MP Simon Wright said he was seeking an urgent meeting with both Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council about the plans.
“I’m very disappointed if these day centres are to close. I felt very strongly that they should be retained and invested in,” Mr Wright said. “We have got a situation where we do have an ageing population where demand for these sorts of services is increasing in the future to give older people a really good social environment.
“What I think is so awful in this process is that I’m not convinced that alternative provision has been identified early enough in the process.”
Next week’s meeting, which will take place at 10am in the Edwards Room, at County Hall, members will also be updated with a report on work being carried out to safeguard vulnerable adults in Norfolk and a review of day activities for people with learning difficulties.
Pensioners fighting plans to save two day centres from the axe staged a protest in Norwich city centre yesterday.
The clock is ticking on a crunch decision, which could see the Essex and Silver Rooms in Norwich closed, but the elderly people who use them are not prepared to give up without a fight.
They demonstrated on the steps of City Hall yesterday to show Norfolk County Council how vital the centres are to their lives – and to gather more signatures to add to a petition already signed by thousands of supporters.
Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council revealed last year that it wanted to close the county council-run centres because of a massive shake-up in the way care is provided.
The county council says within 15 years there will be a 62pc increase in the number of people in Norfolk with dementia, rising from 12,714 in 2008 to 20,621 by 2025.
They say that means they have to change their focus on tackling the surge in dementia and the care homes and day services it runs will change as a result.
Council bosses say the Essex and Silver Rooms are not suitable to be converted to that use so have proposed their closure – to the fury of pensioners who use them.
One of the protesting pensioners at yesterday’s demonstration was Greta Holmes, 79, from Magdalen Road, who first started attending the Silver Rooms with her husband Leslie about eight years ago.
She said: “I took my husband there and he had Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He loved it there. After he died I didn’t think I could face going back, but the first thing they said when I got there was that if I needed to cry that was okay.
“The staff there were wonderful to me and I have such good memories of how my husband enjoyed it there. It is a place which has become like a memorial to him for me. It means so much to me. He was a wonderful man and a wonderful father.”
The pensioners were at City Hall because the county council was holding a drop-in session there about the development of a housing and community support strategy.
Although that strategy is not part of the planned shake-up which could see the day centres closed, the pensioners wanted to send a message to the county council’s cabinet, which will make a decision in June.
Harold Bodmer, director of Norfolk Adult Social Services, said: “Now that our consultation has finished, the feedback we have received will be analysed by an independent marketing and research company.
“We will take careful account of what’s been said and feed people’s views into our detailed proposals, which will go to Cabinet for a final decision in June.”
Time running out for comments on day centre closure plan
Pensioners battling to stop their day centres from closing have urged people to make their voices heard – as the clock ticks down on the end of consultation.
Norfolk people have one week left to give their views on proposals for the Essex Rooms, Silver Rooms and the two social services days at Hempnall Mill.
Norfolk County Council revealed last year that it was proposing to close the council-run centres as part of a switch to focusing day services for people with dementia and re-ablement needs.
That sparked outrage from pensioners who use the day centres, along with their families, who say the centres are a lifeline for the people who use them.
Pensioners collected petitions and organised public meetings to try to keep the centres open, while the county council launched a consultation over the proposals in the middle of December.
Council chiefs said they wanted to hear more about the people who use the centres ahead of a final decision which is due on June 14, and say people will be offered an alternative service.
People have until next Monday to have their say.
David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services at Norfolk County Council, said: “Having a range of day opportunities which suit all needs and tastes is important because it helps people to live independently in their own homes for longer.
“We recognise that traditional day centres are still a much-needed service, but also realise that we will be expected to do more with less money – and therefore we must focus our in-house services on those with the greatest need.
“It’s important to stress that whatever the outcome, no-one will be left without a service. Everyone who is currently attends the Essex Rooms, Silver Rooms or the two social services days at Hempnall Mill will be offered a replacement service, although it may not be at the day centre that they are using at the moment. Groups of friends will be kept together, where possible.”
