Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Cornwall Council privatisation goes ahead in watered down version

From the BBC News website
Cornwall Councillors have voted in favour of a "middle-way option" for the future sharing of some council services.

They rejected a full deal with telecoms firm BT, to part privatise services, including benefit payments.

Members have also voted against leaving all services in house.

A third deal, known as BT light, which leaves customer facing services like libraries under council control was agreed.

In a report to the full council, members were warned that leaving services run by the council could lead to a £100m shortfall because of cuts in central government funding.

The option approved by councillors- called SP 2 - means BT takes over £13m of council services and makes savings of 18%, the council was told.
'Reduced provision'
The Conservative-Independent controlled authority has an annual budget of £1.2bn.

It means that libraries, benefits and council tax collection, procurement, which is the buying of services and goods, One Stop Shops which offer advice on council services, would continue to be run by the council.

Services that would be outsourced to BT include information technology, Telecare and Telehealth, payroll and employment support, invoice processing and document management.

The report said it was "more acceptable to members" but did not deliver the same amount of savings and the creation of 1,000 jobs which a full deal with BT would have delivered.

It also warned it "may mean reduced levels of provision in the future" on council services such as libraries where there had already been cuts.

Council leader Jim Currie, said: "It's what the members want. They have had a full day of hammering it out and have given all their opinions.

"They have given a substantial majority which makes it easy for me as chairman of the Cabinet to take it forward."

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Cornwall Council democratically depose their undemocratic leader

Around thirty people demonstrated outside County Hall today, on the day councillors were debating a motion of no confidence in the council leader, Alec Robertson. The lively protest, organised by Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance and Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance, had lots of placards. There were chants of 'no ifs, no buts, no public service cuts', 'no council sell-off, it only helps the well-off' and 'Alec, Alec, Alec, out, out, out'.

Robertson has been responsible for the undemocratic way in which he and his cabinet have tried to sell off council services to a private company, as previously reported here.

Many of those present at the demonstration then went into the public gallery to hear the debate. In a turgid discussion which went on for over an hour and which was largely irrelevant the only sensible intervention was from Ruth Lewarne, Liberal Democrat councillor for Penzance East. She explained the need for a secret ballot and that the concept had originally been introduced to stop people from being intimidated which, she argued, might still be relevant today. She also brought the discussion away from personalities and brought it firmly back round to the political issues at stake.

The votes were counted and the result came at about 12:35. There were 63 votes in support of the motion to remove the leader and 49 votes against. According to security, Robertson has already left the building and told them he will send someone to collect his things this afternoon. In other words, he will not be back in any capacity.

This result is a clear indication that this plan has been firmly rejected by Cornwall Councill following a petition signed by over 6000 people in Cornwall. The councillors will now elect a successor. It is hoped that any new leader will scrap these plans at least until after the next election in May next year.

This is a victory for those ordinary people that were prepared to stand up and campaign against these privatisation plans and for democracy.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Cornwall Council cabinet retreat to bunker over privatisation plan

The issue of the Tory-led cabinet of Cornwall Council and their plan to privatise council services has reached absurd proportions. As I have said before "These plans are devastating for Cornwall and will hit workers and users alike. It is also a shocking indictment of a council leadership that has no respect for democracy or the wishes of ordinary people. They must be defeated."

Since then the petition against the plan has received 6000 signatures, meaning there will be another debate at full council on 23 October. It was also announced that Tory leader of the council Alec Robertson would face a vote of no confidence the week before on 16 October. Following these announcements, Alec Robertson said here that he would abide by any decision taken at that meeting. However, many councillors are sceptical about Robertson's position and believe it is an attempt to make Tory waverers come into line and support him.

Then a few days ago the deputy leader of the Council, Tory Jim Currie, an opponent of the plan announced he was resigning from the cabinet. It is unclear whether this will make other Tories more or less likely to back Robertson at the vote of no confidence or whether Currie is himself poised to take over as the leader of the council.

Kevin Lavery the CEO of the council has written a book on how to privatise services. Clearly the issue is not going according to plan.

It is vital that as many people as possible protest outside the meeting to give steel to those waverers that need to vote to remove Robertson. Whilst I would never encourage anyone to vote for a Tory, the hope of the Liberal Democrat, Mebyon Kernow and non-cabinet Independent councillors must be that Currie becomes the new leader and scraps these plans.



Tuesday 16 October

Outside County Hall


Saturday, 8 September 2012

Privatisation of services at Cornwall Council

Cornwall Council is planning to privatise or outsource all of its services to a private company. This is known as ‘shared services’. One of the companies in the frame is BT. A new company will be formed with one person on the board to represent the council. This will not be an elected member but well-paid Chief Executive Kevin Lavery. Rumour has it that Lavery has been linked to both BT and the other companies in the frame for the takeover.

Some of the areas involved include public health, libraries and One Stop Shops (including the administration of housing benefit for example). The council say this could mean up to 1000 job losses and others could be invited to re-apply for their jobs on worse conditions.

Cornwall Council now says it needs to find £30million ‘savings’ (cuts) for 2013/14.

Not only is this devastating for the workers that lose their jobs, it will also be a blow for the users that will find they have a poorer quality of service as the new company cuts corners, pay, conditions and services.

Moreover there has been a flagrant disregard of democracy in the way this has been carried out. The council cabinet of Tories and independents pushed this through at a cabinet meeting. A subsequent meeting of the full council voted by a clear majority to overturn this decision. The cabinet have subsequently stated that they have the power to go ahead without the backing of full council and will not be backing down.

These plans are devastating for Cornwall and will hit workers and users alike. It is also a shocking indictment of a council leadership that has no respect for democracy or the wishes of ordinary people. They must be defeated.

