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.
…they are not worth the paper they are written on…
According to FBU members who we have engaged with, 95% of public opinion in said ‘consultation’ we’re against the proposed changes.
How then does this give the Fire Brigade a mandate to carry on regardless unless they had already decided to go ahead prior to opening it up to the public.
Just like the closures of day care centres for the elderly and the loss of jobs at Connexions.
It’s interesting what you find when you google Consultations Sham…
Norwich fire jobs set to go
Fire chiefs are to press ahead with plans to reduce cover at the proposed new Carrow station, in Norwich, with the loss of 24 jobs, despite backing away from across the board cuts in rural areas.
Norfolk Fire Service wants to save £1.5m as part of its new draft safety plan aimed at modernising the service, which it hoped would boost cover in rural areas by introducing a new specialist appliances capable of dealing with off road crashes and natural emergencies such as flooding.
Plans also include scrapping or relaxing the response times for second appliances to non-emergency call-outs, such as small rubbish fires, and minor road accidents, and changing shift patterns to a “five watch” system, following the lead of Greater Manchester, which aims to match cover to actual demand rather than having firefighters sitting around.
But after a major 12-week consultation plans, which saw the biggest ever response, bosses will press ahead with plans to reduce the number of proposed crews at the new Carrow station in Trowse from five to four.
However, plans to cut 13 retained posts at Gorleston are being put on hold while further studies of its impact are carried out, though a full time crew will still be transferred to the town from Great Yarmouth.
And instead of axing two posts each at six other stations – Diss, Cromer, Sandringham, Fakenham, Wymondham and Dereham – it will look at the levels of cover on a case-by-case basis.
The service is also looking at its options in West Norfolk and plans for an additional “fire service delivery point” at King’s Lynn if it can find the money, which has sparked questions that it may have to scale back from building a new purpose-built station costing up to £2m.
Fire service officials said they were pleased with the response to the consultation and had taken on board some of the key issues raised.
But union leaders feared the moves were nothing more than a stay of execution for the service.
Jamie Wyatt, Brigade secretary at Norfolk FBU, said the consultation process had been a sham and had only been opened up after pressure from the union.
“The only reason they have done this is so that they can make cuts in the number of firefighters,” My Wyatt said. “It’s about saving money and not the safety of people in Norfolk.”
Neil Harvey, spokesman for Norfolk Retained Firefighters Union committee, said he was very disappointed about the plans.
“From what I have seen the plans at Gorleston have simply been put on hold,” Mr Harvey said. “At some point in the future they will simply come back and there will be no way for the public to challenge that.”
The wide-ranging consultation, the most comprehensive ever carried out by Norfolk Fire and Rescue Authority, included 13 public events, attended by 182 people, and more than 70 meetings with staff and unions.
More than 300 formal responses were received and the feedback has helped shape a report due before the Fire and Rescue Overview and Scrutiny Panel next week Tuesday .
Harry Humphrey, cabinet member for fire and community protection at Norfolk County Council, said: “This was the most comprehensive consultation the fire and rescue authority has ever carried out, and has also been its most successful in terms of the level of responses received. It’s been extremely valuable for us to gain a better understanding of the views of many people including members of the public and fire service staff and I would like to thank all those who responded. Our priority, as always, is making our very safe county even safer.”
Nigel Williams, chief fire officer for Norfolk, said safety was at the heart of everything the service did and that would not change.
“I believe the proposals within this report will help us continue to move in the right direction,” Mr Williams said.
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.
Following our previous report on the campaign to save local youth service Connexions an online petition is now available to sign.
We hope you can take the few seconds to sign it.
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.