But Hilda Bullen, 81, who uses the Silver Rooms, said: “We still want people to let the council know that we don’t want the centres to close. There’s not long left for the consultation now so we have to stay on the ball.”
The pensioners are planning an open meeting at the Silver Rooms on Thursday , from 2pm until 4pm, when people are invited to join them to talk about the future of the centre.
Since 1948, Britain has supported the idea that state pensions, health care, education and other public services are best provided by society as whole. But this idea is now under threat.
The state pension is totally inadequate, leaving at least 1 in 4 older people to live in poverty
7m households have a child living in poverty and existing benefits provide a very limited safety net
Unemployment now stands at over 2m and workfare offers no solution
10m adults are disabled and face huge barriers to escaping financial hardship
The NHS is slowly being privatised behind a smokescreen of choice and competition, and patients are suffering as a result
Our public services are now facing massive cuts and further privatisation
The welfare state and public services are an essential part of any civilised society – pooling the risk across the population and providing support and services to us all.
Why should you get involved?
Whoever wins the next general election will be looking at the welfare state and public services as a way of cutting public expenditure. This demonstration must therefore send a clear message to all the political parties that the majority of people do not want to see further cuts and privatisation.
On 10 April 2010 we will have a unique chance – just weeks before an expected general election – to make our voices heard. Staying at home and thinking it’s someone else’s job to speak out for the welfare state and public services won’t be enough. Make sure you are there!
March and Rally. Saturday 10th April 2010. Assemble 12 Noon, Temple Place, Embankment. Rally 2pm Trafalgar Square.
Carer Watch are concerned that all past / present governments have failed to recognise that family carers are at the heart of the care system. Unless family carers are acknowledged and supported, both financially and through care services, no new system will be sustainable. Family carers are not an optional extra to be added on as an after thought.
Any new government needs to face up to this and make some speed in deciding how to adequately fund family carers. Ten years of nothing was serious, TWENTY YEARS OF NOTHING IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.
Carer Watch believe that ANY Government should recognise that carers are a unique group within the benefits system because they have to fulfil the government contracted 35 hours of care to qualify for Carers Allowance.
To this end we are asking all Prospective Parliamentary Candidates to support this campaign. Details can be found here .
We need your help too……….
Carer Watch asks you to pledge your support here in….
1. demanding an IMMEDIATE review of Carers Benefits
Carers should be paid a level of financial support that
1. eliminates carer poverty and
2.empowers carers to achieve dignity and quality of life.
The present allowance of £53.10 is an affront to human dignity and fails to support carers..see notes below
2. protecting Disability Benefits ( over 65s ).
One of the objectives of originally introducing AA was that it helped and empowered the claimant, it gave them the independence and flexibility of directing the spending of their allowance based on their own judgement of their immediate and individual needs.. AA is an entirely fit for purpose benefit just as it is, LEAVE IT ALONE.
You can see details here of our campaign fighting to protect Disability Benefits . This campaign covered several months and we will be contacting all groups/organisations again that represent carers/disabled/elderly asking them to pledge their support too.
1. Carers Allowance is the lowest paid benefit. (which has to be worked for, at the
rate of £53.10 per week, £2761.20p per year).
2. If a carer has no savings to speak of & is not supplementing their income with
other employment they may be entitled to some help with council tax & £30 a week
extra income from Income Support. If however, a carer has savings of over £16000,
the only income they will receive in return for working 24/7 will be £53.10 a week.
They are forced to subsidise their own caring role by spending their savings.
3.Many carers are self-funding their caring role when they draw down their pensions
early & use their savings to supplement their Carers Allowance.
4. Carers are discouraged from bettering their circumstances through education as
they are penalised the whole amount of their Carers Allowance if their chosen course
exceeds 21 hours.
5. Carers Allowance is paid to a carer for one persons care only.
6. The Overlapping Benefit Rule restricts carers claiming other benefits.
7.Those in receipt of CA who reach pensionable age find their CA stops but their
caring role continues.
