Buckhurst field and the New College Corporation

February 28, 2015

New College is shortly to put in an application for an all-weather football pitch on Council owned Buckhurst field1 which sits on the edge of Park North and Walcot. The New College management are looking to the Council to give it a 25 year lease. The cost of the pitch would be £600,000 with £300,000 provided by the Wilts FA. The FA fund says that “priority will be given to those that can demonstrate that it draws a significant proportion of its participants from neighbourhood deprived areas”, although we can find no definition of “significant”. The pitch would be fenced, floodlit and open until 10 p.m.

New College held a consultation meeting recently. They had obviously not expected many people to turn up since they chose a small room which was packed out. There were a number of local representatives of football clubs as well as some of us from the Parks & East Walcot Community Forum, from SWAP (Swindon Walcot and Parks Community Group), and some local residents who could be affected by the scheme. A number of football clubs are in favour of it because they have been told it will be a facility they can use at a price which is affordable. Local community groups are opposed to the proposal because they want the area to remain a public open space. (Download a PDF here buckhurst article or read on below) Read the rest of this entry »

What future for Council Housing?

February 20, 2015

Council housing and the housing crisis

A book by Martin Wicks

Everybody knows there is a housing crisis. However, it is usually written about by academics or professionals who work in the housing sector. Tenant voices are rarely heard. What Future for Council Housing? is written by a Council tenant and reflects the work and ideas of Swindon Tenants Campaign Group which has successfully resisted the sell-off of our homes; managed to secure more money for their maintenance; and challenged the dominant policies responsible for the crisis.

What Future for Council Housing? is a contribution to the local and national debate on housing policy. It begins with a detailed account of the ‘Swindon Housing Vote’ in which tenants decisively rejected ‘transfer’ of their homes to a Housing Association with a 72% ‘No’ vote on a 65.6% turnout. It gives a blow by blow account of the dirty tricks of the Council and how the campaign challenged their propaganda. The experience is rich in ideas that can hopefully be used by other tenants facing a ballot. (Download a PDF here whatfuture  or read on below) Read the rest of this entry »

The cleaners and the oligarchs

February 1, 2015

Why solidarity with Syriza against the EU leaders is crucial

If anybody can remember a new Finance Minister (anywhere in the world) beginning his first press conference by announcing he is going to reinstate the cleaners made redundant by the previous Finance Minister let me know. When has anybody given a damn about cleaners? This was not just symbolism. It came from the lips of a man who has said that Syriza is going to destroy the oligarchic system in Greece. Whether they succeed is another matter. However, the first actions of the new government were directed at addressing the social catastrophe which the population has suffered as a result of the Greek version of austerity. They have also announced that they are halting plans to sell stakes in Greece’s biggest port and its main electricity provider. The importance of this is that both sales were demanded by the Troika.

The election of Syriza presents a big problem for the European rulers. They are nervous that a break with austerity and the logic of the dominant economic strategy will encourage a similar rejection in other countries, especially in Spain where Podemos is seen to be a similar threat. That’s why the outcome of the current situation in Greece is so critical. Will Syriza stand its ground or will it cave in to the intransigence of Merkel and the others, with the threat of the tap being turned off? Download a PDF here greece or read on below Read the rest of this entry »

Tomlinson’s dishonest use of statistics

January 28, 2015

Credit where it’s due. Justin Tomlinson is consistent. He consistently attempts to mislead his electorate in relation to the employment situation in the town. Once again he is trying to con people by presenting the Job Seekers Allowance numbers as the unemployment level. Why does he continue to do this despite the fact that he knows many of the unemployed are not JSA recipients?

In fact the big fall in the number of JSA claimants is the result of nothing less than a system of state harassment designed to drive people off of it and other benefits by way of the callous and inhumane sanctions regime. There are many reports of the the absurd and sometimes outrageous reasons why people are sanctioned: being in hospital having a heart operation, having a terminal illness, applying for 19 jobs in one week instead of 20, being in a job interview instead of in a meeting with the DWP, to name but a few. Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking the link between funding and social needs – local government finance

December 15, 2014

The funding of local government has been notoriously complicated, subject as it has been to constant changes by governments in the methods of funding. However, since 1929 “it has been used to some degree to promote equalisation – that is, to ensure that the funding available to local authorities bears some relationship to the need for services in the local area.” (House of Commons Library Research paper: English government finance – issues and options September 1st 2014) Reforms in 1948 and 1959 “broadened the influence of equalisation, applying it to most central government funding”.

Prior to 1990 local authorities were able to keep all the income they raised from rates, both domestic and business, and the government then gave a top-up in the form of rate support grant, based on an assessment of local needs. From 1990 the new system instituted greater Westminster control over local authorities as a result of ‘grant’ being determined centrally. The government controlled what was raised locally and determined how much of it each local authority could keep. Even so, funding levels at least bore some relationship to an up to date estimate of local needs in each area. In contrast the new system that the coalition government has introduced marks a fundamental change because the link between funding and an annual uprating of needs has been ended. Download a PDF here articlonnaoreports or read on below. Read the rest of this entry »

Failure of ‘austerity’

November 30, 2014

Interesting to see that David Renard has signed a joint letter to the Observer with other Council leaders from all three main parties. It’s a shot across the bows of George Osborne in the run up to the autumn statement. It says that “further reductions (in local government funding) without radical reform will have a detrimental impact on people’s quality of life and will lead to vital services being scaled back or lost altogether”. “More of the same” in the autumn statement “cannot be an option”, they say.

They express their concern that the rising cost of care for the elderly “will not only jeopardise our services but will push costs onto the NHS which will have to pick up the pieces if we cannot protect adult social care or provide the services that will keep people healthy.”

The purpose of the letter is to raise the need for powers to be devolved from Westminster. To that end it says that

It is vital that the autumn statement sets out a new settlement for England which puts powers beyond Westminster and shares out tax and spending across the UK on a fair basis.” Read the rest of this entry »

Osborne’s “pointless machismo”

November 29, 2014

With the Chancellor’s autumn statement due next week, advance notice has been given of yet another political trick designed to put Labour on the spot. Osborne is proposing to introduce a law which will make it an obligation of the next government to end the ‘structural deficit’ by 2017-18. He will challenge Labour to commit to this ‘prudent’ policy or else denounce them for not being serious about “tackling the deficit”.

However, the proposal has not been well received in quarters where the Chancellor’s ‘austerity’ programme has been supported. The Financial Times has dismissed his new law as “pointless machismo”. The FT applauded his ‘flexibility’ when there was a downturn in the economy in 2012. They said he “sensibly refused to impose further significant cuts and pushed out the date for achieving fiscal balance”. However, they denounce him now for rejecting this former ‘pragmatism’ and having spent the last year “inventing unnecessary limits in their room for manoeuvre.” This included a refusal to consider raising taxes and promising a middle income tax cut of £7 billion.

The government’s pledge to create an absolute surplus, bemoans the FT, means adding tens of billions of extra cuts.

“Taken together such commitments would turn a difficult fiscal situation into an impossible one.” Read the rest of this entry »


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