Monday, May 20, 2013

Some great job opportunities at the Co-operative Party

Message from Karin Christiansen, General Secretary of the Co-operative Party

Some incredible work has been done by members, staff and politicians to make the Party what it is today, but to face up to the challenges both as a country and as a Party, we need to make a step change in between now and 2015. Specifically, I'm determined that we succeed in:

  • growing our membership
  • giving you much more in return for your support
  • nurturing and developing co-operators to become the politicians of the future
  • ensuring the co-operative movement are proud of us.

As part of this we are making some changes to our internal structure, and a number of jobs have just been posted on our website – - please do consider applying or telling people about them.

This does mean that we are losing some of committed and excellent team that I know many of you will have worked with closely over the years. On behalf of the entire Party I want to thank them for their immense dedication to the Party and the co-operative movement as a whole.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A grave crime!

Deane Road Jewish Cemetery
A comical story that I am sure you will enjoy

On the third Sunday in April it was the monthly open day for the wonderful Deane Road Jewish Cemetery. A heritage jewel in Liverpool's crown of which I am hugely proud.

I was there as a tour guide and general welcoming friendly face at the gate.

A man arrived and I greeted him and offered to show him around. This is the story of what happened next....

The gentleman was somewhat dishevelled, I don't want to say much more than that, but he was clearly one of my more disadvantaged and dependent residents with issues, mainly involving cheap drink. He was keen to engage with me and share his delight in this now restored Kensington asset so I started to show him round - although he did say he had been inside a few times before and loved it.

He then took me to one side and began to tell me a story. It had my eyebrows quizzically raised from the beginning.

He said that he had been in the cemetery earlier in the year and had seen some tools lying on the path. In particular, he said, he had seen some bolt cutters and had decided that he was in dire need of the same as there was a padlock on the gate that lead round to the rear of his flat on Deane Road which he was anxious to have cut off so that he could be afforded access to the back of his own property.

He thought these bolt cutters would be just the thing so he picked them up, together with another set of tools and spirited them away.

He then explained that he was sawing away somewhat ineffectually at the padlock when the police arrived and arrested him. They confiscated the tools but were eventually satisfied that he was not attempting breaking and entering and they let him go, although they kept the tools.

I think it is fair to say I was mystified as we have no need of bolt cutters and I could not conceive of any reason why such items would be found in the cemetery, but I listened on. 

St Anne's Street Police Station
The gentleman went on to say he had since been in hospital as he was unwell but had recently been discharged and was feeling a lot better.

He said he was very anxious that we should reclaim our tools and then gave me his full name and address, the details of when he thought he might possibly have been arrested and even a drawing of the tools as best as he could remember, complete with yellow handles.

I was mesmorised and somewhat cynical if I am honest.

However, I got in touch with the police in the vain hope that they could stand up any of this story.

And glory be, they could!

So today I have been to St Anne's Street Police Station and taken back into my custody a pair of long handled secateurs and some pruning shears. No wonder they wouldn't cut his padlock off!

What a lovely man for taking the time to come and put this right.

A happy ending. 

If you want to come and use our tools for their proper purpose and volunteer as a jobbing gardener, do please let me know.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hitting the poorest places hardest

Research from Sheffield Hallam University

Last month saw the publication of a report from the University into the impact of Welfare Reform across the country entitled Hitting the poorest places hardest 

You almost don't need to read any further than the title to get the general idea. 

They have carried out extensive research and I have reproduced their key findings below

When the present welfare reforms have come into full effect they will take nearly £19bn a year out of the economy. This is equivalent to around £470 a year for every adult of working age in the country. 

The biggest financial losses arise from reforms to incapacity benefits (£4.3bn a year),changes to Tax Credits (£3.6bn a year) and the 1 per cent up-rating of most working-age benefits (£3.4bn a year).

The Housing Benefit reforms result in more modest losses – an estimated £490m a year arising from the ‘bedroom tax’ for example – but for the households affected the sums are nevertheless still large.

Some households and individuals, notably sickness and disability claimants, will be hit by several different elements of the reforms.

The financial impact of the reforms, however, varies greatly across the country. At theextremes, the worst-hit local authority areas lose around four times as much, per adult of working age, as the authorities least affected by the reforms.

Britain’s older industrial areas, a number of seaside towns and some London boroughs are hit hardest. Much of the south and east of England outside London escapes comparatively lightly.

Blackpool, in North West England, is hit worst of all – an estimated loss of more than £900 a year for every adult of working age in the town.

The three regions of northern England alone can expect to lose around £5.2bn a year in benefit income.

As a general rule, the more deprived the local authority, the greater the financial hit.