8. When a Carer ceases to be a carer , & elects to return to the job market , he \
she does NOT qualify for JSA automatically as CA does NOT count towards the credits
needed for JSA.
A BBC investigation has heard claims of seriously ill patients being told they are fit enough to work and denied benefit payments.
Two former doctors for the private healthcare company Atos, which carries out the medical assessments have expressed concerns that the checks are being done too quickly and that the system is biased towards declaring people fit for work.
BBC Scotland’s Social Affairs Reporter, Fiona Walker, has been investigating why some of those who had high hopes for ESA say it has been a failure.
Employment Support Allowance, or ESA, is replacing Incapacity Benefit. It’s supposed to support the very sick, and as people get better, help them get back into the workplace.
The government said it wanted to get a million people back to work by 2015 but more that one year after introducing ESA, it says it can’t measure how many people the scheme has got back into the workplace.
During the investigation, we’ve heard claims that terminally ill patients are being told to attend back-to-work interviews while they apply for the new benefit.
We also heard concerns that the medicals are declaring seriously ill people as fit enough to go to work.
One of the patients we spoke to was Maureen Leitch. She says she was called in for a medical assessment just a few weeks after undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy for vulval cancer.
She was declared fit for work and told she wasn’t entitled to ESA.
She said: “I was struggling terribly with the whole cancer. I was in extreme pain… It was a whole load of hassle, and aggravation that I didn’t need at the time I was going through the journey of the cancer… I feel insulted and badly let down, with the system.”
Maureen appealed the decision and it was overturned, meaning she was eventually awarded the benefit.
Currently, there are 44, 000 people waiting for their appeals to be heard. More than a third of people are winning their appeals.
Charities and organisations including Citizens’ Advice Bureau, say they’re worried that thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being wasted because of the number of people going to appeal.
Everyone we’ve interviewed for this investigation agrees that getting people back to work can be good for them.
What they’re concerned about is the way the system is working in practice.
Dr Chris Johnstone is a GP in Paisley. His work to help his patients back to work helped shape the ESA policy.
He said: “I have no problem with a rigorous medical assessment done in a supportive fashion.
“But I think if you have a slipshod one done, as it appears to be anecdotally, that’s unfair for the people going through the system. It feels like some of it is done inappropriately and it’s almost being done to save money rather than to look after people.”
Ultimately the decision on whether you get benefit or not is down to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), but they have contracted a private healthcare company called Atos to carry out the initial medical assessments.
I’ve spoken to two doctors who used to work for Atos. They say they are concerned about the way checks are being done. They both say they are worried that speaking out will affect their medical careers so we’ve agreed not to reveal their names.
This is what one of the doctors told me: “We would frequently have appraisals. They were all about how many clients you had seen and the average length of time it took to complete each assessment and write the reports.
“I wanted to know if they were happy with the quality of the reports I’d done but they hadn’t even looked at my reports, only at the time it had taken. It’s really tough to qualify for ESA.
“When doctors go in for the day’s assessments, they pretty much know the clients are going to be turned down.”
The other doctor I spoke to backed up those claims.
We asked to do an interview with Atos, but they refused.
Instead they gave us a statement saying: “We are continually monitored and audited by the government to ensure that it completes the highest standard of assessment and that medical advice is correct.
“Atos Healthcare and its employees are not advised of the result of the assessment and the outcome has no bearing on Atos Healthcare targets or remuneration.”
Helping people back to work is one of the key aims of ESA. But the government can’t tell us how many people this new scheme has got back into work.
The minister for Disabled People at Westminster is Jonathan Shaw, MP. I asked him why his department couldn’t tell us how many people ESA had successfully got back to work.
He said: “What’s essential is that we are providing a programme, across the board, not just for ESA claimants but for youngsters, for disabled people for elderly people, to try and gain the skills that they can to stay in the labour market and return to work.
“We’ve got the pathways to work programme, which as I say is helping thousands of people who I’ve met up and down the country… this is early days, for the Employment Support Allowance.”
Mr Shaw also said he would be looking into the way cancer patients are treated.
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.
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 email@example.com
- 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.