Come to this public meeting organised by Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance to hear more about this and to discuss how to stop it.

Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance

Phone: 07817397756
Twitter: @pzanticuts

Ø Attacks on our NHS, including staff pay and conditions?
Ø Privatisation and outsourcing of council services?
Ø Cuts to housing benefits?
Ø Cuts to other benefits?

Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance is holding a public meeting for everyone opposed to all these unnecessary cuts, privatisations and job losses. We will discuss the scale of the attacks we face and what we can do to stop them.

“I think people are generally fed up. There’s the destruction of the NHS and the de-valuing of our nursing staff. But there’s also the daily struggle to pay bills and put food on the table while top bankers are still getting extortionate bonuses.”

Carla Whiting, a Unison member in Cornwall acute health

Public meeting: Tuesday 25 September at 7:30pm
The Lugger Hotel,
Marine Terrace (the promenade)

Friday, 7 September 2012

Socialism or Barbarism in Greece

Stathis Kouvelakis, a socialist from Greece, reports on the changing situation there.
"Greece is a new Weimar Republic type of situation, but with the radical left leading the race. By a reliable poll institute: Syriza 30%, New Democracy (Right) 28%, Golden Dawn (Nazis) 12%; PASOK (Labour) 7,5%, KKE (Communists) 6%, DIMAR ("Democratic Left" part of the current government) 4%.The Nazis are the third force, the display of street violence has obviously given them a new impetus. It's us or, if we fail, it will be them!"
See here for the link.

As the Polish revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg said, we will have "socialism or barbarism".

Friday, 17 August 2012

Slaughter at South Africa's Marikana platinum mine

Striking South African mineworkers were gunned down by police on Thursday. Charlie Kimber from Socialist Worker looks at events leading up to the massacre and the business interests behind it.

"Police in South Africa have opened fire at striking workers at the Marikana platinum mine near Rustenburg, leaving at least 18 people dead. Ten people have died over the last few days in other clashes.
This disgusting slaughter evoked memories of how the police acted during apartheid. All the hope at the end of that vile racist regime has come to this."

To read more, see here.

WARNING: These videos are quite shocking.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Inspiring speakers at Unite the Resistance Conference

Last weekend around five hundred people attended a conference organised by the 'Unite the Resistance' rank and file trade union group. The conference discussed the government's austerity measures and resistance to them. There was a great deal of discussion around the public sector pensions dispute and how to get the programme of co-ordinated strike action that has stalled since 30 November last year, back on.

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS union spoke about the need, not just to get another mass, co-ordinated one day strike in autumn organised, but to ensure that it then led to another co-ordinated strike soon after. It is vital, he argued, that the momentum is not allowed to be dissipated by the trade union leaders of the big unions like Unite, Unison and GMB as they did last time. He also spoke of the need to stand candidates in election in conjunction with other left-of-labour groupings.

There were also speeches from socialist Labour MP John McDonnell, Jackie Turner from the BMA, Russ Ball from Coryton Oil refinery and many others.

However, the speech of the conference was given by Segundo Menendez Collar, a striking miner from the Asturias region in Spain. He spoke of how miners there have been on indefinite strike for over a month at the government's plan to destroy the mining industry. They have used many methods, he said, including demonstrations, strikes and rocket launchers. In a very moving and inspirational speech Segundo spoke of the need for solidarity across Europe and beyond. He said the fight must be fought across the whole working class with the same methods. The key, he said, was unity.

Friday, 29 June 2012

I am not an artist, but...

Followers of this blog will be aware that it has always dealt almost exclusively with current political issues with occasional references to recent history. This is not about to change.

However, this post relates to the launch of a sister blog dealing with the politics of art from the perspective of someone with virtually no knowledge of art history. As the name of the blog suggests I am not an artist, but... I still feel the need to give my opinion despite, or pehaps because of, my ignorance. I believe art is not handed down to us by great artists any more than political ideas are handed down to us by great thinkers or laws are handed down to us by great men (politicians and judges are still overwhelmingly male). My approach to art is the same as my approach to politics; it is something we all can and should engage with.

"It seems to me that for many artists there is a dichotomy between the urban landscape and the natural landscape. In many ways this might seem obvious. If one is an artist in Central London one might paint the Houses of Parliament or St. Paul's Cathedral. By contrast in one lived in the countryside in Scotland it might be hills or lochs. But it seems to me that this is quite an arbitrary divide. Most places have elements of both.
"Take for example the many paintings of St. Michael's Mount that any visitor to Penzance or anywhere else in West Cornwall would be confronted with in the many art galleries found in those parts. They are almost all looking from the beach opposite (usually Marazion) or from a little higher up or even from the point of view of the sea. Again it might seem obvious to look from a good vantage point.
"But to me this is not very interesting because it is not the view that someone living and working in the area normally sees. Not unless they have a lot of money and an incredible view and most people do not. It is also usually a timeless view as it has no historical context. It is a painting that could have been painted at any point in the last hundred years. To me, a painting without relation to the times or the people living and working in the area is pointless, it must be contextualised.
"I also prefer the composition of a picture of a natural landscape if it has human-made forms interrupting it. This, for example is a photograph of the sea, a boat and a cliff. I love the way the TV aerials and chimney pots cut across the landscape unwelcome and unbidden. It makes it more real. This is the way we usually see the sea or the countryside whilst we are running to the shop or out of work on our lunch break.
"To me, a landscape painting needs to tell us something about the relationship between nature and humanity. It is not enough to simply present nature as something timeless and unchanging and that stands on its own. To me that suggests a desire to escape human society to an imaginary natural paradise. I don't want to escape the human world, I want to change it."