A key effect of the welfare reforms will be to widen the gaps in prosperity between the best and worst local economies across Britain.

The bold type is mine. I find it difficult to comprehend that any Government could be so wicked as to slash and burn the economies of the north of England in this way. Indeed I have been wracking my historian's brain and cannot think of anyone since William the Conqueror with his harrying of the north who has made such a broad attack on our communities (although of course Maggie did her best)

Let's not be divisive about this though - or play the victim card that the Tories accuse us of in the north. We need to remember the industrial Midlands and the other places the report mentions too, the poorer London Boroughs, South Wales and Glasgow.  

Here is the top ten according to how much they have lost per adult of working age in the population

1. Blackpool           £ 910
2. Westminster      £ 820
3. Knowsley          £ 800
4. Merthyr Tydfil   £720
5. Middlesbrough   £720 
6. Hartlepool         £710
7. Torbay             £700 
8. Liverpool          £700 
9. Blaenau Gwent   £700 
10. Neath Port Talbot £700

Look at Blackpool. Tory MP Paul Maynard is going to have some explaining to do come the next General Election.  

Two of the top ten are on Merseyside, two on Teesside, three in south Wales. 

And remember, these are only the cuts in social security. I wait with trepidation for a report showing these figures combined with cuts in Local Government budgets to show just how much of an officially sanctioned kicking our people are being singled out for. 

And I keep coming back to the same fact; you could just about expect this sort of thing from the Conservatives, it is what they do - wage war on the poor and people with regional accents, anyone who wears trackies or went to a state school.... But what the hell are the Liberal Democrats doing giving them the lifeline they need to carry it out? I don't know whether Nick Clegg ever visits the university in his constituency but this will be one report of theirs he might find uncomfortable reading. 

Here are the bottom 10 districts for completeness. In these areas the reforms have had much less of a financial impact.

Chiltern           £270
South Bucks    £260
Guildford         £260
South Northamptonshire £260
South Oxfordshire      £260
Rutland               £260
Wokingham         £250
Cambridge          £250
Hart                   £240
City of London   £180 

I didn't know where Hart was either, so I looked it up, it is always useful to know where the beneficiaries are whilst you are getting the crumbs.

This is what is says on their council website
"Our picturesque area of gentle rolling wooded countryside lies in the north-east corner of Hampshire and takes its name from the little River Hart which flows through its centre." 

So that's all very nice. 

And it is represented in Parliament by Gerald Howarth, the recently elected chairman of the Thatcherite Conservative Way Forward 

And you don't need me to tell you what their guiding principles are, do you?

Like the title of the Sheffield Hallam report itself, this tells you all you need to know about how this Government is setting its policies and who they are for. 

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats:  
Hitting the poorest places hardest and buttressing the richest places best

New Immigration Advice Service opens in Kensington

RMNJ Solicitors will be holding FREE surgeries at Kensington Community Learning Centre (opposite McDonalds) every Tuesday between 10am and 3pm

To book your free consultation pop into reception or call 0151 260 1006

Drop in appointments may also be available on the day depending on the number of confirmed appointments – but to avoid disappointment – please confirm a time at reception.

•    All types of Visa Applications (In the UK & Abroad)
•    Foreign National Student Applications
•    Indefinite Leave to Remain Applications
•    Naturalisation/Registration Applications (British Citizenship)
•    Representation at Appeal Hearings
•    European Regulations based Applications
•    General Immigration Advice

Do you have views on Merseytravel that you want to get off your chest?

Here is how to get in touch

Merseytravel manages a formal customer feedback process which can be accessed

-           via the feedback portal

-           by emailing

-           by telephoning 0151 330 1082/3

Merseytravel also holds Customer Forums in each of the five districts every quarter. They are open public meetings that consist of two parts
  • A Transport Operators' Surgery at which members of the public have the opportunity to raise any specific concerns with a range of Bus and Rail Transport Operators and with others such as Merseyside Police and Transport Community Support Officers directly.
  • The forum considers wider generic transport related issues which have been identified by the attendees and looks to involve customers in their future planning and decision making processes.
Click here to link to the Forum page on the website where dates, venues and further information is available.

Message from Councillor Mary Rasmussen, Lead Member-Customer and Corporate Responsibility, Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority

"A particular area of challenge presently under discussion with both bus and rail operators is that of access issues on the transport network. We have made significant progress recently with Arriva and Stagecoach who are the two major bus operators and with Merseyrail and Northern the major rail operators, who have indicated their willingness to process complaints regarding access issues, locally and at a senior level, within their respective organisations. This should lead to real improvements and a speedier response to such complaints."