An attempted coup against the members

July 1, 2016

At the time of writing Angela Eagle has very generously paused her leadership campaign to give Jeremy Corbyn more time to resign. The real reason, however, is that Corbyn’s opponents are so well organised that they can’t yet agree on a single candidate to stand against him. It appears Owen Smith has collected sufficient nominations to stand. Some MPs are reportedly concerned that Smith would have a better chance of beating Corbyn than Eagle as he is ‘further to the left than her’. With the Chilcott report due out soon she will not be covered in glory. She, of course, voted for the war on Iraq.

Speaking on Radio 4 the Vice Chair of Angela Eagle’s Wallasey constituency party said that if the MPs wanted to remove Corbyn they could have simply raised the 51 nominations for a challenger. It says much of the approach of her and other PLP members that they didn’t bother consulting their local parties. Indeed Wallasey CLP asked her to vote against the no-confidence motion. Never mind they are the just the people who do the work. (Read on below or download a PDF here labourcoup) Read the rest of this entry »

The surplus and the parishes

July 1, 2016

Some while ago I suggested to Swindon’s Cabinet that they should be pressing the government to abandon their target for a £10 billion surplus by 2020. As I pointed out to them if the target was break-even then the £6 billion of cuts to local government would not be necessary. They wouldn’t even have to abandon their support for ‘austerity’.

The anti-democratic parishes proposal was premised on acceptance of the level of cuts from central government, based on the surplus proposal. Yesterday, Theresa May, one of the candidates in the Tory leadership election indicated that this surplus target, described by the Financial Times as ‘extreme’ and unnecessary, said it should be abandoned. Today the Chancellor has dumped it, citing the dangers of a recession and the economic shock following the vote to leave the European Union.

We can argue over whether the ‘austerity’ programme was necessary in the first place (obviously I don’t think it was) but this announcement provides an open door for Swindon Council to press for an end to the £6 billion cuts to local government. If the surplus has been abandoned then there is no need for this scale of cuts.

If the Tory administration does not recognise the significance and consequence of this announcement, and simply proceeds with its plans then it will be doing so for ideological reasons. Of course, we do not know to what extent the budget plans of a new government will differ from Osborne’s but the abandonment of the aim of a £10 billion surplus by 2020, at the very least offers the possibility of a scaling back of local government cuts.

There is nothing to stop the administration supporting such a move and pressing their MPs to do likewise. To proceed with their parishes proposal as if nothing had changed would reinforce the widespread feeling of the local population that they are contemptuous of the opinion of local people.

This is a letter to the Swindon Advertiser


June 21, 2016

Here’s a picture of a heron at Shaftesbury Avenue lakes. We don’t see them very often, just occasional visits. I was lucky enough to have my camera with me on this occasion.


An assault on local democracy

June 17, 2016

According to the report for this week’s Swindon Council Cabinet meeting “a high proportion of responses received expressed opposition to the parishing of non-parished areas”. In contrast there were “a number of submissions” supporting it? What number? We are not told. It’s typical of this administration that they neglect to report the results of the consultation in any detail. How many were in favour, how many against? The weight of opinion against them is somewhat inconvenient when they want to push ahead regardless of the results of the consultation.

Yet they have no democratic mandate for their proposal. At the recent election, over the whole town, the Conservative Party gained less votes than the opposition. Mr Renard may contest that the parishing issue was a factor in the loss of two seats, but the electorate was clearly not enthused by their concept of “empowering” local people by imposing parishes on them regardless of their opinion. Read the rest of this entry »

Swindon Council cuts – there is a choice

March 23, 2016

Article after article by David Renard drives home the message that Swindon Borough Council ‘has no choice’. It has to outsource leisure facilities, close Children’s Centres, transfer services to parishes and abandon funding libraries save for the central one. How does this assertion look in the light of Ian Duncan Smith’s resignation and the rapid withdrawal of the proposed £4.36 billion cuts to Personal Independence Payments? What it surely shows is that the government can be made to retreat in the face of large scale opposition, including in the Conservative Party itself. Twenty Conservative MPs had written to the government opposing this outrageous attack on the disabled. The government knew it was unlikely to get a majority for this proposal through the House of Commons, especially when as Duncan Smith had pointed out it sat somewhat uneasily with tax cuts for better off and the rich. How could they say “we’re all in it together” when they do this, he asked.

IDS is not, of course, opposed to austerity per se but has challenged the way that it is being implemented. If he can challenge the government then why can’t David Renard and Swindon’s Conservative Group follow suit? IDS said exactly what I told Swindon’s Cabinet at one of its open forums, that their “fiscal self-imposed restraints” (the £10 billion surplus) are “more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest”.

According to the Financial Times IDS’s “central concern” is that

…the Chancellor’s commitment to running a fiscal surplus is a self-imposed political decision that it would not be in the national economic interest to deliver at any cost. This accusation is difficult to refute.”

The FT had previously denounced this surplus target as unnecessary and “extreme”.

If the rapid withdrawal of the tax credit proposals last year, and the PIP cuts now, was possible as a result of the government being put under pressure, then why not mobilise pressure against the £6 billion cuts which are being imposed on local government and causing such damage? As I pointed out to the Cabinet if the Chancellor’s target was break-even rather than the £10 billion surplus then the local government cuts would not be necessary. None of the measures which Swindon’s ruling group is proposing would be necessary.

If the opposition within the Tory Party to PIP cuts does not give Swindon’s Tory administration the courage to abandon its supine position then what will? Do they really want to go down in history as ‘the wreckers’, in the words of the Swindon Advertiser Editorial? Did they really enter local government in order to destroy services? Why should they cause all this damage to the town’s social infrastructure in defence of a government strategy which even one of its central figures has now challenged together with others in their Party? Isn’t it time that this administrative put the interests of local people before Party loyalty to a programme which is rapidly unravelling and has been shown to have failed?

Martin Wicks

March 23rd 2016

The Letting Agencies rip-off

March 13, 2016

The problems of high cost and poor standards are not confined to a few “rogue” agencies but are widespread across the industry. Many of the complaints we and other organisations have heard do not only relate to egregiously poor practice by a minority of agencies, but are widespread, and related to common practices – such as charging high fees. ” (Shelter: End letting fees June 2013 )

Around half of landlords use a lettings agency to market and/or manage their properties. Unlike employment agencies who charge the employer for finding an employee, Lettings Agencies charge both the landlord and the tenant, sometimes both of them for the same service. Agencies notoriously rip-off tenants. Here’s a list of the types of fees that are charged by agencies.

  • general administration fees

  • reference fees (including credit checks, bank, guarantor, previous landlord etc)

  • application fees

  • fees for drawing up tenancy agreements

  • inventory fees, including check-in and check-out fees

  • guarantor arrangement/application fees

  • additional occupant fees

  • pets disclaimer fees/additional pet deposit

Agencies are inventive. We have even discovered locally one charging a fee if you pay too much rent! (Read on below or download a PDF here laripoff )  Read the rest of this entry »

BMA strikers in Swindon

January 12, 2016

A few photos from today’s picket line in Swindon at the Great Western Hospital.

bma2 Read the rest of this entry »

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